At the same time, it seems only right that we give Packer fans — actual, real-live people who follow the team up close on a daily basis — a chance to speak their minds. Unfortunately, we only know three Packer fans: The Rogue Booster, his wife Shannon and Whit's friend Mitchell (I suppose, if you count Little TRB, that's four Packer fans we know, although Josh can't walk yet). Mitchell had his say last week; thus, today we present you with the completely biased, unabashedly partisan thoughts of one Bart Styes. For another good take on it, read TMQ's return column on ESPN.
I'm an Alabama fan by birth and a Packers fan by marriage, and both are by the grace of God. Having lived in Minnesota for two years I came across a lot of Vikings and Packers fans and married one of the latter. Season tickets in the family to both Bryant-Denny and Lambeau! Does it get any better for a football fan? I submit that it does not. So here's my take....
There are two generations of both Bama and Packer fans. Bama fans can be divided into those who grew up rooting for Bryant's teams and those who grew up rooting for Stallings' teams. While I can remember my dad telling me that Coach Bryant passed away, I cannot remember ever watching him coach a game. For Packers fans, they can be divided (roughly) between those who grew up watching Bart Starr behind center and those who grew up with Brett Favre behind center.
My father-in-law who fishes for salmon on Lake Winnebago knows that the Green Bay Packers are bigger than Brett Favre. He was irritated by the franchise star acting like, well, a franchise star on any other NFL team. Dr. Hering is of the Starr generation. My old bandmate Tony drove to Kiln, Mississippi (Favre's hometown) on the way to New Orleans for the Super Bowl.. He didn't care what Brett did to exacerbate management and coaches. Tony wanted the gunslinger throwing touchdowns in green and gold, squarely a member of the Favre generation.
In the end, Favre owes the Green Bay franchise everything. They plucked him from the Atlanta Falcons, where he was on his way to a long coaching career in Mississippi high schools, and brought him to a coach, team and town that never waivered in helping him cultivate a Hall of Fame career. The franchise let him go out on his terms and prevented him further making an ass out of himself by refusing to let him play in the division for the rival Vikings. By the way, Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy has guts of steel. Not only did he confront Favre over his lazy, forced throwing style under Mike Sherman and got the man back to truly executing the West Coast offense. The result was an incredible 2007 season for Favre both in season statistics and career passing records. But then McCarthy tells the most beloved Packer of the modern era, "Brett, we love you but you can't jerk us around this way. We made a commitment to Rodgers and we're not breaking that a month out of the season opener just because you've got an itch to play." I like this guy!
Favre will always be loved in Green Bay. But by playing for the Jets, he avoids the Brother Oliver scenario. Remember him? He should have succeeded Stallings at Bama. He got frustrated by the old coach sticking around and left for Auburn. Coach Oliver will always be one of Bear's boys but still: he left Alabama out of selfish spite and coached for our rival in one move. After the anger subsides, can he come home again? Brett Favre will always be welcome in Green Bay, if not necessarily in that famous uniform.