The timing of this might come as a bit of a surprise since the Packers beat the Bears — again — this Sunday, but I’m really starting to appreciate the career of Brett Favre.
Favre is a guy who basically tortured me for the better part of two decades. The former Green Bay Packers quarterback absolutely owned the Chicago Bears for most of his 20-year career, and he ruined many Sunday afternoons and Monday nights for me.
The worst was Halloween night in 1994 when I sat in the Press Box in Missoula with some buddies and watched Favre run wild on the Bears in an absolute monsoon on Monday Night Football.
The Bears and Packers were both wearing those hideous throwback uniforms as part of the NFL’s 75th anniversary celebration. Somehow, that made the night worse. So did seeing the Bears finally retire the numbers of Dick Butkus and Gayle Sayers at halftime of a game that was over by the end of the first quarter.
That was only the beginning of the torment from No. 4, too.
At first it was the blowout wins over the Bears that made me loath Favre. Then it was his aw-shucks marathon press conferences about retiring, un-retiring and retiring again.
Through it all, I always admitted, albeit reluctantly, that it was fun to watch Favre play when he wasn’t terrorizing my team. He’s probably one of the top two or three quarterbacks I’ve ever seen. The first time I watched him play, in 1992, Favre threw a rocket of a touchdown pass that still blows away anything else I ever saw from any other quarterback.
My buddy Scott Mansch, the sports editor of The Great Falls Tribune, swears Favre is the greatest quarterback of all time. He might be right, even though the great Jim McMahon owns twice as many Super Bowl rings.
But when Bears defensive end Corey Wootton finally brought Favre’s career to an end with a vicious hit one December Monday night in 2010, I celebrated. As I watched the quarterback motionless on the frozen turf at University of Minnesota that night, I did my best Ivan Drago and said, “If he dies, he dies.”
It’s not exactly my most proud moment as a sports fan, but it is true. Favre hurt my team that much.
That was two years ago, and a lot has changed for me. Mainly, I got two years older, and at 38 — and a half — I’m really starting to appreciate the man who played quarterback at such a high level into his 40s.
Favre never missed a game. He played through some amazingly painful injures. He played one day after his father died. I think Favre actually rose from the dead once or twice just in time to humiliate the Bears.
That seems more and more impressive with each nagging injury I come up with. I can hardly rise from the couch to walk the dog. And when I do, I usually discover a new injury.
Right now I can hardly walk without a limp, and I haven’t been tackled on the football field in like 23 years.
Three years ago I ran the New York City Marathon for Mariah’s Challenge. I trained hard and was completely injury free. From June through October I trained without so much as having to take a single ibuprofen pill. Seriously, I didn’t take a pill the whole time.
This year, despite eating ibuprofen like it was candy, I had to back out of a marathon because my knees hurt too badly. That was after I read about 9,000 articles about avoiding injuries and running.
Six months later, my knees feel good, but I still don’t feel like I’ll ever be in position to run another 5K, let alone a marathon. After the knees, it was a pain in the butt. Literally.
I had the great fortune of discovering my piriformis muscle, which just so happens to sit right next to the sciatic nerve in the pelvis area. It felt like somebody stabbed me in the butt every time I stood up for a solid month.
Once I got past that pain, along came a nagging groin injury. I haven’t been able to run in almost a month, and it keeps getting worse.
I’ve been doing some self diagnosis, and I have narrowed it down to a groin strain or pull, a sports hernia or a brain tumor. There’s nothing worse than typing in symptoms into Google or Web MD. Especially if you’re a hypochondriac.
The internet gives you lots of options to explain what ails you. The problem is that none of them are “you’ll be fine” or “get out of here,” and that is usually what you get from a doctor.
I’m dying to be able to exercise again, but it is tough to even roll over in bed sometimes.
So, yesterday I tried swimming at the YMCA just to get some kind of a workout in. I’m a horrible swimmer because I constantly feel like I’m going to drown, even when I can stand up in the pool.
It must be obvious to others how bad I am at swimming, too. After a couple of laps, I noticed a life guard came out of the office to take her post on the stand right next to where I was swimming. When I got out, she went back to the office — while others were still swimming.
After struggling through 10 laps or so after my goggles busted on me, I got out to go soak in the hot tub. From there I saw a class full of grandmas in a water exercise class, and I sadly realized that class was probably more my speed nowadays.
I couldn’t help but think that when Favre was my age, he was throwing touchdown passes — and a lot of interceptions — while also finding the time to get himself wrapped up in a cell phone sex scandal with a sideline reporter.
With that, the guy who tortured me all those years was suddenly one of my new inspirations.
If that ever happens with Aaron Rodgers, somebody please call Dr. Kevorkian.
Or Corey Wootton.