Remember when Brett Favre could do no wrong? Remember when the gun-slinging quarterback could throw three interceptions in the first half of a game and then engineer a fourth-quarter comeback victory? Remember when he stacked division championships like Lego blocks? Remember when he became the only football player ever to win three consecutive MVP awards?
For many, such memories are growing dim. Favre's legacy of sports greatness is fading in the blinding light of his self-worshipping, look-at-how-tough-I-am act. Case in point: the post-game press conference on Halloween night following a 28-18 loss for Favre's Vikings. The beleaguered quarterback, whose second-half interception allowed New England to pull away with an insurmountable lead, was eager to tell the story of his toughness: "I really can't complain, although I probably should. I have a broken foot. I have eight stitches in my chin. I've had tendinitis in my elbow. But I threw it as well as I have all season."
The quote sums up well the narrative Favre has been selling for the past several years. With every prolonged moment on the turf after taking a big hit, with every exaggerated limp as he walks back to the huddle between plays, with every mention of any and all ailments, the 41-year-old playcaller begs the media for another ode to his grit. But this year, amid a growing stack of losses and unredeemed interceptions, some media members have stopped buying.
Perhaps the charges against Favre of sexual harassment and lewd text messages to a former New York Jets employee have awakened the cynicism in reporters once happy to suspend all critiques of the NFL's golden boy. Maybe some had just seen one too many spots of Favre playing backyard ball in his real, comfortable Wrangler jeans.
Whatever the reason, the literary serenades that used to pass for game stories have ceased. In their place, clear-headed columns review Favre as footballer and actor. The consensus: thumbs down.
The Giants may have clinched their World Series victory in Game 5, but they won it several days earlier. The decisive moment of the series came in the bottom half of the eighth inning in Game 2. Trailing by just two runs with the top of their explosive lineup due up the ninth, the Texas Rangers needed just one more out to finish the inning and set up a potential comeback bid. They brought in second-year man Derek Holland to get the job done.
He did not. Holland threw 13 pitches. Only one was a strike. The three resulting walks pushed home a third run for the Giants and left the bases loaded for subsequent Rangers reliever Mark Lowe. The veteran right-hander proved little better, walking another man to force in a fourth Giants run before surrendering a two-run single. Dipping back into the bullpen, the Rangers called on strikeout artist Michael Kirkman, to no avail. The hard-throwing lefty gave up a two-run triple and then a one-run double before finally recording a strikeout to end the carnage.
The seven-run outburst did more than seal Game 2. It deflated the Rangers. How could it not? The helplessness of Holland, Lowe, and Kirkman on the mound is a sensation to which most athletes can relate and one from which many never recover. The sports world calls it choking. But it is more painful than that; it is a complete inability to perform the very thing you live to perform in the very moment you live to experience simply because you now stand on the stage you've dreamed of since childhood.
Choking? No. Try heartbreaking.