When and how should Brett Favre’s number be retired?

Screen Shot 2014-07-13 at 10.26.52 PMTalking about Brett Favre in July is now a tradition, evolving from actually playing to whether his No. 4 should be retired by the Green Bay Packers.

This marks Episode 1, Season 7. It started in 2008 when the protagonist retired, un-retired, then was told by the Green Bay Packers that his services were no longer needed.

Retirement speculation started years before that. I wrote my first piece for Midwest Sports Fans regarding Favre in 2010. The circus is now a decade old, as Favre transformed from a Packers legend to a hulked-up gray and weathered wrestling-like caricature.

Maybe that’s how he should return to Green Bay. Schedule Monday Night Raw from the Resch Center and present Favre. Fans would then boo unmercifully while Favre finally comes out, disclosing his real feelings about the Packers organization and his former fan base.

Then designated whipping boy Brad Maddox could be trotted out. Favre would then launch his wrestling career by delivering a choke-slam, followed by a pile driver and ending with a pick six.

Packers CEO Mark Murphy announced last week that there will not be a Favre number retirement ceremony in 2014. Reading between the lines it sounds like Murphy is not keen on a Favre ceremony anytime soon.

The feeling seems mutual. Favre is on record for saying he is not in a hurry to see his number retired. And outside of two business trips to town as a member of the Minnesota Vikings, Favre has not stepped foot on Green Bay soil for years. Deanna Favre flew in once for a few hours. Perhaps there was a sale at Shopko. Whatever the case, it was enough to bring the town to a standstill.

There is a team, it sells out every home game now as it did when Favre and others before him were part of the equation. Should a game be upstaged by the distraction of a Favre appearance and possible fan reaction? What if it occurred during a game where the Packers were being throttled?

The worst kept secret is that Favre’s relationship with the Packers organization and a segment of the fan base is beyond repair. My personal criticism of Favre is how he continues to publicly dance around that fact. In August 2008, Favre appeared on Greta Van Susteren musing on speculation he was considering “Minneapolis.” One year later he became the quarterback in Minneapolis.

Retirement ceremonies for worthy candidates are best done quickly. When Reggie White played his last game in Green Bay in 1998, no one imagined anyone would wake up five years later to news that White had died in his sleep in Charlotte, North Carolina. Tomorrow is not guaranteed, we realize that when seeing loved ones at family functions and reunions. White had his own controversies towards the end, but didn’t detonate every bridge in town on the way out, and returned to Lambeau as a largely beloved figure.

There have been other NFL number retirements that wound up being long overdue. Packer fans don’t have to look farther than their bitter rivals to the south. Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers remain on the A-list of Chicago Bears greats. They retired after the 1971 and 1973 seasons respectively, and their numbers were finally retired together at halftime on a raw, windy, rainy and miserable Halloween night in 1994 as the Bears were in the process of losing decisively to the Packers. With many fans seeking shelter in the concourses or even heading home, the event came off awkward and with only a fraction of the appreciation Sayers and Butkus deserved.

The numbers were not immediately retired for several reasons. There was long-standing friction between Butkus and the Bears organization, Jim Morrissey was even allowed to wear number 51 for nine years. The NFL also asked teams not to retire numbers and the Bears had already retired 11, including deceased players Willie Galimore and Brian Piccolo. The No. 89 of Mike Ditka was held off until last year because the league would only allow tight ends and receivers to wear numbers in the 80s.

I would not put Favre’s number ceremony on the top of the Packers to-do list. He could always be announced as a Packers Alumni member before a game, like kicker and fellow Vikings turncoat Ryan Longwell was last year. That would be an avenue to wade back in without worrying about a riptide.

What would really be cool is for Favre and Bart Starr to fly in during training camp. Just hold a presser with the three legendary quarterbacks talking football. It would be hard to do and Starr keeps his own distance from most team functions, but it would be fun and the ultimate photo-op.

Or, when Aaron Rodgers’ career is finished, he and Favre could be presented together with their numbers retired, as was the case with Sayers and Butkus in Chicago. The Rodgers-Favre reunion seemed to work fine at the NFL Awards Show.

Then there is the perhaps the most practical idea of all. No. 4 is obviously not going to be reissued to the next punter to roll through Green Bay, as was done with the Jets and Vikings. Just put his number alongside the other retired numbers on the skybox unannounced, without the pomp and circumstance. Then stick a statue on Oneida Street under cover the night, complete with Favre’s helmet raised after throwing his first touchdown in Super Bowl XXXI.

Then it is done, no Ted Thompson, no Favre, no dignitaries, no proclamations, nothing. And perhaps that would be how low-key both the reclusive Favre and the Packers want things handled.

About Kurt Allen

Have written/blogged about sports since 2000, along with starting my popular Twitter feed in 2009. I also closely follow fantasy sports developments, along with events such as the NFL Draft.


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