A teenaged Shawn Wagner watched the situation unfold in the third row of a Lambeau end zone that day, one that will forever serve as an flustering and frankly depressing reminder of Green Bay’s 31-17 loss to Minnesota in the NFC Wildcard.
But if you were to ask me the Packers’ biggest rivalry? That honor still belongs to the Chicago Bears. No matter how good or bad a Chicago season has been, the Bears tend to play Green Bay tough and physical to the very end. This year, however, the Packers had their way with the Bears from the very beginning and lucky enough for me, it came with my girlfriend and I together in front of the same TV.
Growing up, my father had one question before meeting any girl I brought home: “She’s not a Bears fan, is she?” He was always joking of course (well, maybe), but the last time I was forced to answer the question, I had to give him a “yes” with a glance away and an uneasy smirk on my face. A native Iowan, she chose the Bears after spending Sunday afternoons with one of her best childhood friends who happened to be a fan of the team. Refusing to wear cheese on top of her head, wear the color purple, or root for the close-to-home Chiefs, she stuck with the Bears.
With a rather long-distance relationship, my girlfriend and I have missed out on the fun of antagonizing each other in the past. But last Thursday night was the first time we were able to watch the two teams’ oldest rivalry together in the friendly confines of her living room.
And it was a 35-14 blast.
Of all the Bears fans in the world, this one is probably the most tame. She admits she has “low expectations” for the team most years and would tell you that nothing could possibly be worse than Jay Cutler. But as Mike Glennon fumbled on his opening play of the drive and threw a pair of interceptions, a Cutler-less Bears offense against Green Bay didn’t appear to be much more enticing to her. By the end of the third quarter, she was clamoring for a switch to Mitch Trubisky. Luckily for her, she will get her wish this week.
Of course there were calls we disagreed on, such as any slight possibility of a downfield pass interference call. Luckily for my ears, playing against the Bears of 2017 there weren’t too many of those. But there were also calls we did see eye-to-eye with, notably Danny Trevathan’s dirty hit on Davante Adams.
If I can impart one argument-reducing idea to readers who have or will experience a divided house in their lifetime, it is to set ground rules. I’ve learned through other rivalries the two of us share - Cubs and Brewers, LSU and Mississippi State - that it’s best to take a victory in stride. If my team wins, I won’t rub it in her face. If hers wins, she won’t rub it in mine. Because, let’s face it, one of the most satisfying parts about a Packers win over the Bears is that we, as Packers fans, don’t have to listen to the ridicule. I learned this the hard way in college living next to wall-pounding Bears fans in the dorms during a Packers loss. Fortunately, revenge was served that same year when Green Bay went on to defeat Chicago in the NFC Championship Game.
At the end of Thursday night, Green Bay came out of the contest with its first lead in the rivalry series since 1932, and I came out of it with my own 1-0 lead and a beer on her (though I wonder if it was a coincidence she bought the Chicago-brewed Goose Island).
Clearly, my hope will forever be to convert my girlfriend to the Green and Gold. I took her to Lambeau Field for a stadium tour last winter and even got her to wear the despised cheesehead for a picture in the Packers Pro Shop. Unfortunately, my quest will continue for the foreseeable future.
But in the meantime, I will continue to enjoy an old but friendly Bears-Packers rivalry from a divided house.