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Memories of Packers-Bears are bright

January 19, 2011
By Dennis Grall

ESCANABA - The rivalry began in 1921 and Sunday reaches a new level when the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears meet for a berth in the Super Bowl.

There are other NFL rivalries, such as Pittsburgh-Baltimore, Green Bay-Minnesota, Dallas-Washington. But none come close to matching Packers-Bears, who will play for the 182nd time, with the NFC title at stake in Soldier Field.

It is the big city against the small town every time these teams collide.

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Dennis Grall

The two cities don't share much beyond this patch of gridiron and the tracks of the Chicago and Northwestern railroad that served as transportation for players and fans twice a season into the 1960s.

The railroad is history, but those emotions are just as intense and fierce on both sides of the border and into the Upper Peninsula. Despite those emotions, tons of Packer fans who can't stand the Bears are avid followers of the downtrodden Chicago Cubs.

Although some friends may disagree, I was not on hand when the teams collided for the first time Nov. 27, 1921 when the Chicago Staleys beat the Packers 20-0.

My first Packer-Bear game came much later, Nov. 6, 1955, when the Monsters of the Midway won 52-31 at Wrigley Field.

I sat with my dad and brother about 20 rows up behind home plate, barely on the first base side. The field was positioned from third base to right field in those days.

I don't remember much about the game, other than Chicago took charge early before the Packers came alive and actually made it closer than it was.

However, there are many memories of other games between these arch-rivals, none better than Don Majkowski's 1989 game-winning touchdown pass to Sterling Sharpe at Lambeau Field which prompted the cheer that still resounds throughout Packerland, "The Bears Still Suck."

Officials first ruled "The Majik Man" had crossed the line of scrimmage before tossing the pass for the 14-13 win, but a video replay confirmed he was safely on the Packers' side of the line in what is known as The Instant Replay game.

Another highlight came when Green Bay defensive tackle Charles Martin slam-dunked Chicago quarterback Jim McMahon in 1986 at Lambeau Field.

Brett Favre's five touchdown passes at Lambeau in 1995, despite playing on a gimpy ankle, is another bright memory for all Packer fans.

Chester Marcol's touchdown run to beat the Bears 12-6 in overtime in 1980 also stands out.

Marcol, who now lives in Dollar Bay, caught the riochet after his field goal attempt was blocked by the Bears and he "dashed" to paydirt to stun the befuddled Bears.

I never saw Curly Lambeau coach with the Packers, but George Halas prowling the sidelines at Lambeau Field with Vince Lombardi on the right side of the field is still fresh in my mind. They remain some of the NFL's brightest figures.

The rivalry has been bitter and brutal, colorful and competitive. It was that way when the NFL was just another sport even though legends like Red Grange, Bronco Nagurski, Don Hutson and Johnny Blood were battling.

Bart Starr, Ray Nitschke, Jim Taylor and Paul Hornung made The Glory Years a tremendous period throughout the NFL under Lombardi's direction, with Gale Sayers, Dick Butkus and Mike Ditka among the antagonists in the Windy City.

It has gotten even better as television has taken over, showing everyone the talents of players like Favre, Reggie White and Walter Payton providing the headlines.

Sunday at Frozen Tundra South, with Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews facing Jay Cutler and Brian Urlacher, the rivalry will attain new heights and build more incredible memories.



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