NFL: Favre welcomed heartily in Minnesota

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 21, 2009

Associated Press
MINNEAPOLIS ó What was once unthinkable became reality on Friday night under the big white top of the Metrodome ó Brett Favre received a standing ovation in Minnesota.
Long considered the most dastardly of villains in Minnesota sports, Favre’s decision to sign with the Vikings has instantly turned him into a quarterback viewed as the state’s white knight and the team’s key to a Super Bowl run.
After spurning coach Brad Childress’s initial advances, Favre signed with the Vikings on Tuesday and, three days later, started the preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
He went 1 for 4 for 4 yards in two series and was welcomed with open arms by a Vikings fan base that used to despise him like no other during his 16 seasons with the rival Green Bay Packers.
Flash bulbs popped from the moment he jogged into the huddle for the first time and didn’t stop until he was relieved by Tarvaris Jackson, who was booed, late in the first quarter.
In about 72 hours, the Twin Cities have turned into the Favre Cities. Purple Favre jerseys and T-shirts are everywhere and fans have filled the phone lines of talk radio to hail the arrival of a three-time MVP who, despite turning 40 in October, is believed by many to be the missing link between this franchise and its first Super Bowl appearance since 1977.
It was a startling scene to behold. Seeing souvenir stands inside the building selling Favre merchandise would be like seeing street vendors in Gotham City peddling Joker masks.
For 16 years, Favre haunted the Vikings while restoring the Packers to greatness. He led them to two Super Bowls, including a victory in 1997, and set nearly every significant NFL passing record there is while achieving unparalleled popularity throughout the league.
Except for in Minnesota.
Nothing delighted Vikings fans more than seeing Favre struggle here at the Metrodome, and it happened often. Favre lost nine of his first 11 games in this raucous arena, all the while enduring the kind of verbal abuse that few others experienced.
All that vitriol evaporated on Friday night during one big love fest for the old man from Mississippi.
Shortly before Favre jogged onto the field to a standing ovation for pregame warmups, 66-year-old Dick Goar of Duluth, a season-ticket holder for 25 years, settled into his seat wearing a purple Favre jersey and purple camouflage pants.
“I never thought it would happen, but I’m glad it did,” Goar said. “I’m glad he’s here.”
Thousands of fans came inside a little early on a gorgeous August night for this otherwise meaningless preseason game just so they could say they were here when Favre walked onto the Metrodome turf wearing purple for the first time.
All appears to be forgiven, if not forgotten, now that he is in purple.
Truckloads of No. 4 jerseys with “FAVRE” on the back have been shipped in from Reebok’s factory in Indianapolis to a fan base starving for them, and they have been flying off the shelves all week.
His arrival here has even influenced at least one Packer household to convert. Joe Konieczny, a 31-year-old from Marshfield, Wis., came to the game with his 3-year-old son Emmitt and his 2-year-old Mac. Joe and Emmitt were wearing purple Favre jerseys, and little Mac was draped in a purple Favre T-shirt.
When asked how long he’s been cheering for the Vikings, Joe Konieczny said, “about three days.”
The family had been lifelong Packers fans before Favre and Green Bay split last year. Now they have Vikings season tickets.
“The Packers made a huge mistake getting rid of the guy that rebuilt the franchise,” Konieczny said. “Now I’m a Vikings fan for as long as Favre is here. And maybe longer.”
There are plenty of fans who took the team’s side in the divorce, including 21-year-old Rodney Piepho of Owatonna. He came to the game on Friday night wearing Favre’s green Packers jersey, probably for the last time.
“It makes me sick,” Piepho said. “I can’t stand it. He’s ruined everything he accomplished in Green Bay. It’s sickening to see him in that purple uniform.”
Goar, for one, has no problem cheering for a former Packer.
“He’s not a Packer anymore,” Goar said. “He’s a Viking now.”