Last week, I had some very good, civil discussions with Falcon fans about the upcoming game with the Packers. We talked about football and strategy and wished each other luck.
This week, it's Packers-Bears, so we can probably throw civility out the window. The rivalry may come and go with the players, but for the fans, it's hatred from the word "go."
I am a Cheesehead, having grown up in Green Bay and that word is probably the best place to start to show the hatred between these two fan groups.
Cheesehead was supposed to be a disparaging remark created by people from Illinois (Illinoisians?) to call people from Wisconsin.
But Wisconsites took it as a badge of honor and stole the term from the name-callers and used it ourselves; we even wear those silly hats with pride. Of course, we had our own name for “Illinoisians” also, but for the translation of F.I.B. You need a less family-friendly website than this one.
I grew up in Green Bay, rode my bike to summer practices and have long known the meaning of Bear Week.
Bear Week is not just a regular game—it is more meaningful, more nasty and more important. There has never been a Bear Week with this much meaning ever before.
Losing the championship game would be painful enough, but losing it to your most hatred rival will be a bitter pill to swallow for the team that loses this one.
It is rare for both teams to be good at the same time; usually, it seems when one team is up, the other is down.
The rivalry always stands, but the importance of the game for the rest of the country has not stood up to the level of Redskins/Cowboys, or in more recent years, Ravens/Steelers.
That is because the games these two teams played were rarely for conference championships and playoff berths. It was most normally one team up and the other team trying to be a spoiler.
But even when one team is dominating the rivalry, the animosity and tension among the fans is always high. Brett Favre had, I believe, a 21-7 record against the Bears over all those years (and was something like 19-1 before Lovie took over for the Bears), yet the Bears game was always the highlight of the regular season for most Packer fans.
The 1994 Monday night game in the monsoon when Favre annihilated the Bears or the 1995 game when he was forced out the week before at Minnesota (the infamous T.J. Rubley game), but came in on his gimpy ankle to throw five TD passes to beat the Bears once more are two of my favorite Favre era games, just behind the Super Bowl win.
When Lovie Smith became the Bears coach, one of the things he mentioned specifically in his introduction address was how he was going to beat the Packers. It endeared him to the Bear fans and showed he got their level of interest in that particular game.
As former Packers, Bart Starr and Forrest Gregg knew the importance of Bear Week during their times as coaches. Even though those were lean years for the Pack, the Bears games were always hotly contested and rougher and tougher than most of the other games.
When it comes to Bears/Packers, it seems that the discussion is hard to do on a civil level.
After all, Bears fans think Jim McMahon is a hall of fame quarterback and how can you discuss civilly with someone that deluded?
Most times, Lambeau fans are very friendly and invite the rival team fans to their tailgate and share a brat and some beers and enjoy some good natured ribbing. But when it’s the Bears, the ribbing is a bit more caustic and the beers may be the warm ones that never got into the cooler.
If the Packers season is done, the only other thing you want to make sure of is that the Bears are done also. There are two teams a Packer fan roots for: The Packers and whoever is playing the Bears.
And now, these two teams meet in the NFC Championship.
This game should be given on of those stupid names that sportswriters and television people like to make up.
This one should be “Armageddon: The Cataclysmic Confrontation in Chitown" or something.
There is a rational part of my brain that knows these two teams have played two very close games so far this season. That part of my brain knows that the Bears offense and special teams can be dangerous and their defense is rugged and forces the opposing offense to dink and dunk it slowly down the field.
That part of my brain even can admit that the cheap shot by Charles Martin on McMahon was maybe the single worst hit ever performed in the last 30 years.
Then the other part of my brain kicks in and I kind of smile remembering that hit and how the Bears were never the same again.
That part of my brain kicks in fully and takes over then and I add how of course Majkowski was behind the line and how wimpy was if for the Bears to add an asterisk into their media guide for that game.
And even Ditka knew what a wasted draft pick William Perry was and that’s why he put him in on offense as a distraction. Oh, and Walter Payton was holding Mark Lee’s face mask and dragged him out of bounds with him.
Maybe next week civility can kick in again. Go Pack Go!