As a young child, my favorite movie was Peter Pan. Something about the idea of never growing old but staying a little boy forever seemed to resonate in my 4-year-old head. As I grew older and began watching sports, my favorite athlete was Brett Favre, the Peter Pan of football, the man whose youthful exuberance and gunslinger attitude reminded fans that despite the fanfare, money and pressure involved, football is a boy’s game.
As I matured through adolescence, encountering the realities of life, I watched as my favorite athlete also encountered life’s difficulties. In 1995, Favre struggled with alcoholism and a painkiller addiction, which he eventually overcame. Later on in his life, he encountered crisis after crisis, dealing with his wife’s fight with breast cancer, the death of his brother in-law in a car accident and his father’s fatal heart attack all in a two-year span.
Despite his off-the-field struggles, Favre remained focused on the field. The day after his father’s death in 2003, he threw for four touchdowns and 300 yards in the first half of a game in front of a Monday night audience, giving one of the greatest performances in football history in honor of the man who had taught him the game.
While life changed and I moved from elementary school to high school to college, every Sunday remained the same as I would don my green number 4 jersey and my giant foam cheese head and watch my childhood hero play. Despite his off-the-field aging, his graying hair and the fact that he was old enough to have his daughter in college, Favre remained the same player. This past season, even at age 38, as the oldest player on the youngest team in the NFL, he was still the same kid on the field. Playing as well as he ever had, Favre continued to play with the youthful spontaneity that he had been known for his entire career, running down the field after touchdowns and lifting his receiver over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes.
This is why, when Favre announced his retirement on March 4th, a part of me died inside. It was the 4-year-old in me watching Peter Pan on his living room T.V, the 12-year-old in me wearing a jersey and a cheese head watching his favorite quarterback in the same way, the part of me who still idolized his childhood heroes, who naively thought that for some, the rules of time don’t apply. As I say goodbye to Brett Favre, I say goodbye to part of my youth and am reminded that despite what I may try to convince myself of, time waits for no one.