Note: I wrote this piece two years ago, but I think you'll still enjoy it
"WHEN I WAS A PACKER"
For some collegiate football players', their entrance to the NFL is majestic and extravagant. For some, they are showered in splendor and pageantry. The bright lights, paparazzi, media requests, photo shoots, interviews, celebrity parties, big wig meetings, and multi-million dollar contracts are all part of the game. And that's before they even play a single down. They are surrounded by a posse of glad handlers, chauffeured in stretch limousines, and feted at the best celebrity parties and clubs in town. They are indulged by fans and nurtured by agents and attorneys. They are lavished in the finest of clothes, cars and jewelry money can buy. For those select few, entrance into the NFL is a grand experience ending on the Red Carpet. For others, it's the back door.
For weeks, even months prior to the NFL draft, fans, pundits and prognosticators speculate who will be the first pick. Who is the next potential Hall-of-Famer--- Troy Aikman and who is the next big bust--- Tony Mandarich.
It was February 10, 1992; the Green Bay Packers had just recently fired their head coach, Lindy Infante after yet another dismal season, and hired San Francisco defensive coordinator, Mike Holmgren to pull the proud and historic Packer franchise out of the depths of despair.
As always, after the regular season, the Packers held their year end fan appreciation day at the historic Hotel Northland. On hand were players and coaches to "pump" up the fans for yet another seemingly dismal season. Players like Sterling Sharpe, LeRoy Butler, and Mike Tomczak shook hands, signed autographs and smiled for the camera among the thousand or so fans that were selected to attend. The mood was somewhat somber considering the last really good season the Packers had, prior to Infante's 10-6 record in 1989, was when Dan Devine led the Pack to a 10-4 season record in 1972.
Feeling the heat and a sense of urgency to win, Green Bay general manager Ron Wolf took to the podium to infuse a little energy and optimism in the Packer faithful. His job was to turn the franchise around--- and quickly.
Wolf took to the microphone. "The Green Bay Packers are a proud and storied franchise. From Packer legends: Nitschke, Starr, Davis, Adderly, Hutson and Hornung to our famed coaches Lambeau and Lombardi, let's give a warm welcome to our new coach, Mike Holmgren."
A cascade of boos rang down from the audience. The Green Bay fans were angry and looking for blood. A group of ten visibly upset "Cheeseheads" dressed in Packer jerseys and foam cheese heads, adorned with green and gold beads, face paint and sunglasses sat at table in the front row.
The head Cheesehead yelled, "Home Who? Who is our coach?" Another cheese head at the table yelled out, "Home Grown! Wolf brought us some ???Home grown'! What are you smoking, Wolf? We want a real coach!"
The booing got louder and more antagonized, so Wolf ducked back stage to consult his new head coach.
Holmgren said, "I knew coming to Green Bay was going to be a tough situation, but I didn't think it was going to be like this. Ron, I think we better do something, and do it fast!"
"I agree," nodded Wolf. "What do you have in mind?"
"Maybe we should announce the trade for Brett Favre," said Holmgren. "Maybe that will calm them down?"
"I wanted to do it next week--- you know, let the fans digest your hiring first, but..."
"I think we should do it now," Holmgren emphatically stated.
Both Wolf and Holmgren took to the podium. "I present to you our new head coach, Mike Holmgren."
More booing ran out.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I know you're frustrated, angry and upset about your Green Bay Packers," Holmgren reiterated. "I assure you I will do everything in my power to turn this storied franchise around."
The head Cheesehead yelled out, "What are you the ???Cheese Wiz'? You're going to snap your fingers and make the Packers a contender?"
"I am going to do my best!" said Holmgren.
"Yeah, so what are you gonna do?"
"We were not going to make the announcement until next week, but, I think this is as good as anytime as any to announce, not only have we hired a new coach in coach Holmgren, we would also like to announce the acquisition of Atlanta Falcon's quarterback, Brett Favre!"
Booing and jeering like you have never heard sprang out from the beloved faithful.
Brett who? Fay-re? Fave-rah? Fever? Fah-vah-ree? Favre? How do you pronounce his name?
"It's F-a-v-r-e? As in..." explained Holmgren
"Do us fans a favor and get rid of the bum. Get us a winner!" yelled the head Cheesehead. We've had to endure twenty-one years of futility with the Packers! Twenty-one years of futility! We've have had only two winning seasons since Hall of Fame quarterback Bart Starr retired in 1970.
"Here we go again," said the heavy-set Cheesehead next to him, dubbed Extra-Cheese. "Get ready for another losing season at Lam-Blow Field!
We suffered through many quarterbacks--- Scott Hunter, was shot down. Randy Wright was wrong. Don Majkowski thought he was magic, but turned out to be mere mortal and Lynn Dickey was uh, circumcised."
"We want David Klinger! We want Tommy Maddox!"
"Let's get out of here," declared Wolf. "Let's get to the Green Room; it will be safe in there."
Inside the Green Room backstage, General Manager Ron "Never Cry" Wolf and head coach Mike "Homegrown" Holmgren were ambushed by the media.
"Who is this guy?"
"Can you pronounce his name?"
"Is he any good?"
"It's pronounced Farve, like carve," said GM Wolf. "He's a ???Raging Cajun' from Mississippi with a cannon for an arm--- He's the real deal, and I'm not crying Wolf."
"F-a-r-v-e? You mean the distance this franchise is from the Super Bowl - far?" said a reporter.
"We like to think we're a little closer than that," retorted Wolfe. "It's pronounced carve, as in we're going to carve up the NFC Central Division."
"Yeah sure, just like all the others. What did you have to give up to get this guy?"
"We traded next years' first round pick for him," Wolf emphatically stated.
In unison, several reporters shouted, "Are you crazzzzy!"
"The fans are irate, the media is missed off; this is not a good situation" said Wolf. "We need to do something before a riot breaks out."
"Ron, I've got an idea," whispered Holmgren. "Maybe we should mispronounce Favres' name to instill confidence in our fans. Remember when Joe Theismann was a star quarterback at Notre Dame?"
"Yeah," nodded Wolf.
"The administration deliberately mispronounced his name, Theismann, to rhyme with Heisman so the voters would remember his name and vote him the nation's highest collegiate award. He didn't win it, but you get the point."
"Great idea," said Holmgren. "Mispronounce his name to rhyme with favorite- Brett, a fan favorite!"
Some players are anointed when they come into the league and others have to bust their butt to make it in the league. If I got a chance to sit down with Brett and ask him about his storied NFL career, this is what it might sound like.
Kay: "Brett, it's been 16 years since your first completion - to yourself. Now in your 17th NFL season, you own or co-own seventeen NFL and Green Bay passing records."
Kay: "Your accomplishments are worthy of first-ballot induction into the NFL Hall of Fame. You're an eight-time All-Pro selection, three-time NFL MVP and a Super Bowl champion. You were named to the NFL All-Decade team of the 1990s, voted the number one toughest athlete in sports by Men's Journal Magazine, and selected by the Discovery Channel as one of America's greatest Americans."
Brett: "Really? Discovery Channel? Men's Journal? I had no idea."
Kay: "Brett, you have passed for over 61,000 yards. That's longer than a 26 mile marathon."
Brett: "Believe me; at times my arm feels it."
Kay: "You're very modest for a guaranteed first round ballot Hall-of-Famer. Besides the awards and accolades, what has stood out in your career?"
Brett: "My comebacks."
Kay: "Your comebacks? You mean trash talking?"
Brett: "No, I mean fourth-quarter comebacks to win the game."
Kay: "You've had many of those. You've had more fourth-quarter comebacks than trips to the altar by Elizabeth Taylor and even more comebacks than Firestone has had defective tire repairs. You've had more returns than Wal-Mart the day after Christmas and more answers than an SAT."
Brett: "I never quit. I believe there is always a chance. We may be down, but we're never out until the clock reads double zero."
Kay: "I remember the game against the old Houston Oilers, you were losing so badly at halftime - you were so far down, so deep - I thought you guys hit oil!"
Brett: "Yeah, (laughs) Coach Holmgren installed an oil derrick at halftime just so we could play the second half! We won when they went for the pump fake.
"In Cleveland, we were getting bombarded. I remember it wasn't quite a blackout; it was more like a Brown out. I was knocked woozy and wobbly. It seemed that I was being hit by the entire Browns team. I was being rushed by Sable, Chestnut, Ash, Coffee and Auburn! Oh me! Oh my! Then in the second half their coach, Miss Clairol, sent in the highlight team, Coppertone and Bronzer. We burned them when we implemented our SPF 30 offense."
Kay: "What about the game in Buffalo?"
Brett: "I remember it was frigid Buffalo. Probably one of the coldest games I ever played in. There were Bills coming at us from every which way. There were phone bills, electric bills, cable bills, gas bills - they were everywhere! I got hit so hard by a late-payment mortgage bill that I began to see stars! In the second half they threw us the insurance bill and the medical bill. Then came the car note blitz! When I saw IRS agents take the field in the fourth quarter, I checked off--- They lost.
"The following week wasn't any easier. In San Diego we faced stiff fees, fines and high interest rates. We faced the Chargers - Visa, MasterCard, Discover and their speedster, American Express. Not only were they Mobil and Union 76; they were resolute. Their defense was steadfast and unwavering; the game seemed like a Marathon. They tried to ring us up when they sent in those high priced, Chargers, Lord and his brother Taylor, and the high flatulent twins down the mall, Neiman and Marcus! In the end, they were denied when they--- ran over their limit."
Kay: "My Farve-it comeback was of biblical proportions. On a rainy, stormy Monday night inside the Oakland ???Temple of Doom' Coliseum, you faced the ???Raiders of the Lost Ark.' At stake was the covenant--- one of only two prized playoff spots. Down by thirteen points in the fourth quarter with just two minutes to play, you spotted out of the corner of your eye the Raiders' equipment manager, Noah, packing away the Raiders equipment inside the equipment Ark. He thought the Raiders had won, but I know you had other ideas. I could not believe my eyes. I saw two of every piece of equipment. Two footballs flying in, two water coolers sloshing up the plank, two air pumps pushing through, two tees marching in - two by two they all filed in, all being packed into... Noah's Ark."
Brett: "I saw it too. That really ticked me off. That's when I drilled a pass to Donald Driver in the end zone, and I finished them off with a Hail Mary pass to Terry Glenn to win the game."
Don't Call It A Comeback!
Copyright 2010 Steve Kay