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Bears fans await Packers

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McClatchy Tribune
January 17, 2011
— As Bears fans filed out of Soldier Field on Sunday, they immediately began reaching for superlatives, breathlessly trying to describe the significance of the team’s next game.

“It’s going to be the biggest game here in 50 years,” said Mike Panfil, 37, Des Plaines, Ill.


“It’s going to be the biggest game in the city of Chicago, arguably ever,” said Ron Lange, 39, of Chicago.


“It’s going to be one of the biggest games ever, even bigger than the Super Bowl, maybe,” said Rich Rios, 45, from Chicago.


The game they were referring to was the game they had been dreaming of: the Bears against the Green Bay Packers next Sunday at Soldier Field, with the winner going to the Super Bowl.


The possibility of such a game had been on the tips of fans’ tongues all day. But first, the Bears had to beat the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday in an NFC divisional playoff game, which they did by a score of 35-24.


The Bears won before a sellout crowd who braved sub-freezing temperatures and snow flurries to watch one of the team’s better displays this season—at least for three quarters.


They came prepared for the elements, cheering beneath blankets, behind scarves and inside hoodies.


As the Bears got off to an early lead, fans hugged and offered each other high-fives. After quarterback Jay Cutler found tight end Greg Olsen for a 58-yard touchdown in the first quarter, Dave Cernugel, 35, of Chicago, and his brother, Jim, sang the Bears fight song at the top of their lungs.


As Bears fans described the upcoming matchup with their rival, it was as if nothing else mattered, not even the game being played Feb. 6 in Dallas for the Vince Lombardi Trophy.


“The Super Bowl is right here next week,” said Ted Sorensen, 56, of Glen Ellyn, Ill.


Nolan Soper was 7 years old the last time the Bears played in the NFC Championship. Nolan, now 11, of Romeoville, Ill., said this championship game would be even bigger. To play against the Bears’ main rival, with the winner going to the Super Bowl, was “destiny.”


“Nobody likes the Packers, if you’re a Bears fan,” Nolan said. “It’s going to be epic.”



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