After years of debate, some hurt feelings, a brilliant career that ended on a sour and petty note, and a sext of what appears to be a baby’s penis flanked by Crocs, the polarizing and oh-so-annoying debacle between the Packers and Brett Favre appears to be drawing to a conclusion. Sunday night, the team announced plans to retire the legendary quarterback’s jersey during a game at Lambeau Field. Favre and team officials will confirm as much today. If you ask us, we’re pretty happy with how things turned out after Favre left, so we have no qualms giving the future Hall Of Fame quarterback his just due. However, not all Packer Backers share our sentiment. When Favre tarnished his place in Green Bay lore and forced the Packers to trade him to the Jets, some swore him off forever. Others remained neutral until he wound up wearing purple for the rival Vikings, then took it personally. Favre’s stats and Wisconsin sports significance are that of a person who warrants accolades, but some would rather his efforts go sans ceremonial recognition. Again, we can’t say we agree, but we can understand the feeling. In addition to Favre, here are nine other Wisconsin sports figures with a confusing place in history.
1. Ben Sheets
Former Brewers default ace Ben Sheets will always have a place on the disabled list in our heart. In 2004 (before the “quality start” gained mass acceptance over the superfluous “win” category for pitchers), Sheets should have warranted Cy Young consideration. That said. he only surpassed the 200-inning mark thrice in his fair to middling Brewers career. After the 2008 season, Sheet thankfully turned his gnawed-down thumbnail at Milwaukee’s team option, only to sign with the Texas Rangers, fail his physical, and slowly call it a career with short, okay-to-decent stints with the Athletics and the Braves. He’s one of the few Brewers players to actually earn his Miller Park wall bust, but exists mostly as a figurehead of some lean-ass Brewers seasons.
2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Don’t let shitty local tourism ads fool you, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s time in Milwaukee was fairly tumultuous. Citing the city’s lack of diversity and its small-market status, the Hall Of Fame center requested to be traded to New York or Los Angeles, and basically tied Milwaukee’s hands in the process. The Bucks settled for a so-so return, Jabbar collected Championship trophies, and the title Milwaukee won with the demanding big man remains the only (non-Admirals or Marquette) championship banner in the Bradley Center to this day. But hey, Airplane! was pretty funny, right?!
3. Gary Sheffield
Fuck this guy. One great byproduct of Major League Baseball’s otherwise-unfair decision to reduce years of Hall Of Fame eligibility from 15 to 10 years in obvious effort to whitewash over baseball’s steroid era is that it will likely translate into Gary Sheffield being left out of the Hall altogether. And since he ran himself out of Milwaukee so early into his career, his footprint in his first big league city is thankfully small as well. Even with more than 500 homers beneath his belt, Gary Sheffield will fade in baseball oblivion as Fred McGriff Jr.—without those sweet Tom Emanski baseball tutorial video royalties.
4. Bud Selig
Speaking of MLB’s steroid era, Bud Selig was largely responsible (or irresponsible, rather) for it. We get why baseball fans hate the commissioner in droves. Then again, he’s the ONLY reason Major League Baseball returned to Milwaukee after the Braves fled to Atlanta…so while we question the need for a statue of a bookish mascot of baseball’s most shameful post-segregation epoch outside Miller Park, we aren’t about to vandalize it either.
5. Latrell Sprewell
Even though he played for out-of-state teams during his impressive NBA career, Milwaukee native Latrell Sprewell has always been a local point of pride…even after choking his head coach during his time with the Golden State Warriors. But when Spree returned home following his basketball career, he dodged taxes and had his yacht and home repossessed. Who knows how his unpaid taxes would’ve been wasted! Parking enforcement? Probably parking enforcement.
[Update (6/25/19): Recently, a reader who is close to Sprewell sent along an encouraging update on the former NBA star. We’re happy to hear that he’s far less of a fixture in Milwaukee these days, as he’s taking strides to improve his life and he’s presently working with the New York Knicks.]
6. Mark Chmura
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: we bet Mark Chmura wishes he had a hot tub time machine. After three Pro Bowl seasons, the Packers tight end (and Brett Favre’s best friend—which isn’t quite a signifier of great character) got into hot water…then got into trouble for an alleged post-prom dalliance with a high schooler in said hot water. There’s a reason every Goodwill in the state has at least one fading and cracking No. 89 jersey in stock at all times, but clearly his on-field accomplishments were enough to make some of the state look the other way, as Chewy was inducted into the Packers Hall Of Fame in 2010, and he currently is a shock jock for a Madison area sports talk radio station. Worst yet, he has a microscopic Superman tattoo on his bicep.
7. Jim Gantner
If awards were all predicated on one’s attendance and/or growing up near the city they would eventually work, longtime Brewers infielder Jim Gantner is a shoe-in for any and every baseball honor. Tragically, being a league average second baseman who was fortunate enough to play 17 seasons in his home state isn’t quite good enough for Cooperstown consideration. However, Gantner earned the all-too-rare honor of being the inspiration for a short-lived Bay View bar owned by his brother-in-law, then he made the Brewers Wall Of Honor (an award actually given based on attendance!) this season.
8. Russell Wilson
Russell Wilson is the type of player Wisconsinites loved when he played here, still love today, but must try (and likely fail) to hate in light of recent circumstances. After leading the Badgers to one their 5,000 consecutive Rose Bowl losses in his lone season in Madison, the one-time minor league shortstop’s football career was back on track. The Seahawks took him in the third round in 2012 to backup former Packers QB Matt Flynn (or so we thought). He won the starting job, then “beat” the Packers with a game-winning
interception touchdown in his rookie year. Last year, he led the ‘Hawks to a Super Bowl victory. Before this season’s Pack vs. Seattle opener, it’s probably best to try and tamp down the Russell-Mania for a while.
9. Mike Holmgren
Speaking of Seattle Seahawks, Mike Holmgren poses an even more difficult quandary for Wisconsin sports fans. On one hand, the coach’s West Coast offense was invaluable in helping the Packers win reach two Super Bowls in the 1990s (winning one). However, Holmgren’s swift exodus to the rain-soaked, fish-throwing—everything we know about Seattle, we learned via Monday Night Football footage of a city’s landmarks—locale came just after an NFC Championship season. At the time, the Seahawks were an AFC West team, but a few years later, they joined the NFC, where they became frequent Packers playoff opponents. Fortunately, the Packers managed to wind up on the winning side of the vast majority of those meetings. Between leading Green Bay to victory in Super Bowl XXXI…and trading Ahman Green to the Pack, Holmgren still probably deserves his street in Green Bay and his bust in the Packers Hall Of Fame, even if he left the Packers hanging.