"Are you ready for some football..." as the Monday Night Football theme song (sang by Hank Williams Jr.) goes. If your Brett Favre you are. If you're Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy you are and if you are ESPN you most certainly are.
Brett Favre and his new team, the Minnesota Vikings take on Favre's old team the Green Bay Packers at the Metrodome in front of the world it what could be the highest rated MNF game in the history of MNF.
The Vikings enter the game 3-0 and with a one game lead over the 2-1 Packers in the NFC North. But that doesn't matter to Favre, who wants revenge on the Packers for cutting ties with him over a year ago after 16 years, three MVP's, one Super Bowl win and almost every team and NFL quarterback record.
Packers fans on the other hand, are torn. For those same 16 years Favre could do no wrong in Packers fans eyes. After all, they were with him through drug and alcohol addiction, personnel tragedy, his wife's cancer and of course the death of his father.
Then it happened.
After 16 years he decided to retire. Then unretire only to retire again only to unretire again. In that time frame there was bad public relations by the Packers and the Favre camp, he said he said, a trade to the Jets and Favre signing with the Vikings.
Let me make this clear, I have no issue with Favre wanting to play football. I enjoy watching him play and he has the right to play (ok, work) if he so chooses. After all, he helped make my favorite team a winning team after almost 30 years of losing.
Is he the same quarterback he once was? No. Were the Packers right in moving on to Aaron Rodgers as the starter? Yes. Should Favre have signed with Minnesota? Packers fans say no while Vikings fans say yes.
I understand the hurt and anger he must feel about not "going out" when he wanted to and on his terms. Even feeling betrayed by the organization he gave his heart and soul to for 16 seasons. But the time was right. The Packers paid him extremely well and they both got their moneys worth out of each other.
Some in the organization had felt for a long time that Favre was holding them hostage with his indecisiveness about retirement and grew tired of the circus it caused every off season. They also needed to know if Rodgers, a guy they invested a first round pick in, was ready to lead them into the future and see if he was worth a long term contract extension.
It wasn't a popular move by Ted Thompson or the Packers for that matter. Fans were (and some still are) livid that Favre is not a Packer. They feel he earned the right to take as long as he wants to decide his future and the Packers should wait. Some even think Thompson and Mike McCarthy forced him out by setting a cut off date for Favre to inform the team.
Fans picked sides. The Pro-Favre vs the Pro-Packers.
Favre can still play, I think everyone can agree on that. He still has a great arm, the craftiness a 19 year veteran should have as well as play the game with an unbridled joy. But he also has injuries that are lingering (shoulder/ribs/ankle). He's getting hit more because he is less elusive and has admitted that he doesn't think he can go a full season.
But why then would Green Bay NOT want their icon back?
The "Pro-Packers" people would say it was time to move on and turn the reigns over to Rodgers. He was the one putting in the time in the off season in Green Bay by being a full participant in the OTA's and mini-camps. He also was the after all one that came in during the Dallas game a year earlier that almost led the Packers to victory and was coming up on the final year of his contract. 2008 was "now or never" for the Packers to decide his future with the team.
When Favre decided to retire (from the Packers), Packers fans were heart broken, myself included. He was the face of the team and "just one of the guys" to the fans. He embodied everything the fans wanted their teams player to be. Engaging, funny, humble and most of all flawed and human. At least that's what the perception was.
As the saga that was Brett Favre vs the Packers continued, fans could see the vindictive, calculating and vengeful Favre come out. Why would he try to get the Packers to either trade him to the Vikings or release him so he could go play for them (in 2008)? Why would he lie about things during interviews? How could he want to go to the team that Packers fans hate more than any other team in the NFL?
Was it for the "love of the game" like he said? No. Mondays game is all about revenge for Favre. This is his first chance to "stick it" to Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy, the two people who "Pro-Favre people" think forced him out. He wants to show them "I can still play and you were wrong about me".
On the other side I am sure they Packers feel the same way, but as a team, not just one player. The 2008 training camp all the focus was on Favre, not Rodgers becoming the starter. Not the team that many thought would challenge for the NFC title coming off a 13-3 season. For a long time some players felt "over shadowed" by Favre.
The Packers locker room is Aaron Rodgers locker room. Some players feel that Rodgers is a better leader because he has put forth the effort to "bond" with them and to make it a point to be there in the off season and participate in the off season team activities.
Favre didn't do that in the later part of his time in Green Bay and to some teammates seemed aloof. He wasn't as welcoming to rookies and didn't want to participate in mini camps.
Monday night will be painful for Packers fans, myself included. I don't want to see the Packers lose to the Vikings, no matter who is the quarterback. This game may mean a lot to Favre, but it means just as much to Rodgers and the Packers. Not only is it a divisional game for the NFC North lead, but also a statement game for the Packers.
The statement being "The Green Bay Packers can win without you. And even though you are a major part of the team history, you are not the team." After the game there will be hugs and handshake, but also an "I told you so" behind closed doors.
16 years, three MVP's, a Super Bowl win and every record in NFL history will never be forgotten by Packers fans. But until Favre retires for good, he won't be welcome by most Packers fans. They don't want to hear "I just want to play for the love of the game" because we all know it is more than that, its personnel, for all parties involved in the Packers/Favre saga. Fans included.
E-Mail Joe @ Joeslockerroom@yahoo.com