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Favre again fails on big stage

Brett Favre.

No other name in sports yields simultaneous eye-rolls and compulsion.

Between the rehearsed celebratory antics and the habitual butt slapping, he’s sold more cheap, regurgitated, fiction than the soft-back suspense section at the airport. But his un-replicable playing style and sheer quarterbacking talent make him the most entertaining player since John Elway - the classic hero. Favre in many ways evolved into the anti-Elway.

First, Favre is self-caricaturizing. Perhaps it’s a product of narcissism, enabled by the media’s never ending exploitation of his image and consumers’ TMZ-style gluttony in the era of short attention span.

Blame it on John Madden, whose long-standing bromance with Favre became the signature bit of impressionist Frank Caliendo. From the every-man’s quarterback to prima donna, not even a lifetime’s guarantee of Wranglers will keep Favre from concocting another off-season soap opera.

Favre once again became victim to his own mythology. Sunday’s fateful third and 15 self-destruction ruined his chance at redeeming his legacy.

Nothing will epitomize his career better than Sunday’s fourth quarter.

First the gladiator - taking an epic beating from the Saints’ front seven, stepping into throws despite assured destruction.

Then, the drama - jumping into a lineman in a half-hearted attempt to recover Percy Harvin’s fumble with a bum ankle - his agony on the training table in perfect frame of Fox cameras as squeamish mothers around the world drew closer. “Will he make it back in?’

Whether that scene was embellished or not, his pain threshold cannot be questioned. He’s made every start since cell-phones were bigger than suitcases, a record more impressive qualitatively than quantitatively. He holds the greatest athlete endurance/toughness record outside of Lance Armstrong.

Signature throw - A no-window 20-yard completion to Sidney Rice to put his team in opponent’s territory with under two minutes.

And finally, the choke - the winning choice was too easy. Take the five yards in front of him, kick the field goal, and have a chance at riding into the sunset.

Was it simply a matter of scrambled survival instincts? Favre senselessly threw across his body. Elway ran.

After carrying his team for 15 seasons, Elway, at 37, sacrificed himself helicopter-style for a chance to get the monkey off his back.

Favre had his ring, he once had an entire state, so what did he come back to sacrifice his body for?

Here is why Favre, in the most important way, is the anti-Elway.

Favre’s desperation is rooted in an insatiable desire to reclaim his spot as Mr. Americana. At the moment of truth, Favre’s vain conquest comes to light with a senseless throw.

To the point of delirium, Favre’s decision-making has been excused throughout his career by referencing one of his monikers, be it ‘gunslinger’ or ‘river-boat gambler’.

Scratch that.

Call it self-defeatism. Call him a martyr.

In 2008, Favre’s Jets were 8-3 with a chance at getting home field in the playoffs. Favre threw nine interceptions in the final five games, including three picks in the playoff-deciding finale.

He blamed it on a shoulder.

In Favre’s last game with the Packers in the 2007 playoffs he threw two picks, one deciding the game in overtime against the eventual champion New York Giants.

In three playoff losses in 2001, 2004 and 2005, Favre threw a combined 12 interceptions. Who can forget the lollipop interception he tossed on a potential game-winning drive in the playoff loss to the Eagles that featured Donovan McNabb converting on 4th and 36. Or the six interceptions he threw in the 2001 NFC Championship game.

These are not the performances befitting a legend but of a player defined by self-implosion.

Favre was once the playground QB with the boyish enthusiasm.

He had the single most impressive performance in NFL history, throwing for 400 yards and four touchdowns the day after his father died.

At 40 he had one of the best statistical regular seasons in NFL history. He won a Super Bowl, multiple MVPs and shattered every conceivable quarterback record.

For such an extensive list of accomplishments there will be so few to cherish them.

As Favre stood helplessly and alone on the sideline as the Saints moved in for the game-winner you could see his eyes well up.

It hit him.

Already exiled from the country’s finest football town where Packer fans would rather see him mounted next to a 12-point buck than recall the glory days, Favre came to the realization that because of his vain self-obsession he’s also alienated himself from his good name.

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