Janesville49.4°

Visitors to Chicago treated well, for now

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Michael Hunt
January 21, 2011
— Considering the gratuitous shots I had taken at Chicago in Monday’s column, I wasn’t sure what to expect Thursday morning when cautiously approaching the first tollbooth that granted passage into the belly of the beast.

Turned back at the border like Checkpoint Charlie for Cheesers because they had copies of the story above the till?


Maybe the Sonny Corleone treatment?


How was I going to explain a million bullet holes to the rental company, especially after waiving the insurance rider?


“A buck fifty,” the attendant cheerfully said while even providing an attitude-free receipt.


Hmmmm…….


Well, things were surely going to be different at the end of 1000 Football Drive, where a guardhouse was posted to keep undesirables like myself out of Halas Hall.


“Welcome,” the man said after examining a fistful of Wisconsin-issued IDs. “Park right over there.”


Had to be a trap. Be alert for hostiles at two o’clock, just beyond the Walter Payton Center.


When none presented themselves to savagely debate Bears-Packers for the NFC championship, big, bad Brian Urlacher made his way to the podium in the George “Mugs” Halas Auditorium, which probably doesn’t look like a surgery-observation room in a medical college by coincidence.


Surely, Urlacher would have something provocative to say about Aaron Rodgers’ oblique mention that “Brian is probably my favorite player to play against just because I enjoy the seconds between snaps. He’s a very funny guy on the field.”


Funny, like how?


Urlacher neither snorted nor slandered, but he did draw a laugh from his zillion-mph cadence. “It’s because he’s had a lot of success against me, probably,” the linebacker said.


Self-deprecation? Before this game?


How about you, Charles Tillman? You must have something to say about the nature of this primordial rivalry a handful of hours away from the Super Bowl eliminator, right? You’ve had to breathe in some of the Packer-directed animosity wafting up from the city, right?


“No, I haven’t been in the bars and restaurants,” the Bears cornerback said. “I’ve been at home with my kids doing the daddy thing.”


So has he ever met a Packer he didn’t like?


“Uh, no,” Tillman said.


And on top of that, Tillman seemed—other than nearly causing an in-house scene by using a certain colloquialism to describe the condition of the Soldier Field turf—like a really nice guy.


“It’s a lot more the media hyping it up more than it is,” Tillman said of Bears-Packers. “It’s just another game, another rivalry.”


Huh?


Look, no NFL player who has made it this far is going to say something really stupid when they’re close enough to smell Cattleman’s Steak House just outside Fort Worth, but this is a situation worthy of a veiled jab or two, isn’t it?


“There’s a tremendous amount of respect,” tight end Greg Olsen said. “We hold their game in a high regard.


“I think our fans might have a little more hatred. That’s what makes it fun. We realize that, and we appreciate that. It puts a little something extra into it with the NFL championship being on the line. We know Soldier Field will be rocking. It might even go up a level, if you can believe that.”


Also believe it when the Packers always make a distinction between the nastiness that accompanies the Vikings rivalry and the respect/professionalism that characterizes their games against the Bears.


“There’s not a lot of trash talking,” defensive Ryan Pickett said in the Green Bay locker room the day before. “These are two teams with guys of high character. But the game is definitely going to be played through to the whistle.”


Out in the Halas parking lot, somebody noticed the America’s Dairyland tag and said, “Have a nice trip back.”



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