Last year Brett Favre, who had quarterbacked the Green Bay Packers for sixteen years, retired. His career was celebrated. A lot. Over the past week, rumors of Favre’s desire to return to the N.F.L. have been circulating…rumors that have reminded Bill Littlefield of how hard it is for many professional athletes to leave their games behind.
Perhaps he misses how his head would buzz when he got hit,
Or how, each morning when he woke, his knees would hurt a bit,
Unless he’d dosed himself with something to bring down the swelling…
But maybe it’s not pain upon which I should now be dwelling.
Perhaps it is the locker room that he can’t do without…
Where giant men pretending to be boys all scream and shout…
And light each others’ shoes on fire, and have each others’ backs,
And know that they’ve got something that life outside their world lacks:
It’s simple understanding what your duty is each day
When scoring touchdowns is your job. To work you have to play…
And, sure, the play is brutal, and the price you pay insane:
The tearing of your ligaments, the bruising of your brain,
But while you’re on the team, your goal’s as clear as six more points,
And round the league, in every town, in hotels or in joints,
You’re celebrated as a king for all the things you do,
And though the plays are complicated, it is also true
That you are much encouraged to accept such banal sayings
As “winning is the only thing” and other witless brayings.
That life, despite the damage, is a comfy one for those,
Who measure time in quarters, and for whom the promise glows
That if they knock guys down and please the coaches everyday,
They needn’t care for much else, ‘til the cheering fades away. And when it’s faded, and they’re only watching others star,
And won’dring from their leather couches, if that’s where they are,
Why shouldn’t that be them, exalting, as the people roar?
And what’s to stop them now from playing, as they did before?
And maybe as they wonder, they have also come to see
That watching from the sideline is not all that it should be,
Or all they thought it might be when they’ve left the game they’d played
And found the days are empty of a plan they hadn’t made.
This program aired on July 10, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.