Anyone who has known me for any length of time is well aware that I love the Green Bay Packers. I care deeply about all my favorite teams and about sports in general, but the Packers hold a place in my heart bigger than nearly anything else in life. Is that right? You can debate that if you like, but it’s not changing. One player in particular spurred on my love of the Packers from an early age, and that man is now a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Growing up in the Chicagoland area, it’s not always easy to be a Packers fan, especially when your whole family is Bears fans. But from the first time I saw Brett Favre, I fell in love with him, the way he played the game and his team. He played with reckless abandon, leaving you on the edge of your seat with every snap. He loves the game and it showed while he played. I love the game of football and Brett Favre is one of the biggest reasons why.
In fact, the two biggest reasons I love football today are two men, both born on October 10: Brett Favre and my dad.
I still remember all those Sundays as a child that I sat in our basement and watched games with my dad. How angry he’d get at the Bears, how angry he’d get when the Packers won, all the stories he’d tell me about Walter Payton and his favorite player of all-time, Gale Sayers (always prefacing him with his nickname, “the Kansas Comet”), explanations of the game and how it used to be played, etc. These are things I’ll always hold on to and covet, and hopefully I’ll be able to pass them on to my kids one day.
Favre’s father also meant a great deal to him, and he certainly does posthumously as well. Monday Night Football, December 22, 2003 is a game that will exist forever not just in Packers lore, but in National Football League lore. That game took place one day after the death of Favre’s father, Irvin. With a heavy heart, Brett went out on the field and played the greatest game of his entire life.
I’d be lying to you if I said I remember that game in perfect detail, but I remember the day, I remember emotions leading up to the contest (and the sadness I felt for him), as well as the fact that he tore apart the Raiders defense. Four touchdowns and nearly 400 yards right after your father, the biggest role model in your life, died? I know football is just a game, but it’s an incredible challenge to not be impressed by that feat.
I recommend that every football fan, as well fans of a good story in general, watch Favre’s Hall of Fame speech, because it is powerful, entertaining and leaves a lasting impact (especially on a die-hard fan like myself). I knew I was going to cry going into the speech, I wasn’t going to hide that. As he spoke about his father, however, is when I felt my most powerful emotional reaction.
I don’t want to go into an excessive number of details, because to be quite honest I have profoundly painful wounds that I don’t want to reopen. But the gist of what I want to get across is that my dad and I had a strange relationship in my childhood due to a mistake he made incessantly, to the point where he was nearly taken from us about 10 years ago. It wasn’t as if my dad hated me to the core or something awful like that, but I won’t lie and say life was always peaceful and rosy at home.
While struggling personally with the failing health of my dad, I turned to things like sports to get my mind off of life’s troubles, which could be difficult when I’d come to realize that I didn’t have someone to play catch with or ask questions about old players to anymore. Things like the aforementioned memories of watching and talking about football with my dad became not just pleasant thoughts, but almost necessities to maintain sanity and hope, hope that we’d have time to make more memories in the future.
Thankfully, we have.
My dad’s been healthy and working again for around eight years now I believe, and we’ve been able to watch games, or at least talk about the sport, frequently. I’m not at home for most Sundays anymore considering I go to college out of state, but we talk every weekend and always discuss that week’s game, both pro and college (and he’s always got at least one, usually more, Jay Cutler complaint in him). I cherish every one of these moments.
The fatherly connection is not the only thing that stuck with me from Favre’s speech. I got to relive some amazing memories from my childhood (and the agonizing one of him leaving and becoming a Viking, but I’ll go back to repressing that soon enough). All the plays in which he gave 110% (all of them), carrying his receivers off the field after touchdowns, all of these memories made me so happy on Saturday night just like they did for years while Favre was playing in the green and gold.
Brett never lost sight of the fact that he was playing a game, even mentioning in his speech that he couldn’t believe he would get paid to play like he did. To this day, I emulate his carefree, sometimes reckless, but always full-effort style, whether I’m playing pickup football with my best friends in the street outside my house, or when I played volleyball competitively in high school. I loved that about him; I know many people, both Packers supporters and haters, felt the same way.
I was never going to turn into an NFL quarterback, as much as I dreamt about it. But to this day I never miss a Packers game. I spend weekends in the fall glued to the TV, watching college games on Saturday and pro games on Sunday. I write about football all across the internet and I love doing it. I get to talk to my dad about the game we both care so much about as frequently as possible. It’s important to never lose sight of the fact that football is a game, but that doesn’t mean the game can’t be important.
In his speech, Favre talked a ton about his family and how important it is. Brett’s not a perfect man and stories for years have shown that, but who is? My dad isn’t. I know I sure as hell am not, not even close. But his points still resonate with me, just as I assume they do for thousands upon thousands of other people out there.
Brett Favre was my hero as a kid, I’ll gleefully disclose that to anybody who’s willing to listen. For all the ups and downs of his career, both on and off the field, he was, and frankly still is, my guy. I’ll never forget the nonstop rush of emotions he brought to me while he was quarterbacking my beloved Packers. However, the most recent thing Brett did that sticks in my mind is his hoping out loud, choking back tears, that he made his father proud.
I’m not a legendary quarterback entering the Hall of Fame, nor an athlete at all, hell I’m not even following in my father’s footsteps career-wise, but I share Farve’s sentiment nonetheless. Dad, I hope I’ve made and continue to make you proud.