On Nov. 29, 2011, the Texans signed Jake Delhomme to be their third (and future starting?) quarterback, squelching the idea that Brett Favre would come out of retirement to play.
On Nov. 29, 2008, my mom died after suffering a stroke due to complications from Leukemia. She was in remission and this hit out of the blue. She was so strong. She was 61.
Everyone has a Brett Favre story. This one is mine.
It's been three years now and still, the tears come when I think about it -- as they are while I'm typing right now. I can't think of Favre without thinking of my mom, and here they were Tuesday, in my world, connected again. I remember reading somewhere that a boy doesn't really become a man until his mother passes away -- because gone is the only person in the world who will love you unconditionally. The stroke hit her Nov. 8, and I flew from Los Angeles to New York that night to be with her. She never regained consciousness and slipped away three weeks later. As I'm sure anyone who's lost someone close will tell you, there's plenty of time for grief afterwards, but the "during" period is wraught with shock and huge blank spaces of time. That stretch spanned my 38th birthday and the final month of my wife's pregnancy with our first child. There was nothing anyone in our family could say to one another. There were no words. Every day I sat in my mom's hospital room, willing her heart rate to come down and her breathing monitor to settle. It was futile. It was a slow slide.
At the same time, my team, the Jets (you may have heard or seen me talk about them just a tiny bit), were in the midst of a season they hadn't had in quite a long time. After pasting the Rams 47-3, they had a Thursday night showdown with the Patriots on Nov. 13. It was the 34-31 overtime win in which Favre converted third-and-15 in overtime to set up the game-winning field goal. I jumped up and down. The Jets were in first place. It was the only three hours I had to forget about everything before getting back to reality. I watched Favre's post-game press conference and saw him say how he'd never gotten so many text messages or phone calls after a game. The next morning I told my mom all about it as I held her hand, even if she couldn't respond. She wasn't the biggest sports fan but she loved everything I did, especially if it made me happy. And for a long time the words "Jets" and "made me happy" didn't really go together. Until now. We had Favre and anything was attainable.
My birthday came and went. There was no celebration. My wife, alone in Los Angeles, had her final doctor's appointment before she was scheduled to deliver our baby. I still sat in my mom's room every day, hearing the doctor's prognosis go from optimistic to unknown to somber. Again, time melted. I tried to explain to my 84-year-old grandmother what was happening without really telling her what was happening because none of us thought she could take it. The pulmonologist talked to me about a feeding tube if things stayed the way they did. The newspapers and television were all Jets, all the time. On Sunday, Nov. 23, the Jets played in Tennessee. The Titans were 10-0.
It was no contest. Favre threw two TDs and the Jets blitzed the Titans 34-13. Suddenly we were the best team in football, for the first time I could ever remember. Again, for three hours, I magically escaped the world. One of my friends sent me an e-mail telling me "if anyone in the history of the world deserved a win today, you did." Again, I told my mom all about the game. Six days later, my phone rang at 4 a.m. I knew what the call was. I also knew that as long as I let it ring, my mom would still be alive. When I picked it up, she wouldn't be. So I let it ring one extra time before answering.
It didn't turn out well for the Jets the rest of the season. Favre got hurt and they spiraled to a 9-7 record and missed the playoffs. Favre retired (again) and Eric Mangini was fired. I don't really remember any game after the Titans. My daughter Zoe was born on Dec. 14, and she's the spitting image of my mom. Just two more weeks and she could have met her granddaughter.
When I think back to that time, rooted somewhere in the middle of it all is Favre and those two games, and how they were a part of what propped me up a little during the darkest time of my life. Yes, Favre's legacy has changed a hundred times -- from America's Hero for his time in Green Bay to America's Waffler for his retirement decision to America's Punchline following his cell phone adventures. It was chic to root for him, then it was chic to root against him, and it was chic to buy Wranglers. Everyone has their favorite moment, or the thing that sticks out in their mind the most when it comes to icons. When I think of Favre, this is what comes up.
Everyone has a Brett Favre story. This one was mine.
See Jason Smith on "NFL Fantasy Live," airing Sundays at 11:30 a.m. ET on the NFL RedZone channel, and Tuesday-Friday on NFL Network at 2 p.m. ET and 12 a.m. ET/9 p.m. PT. He writes Fantasy and other NFL pith on NFL.com daily. Talk to him on Twitter @howaboutafresca. He only asks you never bring up when the Jets play poorly.