Coming Back to the Pack

This week I bought my nephew an Aaron Rodgers jersey. It was probably one of roughly 100,000 Aaron Rodgers jerseys sold this week. Nothing special.

But for me, it was a step back. A first foray in mending my scarred relationship with the Packers. It was the first time I spent money on team merchandise since they traded Brett Favre to the New York Jets in 2008.

I’ve been one of Favre’s biggest fans ever since he hit Kitrick Taylor down the right sideline to beat the Cincinnati Bengals back in September of 1992. My 82 year-old grandmother had his poster on the wall outside her bedroom, and each night as she went to bed, she said “good night Brett,” with a smile on her face. She was not a sports fan, but Favre and the Packers were a connection that crossed the generational divide.

So when Ted Thompson traded Favre I was bitter, as much with how it was handled as I was with the decision itself. History didn’t bode well for the future of the Packers. Only Steve Young provided an example of an elite quarterback following a Hall of Famer, so my thinking was that if you have a known commodity, you ride it as long as you can.

With Favre traded, I ended my once devoted, unshakable allegiance to the Packers. I still rooted for them, still loved Donald Driver, and never disliked Rodgers. I just couldn’t put my heart and soul into it anymore. The ugly way the Favre parting played out through the media (including Thompson trying to bribe him into retirement and the Packers hiring a PR firm to leak unflattering Favre stories) shattered my illusions of the Packer organization being a cut above other pro sports franchises.

The seasons since brought me unexpected relief. I stopped setting my Sunday clock to football. I stopped analyzing statistics throughout the week and getting ticked off by every commentator on ESPN who knocked the Packers or praised the Minnesota Vikings.

I still watched football, was still entertained, but that was it. My emotions no longer went through the ringer each Sunday and Monday. It was an unexpectedly freeing sensation.

Back in 2008, when Favre was traded, I predicted that Rodgers would never quarterback a playoff victory. I was wrong. This week I bought two jerseys for family members. Both have Rodgers across the shoulders and a big number 12 on them. As I prepare to watch today’s NFC Championship, I’m rooting hard for A-Rodg and the Pack. I’m nervous for the first time since our last NFC Championship Game against the New York Giants in January of 2008. I’m hopeful that Rodgers learned something from Favre in that game – what not to do in overtime.

The way Thompson handled the Favre trade was wrong, but the decision, obviously, was right. This week I found myself all in again, reveling in trash-talking the Bears, reading all the pre-game analysis, and making my sports fan’s heart vulnerable again.

And I’m counting on Rodgers to take us home.