Monday, January 17, 2011

The Right Way To Leave

Today on the wires, Brett Favre filed the paperwork for retirement -- yes, I know, I wonder as well if he gets frequent filing discounts -- and it could be for good, seeing how there are no more Super Bowl contending teams that are willing to pony up eight figures and up for a short-term turnover machine that won't show up to camp or work out in the offseason. Of course, if some desperate team wants to give him a pay day and media attention, especially following a catastrophic injury to their #1, he'll be back. But NFL coaches aren't generally ready to hand the keys off in that situation, since all of them think they can win with the backup through the power of their enormous brains. Besides, the PR hit would be substantial, and there will be no clamor, no ticket sales, and no expectations by anyone with a functioning brain. Which means that the media would be all over it. But anyway, so be it.

Meanwhile in Milwaukee, Trevor Hoffman called it quits. He leaves the game with 601 saves, the short-term all-time leader in the category, having passed Lee Smith for the prize. That will go away, presumably, with a few more years of good work from Mariano Rivera, assuming the Yankee closer remains healthy and interested. The Hoff also leaves without a World Series championship, having spent his entire career working for the Marlins, Padres and Brewers during years where they did not cross the finish line. He rarely, if ever, made headlines for anything that happened off the field, got everything possible out of what never appeared to be earth-shattering talent, and leaves the game after proving the point that the Padres did not know when it was time to go. Along with Greg Maddux, he's the deserving first ballot Hall of Famer that you'd really love to see your team add as a pitching coach. Rare, that.

My most primal memory of Hoff was at a Phillies-Padres game in the early '90s. I don't really remember the year or the game, because I went to a far amount of them back then on a bicycle just because biking to a game is fun, and sitting up high was as cheap a night out as you could get. The game was close throughout, with the Pods having a one-run lead in seventh, then eighth. And the guys I was with and I all knew that the home team had to tie it up before the ninth, because Hoffman was just that good. Sure enough, his time came around, and eight pitches of utter off-speed dominance later, the road team was shaking hands, and we were all shaking heads. He didn't have to strike you out to make you look utterly and completely helpless.

I owned Hoff for much of his decline phase, because when you get a guy like that, everyone wants to sell low, and no one wants to buy in. So his last great year in Milwaukee was an absolute pleasure, and his final year in 2010 was a month of cover your eyes and hope. But no hard feelings. He gave all that he had, and when it was over, there was no false starts or hopes to get you sucked back in. Fair deal.

Unlike Favre, Hoffman leaves with dignity. Unlike Favre, Hoffman's name is not a punchline. Unlike Favre, Hoffman never wasted our time telling us about his interest in working or not working next year. Unlike Favre, Hoffman will enter his sport's Hall of Fame with head held high, having always led his life with dignity and class. And there's nothing terribly blogworthy about any of that, and the Favres of the world make the Blogfrican traffic go boom... but the Hoffmans actually make sports fun to watch, and OK to show to your kids. It's just a bit of a shame that human nature makes it easier to comment on the Favres, just because the majority of men work like Hoffman, and so, he just seems not newsworthy.

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