“I don’t care if we go 2-14, as long as those two wins are against the Packers!”
– Anonymous Idiot Who is Probably Dead by Now.
The Bears/Packers Rivalry is no more. And you know it, despite maybe wanting to believe otherwise.
Oh, some Chicago media will go through the motions, of course, stirring up pandering images of mud-splashed phantoms colliding in slow motion as the NFL Films horn section blares military glory. Hunched, graying veterans of games past will tell the same stories, trying to kindle fading memories.
But the democratization of the NFL and the interconnectedness of the globe have cooperated, finally coming close to completing a process that started about ten years ago, by my estimation.
Rivalries are local. They are defined by the (mostly) good-natured trash-talk in workplaces and watering holes. But those arguments are just as likely, now, to include any and every NFL team, or — even more probably — a team hand-chosen for a contest of added numbers.
Geographical proximity meant more when it had to. Today, our personalized satellites beam us whatever NFL game we want, whenever. The 53-man rosters of native Floridians/Texans/Californians/Louisianans reshuffle each year, and groups of friends gather each preseason to reshuffle them on their own terms in a cloud of cheap cigar smoke.
What’s more, NFL fans are better informed than ever, and carry higher expectations of success. Games matter for actual, valid reasons, like divisional-race importance and home-field playoff advantage.
Don’t take this as wistful elegy — the accelerated dissolution of Bears/Packers significance is not necessarily good or bad. Just know it’s true. Colleges and high schools can still point to the “big game” on their cute little schedules, but the international megabusiness of NFL football has moved on.
Games are big on an NFL schedule when two good teams meet with something at stake. “Big” is earned more through quality, now, not merely history.
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We’re in Mokena today, the Bud Light “Who Needs Two?” Tavern Tour stopping at Morgan’s Thunder Bowl for an afternoon of cold beer and free tickets. We’ll have the Second Half at 3:30, and the latest on the Bears from Halas Hall when Zach Zaidman Reports.