Thursday, December 1, 2005

Halas Stops By The Packer Locker Room

I've enjoyed recounting the Bears-Packers rivalry this week. There are so many great stories, and I got a little off track from what I intended and ended up telling more about my personal experience with the rivalry, than some of the antics that went on between the teams.

Tonight I'm in Stamford, CN traveling on business. Oprah is about to appear on Letterman, and I'm getting a little tired since my phone at home rang at 3:50 in the blessed a.m. this morning with a wrong number. Who misdials at 3:50 a.m?

So this one is going to be short. There is no doubt that the rivalry between the two teams started with Halas and Lambeau. Both were fierce competitors, and when it came to winning there was little they wouldn't do. For example, one time Halas found out the Packers were illegally using college players, and reported Lambeau to the league. The Packers were thrown out of the fledgling league and had to apply for reinstatement the following year.

The fact is Halas wasn't really outraged that the Packers were pulling a fast one on other teams at all. The Bears, and most likely, everyone else were doing the same thing. What upset Halas was that the Packers had signed up a couple players that he really wanted for the Bears, and the only way he could sign them was to get the Packers disqualified! Sure enough, by the time the Pack was back in the league the following season, Halas had converted the players in question to Chicago Bears.

Off the field Lambeau and Halas had respect for each other, and my guess is that a friendship existed between the two, although I don't know that for sure. I do know, that when Lambeau died, Halas was a pall bearer at his funeral.

When Lombardi joined the Packers to replace Lambeau, a better foe for Halas couldn't be found. Lombardi loved to win and soon was as committed to the rivalry as anyone. Packer great Willie Davis remembers Lombardi fondly; "Lombardi said you had to dislike everything about the Bears, even Halas as he stood on the goal line during warm-ups," Davis says. "Lombardi made it seem like Lambeau had never left." So it was with great relish one day that Halas decided to visit the Packer locker room minutes before the upcoming game.

Halas knocked on the door and it was answered by the equipment manager for the Packers. "I need to speak with Coach Lombardi" Halas said. When Lombardi came to the door Halas said, "Coach, I hope you have your team ready because we're going to kick your [butt]."

The rivalry lives on today. In recent years the intensity has been less than past decades, but these things go through cycles. In the 80's Mike Ditka and Forrest Gregg had developed such an animosity for each other that they nearly came to blows in the middle of a game - as coaches!.

I sense that things may be heating up again. The Bears are getting better, and the Pack is having a tough year. I'll be at the game Sunday, here's hoping that we have some fun.

And that we kick the Packer's collective ass too, of course.

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