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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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Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright

Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

-- Dylan Thomas

Go north, to what seems the farthest reach of America, the topmost latitude of the world. It isn't, but it can feel that way, even in the hot dazzle of high summer. Roll past the dairy barns red as bud roses and the storybook milk cows spattered black and white, and the U-Pik strawberry patches and the outlet-store billboards, and the hills swelling soft beneath them all. Drive north to Green Bay. � That this is not the northernmost home of American professional football is merely geographical fact. In our mythology it remains the Fortress of Solitude--frozen in its ancient fame and its lonely arctic greatness--the holiest, most remote outpost in the NFL. � Lambeau Field, the city's heart and the first thing you see as you cross the Fox River, looms huge above the bridges and the tree line and the tidy homes strung along the tidy sidewalks. In late July of a new football season the noise of joy and human struggle fills these streets.

Before you've even parked the car, you'll hear and feel the grunt and thud and the cheering. Packers training camp is under way. This little town, so distant from so many of us that it feels set at the edge of the world--as all small places not our own must--has again become the center of something.

The practice field is just across from the stadium. There are hundreds of people here, families in from Appleton, Eau Claire, Racine and Fish Creek, Manitowoc and Wausau and Waukesha, the mothers and fathers and sons and daughters of Wisconsin standing five deep in the summer funk. On the field is the football team, scores of young men sweating and swearing and thundering back and forth in their iridescent green and gold. One of them stands at midfield, lofting passes with an easy motion and a rhythm like received grace. Each ball cuts a long, sharp arc through the air. "That's it!" yells a woman as the footballs rise and fall. "Way to throw!"

She yells this to the man most of them have come to see, and on whom their season, and their psychic fortunes, will rise or fall. He is slender in the fat shadows of the bellies and bull necks around him, slight and nearly boyish. With his three-quarter-length pants and low-cut socks and his shoes hidden in that deep grass, he appears to be playing barefoot. From the sideline the close-cropped hair still looks blond, and the freckled right arm is still loose and strong, and the smile and the smirk still say, "All right, then, I'll go to hell." Thus, with every attribute in place but the bamboo fishin' pole, here is the NFL quarterback rendered as Huck Finn grown.

To read the dour columnists this year, though, Huckleberry should be taking his first snap under center this season from the comfort and safety of his Medicare-approved personal scooter. Candy-apple red, perhaps, with a handlebar shopping basket, a bicycle bell, and an AARP bumper sticker that reads: i brake for grandchildren. Because, they say, Brett Favre-- Huck Finn grown and now grown old--shouldn't be playing football. Our heroes must never grow old.

And yet here he is.

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