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If this is Favre's last hurrah, we saw what made him a star

MINNEAPOLIS -- Near the end of Brett Favre's postgame news conference on Monday night, maybe the final one of his illustrious 20-year career, the Vikings quarterback was asked, if this is the end, about life after football.

"Is there one?" Favre smart-alecked back.

And the quarterback drew a laugh from the folks in attendance, before saying it's something that he's actually looking forward to. That, on a day when he went from "out" to "questionable" to "playing" to "starting" before a whistle was even blow, might have been the biggest mistruth of all.

Is Favre looking forward to the end of this particular season? No question. He spent the better part of the fall combating teams trying to emulate the Saints' NFC title game strategy -- like Gregg Williams' old mentor Buddy Ryan once said, "When you hit the quarterback, sometimes the whole team feels it" -- and took the kind of beating that Steven Seagal couldn't dream up. Intent to injure is harsh, but most defenses facing the Vikings made it a point to let the quarterback know they were there.

Plus, he always liked heading back to the tractor in January.

July is when the story changes. See, Favre is a football player -- always has been -- and his ability to be anything else is certainly up for question. So when it comes time again to strap it on, it's hard to believe that Favre won't get that itch again.

It's why, now, much of the public has come to resent him. But it's also why, as those masses continue to grouse and moan about the way this guy is covered in the media, they continue to tune in at record numbers.

So if this is really it, his legacy will have been altered by these last three years away from Green Bay, for better and worse. And if the final 24 hours of his career really were those on Monday, they did a lot to capture the complexity of how we'll all try to figure how Favre will be remembered.

"For me, it has been 20 great years and I said this last week, if I didn't play tonight and the season ended, so be it," Favre said. "I'll say it again -- it has been a great run. I think my stubbornness, hard-headedness and stupidity at times has enabled me to play for 20 years and play the way I've played. It's just the way I have always approached it, the way I play. I wouldn't trade it for anything. It has been everything I thought it would be and then some. My last pass was just as much fun as my first one."

Perfect. Those words tell you everything you need to know about the last 28 months, from the time the Packers pulled off the stunning 2008 trade with the Jets to the moment Chicago rookie Corey Wootton (born shortly after Favre's high school graduation) buried him into the TCF Bank Stadium turf.

They show you, first, why so many have festered a disdain for the Bayou Bomber, putting on display his penchant for playing by his own rules with little regard for the environment around him.

He hemmed and hawed over the decision to come back through the summer of 2008, then turned the early days of Packers training camp into his own personal circus. Similar kvetching was staged the next two summers with the Vikings, and he arrived each time after a whole lot of butt-smooching and on a private jet, which flies right in the face of the image perpetuated in those Wrangler ads.

And that doesn't even touch on whether or not his personal pursuits got in the way of team success.

Favre's torn biceps in 2008 rendered him ineffective, and while it took guts to go out there and play, it also helped firebomb the Jets' 8-3 start that year. His swashbuckling side also reared its ugly head in last January's NFC title game, after he put together one of his best seasons, playing the position more like a point guard. And his constant feuding with Brad Childress hung over that team, and contributed to this year's club falling to pieces before the midseason dismissal of the coach.

The Jenn Sterger case became the final car crashing into the freeway pileup of a 2010 season and, again, threw another layer of vitriol out there for the general public.

That gives you plenty to hate. But you tuned in anyway, and the reason why is simple. No matter how you slice it, Favre is compelling, and there's plenty of good to go with the bad.

The best part: For all his warts, the reason Favre continued to haul his behind out there was really rooted in why anyone who started playing this game at a young age continues for as long as they can. Plain and simple, he loves the game, and that's a fact that's pretty hard to deny.

That's why, when he woke up Monday and felt alright, the call went in to coach Leslie Frazier. It was snowing, it was going to be nasty. But most of all, it was game day, and that's always meant one thing to Favre: It was time to play.

"I wanted to play," he said. "I wish I could have lasted, but I don't regret the decision."

So he played, and we got a time capsule of what these last years were like. Favre generated drama during the day. He excited the crowd when he got out there. He drew outsized television ratings. He came out on fire and led a scintillating touchdown drive to open the game. He threw a pick. He got hurt. He left the game.

But really, what he showed was that, while part of this might be a craving of the spotlight of an ex-Packers quarterback, who played so many years as king in a small market, he still loves to get out there and play.

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Favre's consecutive starts streak was snapped at 297 games the week before. His Vikings were eliminated from postseason contention. And yet, he wanted to play at all costs, for better or worse, and Frazier's hope is that others got the implicit message sent.

"Not only on our team, but in baseball, basketball, football, any sport," Frazier said. "To accomplish what he's accomplished, there's no reason (he had to play). He could walk away with his legacy intact. He didn't have to play tonight. He didn't have to say, 'Coach, I want to play. I want to help this team win. I want our fans to be able to see me play in this last home game.'

"Nobody would have frowned; nobody would have second-guessed if he didn't play the rest of this season. It just would have been. A great example of what it means to do your best in every situation."

In the end, history shows us that these final years will be sidelights to what Favre did in Green Bay, like Joe Montana's time in Kansas City or Johnny Unitas and Joe Namath finishing up with the Chargers and Rams, respectively. Eventually, Packers fans will forgive him, and we'll be reminded of his astronomical numbers when Peyton Manning starts breaking them a few years down the line.

But these three years to finish Favre's career (again, if this is the end) did serve a purpose. Everyone learned a little bit more about the man, both good and bad.

And for as much as he's pushed the "simple man" notion, he'll likely remain a pretty complicated guy to figure.

Follow Albert Breer on Twitter @albertbreer.

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