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Lions are the Bears’ real rivals

Bears linebacker Lance Briggs stands over Lions receiver CalvJohnsafter delivering hard hit second half Chicago Bears 37-13 wover Detroit Lions

Bears linebacker Lance Briggs stands over Lions receiver Calvin Johnson after delivering a hard hit in the second half of the Chicago Bears 37-13 win over the Detroit Lions Sunday November 13, 2011 at Soldier Field. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: November 20, 2012 11:12AM

This will be considered heresy in a city that involuntarily gags at anything dark green and gold, but there’s not a lot to hate about the Packers, aside from all the obnoxious success.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers doesn’t seem like such a bad dude. Coach Mike McCarthy is as controversial as porridge. The rivalry between Bears fans and Packers fans is more fun than fierce. Chicagoans own most of Wisconsin, and America’s Dairylanders know it. It’s our nuclear argument-ender.

But the Lions are a different story. They have a head coach, Jim Schwartz, who seems to want to prove he’s as macho as his players. But when you’re 6 feet tall and played football at Georgetown, it’s a tough sell. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh isn’t opposed to a dirty play now and then — and every other quarter. You might recall the scuffle between Bears nickel back D.J. Moore and Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford last season the way you might recall a riot.

The Lions probably hate Jay Cutler, but that’s not unique to Detroit.

The Bears have been downplaying any bad feelings they might hold for the Lions, their opponent Monday at Soldier Field.

‘‘That’s the way it’s supposed to be . . . when you’re playing a division opponent,’’ coach Lovie Smith said Thursday. ‘‘There shouldn’t be any love lost. You shouldn’t be sending each other Christmas cards, and we don’t.’’

Sorry, but this goes beyond a blanket dislike of divisional opponents. This is personal between two teams in particular.

Why don’t the Bears just acknowledge their hatred for the Lions, all big cats, Eminem and the Model T? What’s the harm in that? Embrace it.

We Don’t (heart) Detroit.

There, don’t you feel better? Everything’s on the table. If things get out of hand on the field Monday, the Bears just need to make sure they get fewer penalties than the Lions.

Cutler also is playing the NFC North angle, but surely he remembers Suh’s forearm to the back of his head in 2010. It looked like a football play to me at the time, but the referee, the NFL and most of Chicago disagreed.

‘‘Just because games are chippy doesn’t mean teams don’t respect each other,’’ Schwartz said Thursday.

Let’s stop playing games,
shall we?

‘‘They’re not the only guys that can get down and really get after it,’’ Bears right guard Lance
Louis said.

OK, that’s a start.

‘‘I’m getting a little hint of the . . . recent history, so I’m thrown in the fire,’’ Bears newcomer Brandon Marshall said.

Better. It suggests the Bears are being more open about their feelings toward the Lions inside the locker room. I picture a circle of chairs, angry honesty and some enthusiastic effigy-burning.

The Lions have been trying to clean up their off-field behavior, which is a big blow to the home-security industry in Michigan. But now some Lions players are making noise about reasserting their nastiness on the field, believing that their efforts to become gentler have swung the pendulum too far to the Boy Scout side.

Stafford prefers the word ‘‘passion’’ to ‘‘nastiness.’’

‘‘Bringing intensity to every game, every play, that’s the biggest thing,’’ he said. ‘‘We’re at our most successful as a team when we’re intense and playing with a ton of passion on every snap. It’s something that we need to make sure that we bring week in and week out.’’

Every time the Bears play the Packers, we media types try to fan the flames of the rivalry, but the players go along with it halfheartedly. Smith talks about the Packers being the rival, but sometimes you get the feeling he thinks it’s his job to say it. It’s either that, or Bears chairman George McCaskey can throw his voice like a ventriloquist.

This thing with the Lions is real. It has flesh and blood to it, with a 70 percent chance of more blood Monday. You can bet the men in vertical stripes will be aware of the teams’ recent history.

‘‘It’s always on the officials,’’ Cutler said. ‘‘They’ve done a good job of keeping things fair. Since the old guys have gotten back [from the lockout], they’ve done a great job of cutting things out early and often and making sure we play clean games.’’

Go Fish and Monopoly are clean games. This is football. What we have here are teams that really don’t like each other. Just say it, fellas. Why repress the obvious?

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