FERDONIA, Wis.--As I sit in a Ferdonia, Wis. McDonald’s, I’m waiting for my buddy to make a final sales call in Random Lake before we can head up to Lambeau for the latest installment of the greatest rivalry in sports: The Green BayPackers vs. the Chicago Bears.
As I’ve grown older, my level of distain for most of the sports enemies of my youth has waned considerably. The Raiders, Cowboys, Lions, Browns and Vikings still sport legions of fans that far exceed the buffoon quota, but their very existence, along with the Yankees, Braves and St. Louis Cardinals no longer make me physically ill. The Bears, on the other hand…
Before I launch into any diatribe about my hatred for the Bears and all of their fans, save the ones I actually know personally, please understand the following: I love the Chicago Bears.
Yes, even though the Bears are the number one enemy of my beloved Packers (please don’t bring up the Vikings, that’s strictly minor league as rivalries go), I can’t imagine life – at least my sports-fan life – without them.
Without the Bears, I wouldn’t have the memory of sitting on Lambeau’s aluminum bleacher seats with my Dad as Packers’ kicker Chester Marcol returned a blocked punt for a touchdown to defeat the Bears 12-6.
Without the Bears, I wouldn’t have fallen off an emotional, apoplectic cliff when Bears running back Neal Anderson tiptoed down the far sideline , stepped of bounds but still was awarded a touchdown at Soldier Field during a game and a season that, for the Packers, was hopelessly lost. Adding texture to this particular recollection was the reaction one of my roommates from college, an ardent Bears fan living in Chicago when I called to vent about the out-of-bounds issue. “You know what, Charles," he replied, raising his voice with each passing second, “it doesn’t matter, ‘cause the Packers F**king SUCK!”
Without the Bears, I’d have missed the euphoria of Jay Cutler quitting, B.J. Raji scoring and the Packers winning the NFC championship en route to their fourth Super Bowl and NFL-leading 13th world championship.
So, thank you Chicago Bears. Thanks for myriad quarterbacks at which we can laugh. Thanks for the Mike Ditka tirades that revealed Jim Harbaugh’s feminine side. And, on a more serious note, thank you for Walter Payton. While working in the Minnesota Vikings’ public relations department I met him a few times. Rarely will you see such a combination of class, talent and humility in one package, especially in a Chicago Bear.
And thank you for today. Thanks for the chance to laugh at your fans and your quarterback.
I just hope I’m still laughing tomorrow.