There are a lot of very happy Green Bay Packers fans today. We are a long-suffering bunch, and for awhile there the game teased our fatalistic natures in such a way to where it was easy to envision the Steelers mounting an 80-yard, 2-minute drive culminating in a touchdown and extra point, winning the game 32-31. Not a Packers fan who has BEEN a Packers fan would have been totally shocked by that outcome. Gimme a nickel for every time since I began watching the Green and Gold in the early 60s that they’ve snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, and we’ll go somewhere NICE to eat tonight, my treat. But it didn’t happen. The Packers hung on. They won their 4th Super Bowl.
I believe the happiest Packers fan of them all is my mother. She’s been quite ill, as you know. There’s no way to say with any certainty that she will still be with us the next time the Pack takes the field. So what comfort it would be to those of us who love her to know that the last game she ever saw during her time on Earth was her beloved Packers… a team she has followed for more than 60 years… winning the Super Bowl.
Dallas Cowboys ? America’s Team? Bite me! There’s ONE “America’s team,” and that’s the Green Bay Packers. Wherever I’ve traveled in this country I’ve found Packers fans. Even in Dallas! When I was driving truck for a living, I happened to be laid over for the weekend in Mesquite, Texas, right outside of Dallas. For the first time in years, Green Bay beat the Cowboys. I was brave (or suicidal) enough to walk across the street from my motel to get a bite to eat, wearing my Packers jersey. More than one car drove past me with the driver extending a single finger. But sometimes, that finger was a thumb!
Even in Dallas, there are Packer Backers!
I can only think of one person this morning who ever donned the Green and Gold of the Green Bay Packers who is probably sad at the outcome of yesterday’s 31-25 Super Bowl victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers . His name was rarely mentioned during the telecast. His shadow has dissipated. He is, officially, a ghost.
Brett Favre . The former Giant who RULED Wisconsin with his passing and scrambling is now but an afterthought. And it didn’t have to be that way.
Brett should have been in the Packers’ sky box at the game last night, sitting with other Packer legends like Bart Starr . But Brett chose a different path.
Brett forgot that there is no “I” in “team.” But there is in “Idiot.”
After the 2007 season, General Manager Ted Thompson had to make a difficult decision. He saw how Brett petered out in the final minutes of the NFC title game against New York, throwing the interception in overtime that led to the Giants getting the game-winning field goal. And it was only natural. Brett Favre was a great quarterback, arguably the best to ever play the game. But he was getting older. And it was freakin’ COLD that night in Green Bay. How much do you ask an aging, frequently beaten body to put up with in those kinds of conditions?
Thompson knew he had a young stallion in the stable. This kid named Aaron Rodgers . He knew that the 2008 season would be Rodgers’ last year on his Packers contract. He knew that if he didn’t pull the trigger on Favre, Rodgers would be ticked off to the point where he would seek free agency, leaving the Packers without a decent QB for the first time since the late 1980s.
Brett, at first, made the decision easy for Thompson. Whining about how the Packers weren’t quite kissing his ass enough, he cried his way through a press conference and retired.
But when the hot days of summer awoke the football lust in Brett, he un-retired. He demanded that if he returned to the Packers, he would be the unquestioned starter. Thompson said, “Fine… you can return to the team. We welcome you. But you will compete for the starting job.”
For Brett, this was unthinkable and he demanded to be traded to the Minnesota Vikings .
After the Packers Brass cleaned up the mouthfuls of coffee they shot through their noses, they told Brett they’d trade him… but not to an NFC North opponent, and not to an NFC team, but to the New York Jets .
In 2008, Brett had an “OK” first part of the season as the Jets QB. No one in Packerland bore him any ill will. In fact, there was controversy about letting him go — the “Favre” fans were upset while the “Packers” fans understood the need to look to the future.
The Jets finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs. The Packers, under Rodgers, went 6-10 and the “Favre” fans wailed and moaned about letting Brett go while the “Packers” fans said, “Let’s hold on for a bit here before we make any rash decisions.”
Favre, arguably, cost Jets coach Eric Mangini his job with his locker room antics, his refusal to socialize with his Jets teammates, and his general crybabiness. Again, Favre retired.
Then, the Vikings came calling. It was a perfect scenario — for Revenge! For “Favre” fans is was “joy in the morning!” Their beloved #4 was back on the field. For “Packers” fans, it was an unthinkable horror. Favre, wearing the hated purple and white. The cow horns. Their most hated rivals. It was clearly meant as a “fuck you” to Packers GM Ted Thompson .
In the 2009 season, the Vikings — under a suddenly resurgent Brett Favre — finished at 12-4 and beat the Packers twice. They made it to the NFC title game where, in the Superdome, late in the 4th quarter Favre threw an interception sending the game into overtime, which the Saints quickly ended with a game winning field goal.
The Packers in 2009? They finished 11-5 but lost to the Arizona Cardinals in the first round of the playoffs.
And Favre retired again.
This time, for good. Or was it?
Right before training camp, Vikings coach Childress sent a few boys down to Mississippi to put Brett on a plane and convince him he still had that spark of greatness. Once again, Favre unretired.
In the 2010 season, Favre stunk up the field. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers beat them twice. They finished 6-10, at the bottom of of the NFC North.
The Packers needed a last week of the season victory over the Bears to get into the playoffs as the 6th seed in the NFC. They got it. Then they beat Philadelphia in the Wild Card Round. Then they beat the Atlanta Falcons in the Divisional Playoffs. Then they beat the Bears in the NFC title game.
Ted Thompson, the most hated man in Green Bay by the “Favre” fans, suddenly looks like a genius.
And Favre has retired. Again. His battered, beaten, broken body wouldn’t allow him to even finish the season.
And it’s a pity.
Favre could have walked off the field with his helmet held high at the end of the 2007 season and the Packers faithful would still regard him with the same fealty they have for Vince Lombardi, Bart Starr , Jerry Kramer and the Packers greats of the 60s. One season with the Jets? Meh. That could have been written off as a fighter who felt he still had one round left in him before hanging up the gloves. But actively seeking a contract with the hated Vikings, playing with the Vikings, BEATING the Packers while wearing a Vikings uniform. It was unforgivable. It was like John Wayne donning a Nazi uniform. It was like Superman slapping around Lois Lane and kicking the crap out of Jimmy Olson.
Now, Brett Favre is the punchline of a joke. They could have been naming streets and schools and airports and shopping malls after him in Wisconsin. Now his name is synonymous with “Quisling” and “Benedict Arnold” in the pantheon of traitors.
Certainly, if he STAYS retired this time, in 5 years he will stroll onto the stage at Canton to be enrolled in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And his numbers say he deserves it.
It’s just too bad that Brett Favre wasn’t as great of a man as he was a quarterback.