Welcome back, home field advantage.
Welcome back, Packer fans. Goodbye, Favre fans.
On a cool September afternoon, two quarterbacks played a few hundred miles from each other, each in their home opener. Both struggled, but one overcame those struggles and pulled out a win.
No, this is not some post out to compare Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, though it certainly is tempting, as it appears Rodgers is going to put up the better numbers this year. No, this is a story about a fan base that is coming together after being divided for so long.
The Favre jerseys are disappearing from the stands at Lambeau Field. Packer Nation stood united as the heir to the throne pulled out a win after some early struggles. They offered some jeers and cheers when the NFL updates showed a Favre interception during a commercial break.
But, the worst is over, and I will tell you why. Favre and the Vikings are no longer a threat. No longer a threat to the Packers, and no longer a threat to Aaron Rodgers.
You see, competition breeds contempt. Why do Packers fans hold no enmity for the Detroit Lions, who they play twice each and every season? Because they are pretty much automatic wins, unless the Lions get a little uppity for Thanksgiving. Despite being division rivals for the last several dozen years, face it...we really don't care that much about them. They're not a threat. Oh, we didn't like them for a while in the late 80's and early 90's, when they beat us regularly and grabbed a couple division titles with Herman Moore and the gang. But even then, the Packers were so bad, they didn't care about us. Hard to have a rivalry when one side couldn't care less about the other.
When Favregate went down in the offseason of 2008, much of the Packer fan base polarized and quite passionately turned on one another, as well as the parties involved, which unfortunately included Ted Thompson, Mike McCarthy, and Aaron Rodgers. It's tough being a Packer fan when many of the same folks who stand next to you in the stands are actively booing the coach and quarterback, simply because of a decision made months earlier.
It didn't help matters that, while as a Jet in 2008, Favre's mediocre statistics were enough to give the Jets three more wins than Rodgers' Packers.
And, of course, when Favre became a Viking in 2009 and would face off against the Packers twice, head-to-head, in certainly didn't help that he looked like Favre of 1996 while defeating the Packers in both games, winning the division, and nearly going to the Super Bowl.
I was at the game in Lambeau last year, and can certainly attest to the behavior of the fans. Regardless of the "side" they were on, the love or hate for Favre ruled everyone's passion that day.
But today, at least according to several folks I've heard from in attendance at the game, Favre may be getting the treatment he so fearfully dreads...he is no longer inspiring the strong emotion and attention he seems to crave. People are laughing him off....and ignoring him. Favre, like Michael Jordan, doesn't seem to care if you love him or hate him...as long as you give him passion. The worst thing is to not have any passion, not to be mentioned, to be forgotten.
You see, Brett Favre played a pretty average team today, an average team that played pretty ugly. And today, Brett Favre looked like the 2005 version of Favre: old, slow, alternating between tentative and reckless. But most of all, he didn't look like anything that was going to threaten the Packers this year, or most likely, ever again.
And, slowly, Lambeau Field is becoming an actual home field again, not a courtroom made up of 70,000 jurors. Despite the struggles going in at halftime, you didn't hear the boos for the home team in Green Bay like you did in the Metrodome.
I'm lucky enough to have scored tickets to the Viking game again this year, and I am happy for that. I was present at Favre's first game as a Packer, and always vowed through the early 2000's that I would be at his last. It is pretty clear that this is finally the year, but I am having doubts whether or not he will actually be playing by that point.
As I predicted in the preseason, the Vikings are a team on the verge of implosion. You saw Favre's receivers starting to draw striking parallels to the receivers for the Packers in 2005. Harvin, on the sideline, seemingly disgruntled and too injured to play. Berrian, not even attempting to go for an errant pass that was intercepted. It's like Javon Walker and Robert Ferguson all over again.
Meanwhile, Aaron Rodgers' biggest hurdle appears trying to get the ball to as many of his plentiful weapons as he can. There are few fans that despise Rodgers anymore, and those that do are too jaded to be considered Packer fans anymore.
We looked at this year's Viking game, circled it on the calendar, and declared it our vengeance day, our day for Aaron Rodgers to vindicate himself in front of America. Now, it seems like it is going to be another game on the schedule against a struggling team that can't even beat the Dolphins. They certainly can't be as threatening as the Bears, who beat the Cowboys today. Right?
And as Favre disappears from the national spotlight, and the Vikings disappear from playoff contention, the Packers will once again become a place for all Packer Fans to unite and become the true 12th man they once were. If Favre had any superhuman abilities, one certainly had to be the ability to polarize a fan base, even after he left the team. Even though he is still "playing", you would be hard pressed to find any true Packer fan that would even consider replacing #12 with #4 anymore, even out of sentiment.
There's something sad about watching an old warrior unable to perform anymore. We saw it with Marino, we saw it with Starr....the quarterback that stayed one year too long, that defenses no longer fear but anticipate the opportunities, that fans have to avert their eyes from and dream of days gone by. Favre, however, doesn't even have that sentiment anymore. He's alienated his Packer fan base, and we all know how sentimental those Vikings fans are. It will be a lonely, difficult, and tumultuous year for Favre.
But as 70,000 Packer fans jam the seats in Lambeau Field, the time has finally come to cross the Rubicon, get on the train that was supposed to have left the station a few years ago, and unite not behind a quarterback...
...but unite behind a team.
Go Pack Go.