The voice on the voicemail was gleeful and threatening and right on the money.
“Jack. Jaaaaaack. We got Aaron Rodgers, Jack. We got our Favre replacement, Jack. Enjoy the next 10 years, Jack.”
I knew he would say that. It’s why I didn’t answer the phone. This was Day 1 of the 2005 NFL Draft, and this was Tony The Packers Fan. He was out for blood. And it was mine.
Like I said, this was Tony The Packers Fan, the lone Pack fan at my house for Super Bowl XXXI, a two-floored party, my friends and I in the basement and my parents and theirs upstairs.
When Brett Favre fired deep TDs and raced around the field with his helmet to the heavens, Tony grinned and we all sighed. And when Desmond Howard crossed the goalline to put the game away, a houseful of disgusted groans were drowned by a single victorious roar.
Yes, he had Brett. We had Kramer. He had Brett, and we had Walsh. He had Brett, and we had Krieg. He had Brett and we had Cade. He had Brett and we had Shane. He had Brett and we had Jim. He had Brett and we had Rex. He had Brett, we got K.O.’d.
Then 2005. Then the phone call. Then the voicemail.
Suddenly, he had Rodgers and we had Orton. He had Rodgers and we had McCown. He had Rodgers and we had Hoyer. He had Rodgers and we had Barkley.
For the longest time, he had Rodgers and we had Cutler. The light to the darkness. The MVP to the MCL. The yin to the yo, but did you see that pick?
And then, hope. For us, this time. And I’m talking last time. 2017, Week 4. Yes, he had Rodgers and we had Glennon. But over on the bench — waiting patiently while fans held signs imploring for his entry — was The Future. We thought the future should have started that night.
In a way, it did. Our demolition at the hands of the Packers and the errant hands and arms and legs and eyes of our own quarterback, all on national television with nary another football game to be watched — well, all that signalled once and for all that the end was nigh and the light was coming. This time to Chicago. To Soldier Field. To the Navy and Orange.
The Future sat, and he watched, and he waited, and he said the right things, and he knew the bye was coming, and he knew his name would be called.
Against the Vikings — you know, our other Packers — it was. From then on, The Future has lifted us and made failure palatable, because we know it builds to an era of prosperity, victory, trophies. The Future wears #10, and his teammates call him an assassin. Not a gunslinger. Not a game manager. Assassin. It’s his huddle, dammit, and we’re just living in it.
He’s had four games. The other guy, Glennon, the answer to the trivia question all Chicago kids will know — the other guy had four games too. The Future breaks from him this weekend. How fitting that he does so against the Packers. How fitting that he does it with Rodgers on the sideline.
No, I don’t wish Rodgers — or any rival athlete — ill. Yes, I want to see us beat the best. Yes, I want to see The Future start his Packers career against the man who for the longest time represented something scarier than the future: the present.
But you know what? This is fitting, because year after year there was no reprieve for us. Kramer wasn’t Brett and Miller wasn’t Brett and Rex wasn’t Brett and then Cutler wasn’t Rodgers. At last, Brett Hundley isn’t The Future.
This Sunday, at Soldier Field, a new Bears era unfolds. Now more than ever — more than draft night or training camp or the preseason or even these past four games — The Future is here. Mitch Trubisky gets his first crack at the Green Bay Packers. He was already a Bears quarterback, but as of Sunday he is The Quarterback Of Your Chicago Bears.
We have Mitch and they have Brett. The wrong one.
Enjoy the next 10 years, Tony.