Sunday, January 23, 2011

Packers fan threatened to burn my house

Just read this week's issue of Sports Illustrated and a story on the rivalry between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears.

The story featured stories from current and past players and coaches speaking to the intensity of the rivalry.

Here is mine:

In 1981, I moved from Loveland, Colo. to Rockford, Ill. to become the sports columnist of the Rockford Register Star. My first regular-season game covering the Bears was a season-opening game against the Packers at Soldier Field. The Packers won, but my post-game column focused almost exclusively on the Bears. The game was in Chicago and Rockford was a lot closer to Chicago than Green Bay so I thought more readers in Rockford cared much more about the Bears than the Packers.

Well, I was wrong.

First, the publisher of the Register Star at the time, Gary Watson, was a Packers fan. I discovered that the next time I saw him and he scolded me about not giving a more balanced account of the game.

But his reaction to my column was mild in response to several phones and letters I received from other Packers fans. The most memorable was a phone call from one unidentified man who threatened to track me down and burn my house.

Mind you, this was when the Packers were a bad football team. This was post-Bart Starr and pre-Brett Favre.

Yet Packers fans are extremely proud of their franchise and are fiercely loyal to it. In my first-ever Bears-Packers column, I didn't write anything derogatory about the Packers. I just didn't give them enough credit.

That stuck in the craw of some Packers fans in Northern Illinois/Southern Wisconsin and they let me know it. I learned my lesson. I quickly came to appreciate the passion of Packers fans.

Thankfully, there was no burning down the house.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Top 10 best match-ups for Super Bowl XLV

The Super Bowl tournament starts this weekend with 12 teams and a world of possibilities to wind up in Cowboys Stadium on Feb. 6.

Here is a Top 10 list of the most intriguing match-ups for Super Bowl XLV …

1) New England Patriots vs. Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan was the quarterback at Boston College idolizing Tom Brady when he was making his mark in New England.
2) New York Jets vs. Anybody: Imagine giving Rex Ryan a whole week to shoot off his mouth and defend his wife’s foot fetish.
3) Indianapolis Colts vs. New Orleans: Peyton Manning gets a second-chance to beat Drew Brees and redeem himself for his game-losing pass interception last year.
4) Green Bay Packers vs. Baltimore Ravens/Kansas City Chiefs: Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers could beat either of these two of 23 teams that passed on him in the first round of the NFL draft when he dropped to 24th pick overall.
5) Seattle Seahawks vs. New England Patriots/New York Jets: Pete Carroll’s big chance on the big stage to upset either of the two NFL teams that fired him as a head coach while getting the last laugh at everybody who criticized the Seahawks for making the playoffs with a 7-9 record.
6) Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New Orleans Saints: Bad Boy Big Ben Roethlisberger could do wonders for his image by beating Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year and All-Around Good Guy Drew Brees.
7) Philadelphia Eagles vs.New Orleans Saints: Sub Michael Vick for Ben Roethlisberger.
8) Chicago Bears vs. Indianapolis Colts: Jay Cutler does what Rex Grossman couldn’t do against the Colts in Super Bowl XLI.
9) Baltimore Ravens vs. Anybody: Last hurrah for 35-year-old linebacker and Old Spice pitchman Ray Lewis.
10) Kansas City Chiefs vs. Green Bay Packers: The Chiefs get revenge for loss to the Packers in Super Bowl I.