Brett Favre decided to hang up his #4 jersey today. A million things will be written and said about Favre’s historic, Hall of Fame career. Within hours of the news, it was dissected from every angle imaginable by the sportswriters of the world.
I guess I’m not technically a sportswriter, though I do write about sports. But what epitaph can I offer to honor Favre’s career that won’t be redundant?
Sure, I watched as Favre won three MVP trophies and a Super Bowl ring in the mid-90s. And I relished Favre’s ageless season last year when he led a resurgent Packers team to the brink of the Super Bowl. I even enjoyed his cameo in There’s Something About Marry. But my strongest memory of Brett Favre comes from one of his most heroic performances.
On Dec. 21, 2003, Brett Favre’s father passed away and a nation of sports fans mourned with him. The next day, Favre and the Packers were in the national spotlight playing on Monday Night Football and everyone was rooting for Favre and the Packers to succeed under such trying circumstances, everyone that is, except for fans of the Oakland Raiders, who were Favre’s opponents that night.
The Raiders entered the game 4-10 despite having played in Super Bowl XXXVII just ten months earlier. But as a diehard Raiders fan, I was still convinced that the silver and black could rise to the occasion for a Monday Night showdown.
I was a freshman in college at the time and my friends were home for Christmas break. With the Raiders on national TV, I decided to make an event of it and invited both my best friend and my girlfriend to watch the game at my house. My girlfriend didn’t have a problem with watching football, but I had yet to have any success transferring my Raiders fandom.
I was sure that watching the game with me would do the trick. I was positive that my passion for the team would be so infectious that she would convert to Raiders Nation on the spot and don a silver and black jersey by halftime. I was convinced that stuffing myself into a vintage youth Marcus Allen Raiders uniform—I wore this for Halloween when I was no older than 10—would be, if not a humorous stunt or turn-on, surely at least a lovable quirk. Needless to say, I was way off base on all accounts.
Favre torched the Raiders defense. He shredded the secondary for 399 yards and 4 touchdowns in a 41-7 shellacking that made my fandom hurt. Adding insult to injury, my passion—mostly angry yelling in the first half and distraught pouting/complaints in the second half—was written off as poor sportsmanship. And my costume was received with a look that fell somewhere between shock and utter horror.
Before the game reached the fourth quarter, I was such a mess that my girlfriend refused to share a couch with me. By the time the game ended, it was up for debate, which was more pathetic: the Raiders team or my demeanor? The Raiders haven’t had a winning season since and the relationship didn’t last two months after that.
Of course I don’t blame Favre for either of those outcomes. It was the Raiders that made all the poor personnel decisions of the past few years and I was the one wearing the hot pants and mini-helmet that night. No, Favre has enough on his résumé without fan fabrication.
But perhaps the ultimate compliment I can give Favre is that in spite of leaving such a bad taste in my mouth by crushing my dreams of a great night with his performance in that game, I remained a Favre fan. If anything, I gained respect for his competitive fire and I rooted for him to win it all last year more than anyone else in the playoffs.
Favre has long been a media darling. He’ll be talked up by just about everyone in the aftermath of his retirement, and rightfully so. But when I think of Favre, I’ll always remember how one of his career-defining games coincided with one of the most embarrassing and humiliating moments of my life as a football fan. I’m just glad the photos of me watching the game aren’t as readily accessible as the highlights of Favre from that night.
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