In the winter of 1993, I decided to become an 'official' NFL fan. Now, I was already a football fan, indulging in such glories as going to Western Mustangs games and being a six-month fan of the Toronto Argos in the era when Wayne Gretzky, Bruce McNall and John Candy owned the team, but still, it was time to turn my attention to the top football league in the world.
The obvious first team was to pick a favourite team. Unlike some of the tortured thinking that went into picking my favourite college team or favourite Premiership team last fall, my logic back in my younger years was a lot simpler. I decided to pick a team that 'seemed fun' and was a team I had heard of. I didn't pick the Cowboys or 49ers, since even at that young age, I hated front-runners. In fact, just a few months later, I would be witness to the single-greatest case of bandwagon-jumping in history when this guy in my grade school would show up with a brand-new Canadiens coat literally two days after they won the Cup, after NEVER ONCE having mentioned being a Habs fan beforehand. It was disgusting.
But anyway, I decided to pick the Packers. They had just come off a 9-7 non-playoff season, so they were good but certainly not great. Green Bay has an illustrious football history like none other, but back in 1992, the Packers had only two playoff appearances in the previous 25 years. The bandwagon was pretty empty, aside from my Uncle Glenn, a longtime Packer Backer. I guess I could've become a Browns fan like my dad, but the memory of his scream after Earnest Byner's AFC title game fumble still haunts me to this day. Besides, isn't it more fun to pick a different team than someone in your immediate family, if only for trash-talking purposes? Today my whole family is split --- I like Green Bay, my father likes Cleveland, my brother follows Baltimore and my mother even likes New England largely just because she thinks Tom Brady is hot. Oh, and my brother only likes the Ravens since he wants to bone Kyle Boller.
The final reason I picked Green Bay was because of their new quarterback, an exciting young player named Brett Favre. At age 11, I had no concept of managing an offense or running a two-minute drill or anything like that. All I knew was that Favre was really good at chucking deep touchdowns, which was good enough for me.
Little did I know that I was getting in on the ground floor of one of the great careers in NFL history. It has been a roller-coaster, to say the least. I spent much of the next three years cursing the Dallas Cowboys and (quietly) cursing Favre for making stupid plays. Then he became the toast of my sports fandom by leading the Packers to the Super Bowl. Then it was a myriad of up-and-down play that culminated in my writing a column for my student newspaper that Favre should hang it up. This column was written in, uh, September 2003, so clearly my timing was as good as ever. Though at least if Favre had retired then, Packer fans would've been spared the Byner-esque horror that was 4th And 26.
I've gotten to the age where it's probably a little silly to have a 'sports hero' any more. So I guess it's fitting that my last true sporting idol is hanging it up for good. It'll be weird putting on my Favre jersey for Packers games now with Aaron Rodgers on the field and not #4, but hey, nothing lasts forever. Maybe now I'll have to spend some cash to buy a brand-new Atari Bigby shir.....uh, no.