“We’re always trying to find ways to lower interceptions and stuff. My nature, I’m aggressive. I’ll take shots, I’ll take chances; therefore, you have mistakes.” ~ Brett Favre
I’m not a huge football fan or anything, but I do enjoy watching a game here and there. By far and away my favorite player is Brett Favre. It’s hard to put my finger on why exactly…all I can say is I love to watch this guy and the way he approaches his craft. Again, I’m far from an expert on the matter, but it seems to me that football over the years has gotten more and more structured. When the QB comes off the field he generally runs over to study some photos of the defense or jumps on the cell phone to talk to the man upstairs. There’s reports and information and game plans and radios in the helmets and all of that stuff. I’m definitely not complaining or anything, I’m just saying the game today is light years from the innocence of the 1960’s. But then there’s Brett Favre. In the middle of all of the structure, here’s a guy who is improvising, elaborating, and actually having fun. And I love to watch that. But what I respect even more is his guts. You can’t elaborate and improvise and have fun without taking a huge risk because if you fail, you fail alone. It’s one thing to fail within the confines of “the game plan”, it’s quiet another thing to step out on a limb and be willing to improvise and fail as a “gunslinger”. And to see someone willing to do it in the face of today’s big money-high stake-NFL game, and under the microscope and bright lights of New York is nothing short of amazing. In an era where a quarterback is considered worthy if he “manages” a game well, Farve is an enigma. Here’s a guy who makes mistakes, is famous for making mistakes, because he understands that you can’t be great without them.
“I don’t know if I like the term ‘managing games,’ ” Favre said. “I think that’s a polite way of saying, Don’t lose it for us.”
This last game in which the Jets hammered the unbeaten Titans really brought the whole thing into focus for me. It really highlighted the difference between a quarterback managing the game (Kerry Collins) and a quarterback who was kind of making it up. Collins has obviously done a great job thus far this season with the Titans making the correct throws, following the game plan, etc. But when the Jets started slicing them up and Collins and the Titans needed to go beyond game management they couldn’t. Meanwhile the Jets offense was busy completing passes on plays that were supposed to be runs. “Busted-slash-great plays” according to Favre. He makes mistakes – sometimes really ugly ones – but he finds a way to beat you. This is the difference between good and great. The difference between a good quarterback and the MVP of the league.
My blogs touch on a lot of different subjects and you can probably tell that I like to connect the dots between seemingly unrelated fields. I’m very interested/curious in the qualities of excellence and you’ll find this to be a common thread and underlying theme uniting almost all of the posts. As far as this is concerned, one motif that keeps coming up seems to be how the great ones handle adversity and embrace risk. For example, you can’t hit home runs without being willing to strike out. You can’t make great art without risking it all and being willing to have people laugh at you (how many times do you think Louise Bourgeois has been called a crazy old lady? – see my post from a few days ago). How far out on a limb has Bob Dylan been willing to go? And in the case of Favre, you can’t make a great pass without risking the interception. Being great, being an original, means courting failure. It means getting familiar with it, understanding that it’s part of life whether you like it or not, and using it as a tool to learn from rather than an embarrassment to be avoided. In Brett Favre, or Tiger Woods, or Bourgeois, or Kelly Slater, or DeNiro, or any number of other people, we get to see human beings brave enough to go through that process on a big stage in front of us all.
“I always felt like the quarterback’s job is to win games,” Favre said. “You can win games, you can lose games based on the way you play or your decisions. I’ve had my share of both; I’m going to go down swinging.”
As a professional athlete, I’m keenly aware of the dynamics of failure and success. I know that life at the pinnacle of one’s craft has less to do with physical talent and more to do with handling the heat. Everybody at the top can play, not everybody has it going on in between the ears. I always loved that saying, “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”. Brett Favre is a guy who thrives in the heat, and is showing us all what it is to be a man in the middle of chaos – the big money, criticism, press, personal problems, failures, and successes. He’s a throwback, a gunslinger, a leatherhead playing NFL football in the 21st century. I love it and feel privileged to be a witness. And oh yeah, I love that he doesn’t color the gray hair.
“Show me a guy who’s afraid to look bad, and I’ll show you a guy you can beat.” ~ Lou Brock