This weekend the Packers and Bears are set to face off in a much storied rivalry that dates back to the 1920s. The game will be televised on Monday night, and the announcers will undoubtedly talk about the history of the series and detail some of the best moments from the past 90 years. They'll likely show clips of Charles Martin body slamming Jim McMahon and Refrigerator Perry bowling over green and gold clad players, highlighting the 80s when the rivalry was at its most brutal.
But then they'll show the quarterback carousel the Bears have endured over the past 20 years, and compare it to the consistency with which the Packers have been blessed. And then you'll start to wonder: does the rivalry still exist?
When I think Packers -Bears, I think of the Looney Tunes cartoons featuring Ralph and Sam, the wolf and sheepdog, who are pals until they clock in for the day and start going head to head. They battle in the daylight over a flock of sheep, with Ralph generally getting the short end of the stick, until the whistle blows and they walk off side by side to clock out. And really, though these two teams put in the work, the rivalry does feel a little hollow. I mean, can you imagine Dick Butkus hugging Bart Starr?
I've attended several Packers-Bears games since that night, and experienced nothing but playful banter. In fact, I remember few details of the games, save for Demond Parker waving at his "hot" feet in the endzone during a 100 yard effort, the only of his 2-year career. Unfortunately the most memorable event at a Packers-Bears game in the past 15 years has to be Favre crying during a post-game interview on New Years Eve in 2006, back before we'd grown tired of his flirtation with retirement. Largely the series has been forgettable.
Now look to the north: this is not the case with the Vikings. In the time since that Halloween night, there have been game-turning interceptions, a Moss-mooning, last second field goals, an impossible reception by Antonio Freeman in OT, and a turncoat quarterback. Today there is hate brewing at every corner of every game, and there is nothing good natured about this rivalry. Its everything that Bears vs. Packers was in the 1980s.
Beyond this, rivalries are built upon competition, and while the Packers and Vikings have spent much of the past 15 years battling for first in the North, there has been little between Chicago and Green Bay. Green Bay leads the series since 1994 23-9, and 3 of those Bears wins came between 2005 and 2006, when the Packers were rebuilding and the Bears made it to the Super Bowl. You're supposed to throw the record out in true rivalry games. This hasn't been the case.
However, there seems to be something brewing in both cities right now. The Packers are a popular pick to reach the Super Bowl, and the Bears are tied with them atop the NFC North after a surprise win over the Dallas Cowboys. Both teams have young QBs with strong arms in offenses catering to them. Monday's game could prove to be a fight, and if the current trends hold for the division, the outcome of the series could be the difference between making the playoffs and staying home for either team.
Personally, I'd welcome it. To hell with the purple pukes up north. All things considered, the Vikings are an intruder. They're a wildcat who has snuck into the aforementioned cartoon, which makes Sam's job more difficult and Ralph's day even worse. Let them burn, and may the Bears reclaim their place atop the list of anticipated games for the Pack. Here's hoping for a hell of a game on Monday night.