Can Die-Hard Bears and Packers Fans Coexist?

One Chicago-Area Family Navigates the Rivalry at Home

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Can Die-Hard Bears and Packers Fans Coexist?
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Brad Marsh and son Patrick duke it out over the Bears-Packers rivalry. (Photo courtesy of Brad and Jennifer …

Chicago Bears fans are among the most vocal and passionate in the NFL, and 42-year-old Brad Marsh from Western Springs, Illinois, is one of them. Recently, Marsh talked about a lifelong love of the Bears, Walter Payton, and what it feels like having a son who is -- gasp! -- a die-hard Green Bay Packers fan. The Bears and the Packers share one of the NFL's most storied and fiercest rivalries. Brad's wife, Jennifer Marsh, 39, also shared her thoughts on living with both a Bears junkie and a Packers devotee.

Bears Fandom Runs Deep

Brad explained where his love for the Bears began: "I love the Bears' history and great players. Watching the Bears [has been] part of my life for a long time -- I grew up in Minnesota, and my dad and I always were scrambling to find ways to watch the Bears games, because this was before the days of Sunday Ticket. I remember watching the Replay Game in a bar in Wisconsin, because it was the only place we could catch the game. This was the game when Don Majkowski of the Packers clearly stepped over the line of scrimmage, but it was reviewed multiple times, and they gave the win to the Packers."

Jennifer described how deep Brad's Bears fandom runs when she talked about the couple's Sunday rituals. "Oh boy. Well, I will admit that over our 18 years together, there have been a few arguments about Sundays," she said. "If there is a Bears game, we absolutely cannot schedule anything during that time. This includes birthday parties and family vacations. If I say there is something going on for Sunday or we have to be somewhere, the first question he will ask is 'What time?' Even though we have a DVR, it doesn't matter. I have gotten him to where he will occasionally record the game and not watch it live, but [he] cannot go anywhere where he may hear the score or accidentally see the game. I will never understand that."

Like Father, Like Son?

Brad and Jennifer's 9-year-old son Patrick has already developed a strong affinity for the Packers despite his dad's efforts. Father and son often debate the merits of Walter Payton, the Bears record-breaking running back from 1975 to 1987 and one of Brad's all-time favorite players. According to Brad, "Patrick announced one day that Barry Sanders was a better running back than Walter Payton. I have no idea where he got this ridiculous idea and told him not only is it not true, but Walter Payton was one of the best overall football players of all time, forget just running back. I've been trying to find my DVD of Walter Payton highlights to show him why his claims are not even in the realm of reasonable. The whole thing makes me think we need to get the poor kid some psychological help."

"On the good side," Jennifer added, "I do love the cute little rivalry that Brad and Patrick have. It's nice to hear them talking about football and the latest information about their games. Brad has even made sure that Patrick's Packers games are recorded when they are shown in Chicago. Also, it's really sweet, because Brad talks to his dad almost every game. They either talk while it's on and kind of watch it together, or they touch base after the game. I love seeing that they have that connection over the years. And when they are together, it's pretty much nonstop Bears talk."

Bears-Packers Rivalry Lives On

These Chicago-area parents are not confident that their son will join his father and grandfather in the 4th Phase any time soon. Jennifer doesn't know where her son's Packers fanaticism came from, and she doesn't see it changing. She explained, "The kid has more Packers wear than the most die-hard Wisconsinite. He wants a cheesehead, which I have forbidden, and wants to redecorate his room in green and yellow (we are currently in negotiations). He respects Brad's love for the Bears and will watch and go to games for him, but I think he has permanently gone to the dark side. Personally, I kind of like that he is comfortable enough with himself and confident to hold his own as a Packers fan in Bears country. We have no idea how it happened, either ... Maybe it was some kind of DNA alteration when we lived in Milwaukee before he was even conceived. Something went awry. I mean, the kid was Brian Urlacher for his first Halloween!"

Brad's come to terms (mostly) with his son's love for the Bears' rival, and the two have found a way to come together over football despite their differences. Said Brad, "Patrick turns 10 in a couple of weeks. We're tolerant of his poor choices in life and hope he'll turn it around some day. He used to be a fan of both when he was younger, but the Bears haven't had as many good years in his life, so he's swung toward the Packers. At this point, there's little hope left for him, but I keep trying. I almost felt bad for him when the refs stole that Seahawks game from the Packers -- note that I said almost. We often try to settle our differences by playing Madden football. It's almost always Bears against Packers when we play. Early on he was winning more, but I'm onto his tricks, and he can't stop my defensive turnover machine now."

Meanwhile, Brad feels confident about his team this year, despite what Patrick likely has to say on the matter. Brad said, "I'd tell the current team to get out there and prove all the doubters wrong -- this team can be a championship team if they keep working on improving every week."