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Bears Wed Oct 30 2013
No matter how much you wish them to be, rivalries at the professional level are not everlasting. They don't withstand the test of time, and don't endure the changing atmosphere of sports culture. Especially in football.
Free agency, trades, and yearly seven round drafts create so much roster turnover that looking at team photos from year-to-year is like comparing a list of camp counselors from one summer to the next. Some of them will return, but the ones who don't are either too old, were poor at their job, or found greener grass on the other side and aren't looking back.
The term rivalry, "competition for the same objective or for superiority in the same field," can't even be used to describe Bears/Packers games by pure definition. Is their any question about superiority between the two teams since the arrival of Aaron Rodgers? At least when Brett Favre was around, you knew he'd throw you the ball a few times each season to keep things interesting. Sound familiar?
Rodgers, on the other hand, is 9-2 in his career against the Bears, throwing for nearly 250 yards per game, and completing 69 percent of his passes with a 19/6 TD/INT ratio (*non-record stats are regular season only). The Bears aren't rivals to him -- they're whipping boys.
It was a rivalry in 2010 when both teams were elite, and met each other in an epic conference championship game. Before that, 2001, when the two teams battled it out until the bitter end for divisional supremacy. In between -- it wasn't anything more than two games on the schedule.
Ask a legitimate sample of Packers fans, and they'd probably tell you that the Vikings are more of a "rival" these days. Not this year, no, but the Minnesota teams of the late '90s and early 2000s that were consistently great caused Green Bay a lot of problems. Brett Favre had a career 17-14 regular season record against them (23-13 vs. Chicago). Those games have set a far better foundation for a true rivalry, and the Bears haven't done anything to change the status quo outside of a good year or two here and there in the last 10 years.
And if Bears fans are honest with themselves, Detroit would rank as a more adequate rival these days because of the quality of games the two teams have played against one another in the last decade. The matchups are contentious, and there's a lot of bad blood between the two teams that has been brought to a boil in the last year or two.
This Bears/Packers duel will be even worse than it has been in recent years because of missing protagonists either due to injury (Jay Cutler, Lance Briggs, Clay Matthews), free agent departures (Charles Woodson, Greg Jennings) or retirement (Brian Urlacher). If the Packers don't score 35 points against the 11 defenders the Bears plan on throwing out Monday night, it'll be a colossal failure on their part.
Bulls/Heat, Bulls/Pacers, Heat/Pacers -- those are rivalries. Teams that hate one another, aren't afraid to say it, and consistently play fantastic games against the other (last night's debacle aside). Sure, the Heat have prevailed when it matters most, but they haven't won even a majority of the games between the two since LeBron took his talents to South Beach.
You might think Marc Trestman could be the man to change all of that, but his even-keeled "no game is more important than any other in the regular season" attitude and smart offensive game plans are a far cry from the Lovie Smith days. He won't ever circle Bears/Packers games on his calendar unless the other 14 games on the slate are as well.
Maybe we should all take a page out of the Trestman book and treat it as just another game, because it hasn't been consistent rivalry in a long, long time.