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Know thy enemy to the north

One Bears fan enters Packers territory. Would he make it out alive?

  • Bears fan and Chicago's wingman Ernest Wilkins (center), watched a recent Packers-Lions game with Green Bay fans at Will's Northwoods Inn in Lakeview, including Remy Billups (from left), Nate Meyers, Molly Feeney and Kim Gerrard.
Bears fan and Chicago's wingman Ernest Wilkins (center), watched… (Hilary Higgins/RedEye )
December 13, 2012|By Ernest Wilkins, @ernestwilkins | RedEye

Frustrated gamblers and Midwest football enthusiasts! The Bears and the Packers square off at Soldier Field on Sunday, and per usual, there's a lot on the line. If Green Bay wins, the NFC North is theirs outright, while the Bears need this victory to have a shot at it. Let it be known that I'm FIRMLY Bearing Down.

So on Sunday, I infiltrated Will's Northwoods Inn in Lakeview. Apparently, this is the main event for Packers fans in Chicago. The bar is famous for being a haven for Wisconsites, so much so that one of the bartenders commutes from Wisconsin to work Packers games.

I met regular Molly Feeney and her crew for the Packers-Lions game and kept a log of what I experienced. Trust me, Bears fans: I kept my fandom close to my heart the whole time. Rocking my dad's Bears sweatshirt as a reverse-voodoo doll and listening to a lot of hardcore rap, I was ready to learn the ways of the Pack.

These are my field notes.

Pregame

Upon entering Will's, I'm told by the doorman, "No comedy tonight, pal." They knew I was coming.

8:27 first quarter

Detroit opens with a couple of strong drives and the mood is tense. That is, until the waitresses start passing around complimentary trays of cheese and sausage.

7:36 first quarter

TV commentator Bob Costas mentions that the Lions haven't won at Lambeau in 20 years. Immediately people start doing things like knocking on wood and doom-and-glooming. The NFC North: We're all irrationally superstitious!

7:16 first quarter

The Lions score first on a TD run by Matthew Stafford. Another round of beers arrive, in mammoth stadium cups embossed with a panorama pic of Lambeau Field. Say what you want about this bar, but it's committed to the full Packers experience.

14:08 second quarter

I'm just making a note of the absolutely ridiculous one-handed catch Lions receiver Kris Durham pulls in. I literally yell out, "HOLY NUTS!"

12:46 second quarter

The Lions score again and the people around me start going into the "It's still early! We can rally! There's still time!" song and dance that Bears fans are all too familiar with.

10:52 second quarter

The Packers get on the board with a field goal and the place erupts. I have never seen human beings get this excited about a non-game-winning field goal.

6:17: second quarter

Stafford fumbles and Packers lineman Mike Daniels scoops it up and shuffles into the end zone. The bar explodes with cheers, dancing and "Bang on the Drum" by Todd Rundgren, which ties a world record for the weirdest scoring celebration song with "Make 'em say Uhh" by Master P.

Halftime

I can say with absolute honesty that at one point, I felt stupid for being so aggressive before the game. These people literally rolled out the red carpet for me and I was acting like a brat. That was, until the third quarter.

4:23 third quarter

Have you ever heard of a guy named Jim Kreuger? Well, in 1988 he penned a tune called "The Bears Still Suck." Until Sunday, I had no idea the song existed. Well, it's a bit of a tradition at Will's to sing it during the third. This time, what seemed like the entire bar belted it at me. Bears fans, imagine 30-plus people yelling lyrics like this at you:

The Bears still suck, the Bears still suck

The Bears still suck, the Bears still suck

They really really really really really really suck

Yes the Bears…Still…Suck

I haven't been that mad in a decade. All the nice vibes went out the window for 2 minutes and 31 seconds. So mad. So so so so so so so mad.

What made matters worse is that everyone kept being so nice! Literally everyone I spoke to at the game was that Midwestern type of nice where you're always worried they're going to have a stroke when they're 47 because they never seem to be mad or sad.

Fourth quarter

Anyway, The Packers end up winning the game 27-20. I kept making notes about the game, but beer + rage = lack of game awareness.

Suffice it to say I spent a night learning about how the other side lives. I can say with certainty that I'll never root for Green Bay (seriously, I just got that weird lower back sweat thinking about it), but I wouldn't mind joining these folks for a beer or nine. Midwest hospitality: Gotta love it.

erwilkins@tribune.com

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