Seeing Brett Favre struggling to get out of his seat at a post game press conference or being carted off the field while a trainer holds his chin together isn’t the portrait that most fans want to remember of the gunslinger. Fans would much rather remember his performance following the death of his father, his jubilant celebrations after winning the Super Bowl or even the locker room celebration with the Minnesota Vikings trying to sing General Larry Platt’s “Pant on the Ground”. Any of these would be much more of a lasting image than the ones we are seeing in the 2010 NFL season. The once great quarterback has been beaten by seemingly every team the Vikings play, his head coach has one of the worst fan approval ratings in NFL history and on top of that you have the emerging sexual misconduct scandal. Brett is beginning to look like an athlete that is grasping to hold on to days gone by. He is finally looking like a 41 year old quarterback.
Brett is hardly the first professional athlete to attempt to hold on to grace way past his prime. Cassius Clay was a young fighter who took the boxing world by storm. He later became known as Muhammad Ali after joining the Nation of Islam. Ali for most of the 1960’s and 1970’s dominated the world of heavy weight boxing and is arguably the greatest boxer of all time. Ali’s list of victories reads like a who’s who in heavy weight fighting. Ali held victories over Joe Frazier, Ken Norton, George Foreman, Sonny Liston and many more. His face and voice were known around the globe and he was one of the most recognizable athletes in the world. Ali, after a 20 year career in boxing, came out of retirement to fight then champion Larry Holmes in 1980. The fight is still remembered to this day by many as a brutal beating of the former champion in which Ali’s corner refused to allow him to fight beyond the eleventh round.
Michael Jordan is and will probably always be known as the single greatest player in the history of basketball. His dominance as a Chicago bull is the stuff of legend and no one in the NBA dared challenge his rule. Jordan could seemingly score at will and routinely made the best defenders in the game look mediocre at best. Jordan even retired from the game following his father’s death to play baseball and came back only to dominate the NBA once again. Jordan retired again in 1999 and said that he was done with playing basketball. He came back to the Washington Wizards in 2001 at the age of 38. Whilst you can hardly call Jordan’s third coming a failure, he was clearly not the player he used to be. Jordan averaged over 30 points per game during his career, but his numbers were down almost 25% while in Washington. His final days in Washington were injury plagued and he retired for good in 2003.
As long as there is sports and sports superstars, the mega-stars will continue to try to hold on to that spot on top of their sport. Stars like Emmitt Smith, Willie Mays even Babe Ruth found it difficult to make the transition from being the best at what they do to being a novelty act. We would love for our stars to continue shining forever but the harsh reality of life is that time waits for no one. Even though we would cry and beg them to play on, our stars should try more often to go out on top. Take the lessons given by stars like Julius Erving and Barry Sanders who both still had plenty left in the tank, but decided to take some of the glory with them as they walked off into the sunset of history.