Saturday, September 25, 2010

My Favorite Game of the Year

There's an old Packer maxim (or is it an adage?  or, perhaps, an axiom?) that says, "The Packers can go 2-14, but if they beat the Bears the season is a success."  Or maybe it's, "You can go 14-2, but if you lose to the Bears the season is a failure."  Or maybe there actually isn't an old adage, and I made this up.

The point is the Packers-Bears rivalry is the oldest and greatest in the NFL... actually, in all of sports, period.  Monday night's showdown will be the 180th meeting between the teams.  Although the Bears lead the lifetime series 91-82-6, some of those early games shouldn't count because the Bears then went by the name Chicago Staleys -- a name that was deemed so pathetic at the time that the Packers organization didn't bother to actually field a team.  Continuing in my NFL team mascot obsession, the Staleys were named after a sponsor -- the A. E. Staley food starch company ("staley" being a somewhat unfortunate name for a food company).  The club was indoctrinated into Canton in the late 30's for having the lamest name in NFL history.

The Packers-Bears rivalry has had three distinct eras of Packers success:
  • The Lambeau era -- actually wasn't really that successful vs. the Bears but he played them 60 times during his coaching tenure from 1921-1949 and had a record of 21-34-5.
  • The Lombardi era -- Vince's reign from 1959 to 1967 was one of our more dominant stretches against the Bears, with a record of 13-5.
  • The Favre era -- Brett always knew how to beat the Bears.  As a Packer, his lifetime record against them was 22-10, but through 2003 he was an astonishing 20-4.
Acknowledgment must also be given to Don Majkowski, whose 14-13 victory over the Bears in 1989 in an infamous last-second instant replay review marked the start of what many Packers fans would regard as the modern era in Green Bay football -- the end of a long, dark streak of losing seasons dating back to the Lombardi era that has been largely rectified since.  I still remember that win as if it were a playoff game, partly because I watched it in Chicago surrounded by Bears fans.  Majkowski's two wins against the Bears in 1989 were virtually the only bright spot in a nearly decade-long stretch that saw us go 3-15 against Mike Ditka's Bears.

You have to also respect what Don Majkowski did for the mullet.  Majkowski's golden locks were a harbinger of the flowing manes that adorn today's team.  Although he was born in upstate New York, Don was Wisconsin through and through -- the blue collar determination, the Def Leppard-esque hairdo, the name that sounds like a car dealership in Ashwaubenon.  He's a favorite son if I ever saw one, and occupies a well-deserved seat in the Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame.

Rodgers is starting to work on a little streak of Bear dominance himself, having gone 3-1 in his 4 games against Chicago since he took over the starting role.  Hopefully, he understands the maxim/adage/axiom well and will continue on his winning streak Monday night.

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