Bears-Packers: Fans say it’s the biggest game ever

The Green Bay Packers are headed to town for the NFC

championship game and Chicago Bears fans are starting to become,

well, a bit unbearable.

Turn on the radio in Chicago and you’ll hear no shortage of

jokes about Packers fans, many of which have something to do with

low intelligence. There’s been plenty of laughs over a Green Bay

newspaper headline that read ”On To Chicaco.” Many more center on

the dietary habits of fans north of the ”Cheddar Curtain,” like

this one:

What do you call a 400-pound Packer fan? Anorexic.

All of this sniping, fun or otherwise, makes sense since the

NFL’s oldest rivalry has had 92 years to simmer. Vince Lombardi,

Don Hutson, Bart Starr, Ray Nitschke, Bronko Nagurski, Dick Butkus,

Mike Ditka and Walter Payton – all of those names and more add to

the rich history, but so does the relationship between the loyal

fans in the two states.

John Cochara has been hearing from his so-called friends who

decided he was celebrating a Packers win over the Bears a little

too much in 1995 and duct-taped him to a stop sign.

”They’re saying, ‘You better watch out, there are a lot of stop

signs out there,”’ said Cochara, whose punishment outside a bar

just south of the Wisconsin-Illinois state line included a sign

over his head that read ”Packer Fan.”

The Super Bowl Shuffle video by the 1985-86 Bears is getting

tens of thousands of fresh clicks on YouTube. At least one Chicago

TV station got texts imploring them to ask Packers fans to swear

off cheese or, at least cheeseheads, cheese ties and, honestly,

cheese bras. A sign outside the Crystal Lake Rib House not far from

the Wisconsin line warns that prices for Packers fans are twice the

menu listing.

”They say, ‘We really don’t have to pay double, do we?”’ said

owner Dave Faccone, who insists it’s a joke. Still, some Bears fans

have chimed in.

”I got a text saying, ‘You big troublemaker, charging them

double. It should be triple,”’ he said.

On the other side of the state line, Packers fan Frank Emmert

Jr. of Superior, Wis., reminisced this week about the time he

survived a small plane crash in 1995 thanks to the foam cheesehead

he put over his face seconds before impact.

”The FAA credited it, not me,” said Emmert, 52.

Mike Pyle, who played center for the Bears for nine years,

including the 1963 championship season, recalled how his coach and

owner of the Bears, George Halas, brought a message over to Packers

coach Vince Lombardi before a game.

”He went to the locker room door at Lambeau and said, ‘We’re

going to whip your (expletive),”’ said Pyle, 71.

Yet, with all that bad blood all those years, you’d have to go

back to the week after the attack on Pearl Harbor to find the last

time the Bears and Packers met in a playoff game. (The Bears won on

their way to the championship).

This time around, the winner of Sunday’s showdown goes to the

Super Bowl at Cowboys Stadium.

”There have been some highly hyped games that went splat, but

this, they’re playing for the Halas Trophy, to go to Dallas to win

the Lombardi Trophy,” said Marc Silverman, the co-host of a radio

show on ESPN 1000, Waddle and Silvy, with former Bears receiver Tom

Waddle.

Not that the Super Bowl seems to matter much: Packers fans said

beating the Bears at Soldier Field would be a wonderful cake, with

a Super Bowl victory serving as the frosting.

”There would be nothing sweeter than to watch the Packers take

that George Halas trophy at Soldier Field,” said John O’Neill,

whose outfit at Packers games is a green bishop’s costume and

mitre, with Lombardi’s face on it. He’s appropriately known as St.

Vince.

It’s the same story in the birthplace of the Bears: Decatur,

Ill.

”I can’t think of a bigger Bears game,” said 76-year-old

Charley May, whose family and the team have been intertwined since

his dad, Walter ”Red” May, took Halas up on an offer to play for

the Decatur Staleys. Halas later moved the team to Chicago and

changed its name.

”For guys who have followed the Bears all their life and truly

hate the Packers, yeah, this is their Super Bowl,” said Mark

Foster, 54, who plans to erect a 5-foot inflatable Bears helmet

outside his home in Lansing, south of Chicago. ”We can lose 50 to

nothing in the Super Bowl to Pittsburgh or the Jets, but if we beat

the Packers, who cares?”

Scott Wiese understands what Foster is talking about.

”The only thing I can compare it to is if the Cubs played the

Cardinals in Game 7 for the pennant,” said Wiese, 30, who grew up

in the Decatur area and now lives in St. Louis. ”It’s the biggest

game for me as a Bears fan my whole life, and that includes the

Super Bowl.”

Don’t expect Wiese to do something crazy. Again.

It was Wiese who, before the Super Bowl in February 2007, vowed

in writing to change his name to Peyton Manning if the Indianapolis

Colts beat his Bears – which they did. He went to court to keep his

promise, but the judge tossed out his request.

As for the 44-year-old Cochara, he’s not about to stop rooting

for the Packers. But, he said, the bar where he was taped up after

he played ”We are the Champions” following that Packers win has

never been the same.

”Packers fans are scared about what happened,” he said.

Associated Press Writer Carrie Antlfinger contributed to this

report from Milwaukee.