by Troy Sparks
Lots of eyes will be glued to their TV sets, Jan. 23, to watch the final four of the NFL Playoffs with storylines and the drama included.
I think the most exciting and anticipated matchup without a doubt will be Green Bay and Chicago at Soldier Field for the NFC Championship at 2 p.m. The New York Jets at Pittsburgh for the AFC Championship is another game to watch.
Can you imagine the traffic being tied up in downtown Chicago on championship Sunday? The city will need extra security and police officers to hold down that side of town for at least 10 hours because it will be wild. It’s not very often that we get to see the Hatfield’s and the McCoy’s of professional football battle for a trip to the Super Bowl.
Somewhere in that wild atmosphere, I will be a part of the experience as a member of the media. Since there’s a pecking order among the media hierarchy, I should get a media credential to attend the game.
And with the press box at Soldier Field being so small, I was told that I would be assigned in another room to watch it on TV. With priorities in the Wisconsin media going to local and state TV and radio stations and daily newspapers, a weekly paper like ours is at the bottom of the totem pole. Then there’s the Chicago and national media as well.
Should I get upset about watching the game in another room? Heck no. I have a feeling that other media types will be in that same room as me. But here the difference between watching the game there and another NFL stadium with a small press box: It’s the NFC Championship, and just getting inside and having the opportunity to share that experience with our readers and getting player reactions in the locker room is worth the trip.
The Super Bowl is on the line. Who knows if the Packers will ever get back to playing in the conference championship game within driving distance? I think I will take the bus or train down there.
These two teams have never met in the NFC Championship Game. Since 1970, Green Bay and Chicago played in a total of seven games with the Super Bowl on the line. This will be the Bears’ third appearance in the championship game and the Packers’ fourth. Both teams are 2-2 in all-time conference championships against other teams. They’re playing for the George Halas trophy, which is given to the NFC Championship winner.
How fitting is the trophy, which is named in honor of one of the pioneers of the NFL. “Papa Bear” himself might rise up from the ground and give the trophy to the Bears if they win the game. If the home team loses, the stadium might rumble like an earthquake.
The NFL’s oldest rivalry is not only fierce in the regular season, but now you can add the postseason to that list. On that day, in the Western Division Playoffs 70 years ago, before 43,425 spectators, Curly Lambeau’s Packers lost to Halas’ Bears, 33-14.
The last time Chicago hosted an NFC Championship Game was in January of 2007. Green Bay last held the championship game at Lambeau in January of 2008. This will be the 44th playoff appearance for the Packers, including NFL Championships and Super Bowls. The Packers’ overall record in playoff games is 27-16. The Bears are 17-16 in their playoff history and will make their 34th postseason appearance.
Between Green Bay and Chicago, there’s no comparison of Super Bowl appearances. The Packers won the first two Super Bowls and Super Bowl XXXI. They lost Super Bowl XXXII. Many Bear fans will rate the 1985 Super Bowl championship team as the best in team history. The only other Super Bowl appearance for Chicago was in Super Bowl XLI, which they lost.
Other than that, it doesn’t take a lot of motivation for fans of the two teams to get hyped. It will be the 182nd meeting between Green Bay and Chicago. The Bears lead the all-time series, 92-83-6.
One of the first things on the agenda for Chicago coach Lovie Smith when he took the job was to beat Green Bay. So far, that experiment has produced mixed results. He will go over the top if the Bears beat the Packers in the championship game.
Image of Black Athlete Town Hall
Recently, ESPN aired a town hall meeting that took place in Atlanta at the Ebenezer Baptist Church with a panel of guests. The topic was on the image of the black athlete today. On that panel were Spike Lee, John Calipari, Jalen Rose, Michael Wilbon, Marion Jones and Randy Shannon. I thought it was an interesting topic. I’ll give you my take on what they said in the panel discussion and how it may affect the black athletes of the present in a future column.
Bucks and Marquette Teams Back Home
After returning from the road, the Bucks, Marquette men and women are glad to get a taste of home cooking again. The Bucks’ three home games to close out the month of January include Washington, Jan. 19, Memphis, Jan. 22, and New Jersey, Jan. 29, teams they should beat. They’re not too far behind in the eighth and final spot in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. Maybe the team needs another boost like they got last year. If you’re thinking what I’m thinking, a trade could be in the works for immediate help.
Meanwhile, the Marquette men should have their hands full with DePaul at home on Jan. 18, UConn on Jan. 25 and Syracuse on Jan. 29. The women’s game against Louisville, Jan. 26, is worth watching.
by Troy Sparks