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Wednesday, April 26, 2006 - Page updated at 10:55 AM


Steve Kelley

Maybe a talk with Clemens prodded Favre

Seattle Times staff columnist

After months of tortured contemplation, quarterback Brett Favre decided Tuesday to return this season with the Green Bay Packers.

What finally led to his revelation?

Maybe he had a conversation with another superstar also tormented by the question of staying or going.

Imagine this conversation.

On a muggy spring day, Brett Favre and Roger Clemens are sitting on a wide, wrap-around front porch of a popular restaurant in Hattiesburg, Miss., eating ribs and looking for one good reason for one more season.

Each has turned his offseason into another kind of season. The Decision Season. And some fans are beginning to grow weary waiting.

"How old are you anyway?" Clemens asks Favre, licking the sauce off the split fingers of his throwing hand.

"In real years, or football years? Favre asks, flexing his creaking rotator cuff. "I'm 36."

Clemens, 43, snorts, specks of barbecue splattering his denim shirt. "Just a kid," he says. "Heck, when I was your age I was starting 33 games, pitching 234 innings and going 20-6 in Toronto."

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"What's your point," Favre says, wincing while changing positions in his rickety wicker chair. "You've never been hit from the blindside by John Randle on a sub-freezing afternoon on the frozen tundra."

"Hey I don't get hit by anybody," Clemens says a little too loudly.

Heads turn and Clemens waves a faint apology. The pressure of the decision season is getting to him.

"What are we going to do, Brett?" Clemens asks.

"I'm so tired of that question," Favre says. "What am I supposed to say? Oh I can't wait to get hit by, oh I don't know, Jevon Kearse again? You know there's a reason he's called 'The Freak.' It's almost the end of April and I'm just starting to feel normal again. I actually walked down the stairs yesterday without wincing. It was a great day."

Favre invited Clemens to his hometown hoping they could share their anxieties. Misery loved company, didn't it?

"The question is," Clemens says, breaking their uncomfortable silence "where in our lives are we ever going to get the same rush we get on game day? What are we going to do for fun?

Favre smiles.

"You know what I like doing?" he answers. "I like calling press conferences. I make sure ESPN covers them live. I invite all the Wisconsin writers down and then I tell them I haven't reached a decision."

Clemens laughs, loving the idea.

"You should see the look on their faces when I tell them that," Favre says. "And then I like to rub it in. Lay the drawl on a little thicker and say to them, 'I'm not even sure why y'all came all the way down here?' "

A 4x4 with a Wisconsin license plate that reads "1MORYR" drives past.

"I just go to the ballpark and watch as the media buzz around me," Clemens says. "Especially if the Red Sox are playing. I hang out on the field before the game. I visit the clubhouses. The rumors start flying like base hits off one of those South African pitchers we faced in the World Baseball Classic. Good times."

Silence falls briefly again.

"Brett, you know what I like to do?" Clemens says. "Just to say sharp?"

Favre nods. He knows all about Clemens' famous workout routines.

"No not that," Clemens says. "I like to go down to the local Safeway. Over to their produce department. Grab a couple of tomatoes, maybe a peach or two, and wing them at the produce manager. You should see how nervous he gets. And after that little exercise you don't see him diggin' in when he's stackin' cantaloupes."

Favre points to an intersection west of the restaurant.

"I got something like that. Couple blocks over," he says. "There's a busy intersection. Well, as busy as any intersection gets in Hattiesburg. I take a football, walk into the intersection and start dodging traffic. I pretend each car is a different pass rusher.

"That Camaro might be Michael Strahan. That BMW could be Ray Lewis. That quick little Miata is, maybe Lofa Tatupu. It gets my heart rate up. At least until the sheriff comes.

"It's not fair, you know?" he says to Clemens. "You can sit back and watch the season go by. You can wait almost as long as you want, see who's in the race, who's most willing to pay up. You can name your team and practically name your price.

"Me, I can't say I'm going to the Giants, or to San Diego. I can't wait for some quarterback on a contending team to go down, then offer my services. I'm stuck in Green Bay. We're not going to win. And believe me Roger, it's a lot colder in December, on the tundra when you're 3 and 12."

Clemens gets up from his chair feeling strong, like he could throw 120 pitches right now.

"Man, you're a downer," he says to Favre. "Where's the nearest grocery store? I've got to throw me some 95 mph peaches."

Favre jumps up and nothing hurts. He smiles. Finally he's made his decision.

"That's it," he yells at Clemens. "I'm coming back. I'll show you what a real fastball looks like."

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company



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