It's nice to have heroes. Everyone should.
Growing up in Wisconsin, Tony Romo settled on Brett Favre. Sort of.
All week leading up to Thursday night's NFC matchup, that storyline dominated all the talk about Packers vs. Cowboys. Romo did his level best not to sound in awe of the guy he followed as a kid. Turns out he could have saved himself plenty of worry.
Instead it was Favre who came out throwing like he had something to prove, only to throw two interceptions before getting injured in the second quarter of the Cowboys 37-27 win.
``Personally, I hate that I didn't play all four quarters,'' Favre said. ``We made our fair share of mistakes. They're the best team in the NFC and they proved that today. I don't know that we proved a thing.''
Neither did the abbreviated shootout between the two quarterbacks. The best exchange turned out to be a short chat during warmups some 90 minutes before kickoff.
``Exchanging recipes and stuff,'' Romo recalled afterward. ``Guy talk, I dunno. We just talked about hunting or something. I told him the NFL Network was going to have a heart attack if I didn't come over and say, 'Hi.' They were running out of film waiting for it.''
As snapshots go, though, this one was worth waiting for. The two men were separated by 11 years, but the resemblance was hard to miss. Favre's unmistakable gunslinger's smile peeked out between gray whiskers; Romo's peered out beneath a backwards-turned baseball cap.
If Favre were choosing a successor, he'd be hard-pressed to find a better one. He said several times he saw a lot of himself in Romo. ``He has the same mentality I did. There's never a bad play.''
Their learning curves, at least as far as Romo's extends, also bear an uncanny resemblance. So do their stats, and perhaps most important, their ability to inspire confidence in the players around them in tough situations.
Yet for a guy who claimed he was born with a gift to read those tough situations very, very quickly - ``I could see it, and react very fast,'' is how Romo put it - he insisted he couldn't see what the fuss was all about.
``You really shouldn't say, 'This is the next Brett Favre,' or anything like that because he's done so much for that team and this league,'' Romo said earlier in the week.
``He's just on another level. You just go out and play the game as good as you can. If you're trying to be Brett Favre, you're fighting an uphill battle your entire career, believe me.''
Funny thing about that, though. Not all of Romo's teammates believed him.
Tight end Jason Witten, whose fourth-quarter performance put the finishing touches on Romo's grand night (four TDs, 300-plus yards passing), turned out to be star witness. He said as impressive as his quarterback's imitation of Favre is on the field, he does an even better impersonation in the locker room. And no one, Witten noted, could get Favre's world-weary shrug, pigeon-toed shuffle and soft drawl letter-perfect without studying the man closely for some time.
``The truth is that he loved him growing up,'' Witten told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. ``He's done a good job of understating it and relaxing. He's downplaying it, but that's his hero.''
Downplaying it? Romo grew up in football-mad Burlington, Wis., but when the subject came up this week, he insisted he paid more attention to basketball and Michael Jordan's exploits than football and Favre. And even then, Romo claimed he ranked John Elway and Joe Montana ahead of the hometown hero. He recalled watching Green Bay play Denver in the Super Bowl and ``rooting for the Broncos. I guess I was something of an outcast in my neighborhood.''
He didn't expect that to change after the way he led the beatdown of the Packers.
``I don't think more than four people rooted for me in my hometown,'' he said. ``I don't know, maybe they'll forgive me.''
If not, well, there's always Romo's adopted hometown. People in Dallas who wondered whether the kid's head would get too big, too fast can take a deep breath. They worried about Romo's ability to focus while dating starlets, negotiating his contract talks and having to face Favre. He's answered the bell every time.
``I don't know if he's the next 'American Idol,''' Cowboys coach Wade Phillips, ``but he played really well.''
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Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitkeap.org

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