The tears alone were worthy of a spot in the Hall of Fame.
Brett Favre shed them, and all of Wisconsin cried along with him. The rest of the country got a bit teary-eyed, too, and who could blame us.
His storybook run to the Super Bowl may have come up just short, but Favre had given us one last great season to remember. And now, looking more vulnerable than he had ever been on the field, he announced he was finally done after 16 seasons as the quarterback for the Green Bay Packers.
``It's over,'' Favre said. ``As hard as that is for me to say, it's over.''
It seems like it was just yesterday, but it was four long months ago. One of the greatest players of his time was done, heading home to Mississippi with nothing left to do but write his acceptance speech for Canton.
And we believed him. How couldn't we when the tears seemed so genuine, the emotions so raw?
How couldn't we when his agent insisted just a month later that reports he was shopping Favre around to other teams were false?
Silly us.
We should have understood that old quarterbacks don't simply quit unless someone forces them to. We should have figured out that after playing two years of cat-and-mouse with the possibility of retirement, Favre wasn't done playing games.
We should have known that a player who has provided so much drama on the field might be the biggest drama queen in sports off it.
The only consolation is that it could have been worse. All we did was invest a little emotional bonding with Favre.
We could live in Green Bay.
The citizens there woke up Saturday morning with a giant citywide hangover and a lot of questions they'd probably like to ask the quarterback they've given their allegiance to for the better part of two decades. After finally coming to terms with their hero's decision to retire, they must now confront the fact that all those years of cheering Favre on apparently meant a lot more to them than it did to him.
How could they think otherwise, when Favre wants the Packers to release him so he can play for another team, perhaps even the hated Minnesota Vikings.
That the Packers have no plans to do so should help boost the spirits of some in Green Bay. Their summers are way too short as it is, and there's no point ruining this one entirely by letting Favre get away so easily.
Besides, payback can be fun. Let Favre twist in the wind for a while, wondering if his only option is to return to the Packers as the backup to Aaron Rodgers.
After all, he's been playing the game with the team and its fans for a lot longer. He vacillated last year about returning, and the year before called a press conference in Tunica, Miss., to talk about whether he would play again, then told reporters who traveled there that he didn't know why they wasted a trip because he had no news for them.
Cheesehead Nation waited until April that year before Favre bestowed the gift of another season upon them. Asked what the team thought of him delaying preparations for the next season that long, Favre responded:
``What are they going to do, cut me?''
They weren't, of course, because there would have been rioting in the streets of Green Bay where Favre has, for the most part, been viewed with the same reverence that previous generations reserved for Bart Starr. With good reason, too, if you look at the stats that define him as one of the top 10 quarterbacks ever and an eventual unanimous vote into the Hall of Fame.
They're not going to cut him now, either, which might get general manager Ted Thompson a few votes himself as NFL executive of the year. He's standing firm, which for now means Favre can either return to the Packers as an awfully expensive holder on extra points and field goals or hope that the team sees fit to trade him.
It's hard to imagine Favre playing for any other team, and equally hard to believe any team would be all that interested in a 38-year-old who can't seem to make up his mind whether he wants to play or not. According to Thompson, the Packers were eager to welcome Favre back when he began having second thoughts about his retirement months ago, but Favre said no.
If you believe Thompson - and I'll take his word against someone who seems starved for attention - he did everything but get on his knees and kiss Favre's Super Bowl ring to make him happy before deciding the team had to move on.
Now the Packers and Favre are on the verge of divorcing, and already it's become a messy affair. The team is on the defensive, while Favre is on the verge of destroying all the goodwill he built up in Green Bay during his many years leading the Packers.
Favre may play again, but it will never be the same. The fairy tale story of a quarterback and the small town he owned won't have a fairy tale ending.
About the only thing we can hope for is that the next time he retires, he'll spare us all the tears.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at

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