Watching Packers-Bears game in enemy territory a true experience

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Packers linebacker Clay Matthews eludes several Bears during his interception return in the fourth quarter Sunday. | AP

MINOCQUA, Wis. — This is Packers country, in case you’re wondering.

Up here, 140 miles west of Green Bay and some 300 miles north of Chicago, the Cheese Curtain is virtually impervious to any Bears influence. Except for the distaste Bears culture leaves in the mouths of Packers fans.

For example, nobody in the Little Brown Jug bar here on Route 70 was thrilled to see the Bears leading the Packers 13-10 at the half Sunday. One of the fellows in the dark and tiny place, in which hundreds of dollar bills are stapled to the ceiling and walls, shook his head in disgust.

‘‘I’m not a fan of the Bears,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m not a fan of Chicago. I can’t stand to have to pay to drive through that place.’’

He just wanted to be known as John Z., 66, of Milwaukee.

He and 28-year-old son John Z. Jr., seated next to him, were fishing in the Northwoods for a few days, they said. They had to come to this dim place with the green Packers flag and red Wisconsin flag flying out front because even fishing must wait for a Packers-Bears opener.

Across from them, drinking a Miller from the bottle, was an old boy in a green No. 66 Ray Nitschke jersey. He had a small gray ponytail and yelled at the TV on the wall every time something good happened for the Pack.

‘‘I don’t like Minnesota, either,’’ John Z. said as the man in the Nitschke jersey cheered an interception by Clay Matthews.

I thought about bringing up Brett Favre’s defection to the Vikings awhile back but decided not to. Why roil the waters?

On a beautiful day up here, where lakes are as plentiful as land and brats are the dish of choice (with beer), somebody has to be the bad guy. And that is the Bears.

That Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is 1-12 against the Packers after a 31-23 loss was seen by some of the Pack crew as being so pitiful that a type of sympathy wafted through the place.

‘‘What I don’t like about Cutler is that if I were a Chicago fan, you see that face . . . ,’’ John Z. Jr. said. ‘‘Let’s just say I’d hate to have him as my quarterback.’’

Some nice words were spewed in praise of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and who could disagree?

Behind the bar, opened in 1909 for sportsmen and lumberjacks, was Lake Minocqua. Across the blacktop was Bullhead Lake.

One of the bartenders, a former Marine named Guy Posielenzny, talked about how the bar never closed.

‘‘Seven days a week year-round, even Christmas,’’ he said. ‘‘In the winter, we get a lot of bubbleheads [snowmobilers]. When this place opened, it was called the Teeny Weeny.’’

Makes sense because the ceiling is barely 7 feet high where it dips down in the middle.

An earlier stop at Marty Buehler’s estate on 4,000-acre Trout Lake brought this scribe some much-needed breakfast after a night of wedding debauchery at the Chippewa Resort Lodge. That place, on the Manitowish chain of lakes, was itself not far from Little Bohemia, the lodge where the feds had a shootout with Chicagoans John Dillinger and ‘‘Baby Face’’ Nelson.

Patriarch Buehler (yes, the family has a dog named Ferris) scared some of us in the Chicago crew half to death when he walked into the room wearing a school-bus-yellow Packers helmet autographed by Favre.

‘‘One of 12 he signed at Brett Favre Day at Lambeau,’’ Buehler said proudly.

To Bears people, the sight of such is akin to looking at Michael Myers’ face under the mask.

But what can you do? It’s there. It rules.

Rodgers and the Packers continue to beat the Bears the way Mumbai rat-catchers beat rodents.

Of course, Cutler would throw that interception. Of course, the Bears would be outscored 21-10 in the second half.

Every time the Packers put points on the board, a free round of applejack shots went around the Little Brown Jug.

I passed on most of them, but when the game was over, I bought a round for a half-dozen of the revelers.

‘‘Did the Packers score again?’’ one dazed old-timer mumbled when he saw the small plastic cup in front of him.

No, but they’ve scored enough through the years that something is needed with which to rejoice.

Or to kill the pain.

Follow me on Twitter @ricktelander.


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