This Sunday will either be heaven or hell for me. Either the Bears will win or the Bears will lose. I don’t think I can stand the latter. Monday will be a hard day to show up for work for Bear fans in northern Illinois. It will be the 182nd game between these two storied NFL Franchises – the most in the NFL. The Bears currently lead the series 92–83–6.
I do not think the rivalry translates nationwide. Even though a trip to the Super Bowl is on the line, the game itself will be the first time the teams have met in the post season since December of 1941. Compared to other sports, the Bears/Packers rivalry is a great one, but the rivalry is just one of many across the nation.
Here are some national rivalries which garner not just the attention of local fans, but the nation.
Duke vs North Carolina – At its height in the 80s and 90s when Coach K and Dean Smith headed the storied programs. It has lost some of its luster with Roy Williams at the helm. Given the fact that Duke is currently the defending champion could amp it back up this year.
Michigan vs Ohio State, Army vs. Navy, and Florida vs Florida State could all be selected at one point. But I think Texas vs. Oklahoma is the biggest one in terms of national attention. Going all the way back to Bud Wilkinson and the 1950s, the Sooners and the Longhorns have been having at it.
There is only 1 great rivalry in the NBA and that is Lakers vs Celtics. All other pale to this. Click on the link.
The press would lead you to believe it is the Yankees vs. the Red Sox. But outside of the northeast US and ESPN, no one cares. In this part of the country, it has always been Cubs vs. Cardinals. On the west coast, Dodgers vs Giants.
Canadiens vs. Maple Leafs. It’s the French vs the English. One of the oldest rivalries in sports never gets old.
For my money the best rivalry in sport the last ten years has been Tom Brady and the Patriots vs Peyton Manning and the Colts. I don’t care what Rex Ryan has to say but Brady and Peyton have provided football with some of the best football games and drama seen on TV.
Some web sites also list Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal as a great rivalry. Most Americans have no clue who those two guys are, let alone what they do. Back in the 70s, Tennis had McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, and Bjorn Borg going at it. Throw in Chris Evert vs Martina Navratilova and one can easily explain why tennis thrived until aluminum rackets took the fun out of the game. Golf had Jack vs Arnie, Boxing had Ali vs Frazier, and history is littered with dozens of rivalries on its march.
For me, growing up in the Cold War, there was no better rivalry than the United States vs the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). It did not matter if it was archery, track, basketball, ice skating, or under water basket weaving, you sat on your couch pulling for the Americans to beat the Communists!!! The greatest event in sport happened when I was sophomore playing basketball against Bushnell-Prairie City. They interrupted the game to announce the results of the hockey game between the US and the USSR. And it was not even the gold medal game. That would come two days later. Needless to say, I was pumped and poured in 16 points that night in limited duty.
Growing up, my brother rooted for the Packers, Me the Bears, It was rough during the 60s and early 70s. Despite Gayle Sayers and Dick Butkus, the Bears did not have much else. Jack Cancannon, then a barrage of other malcontents tried the quarterback position. Turnabout happened after Bart Starr left the Packers and throughout the 70s and 80s the Packers became as bad as the Bears were. In the 80s, Jim McMahon led a revival for the Bears. The story of the rivalry is filled with not just the greats of the game, but the legends of the game. Halas, Lombardi, Starr, Hornung, Taylor, Ditka, Favre, Urlacher, McGee, Nagurski, Baugh, Grange, Blanda, Nitschke, Adderly, Kramer, and Payton. This weekend will add more to the legends of the game.
But when it comes back to the Bears and Packers, it is almost out of avoidance that I find it hard to think of the game. The Bears won the first matchup this season 20-17 at Soldier Field. The Packers won 10-3 in week 17 at Lambeau. Saturday night, Aaron Rodgers systematically destroyed the Falcons. As a fan of football, that scares me. But what makes me happier is knowing that the Bears can play with them. I just hope Jay Cutler shows up. Unfortunately for Cutler, I am sure Clay Matthews (My defensive player of the year), AJ Hawk, Charles Woodson, and the rest of the defense for the Packers will be there. It is good knowing Devin Hester can level the playing field with one punt or kick return. Julius Peppers and the Bears defense can get in Rodgers space and disrupt the passing game. It is set up to be a classic.
In the end, I can probably handle a close loss. I don’t think I can take a blowout. I could really use a win. For me, this is the Super Bowl and a nightmare all rolled into one. The fact that it will take place outside with the temperature in the teens will only add to its luster. The chicken wings will be ready to go. I will be ready, sometimes with one hand over one eye. It would be really sweet to see the Bears win the Halas Trophy to get to play for the Lombardi Trophy.