As a kid growing up in Platteville, Wis., I wore a Bart Starr jersey for pajamas. I wore Packers underpants -- the same pair every day of first grade (until my mom caught me, sometime in April).
In 1977, when I was 7, Mom got one of those terrible, tight perms everyone was getting. She didn't look like herself, so she scared me and I cried and cried. Sometime in the middle of the night, me still crying, she came into my bedroom, exhausted, ready to let me have it. In the moonlight, I realized her perm made her look like Packers kicker Chester Marcol, and then I loved her more than ever.
I loved the Packers crazily for the next decade and a half, even though they were terrible. I watched every weekend and wore my Packers underwear, which got tighter and tighter. The 4-10 seasons of the 1970s led to the 6-10 seasons of the 1980s. Though I kept cheering, the years slid by with little hope.
Until 1992, that is, when a seriously spastic quarterback named Brett Favre showed up.
At first, I thought he was another link in a long chain of bad jokes. I attended a preseason game that season at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison (where I was drinking beer instead of going to my college classes). During the game, quarterback Don Majikowski led the team to a couple of touchdowns. After each, the extra point holder failed to make it onto the field in time, causing the Packers delay of game penalties. That holder was 22-year-old Favre.
After the second touchdown he sprinted toward the huddle late, stumbled onto his knees, then crawled. The crowd burst into laughter and boos.
"Who is this guy?" someone shouted. "We gave up a first rounder for him?"
A few games into that season, Majikowski got hurt. I was horrified to see Favre enter the game. I cringed, remembering the preseason debacle. "Oh no, Fah-vruh," I thought.
Three quarters later, the Packers had come from behind to win on the wings of three Favre touchdown passes, including one of the most amazing throws I've ever seen -- far down field, against the grain, bending a bullet between two defenders. I literally fell off my futon.
The rest is history, sort of.
What the casual fan forgets about Favre is that part of his appeal is disaster. Yes, he has the league record for touchdown passes. But he also has the league record for interceptions. As a young player, his jubilance often caused him to fire "rocket balls" into the hands of the opposing team.
Last year, as a Jet, his absolute refusal to stop playing with a ripped bicep tendon caused him to throw a league-worst 22 interceptions. And, as you'll probably see this year, sometimes he just drops the ball on the ground. (He's near the top all-time for fumbles, too.)
Brilliance and disaster are the brackish water that surrounds Brett. While leading explosive offenses, piling up passing yards, wins, even a Super Bowl, he publicly battled relationship troubles with his partner, Deanna, and an addiction to Vicodin. The two starred in honest, broken, tearful interviews on normally droll pre-game shows.
There was the sudden death of his father, Irvin, followed a day later by the most amazing display of passing maybe ever: Brett tearfully threw for 400 yards and four touchdowns in the first half of a Monday night game in Oakland, bending balls between defenders in such a way you couldn't help but believe they were guided from on high. Even the god-awful Raiders fans cheered for him that night.
His brother-in-law died soon after in an ATV accident. Deanna battled breast cancer. Hurricane Katrina nearly swept his family away. Each incident aired on national television, honestly, tearfully. On the field, off the field, in press conferences and interviews, Brett Favre's brilliance and disaster were always hand-in-hand.
They continue to be. Consider his silly dance with the Vikings this summer and his superb Aug. 18 press conference explaining it.
I love the guy. I love his openness. I love that he says he's scared when he's scared, that he cries at the drop of a hat, that he tackles his teammates after a touchdown.
He's so different from Patriots quarterback Tom Brady or the Colts' Peyton Manning, who both travel in this cool, mechanical air. Favre is emotionally engaged. He lets it all hang out. One could argue that he shows a lack of professional decorum. But, come on, he plays a kids' game. He knows who he is. He loves playing a kids' game.
Zen Buddhists would have us contemplate life as a kids' game. This concept is called Beginner's Mind. Look it up sometime. Favre exemplifies it.
I've been so in love with Favre, in fact -- and his unintentional Buddhism -- he became a big part of the novel I wrote. (I'm certainly the only writer in the country with a novel from a mainstream publisher that has Brett Favre at the center of its plot.) The suicidal narrator, a Packers fan, begins to come out of his trouble partly because he sees Favre so engaged with life even through significant suffering.
At one point, the narrator tries to spread the ashes of his Holocaust-survivor dad on Lambeau Field, to honor both his dad and Favre.
Right. Lambeau Field. Back to the Packers.
I do love them dearly, but I'm a little mad, still. The Packers organization did us fans no favor by turning Favre away last year. He is a transcendent player. They don't come around very often.
Yes, Favre is wishy-washy. Yes, he brings the circus to town. Yes, he's made off-seasons painful due to his shenanigans. But that's who he is -- the best player of a kids' game around.
Although it hurts, I'm glad I have the opportunity to watch him play again, especially if Vikings fans accept the certain disasters along with the potential successes. It won't always be pretty. OK? OK.
And so I say to my little kid self, he of the Packers underpants in 1977: Forgive me. I'm cheering for a Viking this year. Life is change, little man. Let go of your opposition. As your favorite quarterback likes to say, "It is what it is."
What's the sound of one hand clapping? Brett Favre.
Geoff Herbach lives in Minneapolis. He is a co-creator/writer of The Electric Arc Radio Show and author of "The Miracle Letters of T. Rimberg," a novel from Three Rivers Press.