We're going to start things off right here by taking a moment to congratulate the Green Bay Packers on the Super Bowl win, now that everyone has had ample time to cool off. While I was as unhappy as any other Bears fan about our two straight defeats to our most hated rivals, after much soul searching I found that I'd much rather see the legacy that Favre led further dismantle than another football player with questionable moral fortitude cleansed of his past transgressions by a Super Bowl win.
It was during this soul searching that I took a closer look at what made our rivalry with Green Bay one of the greatest, and what kept it from being one of the worst. Follow me below the fold where I will take a look at what makes this rivalry different, and these teams different from other teams in the league.
None of us here need the quick history lesson, but for those that may not be familiar, this is the oldest rivalry in the history of the NFL. It's been going on since the 1920s - before the cheese was plastic and the Bears were still called the Staleys. Remember, this when you think back to some of the rough games and terrible actions, as it's very much like reminiscing about an ex-girlfriend you care about in some small aspects. Sure, you may hate each other, but you still have history together.
The first time two players were ejected for fighting during a game? It was a Bear and a Packer back in 1924. The fights continued on and off the field ever since with wins on the field acting as an over-sized tug of war between the two cities. We've got fantastic moments like when Bart Starr, after getting shellacked, looked like he wanted to fist fight Neil Armstrong; to less amusing antics like Ken Stills tackling people after the play. Only one person really stands beyond the pack in my eyes and that's Charles Martin's blatantly illegal assault on Jim McMahon that ended his season in 1986, and it's a perfect example of what makes this rivalry special.
There was near unanimous derision for the play once the testosterone of the moment dissipated, and it's even carried over to some dislike of the way Forrest Gregg encouraged his players to do things like this. To be honest, I was amazed to hear any questioning of the guy that Lombardi called the finest player he ever coached, but it happens on a regular basis and mostly happens because of respect.
That's what our rivalry has, and our teams have, that many lesser teams in the league do not, a level of respect that transcends football almost to a level of family and brotherhood. Much like the siblings that constantly quarrel and inflict harm on each other, at the end of the day you have a level of respect and understanding that you don't with anyone else. Strong words, bruises, and broken bones may be the teams and the city's language of choice, but it's still our language and one that we generally leave on the field. Hazing exists, but it remains in the realm of strong words to all but the most belligerent and disliked of fans, and we'd expect no more or no less. Perhaps it's because of the close vicinity of the teams, or just the history that exists between us, but neither of our fans, even during these big games, are known for starting fist fights in the crowd, or tackling small children, or anything of the sort.
We're not the Raiders, we're not the Eagles, and while the Green Bay Packers might not ever be able to match the greatness of our very own Chicago Bears, I can think of no other team I'd rather have hold our trophy until next year.
For the moment Green Bay, enjoy the glory. We'll be there to relieve you of it just after Labor Day.