Posted: Thursday April 6, 2006 4:12PM; Updated: Thursday April 6, 2006 4:41PM
Nobody should tell Brett Favre what to do about his future.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Some of most educational stories I've worked on at Sports Illustrated are the ones where we catch up with retired athletes. Those stories, even the most banal ones, do more to normalize athletes than any DWI scandal or other episode of human failing. The myth that gets destroyed is this one: that if you could throw an NFL touchdown or hit a major league home run just once in your life, you could ride the pixie dust of that moment straight through to the old-age-home rec room.
Nothing makes that misconception disappear quicker than dialing the main number at a construction company, telling the receptionist you are looking for former Phillies pitcher Randy Lerch and being wordlessly forwarded to an extension where a man picks up the phone and says in a businesslike voice, "Hello, this is Randy Lerch." This is not at all a knock on Lerch -- he had a management job when I spoke to him last summer and seemed to be doing quite well for himself. The point is that his life after baseball had normalled out. Twenty-five years ago he was signing autographs and starting playoff games. A couple decades later he was at a desk answering a phone. Such moments bring home the reality that all athletes, after they walk off the field for the last time, have a whole next life to live. Some superstars spend that next life trading on the fame of their earlier one. But the point is, when your playing days over, they're over.
I think about this whenever fans start to push for an athlete to retire, like they are doing in Green Bay with Brett Favre.
In a recent online poll by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, a third of the fans said they didn't want Favre to come back to the Packers this year. In a local radio interview this week, former teammate Mark Chmura called Favre selfish for leaving the Packers hanging while he takes his time deciding whether to retire. Chmura says Favre, a former close friend, never called to offer support during Chmura's trial five years ago in which the tight end was found not guilty of sexual assault and child enticement. Now, no longer bound by fealty, Chmura is giving voice to what a great many fans appear to be thinking about Favre.
To all those people, and especially Chmura, I say: Shut up and wait.