As a mock gesture of love and reconciliation in Brett Favre’s return to Green Bay Sunday, creative Packer fans proposed a big-screen montage of some of Favre’s memorable Packer moments. The plan was package the most flagrant interceptions in his 16 years in Green Bay for Favre’s scrapbook.
“We thought it would be a nice sentimental gift to Brett,” one of the Packer fans bloggers said, “showing him that we still care even if he sold out to the Vikings and basically treated his old fans like dogs.”
That plan, a relieved Mayor Jim Schmitt of Green Bay tells MinnPost, isn’t going to fly. “The president of the Packers himself turned it down.” It lacked, well, dignity.
The mayor welcomes the national attention but worries about the city’s image. So this week he is taking the role of the amiable healer, giving the more enraged Packer fans some slack while waving the wand of moderation, because this Sunday brings Brett Favre back to Lambeau field in the colors of the Minnesota Vikings and makes Green Bay once more the center of the football universe. The television audience will run into the tens of millions, the media run-up in the next four days will be inescapable, and the mayor wants the world to know that this is a civilized and hospitable place.
Waffles and beer
So the mayor and colleagues are orchestrating other schemes to recognize an unwelcome but tumultuous hour in the history of Green Bay. Such as? “We’re going to have a beer tap at the Titletown Brewery that will recognize this day. Waffles will be served.”
Waffles as in the Brett Favre Waffles of the hot summer in Mississippi, when Favre vacillated between yin and yang, unable to decide whether to come out of retirement. He finally capitulated to the allure of $20 million and the chance to square accounts with a Packer management he believes deserted him when he was ready to end his (first) retirement and return to Green Bay.
But that is history and in two months Favre has rather dramatically filled the circle for a Viking team that needed one more component, a dependable quarterback, to contend for the Super Bowl. And now Favre comes back to Green Bay with a chance to give the Vikings a clear road to a division title and home field in the playoffs, a goal the Packers themselves have in their sights.
Against impressive odds, Mayor Schmitt wants to be sure that the spirit of brotherhood and mutual admiration fills the weekend. So there will be multicolored seasoning at that beer and waffle party, featuring green or purple ketchup — which will be a culinary first but probably will not launch a stampede to the serving counters.
“Yes, I liked Brett Favre,” the mayor said. “He did a lot for this city and for Wisconsin. He was a great player, and his wife, Deanna, was marvelous in the work she did for breast cancer research and for children. But I understand the anger some people feel about Brett playing for the Vikings.”
To help calm the storm he invited Mayor R. T. Rybak of Minneapolis and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty to be his guests at the game, but found the two with prior commitments that may have involved politics but probably had more to do with staying out of harm’s way.
That loyalty issue genuinely bores deep into the insides of thousands of people who will be at Lambeau Sunday, people infuriated by what they regard as Favre’s violation of a moral contract.
“It’s one thing for Favre to quit and then unretire and go to the New York Jets to play,” said Dave Crowley of Shakopee and a native of Chippewa Falls, Wis. “It’s another thing for him to go into a second fake retirement and manipulate the system to put himself in a place where Chili [Viking Coach Brad Childress] could pick up the phone in August and tell him the Vikings were ready to sign him.
“I don’t think you can find another case in professional sports where a star of Favre’s caliber maneuvered himself into a place where he took all those years of support he got from one team and its fans and insulted them by going to play for its biggest rival. And he did it to stick it to Ted Thompson [the Packers’ general manager] because Thompson wouldn’t back down on the commitment the Packers made to Aaron Rodgers [the young and new Packer quarterback] after Favre quit the first time. That’s the story line of this game. All the respect that guys like me gave to Favre means nothing now. If you want to call that bitterness, I’m not going to argue.”
Favre dolls and a wood chipper
Crowley is essentially a happy and sociable guy who is in the trucking fleet business out of Shakopee but is Wisconsin Red (the Badgers) or Packer Green wherever the colors take him. He watched the Packers in Cleveland Sunday and is planning a trip to Madison to watch the Badger hockey team play New Hampshire. New Hampshire?
“I told you I’m Wisconsin head to foot. I don’t have season tickets for the Packers. Are you serious? I’ve been applying for years and years and I’ve managed to move up from the low 15,000th on the wait list to the high 10,000s. I don’t have a ticket for the game in Green Bay Sunday. But I’ll be there and in the stadium [wearing a Paul Hornung throw-back jersey] and I won’t have to pay scalper prices. I have a contact…”
And he also has a memory. When Favre went with the Vikings, “I got rid of all the Favre jerseys and memorabilia. I had one of those Favre bobby dolls. We had a cut-the-cord ceremony earlier this year. We all went down to the Park Tavern in St. Louis Park [a major Packer cell], where they had a wood chipper. We chipped the Favre dolls to pieces and dumped them.”
This is serious bitterness. But who’s going to deny just-cause? Certainly not Dave Sinykin, a Milwaukee native who for years has been the voice of the Packers on sports station KFAN, a kind of godfather to the Packer resistance and underground in the Twin Cities.
“I think what you are going to hear when Favre comes on with the Viking offense Sunday is a tremendous verdict by the big majority of the crowd. Some Packer fans try to understand Favre and remember his days in Green Bay and will cheer. I think you’ll find 90 per cent of the crowd will be going the other way, and I don’t blame them. Favre orchestrated his way into the Vikings, and he deserves it.”
The problem Sinykin faces is that there are three kids in his family. Not all of them are Packer fans. At least one is open and aggressively Viking.
There are days when a man should consider the quiet fulfillment of a Sunday afternoon walk around the lake.
But not, Dave Sinykin will tell you, this Sunday.