Brett Favre is eligible for entry to the NFL Hall of Fame in early 2016, and the Packers have been on the record about wanting to retire his jersey before he’s enshrined. But, right now, team President Mark Murphy indicated that the ceremony won’t happen this season. “He wouldn’t want to come back to be booed,”he said.
It’s unclear whether, and to what proportion, the decision rests with Favre versus the organization, but I’m pretty confident that Favre would return to fervent applause even this season. There are obviously some holdouts in the lunatic fringe, but I think most of us die hard Packers fans came to peace with the idea of Favre as a Viking relatively soon after Aaron Rodgers led the team to a Super Bowl.
Statistically speaking, your favorite team’s season will almost always end in heartbreak. Whether that occurs in a series of slack regular season defeats or in the cruelest, gutpunching manner in the playoffs, there’s a 96.88% chance that the team you care about won’t win the Super Bowl. (This metric is adjusted slightly higher or lower for given franchises, but that’s the base assuming everything’s equal.)
If you’re only concerned with outcome, it is, then, highly irrational even to watch football, or any sport for that matter, with a passionate rooting interest. There are any number of things you can set out to do if you where the likelihood of success is greater than 3.12%. Given that we nevertheless do watch sports the process has to be a significant contributor towards overall utility. Less technically: the best reason to care about a team is to feel something, and the worst is demanding to feel like a champion.
Optimism alone goes a long way in justifying the process — in the NFL, there are only 16 games per year guaranteed, and a maximum of 20. The time we spend thinking and talking and blogging and commenting about upcoming games and seasons makes up a pretty substantial portion of our fanhood, a massive majority of the hours spent in active fan-ship. With Brett Favre, Packers fans could at least feel good about our chances — not just to win, but to feel as if the choice to give ourselves to this team, for this week, was not a silly or futile or wrong one.
And, of course, there wins. One Super Bowl ring, another title game appearance, and 11 playoff berths in 15 full seasons as a starter are something that every fan would sign up for in a heartbeat at the beginning of a quarterback’s career. If the quarterback both is great and feels great, all the better. It’s not a bad deal for a decade-and-a-half of autumns and winters. Teams have retired numbers for less.
And so the high upside and disastrous downside of cheering for/against Favre undoubtedly add up to a substantial net positive. While watching him play for the Vikings was a horrible, torturous thing for fans to endure — I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy, which is to say that I know that it was probably pretty unpleasant for Vikings fans at points — it was just an annoying thing that happened, because this is just a game, and matters only as much as we let it. The ignominy certainly doesn’t outweigh all the fun we had along the way, and shouldn’t. Favre undoubtedly gave more to Green Bay’s fans than he took at the end.
Looking at the Packers’ calendar for this season, the two best candidates for Favre’s jersey retirement would be a Sunday Night game Week 10 against the Bears, or Monday Night in Week 14 versus the Falcons, who drafted him. If it were announced with reasonable notice, there would be substantial ticket demand from die hards who have forgiven Favre. The resale value on those tickets, right before the holiday season, would be a strong enough incentive to deter a vast majority of those still inclined to boo.