For about three summers, it was impossible to turn to ESPN without hearing the words “Brett” and “Favre.”
Pundits speculated as to whether he’d make his triumphant return, first with the New York Jets, then with the Minnesota Vikings…and so on.
Private jets to and from Mississippi represented life decisions to us. SportsNation even devoted an entire episode to breaking the Guinness World Record for the most times mentioning Brett Favre in a sixty-minute period.
For three years the long-time vet from Southern Miss contemplated retirement ad nauseum. The media circus surrounding his entire life produced enough drama and frustration to make Breaking Bad look like a sitcom.
And what does he have to show for it? A trip to the 2009 NFC Championship Game, sure, but two mediocre seasons that sandwiched this stellar performance.
His last stand in 2010 left him concussed, no longer starting and otherwise battered. Favre’s 5-8 curtain call made for his second-worst season record-wise and was coupled with the meteoric rise of his former understudy Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay.
Where is Favre in 2012? Living a relatively quiet life outside his hometown of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, acting as an assistant coach for Oak Grove High School—and loving every minute of it.
Another southern-born man in his forties will soon face the same crossroads that thrice tripped Favre up.
Chipper Jones of the Atlanta Braves is closing in on 19 years in Major League Baseball and he has sworn this is his last.
Jones, who spent much of the first month-and-a-half of the 2012 season on the Disabled List nursing a pesky leg injury, came back on fire and is now sitting pretty with a .302 batting average, 13 homers and 54 RBI—better totals than he’s had in four years.
Some Jones “fans” are beginning to come out of the woodwork to say, “Come on, there’s no way he can retire with numbers this good.”
If Chipper Jones listens to any of this, we’re in for round two of the “should I stay or should I go?” game.
But Jones and Braves fans everywhere should learn from the failures of lingering heroes of old—the Brett Favres, the Rickey Hendersons even the Michael Jordans of the world (indeed not too many 39 year-old wizards have tricks up their sleeves).
As we’ve seen, triumphant and beloved can turn to borderline pathetic in the matter of a season.
Jones has given Atlanta more than it could have ever hoped for—8 All-Star Game appearances, a .304 lifetime batting average, a 1995 World Series title, plus the intangibles that come with over a decade of team leadership.
Now Braves and Chipper Jones fans everywhere have the tough responsibility of letting their idol retire with dignity.
The only remaining accomplishments he would pursue upon returning are numerical; 3,000 and 500 come to mind but are still two-plus potentially injury-ridden seasons out.
He’s given Braves fans a victory lap to remember, received a thunderous, anticipatory standing ovation at the All-Star Game in Kansas City and placed himself alongside Henry Aaron and Phil Niekro as one of Atlanta’s all-time greats. A Hollywood ending in the form of second World Series is an outside possibility as well.
Number 10 has accomplished too much wearing the battle-axe to risk eventually overstaying his welcome.
While Cooperstown waits, Jones should commit to his exit strategy (like he so intelligently has been) and in the meantime give back to the local baseball community and attempt to mentor a new generation of All-Star third basemen.