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Packer fans bear Bear fans

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
January 23, 2011
— Kory Kovacevich usually doesn’t answer his phone during Bear games.

“When the Bears start getting beat, those Packers fans will start calling me,” he said.


Of course, when the Bears are kicking butt, he hears nothing.


Kory is a Bear fan living in Packer country.


He’s not alone: They are crawling out of hibernation for today’s showdown between the Packers and Bears—the first time the teams have met in the playoffs in 70 years.


To what affliction can we attribute this affiliation?


Misplaced loyalty? A deep-down contrariness? An aversion to the color green?


How do such aberrations happen?


Raising a Bear

Steven Ziegler’s parents—his father was born in the Chicago area—raised him as a Bear and Cub fan in Packer and Brewer territory. Steve has threatened to report them for child abuse.


Steve’s the kind of Bear fan who insists he was just sad, not clinically depressed, when Walter Payton died.


Still, the Packers’ strong showing in recent years has not been a bitter pill. For Kryptonite Kollectibles, it’s pay dirt.


Steve is the shipping\e-commerce manager of Kryptonite Kollectibles. The business thrives when either team is winning. During the holiday season, the retail store in the Janesville Mall extends the lease if either the Bears or the Packers make the playoffs.


This last week, with a Bears cap on his own head, Steve shipped hundreds of cheeseheads around the world.


“This is a perfect situation,” he said. “It’s guaranteed that one of them is going to the Super Bowl.”


He described Sunday’s game as the Midwest’s Super Bowl.


Steve said he expects the mostly good-natured ribbing that Bear fans here get.


“I’m not a cocky Bear fan,” he said. “Right now, I know more cocky Packer fans than I do Bear fans.”


On Facebook, everybody is ripping on the Bears, he said.


“ ‘Woo woo, we’re going to the Super Bowl through your stadium’ ” is the sentiment, he said.


Steve is a “realistic” fan and doesn’t have good feelings about today’s game. Aaron Rodgers has been nearly perfect, and the Packers have been in playoff mode since Dec. 26. The weather and field conditions, though, could hamper the Packers’ emerging running game. He just hopes for a good, exciting game.


If the Bears lose, Steve will root for the Packers because they are in the Bears’ division.


Meanwhile, he offers no apologies for instilling his love for the Bears in his young daughter.


“It’s being ingrained in her,” he said.


A soft heart

Chris Bandemer of Janesville switched her allegiance from the Packers to the Bears in the mid-1990s.


“The Bears get so much grief, I more or less felt sorry for them,” she said. “I said, ‘You know what? I’m going to be one of their fans.’


“I just turned,” she said. “The more they played, the more I loved them.”


Chris gets teased a lot, but it’s all good-natured.


“ ‘The bears still suck’ … ya, ya, ya,” she said with a sigh. “We all Bear fans get crap.”


During the regular season, she takes it one game at a time. Heading into the playoffs, her stress level rises.


“I want the Bears to win really, really bad,” she said.


Chris’ boyfriend is a Packer fan. As of mid-week, she didn’t know where they would watch the game.


“We might have to go somewhere so we’re not home fighting,” she said.


Superbowl shuffle

How did it come to be that Kacy Jacobson, 31, is a Bear fan, even though he was born to a family that lives on the right side of the border?


“I hate the color green,” he said.


When pressed, Kacy ticked off the 1985 roster, when his team had such legends as Jim McMahon, Walter Payton and William “The Refrigerator” Perry.


Kacy lives in Janesville and works at Burtness Chevrolet in Orfordville. He plans to watch the game with his family.


“They give me a rough time, and I give them a rough time—back and forth,” he said.


Despite his Bear preference, he’ll root for the Packers if they win because he could never root for an AFC team.


Bears in Packers territory

Matt Stried’s standard answer to the standard question?


“I’m closer to Soldier Field than Lambeau Field,” he said.


Matt said he gets into some good Facebook battles.


His three young sons already are ardent cubs.


“I let them make their own choices,” he said, but then acknowledged: “Maybe it was the Bear gear we’ve given them over the years.”


He did allow that his 1-year-old might still be undecided.


In all fairness, Matt’s parents grew up in Illinois. His dad, Ed, a well-known Craig High School teacher, is also a Bears fan, although he’s low-key about it.


Matt’s been fairly quiet about his allegiance, too.


“Maybe because the Bears haven’t been good for a while,” he said. “I’m coming out of my shell a little bit.”


Bear on his sleeve

Kory Kovacevich is an “in-your-face” fan when it comes to his team. He wears his loyalty on his sleeve and a Bear tattoo on his shoulder.


You might recognize Kovacevich. He’s the one wearing the Bears cap behind the meat counter at Woodman’s Food Market.


“Especially this week, I’ve been getting a lot of crap,” he said. “I enjoy that.”


Kory names his pets after Bears: Butkus and Ditka, Rex and Cutler. In a Eurkea moment, he named his female Boston terrier “Sweetness.”


Three of his kids are Payton, Kade and Trace.


His wife, Tana, used to be a Packer fan.


“I think it took about a year-and-a-half to convert her,” Kory said. “She saw my intensity and how much fun it is to be a Bears fan.”


Or maybe it was brainwashing, he acknowledged.


Kory is fast-talking and colorful, and he likes to razz Packers fans. But it’s all in good fun, he said.


“We’re getting a little crap from these Packer fans,” he said. “Ninety-five percent of my friends, they’re Packer fans. I don’t hold it against them. You got to remember, it’s still a game.”


Kory didn’t come by his fandom through Illinois roots. His dad—called “Papa Bear” by his grandchildren—was born in northern Wisconsin.


So, No. 1 fan, who’s going to win today?


“Let’s not be silly,” he said.


Still, the Bears will have to earn it, he said.


“I don’t think either team will have their way with the other,” Kory said. “If the Packers beat us, I’m going to be humble about it.”


Kory knows he won’t sleep if his team loses.


He’ll likely be at home for this particular game.


“It could probably be tenser than normal,” Kory said.


“I’ve had some Bear/Packer parties, but never on a game like this.


“I would not want annoying Packer fans around.”


Twins and a house divided

Nature or nurture?


A psychologist could do a research project on the Bobzien family.


It’s not unusual for family members to have split team loyalties.


But for twins to root for different teams?


Perhaps it is because they are fraternal rather than identical.


In the Bobzien family, Dad Dave is a Packer fan. Mom Therese is a Bear fan, along with an older son, Matt. Dave and Therese own Stokes Pub.


As for the 12-year-old twins, Clayton is a Packer fan, and Michael is a Bear fan.


A persuasive grandpa, uncle and older brother may have influenced Michael’s choice.


“I was never a Packer fan,” Michael declared. “I want to make that very clear.”


Clayton is the Packer. He said he figured his dad needed some support.


Possibly, the twins are on opposing sidelines because, as twins, they wanted to distinguish themselves, Mom said.


The boys’ room is a stadium divided—half in blue and orange and the other half in green and gold, including team comforters and lockers. A family friend, Mike Mills, painted the football field and baseball diamond because the boys split on baseball, as well.


The boys, who as tikes turned on ESPN rather than cartoons, don their jerseys and watch every game played by their respective teams. Today’s will be one of the few they will watch together.


Therese said she will play it low-key. She is dreading the showdown because she knows one of her boys will be on the losing side. Still, in her heart, she wants the Bears to win.


Dad figures it will get intense, and someone will end up upset.


“But it all ends up friendly about an hour after the game,” Dave said.



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