It may be my imagination, but the frenzy over the Packers/Bears NFC championship game on Sunday seems a little bit muted. After the 2007 season, when the Packers faced the Giants for the right to go to the Super Bowl, it seemed like Super Bowl week up here. Perhaps that was because everybody assumed the Packers were going to win the game before it happened—only they didn’t, and the Giants went on to win an unlikely Super Bowl title, beating the allegedly invincible New England Patriots. This time, nobody knows how the game is going to turn out. The most I can muster is quiet confidence, but I don’t know. Fans of both teams, if they’re honest, won’t be surprised either way, win or lose.
That’s not to say there hasn’t been plenty of woofin’ going on. WOGB, the oldies station in Green Bay, has dumped all of its records by Chicago from the rotation, according to Chicagoland Radio and Media. Politicians are making their wagers, and office workers are dressing in Packers or Bears garb today.
Digression: Do you wear your favorite team’s colors on gameday, whether you’re going to the game or not? The Mrs. and I got into the habit back in the 90s when we couldn’t get the Packers on local TV and had to watch the games at our neighborhood sports bar. She stopped doing it, however, due to a run of games several years ago. During that stretch, when she wore her gear, the Packers seemed always to lose, and when she didn’t, they won—so from that day to this, she doesn’t wear the colors on gameday, although she’s in them today.
If your team is out of it this weekend, how you react depends on who you are. If your team never makes the playoffs, you can watch for pure enjoyment of the sport and the spectacle. If your team got knocked out in this year’s playoffs, it can smart a little, but the games are watchable. And if you are a Minnesota Vikings fan, you suffer the torments of the damned. Normally, you would root against either of your most-hated rivals, but in this game, you can’t root against both of them. So what the hell do you do? I’ve heard that KFAN in Minneapolis, which would normally carry the national broadcast of the NFC championship game, was going to dump the game in favor of broadcasting one of the Vikings’ recent NFC title games. But the Vikes’ recent NFC championship game history has been awful—they haven’t been to the Super Bowl since 1977, their fourth trip in eight seasons back then. And since they lost all four of those, there’s little glorious history for KFAN to choose from. A blog post from a Twin Cities newspaper about the stunt has been pulled, so I suspect KFAN will probably carry the game after all.
Digression #2: Here is an explanation of why Vikings fans should root for the Bears. Short version: Because the Packers are more likely to defeat either the Steelers or Jets in the Super Bowl and the Bears are more likely to lose to either of them, a Bears win Sunday is the best outcome for Vikings fans. I admire the logic, if not the outcome.
On the flip, music, and my predictions, if you care.
Seemingly dozens of Packers tribute songs are circulating on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter this week. The best one is still “Go You Packers Go” by the Wisenheimers, which first became famous during the 1996 Super Bowl run, when a version spliced together with radio highlights from the season seemed to be on a continuous loop on every station in the state. The original, which benefits from being based on a monstrously good riff, is below.
My current record in picking playoff games this season is five right, three wrong, which about as well as I might have done if I’d let a chicken select the winners in the time-honored fashion of chickens.
Jets at Steelers. I keep picking against the Jets because I think they’re not nearly as good as the New York-centric national media does—I don’t trust their quarterback and I don’t think their defense is as great as everybody else seems to. The Steelers, meanwhile, have their usual solid offense and skull-crushing defense. Common sense tells me to pick against the Jets again, but I can’t—regardless of this pick, however, I’ll be rooting against them, because the thought of two weeks of non-stop pre-Super Bowl yapping from these loudmouths is too much to bear. Jets 20, Steelers 17.
Packers at Bears. There’s no way a fan of either of these teams can be truly objective when it comes to a game against the other. The Packers played a near-perfect game against the Falcons last week, but so did the Bears against Seattle. I suspect, and I’m not alone in this, that it will come down to which quarterback outplays the other. Packers fans have been waiting for Jay Cutler to have one of those four-interception, head-up-the-ass games he hasn’t had for a while. If he doesn’t have one on Sunday, it will take another effort like Aaron Rodgers had against the Falcons to win. Which one is more likely? Packers 24, Bears 20.
Enjoy the games, everybody.