I recently celebrated what a friend calls my 'Sconiversary, a milestone which officially marks 19 years of residence in Wisconsin, compared to 18 in my native Minnesota. According to this friend, it's a tipping point past which I no longer need to sheepishly root for the Vikings and can unapologetically dub myself a Packer backer.
At the risk of being demoted to the kiddie table for Thanksgiving, I've been headed that way for a while now, and it's all Brett Favre's fault.
I couldn't have picked a better year to jump aboard the Favre bandwagon. He has broken Dan Marino's NFL record for career touchdown passes and John Elway's mark for most wins by a quarterback. (Elway managed 148; Favre is at 153 and counting.)
But it was in setting the mark for most career interceptions against Washington two weeks ago that Favre won me over. Asked in an interview with Packers.com to recall the worst interception of his career, Favre went back to a September 1997 game in Detroit when he attempted a pass from his knees.
"All I was thinking as I was throwing it was, 'This is going to be an unbelievable play. How many guys throw it from their knees?'" he said. "I really was thinking that at that time."
Detroit linebacker Reggie Brown intervened, however, grabbing the pass and returning it 45 yards for a Lions touchdown on the way to a 26-15 win over Green Bay. Mike Holmgren, the Packers' head coach at the time, was furious at Favre on the sideline.
"I could not convince him [afterward] that I thought it was going to be a great play," Favre said. "So if you ask Mike, he'd probably say that was one of the worst. If you ask me, it was that close" - he places his thumb and forefinger a half-inch apart - "to being an unbelievable play."
It's a statement that shows Favre is willing to poke fun at his own image, while demonstrating that he's capable of quickly pulling up an unflattering, if insignificant, moment from a season when his team made it all the way to the Super Bowl. It shows that he's much more comfortable with his own humanity - flaws as well as strengths - than are some of his boosters.
One of those boosters is John Madden, who when he works as the color man on a Packers game tends to gush over Favre's exploits to the point of distraction. He means to be complimentary when he goes on about the Cajun QB's gun-slinging ways, but he's discounting the hours of film study and practice that go into making plays that appear to the world as though they're improvised.
You'd think that Madden, the Hall of Fame former coach of the Oakland Raiders, would be a little more mindful of the game's methodology and intricacy, but he practically suggests that Favre is drawing up plays in the dirt.
Madden was in the booth last year for the Packers' season finale at Chicago, where Favre wept during a post-game interview when asked if he would be back for another season. Madden was sure that meant the end of Favre's career and morosely advised the television audience that "if his eyes are wet, he's not coming back."
At that moment, I started pulling like hell for Favre to stave off retirement for at least another season. To me, it would be a direct broadside to the culture of punditry surrounding the NFL that is based neither in fact nor research. Madden and dozens of other former players and coaches in suits have been telling us what's going on in Favre's head for years now. The truth is, Favre is far too guarded to let any of them know.
Favre may tolerate folks like Madden who portray him as something of a loose cannon. But it's not a true picture, as Monday's star performance against the Denver Broncos proved anew. Twice Favre went long with perfect TD passes in critical moments, including the first play in overtime to send his team to a 19-13 win and a 6-1 record. But throughout the entire game he proved how disciplined and efficient a player he can be, completing 21 of 27 passes with no interceptions.
It's enough to earn anyone's admiration. Even a lifelong Viking fan's.