The question is -- how do you know when that time is?If you love something, how can anyone have the right to tell you to stop? Especially if you've had success with it. But at the same time -- when it becomes the thing that you're known for -- are you really in the best position to know when it's time to step away?
Think for a minute about George Carlin. The reason that his recent passing was so tragic was not only the fact that he was a unique and thought-provoking talent, but that even after 40 years performing on stages, albums, television, or movies -- he could still bring it. Carlin was taken from us when he still had something to give.What it it's the only thing you really know how to do?
I feel the same way about George Clinton, who still to this day (at age 67) tours the country with various incarnations of the P-Funk all stars and still regularly plays high-energy shows that tend to go on for like 3-4 hours straight (last time I saw them live, the club turned on the house lights in an effort to try to hip George to the fact that it was time to go).
But then there are people who draw it out too long. People who overstay their welcome, and start in some ways to o erode their own credibility as it becomes clear that they're more interested in holding on to their celebrity than they are in doing quality work. Think about the last year or two Dan Rather was anchoring the news, or Dick Clark -- who will have to die on the set before he'll let them take Rockin' New Year's Eve away from him.
But it's not always about age. Some career paths have shelf lives. Some things in life burn faster than others. Pop Music stars, TV actors, Athletes -- these things tend to come and go like shooting stars streaking across the night. There's a certain coldness in that fact, wherein talented people find themselves unable to recover from the weight of their previous fame, or able to parlay it into longstanding success (child stars, one-hit wonders), leaving them scraping for ways to hang on or reinvent themselves -- but as generations pass, tastes change.
It's even worse in sports, where careers (and the celebrity that comes with it) are at continual risk of ending prematurely because of injury, the skill of your peers, or even the success level of the team you play for. Professional athletes (especially in this country) are like livestock. We love them when they pull the plow, but once they start showing signs of aging, we either chop them up and grind them into feed for the rest of the animals, or put them out to pasture to grow old peacefully -- depending on their level of success.It's just a fact of life in pop culture.
Which brings us to Brett Favre.Think back for a second -- If you aren't a Packers fan, was there anything more insipid and annoying than like the second, third, and fourth weeks of man love heaped on Brett Favre once he announced his retirement from the NFL?
Look, the guy was an amazing quarterback -- and last season's playoff run proved that he could still play the game at a championship level, but when he decided to finally hang it up after 15 years, the timing just seemed right. He wasn't injured, he wasn't a loser -- He was just going out on top, a winner bowing gracefully to the passing of time, passing the torch.
Now Brett wants to come back. Now Brett can't make up his mind. Now it's not his broken down body, but instead it's the team that's keeping him away from the thing he loves. The Packers say they've moved on -- but because former backup Aaron Rodgers is a largely unproven commodity, and more importantly -- because he's not Brett Favre, the fans in Green Bay are going apeshit trying to hold on to the past.And then, all this crap happened.
The whole thing is honestly kind of sad. I mean, he was an amazing player and totally entertaining to watch -- but Brett leaving was the storybook ending. It was like the way that Michael Jordan should have retired, except that it's turned into exactly the way Jordan retired -- hanging on too long, defending his right to remain famous -- expecting some sort of credit for his time and accomplishments.
But they hung it up. They decided to stop. They told us that they still loved to compete, but their bodies couldn't take the strain anymore. They had given their all; their blood, sweat, and tears to the game -- and now, after conferring with their families, their teammates, god, or whoever -- had come to a place where they were ready to enjoy their success. Spend time with their kids, maybe commentate on a few games on TV, or hawk a few consumer products.Which, had Jordan or Favre been fired from their jobs might have been different.
So what you're saying is that your body isn't broken down? Now your kids don't need your attention? What, did you come across some extra blood, sweat, and tears underneath the couch cushions that you thought you'd given to the game but now realize you didn't?But then they come back like a month later and say -- "Yeah, that was all a lie."
And I don’t want to hear all this team politics bullshit either. If you didn't want to quit, and the team was pushing you out for whatever reason -- then I've got two words for you: Joe Montana. Sure it was weird seeing him in a different uniform for a few years, but did he go whining to CNN? Did he complain and act like he was some sort of victim of circumstance?
You look bad here, Brett.Bad because you had your hero moment, because you stood on top of the hill and told us that you'd slayed the dragon and saved the day -- and it was now ok to go on with our lives. Then six months later you're back on that hill, saying "Yeah, there's um ..this other dragon we didn't originally know about?"
And you have to say each sentence like it's a question? With an upwards inflection at the end? Because you need us to buy into it but you're not sure we will?
Think about it -- when you heard they were putting out a new Mummy movie, were you so excited you couldn't sit still? Or were you more like, "Oh god, another one?" That's you, man -- You're The Mummy 3. The one that's set to cheapen the other two (and considering how bad the second one was, that's really saying something).
The twist here is that the fans in Green Bay are so brainwashed with your southern bumpkin/makes a billion dollars a year but can't be bothered to effing shave that they'll line right back up to go to the theater with you. And don't kid yourselves -- this isn't going to go away. The first bad play Aaron Rodgers makes, the first interception he throws -- it's not like people are going to be like "You'll get it next time, just rub some dirt on it!"
And for what? So that when he makes a bad throw or makes a mistake you can console yourself by saying "That's just Brett being Brett?" How about when the new strategy features giving their new stud running back getting the ball 25-30 times a game, will you feel better about Brett being the one to do that (especially if he keeps doing that annoying little fake throw thing afterwards?)No way. They're gonna be calling for Brett Favre.
It's like this whole movement that's popped up lately looking to "save" Mister Rodgers.
The story goes that PBS will be changing from daily episodes of Mister Rodgers Neighborhood that they broadcast to a single episode to be broadcast on weekends. PBS is doing this to make room for new shows, but fans across the web are protesting -- putting together a petition to try to keep the shows reruns in daily rotation, saying that
"This unfortunate decision essentially silences the special nurturing voice of Mister Rogers in the daily lives of today’s children."
The thing that made Mister Rodgers Neighborhood so cool was that every day at a certain time he'd open up the door and hang out with you. It never really felt like a show -- it was more like visiting a neighbor that your mom was cool with who let you play with his toy train and actually listened to your little kid problems.Which I would be in total agreement with, if Fred Rodgers was still with us.
It was valued time, because of the way Fred Rodgers brought it to life.I swear to god, every time Mr. McFeely showed up with the mail, I was like "Dude, drop the mail and scram -- you're cutting into my time here." Because you just knew every moment McFeely lingered around was just one less minute you were getting in the land of make-believe. But no -- that camera hog just stuck around, hoping for cookies and tea, talking Rodgers into field trips where we'd watch some asshole make a piano for half an hour.
But the best thing about Mister Rodgers was that there always came a point where you clearly realized you'd outgrown him. Not that you didn't need a reassuring voice in your life, but that you'd learned what you needed to learn from him -- and were ready to try it on your own for a while. Ready to let Rodgers be some other little kid’s neighbor while you moved on to your own experiences.
Remember after September 11th when we were all reduced to emotional rubble and there he was -- telling us that the important thing now was to make sure that our kids were able to understand what was happening? Like someone threw up the bat-signal and he showed up not looking to blame or retaliate -- but to patch up the hurt and make sure that everyone was ok?It wasn't a breakup, it was a graceful goodbye.
Of course the word neighbor doesn't mean the same thing that it used to. Seriously, there's no way in hell I'd leave my kid alone with a shut-in who played with toy trains and puppets in today's world. Which is why it's hard for me to feel compelled to be a part of a fight to keep a show like that on the air -- especially since the majority of the re-runs are set in a world that my son barely recognizes.He was real. Not some celebrity making an appearance -- but Mister Rodgers, your neighbor.
And I guess in the end that's my point. There is a time to let go. There is a time to grow up, move on, and evolve. There will never be another George Carlin –- but when you think about it, that's what they used to say about Lenny Bruce, too.
Let it go, Brett. Just let it go.
[Listening to: The Scorpions – "No One Like You" ]