How much more anguish can Brett Favre take? In the span of 10 months his healthy-as-a-mule father, Irv, dropped dead of a heart attack at 58; his brother-in-law Casey Tynes, 24, was killed when he crashed an ATV on the Favre estate in Mississippi; and his wife, Deanna (Casey's sister), learned she had breast cancer. Favre found out about Deanna's cancer on Oct. 14, eight days after Tynes died. (Deanna underwent a lumpectomy and is expected to recover after chemotherapy.)
The record shows that when he's faced with adversity, Favre continues to perform. He won the first of his three MVP awards while addicted to a painkiller nine years ago. He threw for 399 yards 26 hours after learning of his father's death last December. And since his wife's cancer was discovered, he's piloted the reeling Packers back into the NFC playoff race, completing 68% of his throws in three wins. "I have no idea why that happens," Favre, 35, said last week. "I just know I take tremendous pride in what I do."
I can't fully explain Favre's coping mechanism, either. In 1995 SI dispatched me to Green Bay to do a story on a week in the life of a football team. I got close to Favre, spending a couple of long evenings at his home. And when he went into a rehab center the next spring for his Vicodin addiction, I thought, "I was around this guy for hours and hours, and I never knew. How could I have been deceived?" Favre told me, "No one knew, except probably Deanna. Even when it got worse and worse, I was able to hide it. Playing football--going to practice, playing the games--became the thing I looked forward to most. Playing got me through it." Last year he said he never considered not playing after the death of his father, who was his baseball and football coach growing up. He didn't have a touchy-feely upbringing in Mississippi. He was raised to not question authority, to not question God's will and, above all, to never be the one to let the team down. Irv Favre would acknowledge that athletic failure was possible, but that didn't make it acceptable. "My dad wouldn't have stood for any excuses," Favre told SI last January. "In tough times, players play."