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MANKATO, Minn. – Brett Favre is gone to the Big Apple, awash in a spin cycle of helicopter tours and glorious punishment laps and stream-of-consciousness musings about his latest life turn.
Meanwhile, back in the NFC North, the nasty rivalry the ex-Green Bay legend left behind is hotter than ever.
Between the quarterback's abortive effort to land in Minnesota and the tampering charge the Packers filed against the Vikings, who were subsequently exonerated by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, there's a lot of lingering bitterness between the two franchises. Throw in the Pack's status as a team that finished a game away from the Super Bowl last season and the near-universal coronation of the Vikes as the NFC's trendy power-on-the-rise, and that Sept. 8 regular-season opener at Lambeau Field can't come soon enough.
This was confirmed Sunday when I visited the Vikings' training camp home at Minnesota State University and asked Pro Bowl nose tackle Pat Williams whether he'd been keeping up on the Favre saga.
"Damn, that's their problem," Williams said. "They're going through all that as a team, trying to figure out if Favre or (Aaron) Rodgers was the man, while we've got the same team we had all offseason. I'm glad they got all that darn press, 'cause when we go down there it'll be the kid's first start and his first damn loss."
Williams, a 12th-year veteran, didn't limit his enmity to Rodgers. He's also gunning for Packers halfback Ryan Grant, who last year was the only player to rush for more than 100 yards against Minnesota, with 119 in a 34-0 Green Bay blowout at Lambeau last November.
"I'm going to try to crush all of 'em," Williams said. "That's been the focus of my whole summer – the Green Bay Packers."
Rest assured that Williams isn't alone. All-Pro defensive end Jared Allen, acquired by the Vikings in an April trade with the Chiefs, has his own welcome-to-the-rivalry ritual in mind for Rodgers.
"Playing Green Bay on Monday night to start the season – that's everything you want," Allen said. "Hopefully, I can put my helmet square in the back of his spine. If I can do that and knock the ball loose, it'll be a good day."
For what it's worth, Williams believes the Packers' decision to choose Rodgers over Favre was a great development for the Vikings.
"They had a nice year last year, but they don't understand that Brett made those guys better than they were," Williams said. "He has the game all figured out, and you've got to factor all that into the equation. Brett Favre would throw the ball when the receivers hadn't even made their cut yet, and it would be there waiting for them. Those guys had it good.
"People think it's the system, but it ain't no damn system. Brett Favre just knows where his guys are going to be at all times, and I don't think Aaron Rodgers has got that yet."
OK, that's enough Rodgers bashing for today. It's time for me to take my medicine.
TRIPPIN' ON E(MAIL)
"I just wanted to say that your article about Brett Favre causing the 'divorce' is a complete joke, one of the worst biased stories I've ever read. The Green Bay Packers are easily the ones to blame, and if you knew how to investigate the facts, you'd know that, too. The whole thing has been about Green Bay disrespecting the face of their franchise. Aaron Rodgers doesn't even come close to comparing to his predecessor. Green Bay has stuck by this unproven joke of a QB for whatever reason. They're trying to force Favre to stay retired whether it be by bribing him with a $20 million 'marketing' deal or threatening to sit him on the bench. I'm not even a Packers fan, but even I know they should release him or start him. You're clueless."
Actually, John, if you don't understand that sports columnists are supposed to give opinions, then you're the one who's clueless. And given that I've covered the NFL for two decades, including 13 years at Sports Illustrated, I feel pretty confident about my ability to investigate the facts. So let's get this straight – I'll continue talking to players, coaches, general managers and other NFL insiders, as I do on a constant basis, and writing about it in the way that I see fit. And you'll continue to read, because you'll be so grateful that I picked your email to publish out of the thousands I received in the past week that you won't be able to help yourself. Got it?
"I've been a Packers fan since 1966 and while I've never been to a game, I've learned many things about life through the Lombardi Packers legacy. I'm physically handicapped and took to heart many of the principles that were the Packers. For many years, I've admired Brett but his lack of team spirit and his inability to forgive and move on as well as his attitude that he must get his way tells me he does not have what it takes to call himself a Packer. That's reserved for people that are champions in their heart."
I understand that this is an emotional issue for everyone, but I honestly believe that in a few years all will be good with Favre and the Packers again. Breakups suck, as I was reminded when covering the 49ers during the end of the Joe Montana era, and there are open wounds galore right now. Yet, I have faith that Favre's Packers Legend For Life status will never be revoked, nor will he turn his back on the franchise to which he brought so much glory.
"Aaron Rogers should pay you for all you do for him, not for this article, but for all the others and every chance you got to write about him. (John) Madden has Favre and you have Aaron."
I don't know about all that, but if Frank Caliendo starts doing a killer imitation of me as a Rodgersophile, I'll be pretty damn stoked.
"Type what you will Mr. Silver but plain and simple, if Mr. Favre wants to unretire then so be it. Honestly this just brings to mind what Mr. (Michael) Jordan went through."
George Leonard Turner III
First of all, I have no problem with Favre's decision to end his retirement. In fact, I'm excited about it. Clearly, the disagreement lies in the Packers' response to that decision and the level of entitlement Favre believed he was afforded. As for Jordan, you do remember the circumstances under which he ended his Bulls career, don't you? Jordan insisted that management keep Phil Jackson and was ignored, so he bailed. When he resurfaced, it was with the Wizards. And this was Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all time, who led his team to its only six championships. The thought that Favre somehow should be afforded more leverage than MJ is truly baffling.
"Michael, I just wanted to let you know that I am a big Brett Favre fan, but I believe your article hit the nail on the head. I think both sides had some fault to the situation, but Favre should carry the majority of the blame. Excellent job. As I read several sports articles, I find that yours are the most balanced and straight forward. I appreciate that in the world of biased sports writers. Great job, Michael. Keep it up."
Thanks. As I've stated often, I'm a big Brett Favre fan, too, though most of my readers would have a very hard time believing that right now. Just because I disagree with the way he has handled this particular situation doesn't mean I don't enjoy watching and covering him. But that's probably too complex of a sentiment for some people, such as …
"Mike, (expletive) you! No (expletive) you! Farve doesn't have to prove (expletive) to some (expletive) like you. If the Packers had any class they'd cut him or trade him. Your one dishonest (expletive)! Go (expletive) yourself. I can't believe they pay you to write this (expletive). Go (expletive) yourself! (Expletive) (Expletive)."
To borrow from a late rock star who truly was The (Expletive): Hey Joe, where you goin' with that gun in your hand?
"My questions is 'Do you get paid for the Pooh you put on this website?.' Blame Favre? You don't know half of the shizzle that went on before he announced his retirement. You don't know what he's feeling, what it must be like to know your last throw was a pick that cost the team a chance to go to the Super Bowl. You just put your half cent into it and run with it. Well good for you. Hope you're happy when Mr. Favre reads this. His family will read this column and they will be hurt you meanie. Go Packers!"
Thanks for the laugh – and for the G-rated version of Joe's email.
"Michael, thank you for the article! As you see, I'm from the heartland of Packerland and am disgusted that everyone is so blindly following this 'God' that was once a great, selfless football player but is now his own ego's worst enemy. The insane 'Favre no matter what' fans are driving myself, and all of my family and friends in Wisconsin, nuts! They need to open their eyes and see how Brett has played the team and fans like a puppet the last 4-5 years, and is now trying to stage his final act. Unfortunately for him, the Packers management has had enough and I am so proud of them for standing up to him and sticking its ground! Wake up Brett! I have loved to watch you play for many years but you do not walk on water. This whole situation is like a bad car accident. You try to look away but just can't. Please, please let it end soon and let him move on way down in Tampa Bay! Aaron Rodgers has a team that he is concerned about and needs to get ready for the season. Thanks again for the article, you were right on point! I've lived it for too many years and am no longer seeing Favre thru rose-colored glasses. Unfortunately the good times are getting clouded now."
This saga has turned brother against brother, Cheesehead against Cheesehead … and, now, Bret against Brett.
"Right on. It's about time somebody called Favre on the carpet for his actions. He's a baby and Deanna is no angel here either. She should shut her big yapper and steer clear of everything. You won't be a guess on ESPN anytime soon because they are so in bed with athletes it's scary. By the way, to me Favre is one of the most overrated stars I have watched play. Sixteen seasons, 2-2 in NFC Championship games; 1-1 in Super Bowls and 28 interceptions in 22 playoff games. You can have him. Remember, he has the same number of Super Bowl wins as Trent Dilfer, Brad Johnson and Mark Rypien. Big deal."
Actually, I was a guest on "Outside the Lines" last Wednesday, with the outstanding David Amber serving as guest host. But I hear what you're saying. At Y! Sports we're in bed with no one. (Wait, that doesn't sound right …).
"Michael, I know you're getting emails right now from guys bashing Torry Holt for skipping 'voluntary' OTAs and wanting more than $6 million/year. Then these guys will say that if someone paid them to play football, they'd show up and like it and blah blah blah. Will you permit me to rebut in advance? Torry Holt does not make $6 mil to play football. He makes it because he sells tickets, and popcorn, and programs, and big foam fingers, and advertising time on TV, and about 100,000 Rams No. 81 jerseys. Simply, he earns big money because he generates big money for his employer, the Rams. I am a regular working slob who will never make anywhere near what Holt is making this year – and this is totally fair. If somehow the day comes that I generate for my company the amount of money Holt generates for his, you better believe I will stand up and demand my $6 million. It's called the free market, and it works. This is before I say anything about the life-long physical damage he is doing to his body, or fact that Holt's career will be many, many years shorter than mine, or any of that."
North Hollywood, Calif.
Request granted, if only to prove that a liberal sports columnist understands basic free-market concepts.
"Let me start by saying 'your the best.' After being hooked on your column for about a year now, I know what a stickler you are when it comes to grammar. I know its you're. Just messing with you. Please go easy on me, I somewhat suck at puncuation and I am also extremely emotional about Brett as a Jet. I remember reading one of your stories last year about Brett, back when you liked him;) What's up with all the negativity. I have noticed your past few stories on him all seem pretty harsh. Brett is the reason I love the game. Show the guy some love. The guy loves the game. Nothing better than watching someone who loves the game as much as he does. Once again I apologize for any grammatical errors. Love the column, just ease up on Brett. Take care!"
I still love watching Brett play, and my intention in suggesting that he was being childish in his dealings with the Packers was not to trash him as a person. I wrote three separate columns from Green Bay last week – one detailing the five scenarios that could play out if Favre and the Packers reunited, another detailing Favre's role in the impending breakup and a third assessing the situation from Mike McCarthy's perspective. Then I wrote another column exploring what the acquisition meant to the Jets. I wasn't consciously trying to rough up Favre, but I do realize that this is a very sensitive subject for many fans, so I'll keep your request in mind over the coming months. And while you may be extremely emotional about this situation, you did a very good job of expressing yourself while remaining respectful and polite. After some of the embarrassing emails I've received over the past week, I value that more than ever.
"Dang Silver, your dad has a pretty cool 10 favorites list. I'm not a big BS fan, I would swap that with Jimi. But shoot, who even remembers Traffic and Ten Years After anymore? The old man rocks!"
Yeah he does. But don't call him old. Otherwise he'll bury you under an avalanche of three-pointers while blasting Humble Pie's "I Don't Need No Doctor" on his 8-track player.
"What a surprise! You're still hating on Favre. So, did Brett steal your girlfriend or what? Don't you have anything better to do than hate Brett Favre? I'm not asking you to change your mind (gasp!). Just wondering why you hate him, and for how long – are you a fashionable Brett hater, or is this a real religion for you? You have got to be one of the (expletive), most biased sports reporter I've ever read. I think you should just quit, write your book: 'Why Brett Favre Sucks' and then just shoot yourself, like Hemingway, before the reviews roll in …"
Work life … interpersonal relationships … romance … how's that excessive anger working for you?
"A desperate move? Let's see: Favre was the NFC's second-highest rated passer in 2007, the 95.7 mark his best in 11 years. In leading the Packers to a 13-3 regular-season record and NFC title game appearance, he passed for 4,155 yards and 28 TDs, not to mention runner-up in MVP voting. This as opposed to staying with the pea-shooter losers who were the Jets QB choices prior to this trade. Yeah, that really sounds desperate. On the other hand, maybe you are just a complete retard. Let's go with that."
New York City
I would've settled for pea-shooter loser, for what its worth.
"Silver, I've got to say that I really appreciate the fact that you will go out on a limb and make statements that are a bit unpopular at times. Kudos, my man. You take a lot of cheap shots from some of our nation's 'best and brightest' every week yet you still maintain your sanity, sense of humor and swagger. Long live Yahoo! Sports and long live Michael Silver! You are doing a great job."
Aaah. Now I feel much better.
"How do I get your daily column sent to my email every day? You're the most insightful sports columnist that I have ever run across. Loved your insights on T.O."
Now I'm blushing. (Well, not really. I'm nodding my head in agreement.)
"I just wanted to say, to all of the people who think you are some lackey writing a sports column on the internet: This guy gets interviews with coaches, owners, players, and now even performers. Not only does he get the interviews, he has dinner with them, and really gets to know them. With saying that, think before you write Mr. Silver and tell him how stupid he is. He is one of the best and most respected sportswriters in football. He writes his stories and you get a feeling from it, so much that it makes you write horribly misspelled e-mails to him stating that He is dumb. Wow. Anyway, Mr. Silver, if you are ever back in the Valley of the Sun I would love to do some Julio shots with you. You are the best."
Suffice it to say that I will buy. Then again, I'll probably be out drinking with athletes instead.