Before the Super Bowl XXXI victory and long before the three MVP accolades, Brett Favre was going to be the death of me. I know exactly where I was, and it was nowhere near Titletown. I was a little over 3800 miles away and living in Cambridge, England with 20 other Valparaiso students trying to balance classes and criss-crossing Europe with a backpack.
I’ll be perfectly honest, I thought the Green Bay Packers were screwed on that September 20, 1992 Sunday night. It was before the wide-use of the internet. Sure, we could email other people who were lucky to have an email account, but that meant walking all the way across the city to use the computer lab at Anglia Polytechnic. Our house had two tiny Mac computers to write papers and play some antiquated video games on. The TV had just a few channels–the various BBC channels and I think Channel 4, but that was it. NFL games were shortened to summaries much the NFL Rewind of today, only with less finesse.
To top it off, the edited version of games were broadcast later at night. Six hour time difference, plus the editing meant you may get lucky on a Sunday night and catch your team’s game boiled down to less than an hour.
That week I hit the jackpot. The Packers were the game, and I staked a claim to the only television in the house. It usually wasn’t a big deal as half the house had yet to return from London or parts even more remote. Not sure why I didn’t go anywhere that weekend, but I was home. And excited to see the Packers for the first time all season.
Now the Packers were okay, but not great at that point. Don Majkowski had given the Packers hope and the team was starting to emerge from the wastelands of mediocrity that seemed to span my entire childhood. No, they weren’t Super Bowl material, yet the didn’t exactly stink. A good season meant a Wild Card playoff appearance. They had Sterling Sharpe who was poised to eclipse Jerry Rice as perhaps the greatest receiver that had played the game. The team was on the rise, and the team had hope.
And then Majkowski went down. Not again. He’d already missed the last six games of the 1990 season after an ugly shoulder-first tackle had trashed the rotator cuff of his throwing arm. We’d already seen the turnstile of back ups try to fill the void, If you thought the Great Clavicle Disaster of 2013 and the revolving backup QB door was bad, try holding a team together with Blair Kiel and Anthony Dilweg. Nice guys, don’t get me wrong, but not top tier quarterbacks by any stretch of the imagination. And let’s not forget that 1991 was the season no one could make up their mind. Would it be Majkowski or Tomczak that would lead the team. 1992 seemed to be when the ship had finally been righted and Majik was back in command.
It all came to an abrupt halt in that game against Tampa Bay when he went down with an ankle injury, a torn ligament we would later learn. I hadn’t followed the Packers that closely and knew that Ty Detmer was a back up. Again, nice guy, but never lived up to his college hype. He could hold down the fort without burning it down. That said, I had zero clue who all was on the QB depth chart.
Enter Brett Favre.
Brett Who, and how the heck do you say his last name?
I remember saying that out loud. The Green Bay Packers are absolutely and unequivocally screwed. We’re going to lose. We have some idiot who fumbled the ball four times. Four times! Do we need to hot glue some Velcro to your hands so you stop dropping the ball? Besides, he was about my age, still kind of young to be leading a football team.
By now we all know how that first pass played out. Favre caught his own pass after it was deflected. At least the kid showed quick reflexes, and they ended up winning after all. How ’bout that?
What I didn’t realize at the time was I was witnessing the beginning of an era that would completely balance out the 70’s and the 80’s where the Packers were the butt of jokes. That September evening in England, I watched the beginning of 16 year era where one quarterback started every single game from that point until January 20, 2008.
A lot changed in that time frame in my life–college, more school, marriage, work and two kids. Yet one thing remained constant with the Packers for that entire era–Brett Favre.
The Packers weren’t just okay after that. They were consistently a contender. The went to the Super Bowl twice, and I even managed to convert my band geek husband into a bona fide football fan.
Brett Favre ushered in the modern era of Packers football. We didn’t have to cling to the past our parents recalled, the glory days of Lombardi and Bart Starr. We didn’t have to live in the past. The Packers were finally a part of the present conversation.
Green Bay was Titletown once again. And they were perennial contenders with few exceptions. Rivalries were fun again, not just the receiving end of a butt kicking. Playoffs were an expectation, no longer just a hope.
At the end of the Favre Era, my name came up for season tickets, and they arrived in the mail for the first time shortly before the ugly divorce of August 2008. The trade happened on my birthday.
Could that have been handled better? Absolutely.
Yet there is no mistake the impact Brett Favre has had on the Green Bay Packers. And as I recall that game I watched in Cambridge, I can’t help but wonder had the Packers followed down the path to where they are now had Don Majkowski not been injured that day and Brett Favre remained on the bench.--------------