Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 4/18/12
MADISON, Wis. It's no secret that Green Bay Packers fans hold a special affinity for their team, arguably unlike any in professional sports. The Packers, after all, are the only community-owned team in the NFL and certainly the only game in town for miles around during football season. So when a Packers player is tied to the organization for 16 years and becomes the face of the franchise, he is considered an icon until the end of time. But when a Packers icon leaves amid controversy and ultimately wears the purple of the rival Minnesota Vikings in the way quarterback Brett Favre did, feelings from fans can span a broad spectrum. How fans cope with such a blow to a city and a franchise was explored on Wednesday night during the premiere of "Last Day at Lambeau," as part of the Wisconsin Film Festival at Monona Terrace. The film directed, produced and co-written by Wisconsin native Michael Neelsen opens with a voiceover from Neelsen that asks: "What does it mean to be a fan?" As the 81-minute feature-documentary reveals, the answers aren't always so easy to come by. Last Day at Lambeau explores the drama between Favre and the Packers during the summer of 2008 a soap opera that played out in front of the public when Packers fans became divided into two camps on the Favre debate. That summer, no one knew for certain whether Favre, who announced his retirement in March, would come back for another season with Green Bay. Of course, Favre did not, though it still came with considerable theatrics. He returned to Green Bay in August and met with Packers coach Mike McCarthy. Neelsen's film indicates Favre never said he was 100 percent committed to the Packers during a closed-door meeting with McCarthy, prompting McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson to move on without Favre."It's almost like the Kennedy assassination," said Bill Johnson, a radio personality for ESPN Milwaukee. "You just have a feeling that it's all locked away, and eventually all the people that know the answers are going to die before they talk."The film concludes with Favre's final game in Lambeau Field on Oct. 24, 2010, as a member of the Vikings. The movie, told from the perspective of Packers beat reporters, sports historians and Green Bay fans, doesn't play favorites. Favre who did not participate in the movie despite a request from Neelsen to Favre's agent comes across as a man who underestimated what Packers fans would think about his playing for the Vikings and attempting to beat his former team."To go play for the enemy, that hurt a lot of people," said Lori Nickel, Packers beat reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Fans reacted by turning against Favre and burning his Packers jersey, a gesture that begs the question: Why do fans care so much? "It's a great cautionary tale against hero worship," said Tom Pelissero, former Packers beat writer for the Green Bay Press-Gazette. "I don't think it'll change fans."Following the movie, a brief question-and-answer session was held between moviegoers and Neelsen, Nickel, Bill Johnson, co-writer Mike Johnson and legendary Packers fan John O'Neill.O'Neill, known by most Packers fans as Saint Vincent, said folks in Green Bay were fine when Favre un-retired for one season to play with the New York Jets. The true dagger to their hearts was when he went to Minnesota."You've got five million people in Wisconsin," O'Neill said. "I think you can probably count on one hand the number of people that were really upset that he played for the New York Jets. If he couldn't play for Green Bay or didn't want to play for Green Bay, go ahead, play football. "But don't come back here and suggest that you wanted to play for a Super Bowl-bound team, the Minnesota Vikings. It was all playing against the Green Bay Packers and shoving it to Ted and Mike."Several moviegoers entered the theater wearing Packers gear. And based on their reactions, plenty of anger remains for Favre's perceived betrayal of their fandom.Bill Johnson offered a reminder for fans still upset with Favre. The 16-year ride shared between Packers fans and Favre doesn't have to fade, even if it might take time to reconcile hurt feelings."No matter what he does and no matter how much people's feelings are hurt, ultimately you still have the moments," Johnson said. "As much as you're upset at Brett Favre, you can't let that take away the moments from you as a fan."Follow Jesse Temple on Twitter.
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