It always comes back to the Packers. Always.
Whenever the Bears do anything, whenever they make even the slightest movement, they instinctively look to their neighbor to the north for context. They’re usually handed a bag of humiliation. You’d think they’d stop comparing, just out of self-preservation, but they can’t help themselves. One hundred and two years into their existence, they want to be the Packers when they grow up.
When the Bears win a game against an opponent not from Green Bay, their immediate response is to crane their necks looking for the Packers. They always find them, way up in the standings. When the Bears draft or acquire a quarterback, they look at how he might compare to Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers or Who’s Next. Not well, as it invariably turns out. When the Bears put a coin in a red kettle, they brace themselves for the possibility that their archrivals have declined a Nobel Peace Prize out of modesty.
Always the Packers.
The teams play Sunday night in a prime-time game, which means that the Bears’ weekly horror show can’t be partially hidden by a slate of other games. The Packers have Rodgers and Lambeau Field, and the Bears have six losses in their last seven games, the lone victory coming against the hapless Lions. By two points.
When we last left Rodgers in October, he was informing fans inside Soldier Field that he owned them. Having just run for a touchdown, he had looked into the stands and spied a woman giving him a single-finger salute on each hand. Maybe she was saying the Packers should go for two, but I don’t think so. Anyway, Rodgers opined, loud enough for the TV microphones to pick up, that he owned her and anybody else connected to the Bears. All the Bears could do was peruse the deed he’d handed them and nod their heads.
It’s not just Rodgers doing the owning. It’s the Packers. I’ll spare Bears fans the ugly numbers. You already know that your team is in a 30-year slump against the hated Pack. And there’s nothing you can do about it. Most of you can’t bring yourself to quit the Bears because that would be like lopping off an arm. It means that the Packers won’t stop poleaxing you. Enjoy your pain.
Like a moth to a flamethrower, the McCaskeys also are drawn to the Packers. The Bears’ owners claim a historical magnetic attraction, both franchises being early members of the NFL. Trust me on this one: The Packers look at the Bears as a food source, nothing else.
Can we at least be kind and say the Bears are pilot fish to the shark-like Pack? No. That would imply that the Bears get some scraps, some symbiotic benefit from swimming near their rival. There is nothing about the team from Green Bay that enhances the life of the team from Chicago.
So what’s left? The Bears are proud that their sinking season hasn’t turned into a soap opera of hard feelings and accusations. Apparently, that’s supposed to be enough to take fans’ minds off the 4-8 record or the bad offense. The Packers, meanwhile, had to deal with Rodgers’ dissatisfaction with the team’s general manager, his deception about his COVID vaccination status and his one-game hiatus after testing positive for the virus. They’re 9-3. Where can the greater Chicago area buy a soap opera and some good football players?
The Bears have managed to turn all the good feelings about the drafting of quarterback Justin Fields into battalions of pointed fingers over who is to blame for his uneven development this season. The good news is that, after missing two straight games with cracked ribs, he’ll start against the Packers. The bad news is that he’ll start against the Packers.
Coach Matt Nagy acknowledged the obvious Wednesday, saying his teams haven’t been good enough against the Packers. He’s 1-6 against Green Bay. There’s very little to suggest that he’s going to pick up victory No. 2 on Sunday, though you never know. Actually, yes, you do.
Being dominated so thoroughly and for so long by a rival might cause an organization to pine for a hereafter where suffering doesn’t exist. I have bad news: Sources tell me that when the Bears’ work on Earth is done, they’re destined for the Great Known, where the colors are green and gold, and the quarterback is eternally good.
Always the Packers.