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Remmel: Fans Owe NFL's Greatest Rivalry To Feisty Lambeau, Halas


George Halas (left) and his Chicago Bears.

The late George Stanley Halas, urbane founder of the Chicago Bears, and ebullient Earl Louis Lambeau, who co-founded the Green Bay Packers, could arguably be saluted as the founding fathers of the National Football League.

But, even more appropriately, as the co-authors of professional football's most prolific and colorful rivalry, which Sunday will find the Green and Gold meeting the alleged Monsters of the Midway for the 172nd time in regular-season competition.

No two other NFL teams can make that claim.

The reason being that no two other NFL teams have met as many as 172 times.

Nor with as much annual animus on both sides of the ball.

Halas, of course, was there at the very beginning - on Aug. 20, 1920 - when the American Professsional Football Conference, forerunner of the NFL, was organized in the Jordan and Hupmobile auto showroom in Canton, Ohio.

Lambeau, who had founded the fledgling Packers in 1919, came upon the league scene in 1921 - the same season the Green and Gold launched their rivalry with the Bears.

From time to time over the years, some observers have expressed doubts about the intensity level of what unquestionably is the granddaddy of all rivalries in the history of professional football, the customary suggestion being that it might be on the wane.

And, candidly, the neighborhood series might never have reached its currently imposing dimensions if Lambeau and Halas, both consummate competitors, had not shrewdly fueled the feud from the start.

Each a showman in his own right, they did so in part by making it an invariable point never to shake hands after any of their twice-annual, lose or draw.

To the tightly "wired" Lambeau, losing to the Bears any time...any year...was unthinkable.

And, to be sure, it was equally distasteful to the suave and comparably committed Halas, a classic and crafty competitor.

In point of fact, Halas allegedly would go to extreme lengths to make sure his athletes would have an optimum opportunity to win.

All of which added another emotional chapter to the Packers-Bears rivalry.

For example, it was not uncommon for the Packers to arrive at Wrigley Field or - in more recent years, at Soldier Field in the Windy City - and discover that the phone from the press box to the field was not operative.

Because, on occasion in an earlier, less-monitored time, the wires had been cut.

And further, in the distant days when there was a Packers Lumberjack Band and the Packers traveled their musicians to Chicago - as far back as the 1920s and '30s - it was not uncommon to find that the band had been assigned to some remote corner of the Bears' home field, where its music could not be heard by the Green and Gold - or their visiting fans.

Also, more than once, the Packers would discover there was only cold water for the post-game shower in the visitors' dressing room.

One such incident occurred in 1978, a day on which the Packers were shut out by the Monsters of the Midway, 14-0.

Then, to subsequently suffer an icy shower in the bowels of Soldier Field - adding insult to injury - before boarding a Northwest Airlines 747 and the long ride to Los Angeles to prepare for the season finale against the Rams a week later.

Not exactly what the disgruntled Green and Gold had in mind.

The immediate, knee-jerk reaction, inevitably, was to blame Halas for any such "irregularity."

George, of course, never acknowledged involvement in or awareness of any such inconveniences as cut phone lines or frosty showers.

{sportsad300}And, admittedly, the statute of limitations has long since expired.

Despite such presumably cavalier treatment, what sometimes becomes lost in the process is that Papa Bear was a true friend of the Packers when and where it counted most.

Such as the time in 1956, when the City of Green Bay and the Packers Corporation sponsored a referendum vote for the funding of what initially became "City Stadium" and now is Lambeau Field.

Halas himself came to Green Bay shortly before the election, to speak in highly positive fashion of the Packers' value to the Bears in the already-celebrated rivalry, and to the National Football League - and of the team's need for a new stadium and the economic benefits that would accrue to the City of Green Bay with that entity.

And, as important as his endorsement was at that point in time, it today pales by comparison to the Bears owner-coach's vocal support of the 1962 proposal that all NFL teams share equally in television revenue, a long-standing policy that has been a model for all of professional sports.

Without it, assuredly, the Packers would no longer exist.

Imagine, Green and Gold loyalists, what that would be like...

*Continuing an association with the team that is more than 55 years old, Lee Remmel was named the first official Team Historian of the Green Bay Packers in February 2004. The former Green Bay Press-Gazette reporter and Packers public relations director, Remmel will write regular columns for as part of his new assignment.

In addition to those articles, Remmel will answer fan questions in a monthly Q&A column. To submit a question to Remmel, click here.*


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