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The Bears/Packers Rivalry May Be Dead, But Both Teams Live To Play Another Day....

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Rock Mamola

Producer/Host on WSCR 670AM The Score.

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What a gift the Chicago Bears gave to their fans yesterday by defeating the 7-9 NFC West Champion Seattle Seahawks 35-24 to advance to the NFC Championship game next Sunday at Soldier Field.  An even better present that Bears fan are dying to unwrap is a victory over the "rival" Green Bay Packers to advance indeed to their first Super Bowl since 2006.  Jay Cutler took another step in his football career by playing an outstanding game in his first ever postseason trip.  In fact Jay Cutler played so well he can now be mentioned in the same breath as the Hall Of Famer Otto Graham as the only two quarterbacks in NFL postseason history to throw and rush for multiple touchdowns in a single game.  
 
While Cutler still has awhile to amass a career like Graham's, the Bears defense stepped up to the occasion for three quarters of the game.  The game completely out of hand by the start of the fourth quarter as the Bears led 28-3, the 21 points allowed in the fourth quarter may be the only negative from the entire game itself.  Other than that the Bears played a great game in all phases against a team considered to be one of the worst playoff teams in NFL history.  What did we learn from this game as the Bears moved one step closer to a possible return trip to the Super Bowl?  It is so hard to tell since they played an inferior opponent like the Seattle Seahawks.  In fact I was two years old (1983) the last time the Seahawks won a road playoff game and the entire week leading up to the game itself there were very few who believed in the team that took down the defending Super Bowl Champions the week prior.
 
So here come the Green Bay Packers to Soldier Field for the second time this season as a 3/3.5 point favorite which was predictable.  So far in less than 24 hours I've heard/read the following already:
 
"The greatest rivalry in professional sports"
 
"Round III"
 
"This is the way it is supposed to be"
 
"The greatest event in Chicago sports history"
 
I know the Monday following a NFL weekend is reserved for extreme over-reaction by fans and media alike, but the hype machine is already on overload and we are not even 24 hours in.
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Of course this week you are going to hear/read the names of great Bears and Packers players from years past.  Butkis, Payton, Hornung, Favre among other greats.  You will see vintage footage of the "old black and blue division" when Halas and Lombardi used to guide their soldiers into battle at Wrigley Field and Lambeau Field.  You will probably hear former players who you thought were dead doing interviews on local and national radio and television.  The hype machine will continue to pump out stories about how great Aaron Rodgers is and how much of a jerk his Chicago Bears counterpart is.  One thing however will be talked about over and over and over.
 
The "rivalry" of the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers.  To me, what "rivalry"?
 
I know both head coaches will use the term "rivalry" in their daily press conferences and the players will only speak as their head coach directs them to.  However the notion that there is a "rivalry" still alive between the Bears and the Packers players is hogwash.  It is very difficult for me to say that a rivalry exists when there is no bitter feelings outside the actual competitive nature of the players themselves.  For instance Jay Cutler texting Aaron Rodgers to congratulate him on the Packers victory over the Atlanta Falcons, does that scream rivalry to you?   
 
"Yeah, I texted him after [the Packers' 48-21 victory in Atlanta on Saturday night] and told him, 'Good game,''' Cutler said. ''I'll probably have a few text messages from him, so we'll have friendly banter, I'm sure."
 
Nothing says bitterness like "friendly banter" between text pals.   
 
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This "rivalry" between the Packers and Bears dates back to 1921 and only once before have the two teams met in the postseason (1941).  You cannot tell me that the players of today consider this any more than just another game.  Do you think Julius Peppers is going to play harder and be more physical because it is the Green Bay Packers?  Do you think Brian Urlacher has the same mentality of Butkis trying to rip the heads off the Green Bay Packers

I remember Lovie Smith's introductory press conference too. Remember when he said his number one goal was to "beat the Green Bay Packers"Lovie Smith is 8-6 when it comes to accomplishing that goal, but the Packers have more playoff appearances than the Bears since Lovie took over as head coach.  Before Bears fans put on their face paint and begin chants of "Green Bay Sucks", maybe they should listen to the ones in uniform themselves.
 
Brian Urlacher: "Big challenge for us. We played pretty well against them here the past couple of years. Big challenge. Big history game. Only second time this has happened, someone on the field told me."
(Big history game.....but unaware of the history)
 
Charles Tillman " I think the media will create the "It's Bears-Packers, the biggest rival in history since 1900-something." I think at the end of the day its still football."
(100% correct....just another game.....nothing special about it)
 
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This is the age of free agency and as much player movement there is in the NFL, it is really hard to develop and sustain what I consider a "rivalry".  A rivalry is simply when the players involved have a bitter emotion toward their opponent outside just being competitors playing a game.  Judging from the quotes and mood of the locker room yesterday I would have to say the players are simply treating this as another game.  That is the right way to approach 2pm on Sunday because working yourself up over something that has faded away does you no good.  There is no more Bears Packers rivalry when it comes to the players themselves.
 
These are millionaires playing millionaires in an age of free agency and collective bargaining agreements.  The bitterness towards division teams is now outweighed by the paychecks all these athletes cash in on a weekly basis.  We need to realize that the term "rivalry" is becoming as outdated as newspapers.  There are very few teams that actually have that extra emotion towards a single opponent where as they step up their level of play because of it.  Bears/Packers is now on the same plain as Bears/Vikings or even Bears/Lions.  While it may be fun to play up the "rivalry" of the Bears and Packers in the media and amongst fans, that where the "rivalry" will always live on.  Telling stories of the old days and the constant back and forth jokes about hunting gear being fashionable is what consists of the "rivalry" today.  As far as the players, there is Bears/Packers "rivalry" and  frankly it has been dead for quite a long time.   
 
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This Sunday will truly be a memorable contest between a team that everyone expected to be here and a team that everyone did not.  In fact the last five games have been decided by an average of 5.2 points per game.  Although the Bears may have gotten the win in week three at Solider Field, the Bears did not truly beat the Packers.  I think the Packers have beaten the Bears once and beat themselves once this season when playing the Chicago Bears.  This is indeed a game where the Chicago Bears can truly prove that they belong by beating the hottest team left in the NFL playoffs.   
 
Could it revive the "rivalry" that passed away many years ago?   
 
We shall see.
 
-RoCk
 
John "Rock" Mamola is the Associate Producer of The Mully And Hanley Show and host of The Rock Report on WSCR 670AM The Score
 
You can follow "The Mully And Hanley Morning Show" at twitter.com/mullyhanley
 
You can follow Rock at twitter.com/rockmamola

 
 
CATCH ROCK MAMOLA THIS FRIDAY AT 10PM ON SPORTS RADIO 670AM THE SCORE


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8 Comments

GeekToMe said:

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In all honesty, hasn't the nature of sports 'rivalries' always been that, a fabrication of the media? I can't think of a single, legitimate sport where the teams 'hate' each other. It's all done for the sake of publicity, stirring interest and fabricating story lines for the fans to follow.

I say if folks wanna call it a 'rivalry', just remember that is is what it's ALWAYS been, a myth.

Jimmy Greenfield said:

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Red Sox-Yankees, for one. Jets-Patriots, for another. White Sox-Cubs, for a third. Penguins-Capitals..countless college rivalries. Shall I go on? They exist and they're real for some of the players, less so for the transient players.

But where they really exist is with the fans who don't move from town to town after their contract is up. I have friends in Green Bay and if the Packers win this game it will give them bragging rights for a generation.

That's the fun of sports and why this matters.

Rock Mamola said:

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Agreed Jimmy!

The point is people hype up the game talking about the rivalry between the two teams. That bitterness doesn't exist any longer, but with the fans....ok.

Look at this weekends Ravens/Steelers game. That's what I would consider a "rivalry"

Suwat666 said:

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Did you not watch the Steelers-Ravens game? Now that is a rivalry. The ravens broke roethlisberger's nose the previous time they played each other.

Rock Mamola said:

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See previous comment.....

mvpdaze55 said:

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Well!!!! Rock I don't know what to say. To say sports rivalries are dead. That is like saying the sun doesn't rise in the east anymore. You mentioned that Cutler sent a text to Rodgers giving him props for his game. I didn't hear anything about Rodgers sending props to Cutler. We also don't know for sure the exact content of the message. Remember the game of telephone in grade school. By the time the word got to the end of the line it was always scewed. Rodgers may of mentioned to the press, that was immediately in his face asking questions on the spot. This is because as a society we want more and want it now. Back in the day nobody in the media reeally talked with the players till in the bar that night. By that time there stories were already of to the presses. And now a days sports figures have to be much more professional in their approach to the media. Who knows how much on field banter is filtered.

These teams are rivals and the players understand how much it means to the fans. The fans years ago started this rivarly, and it will be that way it god knows when. The players don't want to let there fans down in any game, but especially don't during these games.

You mentioned the Steelers/Ravens now that was a rivalry. Rivarlies can manifest now a days in the blink of an eye, and be changed in a matter of minutes just because of a play or player. If you tried to tell me that the Hawks/Red Wings rivalry is dead, I would say have offically lost your mind and need to be checked in and put on medications. The days of Butkus or Nitschke wanting to decapitate the opposing quarter back has gone by the way side, and that is because the game has changed. Now a days you touch the quarterback at all it seems there is a penalty. Yes players have gotten bigger and stronger, and the needed for updated rules is a must. So just like the way the game has changed, this is how the rivalry has changed.

Larson7 said:

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After looking at your articles, I'm sensing a slant to your "opinions". Have you ever written an entry without the purpose of causing a rise?

Rock Mamola said:

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It's called an opinion.....

I'm not writing game wraps here.....

-RoCk

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