It’s finally happening.
After seven long years, our long national nightmare is coming to its proper end. Brett Favre is coming home to take his rightful place with all the other great players in Green Bay Packers history.
It’s good that the Ol’ Gunslinger is taking his rightful place among Packer royalty this Saturday with his enshrinement in the Packers Hall of Fame, but for many fans this represents closure after Favre’s very bitter and very public divorce in 2008 from the franchise he helped resuscitate. It seems Favre’s favorability rating among the Packer faithful has recovered, as has the trust gap between the legendary quarterback and the legendary franchise.
Count this author among those fans who have moved on, although it has not been easy to reach this point.
Even as recent as couple weeks ago, I was still having trouble moving past how Favre’s career in Green Bay came to an end. "Get over it!" is what I was told by many fans, including some I consider good friends. Even after all these years, nothing quite stirs up emotion among Packer Nation than the mention of one Brett Lorenzo Favre.
I wanted to get over it. I really did, but thanks to all the emotions invested I was struggling to give up the grudge. After all, the relationship between Favre and I was a long and joyous one dating all the way back to his first game.
I will never forget where I was when Favre came into the game against the Cincinnati Bengals back in 1992. I was barely nine years old at that point and just getting my feet wet in learning about the rich history of the (at that point) once-proud franchise that resided just north of my hometown of Oshkosh. My parents and I were sitting at Callahan’s restaurant eating lunch after church.
Majkowski went down and my emotions went with him.
It was a dumpster fire of a beginning for #4, but everyone knows how that story ends. The Packers came from behind thanks to a Favre to Kitrick Taylor touchdown pass and the rest as they say is history. I fell in love with the man child from Kiln, Mississippi and I never let go.
As people that age are born to do, I played a lot of football with my friends at school and after school. As Favre learned and grew, I tried to emulate him in those games. I was constantly trying to side arm passes or force a deep ball. I was often reminded I was not Brett Favre. Which is correct.
As time went on and I grew up, I felt like I was growing up along with Favre. After all, he was just one big kid at heart with how he played the game. Even when I was in college and working at a local grocery store, I even was described as a gunslinger. I was known (and still am) to take risks and make bold decisions that are often high risk/high reward with the end results either being great success or epic failure. Sound familiar?
I saw so much of myself in Favre. He was my hero.
That is why the way his time with the Packers ended struck me right through the heart. I could handle him still wanting to play and Green Bay moving on and trading him to the Jets. That was fine by me and how I hoped his career would end, despite the well known belief he wanted to play for the Minnesota Vikings.
Then he joined the Vikings.
That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. This is like your wife leaving you to go sleep with your estranged brother. It was more than betrayal. It was downright treasonous.
That love for Favre turned into full blown hatred and it didn’t help that the Favre-led Vikings swept the Packers in 2009. He didn’t only stick it to Ted Thompson that season but Packer Nation as well. It was a sick feeling.
Thank God for Aaron Rodgers.
Rodgers played well in 2008, despite all the drama around his predecessor, and led the Packers back to the playoffs in 2009. His handling of the Summer of Favre in 2008 with such class was a very welcome sight to a fan base that had become divided. At that point, I personally rallied around Rodgers and was posting every Favre joke I could to my Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Favre led the Vikings to the NFC championship after that 2009 season, but threw one of his patented game-blowing interceptions that likely cost the Vikings their first Lombardi Trophy. At that point, some thoughts of forgiving Favre began to creep into my head but when he came back for 2010 those thoughts were quickly silenced.
The Packers, led by a rapidly rising Rodgers, swept the Vikings in 2010 and unlike Favre’s Vikings the year prior, went on to win Super Bowl XLV.
I believe one of the first phrases out of my mouth after the Packers won that game was somewhere along the lines of "*censored* you, Brett Favre!"
Yeah, reconciliation with the fallen hero was going to have to wait a bit.
Favre retired (for real this time) soon after and all but disappeared as his successor quickly became the best quarterback in the NFL.
They say time heals all wounds, and when talk began this past year about Favre returning to Green Bay before going into Canton in 2016 I was torn on how to feel. I felt that, thanks to Rodgers’ stellar play and the Super Bowl XLV title, that it was time to move on and welcome him back into the Packer family. On the flip side, I could not get over how #4 ended his time in Green Bay. He pushed hard to get the Packers to sign Randy Moss before the 2007 season, and when Thompson refused it seemed Favre was bent on going full diva.
When the ceremony to enshrine Favre in the Packers Hall of Fame this Saturday at Lambeau Field was announced and tickets went on sale, I quickly bought one. I fully intended to go there to pay tribute to what he did for the Packers but still hold some resentment for what he did at the end of his career.
I continued to struggle with this right up until this week when all the highlights and tributes started to pour in. The nostalgia factor went into the stratosphere for me.
I finally found a way to let go. I was initially content to go with the "forgive but don’t forget" approach with Favre that some fans are choosing, but then I realized I couldn’t do that. This guy was practically God to me growing up. I couldn’t just blow up all those years of joy the man brought me.
So now as we are days away from formally welcoming Favre back into the Packer family, I find myself remembering the good times with him - and there were plenty. Super Bowl XXXI. Sharing an emotional hug with my own father watching the game Favre played in Oakland after losing his. Laughing at the infinite amount of funny on-field soundbites he provided. The list goes on.
How his time in Green Bay ended won’t change and it will forever be a part of his legacy whether he likes it or not. It was a tough time to endure, but I have come to realize that only a person you truly and deeply love would draw the kinds of emotion Favre’s departure did from me.
Even though I was spitting his name through gritted teeth while he wore that purple jersey, I know now that that anger actually came out of love. Apologies for sounding so dramatic but it’s true. I still loved watching him play even as a Viking, even if I didn’t want to admit it then through my surface anger.
I have found peace with Favre and it is my sincere hope the remaining fans that take quarrel with him do as well.
Welcome home Brett. Thanks for the memories. We love you.