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.


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