MINNEAPOLIS -- What was once unthinkable became reality on Friday night under the big white top of the Metrodome -- Brett Favre received a standing ovation in Minnesota.
Long considered the most dastardly of villains in Minnesota sports, Favre's decision to sign with the Vikings has instantly turned him into a player viewed as the state's white knight and the team's key to a Super Bowl run.
After spurning coach Brad Childress's initial advances, the former Packers icon signed with the Vikings on Tuesday and was immediately inserted into the starting lineup for Friday night's preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs. He was expected to play only one series, but that didn't stop Vikings fans from gobbling up tickets to the game in a heartbeat to witness his first game in purple.
In three short days, the Twin Cities have turned into the Favre Cities. Purple Favre jerseys and t-shirts are everywhere and fans have filled the phone lines of talk radio to hail the arrival of a three-time MVP who, despite turning 40 in October, is viewed as the missing link between this franchise and its first Super Bowl appearance since 1977.
It was a startling scene to behold at the Dome on Friday night. Seeing souvenir stands inside the building selling Favre merchandise would be like seeing street vendors in Gotham City peddling Joker masks.
Shortly before Favre jogged on to the field to a standing ovation for pregame warmups, 66-year-old Dick Goar of Duluth, a season-ticket holder for 25 years, settled into his seat wearing a purple Favre jersey and purple camouflage pants.
"I never thought it would happen, but I'm glad it did," Goar said. "I'm glad he's here."
Thousands of fans came inside on a gorgeous August night a little early for this preseason game just so they could say they were in the building when Favre walked onto the Metrodome turf wearing purple for the first time.
As soon as he jogged through the tunnel, they all rose to their feet, cheering for the man they booed so vehemently for 16 years.
Favre achieved his Public Enemy No. 1 status around here by resurrecting a dormant Packers franchise across the border in Wisconsin. He led the Packers to two Super Bowl appearances, including one victory, and tormented Vikings fans with his brash style and swashbuckling theatrics.
All appears to be forgiven, if not forgotten, now that he is in purple.
The reception had to warm the 39-year-old's heart. This is a place has never been so kind. Favre won only twice in his first 11 games at the Metrodome at the head of the Packers, all the while enduring the kind of verbal abuse that is rarely shown in these parts.
But he had better luck of late, winning four of his last five games and breaking Dan Marino's record for career touchdown passes in his last appearance here in 2007.
Truckloads of No. 4 jerseys with "FAVRE" on the back have been shipped in from Indianapolis to a fan base starving for them, and they have been flying off the shelves all week.
His arrival here is already having a ripple effect across the region. Joe Konieczny, a 31-year-old from Marshfield, Wis., came to the game with his 3-year-old son Emmitt and his 2-year-old Mac. Joe and Emmitt were wearing purple Favre jerseys, and little Mac was draped in a purple Favre t-shirt.
When asked how long he's been cheering for the Vikings, Joe Konieczny said, "about three days."
The family had been lifelong Packer fans before Favre and Green Bay split last year. Now they have Vikings season tickets.
"The Packers made a huge mistake getting rid of the guy that rebuilt the franchise," Konieczny said. "Now I'm a Vikings fan for as long as Favre is here. And maybe longer."
There are plenty of fans who took the team's side in the divorce. One was 21-year-old Rodney Piepho of Owatonna. He came to the game on Friday night wearing Favre's green Packers jersey for the last time, he said.
"It makes me sick," Piepho said. "I can't stand it. He's ruined everything he accomplished in Green Bay. It's sickening to see him in that purple uniform."
Goar, for one, has no problem cheering for a former Packer.
"He's not a Packer anymore," Goar said. "He's a Viking now."
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