Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Let There Be No Comparison

I can't say a lot of bad things about Brett Favre, who was traded to the New York Jets tonight. Being a Lions fan from birth, I have healthy dislike for #4. But there's little doubt the man's a machine, a monument to football cut from stone, his longevity and success a tribute to his dedication and ability.

But for man often praised for his leadership, let there never be any comparison between his legend and that of Steve Yzerman. Yzerman never scoffed at the idea of helping to develop the players who would one day replace him. Yzerman never made ultimatums or demands of his team. He never toyed with his front office or the hearts of his adoring faithful by taking an unreasonable amount of time to decide on his career choice ever summer. He knew when the time was right to retire, he made that decision and never looked back.

And most of all, when his career was far from over, a lot of money-making years ahead of him, he promised he wouldn't play for another team, that if traded he would retire immediately. Then on, Yzerman took less and less from the Red Wings, eventually going year to year on one year contracts, never causing the Wings any concern, only concerned about making sure Ken Holland was able to find the room for the other pieces the Wings needed to win the Cup. He set an example, one of many, that persists today and is so much of why this franchise is the closest thing to a Dynasty since the 1980's, and was instantly assumed into the front office, which had already begun consulting him long before his playing days were over.

Brett Favre? He's a bitch. His legacy is tarnished. The sight of him in a New York Jets jersey will disgust me, not because I like him or so desperately wanted to see him retire a lifetime Packer (technically he started out as a Falcon but meh), but because he had the talent, the success, and the longevity - he had the opportunity to be to the Packers what Yzerman was and is to the Wings: a living legend, a megalith, a paradigm which defines a Dynasty whose success is so entirely predicated upon the example, on and off the ice, set by the greatest leader in its sport. A man of such loyalty and humility in an age driven by salaries and pride. Favre could have exited gracefully, accepted a smaller role, eased a transition, and ensured the future success of his franchise. Instead he has stunted his team's quarterback's growth and left them with little. And left himself with less.

Favre is a great player, he's done great things, he absolutely has the right to change his mind, to go where he wishes, and to do what he wants.

But let there be no comparison.