Tuesday August 18th, 2009

Two years ago, in the central Chinese city of Chongquing, the local government set out to build the world's largest bathroom.

The complex is, to delve into great understatement, a sight to behold. Flawless Egyptian façade. Soothing music played at all times. A whopping 1,000 bowls spread out over 32,290 square feet. Were he alive today, Sir John Harrington, the original inventor of the toilet, would, without question, be rendered speechless.

In other words, you want something flushed, here's the place to go.

I evoke Chongquing because, on this glorious Tuesday afternoon, Brett Favre has officially tossed his legacy down the toilet.

A dark moment, it is.

For the low, low price of a reported $12 million, Favre has officially -- and irrevocably -- morphed his reputation, going from greatest quarterback of all time to craziest sports egomaniac we've ever seen -- and that includes Michael Jordan, Will Clark, Wilt Chamberlain, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds.

Truly, it's a head-spinning thing. In America, we love comebacks. Absolutely, positively eat them up. Jordan mothballs his White Sox uniform to return to the Bulls -- we go bananas. Lance Armstrong dusts off his Huffy to give it another shot -- we're all in his corner. Heck, it doesn't even matter how ill-advised or ill-fated the returns are. Does anyone really recall Jordan as a Washington Wizard? Or Sugar Ray Leonard having his face re-sculptured by Macho Camacho? Or Jim Palmer getting lit up in spring training at 45? Come back, old friends. Feel free.

But this ... this is different. In signing with (of all teams) the Minnesota Vikings, Favre is flashing a very large, very pronounced middle finger toward Green Bay, where his most loyal fans once resided. Even with last year's sorrowful run in New York, Favre was still assured a place alongside Vince Lombardi, Bart Starr, Jim Taylor among the city's all time Gods. Now, however, he is Wisconsin's own Benedict Arnold -- a cheese-hating, beer-gagging, bratwurst-regurgitating foreigner concerned more with himself than his peeps.

And for what? Yes, the Vikings are a good team. Potentially, a very good team. In Adrian Peterson they boast football's most dominant runner, and rookie receiver Percy Harvin is, by many accounts, the real deal. In what looks to be a pretty ordinary division, there's little reason to think Minnesota can't win 10 or 11 games. Maybe even reach the Super Bowl.

But, to cite that legendary poet, Derrick Coleman, "Whoop-de-damn-do." Come day's end, athletes are remembered more for who they were than what they did. Just as Jackie Robinson is, first and foremost, an integrator and Dikembe Mutombo an ambassador for human rights, Pete Rose will always be a gambler before the man with 4,256 hits; Barry Bonds will always be a cheater.

And so it is for Favre. On the day he officially dons that purple jersey, he is no longer a Green Bay Packer; no longer a man who saved the city's gridiron fortunes and made people forget Lynn Dickey and Randy Wright and David Whitehurst and Don Majkowski.

No, from this point on Brett Favre is just another egomaniacal jock with an unhealthy need for the spotlight.

He's just another quarterback.

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