My first memory of Brett Favre was watching him win Super Bowl XXXI. My family hosted a huge party in our basement. I watched as he threw a long shot down the middle on an audible to Andre Rison for the first score, then to Antonio Freeman down the right sideline for a score. I saw him dive into the near left corner of the endzone for a touchdown. And I saw him thrust his helmet into the air in celebration with that bright smile on.

Brett has been with me since that time. I’ve watched him win a Super Bowl, then lose one, then go into the deepest of ruts. I watched him battle back to the playoffs–making heroic last-second plays to win, and tragic mistakes to lose. He was a gunslinger. No apologies. The plays he made were impossibly reckless, yet he still made them.

He loved to play. Everyone knew this. He got into the habit of hoisting his receivers in the air after they caught another one of his zingers for a score. Every time he attempted a run or made a block, we couldn’t help but laugh, then make sure he was okay. Of all of the records he recently broke, none is as special to Brett as the consecutive games started. As a quarterback, the player that gets hit the most and hardest, he managed to take the hits and keep on ticking. Even when he did get injured, he was back the next week lobbing Hail Marys and tossing the ball underhanded.

He was so close last year to getting back to the Super Bowl. But he was right when he said that it is much worse to get to the Super Bowl and lose than to not get there at all. That’s why I figured he was coming back this year–the team is so talented and motivated to win. But it will never be. He won’t get to add another ring to his fingers.

He’s still a Super Bowl winner, a Pro Bowler, a record holder, a 3-time MVP, and a favorite among fans–even Bears’ fans.

A part of me is leaving with Brett. I mean that sincerely. He’s the kind of icon that inspires kids to play sports and to have fun while they do it. I never went into football, but every time I play a pick up game with my friends, I call the play-by-play for him. Favre drops back, scrambles, evades another defender, sees Driver streaking down the sideline, zips a rocket downfield, Driver’s got it! Touchdown!

As much as it pains me to say, Brett needs to stay retired. He can’t pull a Michael Jordan and come back and play for a half-rate team just because the money is right or he feels better about playing. He will retire as a Packer and stay one forever. I don’t know how my fellow Packer fans will take this. Brett Favre is seriously is a huge part of my life, and that part is now gone. Sunday afternoons and Monday nights will never be the same.

I have faith in Aaron Rodgers, Mike McCarthy, and the entire team. Brett may have led them here, but they can finish it themselves. I have always been and will remain a Packer fan, though the spark that we Cheeseheads love seeing every fall is gone.

Thanks Brett. For the memories, for your dumbass plays, for your constant scrambling, for your enthusiasm, for supporting your family when they’ve supported you, and for giving football fans everywhere something to cherish forever.