Brett Favre Retires: Will Fans Allow Him to Come Back, Go Out a Packer?
In a word, no.
In two words, hell no.
That might sound a little arrogant or out-of-place coming from a guy who has never been to Lambeau Field and couldn't—in any way shape or form—be described as a Green Bay Packers fan.
In fact, I might seem like the last person qualified to hazard an answer to the question given my allegiances to the hometown San Francisco 49ers.
After all, No. 4 delivered quite a bit of agony on City doorsteps during his heyday, so I won't pretend to be completely impartial when it comes to the Ol' Gunslinger.
But don't give in to the knee-jerk dismissal.
It takes a uniquely ignorant person to loathe that which he or she knows nothing about. If familiarity breeds contempt, it seems natural for bile-inducing contempt to breed at least a shadow of familiarity.
And contempt for all things Green Bay abounded during the late 1990s in San Francisco. That's what happens when you nail the coffin on a city's pride and joy for three straight years.
From 1995 through 1997, the Pack and Favre bounced the Niners from the playoffs in two divisional games and the '97 NFC Championship.
The good guys gave us a brief reprieve from Favre's victorious ways in the 1998 Wild Card round (the game that might've created the Terrell Owens monster), but he was back sticking spirals in our eyes to kill the 2001 season in another Wild Card round.
So, yeah, Cheeseheads were not popular in the Bay Area.
But, again, "unpopular" and "unfamiliar" are rarely synonymous to reasonable people.
Consequently, most Niner fans from that period have at least a tenuous grasp on the Green Bay faithful, because we saw so much of them in defeat. In general, I'd say the Packer backers are blue-collar loyalists—they take their modern athletes just like they take their franchise: With an old school flavor.
This is THE franchise owned by and for the people; it's the only such example remaining in American professional sports.
My guess is they can deal with glitz, glam, and sporadic self-infatuation that infects the current NFL if it gets diluted by a strong sense of team and a maniacal devotion to hard work/winning football.
You can scream "look at me!" every now and then so long as your normal modus operandi is to let your play do the talking (provided the latter speaks volumes).
If I'm right, then Brett Favre was once the ideal Green Bay Packer—the kind of athlete who could endure enormous personal tragedy and turn it to fuel for an all-time great performance.
His exuberance and excellence on the field were the only sound bytes he needed, though he might have offered others. The guy is, and always has been, tough as nails, and nobody starts 285 straight games in the League (309, if you include playoffs) without a work ethic that most cannot fathom.
Nothing says "old school" like being the toughest S.O.B. on a gridiron glutted with tough guys, especially at a position that should feature a skirt according to many observers.
The QB and organization eventually moved in lockstep. But then something changed—Favre went diva.
Remember, this isn't a case where the franchise put its once-prized stud out to pasture with corporate-like cruelty. We've seen that in San Francisco, when the Niners cut the cord with Ronnie Lott, Joe Montana, and Jerry Rice before they gave any hints of being ready to hang up the cleats.
Even if Favre didn't begin this will-he-won't-he retirement nonsense, he gave it legs for miles and miles following his tearful first retirement. He perpetuated the charade by entertaining the questions; instead of a firm answer or a boring "no comment," he doused the speculative flame with more fuel.
Furthermore, HE placed the Pack in an untenable situation by throwing the status of their starting signal-caller in serious doubt. How can you prepare adequately when the most important on-field personnel is missing?
Then he left, spent a season in AFC purgatory, and landed himself on the Packers' most hated rival.
However, much like the Cleveland Cavalier fanatics and LeBron James, I believe Favre thoroughly burned his bridge to a community that once adored him because of the how and why as opposed to the what.
The Green Bay Packers' fans will never welcome him back, but not because he left and soon became a Minnesota Viking—that's easily forgivable. Irreparable damage was done because it all seemed unnecessary and calculated.
If Favre simply made a clean break and went where the trade winds took him, the vast majority of the stain would be on the organizational powers-that-be. The fans would embrace him with both arms if he returned after leaving under such a cloud. Lord knows San Francisco still LOVES Ronnie, Joe Cool, and Jerry.
Unfortunately, Brett Favre seemed desperate to avenge a "slight" that he forced and to do so in the most painful way possible to the organization by stomping on its heart using the cleats of a rival—one already equipped to do so with a stifling defense and an all-world running back.
He was even willing to wait a year to do so.
Well, if Brett Favre now wants to retire a Packer with the full support of the fans, he'll have to wait a lot longer than that.
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