The Weirdest Day Ever
Generally, Green Bay Packers training camp practice is like a festival. Players show up riding on bikes they borrowed from kids. People wear jerseys of all shapes and sizes. Sometimes vendors sell food. It's like this every single night of training camp, which says a lot about either how dedicated Packer fans are or how little there is to do in Green Bay in the middle of summer.
I've gone to see the Packers practice almost every single year since I was eight or nine years old, and it's almost always been a happy occasion. In 2008, though, things were different, and it was all because of one guy: Brett Favre. We happened to be in Green Bay just days before Favre was officially dealt to the New York Jets, certainly one of the ugliest days in recent Packer history.
I don't need to retell the story, but suffice it to say that when two of my friends and I made our pilgrimage to Green Bay that summer, the tone was a little different than the carnival atmosphere I was used to. The tension was palpable, and there was a tangible divide between the Packer supporters and the Brett Favre supporters.
It was shocking to see that there actually was a difference between the two groups. It was readily apparent (as you can see by the picture for this post) that some people very strongly supported Brett Favre and some (although a much smaller, much less vocal group) supported the Packer organization. There were people circulating petitions for Favre to be brought back and others going out of their way to cheer Aaron Rodgers whenever he did anything right in practice. Still others made a point to jeer Rodgers when he did anything at all. (Seriously, anything. It's not an exaggeration to say they got mad when he took a drink of water, since obviously Brett Favre never did that. He just manifested the water into existence inside his body, relieving his thirst through sheer force of will. But I digress.)
I wasn't at all sure what to make of it. I was a big Favre fan, but I knew in my heart that the team was bigger than the player, no matter how big of a deal that player may have been throughout his career. It was just surreal to even be experiencing a situation where Brett Favre, the only guy I'd ever seen play quarterback for the Packers, was actually being actively shopped to other teams around the league.
In hindsight, seeing training camp take on a different tone was probably good. For one thing, now I think it's great to have seen the zoo-like atmosphere first hand, just to be able to say I was there just before the deal that ended Favre's career as a Packer happened. For another, it makes me appreciate the lovey-dovey atmosphere at practice these days, where everybody loves everyone and the team on the field is great. But no matter how good things get, I'll always remember that day in the summer of 2008, and I rather like it that way.