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Bigalke
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When you're a Jet,
You're a Jet all the way,
From your first cigarette
To your last dyin' day

 

So part of being a non-traditional sports fan doesn't mean that one completely shirks those sports to which Americans are traditionally enamored. My first true spark of fandom came not on the wheels of a cyclist or from the racket of a tennis star. No, my abiding and lifelong fanaticism for all things sports was first borne of a very specific adulation, stemming from my upbringing and the place of my birth. That passion was grown, nurtured, and took flame when my father introduced me to Green Bay Packers football. Lynn Dickey and Don Majkowski, Sterling Sharpe and James Lofton, hell... there was even a guy named Rich Moran on the offensive line. Why do I remember that? Because I got such a kick out of the fact that a Green Bay Packer had the same last name as the town where I went to school and got the mail...

 

But the times were never promising. The San Francisco 49ers and later the Dallas Cowboys remained the class of the NFC, occasionally challenged by the New York Giants or the Washington Redskins. There was a clear hierarchy in the division, and the Green Bay Packers, the defenders of Titletown USA, fit somewhere below that upper echelon. But that all changed in the offseason between the 1991 and 1992 seasons...

 

Why? Some crazy kid from Kiln, Mississippi, had arrived to unseat Majkowski. Traded for a first-round pick by general manager Ron Wolf from the Atlanta Falcons, Brett Lorenzo Favre first came onto the field in November 1992, donning the number four for Green Bay. He promptly completed his first NFL pass... to himself. The seat was his to keep, Majkowski leaving Wisconsin to take a backup role with the Indianapolis Colts after that 1992 season. Through 253 consecutive games and sixteen seasons, that seat was Favre's to keep...

 

And they were good times. I grew up as Favre grew as a quarterback; his highs were my highs, his lows my lows. When he retired I waxed glowingly on the joys he had brought throughout his career and my youth. But then the dream crumbled...

 

Today the man that everyone thought would be one of the last of the dying breed of career-long franchise men has been traded. Brett Favre will ultimately play in the 2008 season after waffling on his decision to retire... but he will be playing in an unfamiliar uniform in an unfamiliar stadium in an unfamiliar city. What does this truly mean for fans?

 

No longer can Patriots fans rest secure in the knowledge that Tom Brady will be their man forever... neither can Colts supporters take solace in Manning sticking around. Just as Namath, the man whose long shadow many thought would never be filled for the Jets, left his franchise for greener pastures in his waning career, so too does that man who fills the shadow. This was a business decision first and foremost, the ones which make or break a franchise in the modern National Football League. These are the decisions which plague franchises all throughout team sports. Is a superstar who brought nothing but glory to a franchise entitled to his position regardless of circumstance, to be welcomed back as the prodigal son forever and whenever? Must ties be irrevocably severed?

 

Every franchise must decide this for itself. Whether a cycling team debating whether to hire on its leader for the next season, or a football team making a potentially-perilous decision on its future at quarterback, or a soccer team taking the money and transferring a sublime talent in the exchange, tough transactions must be made daily throughout the world of sports. Do they always make us happy? More like rarely...

 

But in the end, the team moves on. And that's the most important thing we are always taught growing up -- it isn't the name on the back of the jersey that matters, it's the name on the front that counts. I respect the Ted Thompson and the Packers organization for what they had to do, just as I respect the New York Jets for pulling the trade off despite having both Kellen Clemens and Chad Pennington in their organization. It pains me to lose an icon that was a part of my first love in sports for more than half my young lifetime to date. But the Packers will move on...

 

Hell, I was bitter about losing MAJKOWSKI at first...

 

But now the man I thought would be a Packer 'til his last dyin' day is a Jet... hey, in this increasingly money-driven world of sports, I'm not that shocked. It always hurts to see players go. It is so weird how the change of a uniform makes one feel completely different emotions for a player. But I'll get over it and move on... 

 

And after all, a non-traditional sports fan always has the Olympics to fall back on... 

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