Few story lines in sports are as shelf-stable as the longtime star who changed uniforms returning to face his old team.
In a star-driven league like the NFL, this plays out most prominently when it involves a quarterback.
The calendar has lined up to give us perhaps the grandest of those moments Sunday night when Tom Brady heads to New England to face Bill Belichick and New England. Brady and Belichick teamed up to win six Super Bowls with the Patriots, and then Brady of course added a seventh without Belichick last year.
Mark Craig and I talked about the matchup on Friday's Daily Delivery podcast.
It would be better, of course, if New England had moved on seamlessly from Brady and this was a clash of powers. But the Patriots are just 8-11 without Brady, including 1-2 this year. Emotion might trump actual football excellence in this one.
That was not the case 12 years ago in the best revenge game prior to Brady vs. Belichick (though Peyton Manning vs. the Colts in 2013 came close).
Brett Favre returned to Lambeau Field with the Vikings on Nov. 1, 2009. The Vikings were a Super Bowl contender. The Packers ended up being a playoff team that year and won the Super Bowl the next season.
The Vikings had already defeated the Packers once that season, but this was different. He was coming back to the team that let him go and told him they were moving on. He specifically wanted to play for the Vikings in order to beat his old team.
Boos cascaded down on Favre as he came out for the coin toss. But Favre played brilliantly, tossing four TD passes in a 38-26 win.
"That's why he came back," longtime Vikings and Packers kicker Ryan Longwell told me a couple years ago about that Lambeau game. "That win solidified everything that 2009 season was all about."
Said Favre of the pregame boos: "Ryan and I were very close friends while with both teams, and at that moment we knew what it was like on both sides and only two people in that stadium knew what that was like. That is a special bond. My fondest memories of that game were of my teammates rising to the occasion and to a man coming over and telling me they had my back!"
I don't imagine that level of animosity will exist Sunday night. The idea of Brady getting booed seems far-fetched. But as far as emotion? Sunday could match what we saw 12 years ago, which is saying something.