Sunday, January 13, 2013

Football, Strange Bedfellows, And The Thickness Of One’s Skin

The other day, in defense of my visceral dislike of Notre Dame football, I cited the Immutable Law Of Chicago Baseball as handed down by its greatest prophet, Mike Royko:
Those who are true fans of the White Sox or Cubs loathe the other team. This crosstown rivalry takes precedent over city pride. So if the Sox play the Braves, I must root for the Braves. It is the only decent thing a Cubs fan can do. Sox fans, being dedicated haters, will understand.
As I explained at the time, the Immutable Law Of Chicago Baseball, or, if you prefer, Royko’s Axiom, applies to rivalries beyond the Cubs and the White Sox. In fact, I think it’s fair to extrapolate from Royko’s Chicago baseball truism a general principle that applies, or, by all that is holy in this world, should apply, to all sports rivalries.
If two teams in any given sport truly are rivals, the fans of one must hate the other team, and vice versa. It’s the only decent thing you can do as a fan of one rival or the other.
So, of course, I hate the Green Bay Packers. Not because there’s anything wrong with Green Bay, Wisconsin, a city of 104,057 people, which is not to be confused with the town of Green Bay, widely known as the Fifth Most Belgian-American Town in the United States. What, you don’t keep track of Belgian-Americans? That’s weird.
I mean, not as weird as having a city and a town with the same name, in the same county, in the same state, but, you know, whatev.
Anyway, I don’t have anything against Green Bay. In fact, I’ve never set foot in Green Bay and there’s a decent chance I never will.
But I hate the Packers because hating the Packers is my obligation as a Bears fan, just like Packer fans are obligated to hate the Bears. It’s nothing personal; it’s just the way you honor a genuine sports rivalry. The fact is, it would be deeply insulting to the Packers, and to the rivalry itself, to feel otherwise.
And Packers fans, being dedicated haters in their own right, should understand. Should understand.
In my experience, most of them do. I’ve been following this rivalry for a very long time, and I’ve seen plenty of great moments in Packer-fan Bear-hatred. Moments like this: On November 5, 1989, the original Brett Favre – Packers quarterback Don Majkowski – got away with throwing a last-second touchdown pass as he crossed the line of scrimmage. Majkowski was flagged for throwing an illegal forward pass, but the replay officials reversed the call and allowed the touchdown to stand. As a result, the Packers won the infamous Replay Game by a score of 14-13. But that’s not the classic rivalry moment I’m talking about. The classic rivalry moment occurred the next season when the Bears returned to Lambeau Field and were greeted by Packers fans wearing t-shirts saying:
After further review, the Bears still suck.
You’ll pardon the expression, but that was fucking brilliant. That’s what rivalries are all about. It doesn’t matter that the replay officials blew the call, that the victory was undeserved and should be asterisked for all time. What matters is, it gave Packers fans an excellent opportunity to skewer the Bears, and that’s exactly what they did.
I wasn’t insulted by the t-shirts. I would have been insulted if they didn’t take the opportunity to stick it to us.
That’s the way it’s supposed to be. We hate them, and they hate us, and thus the universe remains in balance.
Apparently, though, not every Packer fan got the memo, as I learned last night watching the NFC playoffs.
As the Packers went down in flames, losing to San Francisco by a final score of 45-31, I found myself in the odd position of rooting for a team I spent a good part of the 1980s hating with a white-hot heat. Aside from winning a piggish four Super Bowls that decade – I mean, really, who needs four titles in ten years? – the 49ers beat the Bears in the 1985 NFC Championship Game at Candlestick and, worse still, in the 1989 NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field. Add to that the Giants beating the Cubs in the 1989 National League playoffs, and, well, you can see why 1980s Dave hated everything about San Francisco and its sports teams.
But such is the nature of the Bears-Packers rivalry that, given the choice between rooting for the hated San Francisco 49ers and the hated Green Bay Packers, the choice was easy. Of course I wanted the Packers to lose, 1980s Dave be damned.
Actually, it was surprisingly easy to root for the Niners over the Pack, and to take great pleasure in Green Bay’s second-half collapse. Because: The Packers.
So I did what one does in the twenty-first century when one is taking great pleasure at another’s misfortune. I took to Twitter and snarked about it, gleefully. Among other quips, I said, as the Niners scored their final touchdown: “Your Green Bay Packers, ladies and gentlemen. The pride of the NFC North.”
That, apparently, was a bridge too far for one hapless Packer fan from Sheboygan, who responded by calling me a “punk” and saying I (ahem) had “no class.” As if “class” has anything to do with the Bears-Packers rivalry. Puh-lease.
Listen, Mr. Sheboygan, it’s not my fault that you don’t understand how this works. I’m duty-bound to hate the Packers and you’re duty-bound to hate the Bears. If you want to shirk your responsibility and pretend to be a good sport about the Bears, if the Bears ever make it back to the playoffs, that’s your problem. Don’t expect me to shirk my responsibility and pretend to be a good sport about the Packers. At least I’m doing my job keeping the universe in balance.
And one more thing, Buttercup. You wouldn’t last a day as a Chicago baseball fan.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Dave:

    I was the only NE Patriots fan in the bar this evening and was being given some much deserved and good natured ribbing. I used to hate Green Bay AND Duh Bears AND The Giants, Mets, Jets, Yankees, Flyers, Habs, Devils and well, shit, most teams in most sports because they all BEAT us in important games. I think 2004, specifically the AL Div series erased much of that hate and replaced with the warm glow of knowing that the Yankees are the all time choke artists of MLB.

    BTW, do you know how may NRA board members it takes to screw in a light bulb?

    MORE GUNZ!!!