PHOENIX – Here at the NFL's annual meeting, fierce competitors hug it out hospitably, coalescing on the plush grounds of the Arizona Biltmore with relaxed smiles and no trace of a game face.
Given all the breezy goodwill being exchanged by owners, general managers, coaches and significant others in the Valley of the Sun, I kind of feel like lollipops will soon be falling from the cloudless sky while harp-strumming angels time their melody to mimic the burble of the majestic fountain in the hotel courtyard.
Now Brett Favre and the Packers just need to reconcile, and all will be well in the NFL world.
On Monday, Packers president Mark Murphy suggested that the team could soon welcome back their estranged quarterback to Lambeau Field to have his number retired, a ceremony that would go a long way toward healing perhaps the most tumultuous divorce in the history of the storied franchise.
I don't know if Murphy and the team's other powers that be will actually invite Favre back to Green Bay for such an event this fall. And I'm absolutely unsure whether Favre would accept such an offer.
I do believe very strongly that such a reunion is inevitable, and I'd like to see it happen sooner rather than later. As I've been saying for years, the iconic quarterback simply means too much to the franchise and its fans for such a warm and fuzzy moment not to occur.
I'm not just talking about one ceremony, either: Though Favre and his successor, Aaron Rodgers, may never be BFFs – and though the future Hall of Famer won't likely be exchanging Christmas cards with Packers general manager Ted Thompson or coach Mike McCarthy in this lifetime – Favre needs to feel the warm embrace of Packer Nation on a permanent and sustained basis, and vice-versa.
It's not that simple, of course, especially when Favre himself keeps making things so messy. (More on that in a moment.) Yet in the end, I believe the Packers' power brokers need to be the grownups who facilitate the symbolic end of this feud. As someone who covered the Mother of All Quarterback Controversies – the Joe Montana/Steve Young San Francisco Spitefest in the late '80s and early '90s – I know that even the chilliest of relationships can be publicly mended for the sake of the greater good.
"If we can overcome it with Joe and Steve, anyone can overcome anything," 49ers owner Jed York said Tuesday. "And if the fans want to see it – which, 99 percent of the time they do – you have to do it. It's ultimately about the fans, and fans are going to remember the great things that each of those quarterbacks accomplished. So, even if it's a little uncomfortable, you put personality aside and you celebrate that."
This is precisely what seemed to happen last month in New Orleans when, at the NFL Honors awards show, Favre and Rodgers made awkwardly scripted magic onstage. (It was a moment that my Yahoo! Sports colleague Doug Farrar brilliantly likened to the Van Halen tour featuring David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar, only with less growling.)
It might not have been the most organic interaction in television history, but it showed that Favre and Rodgers understand that their respective places in the Packers' pantheon are bigger than the lingering resentment between them. This is precisely what York witnesses when Montana and Young interact at public functions, as the two ex-quarterbacks did last June at a charity event spearheaded by mutual friend and former teammate Harris Barton.
"They were competitive with each other and ultimately they made each other better," York said of the Niners' Hall of Fame duo. "And even if you don't like that at the time – and they may not like that at the present – I think they still would look back and respect the fact that probably the best quarterback play that had ever been in the NFL was on the 49ers' practice field from 1987-1990.
"And I'm sure that's how it was in Green Bay. Brett probably stepped up his game because he didn't want to lose his job. And Aaron learned and that built a bigger chip on his shoulder."
[Michael Silver: Time for Roger Goodell to show the MLB who's boss]
That's the sanitized, redemptive version of the Favre-Rodgers saga. The reality, of course, was far more contentious. Whereas the Montana-Young battle may have produced more personal animosity and dramatic story arcs, Favre's breakup with the Packers was nastier and less graceful than Montana's 1993 departure from San Francisco.
when Favre tried to reclaim his starting job after abruptly ending his retirement in 2008 and reached a fever pitch when he returned to Lambeau in '09 as the leader of the dreaded Minnesota Vikings and walked off a winner.The ugliness was amplified
And this is where a Favre-Green Bay reconciliation gets tricky, because there is a healthy subsection of Packer backers that has no compelling desire to cheer his return.
In fairness to those fans, Favre hasn't made it easy. Remember the whole 'Stick(ing) It To Ted' admission, explaining Favre's push to force a trade to one of the Pack's NFC North rivals?
Remember Favre's infamous phone conversation with then-Lions president Matt Millen in which the quarterback possibly provided tips on how to beat his former team?
And remember how, after the Vikings suffered a defeat to the Bears late in the 2010 season, Favre looked ahead to a potential Chicago-Green Bay playoff matchup and exhorted defensive end Julius Peppers to "go beat the Packers in a couple of weeks"?
Yes, Favre is clearly still bitter about the way his time with the Packers ended. And it certainly didn't help Monday when former Green Bay wideout Greg Jennings told Minnesota's KFAN-AM that several conversations with his ex-teammate helped convince him to sign with the Vikings as a free agent.
When I see stories like this, the harp-playing angels disappear from my head, and the cascading lollipops become wet cigarette butts. And that's unfortunate; I want my idyllic owner-meeting fantasy back, and I want it now.
So, in that spirit, I'm going to take Murphy's comments about bringing Favre back into the fold as a positive development. At some point, an official invitation will be extended, and the legendary gunslinger will conclude what so many of us already know: Ultimately, it's imperative that franchises and their iconic performers coexist in a happy place, if only for the fans.
And the only way to arrive at this destination is by taking the high road.
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