It's time. I'm throwing the gauntlet early, probably way too early for most Packer fans, but I'm going to throw it anyway.
It's time to end the Favre War. It's time to reunite the Packer Universe,with Brett at least as a minor satellite. It's time for us, as Packer fans, to essentially welcome him back into the fold as one of the Packer greats, and drop the knee-jerk reactions to All Things Favre.
Now, if that was hard for you to read, imagine how difficult it was to write. Trust me, I don't know if I am ready to forgive, much less forget. But despite my own reservations, I'm convinced that the time for the antipathy to end.
Not for his sake, mind you. I don't think Favre has done anything that cries out "redemption", nor do I think he's even made anything more than some indirect indications that he wants to be brought back in the green-and-gold circle. No, we don't need to bury the hatchet for Favre's well-being.
We need to bury the hatchet for our well-being.
Brett Favre has been, in retrospect, the kind of athlete whose polarization powers are right up there with guys like Michael Jordan or Reggie Jackson. And when he forced his way out of Green Bay, a lot of intense emotion rose up, dividing Packer Nation. A lot of criticism was directed at Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy (some of it deserved), as well as Aaron Rodgers (none of it deserved). There were Packer fans who were, quite literally, rooting against their own team in order to exonerate Favre and prove the Packer regime wrong.
Those were ugly days, a black spot in Packer history. I am interested in how fans twenty years from now will look back at the events of 2008, with two likely Hall of Fame quarterbacks squaring off for leadership of the team, and one of the best GMs and best coaches in team history making the King Solomon-like decisions.
But it isn't 2028. It is 2011, and a long three years have passed since the events of that ugly summer, and yet, many Packer fans continue to carry the anger and the grudge to this day. Many have sworn, even if Favre has his number retired, they will still never forgive him.
And I'm here to say, whether I agree with it or not, we owe it to ourselves to let it go.
Ted Thompson has established himself as a genius, a master draftsman who built a roster that was able to win a championship despite being decimated by injuries. Mike McCarthy has coached a Super Bowl championship team that reflected his work ethic, a get-er-done attitude that accepts no excuses for a lack of talent or cohesiveness.
And Aaron Rodgers? Less than three years after being cursed out by 10-year olds on the practice field, he stood with a ring and a championship belt, and is now in the middle of perhaps one of the most perfect seasons by an NFL quarterback in history.
This group...this TEAM...has exonerated itself, proven itself beyond a shadow of a doubt that not only was Rodgers the right guy to go with, but that Favre's own hubris led to his departure from the team as much as anything. Those three men spend very little time nowadays thinking back to the ugly summer of '08. Rightfully, they looked forward from that moment on.
But Packer fans have been so wonderfully trained for so many years, we still can't help ourselves when opportunities arise to keep jabbing at our past, as if somehow we still need to champion the Big Three in order to protect them. When Favre was asked about Rodgers earlier this year, he mumbled something about how he felt Rodgers should have been able to win a championship sooner, given his talent and the talent around him. Packer fans squalled at the comments, interpreting them as a slight against Rodgers and taking an opportunity to put himself in the spotlight.
Just recently, Favre, who is a man without a team to play for or to love him, made the comment that he might be open to the Chicago Bears if they were interested in his services. Once again, Packer fans swore that we'd never accept him back if he dared put on a blue-and-orange jersey, and questioned why he was still trying desperately to "stick it" to Ted Thompson.
Heck, I myself fell into the mud a few weeks ago, comparing Aaron Rodgers to Brett Favre. Yes sir, Rodgers is a better quarterback than Favre at this point in his career, even a better quarterback than Favre in Packer history, period. I spent an entire Cheesehead Radio segment driving that point home.
Why? Why do we use Favre as the measuring stick? Heck, the measuring stick for Rodgers shouldn't be the years of a gunslinging quarterback in the last millennium, but the contemporary examples of high-percentage, low-risk quarterbacks we've seen in the last few years: Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning.
So, why do we continue to obsess over his every word? And the better question is, why don't we get over it already?
Packer Fans Should Be Above It Now
The Green Bay Packers are defending world champions, defying all the odds and coming home with a new trophy for the Hall of Fame. Furthermore, the Packers are riding a historic win streak, mostly on the arm of the quarterback that replaced Favre, Aaron Rodgers.
So, why live in the past? There's a lot in common with what 49er fans went through when Joe Montana was shipped out of San Francisco in favor of Steve Young. Oh, I know that Montana didn't go on FOX News to complain about how he was treated, and Favre wasn't coming off a season on the IR. But there was a lot of vitriol directed at the general manager, and a LOT of pressure placed on Young. This was a team that had won multiple Super Bowls under Montana's tenure, and had just won the Lombardi trophy the year before he was hurt.
Eventually, Young got that monkey off his back with a trophy, and you don't hear anymore vilification of him or the front office that sent Montana packing. Both are remembered as great quarterbacks, among the best in NFL history...as both Favre and Rodgers will someday be remembered.
So, why continue to fight this battle that Rodgers doesn't need fought for him anymore? No one (other than Skip Bayless) is challenging his abilities or leadership anymore, and the Packer fans that would still rather have Favre have fallen silent (and likely, come to see reason with Rodgers). It's a new NFL, and Rodgers is tailor-made for it.
I've often commented on how the fans contributed to Favre's megalomania. Can't you still name his mother and father? His wife? His kids? His siblings? We were so deep into All Things Favre that we helped build that monster, as did enabling coaches like Ray Rhodes and Mike Sherman (and admittedly, Mike McCarthy for a while, too). It's hard to break those habits, even if the love-hate spectrum has completely swung the other direction.
We don't have to forgive the actions of 2008, or forget them, either. We don't have to obsess about the fact that Favre wore purple and beat us a couple of times in a season when we weren't going anywhere anyway. In the end, Rodgers thumped Favre and his team twice, then went out and won a Super Bowl, while Favre was quietly cut from another team in favor of some young, unproven draft choice.
For us, that emotion is real, and even raw. But Favre is no longer a threat...and hasn't been for quite some time. For those who championed Thompson or Rodgers, you won. For those who wanted to see Favre beat and end his career in disgrace, you won, too.
And, by the way, the Packers are 12-0. It's time to remember the quarterback who captured our imagination in the 1990's on a team that will be remembered forever. It doesn't mean we have to go to his steakhouse or wear his jersey. It means we should no longer let the media-driven spectre of what Favre became dictate how we should remember the player we once fell in love with.
The Media Will Continue to Manipulate Us Until We No Longer Let Them
I've written many times about "journalists" like Bayless, an ESPN tool that has realized, with the digital age, that flash trumps substance in the media jungle. That's why all through the Summer of Favre, Brett actually had his own ESPN ticker heading. Not "NFL". Not "Packers". "Favre".
And Bayless has realized, since he is a journalist without substance, that he must continue to provoke reactions from his listeners in order to keep himself earning a paycheck. I understand it, and its no wonder he's gone all-in on the latest polarizing figure in the NFL, Tim Tebow. By taking an extreme, irrational stance on Tebow, he guarantees that he will always get a reaction. He could take an extreme stance on Christian Ponder or Andy Dalton, but who cares about them, right?
Thus the reason he continues to provoke Packer fans with his constant (and once again, extreme) stance on Rodgers. In defiance of any shred of logic, he continues to show disdain for any accomplishment Rodgers has achieved. It makes no sense, and sends Packer fans into a wild frenzy of comparative statistical evidence and, lacking that, loud derisive commentary on Bayless's lineage and Wonderlic scores.
But this is exactly what he wants, as we've been well-trained to quickly defend Rodgers from any criticism, given what we've gone through since 2008. After all, Rodgers is our young quarterback who was treated unfairly from Day 1, and as Packer fans, we rose to defend him from all those Favre Lovers.
Which is exactly why Bayless has continued to go to that well, long after Favre is but a memory in the NFL. He may not be able to champion Favre anymore, but he can continue to provoke a reaction shriller than he can get anywhere else in the league.
But what really convinced me that it was time for Packer fans to bury the hatchet wasn't the regular deliveries of fertilizer from Bayless, it was actually the Rick Reilly piece that seems to have been in response to it. In fact, one might even speculate that Reilly's pro-Rodgers article was so over-the-top that both Reilly and Bayless may have orchestrated the entire thing for our benefit.
Reilly's article laid bare the entire Favre/Rodgers battle once again, now a full 40 months after the Summer of '08, honoring anyone who is a fan of Rodgers, while essentially telling anyone who is still a fan of Favre, "That's the second unmanly thing you've done today."
It's a sentiment that few Packer fans would disagree with, but why bring it up anymore? Why tie our masculinity into who we choose to like as a quarterback? In the end, Brett Favre is going to have his number retired in Lambeau Field and will feature prominently in the Hall of Fame. It is looking, with each passing year, that Aaron Rodgers may follow the same path. And yet, we're still being baited into choosing one over the other.
Hacks like Bayless and Reilly, who in the twilight of their journalistic careers struggle to come up with original, interesting storylines, will continue to barrage Packer fans with this kind of silliness. For their own survival, they will continue to pick at the scars of 2008, refusing to let them heal, leaving deeper and deeper scars that will never completely fade.
As Packer fans, we are better than that. When asked to subsidize an expansion of our stadium, we willingly purchase worthless stock just to feel that we are part of the organization for life. We are approaching our 300th straight sellout, to be celebrated on Christmas Day against the Bears. Packer fans exude class and loyalty throughout the nation and the world.
So, why continue to allow those scars to linger any longer? We may not be ready for it, but the time has come for Packer fans to come back together and unite as one, no longer allowing ghosts to define our fandom (or, apparently, our masculinity).
Just like the neighborhood bully, its time to ignore the Baylesses and Reillys of the world, and get back to being Packer fans. 2008 will linger in our memories forever, but it no longer has to define us, or our quarterback.
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