Author angles for conflicted Favre followers

Minnesota author Ross Bernstein has penned a new book – a "flip" book, appropriately enough – regarding people's feelings on Brett Favre playing for the Vikings. Would you look at that: It just happens to be Vikings-Packers week and a great time to find out what fans, media and former teammates on both sides of the border think.

Brett Favre wasn't the only person that went into work overload once he signed with the Minnesota Vikings on Aug. 18. While Favre and Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell were busy burying themselves in Minnesota's version of the offense that Favre had spent 16 years running in Green Bay, local author Ross Bernstein immediately went to work pulling out the emotions of former and current teammates, fans and media to tell the conflicting tale of Brett Favre donning a Vikings jersey.

We already know all the jokes about Favre and flip-flopping on retirement. Now we have a "flip" book produced by Bernstein. If you fall into the category that suddenly (or still) adores Brett Favre, there is a cover and story for you entitled "I Love Brett Favre." Can't stand that guy anymore (or still)? Well, flip the book and start reading from the other side, entitled "I Hate Brett Favre."

Either way, Bernstein develops both storylines with equal emotion. He makes no bones about his affiliation as a Minnesota Vikings fan that grew up rooting against Favre while respecting his abilities. However, there were only two occasions in which Bernstein cheered for the Packers – when the Vikings needed a Packers win to get into the playoffs and when Bernstein needed the Packers to beat the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl so long-suffering Vikings fans would have another team to continue in their Super Bowl runner-up misery without a title to their name.

"I have struggled with (the Vikings) ever since I can remember. The pain runs deep," Bernstein writes. "This franchise is 0-4 in Super Bowls and, let's face it, we're desperate. So, if Brett Favre wants to come play for my team to help us win a Super Bowl, then why wouldn't I love Brett Favre? ... And if that happens, then I will REALLY love Brett Favre."

But even that comes with a caveat. Favre just might lead the Vikings to the Super Bowl and – don't say it! – another loss. Imagine the dirt-rubbing fun Packers fans would have with that. Or what if he really is the missing piece that brings Vikings fans to their Valhalla? Sure, there would be joy in Minnesotaville, but don't think for a minute Packers fans wouldn't be there reminding every purple-clad, Favre-worshipping Vikings fan that they had to poach a Green Bay legend to get it done.

And you thought your fandom was conflicted?

In the "love" side of the book – available at bernsteinbooks.com – Bernstein expands on many of the reasons Favre's football grit is endeared by many.

"I love how the guy is fearless, both in football and in life. He's never been afraid of success, of failure, of praise or of criticism," Bernstein writes. "I mean, he wants to play and win so badly that he really doesn't care about his legacy the way others do. How empowering is that? It's HIS career, HIS body and HIS legacy. No matter what happens in Minnesota, he is still going to end up in Canton as a member of the Hall of Fame. Guaranteed. That's pretty cool in my book."

As much as Bernstein brings out the ying and yang among Favre's past and present fans, the beauty of the book is in learning the thoughts from those he interviewed. That list includes more than a hundred people, from fans on both sides of the Mississippi to current and former teammates to media to famous alumni of both teams.


The other (Wisconsin) side of the story is presented as well.

Some, including Packers Hall of Fame defensive end Willie Davis, may not like Favre's decision to play for the Vikings, but they understand how he arrived there. But with Favre fever, there is always qualification, isn't there?

"Am I upset about Brett going to Minnesota? No. I wish him well, he gave us a lot of good years," Davis says in the book. "I will say this, though, about Brett going to Minnesota. If that team falters this season and misses the playoffs, I think he will regret the day he walked onto the field as a Viking."

Some of Bernstein's interview subjects, just like some fans, are ready to put a damper on the drama.

"Look, I don't think the Eagles were very happy when Reggie White left either, but this is a business and those things happen," said former Packers tackle Bob Skoronski. "Again, players should have every opportunity to play wherever they want to play. … But the reality is that No. 4 is now playing for the Minnesota Vikings. It is time to move on, Brett certainly has."

Seriously? Those kinds of comments don't raise the emotions enough, do they? No, a good Brett Favre story needs drama and Bernstein knows it.

"I'll be honest. I love the drama," he writes in the "hate" side of the book. "In a sick, sadistic kind of way it makes me happy when Packer fans are miserable. Misery loves company and, believe me, I've had plenty of purple hangovers through the years."

The big question that remains unanswered in some people's eyes is whether or not Favre signed with the Vikings for revenge. Favre denies that, but his rift with Packer general manager Ted Thompson was public. Favre felt he made his 2007 retirement decision (yes, there is a need to qualify those "retirements" by their individual timestamps) too hastily. And then the future Hall of Fame quarterback who spent 16 years in Green Bay wasn't even given the opportunity to compete for the starting job – after leading the Packers to a 13-3 record the previous season.

He was traded, but not to the team of his choice – the Minnesota Vikings. He'd have to wait another year to go the Packers' divisional rival, making a one-year layover with the New York Jets. But he's in Minnesota now, and former Wisconsin Badger and longtime Vikings tight end Stu Voigt can offer a unique perspective on crossing the border.

"That really opened a wound for a lot of people. For a lot of fans that now makes him enemy No. 1, the ultimate traitor who can never be forgiven," Voigt said. "Wisconsin fans are extremely loyal and his coming to Minnesota has really tarnished his image in a lot of eyes over there. That is sad because he gave the Packers a lot of good years. Hey, this is a tremendous rivalry we have up here. The fans want blood and guts. That is how these two feel about each other."

Perhaps no one feels more strongly about that than Steve "The Homer" True, a sports talk radio host for ESPN Milwaukee.

"It's all about Brett. Everybody owes Brett; he doesn't owe anybody anything," True tell Bernstein in the book. "Look, Brett Favre is a very, very smart individual. This notion of him being this country bumpkin is a joke. As such, any premise that suggests Brett is not fully aware of what's going on around him is the biggest flaw most people make. It's not like he can't make up his mind or that he doesn't know what he's doing. He knows. The guy is a master manipulator."

That represents the view of some Packers fans who believe Favre was pulling the strings all the way to make his move to Minnesota a reality.

"He's selfish and I think his behavior off the field is despicable. He has lied to his best friends," says True. "… Look, he'll eventually be inducted into the Packer Ring of Honor, and deservedly so for what he accomplish ON the field. As for the fans forgiving him though, I think most will ultimately forgive but they will never forget. Packer fans NEVER forget."

Bernstein puts it another way, theorizing that Favre and the Vikings are both getting something out of this made-for-TV marriage.

"The way I see it, this is a classic ‘use-use' relationship: Favre will use the Vikings to exact revenge on Ted Thompson, and the Vikings will use Brett Favre to win a Super Bowl and ultimately get a new stadium. If you're a Viking fan, that's a win-win. It's beautiful," Bernstein writes.

"… I mean in my eyes Favre has to have a vendetta of some sort. He wants revenge, or at least I think he does. Ted Thompson? Mike McCarthy? It has to be somebody, right?"

Former Packers legend Jerry Kramer thinks he knows when it all started. In fact, it was another former Viking that may have begun this odd and highly charged drama.

"A lot of this goes back to his feud with Ted over getting Randy Moss a few years back," Kramer told Bernstein. "Brett had Randy halfway talked into it, but Ted didn't pull the trigger, for whatever the reason. Brett was all excited about that and when that didn't happen, that was the beginning of the end in my eyes. Can you believe that they thought a fourth-round draft pick was more valuable than Randy Moss?" Kramer said.

"I am sure every time he saw Tom Brady hit Moss for a touchdown that season it got him madder and madder. Eventually he probably just snapped and said ‘to hell with it.'"

So now that Favre is about ready to enter the stadium he called home for 16 years, the question is how he will be received. Friendly rival or fiendish foe?

Favre delayed his pregame warm-up at the Metrodome when the Vikings hosted the Packers because he wanted to avoid the circus. What's he going to do now that he's wearing a Vikings jersey in Lambeau Field? Wait to take the field until the Minnesota offense has the ball? Maybe let Tarvaris Jackson make the first few handoffs to Adrian Peterson and then run out of the tunnel when Bevell finally calls for a pass play?

"When he walks onto the field at Lambeau Field wearing that purple jersey, it's gonna be nuts," said Kramer, the Packers Hall of Famer. "Folks are gonna go whacko. They're gonna boo, they're gonna cheer, they're gonna cry, it's gonna be a mess. There are a lot of mixed emotions surrounding it."

And Bernstein hopes to be there to witness it with all of the conflicting passions imaginable.

"What Brett Favre did, by coming to Minnesota, is so wrong on so many different levels. Nothing can really compare to Favre coming to Minnesota. Nothing," he writes.

"… Seriously, I know he says he doesn't care about his legacy, but I have talked to a lot of fans who are not only pissed off beyond recognition, they are deeply and genuinely saddened. For them this was personal. There are folks in the Dairy State running Favre jerseys through wood chippers."

Bernstein is obviously among the confused, unsure how he should feel about a player once hated, now loves, always respected. He is now cheering for a guy he rooted against for 16 years, hoping this lightening rod can electrify his emotions with a Super Bowl win – for the Vikings. Even if that doesn't happen, at least Bernstein had an outlet for his feelings.

"In many regards writing this book was really therapeutic… therapeutic for me and therapeutic for the legions of players, media personalities and fans I spoke to."

More therapy, for one side of the fence, is scheduled for 3:15 p.m. Central Sunday at Lambeau Field.


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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