Tomorrow night, Packers fans will welcome back their greatest player ever. And then they will retire Brett Favre's number. I'm of course, talking about Bart Starr's planned participation in the Favre number retirement ceremony--which had been in doubt, as Starr has struggled to recover from multiple strokes, a heart attack and a lung infection that all nearly killed him. And it is that uncertainty that I hope fuels Packers fans to give Starr the one final salute that he certainly deserves.
The contrast between the two quarterbacks that will be on the field Thursday night could not be any greater. Starr went 5-1 in NFL Championship Games and a perfect 2-0 in Super Bowls. Favre went 2-3 in NFC Championship Games (including one loss with Minnesota) and 1-1 in the Super Bowl.
For decades, Starr held the NFL record for most consecutive passes without an interception. Favre still holds the NFL record for most interceptions thrown in a career.
Starr worked hard to earn the respect of the legendary Vince Lombardi. I believe Favre truly respected Mike Holmgren--but did nothing to hide his disdain for Ray Rhodes and treated Mike Sherman like a puppet.
In all of the time I lived in Green Bay, I never heard anyone tell a story about how they hung out with Bart Starr in a bar all night. During that same time in Green Bay, I could have told you the bar and the nights when you could find Brett Favre hanging out.
Bart Starr never sent a picture of his "junk" to another team employee.
In one of the coldest games ever played, Starr led the Packers down the field in the final minutes of the Ice Bowl with precision passing before taking the ball into the end zone himself for the game-winning touchdown. In the equally frigid 2007 NFC Championship game, Favre threw the interception that set up the New York Football Giants game-winning field goal in overtime.
And when he realized that he no longer had the skills necessary to compete in the NFL, Starr quietly announced his retirement--capping a career spent exclusively in Green Bay. Favre kept the organization hanging for a couple of off-seasons before holding a tear-filled press conference to say he was done--only to follow that a couple of weeks later with an announcement that he was un-retiring (even though the organization had taken steps to move on) and then demanding a trade. Which was followed by another retirement announcement and then another un-retirement announcement and open courting of division-rival Minnesota so he could "stick it" to the Packers twice a year.
Now don't get me wrong, I certainly believe Brett Favre deserves to have his number retired and to be part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I just hope the longest and the loudest ovation tomorrow night comes for the man who wore the already-retired number 15 as he comes onto the Frozen Tundra for what will likely be the final time in his life. Just to remind the Ol' Gunslinger who is still the Sheriff around these parts.