The Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears will play on Sunday for a trip to the Super Bowl. It's the renewal of a major rivalry that evokes the original spirit of the NFL. But is it the biggest rivalry in the game? Rick Snider of the Washington Examiner sure thinks so.
Last week's round of rivalries between Pittsburgh and Baltimore and New England and the New York Jets were nothing compared to the storied meetings of Chicago-Green Bay. Indeed, Washington-Dallas can't even match up.
Maybe if you go by the records it's the biggest rivalry in the game. But at this point in time, I'm just not sure that label applies anymore.
Snider brings up some interesting numbers and facts that show the historical nature of this game. The Super Bowl trophy is named after a former Packers coach, the NFC Championship trophy after the Bears coach that opposed him. These are two teams and fanbases that just don't like each other.
But that's my main problem with labeling this the biggest rivalry in the NFL. I believe it is only limited to the fanbases of these respective teams, which is pretty small Nationwide. These teams just don't have enough fans outside of their market to make this the biggest rivalry in the NFL.
The Lakers and the Celtics is the biggest rivalry in the NBA because both teams have fans all across the Country. Same with Yankees/Red Sox, Michigan/St. and so on.
I understand the point that Rick is trying to make, and I agree with it. There is no rivalry that has much history as Bears vs. Packers. But I'm just not sure that is what makes a rivalry important to fans of this era. As Snider himself says, this will be the first time the two teams have met in the playoffs since 1941. How many fans out there remember, or are still mad about, that meeting just about 70 years ago?
Familiarity breeds contempt, and the Bears and Packers certainly have that. But postseason interaction is what makes a rivalry, and more importantly what makes it relevant. At this point in time, the Colts and the Patriots probably have the biggest rivalry in the NFL because they have met with a lot on the line a number of times over the past decade or so, and this is a "what have you done for me lately" kind of sport.
As for the Redskins vs. Cowboys aspect, I'm not ready to argue that it is a bigger rivalry, but I am willing to say that it is comparable. Mostly for the reason I listed above. There are Cowboys and Redskins fans all over the Country. When they play, even in the regular season, it's National news, not just Regional. That has to count for something.
The Packers and the Bears are two teams that make fans think about the original days of football. But I'm afraid that is the time when this rivalry was most relevant. I'm expecting a great game on Sunday, but I don't expect to feel particularly afflicted about it. That's not something I can say when I watch some of today's other great rivalries.