For many years, I made it a goal of mine to be at Brett Favre's last game at Lambeau Field. This isn't an easy thing when you are a) not a season ticket holder, and b) cheap. But, while I refuse to pay more than face value for tickets, I did have several sources to work with to try and score some seats at the end of each season.
The reason why? I was lucky enough to be at Brett Favre's first game as a Packer. Yep, Cincinnati Bengals, Kittrick Taylor, Desmond Howard, the whole nine yards. And, it captured my imagination in a way the Packers never had before. I became a Packer fan in the late 70's and early 80's, and had never beheld the Packers as a magical team. And, like most Generation X'ers, I tired of listening to the older crowd drone on about "The Glory Years" and how much better those players were than "my" Packers.
So, when Brett threw that game-winning pass, the crowd danced in the aisles, literally, to "Celebrate". When he took of his helmet and pumped it up and down, he sold himself to 56,000 fans in attendance that day. Myself included.
I was there for his first game. I made it a goal, then, to do as much as I could to be at his last game at Lambeau Field. To be there to bookend his career in Green Bay. The Alpha and the Omega. Favre was going to be "my" glory years.
I made it to the Atlanta Falcons playoff loss in 2002.
I was there for an initially depressing Bronco game in 2003, only to find out by game's end that the Packers had won the division. I was then there to see Al Harris pick off Matt Hasselback in the playoffs.
I managed to get to the Viking playoff game in 2004, got to see Randy Moss wipe his butt on the goalpost, and thought that was it for Favre.
I again made it to the Seahawk game to close out the depressing 2005 season with a win, and thought after 28 interceptions that I had seen the last of Brett Favre.
After that time, I had problems. I only made it to the second-to-last Lions game in 2006, as the home finale was against the Vikings and I couldn't score any tickets.
And, of course, in 2007, I had no hope of getting playoff tickets against the Giants without taking out a second mortgage. I felt somewhat saddened by this...a goal of mine went to the wayside, a by-product of the Packers' success coupled with supply and demand.
So, this summer, with Favre apparently retired and preseason starting, I called my uncle that handled the dispensation of the family tickets among a very large group. I hadn't asked for those tickets since 2003, so I figured my turn was up. Looking at the schedule, I didn't see a whole lot of great home games this year (Baltimore, 49ers, Lions...) so I asked for the Viking tickets.
He had taken the Viking tickets for himself last year, but with Favre apparently retired this summer, he agreed to let me have them. Two days later, Brad Childress was the limo driver for Favre and Deanna as he came out of retirement and reported to Eden Prairie.
My uncle, true to his word, let me keep the tickets at face value.
As I prepare to go to FavreBowl II, the sense of irony is not lost upon me. No, my Favre Fervor isn't what it was 2-3 years ago. Obviously, as the situation changes, you have to alter your beliefs. But I am still a fan of Favre, as well as being a die-hard Packers fan--born in the era when die-hard fans are the only kind of fans they had.
But, you pencil it in on your bucket list: I want to be at Favre's last game at Lambeau Field, and have to realize that I may well have my wish granted, in perhaps the most ironic of ways. He will playing in a white and purple jersey, a man not much younger than myself, against the team that I love and adore.
It's kind of weird out there in Packerland: it seems like you are supposed to be in one of two camps. Either you are a Favre Fanatic who is rooting for the Packers to lose in order to prove Ted Thompson a clown, or you are a Favre Hater who wants to see his Achilles tendon shredded in two.
So, are you going to cheer, or are you going to boo? That's the question.
A foolish question, to be sure. The thought that 70,000 fans are going to agree on one approach is rather naive, especially when you consider how polarized the fan base is on the issue. It is especially tough for a fan like me, who sits in the middle, both still admiring the man branded as a traitor, but also still a Packer fan for life.
I don't have the hate that many apparently have. Nor do I have the angry, defensive passion for Favre that others have. In a way, it's kind of ironic again, isn't it? The Frankenstein's monster that Favre eventually turned into was, at least in part, because of the obsessive nature of everyone around him. Including the fans.
Even those who spent years trying to denounce him, before any of the events of two summers ago occured, still obsessed about him. Whether that obsession is positive or negative, their world still revolved around Favre, Favre, Favre. Favre will never win a Super Bowl at his age. His turnovers cost us games. He is a self-absorbed prig.
It's just like any attention: there's no such thing as negative publicity.
Combine that with coaching staffs that catered to him, and even Ted Thompson who repeatedly gave Favre as much time as he wanted to decide whether or not he wanted to return each year, and its not hard to figure out why Favre thought the world revolved around him. It's because it did. And it is our fault as much as his.
And here we are again, with a guy who hasn't taken a snap in green and gold for almost two years, and what are we doing? Obsessing. Again. Shall we boo or cheer for one guy on the field? Is anyone talking about cheering for our own team louder? Is anyone talking about booing our own team if they end up with 13 penalties again? Nope. As always, its All About Favre.
For me, the emotion that I will have in the stands is more bittersweet than angry. I am there to witness Favre's last stand in Lambeau, but nothing like I imagined it. Will I boo him? No, but I won't begrudge the people that choose to. Will I cheer him? No, but if people wish to do that as Packer fans to show their support for him and their frustration with Packer management, that is their right, too.
The bad blood and war of words over the past year and a half has been petulant, childish, and more suitable for "The View" than the world of a man's game of professional football. Who wants to listen to Favre whine about how he felt he was lied to? Who wants to listen to Mike and Ted talk about how hard this situation is for them to deal with? Who wants to listen to "he said, she said" ad nauseum for this long?
So, here we are, and the new Brett and the Favres go against the Team That Ted Built in a smash-mouth, mano-y-mano, no-more-excuses battle against each other. The Vikings already won round one, and this is redemption time for the Packers. But it is the way God intended it to be...be be settled on the field like men, not handled in the media like a bunch of junior-high girls.
I will cheer for my Packers and boo the Vikings, like I always do. But the emotions of this game do end up going far beyond that. It's a critical game for the Packers on many levels, not just in terms of the division race, but in showing they are capable of beating good teams at home. And, of course, proving that the decision to let Favre go isn't one that should be regretted.
I do think that those who are looking at the game as being all about Favre the Traitor or Thompson the Scoundrel are missing the greater point of what is going to unfold on Sunday. This isn't about revenge, either for Favre or the Packers.
This is a story about redemption. Enjoy. I'll be there.