Sweet Dreams of Denim

how a Wranglers commercial made me a Favre fan again

Nickolas Butler |

By all rights, I still ought to hate Brett Favre. I live in Wisconsin in a blue-collar cheesehead neighborhood where people still wince at the mention of his name. I even once worshipped the man in that uncomfortable way adult males idealize other adult male athletes. And, a few weeks ago, Favre torched my Packers and looked like the Favre of old, a betrayal of epic proportions. But something odd happened a few nights ago that cleansed me of my ephemeral hatred of the man.

Dreams are an easy conceit for writers, but I must confess that this dream is authentic, no doubt a product of afternoons of NFL football on the television and years of commercials layered over my psyche like paint. I had fallen into a deep sleep and at some point, late in the evening, I began dreaming.

The dream was cinematically vivid. In my dream, I was in a Wranglers commercial with Brett Favre. That Wranglers commercial. Surrounded by the guys I once played high school football with, we populated a moist, verdant football field somewhere in northern Wisconsin. Our coach was even there, pot-bellied and hoarse of voice. And I was the star of this Wranglers commercial. The soundtrack was loud Credence Clearwater Revival, and on the field, all of us laughed and grab-assed in a carefree way, but no two men more intimately or happily than Brett and I. He even leaned on me and talked trash into my ear. At one point, he might have lifted me off the earth, a la Donald Driver, my legs kicking fruitlessly in the autumn air.

I am aware that here the dream takes on a benign but decidedly PG “Brokeback” quality. But Brett and I were happy as two puppies playing. He was tossing me footballs and I was dropping into imaginary pockets, scanning the pitch for receivers, and lobbing out great rainbows that never failed to fall magically into the open fingers of my bygone adolescent friends. In this dream, my arm was as strong as Brett’s and he nodded at me in approval, his muzzle totally and beautifully gray. I smiled back appreciatively. My arm was a cannon and it was firing deep and dangerous bullet-fast strikes. In the dream, I am aware of the pleasure of hurting a tight-end’s hands with a blistering pass.

Later, we were walking across the field, sweaty and caked in mud, and Brett put his arm around me and said, “I got to tell you, Nick, why I left for Minnesota.”

    “All right,” I said. “Lay it on me.”

“It’s the snowmobiling,” he said. “Those people love their Ski-Doos.”

His arm was around my shoulder and he smelled of Mississippi clay and possibly chewing tobacco.

“Oh Brett,” I said. “It’s all right, as long you know that we loved you first.”

I awoke from the dream not at all unnerved by its homoerotic undercurrents, or the fact that my vitriol for the once Packer had faded like a mirage. Instead, I lay in bed broadly smiling, even laughing out loud. My wife woke from her slumber and stared at me groggily.

“What’s your problem?” she asked, rubbing her eyes.

I told her about my dream.

“Should I be worried?” she asked, a look of mild disdain on her face.

“Not at all,” I replied. “But I’m going to slip on some blue jeans.”

What I always liked best about Brett Favre, and what that Wrangler commercial so magically evoked, was the man’s on-the-field joviality. (His new Sears commercial, while being hilarious, is a more sardonic and post-modern Favre. A cynical Favre, a tongue-in-cheek Favre.) The Wranglers commercial captures a kind of sincere joy found only in dogs and children. Goofy smiles, unrepentant grab-assing, and a carefree jocular philosophy towards sport that, despite all his recent negative press, is still utterly unparalleled.

When I analyze my dream, I don’t spend much time on its possible Freudian subtexts, but rather that sensation of unmitigated bliss, that feeling that must sometimes infect his teammates when they see the man smiling, all white teeth and gray beard. They too must feel that energy.

If you have ever watched a dog dream, its paws and legs moving as if in a secret and magical marathon, its mouth agape and panting, then you understand my dream. For once I was detached from my true body’s limitations. My relatively short stature, slight paunch, and inability to run 50 yards. Brett Favre made me feel like Superman. And now, Brett Favre, I forgive you. Go win a Super Bowl. Win two. Melt the tundra of Lambeau. Capture Soldier Field. Make the Lions tame. Be the gunslinger-cliché you’ve always been so entertaining to watch. Scratch your plays in the dirt. Play for free. I’m your fanatic once again.