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When to Quit

by Dear Jon
August 12, 2008


Dear Jon,

Knowing you are a loyal Green Bay Packers fan, what is your take on "Brett the Jet?" Should Favre have stayed retired, should the Pack have dealt him, and/or has Favre just come down with a good case of "Michael Jordan Syndrome" (unretiring because he doesn't know how to quit)?


Dear Tan,

I received another actual letter before yours, which will be a lot more interesting to my female fans, because it a letter asking for advice on keeping romance alive in a marriage. However, your letter is more of a "current event," so I am answering yours first. Ladies, tune in next week when Dear Jon talks about ways to "spice up the bed-time routine!"

This plan is subject to possible preemption due to Olympics coverage. But that would be all right since I would be talking about "floor exercises" and other competitions that engross women. Personally I think that women like to watch teen-aged gymnasts bear the weight of national pride on their tiny shoulders, because most women feel a sense of immense satisfaction any time one of these skinny waifs falls on her itsy bitsy butt. Men like to watch overweight male millionaires put on plastic armor and pound each other into concussions in the gladiatorial sport we call "NFL Football." Personally, I have an opinion about which attitude and thus which sport is more evil. I realize that my opinion will differ from that of approximately half the human race.

Okay fellahs, back to football. When I "came out of retirement" a few months ago to start writing these columns again, I stated my hopes about Brett Favre staying in football because he must  know I'm "fragile." Then a couple sorts ago I ripped Favre apart for trying to get reinstated with the Packers.

Sometime between that post and this one, I received an Actual Letter to Dear Jon which is unprintable on a family-filter-friendly website. The letter is unsigned, three words long, typed in poor grammar, and insists that I have chosen to pursue an alternative sexual lifestyle. I like to dream that the note was sent to me by none other than the great Brett Favre himself. I realize that is highly unlikely, first of all. Second it is not clear that the note was written in reference to my criticism of Favre, since it was sent to me as an actual letter. The only way I can know if it had to do with Favre is if the writer had used the "comments" section instead.

At the same time I also realize the risk I take. Brett Favre could tear me apart with his bare hands.  As my celebrity profile increases through the next few months as a result of my book sales, it becomes much more likely that he and I might end up in the same banquet hall, at a fund-raiser for medical benefits for NFL veterans or something. What had always been a dream that I might one day meet him is now a terrifying "what if?"

But I wrote what I wrote, and I'm sticking to it. After I wrote my article six months ago, Favre confirmed his retirement from the NFL. He was going out in style, at the top of his game after a memorable year. Fragile as I was, I respected him for that decision.

That decision influenced every personnel choice made by Packers management and coaches from that point on: Player combines, drafts, trades, waivers, salary cap moves. Favre has played his entire career in this modern salary cap era. He had to know, as do most sports writers if they think for two seconds before hacking something on deadline, that the formula for assembling a winning NFL team today is a lot more complex than catering to the whims of a marquee player.

As of February 2008, Brett Favre gave the Packers the best shot at winning the next Super Bowl. I wanted him to stay in football. By June, everything had changed. He had confirmed his retirement, and the Packers shifted their organizational and team strategy accordingly.

I am a fan of the Green Bay Packers. Brett Favre is now a New York Jet. Were they ever to play, I would want to see Favre sacked or intercepted on every play, just like I do all opposing quarterbacks.

Michael Jordan's situation is not quite parallel. He won three straight championships and then needed to collect himself when his father died. He played minor league baseball for a couple seasons and then came back to the Bulls for another three-peat. His time with the Wizards or whoever is closer to this Favre episode, but that requires the NBA being just like the NFL for it to match. I think that Jordan was a part-owner of the Wizards, right? My recollection is that he felt that young players on a team he owned would benefit from his leadership on the court. That's the best I can recall for not looking anything up.

Brett Favre as a New York Jet is like Ken Griffy Jr. playing for the White Sox. You wonder: Why? But even that is not a parallel situation. The White Sox are in a pennant race, looking to return to championship form. The Jets won four games last year. Favre had insisted at his retirement that only winning a Super Bowl would make playing another year worth it to himself and his family. Does he think the New York Jets will get him there, sharing as they do a division with the Patriots, and a conference with the Colts and Chargers?

Anything he does now will pad his statistics such as consecutive games started, etc, until such time as a stampeding Buffalo Bills linebacker ends his career forever. Will his stint with the Jets add to his legend, beyond his legendary number of interceptions? Does he have the nerve to withstand the boo-birds of the Big Apple?

I hope that new swimming legend Michael Phelps learns his lesson from Brett Favre, and does not think he can come back to break Olympic records when he is 39 years old (in sixteen years or four more Olympic meets).

I think this situation will ultimately vindicate Chad Pennington, the Jets quarterback who was cut to make room for Favre. I wish Brett Favre the best of luck; I also know that no matter how strong a wish might be, luck runs out. Just ask any Olympics final-round gymnast watching the medal ceremony from the side, listening to another country's national anthem, her butt bruised and her golden dreams broken.

About the Author:
Dear Jon is watching more Olympics this year, even though he missed the opening ceremonies.

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