For a good portion of Monday, I found myself thinking about what Sunday night meant to me.
Namely, I was trying to find the primary emotion I was feeling following the Green Bay Packers’ heart-stopping 28-24 win over the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field.
Was it jubilation? Relief? Vindication?
In some ways, I could say “yes” to all three. Emphatically, in fact. But that wasn’t the main emotion. No, it was something else.
See, for almost two-and-a-half years, Brett Favre seemed intent on making every single Packers fan feel stupid. Every action, interview and performance felt like it was aimed right at us for showering a decade-and-a-half’s worth of praise and undying support on him. He may have been targeting Ted Thompson, Mike McCarthy, Mark Murphy and Aaron Rodgers, but more often than not – far more often than not – we seemed to be the ones who really took the punishment. After all, those four seemed fairly content with how things played out.
And they never loved him like we did.
For us, though, it was never going to be that way. Sure, we could take joy from the small victories – a spat with his new head coach here or a game-losing interception in the NFC Championship Game there. But, really, who were we kidding? We were never going to fully put everything that happened to us – everything he’d done to us – until the team we loved beat him head-to-head.
It took a long time, longer than any of us would’ve wanted, but it finally happened. We beat him.
Winning alone would be enough to cover the first three emotions I discussed. But to achieve peacefulness, there’d have to be more. If he were to have played well despite losing, say, a 38-35 shootout, tranquility might have fallen just a hair short. No, our guys would have to beat him.
They did just that. A defense that once dropped back into coverage attacked him. A group that, once upon a time, couldn’t get a hand on him, to use a hockey term, finished their checks. Okay, so maybe there weren’t a ton of checks, but the ones that were to be had were had. Cornerbacks, safeties and linebackers – three positions Favre owned just a year ago – got themselves in position to make plays. And, boy, did they make some plays (Nick Collins = holy crap). In every sense, the reverance they’d shown him before was gone.
In 2009, our guys struggled to keep up with him. This time around, he struggled to keep up with them.
He looked old, slow. Sure, he could rear back and let the occasional dart fly, for old time’s sake. But not like he used to. He could still feel the rush as well as anyone, but he couldn’t avoid it like he used to. His footwork – the most underrated part of his game – was still kind of there, but not like before. There was more stumbling, more bumbling.
The shots of Favre in full-on joy were few and far between. He looked bitter. He looked broken. Part of the “broken” is literal, Favre sustaining two separate stress fractures in his left ankle via a hit from Brad Jones in the third quarter. But it’s more than that. His love for the game seems lost, Favre showing the look of a man who knows he’s gone all-in one too many times. To quote Gene: “The house wins – it always does.”
He called the defeat “devastating.” That surely had something to do with the scoreboard, but again, there’s more to it. He could absorb the boos and the hatred from the Lambeau faithful when he was walking off the field a winner. After all, there’d be time to repair the damage done down the road. He couldn’t be bothered with that then. He was lost in his “dream season.”
That dream season is long over now. The end is near. The bell tolls for Favre.
And this time, he felt every ounce of our hatred for him, because, in defeat, he knows now he’ll never be able to go back. The one true love of his career – the love he felt from Packers fans – will never exist again. He always figured we’d come around, but see, we were smarter than he ever gave us credit for. He knows that now. That’s what brought on his tears.
In a matter of weeks, the game that’s always been there for him will be gone. He faces an uncertain future, both publicly and privately.
But the fans he once so viciously spurned? We’re moving on. And we’re going to be just fine.