Ten, even five years ago, those words would have been devastating to me.
Now? They’re a punchline.
A few months ago, when we began our live broadcasts during OTAs and Mini-Camps, I was accused of going all ‘CSPAN’ because I dared to put Favre and his career in the context of the real world. I think I was justified when you look at the fact that there was an uprising in Iran, thousands of brave men and women, some who spend their precious free time reading this blog, were (and still are) stationed in the hell holes of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the country had come to the brink of financial collapse. These facts made me less than hysterical about the possibility of Brett Favre signing a contract with the Minnesota Vikings.
That is not to say I don’t understand, or indeed that I myself have not been caught up in, the drama and the angst of it all. Favre has always had that affect on anyone who watches the game of football. And the game, at its best, is the struggle we actually enjoy. We spend all week dealing with everything from the mundane to the profound when it comes to our real world lives – football, the Packers, provide an almost mythic escape, and for a good part of 16 years, Brett Favre was the hero of that story. Indeed, it was as though we witnessed Joseph Campbell’s “Hero With A Thousand Faces” distilled and we were watching a perfect representation of The Hero, from the young, naive, arrogant boy, (3rd stringer in Atlanta out getting drunk every night) to the young man who refused the call (butting heads with Holmgren, wanting to do things his own way), to a man harnessing his powers and understanding the work and sacrifice necessary. Only now, that hero has written another, unexpected chapter – the conclusion to this saga is the discovery that our hero is not actually ours, indeed never was. It is only natural that we, as Packers fans, feel personally slighted, feel directly aggrieved, that our hero has turned.
For me, the cracks in the facade began with the failed attempt by Ted Thompson to get Randy Moss, when Favre, in a tantrum that then seemed out of character but now makes a world of sense, demanded to be traded and then turned around and said, no, he never asked to be traded and that he could never envision playing in another uniform. At that point, I was most definitely still on Team Favre, willing to swallow any garbage Favre fed me from the podium. Of course, the drama of last summer, where Favre laid bare his grievances and finally began to shine a light on his true character and intentions, brought me to quite another place.
In the press conference introducing him as a member of the Vikings, Favre mentioned wanting to be a leader and wanting to be a good teammate. I am now convinced Favre doesn’t know the meaning of the words. Perhaps he did at some point, long before his ego ascended into the stratosphere, but no longer. How can any member of the Minnesota Vikings look at Favre as a leader? A leader would have been there in March, realizing that those precious hours and days are what lead to the goal of winning the Super Bowl, not paying lip service to the idea. The willingness to WORK for the goal is what makes a leader. The only willingness Favre has shown is a willingness to do some half-assed training throwing to high school kids and then show up for the games. As Bob McGinn so perfectly put it:
He has faded five seasons in a row partly because he doesn’t take the offseason seriously and isn’t fully prepared physically or mentally. Football is a brutal game. There are no shortcuts, especially at 39. Maybe it isn’t fun to leave Hattiesburg in mid-March and live in the Twin Cities for three months. But if Brett were dead serious about going out in a blaze of glory and helping the Vikings, that’s precisely what he would have done
Brett is serious about going out in a blaze of glory, just on his own terms. That, in turn, hurts the Vikings, which of course is fine by me. What is not fine with me is this casual attitude toward the people who made him what he is today – and make no mistake, Green Bay made Brett, not the other way around. (See Andrew In Atlanta’s excellent post on this, as well as Donald’s Designated Driver’s work on Favre for validation of this claim) Favre says “Real Packer fans will understand”. You would have thought that during the 45 minutes he made people wait for his press conference, he would have come up with something better than that. No, Brett, REAL Packer fans will hate your guts, and I can’t say I blame them.
Brett Favre is a Minnesota Viking. Our hero is now the villian. If nothing else, it is sublime theater.