I've put off commenting on last weekend's victory over the Vikings because I wanted to revel in all its glory for a few days, before saying what I'm about to say.
Of course the victory was sweet. The Packers not only went up in the rankings (we're now tied with the Bears for the NFC North Division), but more importantly, the citizens of Green Bay, Wisconsinites, and all Packer fans final got their revenge. Brett Favre was sacked. Brett Favre threw his token interceptions. Brett Favre was defeated.
I said last week's game was all business, but seeing Favre in purple at Lambeau Field brought back all kinds of mixed emotions. What can I say? A part of me hates him, a part of me feels sorry for him, but a part of me still loves him.
Since he likely just played his last game ever in Green Bay, this message is my farewell to him. (I know we play the Vikings again in a few weeks, but never again will he grace Vince Lombardi's holy grail.) His era, at Lambeau, is over.
My Final Farewell:
Brett, you've been my quarterback since I was nine years old. In my mind, the term quarterback and your name were (and still are) synonymous.
The city of Green Bay didn't expect much when you first took the field as a backup quarterback in the fourth game of the 1992 season, but you showed us, didn't you? You ran through the tunnel at Lambeau as an excited young man--I'd never even heard of this No. 4 from Southern Miss--but watching you filled me with hope.
As the citizens of Green Bay began to rely on you to lead us to victory each week, I realized what it was about you that we all loved. Your talent was evident, but it went beyond that: You love football. You're passionate about it, and you make it your life. Anyone who knows a Green Bay Packers fan understands that this small town, which has often been scoffed at by other big city NFL teams, likewise lives and breathes all things football. From the beginning, it was a match made in heaven.
After a few years your relationship with your teammates and the city of Green Bay blossomed. We welcomed you and your family with open arms. You enrolled your daughter in our schools, you volunteered with our organizations, you dined with us, golfed with us, befriended us. You became a part of our family--and like all families there were some hard times, you made some bad choices, but we supported you.
You became the country's MVP, but before you ever earned that award--which you did for three years running--you had won our hearts . . . for good. You led us to an unforgettable Super Bowl Victory in 1996 and though it was disappointing to lose in '97, you still came home to us a hero.
When your father died in 2003, our hearts broke with you. Tears ran down my face when you took to the field the next day to beat the Oakland Raiders. And when your wife, Deanna, was diagnosed with breast cancer, we all prayed for you and your family. We wore pink Packers hats, and watched you bravely take the field each week as your wife battled (and eventually beat) cancer at home.
You broke records--good and bad--and we loved you for it. You had the uncanny ability to comeback from anything. Hope was never lost with you at the helm.
And then in 2006 the rumors began. It seemed impossible at first--unreal, really. What we would we do if you retired? How could you? You were still breaking records. And we were still winning. Then in 2007, after you defeated the Bears at Soldier Field, we thought it might be the end. We watched you tearfully admit that your future was still questionable, and we prepared for the worst.
News came that you were returning months later and we rejoiced. We rode the high of the '07/'08 season, believing it to be your last in the NFL. I'll never forget the NFC Championship against the Giants in 2008--it was heart wrenching. I, like most Packer fans, tearfully cheered you to the field at the start of that cold, snowy game, and brokenheartedly bid you adieu after your last throw (an interception) at Lambeau Field as a Packer. We believed it to be the finish line. The end of an era.
We were wrong.
We all know what happened next. Your year as a New York Jet before your ultimate betrayal: two seasons as a Minnesota Viking. There are some Wisconsites who still support you, others who despise you.
For me, the wound's been open for far too long. And this Sunday, when you took to the Lambeau Field--for the last, last time--I got my closure. And Green Bay got its closure. You came to our holy land as the enemy and we avenged your betrayal. And now, I can let the healing process begin.
Despite the ups, the downs, the happiness, and the heartbreak, I'm proud to have lived through your era, Brett. Though your parting from Green Bay has been a sad and difficult separation, you're still a part of our family. And in the end, we'll still love you.
If you're wondering how, after everything that's still possible, the answer is simple: In the city of Green Bay, football is, was, and always will be our soul. And for a long time, you, my friend, were our heart.