From SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, November 22, 2004
O.K., SO THE PACK IS BACK, THE LEGEND LIVES AND ALL IS WELL in Titletown. That much we know after Brett Favre sent chills through Lambeau Field, doing that thing he does so well in leading the Green Bay Packers to a 34-31 last-second victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Nov. 14 that fully resurrected their championship hopes. Fighting through fear, grief, illness and pain, Favre coped with his problems the best way he knows how, providing 3� hours of escapist pleasure for a community that devours it like chunks of cheddar. The 35-year-old quarterback's magic touch was never more transcendent than it has been during Green Bay's four-game winning streak over the past month.
Consider how twisted things got after the Pack dropped four consecutive games, including three at Lambeau, to fall to 1-4: "We had no motivation, no enthusiasm, and the fans were letting us hear it," said kicker Ryan Longwell, whose 33-yard field goal as time expired provided the winning margin against Minnesota. "They were screaming about Coach [Mike] Sherman, even yelling things about Number 4, saying it was time to move on."
If the man who wears that jersey, the most famous in franchise history, heard the disparaging words, he wasn't particularly fazed. The graying gunslinger had bigger worries, having lost his brother-in-law, Casey Tynes, in an ATV accident on Favre's property in Mississippi on Oct. 6, just 10 months after the death of Favre's father, Irvin. Then, on Oct. 14, Favre learned that his wife, Deanna (Tynes's older sister), had breast cancer.
Football, Favre acknowledges, is his sanctuary in times of distress. And so Favre's pain is a Packers fan's gain; the quarterback has been brilliant since learning of Deanna's illness. Against Minnesota, beginning with a 50-yard scoring strike that third-year wideout Javon Walker, an emerging star, snatched away from Vikings cornerback Brian Williams on the game's eighth play from scrimmage, Favre was in complete command (20 of 29, 236 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions). At times it seemed like 1996 again, with Todd Rundgren's Bang the Drum All Day blaring as various players took turns doing the Lambeau Leap.
Favre's own celebration was more down-to-earth. After Longwell drilled the game-winner, Favre looked up to a luxury box behind the Packers' bench and waved to Deanna and their daughters, Brittany, 15, and Breleigh, 5.
"The bottom line is, I am old," says Favre, still devoid of pretense after all these years and MVPs. "I'm slower, heavier and more broken down"—he raised and flexed his right arm—"but this...."
Favre didn't finish the sentence, but he didn't have to. The boyish grin said it all.