In order to appreciate the present, one must first appreciate the past.
For Green Bay Packers fans, this is most certainly the case. A franchise rich in tradition, graced by Hall of Fame names such as Lambeau, Hutson, Lombardi, Starr, and White among many others, the history of the Packers stretches back nearly a full century. Each passing year adds to the lore of being a fan of the team, and creates new memories which will be passed from generation to generation.
Yet there is one era which many Packers fans have tried to push aside. Whether it is a case of wanting to live in the moment of the team’s current success, or an unwillingness to celebrate the recent past, the sixteen year career of Brett Favre has, for the most part, been put in the rear view mirror of Packers fans.
The obstacle is, of course, the divorce between the Packers and Favre, and his playing for the Vikings after parting ways from the Packers. The path of events leading up to this were among the most confusing, irritating, and in many ways, sad times for Packers fans. It is a time which will never be forgotten, and will analyzed forever.
The upcoming film “Last Day at Lambeau” does exactly that. It looks back at the events of 2008 through 2010, and offers a fans perspective on what exactly did happen that summer from a number of different points of view, and tries to add some closure to the past, while celebrating current success.
The director, Michael Neelsen, uses a variety of techniques to guide the film on its adventure. From still frame photos to newspaper clippings to video interviews, every detail of that surreal three year period is brought back to the forefront. The memories which had been buried in the recesses of my brain were thrust back into the present, as I was watching the film saying out loud, “I remember that” as each event was examined by the film maker.
A number of familiar names offer their inside take on what really did happen during the “Summer of Favre” and beyond. Beat reporters Tom Pelissero, Greg Bedard, Lori Nickel, Tom Silverstein, Bill Johnson, Chris Jenkins and Rob Demovsky are among those who give fascinating interviews, detailing the inner secrets of 1265 Lombardi Avenue. Brian Carriveau and Max Ginsberg, among others, help shape the story line with their own viewpoint as to how the events shaped their view of the Packers.
As the film points out, the Summer of Favre really began several years earlier. The playoff losses in 2003 and 2004 caused some of the higher ups in the Packers organization to question whether or not Favre was the right person to lead the Packers to another championship. The changing of the guard began in 2005 with the hiring of Ted Thompson as General Manager, the drafting of Aaron Rodgers as the eventual successor to Favre, and hiring Mike McCarthy as Head Coach in 2006. By this time, the pieces were in place for the Packers to begin to look to the future, while living in the present, and in some respects the past.
The events which followed the 2007 NFC Championship Game helped create the path that would be taken by both sides in the following months. Neelsen does not offer opinion as to who was right or who was wrong during this time. Instead, the film offers facts, and leaves the decision as to which side was indeed correct up to the viewer.
As was previously stated, it is a topic which will be analyzed and examined forever.
Perhaps the strongest statement to me was offered by the narrator during the final moments of Favre as a Packer. As camera crews were filming him getting into his SUV, the following words summed up that bizarre five and a half month period as succinctly as I have ever heard.
“A few hugs…a few handshakes…and just like that, he was gone.”
Very seldom do so few words capture the moment so perfectly. To this Packer fan, it’s a perfect statement as to how I felt that Summer.
ESPN Milwaukee radio personality Steve “The Homer” True offers an alternative viewpoint, which also hit very close to home. When speaking about Favre’s desire to play for the Vikings while still trying to divorce from the Packers, he offers this pontification:
“So you wanted to play somewhere else, even though you had a chance to win another Super Bowl for the Packers.”
“Wow-that makes US feel real special”
Keyword in that quote is us-the fans. How did this period in Packers history affect us? The film asks us to reflect on all available evidence and determine that for ourselves.
I walked away from viewing “Last Day at Lambeau” with a clearer understanding of what did take place that Summer. Opinions I had about certain events had been verified, while others had been turned completely upside down. Without offering too much of my personal opinion, I will say this: all of the major parties involved-Brett Favre, Mark Murphy, Ted Thompson, and Mike McCarthy-could have avoided a lot of the messiness which transpired if communication had been open and honest from the beginning. If this had been the case, perhaps the bridge from one era to another would not have been as bumpy as it turned out to be.
Divorces are seldom simple. It is often the culmination of years of issues between the parties involved, and often takes years to repair the damage done to both. The separation between the Packers and Brett Favre is no different. It is not something which will be repaired quickly, and time is needed to help close the wounds. “Last Day at Lambeau” does a fascinating job of examining each event which led to the divorce, and leaves the viewer to determine what caused the events to take place, and when will they be ready to accept the past. While the Packers are currently in the midst of an era which should lead to multiple championships, the past is omnipresent, waiting to be reviewed. In due time, the past will collide with the present. Hopefully by that time, enough time has passed to not have to finger point, and rather embrace history as much as we embrace what is current.
Here is the teaser trailer for the film:
Filed Under: John Rehor