(I have to apologize in advance for this post. I’ve been trying to put my feelings about this game into proper words all week, and seem to have failed. What I came out with is an incoherent, jumbled mess of thoughts that don’t blend together in the slightest. But I think those who truly appreciate the nature of a game like this will get what I’m talking about)
As sports fans, moments like this are rare.
Moments when there are no long term ramifications. Moments where literally nothing else matters for one three-hour period except the success of the team you’ve poured your heart and soul into.
I think Bears and Packers fans can attest equally. As a fan who lives and breaths at the success and failure of the teams he roots for, I can safely say this is the most important singular moment of my life as a fan.
You might first point to the 2005 White Sox when questioning that statement, and that’s a valid point. The 2005 White Sox World Series title is undoubtedly my proudest moment as a sports fan. But there’s a huge different between that and this.
In 2005, there was never a do-or-die moment. As great of a thrill ride as that playoff run was, there was never a moment that made you say “If the White Sox lose this game, everything emotion I’ve poured into this team for the past six months goes down the drain.”
The White Sox only lost one game during those playoffs. In hindsight, it was kind of a breeze.
There’s no do-over here. The winning team’s fans holds bragging rights over the losing team’s fans the foreseeable future, regardless of how the winner does in the Super Bowl.
This game will get mentioned during broadcasts of every Bears-Packers game from here until who knows when. There will always be a “When these two teams met in the 2011 NFC Championship game…” graphic, just like they’re now doing about 1941.
Don’t get me wrong. This game would be huge for the Packers if they were playing the Seattle Seahawks. It would be huge for the Bears if they were playing the Atlanta Falcons.
It’s the chance to go to the Super Bowl. As a fan, you never know when that opportunity will come again. The Bears went 21 years between appearances, which was agonizing to the fan base. The Packers went 29 horrible years I was lucky not to be alive during.
You never know when a chance like this is going to happen again. What’s more, you never know if/when your team is going to get the opportunity to extract revenge. What if it’s 2081 when the Bears and Packers next play in the NFC Championship game? The losing fan base will have the lingering feeling of coming up short forever.
My friend Reid, the biggest Bears fan I know, told me the other day that Sunday’s game likely won’t be enjoyable for him to watch, regardless of the outcome. I feel the same way. It’s not so much that I can’t wait for Sunday to come, it’s that I can’t wait for it to come and be over, so I know if I have to grieve or celebrate. Unless there’s a blow out one way or the other, die-hard fans can’t and won’t enjoy the action in the field. It will be agonizing and exhausting.
What’s so cool and so damn terrifying about this game is that there will be no more excuses. I’ve seen Facebook banter all season, more specifically this week, from fans of both teams going absolutely insane with rage at each other. There’s “National F**k the Packers Week” and “National F**k the Bears Week” going on.
There’s been Packers fans calling the Bears lucky. There’s been Bears fans gloating over their NFC North Title. It’s gotten to the point that anything good/bad either team can do produces some sort of retort out of fans of the other team.
But after Sunday, there won’t be any excuses. No matter what happens, one group of fans will be able to say “We’re going to the Super Bowl,” the other will simply have to hang their heads and acknowledge the fact.
You won’t hear any excuses out of me if the Bears win, just a lot of sniffling and whimpering.
It’s hard for me to give a proper prediction for the game, and it likely won’t matter because, as unbiased as I try to be throughout the season, there’s no way anybody will believe I have a level head about this game. (I don’t.).
But if I have to say one thing about this game from an X’s and O’s standpoint, it’s this:
I don’t see the Bears winning without a big special teams play. And I’m not just talking about Devin Hester.
The Bears’ special teams as a whole is great. The Packers’ is horrible. If the Bears win this game, it’ll be because Hester takes one to the house, the Packers fumble a punt, the Bears block a field goal, SOMETHING of the sort.
On the flip side, I don’t see the Packers winning without forcing at least two turnovers. Jay Cutler will give them at least two opportunities to pick him off. They have to take advantage of those opportunities to win the game. Dropped interceptions will be the death of them.
So what if the Packers make a special teams mistake, AND force two turnovers? Then, who knows? What do I know, anyway?
Packers 17, Bears 10
Oh, and that other game, it’ll be Steelers 27, Jets 17, I guess.