It is no secret to those who know me, that I love sports. It is the ultimate reality show. Take the Brett Favre fiasco for example. He retired last spring and the team has moved ahead with their new quarterback. He has now changed his mind and wants to play again. He either wants to start with Green Bay or be released. Neither of those are options are viable for the Packers, so the drama begins.
Problems arise when emotions conflict with ethic. Chaos results when a process that functions runs head first into dysfunction that comes from poor decisions.
There is a lot to like about Brett Favre. He is a gunslinger of a quarterback. He has never missed a start. He usually played well. When he didn’t play well, he tried hard. For all of these years he has been the ultimate “team player.” His reputation is now being tarnished because he has become a selfish player.
Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University, died July 25. He became famous for a lecture he gave in 2007 to colleagues and students, weeks after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, and published in a book titled The Last Lecture. In reality the lecture on “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams” was a letter to his children.
Borrowing from his format, here is my open letter to Brett Favre, but realize it is really advice to my kids as they enter the work force.
1. Never threaten to quit/retire unless you are sure you are ready to quit/retire. You just might find that your bosses are willing to let you go.
There are several corollaries that go along with this.
A.) Never quit a job unless you have a paying gig lined up. “Take this job and shove it” might have made a charming honky-tonk song, but it is stupid advice. Someone has to pay the bills. Obviously Brett, you don’t need the money, but you must need something. Is it the limelight? Is it the only way to satisfy your competitive “Jones?” You should have thought about what you would do without football. You didn’t have a plan, and now you are in a mess.
B.) No one is irreplaceable. Not even a Super Bowl-winning MVP who had a great year last year. Someone can/will take your place. To be sure, they will probably fail. The Packer fans will forget you ever threw an interception when Aaron Rogers throws his first. The most popular guy on any football team is the backup quarterback or the quarterback who just retired. It’s hard to compete with ghosts or legends.
C.) When you retire/quit or even threaten to do so, as you have done for three years running, you lose your leverage. Your best bargaining power is when you are fully engaged and when everyone thinks you are fully committed. The second you tell someone it is time to move on, you lose your leverage. Brett; you want to call your shots. It is too late for that. It’s the Bucs or the Jets. The Packers are not letting you move to Minnesota so you can break their hearts twice a year.
2. How you leave a place will be the image that will stay in people’s minds once you are gone.
A.) If you are fired, hold your head high and walk out with dignity. Petty words and revenge serve only to destroy your image, not the company’s image.
B.) If you retire, go home. Come back when invited. Don’t become a nuisance. Don’t be critical of those left behind. Cheer from a distance. Your legend will grow as the years go by. Brett; It is a shame that you have mixed emotions about the Packers now. That shouldn’t be. To see you in another helmet is not right. Your legacy shouldn’t be tainted. You should be able to feel good about every Packer experience. It’s too late for that now.
C.) When you leave a place, speak for yourself. Is it your wife that wants you to stay or his agent? The other day you said: “My wife and Bus [Brett’s agent] got really mad when I didn’t go to camp on Sunday.” Don’t hide behind them! Do what you want to do. Speak for yourself.
D.) When the horse is dead, dismount. Even now, Brett, you could salvage this situation. Let me write the speech: “It is obvious that my indecision has caused a great deal of pain and confusion. It is in the Packers’ best interest and in my best interest to honor my original decision to retire. For the pain and confusion I have caused, I am genuinely sorry. This decision is irrevocable. I am going to spend my days helping those who have not had the opportunities I have had. I am looking forward to spending time with my wife and kids. They matter most. Thank you and good bye.”
Brett, along the way you said that you were really only guilty of “indecision.” It is more than that. You made a decision that affected an entire team. Now you want to reverse that because “you” want to play.
Do my words seem harsh? If so, it is because some of us are frustrated by this whole sordid event. I thought you were old school. I thought you represented the best of what used to be. You showed up every day. You played hurt. Team came first. You were a man of your word. If we expect more from you, it is your fault. You made us think more of you.
Now you have become just another selfish athlete.
You see, Brett; my kids are watching. I want them to live by ethic and not emotion. I want them to do what is right, not convenient. I want them to never forget that they are a part of a team and team still comes first.
It seems so naive to see it in print, but that is what I want from them.
Ed Hogan is pastor of Jersey Village Baptist Church in Houston.