In Green Bay, Favre was known for "playing like a kid out there," and for never missing a start. Even now people conflate the two. They think he plays every game because he loves it. They don't realize that Favre doesn't want to give up his position even for a day, because he fears giving it up for good. "Part of the thing he has always thrived on, part of that streak, is that if you go down you give somebody else an opportunity," Scott says. "If you don't go down you don't give somebody that chance."
In March 2008, Favre finally announced his retirement. His words that day read like self-parody: "I'm not going to sit here like other players and say I won't miss it, because I will. But I don't think I can give anything else, outside from the three hours on Sundays. And in football you can't do that. It's a total commitment."
Go ahead. Laugh. In each of the past two summers Favre waited until August to turn up at Vikings camp. But his problem is not that he can't commit. It's that he obsesses over it.
Almost every NFL player takes painkillers at some point. Favre became addicted. Most players try to play every Sunday. Favre drags himself onto the field no matter what. Most players enjoy the social whirl. Favre drank his way out of Atlanta, then quit drinking and became a homebody. He used to play golf every day in the off-season. Then he got the yips, took a few days off and discovered he didn't miss the stress. Now he rarely plays.
Every winter Favre tries to kick his football habit, and every summer he decides he can't. In August three Vikings flew to Mississippi with the mission of bringing Favre back. Kicker Ryan Longwell, Favre's best friend on the team, said, "If we were down there a total of 15 hours, I would say 141/2 hours into it we still thought he wasn't coming back." When Favre finally decided to play he got on the plane and immediately started talking about tweaking the offense.
All the waffling didn't seriously damage his standing in Wisconsin and Minnesota. But in New York, Favre was just another celebrity. And inside the Jets' facility some players did not take kindly to the media attention and superstar treatment for Favre. He hadn't earned it there. So perhaps it's not surprising that the most embarrassing incident of Favre's career spilled out of his time with New York. In October the website Deadspin reported that when Favre was a Jet he left solicitous voice-mails for Jenn Sterger, then a game-day reporter for the team, and sent her photos of his genitals. The site also reported that Favre sent lewd text messages to two of the team's massage therapists. Because the women were associated with the Jets, the NFL is investigating Favre for sexual harassment. He reportedly admitted leaving Sterger messages but denied sending photos and has not commented on the masseurs' allegations.
"I was real concerned," Bonita says. "I said, 'Do you want me to come up there? Or Scott? One of us will come up there.' He kind of hee-hawed back and forth: 'No, I'm going out of town for the game....'"
"I mean, no matter what they do, they're your children," she said. "And you never stop loving them or worrying. And you're going to be there for them no matter what."
In church that week, one of Bonita's friends told her, "This hymn is for y'all," and Bonita started crying. "I had to get up and leave," she said. "I was so embarrassed."