While many would suggest that Brett Favre is not a spiritual topic, I find that I must disagree. His behavior over the course of his career has reflected ego run amok, to the point where one of his closest friends on the team said earlier this year the “Brett has always been a diva.”
For those who don’t know, Brett Favre retired from football two years ago. For at least two years prior to that he threatened retirement and was unable to make a decision until months after the season ended. After he finally announced his retirement two years ago, the Green Bay Packers moved on with their plans and installed a new quarterback. Then, as could be expected, in the summer Brett Favre announced that he wanted to come out of retirement. The Packers declined, having been held over a barrel for the two previous years and traded Favre to the Jets. His performance last year with the Jets was abysmal, allegedly due to a torn biceps tendon which was surgically repaired after the season. Just prior to this season, in August, Favre signed with the Minnesota Vikings. This was the team that would give him the opportunity to win the Super Bowl, something he had done once before with the Packers. The year after his victory in the Super Bowl he lost the same game to the Denver Broncos. Those of us who watched the NFC Championship game last Sunday saw vintage Brett Favre, as he threw an interception late in the fourth quarter that ended up costing his team the game in overtime – the same result that he produced two years before in his last game as a Green Bay Packer.
After the game he refused interviews. He was injured late in the game, but remained in the game, as his long suffering wife looked on. This is the same long suffering wife who put up with Favre’s years of ego maniacal womanizing in the bars and nightclubs of Milwaukee. Not only was he sleeping with everything that moved, he made no effort to be discreet about it and so anyone who spent any time in the club knew about it. Only when his wife contracted breast cancer did he stand by her side and she announced that they were over their troubles.
But the ego rages again. Over the past year I have watched as first Favre did a commercial for Sears in which he poked fun at his indecisiveness and at the same time spun the story of his history with the Green Bay Packers to make himself the injured party, acting as if he was thrown away because of his age after all he had done for the team. Now we have a reminder of “all he has done.” He won one Super Bowl, and in that game he was afforded a lead by the special teams that they never relinquished. It was his only big win, and in it all he had to do was protect a lead.
In the end, quarterbacks are evaluated by their ability to win the big game. Fran Tarkenton, longtime quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings and later the New York Giants, was very talented and very successful, but never won a Super Bowl and so he has always been under appreciated. Brett Favre won a single Super Bowl, led his team to countless come from behind victories in the regular season, but in the playoffs when the games were close he almost invariably threw interceptions that cost him the game.
If the value of a football player is determined by his ability to win the big game, then Favre is not one of the greatest of all time. He owns almost all the records possible for a quarterback, including most career interceptions and most consecutive games played, but in the end he was unble to win consistently in the playoffs. His ego drove him to return to prove the critics wrong, to cast himself as the injured party. In the end, his epitaph may be that his ego and the poor decisions made because of it was what kept him from winning the big game.
In the end, nobody is irreplaceable. We all have our shining moments, and we all fall flat on our faces. We all age and lose the physical skills we once had. As an athlete myself, I often joked that since I was never all that fast to begin with, when I lost a step due to age nobody noticed. Those who are exceptional don’t have that grace, and we as fans seek to convince them they are impervious to aging. We heap praise and adulation on them, and project all of our dreams and ambitions of fame and success onto the home team and its star players. People call in sick from work when the home team loses the big game. We have lost all perspective.
Our culture has a habit of substituting entertainment for spirituality. In the end, it’s not the culture’s fault. Institutional religion has failed the people, insisting as it does on outdated models and irrelevant presentation designed only to keep the powerful in power. The Pope will never say anything to bring the Roman Catholic Church into the 21st century, and neither will the Archbishop of Canterbury, because they value their power and position even more than they value the people they claim to serve – all the while claiming to be altruistic and compassionate. I suppose one could say they share the same distorted perception of themselves that Brett Favre does, and the same ability to spin. The problem is that failing people spiritually is much more significant that failing them on a football field or in a nightclub.
In the same way that Brett Favre sold the city of Green Bay down the river to protect himself and his power, the Institutional Church has sold millions of people – the disabled, the mentally ill, the LGBT community, people living in common law marriages, divorced people, anyone who dares ask a question, and many others – dowm the river to protect its power and authority. The empty pews speak for themselves, and the Roman Church, at least, has announced it will abandon the northern hemisphere for the southern hemisphere because they are good boys and girls and don’t question authority.
Hey, I have an idea! Maybe Brett Favre could be the next Pope! He has all the qualifications – he is good at protecting his image, he’s all about power and authority, he covers up his indiscretions well, and as Pope he won’t ever have to retire! The other advantage for him is that to date he has only been able to screw the women he found in nightclubs. As Pope, he could screw the whole planet.