It was just in the ostensibly genuine wave that Brett Favre offered the adorers who came to witness their prodigal son descend a private jet and return to Green Bay.
I saw through that wave. That wave was so brash, so full of hubris. That wave was an acknowledgment of how Green Bay, and the NFL for that matter, has lionized Favre and his rustic image of a gun-slinging quarterback. They've probably already begun construction on a statue.
Now Favre has left his beloved, estranged his national fans outside of his frozen kingdom and taught us all the risk we take with pouring our adoration into sports figures.
That's where we find most our heroes these days, along with musicians and movie stars, because their faces are everywhere. Michael Jordan was everywhere, from Hanes to Nike. Tiger Woods helps promote Chrysler vehicles and Gilette razors in between dominating the PGA. Lebron James has his pose of dominance, body aflight in that Jordan-esque way, on a 10-story billboard in downtown Cleveland with "We Are All Witnesses" inscripted above a Nike insignia.
The media is so consumed with negative stories that the accomplishments of athletes, these immortals of great strength and skill, are easy to hold up to be idolized. But athletes generally give us reminders of their mortality once in awhile during their careers, or we hear of their transgressions long after they've left the game they played and their image is gilded for eternity.
And so it is with Favre. We knew he struggled with pain killers during his streak of three-straight MVPs from 1995-1997, but all is forgiven when you enter rehab and lead your team to a Super Bowl victory.
That's the thing. Fans understand when their sport stars fall and look human. They understand that those under the jerseys can be vulnerable and flawed. But only if they acknowledge their flaws and repent. Kobe Bryant returned from a sexual assault charge in 2003 with enough humility to gain favor with fans again. It doesn't hurt when you have the gift to score at will and take your team to the NBA Finals.
That's the difference between Jason Giambi and Barry Bonds. Giambi was caught up in the BALCO scandals of 2003 just like Bonds, when the usage of steroids and human growth hormones in Major League Baseball surfaced. Giambi publicly apologized for his mistake, and two years later the New York Yankees hold a day to honor his mustache. Bonds refuses to speak despite the evidence of his steroid use, and so the public continues to villify and castigate him despite how many trips he took around the bases.
With all the criticism and derision aimed at Favre, if he gives the Jets victories and galvanizes their fan base he'll be forgiven of this, too. We won't forget these past three months, when Favre flooded our televisions and newspapers with his cursory return from retirement, but he'll be forgiven, because we need our heroes.
Brian Paglia is a sports writer for the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald. He can be reached at bpaglia @news-daily.com