There wasn’t much hype this week as the Packers and Bears prepared to face each other for the 180th time, kind of sad for a rivalry which once brought so much excitement in otherwise dismal Packer seasons.
I grew up in the 1980s, when the Bears were dominant and the Packers were awful. I couldn’t comprehend a world in which the roles were reversed. It was a time when the best the Packers could do to get some measure of satisfaction against the Bears was to play cheap – Charles Martin’s body slam, Ken Stills’s late hit, Chuck Cecil’s post-flattening gyration.
After eight straight losses took me into my 11th year on the planet, I was resigned to the idea that the Bears would always win.
Then I found myself hurdling myself off my grandma’s brown shag carpet in joy when Majik hit Sterling Sharpe (and replay upheld the play) to win in 1989. I don’t think I’ve ever yelled so loud for so long since.
Those were the days of silly smack-talking fast-food commercials (Dan Hampton vs. Tony Mandarich), of Mike Singletary miked up and urging teammates to knock out the young quarterback eating up the vaunted Bear defense (that was Favre in the first game I attended in Soldier Field in 1992).
The game today carries none of the old hallmarks. The Bears aren’t scary, their defense isn’t tough, their quarterback…well, their quarterback still stinks. The Packers don’t have the cheap players, the trash talk, or the great…oh, wait, they still do have a great quarterback.
Finally, an odd stat. Though I grew up thinking the Bears had always been great and the Packers always bad, their seasonal records since 1940 are remarkably similar. The Bears, by my quick count, have endured 33 seasons with records of .500 or worse, on their way to a 34th this season. The Packers? 34 as well.