Brett Favre has recently announced his retirement (again), and this time, it’s likely to stick. As a resident of Wisconsin and a Green Bay Packer fan, I was drawn into the myriad dramas of Brett Favre’s career, first tearful retirement and subsequent departure to New York. Now that the Broadway curtain has fallen, looking at this history as the sum of its parts, I’ve arrived at the conclusion that the Brett Favre Saga is nothing short of a tragedy.
When I use the word “tragedy,” I’m referring to the literal, theatrical definition. Nowadays, the term “tragedy” is used to denote anything big and sad, but the actual definition includes some very specific rules. Brett Favre’s story abides by all of those rules.
The chief characters of a tragic action should be persons of consequence, of exalted station.
Brett Farve certainly qualifies here. Whether his “exalted station” is justified in your opinion (he was, after all, the player of a game), his status within that context is undeniable.
The leading personage should not be a man characterized by great virtue or great vice, but of a mixed nature, partly good and partly bad.
As a player, he broke fans’ hearts just as often as he made them stand up and cheer. As a person, he struggled with vices and addictions but, at the same time, was devoted to his wife and family.
Such a mixture of good and evil makes him seem like ourselves, thus more quickly arousing our sympathy.
He wasn’t a prince or a king, but merely a self-proclaimed hayseed from Kiln, Mississippi who happened to carry a cannon on the right side of his torso.
His errors and weaknesses lead him into misfortune. The crimes suitable for tragic treatment may be committed either in ignorance, or intentionally, and are commonly against friends or relatives.
Whether it was greed, the need to be admired or just a change of heart, retracting his retirement and forcing the hand of Packers’ management essentially put him above the best interests of the team and was a glowing example of his monumental hubris. His defection to New York certainly qualifies as a crime against friends (while he probably wouldn’t bother to spit on them if he knew them, the fans definitely considered themselves his friends).
Crimes committed intentionally are generally the more dramatic and impressive.
There can be no doubt that Brett Farve was the architect of his own misery; nobody called him out of retirement.
Had Brett simply remained retired as a Green Bay Packer, he could have swaggered off the green of the Lambeau tundra and into the sunset, forever silouhetted in its molten gold, and assume his place at the right hand of the Football Father. Had he not attempted to transcend the game, we, the fans, would have happily carried him there. As it is, he went out with a mediocre whimper instead of the proverbial “Bang;” his statistics will always be stated as a matter of fact, but they could have been sung. Honestly, it makes me a little sad. Which dovetails into the final rule of tragedy:
The course of the tragic action should be such as to saturate the spectator with feelings of compassion, drive out his petty personal emotions, and so “purge” the soul through pity (Catharsis).
See you around the bend, Brett.