Last Day at Lambeau: Kris Burke’s Review Preview
The man’s been retired for over a full year now and yet we can’t stop talking about him.
I speak, of course, of one Brett Lorenzo Favre. With him finally (hopefully) settled into his post-football life, most would think eventually he’d fade from the spotlight.
That hasn’t been the case. He was rumored multiple times this past season as a mid-season replacement for an injured starter whether it was in Houston, Kansas City or Miami. Whether not he is officially on Twitter has even become a hot point for debate. It seems like there is no escaping Favre even when he isn’t (supposedly) actively seeking the spotlight.
Which brings me to filmmaker Michael Neelsen’s new film “Last Day at Lambeau.” The film chronicles Favre’s divorce from the Green Bay Packers and its aftermath, and it is currently a topic of discussion amongst Packer fans all over the internet.
Our own Al Bracco received an advance copy of the film and already shared his thoughts. I have yet to see the film, but I will be attending its ‘world premiere’ this Wednesday at the Wisconsin Film Festival on the UW campus in Madison.
I will be sharing my thoughts in a review after I see the film, but I thought I’d get my thoughts on the whole Favre saga on paper before seeing “Last Day at Lambeau” and explain what I hope to gain from it. In my review, we’ll see if my view of things change but here’s where I stand at the present time.
My views likely will vary a bit from Al’s. When Favre became the Packers starting quarterback, I was nine years old. Like a lot of boys, I spent time with friends playing football either at recess or in the backyard. Up until that point, the Packers were beyond awful. My earliest Packer memories are of Lindy Infante as the head coach and they were bad (the 1989 season doesn’t register as I was six years old, sorry).
Most boys would pretend they were someone when playing football. For me, it was John Elway up to that point. The Packers were pathetic and everyone else was crazy for Elway, Joe Montana or Randal Cunningham. It just wasn’t “cool” to a lot of kids to be a Packer fan at that point.
Then Brett Favre came along.
The Packers started winning, and we started growing up at the same time. Favre got older and more mature at the same time my generation did. We literally grew up with Favre who was the ultimate kid at heart. As I got older, I learned more and more about the tradition and the history of the Packers. I began to appreciate those that came before (Lombardi, Starr, Kramer etc.). Throw in what Elway did to the Packers in Super Bowl XXXII and there was no going back.
I was a Packers fan, and one for life.
I felt a kinship with Favre like no other athlete before. Our favorite players are ones we can feel some kind of personal connection to and there was no greater one for me than Favre.
I lost my best friend to a car accident in 2002. I was heartbroken, and I was editor of our high school yearbook at the time. I was so shaken I was unsure if I’d be able to finish the book. Instead, I went forward and dedicated the rest of my work to him and we ended up winning some awards and I as editor received a scholarship (It was only enough to pay for about three textbooks, but hey it’s free money).
The following year, Favre lost his dad. While Favre’s loss in a sense was greater than what I experienced a year earlier, it bonded me to him a way I didn’t expect.
Even as I entered the workforce, I mimicked Favre. If you could be a “gunslinger” in a work environment, I was it. In reviews, my bosses would always say when you’re good you’re really good and you find sometimes maddening yet creative solutions to problems. When you’re off, however, things can get ugly fast.
Sounds like Favre to a t to me.
As the events of that summer in 2008 unfolded, I was torn. Here was my childhood hero, who played for a team in my backyard (I live in Oshkosh, about 45 minutes south of Green Bay), and he’s dissing the team and the people in charge.
Unlike a lot of fans, I wasn’t going to go up to Green Bay and picket Lambeau to let Ted Thompson know I wanted Favre back and he should be fired if he didn’t do as we said. That’s not how I was raised. Make your point and if it’s not accepted, move on.
I wanted Favre back. He had just put up another MVP-like season and seemed to be clicking with Mike McCarthy. What else needed to be discussed?
Then came the interview with Greta Van Sustern. That was the first time I ever questioned Favre’s intentions. I always took him as the good ol’ country boy he always appeared to be. When he admitted that he was coming back “in part to stick it” to Thompson, my eyebrows were raised a bit.
As the rest of the events unfolded, all I could do was shake my head. I could not believe what was happening. It shouldn’t have ended this way, I thought. Favre, the Packers and the fans all deserved better than this but c’est la vie. That’s life sometimes.
Once it became official that Favre was a New York Jet, in hindsight I guess I am surprised at my own reaction.
I was ok with it. Yes, I wanted Favre back but I realized that I was not as smart as Ted Thompson and to trust his decision to go with Aaron Rodgers in 2008. Basically, to sum it up, I just said, “Well, that whole ordeal sucked. Let’s see what the kid (Rodgers) can do, I guess.”
I got over Favre pretty quickly, like someone who was just dumped by their significant other sometimes does. The first game Rodgers started, at home against the Minnesota Vikings, I was sold. There was something about Rodgers’ composure and his smarts with the ball that had me utter, out loud, late in the game: “I think we’re going to be OK.”
The following summer when Favre waffled again on retirement and joined the Minnesota Vikings was the dagger. All I kept thinking while Favre was flirting with the Vikings was “Please Brett, don’t do this. You can’t be this stupid. You’d infuriate a very passionate and very large fan base and you’re a close second to Jesus in popularity here in Wisconsin. Don’t do this.”
Well, he did it.
At the point the emotional detachment of me from Favre was complete. I was always quick with a joke about Favre and wasting no time mocking him on Facebook or Twitter whenever I had the chance.
Have I forgiven him yet? No, but I’m getting there. Maybe that’s what I can take from “Last Day at Lambeau”—closure. The issue with the Saints bounty system has almost made me feel sorry for what Favre had to endure in the NFC championship against New Orleans. Almost.
It was a strange and stressful time for Packer Nation. We were divided amongst ourselves but thanks to Favre’s actions with the Vikings, we united and as one we worshipped our new hero lead a severely wounded team to the Super Bowl XLV title.
It’s never easy to see your childhood hero’s downfall. It’s a downfall that arguably should not have occurred. Thanks to the fumbling PR responses of both Favre and the Packers, a debate has raged in Packer Nation since 2008 and it’s doubtful if it ever will finally be extinguished.
Where we are right now thanks to the stellar play of Aaron Rodgers is as good a time as any for a film like “Last Day at Lambeau.” Nearly four years have passed, Favre is finally retired and the Packers are a year removed from a Super Bowl title with Rodgers at the helm. Rodgers has won an NFL MVP to go along with his Super Bowl XLV MVP and continues to cement his own legacy in Titletown.
For saying I’m sick of talking about Favre, I sure did talk a lot about him in this column. Maybe this film will be the final bookend in the Favre saga and we can finally and totally move on.
To be continued after April 18…..——————
Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke