Just a few years ago, it felt like Brett Favre would never be welcome in Wisconsin again, much less allowed into the Green Bay Packers’ Hall of Fame. He was wearing a purple helmet and throwing touchdowns as he dominated the NFC North and his old team. The fans and the team were outraged, and Favre himself was mad, feeling like he’d been run out of town. He was after revenge.
As Taylor Swift would say, the two sides had a lot of bad blood.
He can never undo what happened—playing in New York, playing in Minnesota, coming in and out of retirement. And it’s not even the fact that he played elsewhere that mattered. It’s how he did it. It’s the way the two sides were pitted so directly against one another, and especially the fact that Favre strong-armed his way into Minnesota so he could beat his old team.
It didn’t have to be that way. People in Indy don’t hate Peyton Manning, and he doesn’t hate Indy. But it was. It was a bitter break.
Saturday, Favre was beloved again. Highlights of him playing in a Packers uniform are watched without anger and bitterness. He’s welcomed in Green Bay, in the Hall of Fame. The way he picked that team up and helped bring it back to glory is all that matters.
So, how did Favre manage it? How did he get everyone to put the past in the past and move on?
He shut up.
After his final and last retirement, Favre slowly drifted out of the public view. It wasn’t all at once, but he moved further and further away every year. In the last 12 months, his name has barely been spoken. He gave it time and time healed those wounds. He fell out of the limelight, and it made all the difference.
Part of that was natural. People did not like Favre’s constant swaying on whether or not he was retired. It was frustrating. It felt like he just craved so much attention. It started to look like nothing but a way to get out of training camp.
When that ended, animosity dwindled.
Part of it, too, was that the Packers have been so good in recent years without him. It’s hard for fans to feel anything but excited when the team is winning every single year, when they’re a popular pick for the Super Bowl. When Aaron Rodgers is clearly one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, if not the best.
But, most of all, it was the silence and the time. The whole thing felt like a childish fight. Then it ended, everyone got a second to step back, take a breath and clear their heads. Things fell into perspective—where the Packers stood in the NFL, what Favre had done for the team. Everyone closed their eyes, gave it a minute, and then came back to shake hands.
It’s a great redemption to see, because it was hard enough to see Favre as anything but a Packer. To see him hated by the fans? That was even worse. It felt unnatural and really sad.
What people wanted to remember was Favre running around without his helmet on, picking players up and carrying them around the field, throwing touchdown after touchdown in honor of his father. Getting to the Super Bowl, winning it. Defining gunslinger to the rest of the NFL.
Finally, it seems that the pieces can be picked up, the water can wash under the bridge, and we can again remember Brett Favre the quarterback as he was meant to be remembered.