In my office, perched delicately on a shelf, is a daily inspiration a taped together Sports Illustrated article from December 2003 entitled Do You Believe? On it, a thin-lipped and determined Brett Favre is cocked and ready to unload on one of his receivers down field. The byline reads “Behind the inspired play of Brett Favre, Green Bay continued its magical run.”
I watched breathless when Favre pulled off that inspiring Monday night performance in Oakland a day after his dad died. Then at Christmas, I hoped for a Cardinal victory over the Vikings. “Oh ya, like that will ever happen,” my husband was caught on video saying as we got ready for the kids to come running down the stairs to see what Santa brought. But it did! Nate Poole’s leaping touchdown catch with no time remaining gave Arizona a victory and sent Minnesota home for the winter. It was a miracle.
The Packers went on to defeat Seattle in a bizarre overtime match the following Sunday.
This was crazy. All of America was using terms like “destiny” and “fate” when discussing the Packers chances at making a run for the Superbowl. Sports Illustrated released the Do You Believe article and I proclaimed: “Yes, I do believe.” But then came the humiliating 4th and 26 conversion by the Eagles and Favre’s interception that resulted in the end of their “magical run.”
I’ll never forget hearing an interview with Donovan McNabb before that playoff game. (I’m paraphrasing here, but basically McNabb said I’m sick and tired of hearing about all this fate and destiny crap. You think God gives a rat’s ass who wins this football game?) Later, after the Packers lost, I was so disappointed; I thought maybe he’s right.
In 2005, even the obnoxious Bears fans I knew felt bad for Favre. “I hate to see him go out like that” seemed to be the general sentiment, regardless of team affiliation. A little part of me wondered whether what the Green Bay Packers needed was a team mother with common sense to grab a hold of Brett Favre, pin a note on his lapel and excuse him for the rest of the season. I mean, how much can one guy take? The death of his father, then his brother-in-law, his wife Deana’s fight with cancer and the loss of a family home after hurricane Katrina.
I guess I was thinking back to my own midlife crisis that year, when I simply pulled the plug and took a leave of absence after my marriage nearly collapsed and the small Internet company I worked for was acquired by a corporate giant.
Of course we all know that Brett Favre came back in 2007 and took the Packers deep into the playoffs. Sure, it would have been perfect if they could have won the SuperBowl but
sports mirrors life: the road is difficult; we can’t always call the shots, and it’s not always on our terms. Sometimes it just happens to us. And that’s when real faith comes in; faith in something bigger than a specific player, or team, or even the sport itself.
I believe that God doesn’t care so much about who wins the game as how we play. And Favre played his with integrity, making football fun again for me.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.