Aug. 19 (Bloomberg) -- About the only thing missing from the incessant, and aerial, Brett Favre news coverage was Al Cowlings, best known for piloting the white Ford Bronco that carried O.J. Simpson.
The sport-utility vehicle ferrying Favre the other day was black, not white. Didn’t appear to be a Bronco, either. The details didn’t matter to the WCCO news helicopter that hovered overhead, following the vehicle’s every turn from the airport to the Vikings practice facility. Viewers were too busy paying attention and homage to the passenger whose arrival preempted local programming.
Favre has decided to give football another go. Stop the presses. Cue the silliness. It’s mind-boggling when you consider how much airtime and ink have been devoted to the 40-year-old Favre, who, no argument here, is one heck of a quarterback. All that adoration for flinging a football when there’s so much more a rich, famous and influential athlete can accomplish.
“No one is worthy of the attention,” Favre said during a press conference yesterday. True, but it’d be nice if athletes like Adonal Foyle got a smidgen of it.
Regrettably, there was no chopper or fanfare, no appreciative fans lining the streets of Orlando, Florida, where word came that one of the classiest professional athletes was saying goodbye.
Unlike Favre, Foyle’s first retirement will stand. No flip. No flop. There’s too much work to do; too much to learn; too much to teach; too many to help.
Foyle pondered his last day in the National Basketball Association on his first day.
“My parents wanted to know what I was going to do next,” Foyle, 35, said via telephone yesterday. “I was like, ‘I just got here.’ But it’s inevitable.”
It would be understandable if casual fans aren’t familiar with Foyle, whose most impressive accomplishments occurred off the court. Foyle is more selfless and studious than superstar. He even penned a retirement poem “Love Song to a Game,” which begins, “How should I tell thee goodbye?” Favre still can’t answer that question.
Foyle, who graduated magna cum laude from Colgate University, was never the marquee name on the roster. Nevertheless, Magic General Manager Otis Smith called him the team’s most important player. Smith, you see, is the rare team executive who understands that sports are far bigger than what happens on the field.
A Balanced Life
“One thing I always had is balance,” Foyle said. “There is a world beyond the court.”
Foyle retired after 733 regular-season games. He departs with career averages of 4.1 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocked shots.
Average, you say? Then you don’t know Foyle. Gimme Foyle over Favre any day, even if it means no trophies.
Favre is headed to Canton, Ohio, home to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Foyle is already enshrined in the Boise, Idaho, World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame, which counts Arthur Ashe, Roberto Clemente, Rafer Johnson and Jackie Robinson as members.
“I’ll take Boise,” Foyle said. “Sports is not the end-all, be-all.”
Don’t tell that to the grown-ups who paint their faces and worship athletes.
Favre has one Super Bowl ring. Foyle has started two foundations. One, Democracy Matters, is a nonpartisan campus-based group working to rid politics of private money. The other, the Kerosene Lamp Foundation, works to empower kids in the Caribbean and U.S.
‘Loss of Identity’
Foyle, a native of Canouan Island in the Grenadines, named the foundation after the type of fuel he used to light the lamp by which he read as a kid.
He’s working toward his master’s degree in sports psychology at John F. Kennedy University. His recently completed thesis focused on the retirement experiences of nine former NBA players.
“There’s a loss of social status, a loss of identity,” Foyle said of retirement.
Maybe that helps to explain the reticence of Favre, who at his going-away press conference -- don’t ask which one -- said a number of people had asked whether he’d developed a life plan after football.
The answer was no, which sounded all too familiar to Foyle.
“You should play for as long as you want to play, but you have to realize you can’t do it because you’re afraid to see what’s on the other side,” he said. “One day they’re going to drag you off the field and rip off the uniform.”
And when that day comes for Favre, and it will come, not a single news helicopter will follow his car to the airport. Not even if Cowlings is driving.
(Scott Soshnick is a Bloomberg News columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.)
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