The Chicago Bears will face the Green Bay Packers for the 183rd time. After last season’s heartbreaking loss to the Packers at the NFC Championship, the Bears were out for blood--and so were their fans. For many, Bears-Packers is not just a rivalry: It’s personal. Take WBEZ’s Justin Kaufmann, who grew up near the Wisconsin border; he ccouldn't stand the Pack. He knew not to venture beyond the Cheddar Curtain but while getting revved up for Sunday’s game, he started to think about why he hates Green Bay so much. And he began to worry that maybe his fire had dwindled.
I hate the Green Bay Packers.
I am a die-hard Bears fan. I bleed blue and orange. I watch every game, every press conference, every post game show.
And when it is Packer week? All bets are off. I actually had a hard time sleeping before the NFC Championship game last season. I was so keyed up that actual tears were flowing.
And this week will be no different. Because I hate the Green Bay Packers. But I’m not sure why.
I get it. There is a historic rivalry that goes as far back as the NFL. I get it. Both of these teams are from the same division and there has been chippy play. I get it. Brett Favre and Refrigerator Perry. But as we get ready for the game on Sunday, I really don’t have hatred for this Packer team. Rodgers is good. Charles Woodson is great. Greg Jennings and Donald Driver are gamers. There’s no polarizing player that unites the opposition. So I have to lean back on the rivalry. So why do I hate the Packers?
I decided to reach out to Packer fans to try and help me soul search. What do they think of the rivalry? What fuels their hatred? And most importantly, what do they think of me – the Bears fan?
I turned to an old friend first. Tom Tueber was my first boss here at WBEZ. He was born in Chicago. His Dad has Bears season tickets. But he moved to Wisconsin when he was 8 and now owns part of the team.
“It is the oldest rivalry in the NFL. I respect that. It’s great. I think today is about geography. Wisconsin is in Chicago’s backyard. It’s also about small town/big city and that big city arrogance is part of what people resent,” Tueber said.
OK, I’ve heard that before. We’re arrogant big city folk. We use our size to will upon our opponents a competitive advantage. But another former colleague told me: It’s not as much arrogance but aggression that defines a Bear fan.
“My issue with Bears fans is they are too aggressive….” Ben Calhoun, currently a producer for This American Life in NYC started to tell me. He grew up in Milwaukee and was a political reporter at WBEZ for years.
“One of the things I love about Chicago is that it is tough; but not aggressive. But the Bears (especially Bears-Pack) bring out the aggression…” Calhoun said.
OK, so we are aggressive too.
Olivia Schriener was born in Green Bay and now lives in Chicago. So I asked her what pops into her head when she thinks of a Bears Fan.
“That SNL skit with the fat guys with heart attacks? That’s what I think about when I think about Bears fans. That’s what pops in my head,” Schriener said.
I was stunned so I asked her the same question about Packer fans.
“Same thing but not as loud,” she said.
“So Bears fans are louder?” I asked.
“Yeah, come to think of it, maybe. They are louder,” Schriener said.
OK – so we are loud, arrogant and aggressive. But that’s not all.
“You know how in relationships someone can love someone more than the other person? Maybe this is a hate you more. Since you seem to hate us more than we hate you?” Schriener asked.
And we hate too much. For the final say on Bears-Packers, I turned to public radio’s resident Green Bay Packer backer, Michael Feldman. Feldman hosts the live quiz show Whadya Know in Madison.
“I’m not sure how it all started…but if you get to the border towns around Kenosha and South Beloit, it divides families. There is a certain resentment towards Chicagoans in Wisconsin. Cabins, free roads, tollroads, and they shout, talking loud in restaurants, don’t want to be seated,” Feldman explained.
I was puzzled so I asked Feldman to elaborate.
“They don’t like to be seated. They are obnoxious and over the top, like they are still in Chicago,” Feldman clarified.
I was stunned by what these Packers fans thought of me: I’m aggressive, arrogant and too loud. Am I obnoxious? Yes. I’m so obnoxious I’m doing a whole essay about my obnoxiousness right now. Am I aggressive? Yes, I sought these Packer fans out. Am I loud? Hell yes; over-modulated, even. And am I arrogant? No. I’m just better than you.
But at the end of the day, I do have one thing going for me: I don’t live in Green Bay.
Bear down, Chicago.
Music Button: Depeche Mode, "Breathing In Fumes" from the album Stripped, (Reprise/Mute)