Families with Packers fans? Ack!
How suburban Bears fans handle enemies on home turf
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At least twice a year it gets sort of tense in the Bosma family's Lombard home.
That's when the Chicago Bears square off against their divisional foe Green Bay Packers.
This year, the stars have aligned and the fates have conspired to add an extra day of awkwardness when Bob Bosma's Bears battle his wife Lisa's Packers in the NFC Championship game Sunday.
"I like to remind her that she rooted for the Bears at the 1985 Super Bowl," Bob Bosma said. "She had a (Jim) McMahon jersey on and everything. She was even wearing a headband that he liked to wear. She claims she was stupid back then."
More than a few households in the Chicago suburbs are split along team color lines.
"It baffles me," said Palatine's Wally Kleinfeldt Sr. of his 14-year-old son Wally Jr.'s allegiance to the Packers. "It hurts me."
This border war is among sports' oldest, but only once before — 70 years ago — have the longtime rivals met in the playoffs. The significance is not lost on fans of both teams, but they are certain the outcome will not split families apart.
Patrick Ryan of Glen Ellyn has had a long-standing football feud with his father-in-law, who is a Packers fan living in Wheaton. When they all get together for Sunday's game, Ryan's wife will be wearing a T-shirt sewn together from two other shirts. The back will feature the Packers' insignia and the front will tout the Bears. But the feud lasts only as long as the game, Ryan said.
"When I was in college, my father suffered a stroke," Ryan remembers. "My father-in-law and brother-in-law had tickets to a Bears-Packers game, but they came to the hospital instead to be with us."
It's as civil as a civil war can possibly be, the families all said.
"I offered to have my sister and her family over to our house Sunday, but her husband has rituals and has to watch the game at their place," said Bears fan Amy Crihfield of Palatine. "So I said we'd bring some food over, but he said, 'I really don't want Bears fans in the house Sunday.' He told my sister he couldn't handle the gloating if the Bears win."
Crihfield's sister Beth Keen converted to Packers fandom after her marriage in 2003. The Bartlett woman used to root for the Bears and acknowledges she'll root for the Bears if they beat the Packers Sunday and move on to the Super Bowl. But Sunday, she'll be a dutiful Packers fan alongside her husband.
"My husband will root for whoever is playing against the Bears," she said.
Keen claims her conversion was voluntary and that her husband didn't pressure her.
"The reason for it is that it's really hard to know everything there is to know about a team and not be able to root for them," she said.
So one day instead of wearing the Bears' blue and orange to a family football gathering, Keen arrived in the Packers' signature yellow and green.
"It was weird. Just one day Beth started showing up wearing Packers gear," Crihfield recalls. "We grew up as Bears fans. You couldn't even talk to my mom and dad during the game, that's how important the games were when we were kids."
Lisa Bosma made the switch during a fateful drive through Green Bay one summer on the way to see her extended family farther north with her husband and two children. The Bosmas decided to stop by the famed Lambeau Field for a tour of the facilities where the Packers play their home games. The die was cast. Besides his bride, Bob Bosma lost his son and daughter to the Packers that day, too.
"It was a great trip and they treat the fans so well," Lisa Bosma recalled. "But it was Brett Favre that really turned us on to the Packers. The old Brett Favre, not the new one."
She thinks her husband carries the grudge more than she does.
"If I get cold I'll wear his Bears throw and he'll yank it off me and accuse me of putting a hex on it," she said.
Josh Bosma, Lisa and Bob's son, now goes to college in Wisconsin. He won't be able to make it home for Sunday's game.
"I don't think it breaks his heart that I'm a Packers fan," Josh said. "I think he enjoys having someone to talk trash to. I won't answer his texts until Monday if the Packers lose."
Bob Bosma said it stung at first when his son donned Packers gear. But he's gotten used to it over time.
"I've told him that he let me down and that I didn't raise him right," Bob Bosma joked. "There's a lot of trash talk that goes on. I'll miss him, but he'd better return my texts."
Wally Kleinfeldt Sr. has also given up on trying to convert his young son.
"I think it's deeper than anything therapy could do for him at this point," Kleinfeldt Sr. teased. "We used to call him Harry Contrary because he'd take the opposite position on everything. He's even a White Sox fan, even though I grew up on Addison Street in Chicago rooting for the Cubs. I don't know what I would have done if he'd started rooting for the Red Wings. At least he's a Blackhawks fan."
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