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Vikings vs. Packers: Favre makes Monday night pure theater

Former Packer Brett Favre faces his former team for the first time. Beloved and besmirched since joining the hated Vikings this summer, football’s Falstaff is unfailingly entertaining.

By Scott ArmstrongStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / October 6, 2009

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre shouts out at the line of scrimmage against the San Francisco 49ers during an NFL football game in Minneapolis, September 27.

Jim Mone / AP


Brett Favre has been the Falstaff of football this year.

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To his critics who didn't like his coming out of retirement to play for the Minnesota Vikings, he embodied everything odious about the Shakespearean character – old, selfish, vainglorious. But others have appreciated the traits that made Falstaff likable: his humor, his joviality, his childish enthusiasm, his free spiritedness.

And, yes, Favre can still be as deft with the football as Falstaff with words. "The world's my oyster," the portly prince famously said. Modern translation: Favre hurling a 32-yard touchdown pass with two seconds left on the clock to give the Vikings a dramatic win over the San Francisco 49ers last week. (Watch it here.)

All this is relevant because the Vikings' matchup against the Green Bay Packers tonight on national TV is more than a sporting event. It has become pure theater.

This is an epic clash between two ancient football rivals. It pits two teams on the rise in the NFC North division. It features undeniable stars, like Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson, a human cruise missile. (This video is not a fake.) And it is being played out on a stage that is the modern equivalent of Shakespeare's Globe Theater: Monday Night Football.

Yet the undeniable tension in this narrative surrounds Favre, the gray-stubbled former Packer who eight weeks ago was sitting on his tractor in Mississippi and is now at the center of the seemingly most hyped sporting event since Ali-Frasier (at least for this week). And why not?

It was Favre who played for 16 years in Green Bay, becoming one of the biggest icons since Vince Lombardi. It was Favre who left the Packers two years ago for retirement, only to decide he didn't want to retire, only to be rebuffed by Green Bay management. After one inglorious year with the New York Jets, Favre retired again (for good, this time) before coming back to play for the Vikings, a team he routinely frustrated and foiled during his years in green and gold.

The real psychic fascination in this drama surrounds why he came back at all, which presumably is really known only by Favre himself and Dr. Phil. Detractors have their conspiracy theories: He did it for pure ego. He did it for money ($12 million this year). And most relevant to the story at hand, he did it for revenge – the chance to pinprick the Packers.