As far as Thanksgiving evenings go, it was as miserable as it gets. Cold. Rainy. Windy.
And yet, no one inside Lambeau Field seemed to mind. The 78,488 fans in attendance were just happy Brett Favre was actually there.
For a long time, many wondered how long they would have to wait to see Favre’s No. 4 retired. It had to happen eventually, but the divorce between Favre and the Packers was so messy that over seven years passed before the quarterback was finally honored at Lambeau Field.
Nov. 26, 2015. A primetime game on Thanksgiving. Against the Chicago Bears.
Happy Thanksgiving from cold, wet, dark Lambeau Field. Rain coming down steady and it's not supposed to let up. pic.twitter.com/fuAse0U0hM— Adam Hoge (@AdamHoge) November 26, 2015
For Bears fans in the 1990s, Favre wasn’t exactly a fan favorite. But like many outside Wisconsin, I came to respect the gunslinger who went 22-10 against the Bears in his career. Honestly, it felt more like 30-2. As time passed and I gained the perspective of covering the NFL for a decade, I now look at Favre as the most exciting quarterback I ever saw. Considering the quarterbacks I witnessed in Chicago over the course of Favre’s career, that conclusion shouldn’t be too surprising.
But it’s a big reason why I was genuinely excited to cover Favre’s number retirement ceremony in 2015. Typically, I’m not too thrilled to leave my family on Thanksgiving, but since our Thanksgiving dinners take place in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, I was able to sit down for an early meal before driving over to Green Bay.
I stopped at a gas station on Hwy 29 between Wausau and GB today and everyone inside was wearing a #4 jersey. Some looked a bit dusty.— Adam Hoge (@AdamHoge) November 27, 2015
As cruel as it seemed, the NFL did a good job scheduling the game against the Bears. It’s still a crime that Favre wore a Vikings jersey before his number was retired in Green Bay, and those wounds were still too deep to have the ceremony occur against Minnesota. It had to be a Bears-Packers game.
Few will remember that John Fox got his only win over the Packers that night or that Marquess Wilson caught a touchdown in the 17-13 Bears victory. From Chicago’s perspective, the Bears got a little revenge and sent Favre out with a loss, even though he didn’t play in the game.
"I grew up a Brett Favre fan, so that night, I was definitely aware of the fact that Brett Favre was being recognized and I thought it was really cool that we spoiled that," former Bear Kyle Long, who played right tackle in that game, told NBC Sports Chicago this week.
In Wisconsin, the Bears' win is just a footnote. Despite the ugly weather and being subjected to “Simply The Best” for 15 straight minutes, the halftime ceremony was perfect. Bart Starr stole the show, making it onto the field at 81 years old despite having suffered two strokes and a heart attack the year before. He clearly shouldn’t have been there, but refused to miss it -- a true testament to Favre.
Few remember that Jim McMahon won a Super Bowl in Green Bay. In fact, I don’t even think Packer fans remember that. So it was a little weird seeing the former Bears quarterback on the field in a Packer jersey, but there he was.
The most significant moment came right as the halftime ceremony was ending. The players were running back onto the field and Aaron Rodgers went out of his way to find Favre. The two exchanged a genuine handshake and hug, signaling an end to the frozen war of Wisconsin.
In 2013, Rodgers and Favre surprised everyone when they took the stage together at the NFL Honors. It was a scripted, intentionally awkward appearance, and provided some hope that Favre and the Packers could reconcile and settle their differences. But Favre and Rodgers were anything but friends at the time, so the embrace at Lambeau Field in 2015 was meaningful. Today, that relationship is much different. By the time Starr passed away in 2019, Rodgers was posting messages like this one on Instagram.
In Wisconsin, Nov. 26, 2015 will be a night that healed wounds and brought together the Packers’ three greatest quarterbacks ever.
In Chicago, it was the time a bunch of random Bears like Chris Prosinski and Jeremy Langford spoiled Favre’s big ceremony.
For this sportswriter, it was a night that fused my childhood with my professional career. It was a night I’ll always remember.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.