Steve Brownlee column: Packers fans need to forgive and forget, embrace Brett Favre again
Here’s to all of my friends, acquaintances and just about anybody else from the central Upper Peninsula who’s a Green Bay Packers fan.
I know there’s a few – as in a few hundred thousand – of you.
I hope that former Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre’s statement last week that he’s partly to blame for his ugly breakup with the team begins the thawing-out process with Packers Nation.
I’ve heard a lot of bad things said by bitter Packer fans about the soon-to-be-Hall of Famer ever since he left Green Bay.
I’ll say something that not everyone may believe, since I grew up a Detroit Lions fan as a below-the-Mackinac Bridge troll and still remain a big rooter of the Honolulu blue and silver today:
For the past quarter-century since I permanently moved to this side of the bridge, I’ve grown a soft spot for the Packers and their fans.
I don’t say that lightly, because I know I’m going to get razzed by fellow Lions fans as a turncoat, maybe even a few Packer fans who think you have to stay on the same side of the U.P.’s version of the Mason-Dixon line that you were born on.
But I do appreciate the camaraderie of Packer Backers, let alone the way the team is run as the only one in major professional sports that is for all intents and purposes owned by the community.
I still root for the Lions, even if the support is at times lukewarm after 11 straight losing seasons, including the infamous 0-16 mark of 2008, that ended two years ago.
But I’ve always had a hard time understanding the disdain Green Bay fans have had for Favre since he left. I suppose that’s because it’s hard to come up with a comparable figure in Detroit sports history during the past 50 years.
The closest I can think of between the Lions, Red Wings, Tigers or Pistons is Barry Sanders in football.
While Favre was busy leading the Pack to two Super Bowls and a Lombardi Trophy, Sanders was able to get Detroit just one playoff win, the only win of that kind the team has had in my lifetime.
Sanders, who in my certainly biased opinion might be the best pure runner in NFL history, carried himself with a quiet class and continues to do so. So we Lions fans think that he quit in a way that was about as classy as was possible under the circumstances of a team in turmoil – just walking away.
It isn’t that the way Favre conducted himself was the opposite, because that would imply he was classless. No, it was more with a refreshing honesty, a let-the-chips-fall-where-they-may attitude, where public relations was far down, maybe completely off, his list of priorities.
He conducted himself that way those last few years in Green Bay, thinking aloud for several off seasons about whether he wanted to come back, maybe not realizing that he put you Packer fans through hell wondering whether the team would be left leaderless when the next season started.
Wishy-washy doesn’t a great leader make, but I always thought Favre was worried about committing to something in June that he wouldn’t be able to follow through on in November, December and January.
I can’t say for sure why that was, but considering how many hard hits he took over the years, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was remembering how sore he was late in every season – heck, probably early in most seasons – but had to not only be ready to take more, but remain the best passer in the game while doing it.
This point makes me think of the late Vince Lombardi, which for those of you who aren’t dyed-in-the-wool Green and Gold fans might not know it was the 100th anniversary of his birth last Tuesday.
I did a little searching and found a website with more than 50 sayings attributed to him at www.vincelombardi.com.
Even though Lombardi died of cancer on September 3, 1970, less than a year after Favre was born in October 10, 1969, a few quotes seem to fit the modern-day quarterback:
“It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.” – Favre got up for 20 seasons by the time his career ended in 2010, including after all but one or two of his NFL record 525 QB sacks in 321 consecutive games started.
“Winning is not everything – but making the effort to win is.” – Oh, and I always thought that quote was “Winning isn’t everything – it’s the only thing.” Either way, it pertains to Favre’s will to win, even when he turned into “The Gunslinger” and made some ill-advised passes. It was never for lack of effort or the attempt to get the “W,” though.
“Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.” – That might be Lombardi’s best quote that doesn’t get a lot of attention, but again, it seems to fit Favre’s persona.
“The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender.” – Would that explain why Favre didn’t retire five years sooner than he did, before he finished his career with most of his hair gray?
Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246.