By Dave Begel Contributing Writer Published Oct 06, 2009 at 5:22 AM


If you're a professional athlete, fear can rob you of everything you've got.

I think Aaron Rodgers plays quarterback like a man afraid.

He is not of onrushing linemen or slashing linebackers. I think he's afraid of making a mistake. I think he's cautious, careful and very worried about making an error that leads to defeat.

It's not that I think he's without skills. Clearly, he's got a lot of skill and a lot of ability. But last night in Minneapolis, when everyone watching wondered who the best quarterback was, there turned out to be no doubt. And, it wasn't because one of them had so much more ability. What one had was flair and heart and daring. The other one was handcuffed by caution.

Think of two cars on the road.

One driver is traveling down the middle of the road, windows rolled up, going the speed limit, both hands on the wheel, the radio softly playing NPR, his seat belt cinched tight, his rear view mirror set to block the glare of cars behind him and his cell phone turned off.

The other one is going 25 mph over the speed limit, one hand on the wheel, a bottle of Bud Light in one hand, a girl snuggled up to him with her head on his shoulder, the wheels spitting gravel as he edges off the road briefly, the radio blaring a Toby Keith song.

The first one is Aaron Rodgers. The second, of course, is Brett Favre.

Favre is going to turn 40 next week, and there can be no doubt that he is still, at his advanced age, one of the top quarterbacks in the National Football League. Sure, his Vikings are better than Aaron Rodgers' Packers. But part of that, a big part, is that Favre is better than Rodgers. It's not even close.

The Favre haters can throw out all the statistics they want. They can talk about Rodgers suffering with a bad offensive line. They can talk about the big numbers he puts up. They can talk about some of those eye-popping quarterback ratings he puts up. But, they are missing something, something very important.

Being a quarterback is more -- much more -- than numbers. A quarterback can make the players around him better. He can make his teammates dig deeper, play harder and fight when all the fight is gone.

Nobody plays quarterback the way Brett Favre plays the position. He has a joy and passion along with a cannon for an arm, a head full of experience and a style of leadership that says "Just come along with me guys and we'll have a party when we get there."

For those of you who think that Ted Thompson made the right decision when he decided to send Favre packing, get your head out of the sand. He made the wrong decision. He had one great quarterback and one untested, average quarterback. And, it was a bad decision.

Nothing showed Rodgers' debilitating fear more clearly than a play late in the fourth quarter. With just more than 7 minutes left, the Packers faced third and 10 from the 1-yard line. Rodgers dropped back and the Vikings came hard. The Packers were down by 14 points. What you don't do in this case is get sacked. If you've got guts, you throw the ball, try to fit it in, go for the miracle. But Rodgers pulled it down, got hit and -- after a review to see whether he fumbled -- the play was ruled a safety.

I don't know if Favre was motivated by revenge or not. But I do believe he wanted to show the Packers, the national television audience, his teammates and the rest of the world that he still has it. Last week, he threw a bullet at the end of the game to win. This week, he was masterful. Television announcers couldn't stop praising him, and there was no reason for them to stop.

Because this man, dressed oddly in purple, with more gray under his helmet than anything else, proved to everybody who cared to pay attention that there is a reason he has all those records. The reason is that he is the best there is.

Dave Begel Contributing Writer

With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.

He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.

This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.

Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.