Yesterday I watched the Packers-Vikings game, with a handful of glances over to the Redskins-Eagles game at the request of a friend. Taken together, those two games featured three quarterbacks who are old enough to be Beano Cook's grandchild: Brad Johnson, Brett Favre and Mark Brunell. Favre, as you well know, was very good yesterday, throwing for over 300 yards and taking the Vikings out of the playoff picture. Johnson and Brunell, by contrast, were awful. Neither QB can throw the ball longer than 15 yards with any kind of accuracy, but both believe that they can, which compromises the offenses of their respective teams.
After the Skins got killed by the Eagles, radio host Steve Czaban asked Brunell if he should be benched in favor of Jason Campbell. Brunell shed his Ned Flanders exterior for just a moment and got annoyed. Here's the video:
This is one of those instances where both men are right. Czaban is right to ask the question, but Brunell is also right to tell Czaban to fuck off, he's the QB and he'll always want to be the QB.
Here's the larger point: If I were a pro athlete like any of these guys, I would never, ever, ever want to stop playing. Ever. Everyone pisses and moans about players like Jerry Rice and Joe Namath (and beyond football, Michael Jordan) who hung around too far past their primes, or played for new teams because their signature teams didn't want them anymore.
But who fucking cares? When you're a pro athlete, you get to play in front of 80,000 drunken people who adore you (or, if you're on the road, hate you but envy you). You get to party with the guys after the win. You have access to inordinate amounts of high quality pussy. It's like being named the Homecoming King every day. Who cares if you suck now? Who cares if you're a shell of your former self? Who cares if you have to ride the bench? It still beats... oh, everything else.
I was a horrible football player. In fact, I'd wager that I was horrible at any sport that didn't involve downing shots of Fire Water from the end of an ice chute. If I got to come back to this Earth in any form I wanted, I'd come back as Michael Jordan, or some other complete badass. And if that were to ever happen, I wouldn't ever want to stop being Michael Jordan. That would be crazy. I'd just play until no one wanted me. Is that a dignified way to go? Does that sully people's memories in some way? Would fans and writers have a hard time picturing me in my new uniform? Maybe. But big fucking deal. Everyone else can fuck off. The uniform still makes my ass look good.
People talk about forced retirement like it's something to be ashamed of. But I like the idea of hanging onto something until someone has to come and drag me away from it. It's like being at a good Sunday brunch buffet. Fuck you if you think I've had too many omelettes. I'm going back. And I'm going to keep going back until they turn the heat lamps off and the smoked salmon is finished. That's how Rickey Henderson would do it.
That's why Brett Favre is still playing. He's terribly inconsistent and not as good as what he once was. But when he has a game like yesterday's, all the adoration and dicksucking come back for another week. And who wouldn't like that? Morons, that's who.
This goes beyond even sports. You know the same people who make fun of the Rolling Stones for still touring are the same people who get all weepy on the anniversary of John Lennon's death. They're the same people (CAUTION: Straw man argument alert!) who get wistful when reminiscing about the death of Hendrix or Joplin, wondering "what could have been". Meanwhile, the Stones continue to play before fawning crowds and banging groupies left and right. Are they supposed to retire from that because they look a little silly doing it? I'm betting Mick Jagger is having a 19-year-old girl from Ibiza snorting blow off his cock right now and not worrying about it.
There are only so many people who get to be pro athletes or rock stars in this world. If you get the chance, you don't abandon it quietly. You go out and throw as many ill-advised interceptions as you can before the coach finally looks up from his laminated play chart and realizes, "Hey, that guy might be shitty. Maybe the young black guy with the rifle arm, quick feet and functional memory could be a minor improvement." And, if you're lucky enough to have a coach like Joe Gibbs or Brad Childress, that could be a while.
I wouldn't blame you for sticking around. I'd hate you, but I wouldn't blame you.
NOTE: The Skins benched Brunell for good today. Phew! Just in time!