With each hit this NFL season, Brett Favre’s consecutive starts streak teeters more and more tenuously on the brink. That has provoked a great many in the sports world to compare the achievements of this unquestioned ironman with that of another icon legend, Cal Ripken, Jr.
Optimist Prime made a very direct and concise argument aimed at portraying football as vastly more violent sport than baseball. He explained that even though baseball players occasionally face brutal collisions, vicious and devastating hits are a reality in every game for a professional football player. Adding credence to his argument was the statistic that the average NFL player’s career is approximately three years.
A pivotal aspect of Optimist Prime’s argument was his focus on how some NFL teams and players actually plan to target specific players to take out. This is a sobering reality of a sport steeped in violence. Former players often reveal in tell all interviews or biographies that they actually planned to injure certain opponents. It is precisely this type of premeditated brutality that can prematurely end the career of even the toughest gridiron goliath. It would be naïve to believe that teams and players do not consider taking dirty or unnecessarily aggressive shots on game changing players like Favre.
Quarterbacks certainly make easy targets for such attacks, especially high profile signal callers like old number four. Look no further than Tom Brady’s 2008 ACL tear to understand the potential extreme impact an injury to a game changing quarterback can have on a team. While the Patriots did extremely well without Brady, they are the exception rather than the rule. Despite playing with a target on Favre’s ever aging back (and knees… and shoulder… and insert decrepit body part here), he has managed to avoid injury long enough to record 291 consecutive starts and counting. The simple fact that Favre survives from week to week without being crushed into a pile of aged dust and fossils simply amazes.
Although Optimist Prime’s argument expertly portrayed Brett Favre’s streak as one of extreme toughness, it was rather one dimensional. Loyal Homer on the other hand painted a well rounded picture of Cal Ripken, Jr.’s accomplishments in his rebuttal. He pointed out the immense skill necessary to adapt to new pitchers every night. The resilience to take get plunked by high and tight fastballs and continue to make plays in the field. He explored the genuine mental and physical toughness to make starts in hundreds of meaningless games in blisteringly brutal heat, when a star of his status could easily catch a break in an air-conditioned clubhouse without reprimand.
While Cal Ripken, Jr. may not have experienced the same jarring hits Favre did, his streak required incredible toughness and fortitude. To simply boil down this debate to a “which sport is more physical debate” would be a mistake. There is more to being an ironman than simply being able to absorb hits. If that’s all this debate were about then long tenured boxers and MMA fighters should be included as well. Instead the ironman ideal is represents more – the ability to endure and respond to the changes in their respective sport, the ability to contribute consistently and effectively, and the ability to achieve in a way that no one will ever be able to surpass. Loyal Homer made a compelling cause for Cal Ripken, Jr. and his 2,632 game streak. No contemporary player holds a candle to Cal, and I doubt anyone ever will.
While he may not have been crushed by the weight of a 300 pound lineman weekly for 18 seasons, he did endure the unforgiving grind of thousands and thousands of innings which I found to be simply more impressive than the mere physicality of Favre’s record. That’s why I’m awarding this debate victory to Loyal Homer.
May this win bring the start of an ironman streak of victories in TSD debates. That is until the next time we square off. Then I’m hoping to embarrass you as much as a leaked text from Brett Favre’s phone.