Brett Favre and I were born two weeks apart in 1969. This means that Favre is a 38 years old – and as my wife likes to note – “rapidly approaching 40”. Unlike Favre, my football days ended sometime in the 1980s (or was it the 1970s?).
Favre managed to continue playing football until 2008. A few months ago, though, Favre bid farewell to the NFL. And as John Elway noted when he retired, this means that Favre was never going to play football again (in other words, Michael Jordan could go out today and play basketball. Favre can’t really call up a bunch of friends and play anything close to an NFL game at a local park.).
Now that a few months have passed, though, Favre has had second thoughts. This week he has announced that he would like to come back and play another season.
This presents a problem for the Green Bay Packers. On the one hand, Favre was the face of the franchise since 1992. Consequently, Green Bay feels they owe Favre something (and plus he played well last year, so it’s not like he’s not capable of playing anymore). On the other hand, Green Bay has spent the off-season preparing Aaron Rodgers to play starting quarterback in 2008. And it may not be too easy to tell Rodgers to wait another year.
This dilemma has led Favre to offer a simple solution. According to Favre, the Packers can simply release him. This gives Favre a chance to play more football and the Packers the opportunity to continue their off-season plan.
This solution, though, is not appealing to many football fans and sportswriters. For fans it appears possible that Favre will “tarnish his legacy” by playing for another team (currently 53% of fans express this sentiment at ESPN.com).
As an economist, I thought I would apply a bit of cost-benefit analysis to Favre’s position. On the one hand, if the Packers do as Favre asks he will be able to continue to play football (that’s a benefit to Favre). And he will get paid (that’s also a benefit to Favre). On the other hand, some fans will think less of him (this is supposed to be a cost to Favre).
To understand these costs and benefits, imagine the following scenario. Let’s say the NFL decides to increase its revenue by approaching 38 year-old men and asking: How much would you pay us (the league) to play quarterback in the NFL? Now many 38 year old men are probably in no condition to play professional football. In fact, if they tried they would not only look silly, but they might get seriously hurt. And both of these outcomes could “tarnish their legacy.” Nevertheless, I think the NFL would have no trouble auctioning off the opportunity to play professional quarterback.
With this scenario in mind, let’s go back to Favre. Favre is not asking to pay to play. He would just like to continue to play a game he loves (and for which he has some talent). And in addition to getting to play, Favre also knows he will collect a few more dollars.
Given the obvious benefits to Favre, and what we now see are the very silly costs suggested by fans and sportswriters, I say Favre should do what he wants. If he wants to play, then come back and play. If fans don’t like this, too bad. Again, I am sure many of these same fans would pay money for the opportunity to be in Favre’s position.
Let me close by noting that Favre probably shouldn’t have retired in the first place. As I tell my wife, 38 is really not that old. Nor should it be thought of as “rapidly approaching 40.”