Holler: Favre fest will end bitterness

Any remaining bitterness in Wisconsin toward Brett Favre should end Saturday with his induction into the Packers Hall of Fame.

On Saturday, “The Wound” will be healed, as Brett Favre is officially allowed back from exile in Packer Country and inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame.

But make no mistake. Vikings fans haven’t forgotten and never will.

The saga of Favre is one that has been through more than its share of revisionist history. Fans with a short memory tend to forget that the divorce between Favre and the Packers was orchestrated by Ted Thompson.

After the 2007 season, Thompson knew where the future at the quarterback position was. It wasn’t Favre. It was an unproven youngster named Aaron Rodgers.

In hindsight, Thompson made the right decision. Rodgers had sat behind the master for three years. Green Bay had used a first-round pick on Rodgers and he signed a five-year contract that had only two years remaining without the Packers knowing for sure what they had. It was now or never to get Rodgers in the lineup and the only way to do it was to get rid of Favre.

The Packers were in a bind because they knew the fan base would be in hysterics if Favre called it a career. His consecutive games streak was still intact. He was still one of the most dangerous (and gun-slingeriest) quarterbacks in the game. He was loved and beloved. Children were named Brett. Dogs were named Favre. The No. 4 was tattooed on the skin of thousands of lactose-tolerant fans.

Brett was a god. But he was convinced to have a tearful retirement press conference to step out of the way. Brett was riding off into the sunset, but with saddlebags full of cash. Thompson had orchestrated a high-paying college job for Favre. Show up at a couple of fans events, softball tournaments, golf outings and the occasional touch football game and you’ll get seven figures a year for the next 20 years.

At the time, Favre thought it was a pretty nice parting gift that would keep a significant income flowing into the Favre household even in retirement. But then July came and Brett got the itch. He realized he had been pushed into action and wanted to compete with Rodgers for the starting job – a battle he clearly would win if operated fairly at that point of their diverging careers. Rodgers was getting better, but was unproven. Favre’s skills were showing the signs of age, but he was still capable of making the game-winning, jaw-dropping throw.

The smoking gun may have been his last pass as a Packer. Playing the Giants at home in the playoffs, Favre’s last pass as a Packer was a completion to Giants defensive back Corey Webster – who took the pass the other way for the game-winning touchdown in overtime.

With six months to think it over, Favre didn’t want that sweltering zit remaining on his franchise face. Vikings and Bears fans would never forget it. Neither would Brett. He couldn’t let that be his final gunfight.

Favre was still under contract with the Packers and they had talked him out of his handsome salary with his coerced retirement announcement. He decided he wasn’t retired. Therein lay the problem for Thompson.

The sight of Favre and his wife landing at the airport in Green Bay to a cheering crowd told Thompson and the rest of the football world where the fan allegiance lay. It was with Favre, not Rodgers.

Things didn’t get ugly until Thompson refused to let Favre join his teammates. He orchestrated a trade with the Jets that assured Favre would be exiled to the AFC and wouldn’t have to play against the Packers. That’s what got Brett salty and led to his eventual release from the Jets and his ability to sign with anyone, which happened to be the rival Vikings.

The bitterness of Packers fans to that move was deep, especially when he led the Vikings to the brink of the Super Bowl in 2009. It has been five years since Favre last played and, when Saturday arrives and Favre makes what it sure to be a long, sappy, heartfelt speech about his love of Packer Nation, all will be forgiven.

But in the world of professional football and how quickly players can be shipped out of town, does Favre really need forgiveness? It wasn’t his fault he left Green Bay, but his return will put things back to normal and it will be okay to love him again in Wisconsin.


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