Brett Favre: A Packers Legend Among Other Imperfect Heroes

Be honest with yourself when considering Brett Favre's legacy. No legend is perfect.

After an acrimonious divorce from the Green Bay Packers following the 2007 season, Brett Favre returned to Lambeau Field a hero this last Saturday. For many, his induction into the Packers Hall of Fame and concomitant jersey retirement healed the deep wounds that have been festering for almost eight years.

For others, the wounds are still cavernous and remediation is not amenable at this time.

I've personally talked with many individuals about this matter, and have read countless Twitter posts about it over the years. Those still hanging on to reservations about Brett Favre are essentially holding on to some distilled version of the sentiment "Favre was a great player, but not a good person."

That's completely fair. It's also justified and documented.

He was instantly supported and forgiven for his addiction to painkillers that necessitated rehab before the 1996 season, but his transgressions did not end there. During 1999, his wife Deanna was preparing to file for divorce in response to infidelity, drugs, and alcohol

Deanna said:

I don't deserve to be treated like this. You asked me to move up here to Green Bay and now you're calling these girls -- well, you're on your own now. I'm not living this way. All this stuff is over for me.

Then, of course, is the alleged texting scandal with Jenn Sterger

I'll never tell anyone how to feel about a sport, team, or person. Those emotions are deep and personal. I'm also not trying to rehash the past in some sort of smear campaign to derail a wonderful and therapeutic weekend of good tidings.

Rather, it's to open a discussion about other Packers legends who were equally beloved, important, and imperfect as Brett Favre. 

For example, Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinee Curly Lambeau, the co-founder of the Green Bay Packers, and whose name graces the home field of the Packers, was by many accounts not a good person.

He selfishly fired co-founder George Calhoun. Cliff Christl wrote an exposé about Lambeau, describing him as a "philanderer, a compulsive liar and a manipulator." 

Christl continued with:

In the prime of his life, he was a national celebrity, someone who hobnobbed in high society and found himself in the spotlight nearly everywhere he went. Like many notable leaders, he had an insatiable appetite for power, women and riches.

His imperfections and indiscretions alienated many of the men who played for him, cost him three wives and galvanized a small force of enemies who usurped his authority and drove him out of Green Bay.

This sounds a lot like what Favre is being being tried for in the court of public opinion.

Yet, a large statue of Lambeau now stands tall outside of the stadium named after him. Fans take endless selfies in front of it during game days. His number 1 jersey has been unofficially retired by the Packers. Lambeau's sins appear to have been forgiven by history and Packers fans. Furthermore, the Packers' unwillingness to ever sell naming rights to the field is a testament to Lambeau's importance to the Green Bay franchise.

Also consider the "Golden Boy," fellow Hall of Fame enshrinee Paul Hornung. He may very well have been the Brett Favre of his generation because he played with the same hustle and lived even larger off the field. On Saturday, former Packers coach Mike Holmgren said Favre was the son he never had. It's no secret that Hornung was Vince Lombardi's favorite player and also like a son to him.

However, Hornung was perhaps equally as imperfect as Favre, which creates an interesting paradox in the face of Lombardi's "God, family, and Green Bay Packers--in that order."

Sportswriter Dick Schaap wrote about Hornung (cited from within When Pride Still Mattered by David Maraniss):

Each morning Paul would get up about quarter to nine and be at the field by nine o'clock. They would practice until twelve and there would be meetings until three. At three he'd come home, mix a pitcher of martinis and drink martinis until six o'clock with Kramer and the others. Then they'd go out to dinner, a group of players. Scotch before dinner. Wine with dinner. Brandy after dinner. Then back on scotch. Every day. I lost count by the time it had reached more than sixty just how many drinks he had in that week leading up to the Browns game. Also, he never went to bed before four in the morning, he never went to bed alone, and he never repeated himself. Paul by that time had become such a sex symbol that he had lost the power to differentiate...It was part of his image that he was supposed to get laid every night. And therefore to live up to his image he would get laid every night.

These actions don't appear to be too golden or too different from what Deanna Favre accused Brett of while she was considering divorce. Furthermore, Hornung was indefinitely suspended starting in 1963 for betting on NFL games before the suspension was overturned prior to the 1964 season.

Like Lambeau, Hornung's sins also appear to be forgiven. His number 5 jersey is unofficially retired and he is still known widely by his moniker the "Golden Boy" by Packers fans almost 50 years after he took his last hand off from Bart Starr. 

I could go on with a litany of other imperfect heroes, but now it's time to discuss Brett Favre. 

Whether or not you like the man, you cannot deny his overall importance to the Green Bay Packers. He was just as instrumental as Lambeau, Hornung, Starr, Lombardi, Wolf, and Holmgren to the franchise.

If Brett Favre never walked into Lambeau Field that winter day during 1992, it's extremely likely the Packers would never have won Super Bowl XXXI. It's easy to think now that Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers would have easily won Super Bowl XLV on their own, but the return to relevance began in 1992. The wasteland once compared to Siberia, where nobody wanted to play, became a destination for marquee players. Without Favre, it may still be a tundra of mediocrity today. 

Reggie White chose Green Bay during the early days of free agency. That was a coup considering other teams had deeper pockets, fancier stadiums, and larger markets. Sean Jones asked the Packers to sign him because he wanted to complete the bookends of a fearsome pass rush.

Watching Favre on the field was exciting. You never knew what he'd accomplish next, and you didn't dare get up from your seat and miss his next play. In addition to John Madden perpetuating the enthusiastic legend of Favre, the Packers were once again the map. During the 1980s and early 1990s, they rarely appeared on national broadcasts, ESPN's Sunday Night Football, or ABC's Monday Night Football. However, with Favre at the helm, the Packers were a national fixture.

Before Favre's tenure, for most fans born post-Lombardi, the most exciting moment in their fandom was the 1989 "Cardiac Pack" team that went 10-6 and didn't even make the playoffs.

With Favre under center, the Packers were regular playoff participants always in contention for another Lombardi Trophy.

Clearly, Favre the player is a legend. Favre the man is flawed.

However, Brett Favre's alcohol and drug addictions, his infidelity and alleged womanizing, and his ugly divorce from the team in 2008 can never change his history, records, and importance to the team.

You are free to feel about Favre anyway you wish. If want to revere him as a hero, please do so. If you want to vilify him and wipe him from the halls of your collective memory, please oblige. No one can ever deny what an exceptional player he was, just like no one can ever erase his personal flaws.

Judge him in the same light you do with Lambeau and Hornung. If you cannot forgive Favre for playing for the Vikings, remember that Hornung joined the Saints after the Packers no longer wanted him. Lambeau coached the Chicago Cardinals and the Washington Redskins after being driven from Green Bay.

If we look close enough, no hero is perfect. In such cases, history simply chooses to remember the good and forget the bad.

When it comes to making your personal decision about Brett Favre's legacy, all one can ask for is to be honest with yourself. If you enjoyed his development from raw talent to MVP, the Packers' return to glory, and the national respect and prominence that accompanied this man's career, be fair in how you delete those emotions and recollections in response to his imperfections. 

He played the game wild, fast, occasionally uncontrolled, and sometimes with poor judgment, just like he lived his life. He was loved for his on-field courage and recklessness. His off-field counterparts jeopardize and penalize his public image, but the record books will always stand pat.

If history is any indicator, it's only a matter of time before the saga becomes more gracious and his pejorative tarnish becomes more of a forgiven patina. 

Based on last Saturday, it already has.

But that's your choice.

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Comments (52)

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

July 22, 2015 at 06:46 am

Brett is definitely a man of contrasts. He can wear his heart on his sleeve and weep in front of a camera, but he can also be disingenuous and manipulative. He can give everything he has on the field in epic performances and he can blow up and ruin the game with high school mistakes. As Packers fans we love him for it and hate him for it too.

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Bearmeat's picture

July 22, 2015 at 06:35 am

I will neither view Brett Favre as a hero, to vilify him, thank you very much. The same way that I will neither hero worship or vilify any athlete.

I got over doing that, ironically, in January of 2004, when one Brett Lorenzo Favre threw an ATROCIOUS interception in overtime of the infamous 4th-and-26 playoff game, then blamed his protection afterwards. I realized then, as I do now, that athletes, politicians, famous businessmen, normal teachers... Well... Everyone... Are human beings and therefore flawed.

I recognize BFs greatness. Undeniably top 20 QB in the history of the league. Maybe top 10. But damn good. Green Bay was lucky to have him. Who knows what our last 25 years of Sunday afternoons in the fall would have been like without him - probably nowhere near as good.

That said, I also recognize that BF is a man with failings. I have said it before and I'll say it again here: If he'd have apologized JUST ONCE for his desire to stick it to his GM, HC, blameless replacement and the fans, some of which named their newborn boys Brett for Pete's sake.... But no. He's never accepted responsibility for his actions.

So excuse me while I refuse to fall at his feet.

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PackerAaron's picture

July 22, 2015 at 07:44 am

Uh, maybe you missed the point of Jay's post. He's not asking you to fall at anyone's feet.

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croatpackfan's picture

July 22, 2015 at 10:59 am

I agree with bear... I understand what Jay wanted to say, but I think those "imperfections" are not there to be justified by other positive impacts. Of course, all big personalities has/had their flows. But those flows should teach us what not to do, not justify them by flows of others.

Also, I think it will be interesting how I would see the situation if I were Packers fan from Brett Favre era, not just from Aaron Rodgers era. Because, despite I suspects Aaron has some flows, Aaron is much more role model for young people than Favre and all of those mentioned were (or are)!

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Bearmeat's picture

July 22, 2015 at 11:50 am

No Aaron, I did not miss the point of Jay's post. I understand that the post is a comparison of Favre's humanity (which is by definition, flawed) to other past "hero" athletes. And even with the disclaimer "You are free to feel about Favre any way you wish....", the not-too-subtle tenor of the piece is to "forgive and forget or you'll be on the wrong side of history."

Hogwash.

This coming from a person who really likes Jay's writing. His insights into the game are tremendous, and I learn from him almost every time I read him.

I know Michael Jordan was a DBag. Tiger Woods too. Paul Hornung was surely no role model, and Curly Lambeau was a slimeball. You see, the thing is, while I enjoy golf, I never really loved it. I hate all sports Chicago - so MJ was never a big deal to me. I wasn't alive when Hornung was playing, not to mention Curly. Other than Brett Favre, the only player I can vaguely remember hating irrationally as a child was Montana because all my other friends in elementary school loved him, and he was better than anything the Packers had. (Yes, I was a diehard by 1st grade). I hated Moss and all things Vikings. I hated Ditka and all things Bears. But that was rational - those guys were (and are) schmucks. Plus, they're Bears and Vikings! ;)

But I WORSHIPED Favre as a kid. Perhaps that's why Favre's lesson of what-not-to-do-with-rolemodels struck me so hard at age 22 in 2004. And even more so in 2008. What he did to the franchise in an ongoing manner from 2004-2008 was diva-ish, sneaky, underhanded and just plain spiteful. He did it to Thompson, McCarthy, Rodgers, and the Packers fans that had gone through a LOT with the man that had (has?) so much baggage.

And he never apologized. So while bygones are bygones, I will not forget. His memory of being a great quarterback who choked numerous times at critical junctures in the last 2/3rds of his career won't change. A great QB. Not the greatest QB. But great.

His legacy as a man and his actions or carousing, drinking and drug addiction from 1992-2004 may go away - this was before Twitter and even mostly facebook. But in today's social media age... his actions from 2004-2010 WILL NOT go away. His junk is public access now forever. The reports of him calling Matt Millen (unprompted!) how to beat Green Bay when he was with the Jets. The stated desire to "stick it" to his old franchise in 2008-2009.

Great QB. Glad we had him. But I won't change my mind about the man until he grows up. Which probably will be never.

This is the last I will post on the recent Favre-A-Palooza until Thanksgiving.

GPG.

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D.D.Driver's picture

July 22, 2015 at 12:48 pm

That's what is so frustrating about the worshipfest. The devotees from the Church of Favre followed this path:

(1) Favre is the greatest Packer of All Time
(2) Favre is Devil
(3) Nope, we were right the first time: "Favre is as 'instrumental' as Lombardi"

Maybe he has been the same guy all long: a great (but flawed) player on the field and a jerk off the field and behind the scenes.

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Jay Hodgson's picture

July 22, 2015 at 01:14 pm

Bearmeat, you're as respected as posters go, going back to the ALLGBP days. It does appear we have a difference of opinion, but more importantly, interpretation. And that's ok.

I disagree with your comment of " the not-too-subtle tenor of the piece is to "forgive and forget or you'll be on the wrong side of history."

I'm not claiming what side of history is the right or wrong one. Based on history, history is what it is. Considering Lambeau. Hornung, and the huge celebration that took place on Saturday, history tends to ameliorate transgressions. That's my point. Everyone is free to not forgive or forget. That was my whole point.

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Bearmeat's picture

July 22, 2015 at 06:48 pm

That's fair Jay.

It seems Nagler was right. I did misinterpret you. In my defense, there's been a LOT of Favre apologists shaming those who disagree with them out there lately and that noise is still in my head - causing me to overreact to your story. But that doesn't change the fact that what I got from your writing wasn't your intent.

I apologize to both you and Aaron. I was wrong.

PS: See what I did there Brett? Owning your mistakes goes a long way with people.... ;)

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Jay Hodgson's picture

July 22, 2015 at 07:00 pm

Everything is cool. Thanks for taking the time to reply.

This topic is very personal for many, and it is sure to stir up many emotions.

I'm still learning how to write in the humanities, as my background is science, and that is a whole different writing style. Since you're a musician, I like to use the expression that in my head I hear a symphony, but the way I write it may only come across as the tuba line.

I tried to draw from history and establish parallels to level the playing field in the court of public opinion. People are free to love, hate, or be indifferent. But, give it some careful introspection first before automatically going with the mob or against it.

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Bearmeat's picture

July 22, 2015 at 07:21 pm

I've learned the hard way through publishing... man... the intricacies in writing go a long way to making your point clear. And editing sucks. Man... editing SUCKS. The three worst words in the English language are undeniably: "Revise and resubmit" :(

Yes, your essay could have been more articulate. That said, I wouldn't have taken offense if there wasn't so much context screaming FFFFFAAAAAVVVVRRRREEEEEEE!!!! currently outside the context of what you wrote. I see what you meant through your eyes now.

I recant my earlier submission. It is a fair and good piece.

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Idiot Fan's picture

July 22, 2015 at 01:28 pm

"His junk is public access now forever."

That is very literally true.

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MarkinMadison's picture

July 22, 2015 at 06:50 am

"It's easy to think now that Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers would have easily won Super Bowl XLV on their own, but the return to relevance began in 1992."

Here is where we part company. With the modern NFL salary cap and draft system, yes, even if Brett Farve had never set foot in Green Bay it still could have "returned to relevance." The Packers were horrible during most of the 1970s and 1980s. So were the Colts. Between 1971 and 1995 they won zero playoff games. Then they didn't win in the playoffs again until Payton Manning arrived and they started winning playoff games again in 2003. Brett Favre never played for the Colts, but they "returned to relevance" after decades of mediocre to poor play. Past records in today's NFL are no indicator of future records. Don't be fooled into thinking so just because the Packers are one of two teams in NFL history who got lucky enough to go from one HOF QB to another.

Also, please acknowledge that under TT the Packers are principally built through the draft, and that virtually any team could have taken Aaron Rodgers with virtually any pick the year he was drafted.

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D.D.Driver's picture

July 22, 2015 at 04:01 pm

Exactly. The Packers were a four win team the year before McCarthy came aboard. Any of that Wolf/Holmgren magic was long gone.

Look at some of the historically terrible teams that won Super Bowls: the Seahawks, the Ravens, the Buccaneers, etc. This is the modern era.

I really don't care that Favre was an imperfect man off the field. That's between him and his family. It's none of my business. I operate under the assumption that every athlete is an entitled egomaniac. (Although it would actually break my heart if Donald Driver turned out to be a jerk.) Favre is not unique or worse than anyone else.

What I do care about is that he was an imperfect player on the field. He's got one ring in 17 years. Saying he is as instrumental to the Packers as Lombardi is beyond hyperbole. It's just delusional.

What I personally would like to see is a little more perspective. Favre was a great player. He did not single-handedly "save" the Packers. He was an important piece of the Packer's resurgence. But he was only a piece. And he wasn't even the most important piece. That honor goes to Wolf or Holmgren (depending on my mood). Consider this: Holmgren went back to the Super Bowl without Favre. Favre never made it back without Holmgren.

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Evan's picture

July 22, 2015 at 07:14 am

hehe....CHTV trolling so hard.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

July 22, 2015 at 07:36 am

whispers...

"If you write it, they will click."

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Since'61's picture

July 22, 2015 at 08:38 am

You got it Jeremy! Sums it up perfectly. Thanks, Since '61

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Jay Hodgson's picture

July 22, 2015 at 09:11 am

Wow, if you think my piece was a cheap attempt at click bait, you entirely missed the point and don't understand the message I was conveying.

Click bait is a piece that is misleading, misrepresented, poorly thought out, inadequately researched, used to push buttons, and usually written very quickly.

At no point did I ever tell anyone how to feel, nor did I cheaply stir emotions. I carefully researched the topic, presented facts, and asked that people do a little reflection.

That's the opposite of click bait.

My essay isn't perfect, but at least it's an attempt at honesty and objective thought. If people feel they can do better, then please write one. I'd love to read it.

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PackerAaron's picture

July 22, 2015 at 09:12 am

Don't pay any attention, Jay. This is an outstanding post.

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Jay Hodgson's picture

July 22, 2015 at 09:14 am

Thank you.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

July 22, 2015 at 06:23 pm

I'm not attempting to insult your work Jay. I liked the article. I'm just joking about the flames surrounding all things Favre these last few weeks. The point of this site is to generate traffic, is it not?

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Since'61's picture

July 22, 2015 at 08:04 pm

Jay -sorry that you took my comment/reply to Jeremy the wrong way. I was merely agreeing that with Favre when you write an article you will get clicks. I did not intend to say that you wrote the article as cheap click bait. I think that the article was fair and balanced. I appreciate your work and the work of all of the writers on the blog. Many sports heros have been flawed including Babe Ruth who was probably the biggest sports hero ever and remains the best known figure in American sports at least and he had flaws similar to Hornung and Favre. It's a matter of perspective and expectations. I am no longer surprised when a famous person, (athlete, actor or politician), is involved in some type of scandal big or small. It's happened throughout my lifetime and long before my time as well. If we build any of these people up as we all tend to do, especially when we're growing up, we lose perspective and our expectations become high and therefore the disappointment is that much the greater when the flaws come out. I loved watching Favre play and God knows that by 1992, we as Packer fans, needed a hero. When the flaws came out I was disappointed but not surprised. I am in the same place with Aaron now. Love watching him play, glad that he is the Packers QB. But his story is far from over and who knows how it will turn out. I don't expect him to go the Favre route but I won't be surprised if someday down the road a flaw or two comes out, hope not but you never know. Again I did not intend to insult you or your article and I apologize if I caused any confusion or misunderstanding. Thanks, Since '61

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Jay Hodgson's picture

July 22, 2015 at 08:20 pm

Thank you for replying and clarifying. I was a little punchy, perhaps, because click bait is a real issue that many of us are up against and often falsely accused of.

It's the equivalent of calling a poster a troll to minimize their opinion.

We're cool. You have a long history of very thoughtful and rational posts and that should have helped me understand what you meant rather than what I perceived.

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Since'61's picture

July 22, 2015 at 08:52 pm

Jay - I appreciate your reply and thoughtful comments. I should have been more clear in my original post to Jeremy. I was busy at the time and multi-tasking a little too much.

The problem with all forms of e-Communications, (emails, texts, blogs, etc...) is the occasional misinterpretation/misunderstanding. It's the price we pay for instant communications and blogging.

As a published author in my own field I appreciate and respect the challenges that you and all the contributors to our blog face. It's one of the reasons for my signoff. Thanks, Since '61

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Jay Hodgson's picture

July 22, 2015 at 09:40 pm

Agreed and appreciated on all counts.

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Nick Perry's picture

July 23, 2015 at 06:23 am

Jay personally I thought the piece was great! I didn't have time to comment in the morning when I normally do but I did read it. I thought it was the perfect piece after a weekend where most remembered Favre for what he was, a great QB who helped turn a Franchise nobody wanted to play for. A franchise that WAS looked at as Siberia , into a Franchise several wanted to play for.

The man was a great QB, top 10 in NFL History ain't to bad IMO, but yes he had flaws, just like EVERYBODY else. Many have wondered out loud what Favre might have done with the Receiving Corps Rodgers has enjoyed in Green Bay. Hell the last year he played he had a small taste and went 13-3. Now before anyone jumps down my throat this wasn't a knock on Rodgers so please don't twist it that way.

Packers fans for the most part are spoiled, my self included. Although I remember the 70's and 80's, many of the fans who post who are 30 something don't, or not very well. When Favre came to Green Bay I suddenly had a smile on my face and looked forward to Sundays. It had been a long time since I smiled most Sundays after a Packers game. Favre had one losing season as a Packer, ONE! I can't or don't blame fans who didn't like Favre the person, but as a football player and especially as a Packer you have to respect what he did on the field.

Both Parties have admitted they could have done things differently, that's as close as a apology as your going to get. The Packers open up TC in 6 days with a team the is built to win the SB. Lets start focusing on that.

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DrealynWilliams's picture

July 22, 2015 at 07:43 am

I thought we were done w/Brett?

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Idiot Fan's picture

July 22, 2015 at 09:59 am

I'm embarrassed to admit that there was actually a time when I thought that Favre should have been put on the WI quarter. I thought he was that synonymous with WI. What 2008 awoke me to is the fact that the teams, the rivalries, etc. just don't mean as much to the players as to the fans. And 'divorce' is the right word for 2008 because it felt like Mom and Dad fighting, where you love both sides, even if one is more right than the other. What was hardest for me to handle was the fact that he desired to play for the Vikings so that he could stick it to the Packers, rather than his personal failings. This was Dad turning ugly and vindictive on Mom (or vice versa), and it left a bitter taste.

But I'm over that now. In the subsequent years, especially after the creation of Twitter, I've realized more and more that many athletes are idiots. And the way that I appreciate my favorite players is different now. I respect the hell out of how Rodgers plays the game, and he even seems like a good guy, but I don't really know him. In a world of Darren Sharpers and Bill Cosbys, how can we say we really know these guys?

So here's where I'm at: Favre helped resurrect a franchise, won us a SuperBowl, gave us so many great football memories, and also occasionally gave me a football crotch-punch. As far as the other stuff goes, I just don't expect any different anymore.

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Tarynfor12's picture

July 22, 2015 at 10:31 am

This is an excellent article Jay but perhaps you have failed to recognize the guaranteed assault that comes from every article dealing with anything Brett Favre.

A writer should know that certain articles are more likely to have his door banged on by those with pitchforks and torches from either side depending on the point of view that is dominant in the article.

As for writing an article purely as click bait,well,lets not fool ourselves here,you write an article you hope is read by many on the internet.Clicking is the only way to read it and thinking that everyone who does will simply nod in agreement after clicking is ridiculous.

Clickbait
"(on the Internet) content, especially that of a sensational or provocative nature, whose main purpose is to attract attention and draw visitors to a particular web page.

Brett Favre is the epitome of opening a Pandora's Box...clickbait.

Especially when the article is talking moral compass.

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Bearmeat's picture

July 22, 2015 at 11:54 am

Great point.

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livelovepackers's picture

July 22, 2015 at 10:34 am

IMO which I am sure nobody cares about, but I found 2 pennies this AM and thought I would share them. When BF split there were 2 sides for Packer fans we'll call BF vs DHF (Diehard Fans) when BF went to the Viqueens the DHF side got bigger. When BF lost to the Saints and after some of the DHF fans were able to boo BF and see him lose twice to the Packers the next year they converted back to BF fans . Some DHF will never forgive BF because he will never apologize. All of us will die some day. THE END

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DrealynWilliams's picture

July 22, 2015 at 11:15 am

I'll never forget the training camp (the season Rodgers became the starter,I believe) and the hate Rodgers received from those "BF Fans". It was ugly. Toddlers were even cursing at Rodgers. All from the "BF Fans".

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vj_ostrowski's picture

July 22, 2015 at 11:23 am

The whole "true fans" thing was probably the worst thing #4 said during that entire stretch. Poisonous attitude causing poisoned thinking.

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Jer's picture

July 22, 2015 at 10:40 am

Very good article. Yeah, Favre was a saint compared to Curly Lambeau.

Favre certainly deserves the recognition he received last week, but I'm a little surprised how enthusiastically many fans put him back up on that pedestal. I thought the lesson from all this was not to do that.

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D.D.Driver's picture

July 22, 2015 at 09:04 pm

Come on. We don't learn "lessons," Professor Buzzkill.

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D.D.Driver's picture

July 22, 2015 at 10:58 am

"He was just as instrumental as Lambeau, Hornung, Starr, Lombardi, Wolf, and Holmgren to the franchise."

He is more important than Hornung. Much less important than the others. Favre as "instrumental" as Lombardi?! You can be serious.

A couple other nits:

* Taylor went to the Saints, not Hornung.
* Hornung was suspended (nothing tentative about it). He was reinstated after a year out of the league.

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Jay Hodgson's picture

July 22, 2015 at 11:58 am

Hornung most definitely went to the Saints. They selected him in the expansion draft. But I'm sure you already knew that. His injuries prevented him from ever taking the field.

I also chose the wording I did about the suspension to reflect it was an indefinite exile that was overturned after reconsideration, since, you know, the whole point of this article is about reconsideration.

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D.D.Driver's picture

July 22, 2015 at 12:15 pm

Okay. I gotcha. It's just that "tentatively banned" is a strange way of saying "banned indefinitely." And drafted in the expansion draft but never actually played is a strange way of saying "joined the Saints after the Packers no longer wanted him." As if he had some choice in the matter.

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Jay Hodgson's picture

July 22, 2015 at 12:21 pm

Don't you see the parallel here? Brett didn't have a choice to return in 2008. The franchise was done with him, just like the Packers were done with Hornung. Btw, Hornung was on the sidelines for the Saints. Plenty of images of that out there.

I'll concede that may wording may have been too subtle, but I chose it for a specific reason that worked in my head.

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vj_ostrowski's picture

July 22, 2015 at 11:11 am

A terrific article, because despite it landing positively on the side of #4 (which is fine), it dares to actually talk about his misdeeds in some meaningful way.

Even Jason Wilde (a reporter I greatly admire, respect, and enjoy) said this during a segment last week, and I'm quoting as closely as I can recall: "There are things Brett has done off the field that we don't talk about anymore." That's strange to me. Why don't we? I know they have nothing to do with his play on the field or his statistical prowess, but they DO have something to do with his legacy or the way some people will remember him. I think on a full-length week that was literally dubbed "Favre Week", there could have been at least a little more discussion of his demons.

And it's my opinion that it's incumbent on the media to foster that discussion, when it's brought up. But Bill Johnson (another guy I enjoy listening to) on ESPN Milwaukee would sheepishly and quickly grumble past phone calls that mentioned the texting scandal or the infidelity that had Deanna considering a divorce earlier in his career. Again, why? These are legitimate complaints (complaints that athletes with similar foibles - Kobe...Tiger... - did not escape as easily).

So thanks for a good article. I think #4 was deserving of a HoF induction, but I also think he gets off pretty lightly for things he didn't sufficiently apologize for - both having to do with the Packers organization and his own personal life. Why am I so hung up on this? Because I think he himself, his family, his coaches, and his teammates have sold us a different "man of character" (which is something Holmgren apparently said? I didn't actually listen, but I read that somewhere) than the one that actually exists, and I push back against that.

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Jay Hodgson's picture

July 22, 2015 at 01:45 pm

Thank you.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

July 22, 2015 at 12:50 pm

The article is presented as a fair and evenhanded attempt to put Favre into context, and I accept that was Jay's intention. I can't help but note that Jay uses some devices that I would use if I were assigned to write a persuasive essay in favor of Favre.

"Brett Favre returned to Lambeau Field a hero this last Saturday." The term "Hero" is just sort of slipped into the narrative. In some eyes, yes, Favre is a hero, but to others, no. He wouldn't be a hero for noble qualities, but maybe as someone of "outstanding achievements and/or courage". Or not unlike a Greek Hero, almost all of whom had a severe character flaw. See the link to the definition. I can make an argument that Favre can be called a hero.

"He [Favre] was just as instrumental as Lambeau, Hornung, Starr, Lombardi, Wolf, and Holmgren to the franchise. I think not. No one was more fundamental to the existence of the Packers than Lambeau. All the others were important, but are clearly on a lesser plane. Others can argue the order of importance.

Then there is the use of Moral Relativism. Because two guys got in who were bad guys, being a bad guy does not preclude Favre. This is an argument of last resort, but it can be persuasive. I think there are degrees of moral turpitude. For me, it would depend on how bad. While I frown on infidelity, I am not sure that it is a disqualifier. Note that Hornung was not married and had no children during his Packer days. I never heard that Hornung stalked women. It seems implied that Lambeau was not faithful to his 3 wives but IDK. Hornung was associated with the Saints, but I find the comparison inapt. GB exposed Hornung to the expansion draft. He never played for NO due to injury. I never heard any stories of Hornung calling up teams he wasn't on to give advice on how to beat his former teammates because he was mad at GB. Lombardi left GB too, for a piece of the Skins, IIRC. That's business - I never heard that Lombardi tried to hurt the Packers after he left. IDK enough about Lambeau to check the comparison, but he had outstanding achievements and had the Packers' best interests at heart, IIRC.

I tried to find out what the criteria are for induction into the PHOF and for retiring a player's number. I can't find any. If it's strictly achievement on the field, Favre belongs with the other 153 members of the PHOF. I would guess that at least one of those 153 guys arguably had deeper character flaws than Favre. That said, there are some things that probably would preclude induction. I am guessing that Darren Sharper, the convicted serial rapist, will not be inducted anytime soon. Sharper could have been the greatest safety of all time and he still would not be inducted, I am guessing. (Note that William & Mary removed Sharper from its College HOF after his convictions). Favre didn't hurt, rape or rob anyone; not sure where I would put the bar, but that is not an issue for me. Some might add 1 other requirement: that a player should not have maliciously tried to damage the franchise or his teammates after leaving. That gives me pause about inducting Favre. The PHOF technically is independent of the Packers. I gather its members decide (see the link for a list of voters).

Retiring his number is a similar issue but it is much more exclusive. Lambeau and Hornung's numbers are not retired officially. I don't really know why they aren't since I can't find any criteria. I assume the team itself decides. Canadeo, Hutson, Starr, Nitschke, White and Favre?
http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/hero

http://www.packersnews.com/story/sports/nfl/packers/2015/07/14/green-bay...

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Jay Hodgson's picture

July 22, 2015 at 01:23 pm

Nice post. I'd like to address a few things.

Based on Saturday, 70,000 people in Lambeau Field and the NFL Network thought Favre was a hero. The whole point of Saturday was a coronation of sorts. Note, I did not attend. I would not have attended if I was in town, either. Take that as you will.

I was trying to draw a parallel between Hornung and Favre. Hornung was exposed to the expansion draft, signifying the Packers were done with him. Hornung didn't get a say in that matter, so even if he wanted to come back, he couldn't. While not exactly the same thing with Favre, he was not allowed to return during 2008 (after he closed the door himself for the last time) because the franchise was done with him. They decided it was the Aaron Rodgers show. That show almost started during half time of the 2007 NFC Championship Game before McCarthy backed away from that notion.

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Jay Hodgson's picture

July 22, 2015 at 01:10 pm

Full disclosure: I edited my statement on Paul Hornung's suspension for clarity. The meaning has not changed, but the subtlety has been lifted.

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RCPackerFan's picture

July 22, 2015 at 01:31 pm

'If we look close enough, no hero is perfect. In such cases, history simply chooses to remember the good and forget the bad.'

So true.

I really wonder how some of the older generation of players would have looked in today's era with the technology that exists.

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Mojo's picture

July 22, 2015 at 03:05 pm

Excessive drinking. Carousing to all hours of the morning. Playing the next day and still performing at a high level.

Forget Favre, Hornung should have had his number retired.

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4thand1's picture

July 22, 2015 at 03:52 pm

If they had twitter, i-phones, and instant internet access years ago, players would have been roasted like today. Peoples personal lives are not personal anymore, especially athletes. Who gives a shit about peoples personal business? It all boils down to gossip on a blown out of proportion scale. If you are without sin, cast the first stone. Little quote from some guy named Jesus.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

July 23, 2015 at 01:51 am

Religion and Politics, 4th and 1. This does not apply to Jay's article, but it does to articles that have been on the various packer websites: It is not so much about casting the first stone as being exhorted to bestow accolades upon Mr. Favre. Judge not, lest ye be judged. To coronate Favre I first have to judge him to be better than others; if I refuse to judge others I have to conclude that everyone is equal, and thus either everyone is worthy of coronation or no one is.

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4thand1's picture

July 23, 2015 at 04:08 pm

I've always disliked gossip.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

July 22, 2015 at 11:34 pm

Thanks, Jay, for your kind and thoughtful responses to all of the comments. I note that my moral relativism argument has some logical internal inconsistencies. Eg., probably everyone's friends have some flaws; in some cases we overlook the flaws because he or she is "basically" a good person, but draw the line at different places, sometimes for different people.

I focused on whether GB should induct Favre into the PHOF and if GB should retire his number. Since I can find no written criteria, I tend to go in all different directions. I think there has been an effort at some sites to suggest that the fans should not just let bygones be bygones and give him his due (i.e. PHOF - which is my position), but to go further and embrace Favre the person, that die hard fans like me should spend the emotional capital to enthusiastically clap for him (picture young girls losing their minds at a Beatles concert). You use the word Coronation in your response. I can feel the former but not the latter for Favre.

Favre certainly displayed courage on the field and had outstanding achievements. He displayed heroism; he thus could be called a hero, but it depends on one's definition of hero. Hornung was single, and thus was not a serial adulterer that Favre allegedly is. The sexting thing happened when Favre was 38 - not a youthful folly. Lambeau I gather was not a nice person. Applying relativism, one could argue that his contributions were so fundamental to the franchise such that he should be given his due (PHOF but no official retirement of his number). The permissible inference (don't know what you specifically meant to imply) that Favre was as fundamental as Lambeau to the GB franchise makes the argument for Lambeau weaker and the one for Favre stronger, but I don't think the inference is true.

The thing that gives me the most pause is that IMO Favre tried to hurt the franchise. Yes, GB did not want him anymore just like GB did not want Hornung anymore due to his injury, but these were the correct business decisions, and one that Favre had to have realized were coming when GB drafted Rodgers. Since Favre's agent told Andrew Brandt in 2001 that Favre might only play 3 more years, and for cap purposes the 2001 "lifetime" extension for cap purposes was for 6 years, Favre knew for years that GB would have to move on by 2008 or 2009 at the latest if Rodgers showed something in practice. Given that Favre was 36 in 2005, and a beat up 36, it was prudent to draft Rodgers. Murphy offered $20 million to Favre - not a sound decision from a strictly dollars and cents business perspective (not taking Goodwill into account). One can argue that Favre simply wanted to play for love of the game, or one can think that his ego was so large and his feelings so hurt that his motivating force for the next few years was animus towards GB. Favre ended up earning as much money by playing, but it not a definite result. As far as I know, Hornung held no grudge against GB.

I am not here to accuse you of bias. Sometimes one plays Devil's Advocate so far as to accentuate the other side of an argument, and at other times one's own bias is subconsciously included when trying to be evenhanded. I don't know what your personal stance is. What facts a writer chooses to highlight and which ones he omits, the words he chooses (most words have connotations and can mean different things in different contexts) makes writing these types of articles different from technical writing where often words have precise meanings. And sometimes space limitations prevail such that it is difficult to state one's position with precision and appropriate qualifications and disclaimers within the available space.

I appreciate that you indicated that one could make one's own decision. Since it basically is how one feels about something, one's position can be influenced by arguments offered by others, but feelings are difficult to change.

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WKUPackFan's picture

July 23, 2015 at 05:56 am

Paul Hornung is a legend in Louisville, Souh Bend, and GB. A large picture banner of Paul graces one the high rise buildings here.

Paul published "Lombardi and Me" in 2006, a collection of Lombardi memories. Among those submiting chapters: Bart Starr, Kramer,Bill Curry, Max & Fuzzy, etc. Paul's dedication: "With undying gratitude and love, I dedicate this book to Vince Lombardi. May his words, his values, and his legacy live forever'.

Clearly there was a father/son type bond with Paul and Lombardi. Holmgren and Favre seemed to be similar. Perhaps Brett would not be the INT leader if Holmgren had stayed.

The larger point is Hornung, for all his carousing, also had great respect for Lombardi and an appreciation for the fans and town of Green Bay. Perhaps Brett will reach that point someday.

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WKUPackFan's picture

July 23, 2015 at 06:18 am

Jay, excellent article. However, Chistls' piece on Hornung is troubling to me. I understand Christl is a respected journalist (and in poor health apparently), however, I object to trying to build someone up (Favre) by tearing someone down (Hornung) as Christl attempts to do. Hornung's foibles do not excuse Favre, nor do they make him appear to be a better person.

In the broader sense, I also object to the notion that publishing the "dirt" on Hornung, Curly, or any other person advances society in any way. Unlike 2015, where everyone seems to think it's alright to air their own dirty laundry, Hornung, Curly, and a lot of us were inhabitants of a much more private era. How does knowing all of Paul's and Curly's "bad acts" enrich my life, or anyone else's, in any way?

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Paul Griese's picture

July 23, 2015 at 10:23 am

Still pissed about his insistence to play for the Vikings. His speech put me and my wife to sleep, waiting for some conciliatory words. Now days later wondering if he was just calling out every name of someone who has dirt.

I have never heard of Lambeau or Horning acting or speaking with any malice toward the Packers. Herein lies the difference.

How much better would it be for Packer fans if Brett just went ahead and divorced Deanna?

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