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Huck Finn's Last Ride
JEFF MACGREGOR
December 04, 2006
For 15 years Brett Favre has been the NFL's answer to Mark Twain's barefoot scamp--forever young and reckless. But nothing lasts forever, and the chattering heads think it's time for him to retire. Pray that they're wrong
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December 04, 2006

Huck Finn's Last Ride

For 15 years Brett Favre has been the NFL's answer to Mark Twain's barefoot scamp--forever young and reckless. But nothing lasts forever, and the chattering heads think it's time for him to retire. Pray that they're wrong

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" ... sure I made a mistake or two."

Favre turns, still bleary, to survey the scene. The room, and his thoughts, are slightly out of focus. His bell has been rung, hard, tolling another game played, another battle fought and lost, another step toward the end of things. He sits gingerly on the edge of his locker. He bends but can't reach to tie his shoes. He sits up slowly, waits, then puts his hands to his knees and pushes himself upright. He wobbles there a second. After midnight, laces flapping, he shuffles into the trainer's room.

In this age of corporate quarterbacking, wherein all directives come down from the head office, and the position is really no sexier or more autonomous than that of a regional operations manager, Favre remains a "gunslinger." No Green Bay offensive series of more than four or five plays can be broadcast on television without the use of that word. "He's always been a gunslinger," the announcer will say after Favre completes another 27-yard slingshot off his back foot among four converging defenders, or launches a ball into the third row of seats.

An evocative signifier of Old West courage, swagger, improvisation and marksmanship, gunslinger also implies a sort of willful and counterproductive recklessness. In an era of quarterbacks praised for their clock-management skills and their low-key willingness to meet the weekly yardage quota nine feet at a time, it's a compliment that takes away as much as it gives.

Swashbuckler is another chestnut of the broadcast booth. In fact, the nature and number of clich�s Favre attracts would make for a potent drinking game. And since he himself has long since sworn off, hoist a few in his honor. Drink a shot of redeye when you hear gunslinger. A dram of rum for swashbuckler. A glass of wine whenever an announcer uses the phrase vintage Favre. Drink a mug of Ovaltine when you hear He looks like a kid out there. Chug whenever you hear He's just trying to make something happen or He threw that one off his back foot. And if you're a Packers fan, drink a double shot and turn off the television when you hear He tried to force that one in there.

St. Louis beats the Packers the following Sunday. A bad loss. In the last minute the Green Bay pocket collapses deep in Rams territory, and the ball is batted from Favre's hand. This is variously described by the sporting press as a "backside containment failure" or a " Favre fumble." He walks off the field shaking his head.

And so another love note to Favre from the Internet, the endless electronic American id: Knowing the team is so bad, why bother coming back? Is it ego or stupidity?

The Packers' bye week at last arrives. Favre visits Hattiesburg, Miss., to watch his eldest daughter, Brittany, a senior at Oak Grove High, play in a regional volleyball tournament. He spends most of the rest of his free time in a tree stand far out in the Wisconsin woods. The leaves fall and the deer come and go beneath him while he sits in solitude.

His wife, Deanna, and his younger daughter, Breleigh, have errands to run, however, and plenty to do. Even in the midst of such a titanic struggle as an NFL season and the losing campaign against time itself, there's school and the grocery shopping and, on a rainy autumn afternoon, gym class.

Deanna Favre, tough, beautiful and practical, waits in the car while Breleigh tumbles and cartwheels. She keeps her hands on the wheel while talking about the decision that led them all back to Green Bay for another year.

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