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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Try It On For Size

When I was about nine, Sports Illustrated ran pictures of Pete Rose, soon-to-be free agent, trying on different hats from around major league baseball, mulling over where he might see himself in the upcoming 1979 season. Not one was in a New York Mets hat, a sight that would have both delighted and horrified me simultaneously. Everyone knew back then that Pete Rose was the greatest ballplayer of his time, but like many people, I found that there was some nameless thing about him that made my stomach turn. As Dad used to say when he'd see Charlie Hustle taking a lead at first, "That guy has a face you wanna punch." Just ask Bud Harrelson.

But I would have taken him on the Mets - happily. What a laugh, though. Rose on the '79 Mets. That team was their worst squad since 1962.

Brett Favre is different. While Pete Rose's career was punctuated with moments of contemptible guile, Favre, on the other hand, is a seemingly respectable icon. Born in the cradle of the NASCAR constituency, forged in the cold winters of a state generally known for its pluralism and gentle progressivism, he is that rare thing, a man beloved by both the Union and the Confederacy. Yet he clearly fears what comes after football. Given all the things I've discovered in my efforts to discuss all the players who've played in the Jets uniform, I don't necessarily blame him. We see that retirement is a fearful thing for any man whose only job training has been to chase around an object filled with air. Sure, for some retirement from the NFL means family, golf, promotions, celebrity appearances, careers in real estate, casino cameos, coaching, play-by-play work, or a seat at the desk with the fellows "back in the studio." That's the best case scenario. The worst case - all too common with more anonymous players - is addiction, bankruptcy, sex crimes, illness, heart disease, incarceration, social disorientation and early death.

Retired as many times as Tanya Tucker and Glen Campbell were engaged, Brett Favre calls into the deep chasm of his life ahead, and he doesn't appear to like what he hears. I didn't realize I sounded like that. Better return to the familiar. But where? You can't go home again, as Thomas Wolfe once suggested. Can you? What if he didn't? The now quite possibly freed Favre suddenly appears in the imagination in as many uniforms as Pete Rose once did baseball hats.
So this picture (from Fox Sports) represents my now updated ludicrous fantasy, one more realistic than the one where Pete Rose plays for the New York Mets. Alex Marvez of Fox Sports agrees that the Jets are a good fit for Brett Favre, so long as they deal Pennington away. This seems all the ridiculous with the Favre's face scotch-taped to Pennington's jersey. It really should be the other way round, but I get it. That's what I would have done with Favre's head if I were a kid.

I want it on record that this is Fox that I'm encouraging you to go along with here. The network that brought you the terrorist fist-pump that the New Yorker so poorly satirized. However, Marvez seems to suggest that Minnesota (colder than Wisconsin), D.C. (murder capital made even more dangerous by lifted gun bans) and Tampa Bay (Jeff Garcia) are better fits. Where would you rather retire?

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