I've covered BrettFavre throughout his pro career, and when people ask, "What's Favre reallylike?" I might tell a story about his dead-on imitation of Billy BobThornton's character in Sling Blade, or about the time on a hunting trip that Iheard him tracking his prey by cooing, "Here grousy-grousy-grousy." OrI might tell this story.
Ten years agoGreen Bay was preparing to play Denver in Super Bowl XXXII in San Diego, andthe seven previous times that I had covered the Packers, I had either dined orvisited with Favre the Friday before each game--and Green Bay had won everytime. On the Monday before the big game, I reminded him of this. "Wellthen, we've got to go out Friday night," he said. "Find a goodplace." Then he thought for a second. "Do me a favor. Can you find agirl you might know, around Brittany's age? She'd hate it, being the only kidat a dinner with all the adults." Brittany Favre, his daughter, was almostnine.
It just sohappened that my best friend from college, Dan Squiller, lived in San Diego andhad a nine-year-old daughter, Brooke, and the Super Bowl was the biggest thingever to hit town in her young life. Would she like to go to dinner with BrettFavre and his family? "Yeaaahhh!!!" she said, and even skipped afriend's birthday party to go. When the Favre party of 20 assembled at a LaJolla restaurant, Brooke and Brittany started chatting like new best friends,and Brett couldn't have been more pleased.
"Hey,Brooke," Brett said, "what'd you do in school today?"
"StudiedSpanish, I guess. Lots of Spanish," said Brooke, who attended a bilingualmagnet school. "Everybody's talking about the Super Bowl, though."
"What do youwant to do with your life?" he said.
"Be a marinebiologist, I think."
"You have aboyfriend?" he said.
No reply. Just alot of blushing.
And so Brooke,who'd arrived very nervous, was part of the extended family now. She andBrittany giggled a lot, talked about how they'd redecorate their rooms if theirlame parents would only let them. They got a kick out of Brett's ordering thesliced ostrich, along with tenderloin of Texas antelope. "I can just hearthe announcers on Sunday," Brett said. "Favre's a little under theweather today. Must be antelope poisoning."
As we got up toleave, Brooke got a mischievous look in her eye and asked me for a penny."Hey, Brett," she said, "here's your lucky penny for Sunday. Youknow, 'Find a penny, pick it up, all the day you'll have good luck.' Carry thiswith you, and you'll win." He thanked her and put the penny in his pocket.Brooke asked for only one thing: to have her picture taken with Brett andme.
Fast-forward 48hours. Denver 31, Green Bay 24. In the postgame interview area, Favre, still inuniform, spotted me, and when he was done answering questions, he reachedinside his high right sock. He pulled out a very sweaty penny. "Tell Brookesorry," he said with a wry smile. "I guess it wasn't very lucky for metoday."
"You'rekidding!" I said. "You had that penny in your sock all game?"
"Ofcourse," he said. "She said it'd be lucky."
Don't ask me how Icould forget, but I never told Brooke what happened to the penny--until Iphoned her last week.
"No way! Oh myGod, that's insane!" said Brooke, now a sophomore at Cardiff University inWales. I asked Brooke (double majoring in Spanish and philosophy, by the way)if she remembered much about that night. "Are you kidding? I was sooooostoked! One of my 10 most memorable nights ever! Do you know what I have on mybulletin board here? That photo of me, you and Brett! I look so tiny!"
Then she turnedserious. "Before that night, I thought famous people were different fromregular people. I thought they were a level above us," Brooke said."But Brett was so normal. How many times can you say you were accepted intoa family you'd never met before in a matter of minutes, and such a famousfamily? It may sound corny, but that night changed the way I look at peopleforever."
I told Brooke, whodoesn't follow the NFL much in Wales, that Sports Illustrated would be namingFavre its Sportsman of the Year. And I told her I was watching him on TV atthat moment, against Dallas, and he was running around just like he did thatday 10 years ago in her hometown.
"He isamazing!" she said. And then she paused.
"If he everretired, how would the NFL replace him?"
Favre reached inside his high right sock and pulled outa very sweaty coin. "Tell Brooke sorry," he said. "I guess itwasn't lucky for me today."
ILLUSTRATION BY KEITH WITMER