WITH everything else happening in the world, I probably shouldn't have an opinion about Brett Favre.

Even if there weren't a presidential election, two wars, a recession and Lindsay Lohan's sexual orientation to worry about, Philadelphia sports teams usually provide more than enough drama to keep me from obsessing about the cheeseheads and their future Hall of Famer.

Yet how can I resist craning my neck to stare at a car crash or, in this case, a dairyland train wreck of epic proportions that's finally screeched to an ignominious halt in the Meadowlands?

Favre is already legend. Like Vince Lombardi and Bart Starr before him, the clean-cut All American became the face of the Packers. Over 16 seasons, the quintessential quarterback developed a deeply symbiotic relationship with his team and his city, to the point that it's impossible to imagine Green Bay without him.

I'm hard-pressed to think of any Philadelphia athlete who had quite that type of relationship with the fans.

Maybe Dr. J. Possibly Bernie Parent. Probably Harold Carmichael.

But Favre was different. Maybe it's because there isn't much else in Green Bay except cows, really good cheddar and spectacular football. Maybe it's because he'll be remembered as one of the 10 best quarterbacks in the history of the game. Maybe it's because he's studly and Christian at the same time, equally adept at reading a playbook or the Bible.

Whatever the reason, Favre could do no wrong. Compared to the love affair between BF and GB, that thing we've got going with Michael Nutter is nothing more than a sordid little fling.

And yet, none of that seems to matter anymore. Favre has hung up his Green Bay uniform, this time for good. Just as the leaves will be changing colors come fall, so will he. (Technically, he'll still be in green, only it's got a distinctly New York hue.)

For a few more years, as long as he can squeeze some juice out of his still supple physique, Brett is a Jet.

From far-off Eagles land, all of this is crazy and exciting, just the cure for the Hillary-Obama-McCain hangover I've been suffering from over the past few months.

But as someone who thinks that words mean something and promises are meant to be kept, I would have felt a whole lot better if Favre had walked away from a game and a team and a city that he cherished with his head held high. With dignity.

Now, like all of the other legends who switched gears late in their careers (Jerry Rice . . . Joe Montana . . . Johnny U . . . Roman Gabriel) he's diminished. Smaller. And in a strange way, so are all of us who love the game. (Unless, of course, you're a Jets fan, you poor deluded sap.)

There's something unseemly in the way that people like Favre cling desperately to their place in the sun, refusing to give worthy successors their shot at the brass ring.

Kipling made the point in his magnificent anthem "If" when he wrote:

"If you can fill the unforgiving minute/ With 60 seconds worth of distance run/Yours is the earth, and everything that's in it/And what is more, you'll be a man my son."

Seems that those who are desperate to hang on don't have a good stopwatch. Their minute drags on far too long.

Favre didn't have to announce his retirement back in March, especially since he'd played so well last season, coming within one game of the Super Bowl. No one forced him to step aside.

But in a moment of clarity, this three-time MVP who broke almost every record in the book and played one of the most memorable games in history when his father passed away seemed to remember that verse from Ecclesiastes which tells us that to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. It looked like he knew his own magnificent season was over.

HE WAS practically wearing a halo at that press conference.

What a difference a few months makes. Favre has tarnished his reputation by acting like the fellow who stays too long at the party, the spoiled brat who doesn't care whose toes he steps on as long as he gets his way.

He had a chance to go out on top. But instead of walking gracefully off the field to the roar of the fans, he executed one of the worst quarterback fakes in the history of the sport.

Personal foul: unsportsmanlike conduct. *

Christine M. Flowers is a lawyer.