Wednesday, March 05, 2008

"Gunslinger" Retired By Sports Media Organization

Tuesday marked the end of an era in Green Bay, as legendary quarterback Brett Favre retired from the National Football League. His bust in Canton will be ready for him in 2013. Today, Favre was the recipient of a more immediate honor. The National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association announced today that the term “gunslinger” will be retired from further use by all sports media.

During the course of his career, Favre’s aggressive approach to passing made the “gunslinger” label become ubiquitous. Eventually, a law was passed mandating that “gunslinger” must be used during every Packers broadcast and any article focusing on Favre. A similar law is in effect for Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville and the phrase “riverboat gambler,” as well as Alex Rodriguez and “October choker.”

Since the term is so synonymous with Favre, the NSSA decided that it should not be bestowed on any other athlete in the future. The honor is similar to Major League Baseball’s retiring the number 42 for all clubs in honor of Jackie Robinson. The National Hockey League did the same for Wayne Gretzky’s number 99. Given his impact on the game, Favre seems a perfect choice as an NFL player to receive such an honor. The closest NBA equivalent was the retiring of the word “respectability,” but that action only applied to the Eastern Conference.

Ironically, Favre was labeled as a gunslinger without displaying an actual gun. In that respect, he was quite different from many of his NFL contemporaries. After the news of the gunslinger’s retirement became public, Tank Johnson appeared to pay tribute by firing endless rounds of ammunition into the air. In reality, Johnson was unaware of the news and was simply following his normal Tuesday ritual.

As of now, the use of “gunslinger” will be restricted to the endless retrospectives about Favre’s career. The only way the term can be applied to an active player is if Favre pulls a Sugar Ray Leonard or Michael Jordan and reneges on his retirement decision. Frank Caliendo, who is now legally recognized as John Madden, will be holding a constant vigil in hopes of such a scenario. In the meantime, other Green Bay staples such as Cheeseheads and the Lambeau Leap will continue. Unfortunately for football fans, so will Chris Berman’s “frozen tundra” references, which became stale around the same time as New Kids on the Block.

As the action in honor of Brett Favre takes effect, it is appropriate to reflect on those who originally inspired the term “gunslinger.” Legends of the Old West were renowned for their slick handling of a pistol. Billy the Kid himself had many things in common with the newly-retired Packer. For years it was believed that Billy was killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett. However, Billy actually ended his gunslinging days himself in a very different manner. He left a voicemail message for Chris Mortensen.