Thank You, Brett Favre, For Just Saying No

It would have been a debacle, no doubt, a circus of batterings and interceptions and losses that would have made us feel embarrassed for his legacy, if not frightened for his well-being. Had he returned to the NFL, as requested by the St. Louis Rams, Brett Favre would have been awful as a quarterback and endangered as a 44-year-old man who already has suffered numerous concussions.

“I don’t remember my daughter playing soccer, playing youth soccer, one summer. I don’t remember that,” he told a Washington radio station. “I got a pretty good memory, and I have a tendency like we all do to say, `Where are my glasses?’ and they’re on your head. This was pretty shocking to me that I couldn’t remember my daughter playing youth soccer, just that one summer, I think. I remember her playing basketball, I remember her playing volleyball, so I kind of think maybe she only played a game or two. I think she played eight. So that’s a little bit scary to me. For the first time in 44 years, that put a little fear in me.”

If his words come off a bit disjointed, it’s because Favre is among thousands of former NFL players whose brains absorbed too many blows and now are suffering in mid-life. Thankfully, he’s still lucid enough to realize there was only one answer — no, thank you — when the Rams called in desperation this week after starter Sam Bradford’s season-ending knee surgery. As it was, he stayed too long, stumbling and bumbling with the New York Jets, mustering one final season of near-Super Bowl glory with the Minnesota Vikings, then free-falling to a 19-interception crash and exit in 2010. There also was an alleged sexting scandal, which, along with those annual play-or-retire teases, turned him into an annoying figure in this country after so many wonderfully entertaining years as a Green Bay folk hero.

So why would he subject himself to another round of ridicule and helmet-to-helmet hell? He has all the money he’ll ever need. He can have any TV analyst job he wants. For the first time in his life, he is enjoying considerable quality time with his family in Mississippi. He gets his football fix as a volunteer coach for the local Oak Grove High School Warriors. He can look back knowing he fashioned one of the great quarterbacking careers of all time, winning one Super Bowl title and establishing numerous league passing and longevity records. Why not just kick back, you know? “My family took a backseat for 20 years,” he told the radio station. “My 14-year-old daughter plays volleyball and is in the ninth grade and will be playing again the next three years. I’ve taken trips that I never thought I’d take. I’ve gone to Yellowstone, and I’ve gone to Glacier National Park. … We’ve gone down to the Bahamas, we’ve done things that really everybody in my family just kind of waited for.”

And the coolest thing of all? He was able to make the decision with ease. No longer is he the addict/narcissist who craved the game. “I had a great career,” Favre said. “I think if anything, the last year that I played was an obvious writing-on-the-wall vision for you, if you will. It was time.

“The NFL was everything I thought it would be and then some. It was tough, it was fun, it was rewarding. But I thought I didn’t need to stick around, I didn’t need to be a part of it to feel like I still had a purpose in life.”

Sounds like he finally has reattached his mind to his soul. He stays in terrific shape, running six miles a day and throwing to teenaged receivers at the high school. When his agent, Bus Cook, said recently that Favre still had the body of an NFL quarterback, he wasn’t lying.

But that doesn’t mean he still could perform at NFL quarterbacking levels. The state of the position is fairly weak these days, its pool diluted by injuries and underperforming play. I’m happy to say Brett Favre, who once turned denial into an American nuisance, wasn’t tempted this time. He is a grandfather, after all, a man with plenty of reason to live a quality life for as long as possible.

“I think after 20 years,” he said, “God only knows the toll.”

See you in the Mississippi high school playoffs, Coach Favre.