Favre returns to Green Bay's embrace

Packers fans are not a complicated lot. Everything is clear-cut: It's either green or it's gold, and the only gray area is the hair on Brett Favre's aging head.

You are either, to borrow his jersey number, for him or against him.

And in Green Bay, the Fours have it. Favre's second retirement instantly reorders things as they should be. He belongs, again, to Title Town, no longer on loan to the Big City.

His one season in New York will be forgiven, excused as a foolish football conversion made as he lay on the deathbed of his career (or was he riding a lawn mower in Mississippi?). Chalked up to a flexing of pride and ego against a general manager who didn't want him.

Depending on the degree of innocence you assign to it, it plays as the man who loved the game too much to quit or the little boy who refused to come in for dinner when his mother called.

In either case, 16 games with the Jets did not make Favre a New Yorker any more than 16 weeks on a dairy farm would make Robert De Niro a Wisconsinite.

This is simply the story of a man who retired, got bored around the house without his job and returned to do some consulting work.

The good people of New York City who have turned so quickly from Favre lovers to Favre haters seem to have forgotten that their team won five more games in 2008 with Brett Favre than it did the year before without him. That Gang Green's late-season slide was laid squarely at the feet of Favre further proves his eternal connection to Green Bay. Who better to blame than the outsider?

Boneheaded throws and head-scratching interceptions make the man. They are the yin to the yang of did-you-see-that-pass touchdowns and have-to-phone-a-friend fourth-quarter comebacks.

Go ahead. Take your shots. With every back-page barb and talk-radio insult tossed his way, Favre will return deeper into the loving embrace of Packers fans. They will protect him and his legacy as New Yorkers have always defended and heralded Joe Willie Namath.

Sixteen seasons in Green Bay cannot be sullied by 16 starts in New York. In fact, those 16 starts can be ignored as easily as his 16 games on the bench in Atlanta.

You want to know why wedge-wearing fans will be so quick to forgive?

Favre won 160 games for the Packers, including the Big One. That's roughly the same number the franchise won from Vince Lombardi's first Super Bowl until Favre came off the bench in Game 3 of the 1992 season and pulled it out of the fire against the Bengals in the fourth quarter.

If you don't have a Packers media guide handy, that's a span of 25 years and 20 starting quarterbacks. I will not embarrass the team (or most of the QBs) by listing their names here. Suffice to say it is not, on the whole, an attractive group. More Legion of Doom than Hall of Fame.

Even for people who know how to dress for it, that is a long time to be out in the cold.

Then Brett Favre came along and raised up, not only an NFL franchise but a whole city. And he opened a restaurant that served crawfish in a place where they fry perch and walleye.

What a catch!

Favre's a keeper, still and forever.

John Anderson is a SportsCenter anchor at ESPN.