This Sporting Life: Viking Twilight
Empurpled by both the romance novel prose and the new Minnesota twilight, Brett Favre is still shocking. No one can get used to it, though we've been through it before, though we've been staring at him for years. The pale skin, the stubble, the cargo shorts. The never-dampened dive watch. The tattered cap. The indecision.
He is a perfect statue, carved in some unknown stone, smooth like marble, glittering like crystal.
Or maybe Crystal Light. Strawberry kiwi.
A Falcon. A Packer. A Jet. And now a Viking. There is no escaping him. Like superstition itself, he is everywhere and he is forever.
It has long since been known to the Volturi in the press box, to the Renfields in the media center, to those who bear the ancient knowledge of the forest and the darkness and the NFL conference-call dial-in number, that Favre is an immortal -- a chupacabra, a vrykolakas.
After all these years and all these lives and all these incarnations, can that inerrant fact still come as a shock to anyone? That their favorite quarterback is resolutely undead? That their hero is a blood-feeding phantasm whose role it is in history to vex and beset humanity, to steal life itself from the lesser beings -- mostly fans and offensive linemen -- who surround him?
Grant him the respect he deserves for his infernal persistence, sure, but know for whom you're rooting. Because whoever made him has unleashed a pestilence against this world.
When asked straight up about his vampirism not long ago, he texted this reply:
"Always played this game like a little kid. Always been a gunslinger. Always tried to make something happen. Always gave 110 percent. Always took it one game at a time. And always -- since before the sun first rose in the east and burned across the desert sands walked by Gog and Magog -- survived by gorging on human blood. Thought you knew that."
Whether mythology or poetry or alchemy, whether Gilgamesh or Tithonus, Dorian Gray or Ponce de Leon, the search for a happy, endurable eternity goes on. But Favre has long since found his. Like Lestat or Nosferatu, though, it comes at the terrible price of his very soul. And like Dracula or Vlad the Impaler, at the cost of some flexibility in his throwing arm.
Thus he is and remains a creature of the shadowlands, a thief of life, a monster, an abomination and a misery. His essence, at its unfathomable core, is wickedness. Still, his career QB rating is 85.4.
Forget Van Helsing or the Highlander: Favre cannot be killed. Nor will he be ignored or walled up or willed away or destroyed. Cut his head off; he'll just grow another.
There is no weapon against his vainglory, against his rank eternity, against his implacable and infinite self-regard. No sword or stake or flame can finish him, no garlic clove or silver cross or book of psalms can ward him off.
Although a quick rotation into a Cover 4 will slow him down.
He is, therefore, immutable. Impossible. He can neither be ended nor improved. When he looks in the mirror, he sees nothing. He will live forever, an eternal rebuke to the weakness of vanity. A permanent curse on ambition and drive and on the dreams of backup QBs everywhere. And a likely 9-7 record every season from now 'til the thunderclap of Doomsday.
He is hunger made flesh, endless, the wanton universal glutton.
Not Octomom or Usain Bolt or the health-care debate, not Michael Vick or Rick Pitino, not an election in Afghanistan or global warming in Kyoto or a felony plea in New York City gets through to him. None of it matters. It never has. All news, any news, any story not his own is lost on him, as it has been forever, as it has been since the time of the Flood, or since the age of Cleopatra, or since the eruption of Vesuvius. Since the French Revolution. Since the debut of "Project Runway."
These things pass as if in a mist, adrift in time, out of focus and supremely unimportant to Brett Favre; this succession of human foolishness is of no use to an immortal, of no consequence to an undead thing whose only need and appetite is to drain the divine spark from others, to live by stealing life. And then not even make the playoffs.
Eventually he will see us all lapse into nothingness, us poor mortals, see every generation of us stacked like cordwood upon the one before -- pharaohs and slaves and kings and commoners and kickers and holders and coaches -- as he has seen it done from the beginning of time. And come the End of Days he will be left alone at last, the only thing with fangs and language still standing. The price of his peace no less than the end of humanity itself. And only then, at last, will the interceptions end.
He smiles at the thought.
And cries out to his teammates and the rising moon, "Dive Right, Red Tiger, Zig-22 Blast. On two."
From the preseason sidelines, dazed and disoriented, Sage Rosenfels and Tarvaris Jackson, both now twice bitten, thrice shy, look up ashen and confused from the bright red pulsing of their own blood, drained of life and opportunity, and into the fevered eyes of half a thousand suddenly ravenous sportswriters.
Favre smiles again.
And the chill of his lips is like ice.
Jeff MacGregor is a senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine. Please continue to submit your answers to his question: "What Are Sports For?" You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.