The last time I saw my then 47 year old father cry was on a warm summer day, early in the afternoon in 2008. Since his birth in 1961, he had been a casual fan of the NFL, ignoring the business of the sport, concentrating only what was on the field. However, that summer forced his focus to the "business" side of football.
My dad was not old enough to remember the glory of the Packers dynasty of the 60’s, only the repeated failures of the 70’s and 80’s. An era in which the best year of 1988 saw the 10-6 Packers miss the playoffs after riding Don "the Majik Man" Majkowski and Sterling Sharpe. One word could describe this 20 something year span of Packer life: Pathetic.
In 1992, the start of a new era was upon us. Ron Wolf traded what we all assumed would be a high first round pick to Atlanta for an immature kid who liked to drink and play reckless football.
His name was Brett Favre. And little did anyone at the time think he would transform Green Bay from perennial cellar-dweller to perennial contender.
But just as importantly, he would make Green Bay entertaining on the field, with his athletic creativeness in the pocket and the arm to make all the passes on the field, including the ones Mel Kiper couldn’t conceive of.
We all know that while in Green Bay, Favre put together arguably one of the best ever careers, crowned by returning the Lombardi Trophy to Wisconsin. But more than that, Packer nation watched this immature Southerner whom we had little in common with (other than a natural love for alcohol) grow as a man.
He overcame addiction. He overcame alcoholism. He built a family. And while his personal struggles played out in front of a nation, Packer fans gave Favre all the empathy one could possibly muster for an individual we knew only through TV or at best being hundreds of feet from for eight weeks a year. Favre had done enough in Packer’s green and gold that any sin could be forgiven.
Any transgression overlooked. Any and all clutch playoff interceptions forgotten about. Favre would always be right, even when he was wrong, and receive only love from the Packer faithful. He was the face of the Packer revival. He gave the Packers something more than distant history for the Schwab to destroy on-comers with to the delight of Stuart Scott. The Packers were relevant.
When Favre retired the first time, I cried. There. I said it. His retirement speech was more than touching. “Think of all the kids, and there's probably some here in Wisconsin who have dreamed of being Brett Favre and doing the things that he's done.”
That quote from Favre on that day hit the nail on the head. My father was okay with it, he’s an old man, so he’s looking forward to quitting work someday too. He could look forward to Rodgers, everyone was happy, and that was that.
Except Favre wanted to come back, and somehow in that relatively short time that overlapped mostly optional training exercises, the Packers had retooled their entire offensive playbook and couldn’t use Favre. Then, just like the Titans had done with the now late Steve McNair, the Packers disposed of their last action hero.
The man who my dad had watched with glee for 16 years was now a Jet. He was gone, the party was over. Instead of dreaming of one more run, we were stuck comparing QBs. A who’s-is-longer contest between the Packers and a team us Packer fans don’t remotely care about, the Jets.
It’s not that Favre was just a quarterback, he was the personification of an era for Packers fans and NFL fans alike. They day he was traded, that era died.
And my dear father, just as Oiler fans endured when Gretzky went to LA, and as the rational adults of Chicago were upset when Jordan left for the last time, had to endure the coming season rather than enjoy it.
Now Rodgers is left to fill clown size shoes with size 10 feet. He can’t do it because he cannot revive the Packers from wasteland to winner’s circle. At best he can go from mediocre to winner’s circle, and that’s a lot less of a leap. And Favre is still out there, to be the Packers vampiric villain, never too far away, but never as close as he once was either.