August 2008

Favre Being Favre

Favre in the snow.jpg

Green Bay Packers tradition. Kinship with the NFL’s most storied fans. Going out on top of his game. Legacies.

Brett Favre left this all behind. Because in the end, these are not
what Brett Favre is all about. In the end, these ideals are created by
the media. In the end, none of these things are what fuels Brett
Favre’s engine. In the end, football is a game, and Brett Favre is a
kid who loves to play. That’s it. He loves to play. Don’t you love that about him? I do. I can relate.

I remember failing to make the cut for Dartmouth College’s varsity baseball team for the third year in a row at the beginning of my junior year and realizing, “That’s it, I’ll never make varsity now, my baseball-playing life is over.”
Everyone knew the Junior Varsity program was for freshmen and
sophomores, so I didn’t even consider playing baseball that spring.
Other players in the baseball program would have looked at me funny.
“Don’t you get it, Crawford?” they would have asked. “They’re sending
you a message. You and your 80 mph fastball are not varsity material.
There’s no point in playing anymore. The dream is dead. Just walk
away.” And that’s what I did.

But the following winter, I realized that I had let my obsessive
goal of “making varsity” mask the real reason I play baseball – because
I love to play. That’s it. I love to play. So senior year, I dug my cleats out of the closet and went out for the baseball team again.

Dartmouth Baseball.jpg

I had no illusions of making a varsity team that included future major leaguers Mike Remlinger, Mark Johnson, and Brad Ausmus.
I just wanted to play baseball. The coaches looked at me funny. The
other players talked about me behind my back. Yet I was the happiest
player at those tryouts. I made the JV team. They gave me a uniform and
a locker. And I was content. (Please don’t mock me for comparing myself
to Brett Favre. I realize that the only thing we have in common is our
passion for playing. And I realize that his passion dwarfs mine.)

The Packers’ offer to Favre of $20m to “stay retired” was doomed
from the start. A person’s heart can’t be bought out. Favre’s
motivation for playing football this year was “love for the game,” not
another fat paycheck. I started writing a letter to Favre warning him
that if he took the $20m, he’d wake up the next morning with the same
itch to play, and he’d beg the Packers to take back their bribe. I
guess he figured this out on his own.

The sports fan public said to Favre, “Don’t you get it, Brett? The Packers are sending you a message. You’re no longer the guy they want to lead their team. You’re 38, you’ve broken all the records, you have your Super Bowl ring. You have one of the greatest single-team legacies in the history of sports. There’s no point in playing anymore. Just walk away. The

Favre loves to play.jpg

Packers coaches looked at him funny. The other players talked about him
behind his back. But Favre’s heart could not be contained. He knows
what makes him happy: playing quarterback in the NFL and striving to
win games. It’s not about being a Packer. It’s about competing. That’s who he is. That’s what he does.

The new letter I’m composing to Brett says, “Never retire
voluntarily. Play until you get cut. Then go to the Canadian Football
League at age 45 and win a couple MVPs there. Play until no pro team on
the planet wants you as their third-string QB. Relentlessly be who you are.”

Yes, Favre’s will to play is even greater than his desire to sustain his priceless identity as…. Brett Favre. But
he’s cultivating a new identity that’s perhaps even more appealing. His
brand is no longer, “Legendary starting quarterback for the Green Bay
Packers,” it’s “No one has more passion for playing.” Don’t you love that about him? I do.

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No More Manny

Manny Being Manny.jpgIn Theo I trust.

If he thinks this trade will help the Red Sox win another World Series ring, then I guess it really is time for Manny to go.

That said, it’s hard to fathom that the Boston Red Sox just let one
of the greatest right-handed hitters of all time — a guy who helped
the team win two World Series rings — walk out the door in the middle
of a pennant race. The Yankees love this trade. Their fear of the Red
Sox vanished at 4:20pm yesterday. Oh, and Joe Torre went to bed last
night with a BIG smile on his face.

I am a fan. I am an emotional fan who loves Manny’s joyful, teddy
bear personality, his majestic presence in the on-deck circle and
batter’s box, and the way he wrecks pitches in the strike zone. I
acknowledge that he was not the perfect competitor during his years in
a Red Sox uniform. His jogging to first base sometimes drove me crazy.
But in the same way a parent keeps loving his kids no matter what they
do, nothing Manny ever did or said made me dislike the guy. It wasn’t
blind affection. It was eyes-wide-open appreciation for a marvelous
player I “knew” better than any other.

I will miss Manny and I will root for him as a Dodger. I hope he finds peace in L.A. and that this trade ends
up being a great thing for him and his family.

Time to turn the page on the Manny years, one of the most amazing
chapters we’ve ever experienced in Red Sox Nation. It’s Jason Bay time.
The 2008 World Series MVP.