Sunday is right around the corner. What, you haven’t heard what’s going on Sunday? You’re not counting down the moments to BEARMAGEDDON? It’s the Legendary matchup between the Bears and Packers for the NFC Championship and the right to go to the Super Bowl!
On Chicago’s lakefront on Sunday, the oldest rivalry in the NFL is set to take to rarely seen heights. You see, of the 181 games played in this historic rivalry, only once before have they met in the playoffs, when George Halas and Curly Lambeau roamed the sidelines. (The Bears won 33-14, by the way!)
Sunday’s game comes with unmatched hype and ticket prices to match. This game will truly be EPIC. I’m also here to tell you that it’s bad for the rivalry. Am I crazy? Follow the jump to see. First of all, let’s make one thing completely clear – despite what Lovie Smith, Brian Urlacher et al tell you when they stand in front of the podium – the rivalry is about US, the fans, and not about the players.
Years ago, when Walter Payton was getting shoved over the bench out of bounds or Jim McMahon was getting body-slammed by Charles Martin, there was genuinely bad blood between the teams. Head coaches Mike Ditka and Forrest Gregg hated each other and that translated onto the field. Today, Jay Cutler and Aaron Rodgers send each other congratulatory text messages like 12 year old school girls. (Maybe that’s a bad example, since 12 year old school girls can be vicious.)
Lovie Smith’s goals that he outlined when he signed on as Bears head coach were quite simple: #1 Beat the Packers, #2 win the division and #3 win the Super Bowl. And Lovie’s done a good job in achieving goal #1 with an 8-6 record against the Packers in his career. Lovie has echoed this week that Michael McCaskey made sure to tell him about the rivalry when they first met to discuss his job coaching the Bears. What the hell does McCaskey know about the rivalry? Did some cheesehead cut off his yacht? You want to hear about the rivalry, go ask Doug Buffone or Dick Butkus.
OK, back to my central thesis, that this game is actually BAD for THE RIVALRY. Hear me out. If you treat THE RIVALRY as an entity unto itself, as it’s own living, breathing thing, Sunday’s game will be the absolute pinnacle. The apex. The climax. Every game played after Sunday’s game will pale in comparison. No other game, unless there’s some radical re-alignment of the league, will be more important than Sunday’s. Every other game with be the falling action of this play between the Bears and the Packers. We will have seen the summit of the rivalry.
This story has been building since 1921, so at some point we had to hit the climax. Sunday is that day. You will never encounter a Packer fan and not have this game come up, win or lose. If When the Bears win, you will endlessly and mercilessly taunt Packer acquaintances that you have (I can’t call anyone I know who wears the Green and Gold a friend) about knocking them off for a chance at the Super Bowl. Heck, even if we went on to get steamrolled in the Super Bowl, a win on Sunday would make that pill a little easier to swallow.
And (Ditka forbid) if the Bears lose, you will never be able to make the trip up to Door County or Lake Geneva again without suffering the repercussions of a defeat. The Packers could go on to go 0-16 for the next decade and Packer fans would have that win to hang over our heads.
If you thought that THE RIVALRY was intense before, it was just on simmer. It comes to full boil on Sunday and it will never be the same again!