Minnesota was in a collective state of mourning in the aftermath of the Vikings’ loss to the Saints in the NFC Championship Game five years ago. Emotions ranging from shock to grief to anger filled the state.
Ian Alexy, a transplant from Atlantic City, N.J., was living in Duluth. He hadn’t been much of a football fan, but he was swept up in that season — feeling the highs of Brett Favre’s magic and the depth of his lows.
While many shouted or wept, Alexy turned to another outlet: music. He was inspired to write “Old Number Four,” a folksy tune about — you guessed it — Favre.
“I can tell you the moment I wrote it. I remember clearly. They lost that championship game to the Saints. The Saints were hitting him after the whistle and he was still marching up the field,” Alexy said. “The following day, it was a really heavy feeling in the air. Not even just the hard-core fans, but everyone was caught up in that. I was working at Pizza Luce as a driver. I wrote it on the counter at Pizza Luce, on the backs of receipts.”
His band — The Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank, which also includes Ian’s brother, Teague — tried recording the song shortly thereafter, but “it just didn’t come out that well,” he said. Favre retired months later after a disappointing 2010 season, and the song started to collect dust.
But as the band considered songs to include on its latest CD, Teague urged Ian to consider bringing “Old Number Four” out of retirement, musically speaking. They recorded it again, and this time it made the cut.
The song appears on “American Shuffle,” which was released this week. They’ll perform it live, too, at their CD release party May 9 at the Turf Club in St. Paul — good timing, considering Favre will have his jersey retired in Green Bay this summer.
The song has a twang that will be familiar to those who follow the Duluth music scene, pairing nicely with lyrics such as: “And you always get up when you’re knocked to the floor/can’t break your spirit, Old Number Four.”
Alexy said he considers the song more of a tribute to Favre than a lament of that particular game. Through the song, he chooses to remember the good instead of the bad — which, perhaps as the years go by, more of us will be able to do as well.
“I’ve always been a music guy. But I always liked Favre when I watched Green Bay from [the East Coast], and it would make me enjoy the game more,” Alexy said. “When he had that run with the Vikings, it was a pretty incredible run.”