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Bigalke
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I sit here, fueled by little more than the apple juice and tequila sweating itself through the pint glass in a little pool to the left of the computer. Jimi Hendrix blares out of the speakers... roll another cigarette and try to make some garbled sense of this madness. The screen flashes at me -- Where is your piece? You were supposed to publish yesterday!!! -- pulling my sleep-starved mind in a new direction. Deadlines are everywhere in life... everyone wants a scoop from the brash young writer out on the scene. But deadlines hardly plague merely me... sports are a unique microcosm for how life deals all of us deadlines. Time ravages the body in ways mysterious to the prime physical specimen operating at the top of its potential in the peak of its career. Athletes, so finely attuned to every bruise and bump, so often find it difficult to let go, hanging on past that prime and tarnishing the legacy of glory years gone by...

 

God, I didn't really want to find myself doing this. I'm not prone to touching those stories that everyone else wishes to... damn it, I'm A Non-Traditional Sports Fan in America, for God's sake! I'm the guy who sits, troll-like, at his desk under the staircase in his oddly-shaped rowhouse apartment belting out long recaps of Tour de France stages and lengthy ranting screeds about the persistent problem of doping throughout the sports spectrum. But despite all this obscurity, there lies in this sports fan's heart an abiding love as well for all those more-traditional sports more familiar to the American sports fanatic's heart. One sport was my first true infatuation, one team my first true love -- the then-woeful Green Bay Packers...

 

You see, I was born in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. If you really want to know where that is, take a map of Wisconsin. It looks like a mitten a little, doesn't it? Point smack dab into the center of that mitten's palm, and there you are -- Stevens Point, Wisconsin. All my family still lives back there. My parents moved back there, purchasing the old Bigalke homestead where my dad grew up. Someday I'm sure I'll end up back there. We moved when I was five to the frozen expanses of northwestern Wyoming and my father's new job as the IT Director on a resort in Grand Teton National Park. Yet those sports allegiances to the old home state never died in my father, and soon they were flaming in a raging torrent within me. The sad-sack Brewers were hardly worth watching; the Milwaukee Bucks did little to capture this budding sports mind's attention; and Wisconsin had no NHL team. It was the hallowed visages being broadcast from Lambeau Field (or at that time, it was as likely they'd be coming from Milwaukee County Stadium) every Sunday which fueled my passions...

 

Their fortunes started to turn just as I was entering my second decade of life. Some brash young quarterback came up from Atlanta. I thought we already had the quarterback to lead us to the promised land... oh, how the innocent idiocy of youth can lead us to put our unabridged faith in a guy like Don Majkowski I shall never know! But the Majik Man went down, the fireballer from Kiln, Mississippi came in, and the results were... let's just say inconclusive. My dad and I sat nervously, the heavy Wyoming snow swirling outside, as yet another Packers' season flashed away before our eyes. This guy, bedecked in green and gold and a number four, couldn't even complete his first pass to a receiver... or a tight end... or even to a tailback or a fullback. No, it got batted back right into his arms. The stage was set for one wild ride -- even the hormonal goggles of my early adolescence could not disguise this fact...

 

Everyone knows how the story goes after that. The Super Bowl victory, the touchdowns and interceptions, Vicodin haze, Irv's death, Deanna's cancer, the talent drain, the bad seasons, the resurgence... all culminating in that last interception last January in Lambeau against the eventual NFL champion New York Giants. At least that's what we thought back then... I even took the trouble back in late March to write my Elegy to Favre of sorts...

 

Now I hear that the guy wants to come back... and that he wants to spit in the face of the franchise -- you know, that team that took a chance on him and that made him the face of the league that he is today -- to gain his unconditional release so that he might become a Viking or a Bear?! I'm sure most every American sports fan knows what boils inside me when I hear of such inanity. After all, I'm the guy who so presciently recognized the 2006 Bears as the frauds they were and rightly predicted their plummet down the NFC in 2007. Everyone knows that Rex Grossman is a joke, that Kyle Orton will never be given the vote of confidence... just as most would be smart enough to recognize that Tarvaris Jackson is, well... well, he's certainly no Brett Favre. I've watched several stalwart Packers throughout the years -- guys like Ryan Longwell and Darren Sharper -- defect west across the border to play in that dome named after such a sickeningly-uptight politico...

 

But that's neither here nor there. We were talking about deadlines. And Favre indeed has come to a deadline. Some argued that he was there years ago and had started stumbling down the Namath/Unitas path to burn-out ignominy. Last year bore a renaissance which few had foreseen. The pieces all started to click, and the tedium of being an NFL quarterback for a losing team stopped being tedious and again became fun for Favre as the Packers morphed and matured into a contender. Legacies, however, are as dependent on kismet as they are on one's competency. Can Favre still sling the ball? Sure... just ask the guys whose fingertips he has tried to break with his bullets over the years. Can Favre win again -- in a new city, on a new team, in a new system? There's no guarantee... but the precedent bodes poorly...

 

My advice? You keep going off every year about not wanting to subject your body to the ceaseless grind of another NFL season. Yes, the body can still go through the motions... but do you want to spend the next few years getting battered around on a new team? Is it worth risking your ability to remain upright, to be able to talk coherently, to live without the persistent pain that drove you to all those painkillers those many moons ago, just to get that one shot at the title? You got one chance, two chances, three and four and beyond if you count NFC Championship games lost... some guys play entire careers without the success Favre enjoyed. Is it worth it? An interception to end a career is bad enough, but at least it was fitting; a concussion or an injury or a 4-12 season is a far-sadder way to bow out of the game...

 

The lesson: Get in everything you can before the deadline... pushing beyond the deadline is a game of Russian roulette  which rarely harbors good these if it continues to be played... because Father Time is hardly as nice to the physique as my editors are to my debaucherous nature...

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