Archive: Rain on the reign: historic Packers Thanksgiving game thwarted
An initial version of this story appeared in "Packers in Our Communities" in December of 2015.
For the Green Bay Packers, it was the best of times and worst of times. The Nov. 26 Thanksgiving battle against the Chicago Bears was slated to be one of the most special Packers games in years, with the official retirement of former quarterback Brett Favre's No. 4 and a chance for Favre, Aaron Rodgers and an ailing Bart Starr to meet together on the same field, perhaps for the last time.
The Chicago Bears, however, hijacked the ceremony by sending the Bears to a 17-13 loss that represented the third setback in four games and called into question Green Bay's strength in the NFC, if not its playoff candidacy altogether.
The view from those who attended:
Paul Junio, 50, of Oconomowoc, section 119, row 53, between 45 and 50 yard line on visitor's sideline:
"There's this great sign hung up at Sherper's in Oconomowoc that my wife and I tell people about: 'There's no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.' That's about how we handle weather games. You have to know how to bundle up for those really cold weather games (sit on stadium seats, keep cardboard or Styrofoam under your feet, dress in layers), but this rain was something really tough to deal with. I wore weatherproof hiking boots, jeans, snowpants, sweatshirt, winter jacket, hat and gloves, and then covered all of that with rain pants and rain jacket. I was totally comfortable, except that I never considered weatherproof gloves. My hands were soaked, but that was it. It helped that we didn't tailgate before the game like we normally do, as that kept us out of the weather for an additional two-plus hours pregame. The rain wasn't in our faces, so as far as that goes, it wasn't a big deal. I do know that a couple of regular ticket holders near us left midway through the third quarter, so it was not an ordinary weather game by any means."
Davy Counsell, 14, of New Berlin, section 300, row 1, behind north end zone in middle of row:
"We had Thanksgiving 'dinner' at 11:30 a.m. and left for Green Bay a little after 2. Our original plan was to head up earlier and tailgate or find somewhere to eat, but the rain changed that. But I did not find the weather to be a factor in enjoying the game. The poor play and play calling, on the other hand, affected it majorly."
Mike Basile, 44, of Wauwatosa and Pewaukee High School basketball coach, row 16 near 15-yard line behind Packers bench:
"I went with my father, we bought all kinds of new rain gear and dressed appropriately for it. It never stopped raining; it never let up. It just wore you down. Even the drive home was pouring rain. Just to put your hood down for a minute, take off your gloves, that's all you could do. It never stopped."
Daniela Perez, 24, of Milwaukee, section 101, row 26:
"My family is from Chicago, so they drove up for the holiday and the game. The rain didn't really change our plans since this game was very special to me. It was the first football game for me, and my family members, and both of our teams were playing, plus it was a holiday and a historical event. When I originally bought the tickets, it was going to be (boyfriend) Mike's first football game, too, but other plans changed that. There is no weather that could ruin this game for me. The only thing that changed was having to stop by Target to pick up rain ponchos before the game, amid the Black Friday craziness. It was cold and wet, but a great experience nonetheless."
The Packers kicked a late field goal to pull within 14-13 at half.
Counsell: The halftime ceremony was historic and legendary. It will go down as one of the greatest moments in Green Bay Packers history. Neither the score nor weather affected the power of the ceremony. The loudest cheers were when Favre said this is Green Bay weather, "and I love it," when Bart came out of the tunnel, When Bart and Brett hugged, when Brett and Aaron shook hands and as Brett was leaving. But if I had to pick one, it was when Bart got to midfield and was helped off the vehicle into Brett's arms.
Mike Bischoff, 31, of Bay View, who attended the game with girlfriend Perez:
The halftime ceremony felt like a completely separate experience from the game. They could have been down by 20, and it wouldn't have changed anything about it. Given the weather, I was somewhat concerned Bart might be held out, but considering the great lengths and incredible circumstances it took for him just to make it to Wisconsin this week, I really didn't think anything could have kept him. It was also really nice to see Brett and Aaron go out of their way to meet on the field. They caught that on the Jumbotron and it got a healthy cheer, as well.
Perez:To see the embrace that Favre and Starr gave each other brought tears to my eyes. Honestly, I don't think there was a person in the stadium that was thinking about the score at that point. I am sure the field goal right before helped, though. There were a few people around us (Bears fans!) who didn't know who Bart Starr was, but after hearing about his work and history, they were also in awe and seemed to express admiration. It was definitely beautiful to see the joy in his face as he rode out to the middle of the field, especially considering his health issues the last few years."
Junio: Before it happened, I wasn't sure if we would ever stop cheering for Bart when he came out of the tunnel, but seeing him riding the cart kind of deflated things. He seemed frail not being able to walk out there. As it happened, it was awesome to finally have Brett return to the fold with all being forgiven. I know I didn't hear any boos in the crowd. I was hoping that all three of them would have gotten together, if only for an instant – the place might have exploded!
Basile: I was kind of neutral (about Favre). If a guy still wants to play and he's capable … I think the Packers probably handled it the right way. They went as long as they could with him. I'm happy they were able to work things out and retire his number.
Junio: I bought a Favre jersey after he left the team because they were on clearance at Marshall's, and didn't wear it until Thursday. I was totally against what he pulled on the team. Once the "makeup" happened on stage with Rodgers at the ESPYs, I came around to it being time for Brett to be welcomed. I figured if Aaron was willing to welcome him back, I ought to as well (since he did more to Aaron than he did to me). I have what I consider an interesting collection of ticket stubs involving Brett Favre that I'm going to get framed and matted with an autographed 16x20 of him. I've got ticket stubs from many of his record setting games, as well as his first and last starts (with the Packers, Jets, and Vikings)., so I've definitely come back around to cheering for him."
Counsell: I don't remember Favre well, but i started watching football at a young age and remember the end of his stay in Green Bay as well as his time with the Jets and Vikings. But most of my opinion of Brett has come from highlights of his career and the awards he has received. I think most people my age don't know much about Favre, except that he was a hell of a QB.
Bischoff: I always thought the Packers did the right thing in 2008. Brett had played the will-he-won't-he game for too long (and it didn't help that he threw that interception in the NFC championship game to the ONLY receiver who was covered). Rodgers was heading into the final year of his rookie deal and if the team had reneged after naming him the starter going forward, I doubt he would have been terribly willing to re-sign. Given what we know of his personality now, I believe that even more strongly.
I wanted the Packers to beat him as badly as anyone did when he was with the Vikings. But seven years on from his split from the team? He put 16 of his 20 NFL years into Green Bay, and the Packers would not be what they are today without him. What is the point of holding a grudge? He made Green Bay a place players WANT to play. That's no small miracle.
Trailing 17-13, Rodgers led the Packers down the field on a final drive that ended with less than 30 seconds on the clock, when a fourth down pass glanced off Davante Adams' hands in the end zone.
Counsell: On the final play, I thought Cobb may have been open right away but Rodgers rolled away from him. Cobb then began the scramble drill and i thought he was open in the back of the end zone but I'm not sure. But where Aaron threw it had no chance, especially not to Adams.
Bischoff: I didn't see anyone wide open on the final play, like Cobb against Detroit. Once Rodgers got pressured it felt like it would take a borderline miraculous play on someone's part, and they haven't been very good in those situations lately (like on the previous 3rd and goal).
And so the Packers were left with a 17-13 loss.
Counsell: I had been lowering my expectations of the game since Aaron started playing bad in Week 4 or so against the 49ers, when teams realized Aaron can't beat the blitz anymore. But I still felt horrible. The Packers used to dominate at home, this Season we won on a last second deflected pass by Randall and lost to the Bears and Lions in Lambeau. That isn't Packers football.
Bischoff: Lots of different kinds of numb. We were in section 101 in the north end zone, so we had a perfect view of the final series. I really thought James Jones had it on the third down play, so seeing the ball come loose was probably more deflating than the fourth down play.
Junio: I felt miserable – but not due to the weather. We had everything going for us, but couldn't sustain a drive to save our lives.
Perez: Miserable. Maybe it was because of the cold rain, then knowing I would have to face a bunch of Bears fans on the way home (my mom, dad and sister were all driving with us), but it was a really sad feeling of defeat, especially when thinking about the last few games we have had poor luck in.
Despite it all, there was a silver lining of seeing the memorable ceremony … and the fact that the team rebounded one week later with the Hail Mary win over Detroit, followed by a win over Dallas that essentially wrapped up a playoff spot.
Basile: It's pretty hectic with basketball, and it was great to just spend time me and my dad (also Mike, from Germantown). He was really looking forward to seeing Bart Starr. My son has asked me if the Packers were ever bad. I lived through Lynn Dickey and Randy Wright. When my dad was in college, he had Bart Starr when they dominated. It's kind of three different perspectives. I couldn't wait to see Favre; the only thing bad thing seeing Favre's number retired, it means you're getting up there in age. Favre was the first real guy (whose number has been retired) where I saw the whole career."