In baseball there is The Streak – the 2,632 consecutive regular-season games Cal Ripken Jr. played for the Baltimore Orioles between 1982 and 1998. When it comes to iron man accomplishments in sports, nothing has gotten as much attention.
Well, here's a real streak: A week ago, Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre came out of nowhere to lay a bone-jarring block on Viking cornerback Denard Walker who, in turn, took out a teammate (two guys in one block) to help Ahman Green turn a busted play into a 17-yard gain. And by the way, Favre did it despite a broken thumb that would have relegated 99 percent of QBs to clipboard duty.
You want tough? You want day-in, day-out consistency? You want the greatest endurance run in professional sports history?
There is no debate.
Favre, who is set to start his 199th consecutive game (including 17 in the postseason) on Monday night against the Philadelphia Eagles, is the iron man's iron man. He has played the most oft-injured position in the most brutally punishing physical sport for more weeks than anyone ever (Ron Jaworski's 116 games ranks second). And he's done it with an all-out, no-excuses approach to the game.
Take last Sunday's block on Walker, for example.
Nothing against Ripken, who maybe would have done the same thing if he had been a football player. But baseball is baseball. No 300-pound linemen attempt to behead infielders.
Yet as much glory has been bestowed on Favre – including three league MVPs – his streak never has attracted the attention that Ripken overtaking Lou Gehrig did. Favre starting each game since 1992 has sort of faded into the backdrop.
Maybe that will change next Sunday against Tampa Bay when he gets to 200, a big, round, attention-grabbing number. Or maybe the streak will get a Ripkenesque sendoff when it invariably ends.
Favre himself isn't too into the hype, is part of the problem. Unlike Ripken, who obsessed over his streak as it approached and surpassed the 2,000-game mark, the NFL record seems to mean very little to him. He does no grandstanding.
"It means I'm playing and competing, and I love to play," Favre said this week. "It has nothing to do with getting your name in the paper and setting a place in the record book. It's about playing."
No wonder the streak gets so little attention.
"Sometimes, we just take him for granted," Packers head coach Mike Sherman said. "[The streak is] phenomenal; it really is. What he's doing, not many players could do or would do. I just have to say that because, sometimes, you just assume he's just going to be there all the time, and he has been.
"But, it's not extraordinary for him. It's extraordinary for anybody else."
Baseball always has been the best when it comes to record keeping. The numbers are drilled into fans' minds: Hank Aaron's 755 home runs, Cy Young's 511 victories, Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hit streak.
Football has never had that. The NFL didn't even keep track of consecutive starts until Packer publicity man Lee Remmel started researching it when Favre's streak approached 100.
How he's managed to hold up is now the most common question Favre answers.
"I've been lucky," he says. "I'd say determination is one [reason]. Don't get me wrong – there have been times where injuries could have kept me out and there have been times when maybe injuries should have kept me out. But my mom always said I was hardheaded.
"Mentally you have to be durable. You have to be able to get up after a game and say, 'I do hurt ... but I'm going to play this week.'
"You can always will yourself to do things."
Monday, Favre wills himself to start at QB for the 199th consecutive time. Philly will blitz in an effort to knock him and his busted thumb out of the game. But the beauty of Favre is, it is just as likely he'll streak out of nowhere to put some hurt of his own on an Eagle.
Just another day in the greatest endurance streak in sports history.