Brett Favre’s lessons

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My brother shook me awake from my turkey-induced slumber. “Brett Favre is about to cry,” he said, with a slight chuckle to his voice. I jolted awake, smiling and eager to see the famous Wrangler spokesperson and repeat-retiree break down.

Admittedly, my excitement was cruel, but I couldn’t help but laugh as I watched the middle-aged man become emotional. An evil smile spread across my lips as the camera zoomed in and focused on his face — half-shrouded in darkness with hints of emotion breaking through.

The longer the camera stayed on his face, the more apparent the lines became: lines of age and exhaustion, physical manifestations of the mental and physiological toll that the roughest game in America has left on the face of Favre. “God, he looks old,” I thought to myself.

I think that at some point, I had respect for Favre. Sure, as a good Chicago girl, I held a deep hatred for the Packers, but even in my youth, I could see that he was hugely talented. This respect, however, faded with each retirement and re-entry into the league. It disappeared as I watched him on TV, assuring Americans of the quality of Wrangler jeans. It waned and waned with each game that he played — his skill withering, his age showing, his body unable to hold up to the demands of the game.

To me, he has become the epitome of a has-been. A man who didn’t know when to get out. It was clear to me that he should’ve left as he felt himself declining — he should have retired with some dignity and pride. Instead, he let himself fade quickly, becoming not only one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL but also the butt of endless SportsCenter jokes. The once great had fallen — hard.

I could laugh all I wanted but ultimately who am I to judge? Football was Favre’s love, his muse, his siren. It called to him in the depths and coaxed him back again and again. In reality, we’ve all been there — with a person, a place, a thing, an idea — you name a noun and someone has had a hard time letting it go.

A newfound understanding of Favre washed over me. The man was merely guilty of loving something too much and not knowing how or when to say goodbye. We all do it, he was just unlucky enough to have a nation watch him as it ate him alive.

So, as Favre watched his number rise to the top of the stadium and into Green Bay immortality, I forgave him. I forgave him for the tacky ads and the retirement announcements, the fumbles and the missed passes, and for his inability to make the tough decision to move on. And, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I thought of what I was thankful for and what it was time for me to move on from. It was time to let go of the person I had been in high school and embrace the person I was becoming, for better or for worse.

Although it pains me to say this, I’ve got to do it: Thank you, Brett Favre. Thank you for making me realize that it’s hard to say goodbye, that old habits and loves die hard, and that I can indeed have empathy for the enemy.

Contact Sophie Goethals at [email protected]