Brett Favre will stand on the Vikings' sideline for the last time today. Thus will end one of the most volatile episodes in Minnesota sports history, an 18-month window in which Favre sequentially proved right anyone who ever praised or doubted him.

Favre will end his career as a limping contradiction. In a society that revels in either-or debates, Favre has proved that "all of the above" can be the correct assessment of a polarizing individual.

You can take either side in a debate about Favre and be right.

He is at once the most prolific passer in NFL history and the most erratic great quarterback to ever play the game.

He is renowned for his fourth-quarter comebacks and clutch play, and yet has thrown more season-destroying interceptions than any quarterback in history.

He is the toughest man in the annals of a brutal sport -- having started 297 consecutive games at a position that is the equivalent of a clay pigeon at a shotgun range -- and the most emotionally needy player ever to don a helmet.

He is a charismatic leader who can unite a locker room and inspire a huddle, and he is a divisive figure who was known in New York for ignoring his teammates.

He wouldn't tutor Aaron Rodgers, his chosen successor in Green Bay, yet he volunteers his time coaching high school kids in Hattiesburg, Miss.

He launched or improved the careers of a dozen coaches -- including Andy Reid, Jon Gruden and Mike Holmgren -- and ended the head coaching career of the man who brought him to Minnesota and helped him make $28 million in 18 months.

He craves the spotlight but won't dress for it, favoring old jeans, sweaty golf hats and perpetual stubble even during news conferences watched by millions.

He shuns the media five days a week -- a writer from Washington, D.C., once told me it was easier to land a one-on-one interview with the President than with Favre -- yet manipulates national reporters every week to disseminate dubious messages.

He will forever be remembered as an iconic Packer, yet he began his career with Atlanta, visited New York and chose to finish his career with the Packers' arch-rival, intent on beating the franchise that made him famous.

He is a Hall of Fame quarterback who became a symbol of longevity, and yet each of the four teams that employed him was glad to see him go.

He prides himself, as he once told me, in "playing like a kid," even when teammates put a rocking chair in front of his locker.

He "loves the game" yet can't bring himself to show up for offseason workouts or the opening day of training camp.

He is a Southern good ol' boy who made his reputation on the Frozen Tundra.

He reveres the record book and NFL history but once flopped on the ground to help New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan break a sack record.

All of which makes you wonder: When Brett Favre looks in the mirror, does his reflection appear in 3-D?

Because Favre is so internally conflicted, so relentlessly contradictory, offering a final assessment of him isn't easy.

Remember, it was a year ago that Favre was preparing to help the Vikings whip the Dallas Cowboys in the Metrodome, in one of the most impressive victories in franchise history.

It was less than a year ago that Favre was preparing to run the Vikings' offense up and down the field against the eventual Super Bowl champion Saints in the deafening Superdome.

At the age of 40, in his first season in purple, Favre came within one pass of taking the Vikings to a Super Bowl they might well have won.

Therein lies the Favre conundrum: He was the reason the Vikings were able to come within one of Favre's startlingly amateurish interceptions of doing what had never been done before in 50 years of Vikings history, and he was the reason the Vikings followed that thrilling season by with an implosion so spectacular it could probably be seen from space.

Favre giveth, and Favre throweth away.

Even at the end of a season in which he showed up late, extorted team owners for a raise, got his coach fired, destroyed his team's Super Bowl aspirations, became the subject of a sexting scandal and groveled for sympathy every time he stubbed his toe, Favre set a record for perseverance that may never be matched and conducted a dozen of the most compelling, funny, insightful news conferences we'll ever witness.

It is typical of Favre that as his performance and machinations destroyed this season, destroyed what might be the last chance for many of his teammates to qualify for a Super Bowl, he remained a popular figure in the locker room, a source of humor and a subject of admiration.

You can hate Favre or love him.

But why choose?

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2:40 p.m. on 1500ESPN. His Twitter name is Souhanstrib. •