Monday, January 25, 2010
During last night's NFC Championship game in the Superdome, Brett Favre looked like a tired 40 year old man out there, taking a real beating, despite still making some great plays. It made me feel old watching him struggle to his feet after each big hit, because I had met him in person (also in New Orleans, as it happens) at Mardi Gras in 1993, when we were both much younger guys in our early 20s.
It was at a house party along an early afternoon parade route. At one point I wandered outside and stood along the curb to catch some of the floats passing by, joining hundreds of other people (mostly young families). As the parade was passing, two huge, athletic-looking guys came out of the same house and stood alongside me, each wearing t-shirts and shorts. One was an immense, Samoan-looking guy in his early 20s who must have weighed 300 lbs., and the other was a very young Brett Favre.
He wasn't famous then. He had just finished his first year as the new quarterback of the downtrodden Green Bay Packers. I only knew who he was because I watched ESPN's SportsCenter almost every night. No one in the crowd came up to him and said anything while were were standing there. We started talking, though, about nothing much really. He made a couple of joking references in passing to other NFL players, which was the only time football ever came up. Unlike other high-profile athletes I had met (even college players), who were usually standoffishly polite at best, Brett Favre was unassuming and very friendly that day. And he was drinking only bottled water, unlike me. It gave me some insight into how punishing life in the NFL could be when, just 3 years later, he became so addicted to painkillers that he was forced to enter rehab and enroll in the league's substance abuse program.
I hope that he plays another year, if he can will his body to endure a little longer.