We might as well all get used to it, fellow Packer fans: Our former hero is now our enemy.
One year ago today, Packer fans never would have imagined that it would come to this: Brett Favre is now just one healthy arm away from putting on the purple and playing for the Minnesota Vikings. By this time last year, Favre had privately requested to return to the Packers; the general public would not find out about it until early July. And when his request was denied, it was not long before the Minnesota Vikings emerged as the top contender to land Favre. Packers management took great pains to prevent such an embarrassment from occurring, but only for one year. Perhaps they underestimated Favre’s determination to stick it to them.
There is a school of thought among some journalists, players, and fans that if Brett Favre wants to continue playing football, that is his business and nobody should complain about it. Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press Gazette is the most recent example. In a chat last week, Demovsky compared the situation to that of an employee who is no longer wanted by K-Mart, so he goes to work for Wal-Mart.
It is astounding that a sports journalist could be so tone deaf, and a couple of Demovsky’s readers wasted no time in obliterating this line of thought. One of them pointed out that Favre had retired voluntarily and then decided to come back after his replacement had been groomed for several months. Another pointed out that nobody cheers for their favorite discount store in the way that they cheer for their favorite football team.
One might also add the obvious fact that for Packer fans, the Minnesota Vikings are not just another team: They are public enemy #1, or at the very least, #1A along with the Chicago Bears. It is true that Favre’s familiarity with some members of the Minnesota coaching staff (particularly his former QB coach, Darrell Bevell) makes that team a good fit for him in some ways. But where Favre really showed his true colors last year was when he stated that he wanted to play for any other NFC North team, not necessarily the Vikings. At that time he made it clear that his main objective was to play against the Packers.
More recently, Favre has been coy about the matter, pretending that the Vikings are the team that he just happens to want to play for, and that’s all there is to it. And nobody does “coy” better than Favre. After he allowed his pal Michael Strahan to sack him to break the single season sack record, Favre played dumb, pretending that the play was legit. Many fans were disappointed that Favre would have so little regard for one of the most coveted NFL records. At the time, the play seemed like an anomaly in the career of a great competitor, but in light of the past year’s events, it may prove to be Favre’s signature moment. It was the first proof that the buddy system mattered more to Favre than the integrity of the game.
What we’re witnessing now is the buddy system in reverse. Favre feels he has been scorned, and he is going to get his revenge. He doesn’t care in the slightest about the feelings of the fans who cheered for him, bought his gear, and ultimately made him a very, very wealthy man. It is noteworthy that Favre and his ever-narrowing fan base have focused almost all of their rage on Ted Thompson, in spite of the fact that Mark Murphy and Mike McCarthy have been outspoken from the beginning about their solidarity with Thompson on this issue, and it also appears that there was general agreement within the upper ranks of Packer management that it was time to part ways with Favre.
What we’re left with as Packer fans is a very peculiar situation, and one that we’re not likely to feel good about regardless of the outcome. If Favre’s arm is healthy enough to allow him to play, we will be cheering against him. Whatever success he achieves will now come at our expense. There have been similar examples of this in sports, but perhaps not any this big. Johnny Damon putting on pinstripes is nothing compared to this. Most Packer fans would probably breathe a big sigh of relief if the deal between Favre and the Vikings was never consummated, but that still wouldn’t change the fact that by revealing his intentions, and his lack of consideration for the fans, Favre has already crossed the line. And once that line is crossed, there is no coming back.