I cannot say that I am a fan of the Green Bay Packers. I grew up in Chicago and I am a Bears fan. I grew up in the 70’s. We had Walter Payton, but that was about it. Here’s a typical play by play call from that era:
“Handoff to Payton… to Payton… Payton again… another handoff to Payton… handoff – no, wait! Bob Avellini standing back in the pocket… standing and… still standing… and – ow! Sacked for a loss.”
I cannot say that I hate the Packers like some Bears fans. Growing up in the 70’s, the Bears were awful, but the Packers were worse. You’d look at the schedule every season and know that the Bears would at least win four games – the two with Tampa and the two with Green Bay. When I thought of the Packers, which wasn’t often, I mostly felt sorry for them. Didn’t they have to split their home season between Green Bay and Milwaukee? Wasn’t their stadium like covered in aluminum siding?
In the 80’s, with Coach Ditka, we had our Super Bowl run and still pretty much blew the Packers out every time we played them. There was that incident with Jim McMahon orchestrated by Forrest Gregg (their coach at the time), but – even that – that was a bad coach. The defender came to the locker room later and apologized for his cheap shot.
In the 90’s the tables turned. We replaced “Da Coach” with “Coach-Lite” Dave Wannstedt and the Packers picked up Brett Farve from Atlanta. In those early years Farve wasn’t that great… except when he’d play Chicago and then – suddenly – it was “highlights night”. I cringed every time I saw we had a Monday Night game scheduled against Green Bay. Even on the crappiest nights (there was that one with the ice storm) I think Brett Farve would still manage to throw for like 940 yards or something.
So, while I wasn’t a fan of the Packers, I had to admit that Brett Farve was something special. He was one of those guys that made his whole team better. He was a guy you knew would be going to the Hall of Fame. And seeing that level of play, like a Jordan in basketball or a Ruth in baseball; seeing that incredible talent took some of the sting out of the reality that he was methodically picking your home team apart like a chicken carcass.
Watching the Bears – finally – in the past few years being able to beat the Packers with Brett Farve at quarterback… well, that was something special. That was an accomplishment. It’s something to tell my son about (actually he watched the last one with me in December, so he can tell his kids about it too). When Brett Farve retired officially last week, I can’t say I shed any tears about it. But I will miss the excitement of playing the Packers when Farve was on fire. I hope they find a new quarterback who can help them stay competitive.
If not, at least maybe they can take Rex Grossman off our hands; finally some payback for that Forrest Gregg thing.