Bus and Brett pile into Cook's Escalade for a drive over to a Mississippi state park for Favre's annual shoot of a Wrangler Jeans commercial, an exercise as repetitive as the yearly retirement talk.
"Man, the setting is kind of beating a dead horse," says Brett. "I mean, how many times can you go out and throw the football? They're starting to run together. People say, 'Was that commercial from this year or the year before?'."
"Shee-et," says Bus.
Bus's Christian name is James. It's best not to call him that. To know Bus is to understand Brett. Brett grew up in Kiln, Mississippi, down on the bayou, son of Irvin, football coach and driver's ed instructor. "He was exactly like Sergeant Carter on Gomer Pyle," says Favre. "He had a crew cut, he was always screaming, always raising hell." Bus, 62, grew up in a West Virginia holler, born to a coal miner's wife who was 13 when she married.
"I went there once," says Favre, playfully jabbing Cook. "I think that's where they film the Feed the Children commercials – just awful."
"Shee-et," says Bus.
They met in 1990, three years after Favre won his first start at Southern Miss while battling a hangover. Brett was foisted on Bus at Hattiesburg Country Club, where Cook, a real estate lawyer, was a hotshot member. "We played 18 holes and then we went back to the clubhouse," says Favre. "He started buying me vodka-and-grapefruits, doing card tricks, and next thing he's my agent for life."
They've been a duo ever since, the country lawyer and the hick quarterback. Surrogate daddy, surrogate son. Bus has seen his boy throw for more than 39 miles in yardage, he's seen most of the 497 touchdown passes, and he's muttered "goddammit" during the 317 interceptions, all NFL records. Bus helped Brett bury a father, a stepfather-in-law, and a brother-in-law who died on Favre's land. Currently he is swerving the Escalade around a dead chicken snake in the road. Brett reaches across from the passenger side and puts his arm around Bus.
"My daddy wasn't the type to ever do that," says Brett quietly. "He thought giving compliments would make me complacent. He loved to ride to the stadium with me and on the way home tell me what mistakes I made. I mean, for him, moving from the option to the wing-T my senior year was progress. He had some sharp edges."
"Shee-et. His edges would cut you in half."
Some say Bus is Brett's enabler. All say Bus is the Patton of practical jokes. We pull into the state park, and Bus flashes the devil's smile and dials the Wrangler-shoot coordinator.
"Jeannie, hey. It's Bus. I tried to reach you earlier, but the call wouldn't go through. Brett's got a sinus thing; he's at the hospital."
"Bus, don't pull this shit," whispers Brett while giggling.
Bus waits until the Wrangler woman is hyperventilating on the phone. "Sweetheart, we'll be there in two minutes."
The autograph hounds are already out. Bus drives the last winding mile, passing middle-aged men waving Sharpies. Brett talks about Jerry Glanville, his head coach in Atlanta for a season before he was traded to the Packers. "First day of practice, Glanville comes up to me and says, 'Mississippi, where you go to college?' I said, 'Southern Miss,' and he says, 'Shit, we drafted the wrong guy. I wanted the guy from Mississippi State.' I thought, What an asshole. It was funny unless you were me."
Favre didn't play much that year but couldn't bring himself to get too excited about Chris Miller, the guy starting ahead of him.
"Miller would throw a TD, and I'd give the golf clap but deep down inside I'm thinking, I hope he sucks." He chuckles before getting out of the car. "I don't mean that negatively. I just wanted to play so damn bad."