There was Judas, and now there’s Brett Favre.
Okay, the betrayal is not quite biblical. But it is indeed epic.
This Sunday, Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre will step onto Lambeau Field in Green Bay to play against the Green Bay Packers, the team that employed him for 16 years. That’s bad. It gets worse. He’ll be wearing purple — something no self-respecting man should do — and not just any purple. Like Larry Bird playing for the Lakers, Mike Krzyzewski coaching UNC, Ronald Reagan strategizing for the Soviets, Favre will take the field wearing the purple helmet of the hated Minnesota Vikings.
We’ll be there. For the last two years, we have blogged about the Packers at www.packergeeks.com
. For much of that time, we have followed the contours of a story that has become known in the jargon of sports journalism as the Favre Saga. When it started a year and a half ago, at what we thought was the end of Favre’s career, we were among Favre’s biggest admirers. Favre was the highly paid NFL star who played like he was enjoying his first Pop Warner game — a quarterback who sprinted down the field to congratulate teammates on their touchdowns, who threw reckless cutback blocks on running plays, who went facemask-to-facemask with 375-pound defensive linemen, who carried his wide receivers over his shoulders after their great catches, and who played through injuries to just about every part of the body that a man can injure. One of us even wrote an appreciation of Favre — “one of the best-loved and most-admired football players in generations” — for National Review
Most of those who cover the NFL still lionize Favre. In a recent national radio broadcast, NBC’s Jim Gray wondered why the Packers kicked Favre out of Green Bay. ESPN’s Ed Werder — among many others — has voiced the same sentiment. That’s not what happened. It is certainly true that the Packers could have done more to convince Favre to continue playing for them, but failing to do enough to keep him is not the same as forcing him out. So consider this something of a correction — of both the NR appreciation and of the national storyline of the Favre Saga.
On March 3, 2008, the Packers held a press conference announcing Favre’s retirement. His final season had been a successful one. The Packers went 13–3 and made it to the NFC Championship game. And though Favre had thrown a bad interception to lose that game, he had played like a quarterback a decade younger than his 37 years.
Within weeks, though, Favre changed his mind. When he told the Packers that he wanted to unretire, the organization welcomed him back and made arrangements to have one more season with their Hall of Fame quarterback. Then, just days later, Favre changed his mind again. He was done. That was it. No question. Career over.
Favre had done this before. At the end of each of his final three seasons in Green Bay, Favre had mused publicly about retirement, setting off nearly full-time media speculation about his future and the future of the franchise. But this time felt different. While he and his agent, Bus Cook, repeatedly assured reporters that he’d get around to it at some point, he refused to make it official by filing his papers with the NFL.