When Brett Favre hobbled off the field last Sunday with a sprained left knee, football fans all across the country caught their collective breath. Favre is obviously dearest to Packer fans, but No. 4 belongs not only to the Packers, but to the entire NFL, and all of us as well. So the idea of Favre not being able to add to his record 164th consecutive start at quarterback made me cringe.While thinking about Favre’s amazing streak, I was struck by a particular question: why do we, as sports fans, revere feats of endurance and longevity? What makes such feats so special to us that Lou Gehrig became the Iron Horse, and Cal Ripken is often credited with saving baseball? It can’t be just because they came to work everyday ready and willing to play. It had to be more than that. Then it hit me.
We all need ’em, even if we aren’t often willing to admit that we do. We don’t have a superman to fly through the air and run faster than a speeding bullet. Instead we have our Cal Ripkens, our Lou Gehrigs and our Brett Favres. There is something comforting in the knowledge that we know they are out there, doing what they do best. We can turn on a Packer game and know that Favre will be there wearing No. 4. We know that come rain or shine, anytime we turned on an Oriole’s game during a 16 year span, we would be sure to see Cal Ripken, at short stop during the earlier part of his career, then later at 3rd base. Day after day they put their bodies on the line, pushing themselves further, faster, higher than anyone who has gone before. They show us what it means to fight, to strive and not to yield and in doing so they show us it is possible to transcend our physical limitations.
And in the transcending of physical limitations these men become somehow superhuman in our eyes. They become our heroes. In other words, They show us we can be so much more than we appear to be and for this we pay homage, now and forever.