Packer Plus

1996 PACKERS SCHEDULE

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Sept. 1: at Bucs, W, 34-3 (1-0) Sept. 9: vs. Eagles, W, 39-13 (2-0)

Sept. 15: vs. Chargers, W, 42-10 (3-0)

Sept. 22: at Vikings, L, 30-21 (3-1)

Sept. 29: at Seahawks, W, 31-10 (4-1)

Oct. 6: at Bears

Oct. 14: vs. 49ers

Oct. 20: Bye week Oct. 27: vs. Buccaneers Nov. 3: vs. Lions

Nov. 10: at Chiefs Nov. 18: at Cowboys Nov. 24: at St. Louis Rams Dec. 1: vs. Bears

Dec. 8: vs. Broncos Dec. 15: at Lions

Dec. 22: vs. Vikings

guys have to carry this thing on and keep the tradition alive.”

Players who are drafted or obtained through trades or free agency by the two teams often arrive knowing little about the Packers-Bears rivalry. They learn quickly that it is a special game.

“My first year, during Packer week, the whole attitude around camp changed,” said Spellman, a first-round draft choice in 1992 and a native of New Jersey. “I mean, you’re in a serious state of mind all season, but Packer week was different.

“Steve McMichael, he’d go into a shell. You really couldn’t talk to him. Richard Dent, the same thing. William Perry, the same way. It was a totally different mindset that week.”

The rivalry has waxed and waned on the field over the years, and, ironically, the teams rarely have been powerhouse­s simultaneo­usly. More often than not, it has been the Packers beating up on the Bears for several seasons, then the roles reversing. Vince Lombardi’s Packers dominated in the 1960s; Mike Ditka’s Bears ruled the series in the 1980s; the current Packers, under Mike Holmgren, have beaten the Bears six of eight times, including the last four.

“The Packers have done a great job of maximizing their talent and they’ve matched up well against us for whatever reason,” said Bears coach Dave Wannstedt, who spent a week this summer poring over Packers game film with his coaching staff.

While Wannstedt and Holmgren downplay the intensity of the rivalry publicly, neither is a fool. The games are important enough because they are crucial to the National Football Conference Central Division race. As if that were not enough, the coaches are constantly reminded by fans during “Bear Week” (or, respective­ly, “Packer Week”) that the game is a must-win.

“I know how important it is to our fans,” Wannstedt said. “God, half the people here who are season ticket-holders, if they’re going to go to one road game, it’s going to be Green Bay. And vice versa.”

The bad blood on the field spills over into the the stands. Or perhaps it’s the other way around. In 1936, Packers fan Emmett Platten ran onto the field at City Stadium in Green Bay and punched Bears player Ted Rosequist in the jaw.

Old Bears tell stories about the Packers’ Lumberjack band parading up and down the halls of the Northland Hotel in Green Bay in the early morning hours on game day. And many a beer has been spilled on Packers players at Wrigley Field and Soldier Field.

“When people ask me, ‘What are the exciting things about your job?’ I tell them it’s going to Green Bay for a BearsPacke­rs game,” said Fred Caito, Chicago’s longtime trainer. “They say, ‘What’s exciting about that?’ And I say, ‘It’s the fourth quarter, it’s snowing, the Packers are winning by two and the Bears have the ball, the crowd is going crazy ... that’s football. That’s what life in the NFL is about.’ You can’t experience that unless you go.”

Perhaps nowhere on game day, besides the stadiums themselves, is the spirit of the Packers-Bears rivalry on display more prominentl­y than a onesquare block area of Racine, which is in the heart of Packer country but only 60 miles north of Chicago. The Shuffle Bear

Inn, on the corner of Main and Goold streets, is a haven for Bears fans, while just down the block, Hansen’s Tap displays Packer pride.

The taverns have had a running bet since 1987. The bar owner whose team wins the first of the regular-season meetings each year gets to paint the other bar’s door in team colors; that’s why the blue-and-orange Shuffle Bear Inn currently sports a green-and-gold door.

“I love Packers fans,” said Randy Kressig, owner of the Shuffle Bear Inn. “They always come in to harass me about the Bears. They say, ‘Randy, the Bears suck.’ And I say, ‘Yeah, OK, $2 for that drink.’”

Kressig said he expected as many as 600 Packers and Bears fans to mingle between the two bars today. The event has become so popular, he puts up a tent and pipes in the game on TV sets to the overflow crowd.

No matter what happens today, one thing is a given: The game will be as physical and intense as any the Packers and Bears will play this season.

“There’s three times a year where we have to get it up another notch,” Spellman said. “Those two (Packer) games and the playoffs.”

Said Wolf: “I think there truly is hatred. It’s a very, very important game to the people involved. To the people up here, this is as big a game as there is on the schedule.”

The feeling is mutual.

“It’s the largest tradition in the country by far,” Spellman said. “There’s no game — no game — that compares to the game between the Packers and the Bears. We haven’t had a lot of success against them, and that’s an extra incentive.

“We owe the Packers big. And I look forward to playing them. I really do.”

Packers fan cringe

1 - BMWs with Illinois license plates being driven anywhere inside Green Bay city limits.

2 - Bears jumping into Lambeau Field stands after touchdowns.

3 - Memories of a not-so-nimble Lynn Dickey trying to elude the Chicago pass rush.

4 - 61-7.

5 - Wannstedt fired; Ditka rehired.

6 - Ultimate fashion faux pas: Wearing navy blue with blaze orange.

7 - William “The Refrigerat­or” Perry announces a comeback.

8 - Bears fans attempting to tailgate without Weber grill, Johnsonvil­le brats.

9 - “Highlight” films from the Gregg Era.

10 - Butkus.

Bears fan cringe

1 - Jim McMahon coming off the Packers bench to throw a last-second, gamewinnin­g touchdown pass.

2 - Two words: Instant replay.

3 - Any reference to “frozen tundra.” 4 - Nike commercial­s that feature Vince Lombardi and not George Halas. 5 - Reggie White, really, really mad. 6 - Getting a cheesehead hat as a Christmas present.

7 - Beer-bellied fans who remove shirts to reveal “P-A-C-K-E-R-S” painted on their chests. At Soldier Field.

8 - Brett Favre, dropping back to pass. 9 - Charles Martin and Ken Stills hired by the Bears community relations department.

10 - Anyone named “Chester.”

 ?? PACKER PLUS FILES ?? Don Majkowski celebrates the 1989 reversal by replay that sent the Green Bay Packers to a 14-13 victory over the Chicago Bears.
PACKER PLUS FILES Don Majkowski celebrates the 1989 reversal by replay that sent the Green Bay Packers to a 14-13 victory over the Chicago Bears.

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