Friday, October 30, 2009

Irony, Redemption Color Sunday's Game

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 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.


hollycrat said...

What an excellent piece. I'm glad you get to go, and I hope that you have a marvelous time!

Serious Implications said...

Fox is supposedly dedicating a camara to Favre during the game. He's ready for his close-up, Mr. DeMille. All Favre, all the time. Seems the goal is to make Favre a big time celebrity. He's still trying to prove himself.

With only one ring, he knows he's second to guys like Aikman, Elway, Montana, Bradshaw, and Starr.

My sasting image of Favre is the interception at the end of the NFC championship game against the Giants, followed by the eerie emptiness and quiet of Lambeau as the fans got the hell out of there. Nothing like the old Ice Bowl, which I watched as a kid on my parents' black and white tv, and which for my generation defines the Packer Mystique.

Will Favre's legacy be identified with the Packers? Will he go into Canton as a Packer? I wouldn't bet on it. He's a little bit like the Man Without a Country.

We'll see how long his hamstrings hold up, how long it takes before he starts heaving the ball up for grabs like he did the second half of the season with the Jets, hoping for another miracle.

Whatever's eating him, I hope he eventually gets over it.
Someday, somebody who knows how should make a movie of the Brett Favre Story. It could be really good.

Anonymous said...

sounds like a great family situation

very packer ish

Matt McVeigh said...

Curt- My thoughts exactly. Glad to know I am not alone in my continued loyalty to the Packers, and in my continued admiration for Favre. Thanks for writing what is on the minds of many!

IPB said...

Nicely done, C.D.

I suppose I count myself amongst your group more than anything else. The real outcome of this game was always going to be predicted by the O-Line's toughness and the superior play calling by our Head Coach. The Packers Defense is basically just as good as the Vikings D is. Their Offensive Line has a better Teacher for a Line Coach than we do. And, this is where it devolves for Green Bay.

I don't remember if I've posted it or not. But, half of my Packer Shrine is all Brett Favre. I took the GBP side in this stoopid Soap Opera. I have to say I was done with this so-called worship of the Gunslinger that many seem to be addicted to, ohhh, about 2003. He didn't need to throw that INT against the Eagles and YES, we were still in it after the 4th & 26 debacle, which was caused by Mike Sherman, not Ed Donatel (even though he took the fall for it). When that happened, I flipped off the big screen and walked away.

Sure, I'll keep my Packer memorabilia, because I am a diehard packerfan and I too watched the ICE BOWL on a little black & white TV at the age of 13. I have a righteous photo of Mark Tauscher walking along the sideline all framed up, as well. Then, there's my print of Reggie White's Corinthians, which was sold right after SB31 to fans who were lucky enough to be there and get one before they sold out. Personally, I wish I had more from those years.

But, since I have been with the Pack since I was a kid, I think I'm probably more defensive of the Heroes from the Lombardi Days than any other. They earned it. They didn't constantly throw it all away. I admit, I fell away from being totally dedicated as a packerfan for awhile. I got shipped to West Germany in the mid-Seventies for awhile - spent some time enjoying Terry Bradshaw. Figured it couldn't hurt, they were in that OTHER Division. Still have a penchant for Steeler fans, too. They are the 2ND best fans out there, so why not.

For me, what woke me back up were the Majik man years. Especially 1989. And, in a lot of ways, Favre benefited from Majik man being who preceded him. Majkowski woke up a LOT of cheeseheads who thought it was pretty much over and done with. The Pack got VERY lucky when they snagged Reggie White in the first year for Free Agency, too. Never discount that. I always wonder what would have happened after 1993 had the Packers not traded Majik Man away to the Colts. Makes ya go: Hmmmmmmm, don't it?

I'll always be a cheesehead. It's a very large reason why I do what I do every weekend in the Fall and Winter - And, while I do get a great sense of enjoyment out of watching Favre, the sheen has worn off and I don't blame the home crowd one bit for ever Booing what Fuzzy Thurston calls: a traitor. If anyone has a right to say those words, it's Fuzzy.

One of these days, I'm gonna catch Majik Man and have a sit down with him for a nice long chat. Him, I've always had a high regard for. He took those meaningful steps to bring the Pack out of the woods and back to life, as it were. Can you imagine how great it would have been to put the 2003, Larry Beightol led O-Line in front of Majik Man for protection. WOW !!! Oh well.

The rest will be whatever it is meant to be now. Most of us at IPB now talk about what OTHER jerseys we would be going out to buy. Not only for guys like the new Rookies, but also the old-timers; even if we have to make 'em up ourselves because the NFL and GBP can't seem to do it for us. I would really like a Kenny Ruettgers - how about you?

Hang in there, C.D.