I have been a Green Bay Packers fan since before I remember; which isn’t unusual when you grow up in Wisconsin.
Being a die-hard fan, I know and understand all the tradition that goes with the team and its 88 year history. However, I never lived through it.
The Packers have 20 players enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton Ohio. Only two played for the team in my lifetime. The guy that coached many of them, Vince Lombardi, died 5 years before I was born.
For that reason, quarterback Brett Favre’s announcement that he will return for the 2007 season meant a lot more to me than a lot of people realize. For some, he’s just another player. For me, he’s the only real piece of Packers history I’ve been able to witness.
When Favre became the Packers starting quarterback, I was a sophomore in high school. And, for the first time in my life, I could watch the Packers on television and they weren’t a laughing stock. Instead of being happy with them winning one or two games or facing the Bears and not getting humiliated, they were suddenly a playoff contender. In my first 16 years of life, they were 101-153-2 (.394). Since Favre joined the team, they are 148-92 (.617).
As I graduated high school and college, Favre was always there for us fans. We went through the best of times with him, including his Super XXXI win and bad times that included a drug addiction, the death of his father, his wife being diagnosed with breast cancer and even his family home being destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. It was a little like watching a Super Hero. On the field, he did amazing, heroic things. Off the field, he was human just like the rest of us.
After the 2005 season, his first losing season as a quarterback, everybody thought he would be done. And, from several accounts, he almost hung up his cleats. But, he came back last year and led a team that many people thought wouldn’t win more than 4 games to an 8-8 record, just falling short of the playoffs.
This year, it wasn’t really a surprise he chose to return, but it wasn’t a given either. And, it was for the right reasons. Rather than not return because he wasn’t making enough money or because he didn’t think the team would be talented enough to win he based it on something so simple everyone could relate; his family. He wanted their blessing before he decided to come back.
And, contrary to popular belief, he is just as dangerous as he was in his prime. His statistics may not reflect that but he is still among the elite quarterbacks in the league. Unlike guys like Johnny Unitas or former Packers quarterback Bart Starr, there is no question of his arm strength. The only difference is, he still takes risks and doesn’t have the talent around him to compliment that.
I know eventually Favre is going to decide to retire and I will have to learn to live with that decision. And, I know that I may never re-experience the glory days he brought to the team in the 1990s. But, I’m at peace with that because, for the time being, I am going to be able to witness a living legend.