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Columnist
Bears could at least fake some interest
By Mike Imrem | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 9/26/2010 9:59 PM

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OK, OK, we get the message.

The Bears-Packers rivalry doesn't matter as much to players as it does to fans.

Tonight's game is ultra-important to the teams because both are undefeated, the NFC North lead is at stake and "Monday Night Football" will televise it nationally.

What about the fact that this is the longest-running rivalry in professional football?

Not so much.

The players make it sound like, oh, yeah, the rivalry is big, really big, right behind that the Bears will wear throwback uniforms and the Packers get to be on work-release from Wisconsin for a few hours.

Oops, was that a cheap shot at our neighbors to the north?

So be it.

If football is something to care about that doesn't matter, then the Packers are people to dislike who don't matter.

Players should understand that the game was scheduled for "MNF' not because it figured to be for the division lead.

It was because of the Bears-Packers rivalry.

I don't ask much of athletes these days because they tend to accommodate only people who live on their own planet.

But this time I'm pleading with the Bears: Please, fellas, at least pretend Monday night that the rivalry with the Packers means half as much to you as it does to your fans.

Sing songs with the congregation about fat Wisconsineers. Joke about what Dairyland represents to the lactose intolerant. Throw logs on bonfires of novelty-store cheeseheads.

People in all walks of life fake something or other. They fake interest in how their spouses' day went. They fake sincerity over their friends' golfing misfortunes. Heck, "Seinfield" did a whole episode on faking, well, you know what.

So surely the Bears could fake that they have as much contempt for the Packers, Green Bay and the entire state of Wisconsin as their fans have.

Not because of trivialities like season records and national television. Because of the gravity of the opponent being the Green Bay freakin' Packers.

Listen, I understand that the Brian Urlachers and Jay Cutlers have a harder time relating to Bears fans now than the Bill Georges and Billy Wades had 50 years ago.

Blame it on Peapod.

Bears players used to live among the unwashed masses, even shopping where the unwashed masses shopped.

I'm guessing Dick Butkus heard "Murder them Packers" in the red meat aisle at Jewel and Ed O'Bradovich heard "Break Bart Starr's neck" in the household cleaning products aisle.

Why do you think Mike Ditka hated Forrest Gregg so much? You don't think the cashier told him when he was playing that she would comp his potato chips next time if he ran over Ray Nitschke?

Ah, for those good old days. Now if athletes aren't eating out at some swanky restaurant that would cost us a month's salary, they're paying Peapod to deliver their groceries.

Interaction with common folks is way to uncommon.

So maybe nothing can be done to spark the Bears' interest in the rivalry, because athletes can't be bothered to indulge fans anymore.

My only suggestion is for the Bears to spend a week at the Wisconsin Dells every July.

If that won't make them mad at the Packers, the message is that this rivalry really is doomed to the stands instead of the field.