Some Cousin He Turns Out to Be

The dream was so vivid. There I was signing book after book in bookstore after bookstore across literature’s landscape. My autobiography, modestly titled “FAVRE.” All caps, of course. Surely, it would catapult me up there with all of those other best-selling word artists, Coulter and Franken and Kitty Kelley. Who cares if we don’t really have anything to say?


Then the alarm rang and four papers at the doorstep and a cup of decaf were waiting. And there it was, buried deep in a one-graph brief in sports, the painful shattering of my dream.


Some guy who spends his falls and winters in the frozen tundra of Green Bay, Wisconsin, and his summers in the brutal heat and humidity of Hattiesburg, Mississippi (go figure) has written his autobiography, with a ghostwriter, I might add.


And its title?


“Favre.”


Caps and lower case.


And it will soon be in a bookstore near you.


I don’t understand it. He’s someone who has only worked for pay at two franchises in his entire career so far. I’ve worked in an even dozen news operations, counting my current gig at Poynter. And he gets to do a book and steal my title.


Sure, he has played in about 4,000 football games without missing one, but how many times did he have to get up at 5 a.m. to strip the old AP and UP (now that’s old) sports wires to fill those blasted agate pages?


Yes, he has thrown touchdown passes ad nauseam, but has he ever dropped one in the end zone as I did on Thanksgiving Day, 1951, in McComb, Mississippi?


He hails from Kiln, in Hancock County, Mississippi. I come from Bay St. Louis, the seat of that county. And when I was a youngster working in grocery stores on weekends and in the summer, I would help haul sacks of sugar for the bootleggers who operated out of Kiln, the white lightning capital of that part of the world.


Oh, sure, he makes millions upon millions each year in salary and bonuses and endorsements, but can he claim that he once received a whole week’s pay as a bonus as I did as a teenage reporter for what had been my family’s weekly? Sure, my salary was $25 a week, but that’s when $25 really bought something.


And let me ask him this, is he going to tell the world that I am his distant cousin in his book? Absolutely not! On the other hand, I would have been generous and told everyone about him in my book. Well, the truth is, it would have been inescapable. Almost every place I have gone during the past decade the question goes like this: “Any kin to…” I finish the sentence…”the quarterback”? It’s great when I am in Milwaukee and I answer, yes. Kin to the king.


Yes, Brett Favre, the Green Bay quarterback, is my second cousin once removed (that’s the way we talk in Mississippi). When he won the Super Bowl, I was tempted to claim him as a nephew. But you would never know we were kinfolk by the way he pronounces his name. And the way every sportscaster north, south, east, and west of ESPN pronounces it.


And, excuse me, but that’s the biggest rub of all. Is he going to tell everyone who reads this book of his that our shared name isn’t spelled and pronounced Farve, as in carve? Or some other butchered way, as they did with that spoof with him in the movie, “There’s Something About Mary”?


I read recently that Brett said he gave up trying to tell people how to say our name correctly and went along so that now no one knows how. And just when did Brett Favre give up in anything else? Yes, I know, some of our Native American cousins in Oklahoma decided to give in and have their name changed legally to the Farve spelling. But others held tough.


I remember when Brett was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons, our son, Jeff, called and said, “Dad, at long last people will now know how to pronounce our name.” That dream, like my book dream, had a short life span.


So, Brett, here’s your chance. Set all of those sports broadcasters straight. Tell the world once and for all, it’s not Farve as in carve. It’s Favre as in suave.


If not, how about following the example of our Oklahoma cousins and changing the name of the book to “Farve”?


And then maybe I can go back to dreaming of “FAVRE.” All caps, of course.

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