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Behind Enemy Lines: Living in the land of the opposition

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Some of us live outside of Bearsland, in the heart of enemy territory

Packers house in Wisconsin
Photo by Ken Mitchell

It’s that time of year, when you walk into a store and they have just put out the new selection of football T’s, jerseys and other apparel...

For some, this is a fun time of year... sorting through the racks of great looking new designs, picking out a few to refresh the ole wardrobe...

For me? Not so much. My store’s racks are all filled with Kansas City Chief’s gear.

Sometimes living in NFL Enemy Territory can be a bit of a pain, but some of us have it worse than others.

I’m going to share a few of my thoughts about living “Behind Enemy Lines”, and I’ve asked a few of my fellow WCG staffers who also live outside of the bounds of Bearsland to chip in.

Me? I live in North Missouri not far from the Illinois & Iowa lines. Here in NEMO (that’s what we call it).

WCG contributor Jeff Berckes lives in Iowa. “I think Iowa is like Switzerland,” he recently told me. “You can like just about any team and it's ok. But everyone is a cubs fan and that never made sense that you'd cheer for the cubs and the packers or Vikings or even the lions.”

I’ve gotta agree with Jeff on this one, I am a regular rooter at Iowa Wild hockey games in Des Moines at the most excellent Wells Fargo Center, but I don’t root for the Minnesota Wild even a little. As you go further south and west in Iowa you do get into Royals country a bit, and as you head north it starts leaning toward Twins country, but by and large Iowa is Cubs central. Football wise, southwest Iowa is mostly Chiefs country whereas northern Iowa leans towards the Vikings a bit. Eastern Iowa seems split between Chicago and Packers.

Lester Wiltfong, Jr. moved into the land of our most hated rivals, where Cheese is king and people actually think those hideous green and yellow colors are attractive on anything other than a tractor.

When Lester moved there several years ago, he wrote about the experience here on WCG. Here’s what he had to say.

Wiltfong: A Bears Fan Living Behind Enemy Lines - Windy City Gridiron
A Bears Fan Living Behind Enemy Lines - When a lifelong Illinoisan moves to Wisconsin is he less a Bears fan?

Wiltfong's Behind Enemy Lines: A cure for Packers Fever? - Windy City Gridiron
Behind Enemy Lines:Packers Fever? Is there a cure for being a Packer fan? I think there is, come read my story.

Wiltfong's Behind Enemy Lines: Things are looking up. - Windy City Gridiron
Behind Enemy Lines: I'm a Wisconsin resident now and I'm over it, but there's still things that need to be sorted out, come check it!

Sam Householder writes the following:

My parents moved to Central Wisconsin about 12 years ago right when I finished high school and so I spent my college summers and holidays up there and it was always interesting, always getting comments and trash talk with the bartender at Friday Night Fish Fry.

It was all in good fun though, I'm glad I haven't had to put up with as much of it in recent years since the Bears have been awful and I'm sure the mocking would be terrible. It was fun to watch Favre Watch from up there though, my parents had Wausau/Rhinelander TV stations and even those local newscasts always kicked off with Favre coverage when he was thinking about and ultimately joined the Vikings in '09.

One thing that cracked me up was one time at Christmas in Wisconsin my brother and I went out to buy some beer, he's a Packers fan. So we go up to the counter with our purchases and the guy looks at us, each in our respective teams' hats and says 'You know it's the holidays when Bears and Packers fans are getting together.'

I did an internship right after college in 2011 in the Quad Cities in Iowa. Iowa was interesting because without a football team there is a super weird mix of fandoms. A lot of Bears fans (the QC is like three hours from Chicago) but there was a mix of Packers, Vikings and Bears fans with a few Chiefs/Rams fans sprinkled in.

I worked there during the Bears-Packers NFCCG and that was a crazy week. Just all kinds of trash talk in the office and Jersey Days and stuff. It was fun though.

Now, I've spent most of the last 11 years in Indiana though for college. Indiana is weird with its allegiances. In central Indiana, where I went to Ball State, it was all very Colts-centric as you would expect. But up here, where I live now, it's all very Bears. They show both of them on TV expect for the few cases where the teams are on the same network at the same time (usually a couple times a season).

I would say that pretty much north of U.S. 24 and west of I-69 is Bears Country in Indiana, there's a little leeway there but that seems to be the general border lines. Those areas are mostly closer to Chicago than Indy and become the artificial lines. It's funny though to see people I went to college with that grew up in Ft. Wayne or central/south Indiana and end up in South Bend and get angry when the Colts aren't on or the coverage of the Colts isn't as much.

Also there aren't a ton of people over the age of 50 that isn't a Bears fan in most of Indiana. I worked with a guy and he used to say 'When I was growing up the Colts were in Baltimore, why would I root for them?' Living outside of Bearsland is annoying where you're in shopping malls and such because merchandise is harder to come by and selection is limited.

It's also irritating to put up with the pro-other teams stuff all the time on the newscasts and stuff and it's often hard to hold an intelligent conversation with someone who isn't a passionate NFL fan and only identifies with one team because these are the schmucks that cling to national storylines "Oh a Bears fan, I bet you want them to get rid of Cutler." "Man maybe if Cutler didn't suck they would be OK." Yeah, because we Bears fans know it's all THAT simple. So you just sigh and roll your eyes and either argue with a brick wall or shrug and say "Yeah, sure, whatever." That to me is the worst part is just that so many other fans that don't dig deep into the NFL as a whole just cling to these national storylines that may or may not be true. Now I have to deal with a lot of "Jeez, are you pissed the Bears traded up for a QB when no one else was going to?!" Whatever. It's just difficult when the people just latch on to whatever bad element of our team they think is real.

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Thanks Jeff, Lester and Sam!

What about you, do you live outside the safe boundaries of Bearsland? If so, tell us YOUR story.