SPORTS: He Loves You, He Loves You Not

By Joel Ebert

Here in America we just can’t seem to resist guilty pleasures. We do things we know we shouldn’t. American sports fans seem to enjoy the lingering relationship between themselves and a superstar. This type of relationship is much akin to exclusively dating someone and sooner or later breaking up with them. Both are a type of love-hate relationship that continue until one party either finds someone else, more money, or a sense of clarity. Feelings linger, emotions peak, and rationality is thrown completely out the window when we are invested in these types of relationships.

Usually the scenario goes like so: Person A says to Person B “Look, it has been a wonderful run, but I really must go now. I appreciate all you have done for me and I wish you the very best in the future. Don’t worry about me, I think I’ll be fine.” Person B then overanalyzes Person A’s speech and thinks about what it means. Person B thinks, “Can he/she really be gone? This can’t be it; can it?”

Then one day Person A calls up Person B and expresses a hint of regret and suggests that maybe, just maybe, they can get back together. This type of relationship comes around every so often in the world of sports, specifically when an athlete is considering retirement.

Recently, Brett Favre (the former Hall of Fame bound starting quarterback) has played the role of Person A and the Green Bay Packers have played Person B. Favre officially retired from the game of professional football in March 2008 saying “I know I can play, but I don’t think I want to.” This sort of pseudo answer is exactly the sort of fuel that kick started the suddenly turned forest fire that has become Favre Watch 2008.

In order to understand the intensity of the relationship between Favre and Packer Nation, you have to understand how much he meant to the organization. He played for the Packers for 16 consecutive seasons. That is extremely rare in professional sports nowadays. He won a Super Bowl title with the Pack in 1997 and also holds a host of records. The man was basically the face of the organization for nearly two decades.

So when Favre officially retired, hearts were tested. This happens with sports figures. They build a good rapport with a city’s fans, media, etc, and then one day it all must come to an end. Michael Jordan did it in Chicago, Magic Johnson did it in L.A., Barry Bonds (sort of) did it in San Francisco, and Roger (the Big Easy) Clemens does it over and over again wherever he can (Houston, New York, Boston).

But frankly, I am getting kind of tired of these games. I’ve learned to not be emotionally invested in athletes anymore (after the great downfall of one of the people I used to hold dearly went down in severe flames).

Sometimes its fun, as in the case of Manny (the Spazzy) Ramirez, who will do whatever and say whatever to get a rise out of fans (this year he even caught a ball in the outfield, high fived a fan in nearby seats, and threw the ball back into the infield to complete a double play). During the offseason, fans hear Manny constantly talking about being traded, retiring, or just not showing up.

But when fans grow up idolizing a figure, such as Brett Favre or Michael Jordan, they deserve better than to be toyed around with like a dog chasing a luscious bone. Jordan and Favre, while both unbelievable and irreplaceable athletes, need to learn when enough is enough. Although at 45 years old, I sincerely doubt Jordan could toy with our hearts anymore by attempting a comeback, it would not surprise me in the least if he did. And if Favre continues his coded innuendos about coming back to the Packers for another season, I would also not be surprised either.

But one thing is for sure, if it were any other profession (aside from a musician or movie star) we, the fans, would not tolerate this type of abusive relationship. If a politician, for example George Bush Sr., threatened to run again for President, I don’t think our hearts would throb as much as they do when Brett Favre opens his purse of tricks. So I warn you fans with aching hearts, let those athletes back in slowly. We can forgive, but we must never forget.


Anonymous said...

You just perfectly summed up the emotional suffering of many of my male friends. Thanks for the insight!

Anonymous said...

But don't you think that it must be so hard to let go if you are Farve. It must be hard to give up all that energy and high that comes from each week of playing. It must be like an addiction. If it is that hard for him to give up I wonder what it will mean for soldiers coming back from Iraq who have been living under even a more intense emotions. Will they be able to walk away or like Farve will they keep coming back to try to relive the high that they get from the situation? Good article!

Anonymous said...

I think it would be even worse for someone out of the army or marines, especially if they think the war has been an entire lie.

Why have faith in something you can't trust, especially if you feel betrayed.

I bet soldiers are actually more reluctant to trust a "fave", but then again, I'm not a solider.