Roger, Brett and Kevin Miller share a special moment with their favorite quarterbacks at Lambeau Field Thanksgiving night.
Photo courtesy of Kevin Miller

Kevin Miller weathered the rain with his father and son at Lambeau Field for Brett Favre’s homecoming night, when the Miller men stood in awe as each saw his favorite quarterback—Starr, Favre, Rodgers—take the field. Plus, your responses to our Steelers fan’s Super Bowl XL column

December 03, 2015

BY KEVIN MILLER

We began checking the weather 10 days out. Cold. Rain. Certainly it would change. Who honestly can predict the November weather in Wisconsin that far out? One week out, same story. Cold. Rain. Five days out, the concern began setting in, and three days out, it was inevitable. Thanksgiving night? Cold. Rain.

But we were undeterred because a once-in-a-lifetime experience was ahead for my dad, Roger, my son, Brett, and me. Late this past summer I was given the chance to attend a truly special event: the Thanksgiving night game between the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers featuring my son’s favorite quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, highlighted by the retirement of No. 4 for my favorite quarterback, Brett Favre, and in the presence of Bart Starr, my dad’s favorite quarterback. Three generations of our family experienced something historic, and also personal to each of us. Not only was it was my son’s first Packers game; it was the first game I was able to attend with my dad at Lambeau Field—the three of us together in the wind, rain and cold.

“Three generations of our family experienced something historic, and also personal to each of us.”

As soon as the gates opened, the crowd flowed into the Lambeau Field Atrium. Once inside the stadium, the Tundra Drumline greeted us with a thunderous welcome, echoing throughout the stadium walkways. Despite the steady rain, decided to make our way to our seats 45 minutes before kickoff. We took pictures, adjusted our ponchos, and soon enough the seats around us filled in with the crowd eager for the night ahead. Normally in late November and December there are three predominant colors spotted inside Lambeau: green, gold and blaze orange—the third being the color of deer hunting season, a significant event for the state of Wisconsin. However, on this night, nearly every color was represented, all with one common goal: water resistance.  

Though the Packers struck first, the Bears pulled ahead in the second quarter, and with the Packers’ offense sputtering, scattered joking cries to bring in Favre echoed through Lambeau. Mason Crosby’s field goal closed the half and pulled the Packers within one point. Everyone felt the game was in hand, and it was time for the celebration of the night. As you would expect, no one left their seats for the halftime ceremony, and everyone rose to their feet.

Our attempt at a halftime color card stunt failed—most of the crowd’s color cards were soggy, and only the end zone sections could patch together a dry, green FAVRE surrounded in yellow. But it didn’t matter, because the moment had arrived to officially welcome Brett Favre home. He was introduced in the same way he had been over a hundred times before, At quarterback… from Southern Mississippi… Number four… The wave of cheering crested and nearly drowned out the climax of the introduction—Brett Favre! It was a homecoming celebration, and after the cover was finally lifted from Brett’s name and number in the north end zone, he had his chance to thank all of the Packers fans around the world for the special opportunity he was given.

Brett Favre embraces Bart Starr at his number retirement ceremony.
AP Photo/Mike Roemer

Then, with the understatement of the century, Green Bay Packers president and CEO Mark Murphy stepped to the microphone, “We now have a special person who has worked really hard to be here with you tonight. Ladies and gentlemen, Bart Starr!” Everyone knew about the work Bart, 81 and battling the effects of multiple strokes, and his family put in to get him there for that night in that stadium. The crowd made sure to express appreciation for the effort and sacrifice of the Starr family—not just on this night, but since Bart joined the Packers in 1956. He was the one who first put Green Bay on the NFL map, and ultimately he was why all of us were there that Thanksgiving night. Bart’s smile, Bart’s waves, Bart’s tears—they all communicated what he really wanted to say; all that his words could not.

It was a special night for my dad, to reunite with the quarterback he grew up watching. It was a special night for me, to watch my dad experience that moment, and to be there with my son at his first Packers game to see his favorite quarterback.

Hearing Bart Starr announced at Lambeau took me back to a memory that illustrates why the Packers are such an important part of my family’s life. It is one of the sounds of my childhood, a core memory from growing up that comes complete with the sights, sounds and environment of the experience completely intact when it comes to mind.  

“Sixteen seconds. Sixteen inches. That’s what it had come down to. Twelve degrees below zero at Lambeau Field in Green Bay and only sixteen inches separated the Packers from the greatest accomplishment in the history of pro football.”

It comes from a record called The Packers’ Glory Years, released in 1968, featuring Tom Moore, the Green Bay play-by-play man with Milwaukee’s WTMJ radio. The record opens with the 1967 NFL Championship Game against the Dallas Cowboys, better known as the Ice Bowl. These were sounds from my Dad’s childhood, now becoming mine. My dad played this record frequently, and often out of the blue. Each time he would feign nervousness, playing up the tension of the moment for my brother and me. Accompanied by a burst of music that sounds as if it had been pulled from an Austin Powers soundtrack, the game’s play-by-play resumed.

“Packers trying for the go-ahead score. Starr begins the count... takes the snap… he’s got the quarterback sneak, and he’s in for the touchdown, and the Packers are out in front, 20 to 17! There’s 13 seconds showing on the clock, and the Green Bay Packers are going to be World Champions — NFL champions — for the third straight year!”

A look of surprise and excitement would then cross Dad’s face, arms raised in celebration. Every time. Even in 2015, after I played a recording of this opening sequence for him from my phone… arms were raised.

The Packers were my dad’s favorite team, and Bart Starr his favorite player. “In those days, the quarterbacks didn’t have speakers in the helmets, so he had to understand the game plan,” Dad said recently. “He was especially known for third down and short yardage: fake a run into the line and throw it for a big gain. He certainly was a great leader of other leaders.”

And Dad’s respect for Bart went well beyond just what he did on the football field, “Bart Starr was such a great leader, I’ve always admired him as an individual because he was a representative working with the Rawhide organization, helping young men, very involved in the community.”

Favre delayed his number retirement a year so that Starr could have a chance to attend.
AP Photo/Mike Roemer

My Packers fandom truly began in the Don Majkowski years, boosted by the excitement of the “Instant Replay” victory over the Chicago Bears in 1989, a rare feat at the time. Though it was only one win, it bore the weight of two decades of frustration, and was a first step in the return of true optimism to Titletown.  

But the real return of optimism came with the emergence of Brett Favre. His explosion onto the scene—the freewheeling mentality, the energy, the love of the game—made everything right. I remember the excitement each week’s game carried with Favre under center—a sense of not wanting to miss what could happen. I finally understood and was hooked.

The crowning achievement came in 1997, obviously, as Favre led the Packers to victory in Super Bowl XXXI, three decades removed from their last championship. Though we had a house full of people over for the game, my dad sat alone in the kitchen, watching a 14-inch television with a big smile on his face. A smile of joy and pride from a lifelong Packers fan, one who had been waiting for 30 years.

“I’ve given up arguing with others who accuse me of naming my son Brett after my favorite quarterback. It was just a name my wife and I liked.”

My son Brett was born in 2005. I’ve given up arguing with others who accuse me of naming my son after my favorite quarterback. No one believes me, but honestly, it was just a name my wife and I liked. His interest in sports and football really kicked into gear at the age of five, the season after Aaron Rodgers led the Packers to victory in Super Bowl XLV.  As a dad, watching him beginning grasp the details of the game, and capture the joy and excitement of the Green Bay Packers, has been tremendously fun. It’s now something special for the two of us to share, now that he is watching his favorite player each week. Did Brett have a choice as to whether he was a Packers fan? He admits that it’s a hard question to answer, fully appreciating the influence his dad has on the selection of his favorite team. 

Though Rodgers and Green Bay lost the game, the three generations of Miller men enjoyed the night with their three favorite quarterbacks.
Getty Images/Mike McGinnis

While Favre was the ostensible draw, Without question, the highlight of that Thanksgiving night at Lambeau Field was Bart Starr’s introduction, and watching my dad be a part of that experience. Welcoming Favre back to Green Bay to retire his number warranted the fanfare, and the entertaining exchange between Favre and Rodgers at the end of the halftime ceremony further showed that their relationship is healed. But it was Bart’s involvement in the ceremony that made the night complete. It was Bart who made sure that generations of Green Bay Packers fans knew that despite what happened at the end of Brett’s Packers career, what he did for the organization and the state of Wisconsin should never be forgotten, no matter what.  

And at the same time, Brett and the crowd of over 78,000 wanted Bart to know, one final time, that generations of Green Bay Packers fans appreciated all he did for the organization and the state of Wisconsin, and that, in the same way, he would never be forgotten, no matter what.

Though Brett was the guest of honor, Bart’s smile won the night.

* * *

YOUR RESPONSES ON SUPER BOWL XL

In a Voice of the Fan column last week, a Steelers fan living in Seattle gave his analysis of the controversial Super Bowl XL matchup. Many readers responded. Here is a collection of feedback we received in response to Chris Sypolt’s conclusion that the Seahawks, not the refs, blew that game.

I am one of the Seahawks fans who tries but just can’t get over it. This was a well-written and reasonable article, but the analysis is as ticky-tack as the calls themselves. Everyone in football except the Steelers and their fans knew the calls were garbage, which is why four years later, Super Bowl XL refereee Bill Leavy apologized to the Seahawks. Leavy has seen the plays once or twice, too, and he still says things like, “I kicked two calls in the fourth quarter,” and “I impacted the game, and as an official. You never want to do that.”

Nice try, Mr. Steel-Hawks fan from Pittsburgh who lives in Seattle. I’m sure you can make up some story about why Leavy was pretending to admit the officials blew the game. And you probably will.

— Josh Courson

This was the worst-officiated football game ever. Every time I meet a Steelers fan for the first time, I ask, “Are you a Steelers fan, or a real Steelers fan?” Invariably, they say a real Steelers fan. I then ask, “OK, how many Super Bowls have you won?” They answer, “Six.”  I reply, “Then you are not a real Steelers fan.” Then I try my case, using your logic turned 180 degrees the other way. Seattle is 2-1 in Super Bowls.

— John Dardes

I was one of those folks you mentioned in your article who was new to being a fan and didn’t fully understand all the rules of the game. When John Madden and Mike Holmgren reinforced my opinion that we were getting shafted, the pain of the loss was etched into my chest and became a part of me. For years I wouldn’t even talk about that game unless it was with a fellow hater of the Steelers or a fan who understood the refs let us down that day.

It’s been nearly 10 years since I’ve revisited Super Bowl XL. Until now I’m not sure that I could have done so objectively. When I saw the title of your article my first thought was, "Oh geez, here we go. I can’t believe The MMQB would publish this crap.” I clicked the link and read your article. Then I read it again. Great article. You brought to light the ignorance of the game I possessed in 2006. With the knowledge I’ve gained since then, it’s pretty clear that Seattle blew a lot of opportunities. More than all the close calls, though, there’s one thing that has always stuck out to me like a sliver that’s embedded just under the skin that I can’t get at it. Seattle did not play to their potential that day. I’d seen every down of every game that year, and when it came time to play the one game that counts more than all others, my boys let me down a bit. I think most Seattle fans have unwittingly acknowledged that just maybe it was the Seahawks who lost that game for themselves. But you’d be hard pressed to find more than a handful who will admit it.

— Seth Mitton

One thing that I always find laughable is the notion that Seahawks fans are new to the game every time they have a Super Bowl year (three in the last 10, just like the Steelers). They were new in 1976, not 2005, and had a rabid loyal fan base from the beginning.

—Thomas Miller

Some truth, as in the fact that the Seahawks blew a lot of it. But when you have to defend that many calls, there’s something principally wrong.

—Josh Stendera

Those calls were ticky-tacky at best, the equivalent of writing a ticket for a mile over the speed limit. They fit the letter but not the spirit, and to let this Sypolt character fan the flames of something a decade old now is disgusting. Absolutely disgusting. Trash personified. Even if it is well-written trash.

—Stephen

I’ve lived in the Puget Sound area for nearly 25 years, and you are exactly correct in your assessment: Seattle lost the game. It was not taken from them. Their strength of schedule that year was pretty poor: they beat only three teams with a winning record during the regular season, Dallas, the Giants and the Colts.  They were very overrated, especially by local fans.

— Patrick

My name is Terry Miller and I’m 61 years old. I attended the first Seahawks game in ’76, a loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. I roofed Jim Zorn’s new house on Mercer Island, and I’ve had season tickets on a couple different occasions, though not currently, as I live in Las Vegas, where a picture of Steve Largent and me (with hair!) sits on a bookshelf. I’m a Hawks fan. That being said, when I saw the title of this article, I thought, “Why are we bringing this up now?” Then, as I do with every MMQB article, I read it. Finally, I can put misconceptions to rest. Although it was a great season, I can clearly see we didn’t deserve to win that game. Thank you.

— Terry Miller

As pointed out, some of the calls were close and plenty of errors rested solely on the Seahawks’ shoulders. However, the poor officiating was really just the final straw on a pile pro-Steeler sentiment that led up the Super Bowl.  This is 10 years later and memory is subjective, but I remember hearing a lot of “one for the thumb”, “the Bus is coming home”, and learning a lot about Terrible Towels in the national media coverage. The whole thing felt like a coronation of the Steelers instead of objective media coverage of a championship football game. Add the cruddy officiating along with it being the Seahawks’ first visit to the big game, and maybe fans outside the Northwest can see why Seahawks fans felt jilted.  That sounds like sour grapes, and it is. It’s how I felt at the time, and time doesn’t change that.

— Mike

Have a great fan story? We’d like to hear it. Email us at talkback@themmqb.com.

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