Farve limping to the finish line

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The end is near for future Hall of Famer

The end is near for future Hall of Famer

By Ralph Vacchiano

No one should ever tell anyone when it’s time to retire. We all deserve to make that decision for ourselves. That goes double for athletes who are often forced to call it quits at a time when most people are just barely entering the prime of their careers.

So if Brett Favre wants to hobble out onto the field one more time or 100 more times, that’s up to him. If he wants to head to the huddle using a walker and the Vikings let him, that’s their decision. And if he doesn’t care what he’s doing to his body anymore, than why should we?

But let’s face it. His final season in the NFL has become pathetic. It hurts to watch.

It’s a shame, really, that one of the greatest careers in football history has come to this. It’s hard to think of another athlete who has had as many self-inflicted wounds to his own Hall of Fame legacy as Favre has had in the last three years. It was bad enough when the only joke was about how many times he could retire and unretired and whether anyone would ever believe another word coming from his mouth.

And it was bad enough when his waffling was compounded by Text-gate, which was made worse by the embarrassing way that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has dragged his feet on the investigation — as if anyone is fooled by Goodell’s obvious attempt to stall until Favre is out of the league.

Now, though, he’s just another in a long line of athletes too stubborn to know when it’s time to quit. It’s his choice, of course, but was anyone actually happy to watch him shake off his shoulder injury and play against the Chicago Bears on Monday night? Watching him use to bring joy. Now it brings sadness.

The only thing anyone can do is close their eyes and pray for the end.

Two weeks earlier Favre, 41 years old and looking about 10 years older than that, couldn’t lift his throwing arm because of a sprained shoulder joint. The hand on his right side was so grotesquely affected by that injury that it was as purple as the Vikings uniform.

Then on Monday night, when he miraculously went from “out” to “questionable” to in the starting lineup, Favre took the frozen field in Minnesota in unsafe conditions and looked like exactly what he was — a very old man.

Instead of a hop in his step, he had a slight limp. The smile that was often his calling card for the first 15 years of his career, was replaced by a grimace. Everyone over 40 — heck, everyone over 30 — could actually feel the pain he had to be in while watching that game.

And when his head was slammed to the frozen turf on what might be the final play of his career? Well, did anything think this was going to end any other way?

What’s worse is that Favre just won’t take a hint. No matter how much venom he gets from fans, how far his texting scandal goes, or how many times he crumples to the ground in a heap, he keeps coming back for more. He won’t rule out playing again.

And he’s not sorry he tried to play on Monday night.

“Do I regret playing? Absolutely not,” Favre said. “I wanted to play.”

That’s fine. It’s his choice. If he needs to be taken off the field on a stretcher at the end of his career, then it’s his hospital bed to lay in. If he wants to run the risk that Goodell will actually conclude his “investigation” and tarnish his legacy even further, it’s his risk to take. If he wants to continue to play, even though he’s a shell of himself, and the Vikings are willing to let him, then good for them.

He’s going to the Hall of Fame anyway. Ten years from now he’ll still be remembered as one of the greatest quarterbacks who ever lived.

But that doesn’t make this ending any less sad, pathetic or embarrassing. For nearly 20 years, NFL fans couldn’t get enough of watching Favre play the game of football. But how could anyone want to watch this anymore?

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