I'll never forget Brett Favre's eyes that night—Super Bowl night, two hours after the Green Bay Packers had bashed the New England Patriots in New Orleans. I sat with him on a luggage cart in, of all places, a stairwell of The Fairmont Hotel. The whites of his eyes were perfectly white, as if they had been floating in Visine for a week, not a web of crisscrossing red lines as you would have expected considering everything he had been through in the past year. During the off-season he had spent 6� weeks in a Kansas rehab center getting weaned off painkillers; and his brother Scott, while driving drunk, had had a car wreck that killed his and Brett's best friend. Then Favre had played through the regular season and playoffs with his usual abandon while taking nothing stronger than ibuprofen; and in the week leading up to the biggest game of his life he had had dry heaves because of a 101� fever and a bad case of nerves.
Now Favre had ducked into the only quiet place in New Orleans at the time—the stairwell—to escape the mania of the Packers' Super Bowl party and to recount the story of this day and this season. He looked and sounded fresh, as if he could have played another game in five minutes, as if he never wanted his nightmare-turned-dream of a year to end.
'Amazing day," he began. "I was real nervous, as nervous as I'd been since fifth grade when I first played. I was scared I'd do something stupid or not be patient. But I knew if the Patriots gambled early and gave me something, I'd take it. Second play, we call 322 Y Stick, a safe quick-out to [tight end Mark] Chmura, but the Patriots are coming with a blitz, bringing both safeties up near the line. I can't believe it. Sending an all-out blitz so early? So I check off to 74 Razor, which basically sends the receiver to my left—that was Andre Rison—on a straight post. They left the middle of the field wide open, and there was no question I was going for it all.
"Funny thing. I'm sitting in my room watching the channel that shows continuous Super Bowl highlights this morning and on comes the San Francisco-Denver game [Super Bowl XXIV]. In that game I see Joe Montana audible a play, which was basically the same play as our 74 Razor, and it goes for a touchdown. I said to myself. Man, it'd be nice to find myself in that position just once in my career. Then New England does it right away—today! It felt like my first touchdown pass in football; it was so exciting."
A busboy walked by, doing a triple-take at the sight of the NFL MVP chatting in a stairwell. "Through everything, I really believed I'd be here today," Favre said. "My best friend's gone forever. Trouble never seems to be very far away. The future won't be all rosy, but they can't take this away from me."