You didn't have to be a football fan to feel the collective ennui that gripped the metro in the wake of the Vikings' downfall. The letdown had Minnesota feeling like an 87,000-square-mile, ice-cold Cleveland. The string of events that befell the Vikes during the NFC Championship game against the New Orleans Saints seemed almost scripted. Here was Brett Favre—a gridiron übermensch plagued only by a propensity to throw the occasional errant pass—capping his legendary career with a critical interception in the last minute of regulation. When Saints placekicker Garrett Hartley proceeded to put one through the uprights in sudden-death overtime, it appeared that the last pass of Brett Favre's storied career would also be his most disastrous one.
Or maybe not. Favre remains tight-lipped as to whether he'll return for one more year. But a few Vikings fans are taking unusual steps to let the future Hall of Famer know that, unlike with his last go-round in Green Bay, he's more than welcome to give it another shot.
Like many a Vikings faithful, Jay Tappe, a Minneapolis-based DJ, needed a coping mechanism after witnessing the most disappointing Vikings fuck-up since Gary Anderson's infamous shank 11 years prior. So he created a Facebook group called "4 Million Vikings Fans Want Brett Favre Back in Minnesota for 2010." Ambitions were initially modest.
"I was so pissed, so disappointed," says Tappe. "I just needed something positive to dwell on, something to take my mind off the loss."
It started with 1,200 invites to his friends. Most accepted. The list quickly snowballed. Within two days, membership was into five digits. Perusing Facebook that Tuesday morning, St. Louis Park resident Karen McKinley came across the group's page and emailed Tappe with an offer to help put into action one of the group's ideas: erecting a billboard in Favre's hometown pleading for him to return.
"I'm a huge Vikings fan, to the point where my friends think I'm a bit crazy," says McKinley. "I called [billboard providers] Lamar Advertising Company and told them what we wanted to do."
First they needed cash. Tappe and McKinley set up a website, Vikesfans4favre.com, for fans to pitch in for the cause. Most gave a dollar or two. One guy shelled out $100. By February 1 they had amassed enough cash ($650) to buy one week in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, population 44,779. Located on Highway 98—the same road on which Favre lives a few miles out of town—the digitized purple billboard bears a playful rhetorical question and what is either the worst or best Brett Favre-Minnesota pun to ever appear in public.
"Hey #4, do Minnesota fans love you and want you back next year?" it reads. The answer, printed below in gold-block lettering: "You Brettcha."
Tappe and company announced this week that they had collected enough money to keep the sign up for another seven days. At the rate the money is pouring in, a third week seems promising. Any extra money will be donated to the Deanna Favre Hope Foundation, a charity Favre's wife established to fight breast cancer.
The billboard appears to be a hit with Hattiesburg residents.
"It's located in the heart of Hattiesburg on what we call the main drag," says Marie Bryant, a sales executive in Lamar's Hattiesburg branch. "We're seeing very, very positive feedback from all around." Whether or not Favre returns, the grassroots movement underscores the peculiar affinity with which Vikings fans regard their former bane.
"There's no one who has the experience he has; no one plays the game like he does," says Tappe. "I absolutely love Favre, even though I hated him for 17 years."