NFL Week 9: The Greatest Rivalry in Football

This week, I decided to do something a little different. Instead of recapping the MNF Packers-Bears game, I decided instead that we’re going to take a little trip in the Way Back Machine to another Packers-Bears game.

It was November 5, 1989, a cloudy Sunday at Lambeau Field. I was but a dewy-eyed ingenue of 19.

Not really. Yes, I was 19 and any “dewy-eyed-ness” on my part was from the the eye drops I had to use when my contacts dried out.  I drove a Ford Pinto and somehow survived the stigma and embarrassment. The car was a piece of shit. The only good thing about it was that I learned how to drive a stick shift and how to start the car by popping the clutch because my starter died. (Incidentally, from when I was learning to drive stick shift and I’d snub out the engine trying to shift gears.)

I remember that had to work that day. I worked in a restaurant in New London, Wisconsin, and during football season, the owner’s boyfriend always brought a TV into the place so we could watch the game when things slowed down and we were doing prep.

Most of our current Packers roster were either small children or not yet born.  The fact that I am old enough to have been the high-school girl from down the street who babysat Aaron Rodgers when his parents went out makes me feel, well…old.

1989 was a special year because for the first time in a long time (not counting strike years), the Packers had a winning record.  It was a special year because for the first time, at least for those of us who were not born yet during the Lombardi Era, that we got a taste of what it was like to be a winner.

This game is the infamous “Instant Replay” game and it’s important in Packers’ lore, especially the Packers-Bears rivalry.  The only part of this game I actually remember was the final 41 seconds.

It was 4th down and goal with 41 seconds left in the game and Packers ball. Our quarterback was Don Majkowski, the Majik Man. We were behind by six. The Packers were faced with the decision to either go for it and risk turning over on downs if they didn’t make it or go for the safe score, the field goal. The Packers decided to go for it on 4th down.  Majkowski scrambled out of the pocket and then finally threw the pass to wide receiver Sterling Sharpe, who caught it in the end zone.

Touchdown Packers!  Lambeau erupted into loud cheers.

Except there was a problem. An official threw a penalty flag, which had pretty much the same effect the wet blanket who seems to ruin every get-together with their dourness and negativity.

The officials said that Majkowski was over the line of scrimmage when he threw the pass, therefore the ball was turned over on downs. Bears ball and Bears victory.

These Chicago Bears were not the Chicago Bears we know now. These were the same Bears who were only four years’ removed from their Super Bowl win.  Mike Singletary, who is now an assistant coach, was a player.  Current 49ers head coach and the Person Most In Need of Anger Management Courses, Jim Harbaugh, was a quarterback for the Bears then. I don’t remember if he was the starter or the back-up. I think he was the back-up, but I could be mistaken. I believe this happened before he took his turn as Screech’s cousin on Saved by the Bell.  The Bears had a tight end by the name Cap Boso, which was an endless source of mirth and Bozo the Clown jokes for us Packers fans.  Their kicker was named Kevin Butler, who we Packer fans naturally christened “Kevin Butthead”.   There was a perpetually injured Bears player by the name of Dan Hampton, who we called Gimpy.

Current assistant coach for the Rams, Chuck Cecil, was a defensive player with the Packers in this game. He was very popular with the ladies, as I couldn’t walk three feet without running into someone who had major lust for him (including Yours Truly).  Chuck was a player much like JJ Watt of the Texans, except the swoon factor was Level Clay Matthews. Current Packers’ offensive line coach James Campen was the Packers’ center.

During this period of time, the Chicago Bears owned the Packers. Every time the teams would meet, the Bears won.

It sucked. We hated it. We hated the Bears. I mean, we REALLY hated the Bears. I rooted for the Patriots in the Super Bowl. The thought of cheering for Ditka, McMahon, and the Fridge made me nauseous.  We still hate the Bears but that hatred really burned hot back then. When Forrest Gregg was the Packers coach, the rivalry got particularly nasty.  Anyone who says the rivalry right now in 2013 is mean and nasty is high on crack.  The level of hate we bore towards the Chicago Bears then is about the same as the hate level we hold towards the Seattle Cheathawks now.

All we had in Packerland was some gold old-fashioned Wisconsin snark, real grass on our field (as opposed to the astroturf at Soldier Field, which was probably better than what passes for a field now), older people waxing nostalgic for the Lombardi Era and the chant “the Bears Still Suck”.

That chant was born in the 1980s and Lambeau Field would erupt into that chant when once again, the Bears beat us in our own house. We didn’t care how good they were. As far as we were concerned, they could be undefeated, but the Bears still sucked because they were smug and arrogant assholes and so were their fans.

Of course, the whole mid-1980s Super Bowl Champion stuff just added fuel to the rivalry and made our hatred burn even hotter.

Yes, it was frustrating. So I do understand how some of our rivals feel because their team always loses to the Packers. However, we Packer fans had to endure this for 30 years, so I’m in no hurry for this to change.

The head coach for the Packers then was Lindy Infante. This was his second year. The previous season was, in technical terms, a major clusterfuck, which included us having 4, count them 4 different placekickers in one season.

And this is why I had no patience for the Mason Crosby haters who slunk out from under their troll bridges during 2012, because I’ve seen much worse than the slump he went through.  For a team to go through four placekickers in a single season means that these people had to be especially horrible at their jobs.

And also at that time, nobody wanted to come and play for the Packers. It was common for the first pick in the draft to hold out for a lot of money in those days. Our first pick in the 1989 draft, Tony Mandarich, was no exception. We had the second pick in the draft and we could have picked Barry Sanders or Troy Aikman. But no. We chose a Brian Bosworth wannabe who proclaimed his love for the band Guns ‘n’ Roses and also was a big bust.

So here we are, in the middle of this very exciting 1989 season where we’re actually WINNING and here we are in this game, late in the 4th and we have a chance, albeit a small one, to actually beat the hated Chicago Bears.

Revenge would be ours. Except we didn’t know when exactly that would happen. But it would be ours.

Probably not today. The Bears were ready to take the victory formation. As Packer nation turned to lick its wounds once again, something happened.

The officials started to confer with each other.

Was it? Could it?

Packer Nation held it’s collective breath as the guys in the zebra stripes conferred. They conferred for longer than it takes Ed Hochuli to explain the overtime rules before the coin toss.

Then the announcers in the booth started to review the play. They were saying that Majkowski let the ball go at the 15, one yard behind the line of scrimmage, and that it was actually a good play.

And we waited. What was going to happen? Would this be a pre-cursor to the dreaded Fail Mary, where we’d essentially won the game, but got screwed by a replacement ref who didn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground?

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the head ref said those famous words in Packers’ Lore:

“We have a reversal…Touchdown!”

Instant replay showed that Majkowski was not over the line of scrimmage, so they had to reverse the call.

At that moment, Packer fans everywhere went batshit crazy. But the game was only tied and there was one more piece of business to take care of.

Chris Jacke, the placekicker, made the PAT. It was up and it was good!

Final Score: Packers 14-Bears 13

Packer Nation went insane with giddiness. Those of us working that day erupted into cheers, too.

After years of tolerating smugness, douchiness, Jim McMahon’s stupid headbands, the Super Bowl Shuffle and general asshattery, WE FINALLY BEAT THE BEARS!!

I would see this level of giddy and joy again when the Packers won Super Bowl 31.  It’s not evident in this clip, but I remember the crowd breaking out into a rather loud “Bears Still Suck” chant.

Here is the clip. Yes, poor little old me learned the game of football without benefit of any imaginary yellow first down line or any imaginary blue line of scrimmage superimposed over the field.  Don’t feel sorry for me. I also learned how to drive a car with manual transmission before idiot lights became standard.

The Packers would end the 1989 season with a record of 10-6 and they just missed the playoffs. It didn’t matter. We had a winning season for once. There was hope for the Packers’ future.  Nobody expected them to go 10-6, especially since the previous season sucked harder than a Dyson vacuum.  Now the bar was raised. When the season ended, and we’d say the customary, “Just wait until next year”, we said it with genuine hope.

And we beat the Bears.

That image of Ditka in his sweater and his dumb little chauffeur’s cap bending over in both disbelief and disappointment will always put a smile on my face.  He, too, had a nasty habit of chewing his gum like he was a cow, just like Pete Carroll does now. Plus I remembered that he whined a lot and complained after that game because reversing the call (which was the right thing to do because Majkowski did not cross the line of scrimmage) meant that Poor Widdle Mikey Ditka had to go home with his tail between his legs because his team lost to the lowly Green Bay Packers.

If you think that today’s Packers give you fits and test the upper limits of your anxiety meds, they’ve got nothing on the 1989 Packers. They weren’t called the Cardiac Pack for nothing. Many of those 10 wins happened in the final seconds of the game. But that was what made that season so special and exciting; it was unpredictable.

The Instant Replay Game will always be one of my favorite Packer games ever.

This Monday Night, the Packers and the Bears will meet once again in the oldest and most storied rivalry in the NFL. The faces are different, but the hate is the same and will always be the same.

Go Pack Go!

And The Bears Will Always Suck!

2 Comments

  1. I was at that game and have a Chicago Sun-Times sports section from the following day. I still remember how long that four minutes seemed, while the officials reviewed the play. My 12-year-old son was with me, and he was most disgruntled since he had started watching football in 1985 and thus admired the Bears. Equally disgruntled was Bears linebacker Ron Rivera, who sounded off on instant replay to the Sun-Times. “They’ve taken the human error, the human effort, and the human nature out of the game,” Rivera said.

    Reply
    • I remember being at work and it was slow because everyone was at home watching the game and the moment they overturned the call and the TD stood, those of us who were working just erupted into cheers and didn’t care if there were customers, either. Didn’t matter. That four minutes seemed to take forever watching it on TV, too. :)

      Reply

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