There are few records in professional sports that seem near-certain to stand the test of time. Someone will eventually score more points or gain more yards but there’s one type of record that is basically impossible to topple.
That record is one of endurance. With today’s sports being so violent and fast — particularly the NFL — an athlete will have to keep their body in almost freakish condition as well as have a bit of luck on their side to be available every single time their team takes the field over the span of their career.
This is why Brett Favre’s record of 297 consecutive regular season games started (321 including the playoffs) is utterly remarkable. It will also be utterly impossible to break.
First, it’s a reason of pure math. No one else is currently even close to touching Favre’s record. The closest active streak going into last season, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning saw his consecutive games streak stopped at 210 regular season games. Even if he hadn’t been benched and kept his streak going, Manning would have been into his 40s when he approached Favre’s record. That’s far from a sure thing, especially given the violent nature of today’s game.
Second is that the NFL and its coaches are much more averse to risk than they have been in past seasons. Does anyone really think coaches would let a quarterback play with a broken thumb or dislocated shoulder like Favre did in his prime? Any team doctor clearing a player for those kind of injuries today would likely be handed their walking papers almost immediately.
The third reason is also just pure luck. While Favre suffered all sorts of injuries during his 20-year career, he never once suffered a truly devastating injury such as a torn knee ligament or muscle. This even more incredible when you think about how he played early in his career, running around trying to make something out of nothing and often throwing blocks. He truly was a football player playing quarterback. Even Tom Brady, who is by no means a mobile quarterback, suffered an ACL tear in 2008. That it never happened to Favre is astounding.
People can have whatever opinion they want of Favre the person after the antics that engulfed the later years of his career. You can’t help but bow in respect, however, for the fact that he continued to answer the bell for his team (whether it was the Packers, the New York Jets or the Minnesota Vikings). It’s also the record Favre himself has said he is the most proud of.
It is this endurance record that will truly endure the test of time. There’s Cal Ripken in baseball and then there is Favre in football: iron men of their sports whose longevity records will remain standing forever, much like the athletes themselves did when their teams needed them the most.