Monday, November 2, 2009

We Miss You Brent

As I woke up this morning, I grabbed my bowl of cereal like I always do. I hopped in the shower, got dressed, and clicked on Yahoo! sports home page like I normally do. While I found headlines of Alex Rodriguez's biggest hit of his career and the Yankees ninth inning rally to go up three games to one on the Phillies in the World Series, it was not the story that dominated the front page of sports. Rather, it was of Brett Favre's first game played at Lambeau field not wearing green and yellow. Just a day earlier, during the early slate of NFL games, I saw each TV at a sports bar change to Favre entering Lambeau field from the locker room. Conversation in the room went dead for a second before people exploded with opinions on his return.

But wait. This is a week eight regular season football game. What's the big deal? How can this take precedence over a World Series game decided in the ninth inning? Well it turns out that Brett Favre has turned into a classic example of how involved and emotional football fans are with athletes. This was bigger than Raider Nation, bigger than the Dog Pound in Cleveland. This was Brett Favre trying to prove to 71,000 screaming fans that he still had what it takes to demoralize a stadium of fans that saw him for 16 seasons and enjoyed a Super Bown in the process. While most fans at Lambeau field booed and sported "we miss you Brent" shirts, there were also fans who welcomed him back with open arms. This collection of fans, however, was hard to find. Fans in Green Bay, as well as the rest of the country, have been wrestling with their opinions on if Brett Favre is a class act player who has had perhaps the most successful career of any QB in NFL history; or if his swaps between retirement and unretiring and signing of a contract with Green Bay's rival Minnesota makes him less respectable and an outdated sports idol.

It does not appear to matter that Favre fired four TD passes on Sunday in the Packer's victory over Minnesota. Nor does it seem to matter that the Packers were out to prove they could win with his replacement Aaron Rodgers. Furthermore, there seemed to be no attention to the Vikings being 7-1 under Favre's rule. The attention, rather, resided in the emotions of 71,000+ and countless millions around the country witnessing a Green Bay hero not in a Green Bay uniform.

The game yesterday only begins to dig into the intensity of emotion that sports fans feel with athletes. The game was marketed heavily and dominated the 4:15 airtime for Fox Sports. Fans were seen with intense rage at Favre's return while others loved him all the same after 16 years of winning in Green Bay and a Super Bowl. Whether love or hate, the emotions and abundance of opinions on Favre's role in football and star status has dominated sports conversation this weekend. It goes to show just how connected fans can be with an athlete and what that connection can mean for marketers of magazines, TV shows, and radio shows. Favre's second comeback has sold magazines, jerseys, game hype, and overwhelmed analyst sites and shows with juicy debates. Yesterday's game has already shown that star power and fan connection points with an athlete can bring out the most intense emotions in fans and analysts; not to mention the numbers it draws from viewers.

Whether or not someone agrees with Favre's decisions to come back for a rival is not important. It is not important that you think Favre is a class act or a backstabbing star driven by selfishness. What is important is that situations like his are gold mines for the NFL and companies that market NFL games and athletes. Not only are people intrigued by the situation, but the emotions of people not even involved with the NFC Central teams or the Green Bay Packers is astonishing. Every football fan seems to have an opinion on Favre, and this fan-driven pool of emotions allowed for a much anticipated game when he returned to Lambeau. Hell, it even stole the spotlight from the World Series. Stories like this keep my love for football in tune, and although I hate both the Packers and the Vikings, you would have found me glued to the game just as everyone else was. Just another reason the game of football is so important to so many people; and a big reason why the NFL continues to be one of the most successful sports organizations in the world.

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