[Caution: Commentary below. No objective stats to be found in this post.]

It's the Christmas season, so it's a fitting time to ponder the concept of love. I've been taught a lot about love this season, mostly by people such as Chris Berman, Steve Mariucci, and Jon Gruden. According to them, Brett Favre plays football for the love of the sport. He loves the game so much, he's willing to go out there and risk severe injury, just so that we can enjoy watching him perform.

Brett Favre himself tells us how much he loves the game. His official personal website is titled For Love of the Game. And in his press conferences, he routinely and openly ponders how much left he has to give. Vikings fans aren't quite sure what he's been giving them, and I'm sure many of his teammates are now wondering what he has left them with.

We're told Brett Favre loves football, but what does that mean? What kind of love is that exactly? Love as in I love my kids? My dog? Pizza? Guacamole? English is a strange language when it comes to the word love. We use the term for so many things, from our desire for some McDonald's french fries right now to our favorite TV show to our undying selfless sacrifice, joy, and pride in our children.

The ancient Greeks had at least four different words which would all fall under our modern umbrella of love. Agápe referred to deep virtuous love or unconditional sacrifice. Éros referred to passionate love, as in "being in love" longingly but was not necessarily sexual. Philos referred to a general love such as for family and close friends. Storge meant natural affection, such as that felt by parents for children. Author C.S. Lewis wrote an entire book titled The Four Loves that explored the nature of love.

Maybe the Greeks could use one more. It would be called Phávros, as in the love Brett Favre has for the sport of football. But what exactly is the nature of this kind of love? Is it selfless sacrifice like agápe, or is it something else?

I have to confess I love donuts. It's my Kryptonite. Put a donut in front of me, and I'll eat it. Put a dozen in front of me, and I won't stop eating until I pass out in a diabetic coma. At the end of the day, neither I nor the donuts are better off. This really isn't love of any kind. It's more like a craving, and I think this is really how Favre loves football and the attention it brings him.

Is Favre really giving anything? Is there truly anything selfless in what he does? Retiring and un-retiring, first on the Packers, then on the Jets, so he can change teams, is that selfless? Does that put the team first? Even his record-smashing consecutive start streak, while at first may seem a selfless devotion to his team, probably isn't. He almost certainly played in games in which he held his team back more than helped due to injury, but played on anyway.

Given what we know now about Favre, I think part of his insistence on playing had to do with keeping the streak going, but I also think he wanted to make sure the spotlight never shone anywhere else but on him. The thing he may have feared most is that Mark Brunell, Matt Hasselbeck, or Aaron Rodgers might get significant playing time and possibly play as well as he did, diminishing his legend. I can't help thinking of Favre's infamous quote about it not being his job to help mentor Rodgers when he was a rookie and his heir-apparent.

This isn't intended to be an attack on Favre so much as it's a critique of the fawning worship by so many members of the media. Favre is human and has his foibles and has made his mistakes, just like the rest of us. I'm sure he's done some wonderful things for his friends and family, and certainly he's given money to charities including breast cancer causes. What I object to is our culture's deification of a man who is so clearly self-obsessed and who rarely passes up an opportunity to put himself first. He undermines his coaches and teammates, viewing his teams as vehicles for his own glory and little more. We've got things backwards. Whether we're talking about football or donuts, it ain't love.

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12 Responses to “Love?”

  1. Casey A says:

    Another hypothesis: Favre, like lots of people facing retirement, cannot figure out what to do with his life after he leaves his job, so he keeps working as long as he can. The transition from to sitting on the couch or puttering around the house all day might be even more jarring for a celebrity athlete than a working stiff, but maybe not fundamentally different. It might not be love that keeps Favre hanging on, but a desire to avoid facing the fact that he just doesn't know what to do next.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Wow, I now wish I had email addresses for every asshole I've ever met. What a perfect 'gift':

  3. Jim Glass says:

    It's also easy to really love/crave some activity that pays you $16 million a year plus endless public idolation (and have a tough time adjusting to what happens after that ends). Not to be too cynical on Christmas day, but in human psychology nothing is easier than to truly believe that what is good for you personally is virtuous, moral, something you love and believe in, all of which shows your own good character.

  4. Fitz says:

    Ancient Greek didn't have a [v] sound.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Good article !

    I have this to say: Favre loves himself. He did the cancer charity only because his wife got it. He is the same "dictator" as Lance Armstrong: Me-Me-Me...

    All his records are cumulative ones (incl. Interceptions), but not effective ones. He won only 1 SB and only played in 2 SB in his career. And that only because he was backed by the best defenses the time he went to the SB.

    That is just 0,8 more SB´s he has played in, than ANY other QB would have, if given the same opportunities to play as long as him.

    All of us don´t know how many careers he destroyed for Backup-QB´s who never got the chance to play because of his selfishness.

    I don´t like people like him who only care about themselves.

    And i never understood how grown up people (fans) could fall in love with a guy they don´t know. People are so easy to be manipulated to follow the next messias, even tough he might be a criminal like, for example, Big-Ben. It´s unintentionally hilarious.

    Some of us (including me) criticized CHFF. But one point they are 100% correct. It´s about the old yeller fever. For me Favre is only famous for all his season ending Interceptions. My favourite is the 6-Int-Game vs SL in 2001.

    But i think Favre will pay the price for his bad behavior: A life long suffering of permanent pain. 2/3 of Ex-Players suffer of it. I feel sorry for those who only were cannon fodder, but i am not sorry for dictators like him, who got rich at the expense of others.

    Greetings from Germany, Karl.

  6. Ed Anthony says:

    I was once a big Brett Favre fan. You have to give him credit for some overcoming some off-the-field hurdles - his addiction to painkillers and his support of Diana when she was dealing with breast cancer.

    We should not judge a person's motivation. It doesn't matter why he did the things he did, the only thing which matters is that he did them. This applies to the good he's done as well as the damage for which he is responsible.

    [As an aside, one can make an argument that he threw the second SB because he wanted Elway to win a SB. In that game the Packers were leading, on the way to victory and Favre threw an interception to a Bronco with no Packer in the vicinity.]

    Allow me now to remind readers of this blog that, even though we don't use the word, the NFL is about entertainment. We have numerous posts here and elsewhere which suggest that the outcome of at least 40% of the games is a result of luck. The NFL strives for this quality called parity. Why might that be? Clearly to sell the product. The skill levels of players in the NFL is incredibly high, so much so that there is little separation between one player and the next. On any given day it is difficult to determine who will dominate. Few players dominate from one year to the next.

    So if you will grant me that the NFL (like WWF, forgive me for this comparison, but I do believe it to be valid) is about entertainment Farve is a great box office draw. The drama in his life, the fact that he has a downhome quality about him, you must admit his smile and deportment is endearing, all contribute to his selling the product. (Recall his acting role in "There's Something about Mary." He's a terrible actor but his appearance was fun.)

    [If you are not yet convinced that the NFL is about entertainment, please explain what happens at the SB. that show has the greatest musical artists available, there is smoke, bright lights, noise, newly-launched commercials and every form hoopla imaginable. If this isn't about entertainment, why isn't there more about football in the show?]

    Perhaps it doesn't matter whether we can identify the type of love Favre has for the game. Of course he should not have returned after he retired, at least he should not have if he truly loved the game for the sport it is. But if we are looking for entertainment then he was right to dance in and out of the league. If the business of the NFL is entertainment then Favre adds the interest the game wants.

    What's more entertaining than the fact that he was the receiver of his first NFL pass. Consider all the discussion he has prompted on this site. He is a great draw and that's what the NFL wants in it's talent pool.

  7. ScoWes says:

    One could make an argument that Favre is 'giving' his body, and years off his life. We do know that the average NFL player lives years less than an average counterpart. Considering that the average male doesn't have access to top-of-the-line medical technology for a good part of his life like NFL players do the reduction in lifespan is truly tremendous.

    I'm not going to say Favre or another player truly 'loves' the game - its easy to criticize someone making millions of dollars and saying they do it for the paycheck. He loves the game likely in the same way you love someone else - usually requires some reflection of that love.

    Love can be quantified in Biology by the release of the hormone oxytocin in the brain as well. If football releases oxytocin (NOT oxycontin) in Favre's brain then he's likely addicted to the sensation an is in 'love'.

    How many people love someone for long who never loves them back? If they do is it real 'love'?

    Maybe the love Favre gets from the game is being around the team, and the preparation. Thats what I miss from my career in college - not the fans, jersey, or games. Its the team, and togetherness.

  8. bigmouth says:

    I believe it was Aristophanes who asked in the Symposium, if Brett Favre loves football, why doesn't he marry it?

  9. Anonymous says:


    i wonder how this myth about a shorter Life-Expectancy for NFL-Players is still alive. It´s not true. What´s true is that a majority of players suffer from permanent pain.

    Greetings, Karl, Germany

  10. James says:

    I'm not so sure about this article and some of the comments. I really think Favre greatly enjoys playing football and personally cares for the players around him and that's why he never wanted to retire. Yes, Favre mishandled his relationship with Rodgers but I think I'd struggle with willingly training my replacement at my job before I was ready. Favre always seemed to have a passion for the game by taking wins and losses personally and running down the field after touchdowns. Sure, jumping on the receiver's back seems a bit canned and tired now, but I can't imagine he would STILL be faking that enthusiasm just for the cameras.

    My impression this season is that Favre never intended on playing this year until begged by his teammates to come back. While there's a possibility that he was being petulant, at the very least it clearly was never about the money. If nothing else, I'd prefer a player who may be self-absorbed but gives it his all on the field than a player like Albert Haynesworth or Randy Moss.

  11. Ethan says:

    It is my belief that Favre loves the game of football. As long as he is physically able to perform as the starting quarterback of the NFL team he will play, regardless of his success. It is for that reason that he played through injuries even though his performance may have hurt his teams chances to win. As long as the coach allows him out on the field he will go.
    He does not love football for the same reason a Peyton Manning or Tom Brady loves football. They love the competitiveness and the euphoric feeling that comes with winning. When a true competitor feels he no longer has competition (either out of excessive success- see Michael Jordan retirement #1 or inability to perform to a competitive standard- see Michael Jordan on the Washington Wizards) he steps away from the game.
    It is unfortunate that Favre had to play to the point where it is possible he can no longer get a starting job in the NFL, but that is what it will take to make him step away from the game.

  12. Brian Burke says:

    Based on the comments, I think some people are missing the point.

    -Favre loves football like I love donuts, not like parents love their kids. It's all about what football gives him, not the other way around.

    -That's fine. Football is not a charity to be given to. However, what is objectionable in the extreme is the the media's fawning all over this guy like he's some sort of saint of the pigskin, sacrificing his own interests for others' benefit. It's the other way around. Favre takes from the game. He doesn't give to it.

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