Brett Favre should play as long as possible. He should play for some team, Packers or otherwise. He should play because he still can and he still wants to. He should play because not playing is forever.
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Are you tired of the Brett Favre saga? You're not the only one.
Still, the ongoing Favre saga -- Greta van Susteren, for crying out loud? -- is in dire need of a referee. They're holding pathetic, and failed, rallies in support of Favre at Lambeau Field, and the he-said, they-said nature of the discourse reminds all of us of our time throwing rocks at the slide in the tot lot while Jimmy Earp kept an eye out for Sister Aloysius.
Really, we could call a rally right now for something we didn't even care about and draw more than the 100 or so people who showed up at Lambeau to support Favre. The rally came at the urging of some guy trying to fill the hole in his heart with a domain name. A tip for aspiring cause-related rally-givers: Free doughnuts would guarantee 125 people, minimum.
At some level, though, the Favre fiasco seems to be coming down to a question of gratitude. Everyone seems to agree the Packers owe Favre some limitless debt of gratitude for remaking the franchise in his image. We're all for the worker, even if it's a fabulously compensated worker, since so many people have the mistaken idea that a guy who doesn't shave and lets himself go gray is just like them.
But is it all one way? Is gratitude the sole responsibility of the Packers, or should there be some reciprocation involved?
We know what Favre did for the team, but what did the team do for Favre?
For starters, it did enough to be given the right to handle the situation in a way it deems best for the organization. That might sound a little corporate, but that's life in the NFL. You choose to live in a world of Dallas Cowboy recliners and Atlanta Falcon dinnerware, that's what you get. Favre is doing what's best for him by stating his desire to return, and the Packers are doing what's best for the team by refusing to comply with his desire for a release.
The Packers see Favre as an asset that can help them improve the team, so a trade makes far more sense than an outright release. Favre sees himself as an athlete betrayed by a system that forced him to make a decision before he was ready. He also sees himself as someone who should be granted his release as gratitude for the tremendous career he had and the phenomenal amount of money he made for the Packers.
Favre is correct to say it would have been nice if he had been able to wait until training camp to make his decision. He couldn't, though, and that isn't his fault or the Packers' fault. The elimination of the NFL offseason -- not officially, but you know what I mean -- legislated patience out of the business. Decisions need to be made in a timely manner, mostly because neither the team nor the player wants to sit around during the non-playing season while being constantly peppered with questions and rumors about the player's status.
"Timely," by the way, has changed, too. "Timely" used to be June or early July, but now it's no later than mid to late March. The world's a lot faster than it used to be.
And, because there are drafts and minicamps and free-agent signing periods, the Packers needed to know what path they were going to take long before Favre was in a position to make a reasoned decision on his future.
Patience is unrealistic, so Favre told them what he was feeling at the time -- and, frankly, it's probably what they wanted to hear -- and now finds himself pleading guilty to retiring early. (Possible sentence: Trade to a noncontender.)
Does anyone really think Favre could have waited until training camp to decide his future? Would he have wanted the camera crews at his doorstep all spring and summer?
How many times would he have had to answer the question? How much of a disaster would that have been?
The result: A mess typified by Favre's saying, "I was told that playing in Green Bay was not an option," moments after saying reports the Packers didn't want him were untrue. So we can agree on one thing: Everybody's slightly confused.
So play, Brett, but shut up about it already. Let it play out. Don't tell the Packers what to do because even you admit they didn't tell you what to do.
But really, Greta van Susteren?
Tim Keown is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. Sound off to Tim here.