Sailing the Seas of Cheese: Reunited And Let the Speculations Begin
So it wasn’t exactly what Peaches and Herb had in mind when they penned the song Reunited, but by now everyone has seen the hand shake, the hug that never came and the awkward smiles. Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre on the same stage. Cracking jokes. Favre quipping about coming back one more time while Rodgers encouraging those retired to stay retired. Luckily the Mayan Apocalypse has already come and gone. And, no, the sky did not fall and the sun truly did rise this morning.
So what exactly did this mean for the Packer Nation? Was it truly Peace In Our Time? Was it a sign of an impending reconciliation to come between Brett Favre and Packers, Inc. (and its loyal fan base)? Or was it just a publicity stunt? Sure, they were just reading lines. They were probably coached on how deliver their lines and how to react to each other. Then on cue, Peyton hinted at history repeating itself with a similar reconciliation between Andrew Luck and himself. It made for great theater.
But what do we really take home from a 55 second skit on a stage with words spoon-fed through a teleprompter.
My distaste for Brett Favre is not a secret. But like many, he had a special place in my heart back during his tenure as a Packer. Since I’ve experienced the whole gamut of emotions regarding our former quarterback, I don’t know what to make of this interaction. While I think a Packers’ reconciliation would ultimately be a good thing, the past five years have made me pessimistic at best when trying to tease out Favre’s intentions. Because of that I will try my best to weigh on both sides of the argument and leave the reader to decide if it was just a handshake for the camera or the first signs of thawing on par with the end of the Cold War.
Don’t Read Too Much Into a Handshake:
Seriously, one staged hand shake before the cameras and all is right with the universe? You’re kidding me, right? Are we as fans that gullible and desperate for a detente that we’re willing to believe that this makes the past five years okay?
Does one handshake excuse that Favre–shortly after departing the team–was shopping insider information to the Detroit Lions? Does it erase that he publicly cheered on the Chicago Bears to destroy the Packers? Does it makes us forget that he has gone on the record admitting that signing with Minnesota was not so much an attempt to extend his long career but rather a final Revenge Tour to stick it to Packers, Inc.?
Why now? Why does he want to mend fences now? After all, it was less than a year ago when he told the NFL Network that he had little to no relationship with the Green Bay Packers. Could it be Donald Driver’s retirement? Thus far the tone is different. Shortly after Driver announced that he was retiring, he went on the record that he is only retiring once. There will be no return for one more year elsewhere. He’s leaving with his head held high. And the fans have embraced him for this final victory lap of memories. Driver is now receiving the love and affection that would have been Favre’s had he only stayed retired. Donald is less than a week from becoming one of the elder statesmen of the Packers’ dynasty, an icon to be regarded with the same reverence as the Bart Stars and Jerry Kramers. Does Driver represent what Favre could’ve had if only he didn’t follow the path he chose?
An then there’s money. When Favre retired, then changed his mind, the Packers hatched a plan to keep him retired–$20 million to become an “ambassador” for the Packers. In other words, a giant bribe to not start the revenge tour. Is he hoping that money is still there, and will they be offering a similar package to Driver? Of course this is the most ridiculous of the questions circulating. But Favre rarely acted without his long-time agent Bus Cook playing the masterful puppet master pulling the strings. In light of past behavior, one can’t help but ask, What’s in it for Brett?
This Isn’t About Aaron Rodgers:
As much as that handshake last night may have signaled a detente between all of the parties involved, this has never been about Rodgers. Aaron had the unfortunate role of being the next guy up. First the fans demonized him for having the audacity to replace the Gunslinger as though he was Brutus sinking the knife into Caesar’s chest, but within a year fans were willing to pick up his banner and rally behind Rodgers. He was the slighted party. He too appeared to be one of the victim’s of Favre’s narcissism.
It’s not my job to get him ready to play… My contract doesn’t say I have to get Aaron Rodgers ready to play… I’m not obligated one bit to help anyone.
I doubt that anyone has forgotten this famous quote. And yes, Rodgers has intimated that their relationship came to an abrupt end after Favre left. But what Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre think of each other, if they’ll ever contact each other on their own or ever decided to pair up for a game of golf has nothing to do with the Favre debate. Yet this quote and the art of reading between the lines has fueled speculation for how much has Brett Favre slighted Aaron Rodgers. Yet we will never know, and quite frankly it is none of our business. Rodgers is notoriously private, and what past uglies that may or may not have transpired between both men will likely remain private. Any reconciliation between them is something entirely different and has nothing to do with reconciling with the Packers and its fans. If there is to be an understanding between them, it will happen behind closed doors and will never be about photo ops or marketing ploys. It will be anything but a public stunt.
Yet along the way, it appears that Aaron has become a well-used proxy for the slights the fan base feels it has sustained at Favre’s hand. Its hurt and anger has long been transferred on to a caricature of Aaron Rodgers. Our hurt became his. Our resentment has been melded into a grudge he may or may not hold. We saw this last night. The blogosphere erupted with declarations of if Rodgers can forgive him, so should we. Except the Rodgers they were referring to is just reflection of ourselves in the mirror.
Rodgers is the face of the franchise, but he is also a proxy for Packers, Inc. as well. Regardless of the relationship (or lack thereof) he may have with Brett Favre, he had to put personal feelings aside and shake hands withe the mythic enemy. It wasn’t Aaron shaking hands with Brett last night as much as it was the Green Bay Packers taking the high road. Rodgers had the most to lose in this interaction. If he bristled, balked or refused, he’d forever be painted the petty, thin-skinned one of the pair. Finally he also served as a proxy for those who desperately want reconciliation. He could not afford to offend that part of the fan base or he’d be once again reduced to the scapegoat that forced Favre out of town.
The man we imagine is Aaron Rodgers isn’t the kid from Chico. No, last night he truly was the proxy for each of us, carrying either the olive branch or never-dying grudge we want him to carry.
Why We Need To Move Toward Reconciliation:
Perhaps that awkward handshake and pair of pained smiles last night were more than stage directions. Perhaps it is a sign of things to come and we are heading toward a reconciliation. Remember, before the drama following Favre’s trade to the New York Jets on August 7, 2008 (my birthday by the way.) That year, Favre’s face was on the tickets for the season opener. They were ready to retire his number. It would be one last send-off for a beloved quarterback. This past year, Packers president Mark Murphy went on the record that they still intend to do it. They want Favre back in the fold because embracing the prodigal son makes for a much happier ending than kicking one of their most successful players to the curb with the morning trash.
Personal opinions and scandals aside, Brett Favre is still one of the very best quarterbacks to ever play the game. Reggie White and he turned a perpetually mediocre team into a champion again. They made the Green Bay Packers relevant again, not merely an NFL elephant graveyard where so-so players went to die. You can’t ignore or throw away something of that magnitude. No one here can forget the jubilant Favre running across the Superdome’s field after throwing his first touchdown pass in Super Bowl XXXI. He dared us to dream that there would some day be a fourth Lombardi Trophy coming home to 1265 Lombardi Avenue.
Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. It doesn’t mean ignoring the pain and anger. And it doesn’t mean you have to personally like someone. Forgiveness is about moving forward, not looking behind you. Forgiveness is about letting go and not being consumed by that pain and anger. It’s not just about extending a hand or offering the olive branch. It is being mature enough to accept one. It’s about accepting contrition when it is offered and not shutting the door to future conversations.
Forgiveness is not a single act, but a work in progress.
This coming season may still be soon for many to embrace forgiveness. Welcoming Favre home as the prodigal son will not be a single act. It will be that work in progress. Rodgers fulfilled his role as the proxy for both fans and the front office. He extended his hand. That door has been opened. The next meaningful steps will be private ones between Favre and the organization.
Last night may have been a staged act for television consumption. But conversations start often start with a handshake, and this may be the first gesture among many.