The people we select as heroes tell a lot about ourselves. When our heroes triumph, we share their pride. When they fall, we feel betrayed. This is especially true in the realm of sports.
Brett Favre, one of my football heroes, has decided (again) to retire, and the decision may really take this time. Not only has he worn out his body, but he is charged with some unsavory personal conduct in recent years (a charge that has not been proven at this point).
I respect Favre for a number of reasons. First, he was an outstanding quarterback at my alma mater, the University of Southern Mississippi. Second, he overcame substance abuse to become a talented and dependable player. Third, he showed an outstanding work ethic by starting 297 consecutive games, an NFL record. Fourth, through his Brett Favre Fourward Foundation, he has donated more than $2 million to charities in his home state of Mississippi and his adopted state of Wisconsin.
Unfortunately, Favre probably overstayed his welcome as an NFL quarterback. He left the stadium for what will undoubtedly be his last time in sweats and T-shirt rather than playing gear because he was sidelined for the game.
Fortunately, we will forget that in time and remember his glory days with the Green Bay Packers and the memorable 2009 season with the Minnesota Vikings.
On the other hand, we have Vince Young, the young quarterback recently cast aside by the Tennessee Titans. In his parting remarks, Young’s biggest complaint was that the coach, Jeff Fisher, didn’t like him.
“People say [my actions] are immature, but that’s just me. … I feel like he was continuing to treat me like I was a young man when I’d really grown up a whole lot,” said Young. “I just didn’t feel like I had the trust and the love that any other quarterback around the league had.”
It seems that Young protests too much. When he was jeered by fans in 2008, he disappeared for several days. After being injured this year and losing to the Redskins, Young threw his gear into the stands, cursed out the coach in front of the rest of the team and stormed out of the locker room. So much for signs of maturity.
Perhaps these men represent ends of a spectrum. One didn’t know when to quit, the other quit too quickly.
Each of us struggles with this balance. There are times when we need to buckle down and make the best of the situation, but there comes a time when we must realize that we have given our all and need to move on to let someone else move into leadership.
Each decision requires a certain kind of maturity that is not easy to attain.
Ircel Harrison is coaching coordinator for Pinnacle Leadership Associates and is supplemental associate professor of missional theology at Central Baptist Theological Seminary.