The wounds haven’t completely healed yet for some.
Green Bay Packers fans adore their heroes, but some @gbpressgazette Twitter followers call their former quarterback, Brett Favre “a traitorous adulterer who probably shouldn't have been my hero/role model growing up” or the “most exciting player in NFL history that is an actual (expletive) in his private life.”
When Favre and the Packers parted ways in 2008, it didn’t sit well with many who had previously called Favre “hero.” No matter what was said, it’s personal, even five years later. The reason isn’t necessarily that Packers fans are unreasonable and emotional, it’s that fans and athletes have a special relationship.
That’s what Madison filmmaker Michael Neelsen explores in his documentary, “Last Day at Lambeau,” speaking to fans, journalists (even some of the Press-Gazette’s own), Packers play-by-play Wayne Larrivee and papal Packers superfan, St. Vince, as Neelsen travels the timeline of the deterioration of Favre’s hero status, as it were.
“The whole idea of fans is you get attached to and love these figures, especially in a town like Green Bay, where it’s a very personal thing,” Neelsen said. “It’s a fundamental part of our psychology to look up to people that seem heroic or mythic in our lives. That’s why I think this story is timeless beyond the text of Favre and the Packers.”
Neelsen started filming a week before the Oct. 24, 2010, Packers-Vikings game at Lambeau Field, the last time Favre would ever set foot and play in Titletown — and he donned a purple and gold jersey.
The game culminates a timeline that begins with the famous game-losing overtime interception Favre threw in the 2007 NFC Championship game against the New York Giants. Neelsen has called it “the shot that started the war.”
In the two seasons between, Favre played for two different teams — the New York Jets and then the Minnesota Vikings — as Green Bay moved on to what turned out to be greener and golder pastures in Aaron Rodgers.
Years later, Favre still faces some contempt at the hands of his once beloving fanbase.
“Obviously, it was a huge circus in 2009 with his first two games against the Packers, but this was almost more poignant to me, strangely, that his relationship to the people of Wisconsin and this particular place, this particular field, this particular stadium, where all these memories unfolded originally, to have these final moments of him playing a game here,” Neelsen said. “That felt very cinematic in concept to me.”
Favre doesn’t appear personally in the documentary, though Neelsen tried to contact him through his agent, Bus Cook, but Neelsen said that was actually sort of blessing.
“It kind of changed our focus and made the film less about he said/she said. Like, ‘Here’s Brett saying this’ and ‘Here’s Ted (Thompson, Packers GM) disagreeing,’” Neelsen said. “Instead of having that, it’s more about the spirit of fandom and that psychological relationship.”
“Last Day At Lambeau” is screening at 7 p.m. Saturday as part of the third annual Green Bay Film Festival in the ballroom at the Radisson Hotel & Conference, 2040 Airport Drive, Ashwaubenon.
Following the film, a panel which includes Neelsen, his co-writer Mike Johnson, former Packers kicker Chris Jacke, Bill Johnson from 540 ESPN in Milwaukee and Marquette University Social psychologist Steven Franzois will discuss the fan-hero relationship and will surely touch on the much different retirement of receiver Donald Driver, as well as Aaron Rodgers’ growing heroism.
As Neelsen eerily puts it: “I think fans are just as susceptible as they’ve ever been.”
Eric Christenson writes for Press-Gazette Media