Favre and Retirement: The Two Don't Mix?

Will he or won't he?

The Green Bay Packers have offered quarterback Brett Favre a lucrative marketing deal reportedly worth $20 million over 10 years to stay retired, but only Favre knows whether that will be enough to keep him out of uniform.

If the three-time MVP rejects the offer, he could end up playing for another team, perhaps even one in the Packers' division, a potential story line dripping with irony.

"They were going to retire his jersey on opening night against Minnesota, and here he is wanting to play for the Vikings against the Packers that very night," said Dick Davies, a history professor at the University of Nevada-Reno who studies sports culture.

Favre is hardly the first sports legend who has retired, only to embark on a comeback.

Michael Jordan, Sugar Ray Leonard, George Foreman and Mario Lemieux have all dusted off jerseys and returned to their respective games. And sports history is replete with Hall of Famers who lingered in the game too long, ending their stellar careers with a whimper.

Babe Ruth, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and Joe Louis are among those who stayed for an extended run of mediocrity, Davies said.

"One of the most pathetic pictures I can ever recall seeing is Joe Namath sitting on the sidelines slumped over in a Rams uniform," Davies said. "His knees were shot, but he just couldn't quite [retire]."

It's not unique to professional sports. Cher, Barbra Streisand and other performers have had farewell tours that didn't end up marking the end of their careers.

But sports psychologists say athletes in particular can have a hard time calling it quits, because many start playing the game at a young age.

"For probably 25 years, [Favre's] life has been centered around football," said Gary Bennett, a sports psychologist in Virginia Tech's athletic department. "So it's easy to see how someone who spent 25 years [playing football] is going to experience some loss when they walk away from that."

In addition, Favre has had a special relationship with football as the longtime star quarterback of one of pro sports' legendary franchises. The Packers and Favre are synonymous with each other, which is why breaking up appears hard to do.

"There are a lot of people who can't stay retired," said Robert Weinberg, health and kinesiology professor at Miami University of Ohio. "They've received a lot of accolades and prestige because of their acumen and performance in their sport, so their self-esteem is very tied up with their sport."

Being ready for retirement, sports psychologists say, often requires developing a well-rounded life. That's no small feat for athletes whose singular focus has helped them achieve excellence on the field.

"It's finding something else that's meaningful to you to have to do with your time," said sports psychologist Elizabeth Boyer at the University of North Texas. "Finding something challenging is an important component. Having something that they're working for is so important to athletes."

There are plenty of athletes who retired without ambivalence, said Davies, including football stars Jim Brown and John Elway and baseball legend Jackie Robinson.

"Robinson had business opportunities. He knew that he wasn't going to play much longer," Davies said. "I think Favre has nothing else to do."

Despite the drama now playing out in the Packers' front office, few think a Favre comeback, even a lackluster one, would tarnish the future Hall of Famer's legacy.

"Some people will take umbrage at the way he has vacillated and then sort of blindsided the Packers," Davies said. "In that respect, he's going to take some knocks, but that's not going to affect his legacy."