Why can't Green Bay get over Brett Favre?
The return of Brett Favre to Green Bay Sunday as a member of the archrival Minnesota Vikings has prompted mayoral attention and a mock funeral. Then again, in Green Bay, football is family.
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All this could be dismissed as good parochial fun, but there is a vein of passion in it. Unlike most other cities with professional sports franchises, only one name inhabits the marquee in Green Bay. When the Red Sox founder in Boston, New Englanders can shift to the Patriots or Celtics. In Pittsburgh, the tragedy of the Pirates can be soothed in the triumphs of the Steelers.Skip to next paragraph
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Not so in Green Bay. It's only the Packers and deer hunting. That's one reason some 80,000 names clog a waiting list for Packers season tickets. It's why when you're in cleats here, you are, whether you eat at Olive Garden or not, family.
And, make no mistake, Brett Favre was definitely a member of La Cosa Nostra Cheesehead. Just consider what happened in the PFE (Pre-Favreian Era).
Green Bay, a proud franchise, fielded teams with more losing records than winning ones in the 1970s and '80s. Then in 1992 came the debut of the lad from Mississippi with the javelin arm and Jack-o-lantern grin, leading the team to 11 winning seasons in 16 years, including a Lombardi trophy.
Even with the messy separation two years ago, many locals would have been happy with Favre for life – wearing any color but purple. The Vikings won the first encounter at home, largely on Favre's arm.
Now he has the temerity to invade the sacred sod of Lambeau. The game has taken on added importance because the Vikings and Packers are, once again, locked in a tight race in their division. The Packers (4-2) could come within a half game of the Vikings (6-1) if they win.
At his press conference this week, Favre tried to downplay the importance of his return to Green Bay. It's just one of 16 games, he said. Yeah – and the Taliban are a bunch of misunderstood feminists.
After the team's first encounter in the Metrodome, Favre admitted that he was more nervous than during either of his Super Bowl appearances. How could he not have goosebumps when returning to his football Mecca? He is, after all, an emotional athlete, which has generally served him well. To this day, he bounds into the huddle like a Cocker Spaniel, even though, after his birthday a couple weeks ago, he is now 280 in dog years.
The game Sunday will turn on a lot of things. Can Green Bay stop the relentless pass rush of Jared Allen? Can the Vikings' banged-up secondary stop Green Bay's prodigious aerial attack?
As much as anything, it might turn on Favre's ability to manage his emotions. It will be Green Bay. History. Grudges. Gouda cheeseheads – none from Vermont.
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