Unpacking It In

If Brett Favre were a true Packer fan, he would stay retired and let the games go on.

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Green Bay shouldn't be in the business of making their rivals better. It isn't as if they could release Favre on the condition that he would go play for the Miami Dolphins or the Kansas City Chiefs or some other team that will have minimal impact on the Pack's Super Bowl dreams. The teams most likely to sign Favre, if he became a free agent, are two of Green Bay's principal rivals, the Vikings or the Bears. This would result in two games this season against Favre in an enemy jersey (and Favre probably knows the Packers' defensive tendencies better than most opposing offensive coordinators). The third likely suitor would be the Pack's former division rival, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a team that went to the playoffs last season. Their coach, Jon Gruden, was once Favre's QB coach in Green Bay. That could lead to an even worse scenario than losing to the Vikings or Bears, losing to Favre in a playoff game.

Green Bay's intransigence is understandable, but it doesn't move the situation any closer to resolution. I'm sure Packers management is hoping that Favre will realize that this comeback attempt isn't reasonable and re-retire. That isn't likely. Athletes aren't known for choosing the discretion-is-the-better-part-of-valor route, and Favre's legend is built on trying to do the impossible—squeezing passes between defenders, blocking on—reverse plays, and keeping huge opposing lineman at bay—and succeeding. He's the sort of athlete whose can-do spirit embodies what has made sport in America so immensely popular.

I'd like to think that Favre is a Packers fan, and that sometime sooner or later, he will realize the no-win position that he has put his team in. Either they bring him back and scuttle their Super Bowl plans for yet another edition of the Favre farewell tour. Or they allow him the freedom to go play for a rival. Since I don't think Favre is going to have this epiphany anytime soon, I imagine that this story will drag out and become uglier and uglier until the Packers release him during pre-season giving their rivals as little time as possible to pick up Favre and get ready for the regular season.

Meanwhile, I'm left wondering why Favre has a contract that extends through his 41st birthday. Were it not for the contract, this dispute wouldn't exist. Unless forced out by injuries like Steve Young and Troy Aikman, most elite athletes have a hard time walking away from the game. In this regard, Favre, a most unconventional quarterback has proven himself to be a very typical athlete.

Martin Johnson is a New York writer.

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