When Brett Favre signed with the Minnesota Vikings, I was pretty excited. The NFL is all about entertainment and what could be more entertaining than seeing Favre play against the Packers twice? After all, he was playing for the Vikings, one of the most snake-bitten franchises in all of sports. It’s not like there was any chance the Vikings would be good enough to win the Super Bowl, right? This Favre in purple thing was just going to be a one season sideshow that would only further diminish the accomplishments of No. 4 in Green Bay and probably add to the Vikings resume of ineptitude. After the Vikings stumbled in the regular season or went one and done in the playoffs, we were all going to get back to our regular football lives. Or so I thought.
Now, after two regular season wins over the Packers and a career year, Favre has the Vikings one win away from the Super Bowl. This has caused the portion of my brain that controls football cheering emotions to become very confused. I want to be happy for Favre. He returned the Packers to their rightful place as one of the most respected and nationally recognized franchises in all of sports. I should be glad to see him succeed elsewhere, especially since the Packers had an opportunity to bring him back and chose not to. But that’s not how I feel, and I’m trying to figure out why.
I don’t consider the Vikings to be a Packers rival. When I think of Packers rivals, the Bears and Cowboys come to mind, not so much the Vikings. I consider the Vikings to be like a little yip dog that won’t shut up and keeps nipping at your ankles. You want to kick it across the yard so it will leave you alone, but it’s not much of a threat so you just ignore it and hope it shuts up and falls asleep. Vikings fans consider the Packers to be a rival, however. They can’t figure out how a team with a stadium next to a K-Mart traditionally has a better team, the best football atmosphere in the NFL and three Super Bowl trophies. It drives them nuts. If a Vikings fan knows you’re a Packers fan, you can forget about having any sort of intelligent conversation with that person. Here’s how conversations go between Packers fans and Vikings fans:
Packers fan: “So, you guys signed Favre. Are you excited?”
Vikings fan: “PACKERS SUUUUUUUCK!!!!!!”
Packers fan: “How do you like Brad Childress for a coach?”
Vikings fan: “PACKERS SUUUUUUUCK!!!!!!”
Packers fan: “Where’s a good place to eat in Minneapolis?”
Vikings fan: “PACKERS SUUUUUUUCK!!!!!! Now leave me alone so I can go vote for a pro wrestler to be my governor and a comedian to be my U.S. Senator.”
I attended WCW Monday Nitro in Minneapolis in the fall of 1998 and instead of yelling at the bad guy wrestlers, the audience chanted “PACKERS SUUUUUUUCK!!!!!!” on at least five different occasions. The obsession with the Packers that Vikings fans have is scary, and I’m worried that a Super Bowl win will make it even worse. The fake noise pumped into the Metrodome during games will get louder. The team mascot will get hairier. Conversations with Vikings fans will be even less intelligent. The last thing a Vikings fan needs is a reason to become even more obnoxious.
I don’t care how selfish it seems, but I want to remember Brett Favre how I want to remember him. I want to remember Favre connecting with Sterling Sharpe in the ’93 playoffs against Detroit. I watched that game with my grandma who had dementia and it brought a smile to her face ever time Favre made a play and I cheered. I want to remember the Super Bowl win in Louisiana. I watched that game at a buddy’s house and just sat in a big chair and took it all in while Favre and the Packers celebrated on the field. I want to remember his Monday Night Football performance after his dad died. Who couldn’t make a connection with that performance? I want to remember the 2007 playoff win in the snow at Lambeau. I attended that game with my future wife and its one of our favorite memories together. All of these memories came with Favre in a Packers jersey and Favre in a Packers jersey is how it should be, dammit!
When I remember Brett Favre, I don’t want to think of an indoor stadium with a field named after a shopping mall. I don’t want to remember him playing for a franchise that often needs to scramble to sell tickets to ensure sellouts at home games. Perhaps most of all, I was holding out hope that Favre was the last of a dying breed, an athlete that had some fan in him and maybe even a little bit of loyalty. Of course, deep down I knew this wasn’t the case. I knew money and attention ranked high on Favre’s list of priorities, but what was wrong with tricking myself into thinking otherwise?
I was privileged enough to witness Favre help resurrect the Green Bay Packers and the truth is I’m worried he might be doing the same with the Vikings. I fear that the Packers may one day be the annoying yip dog that the Vikings have been over the years. I don’t want my only sentence to be “VIKINGS SUUUUUUUCK!!!!!!” when someone asks me about the Packers. Sure, it might be best if the Vikings win it all this year and Favre finally goes away, allowing everyone to move on. But that means I would have to acknowledge the Vikings as a legitimate threat, even if they needed a Packers icon to reach that status. How are Packers fans supposed to feel about that?