Ground zero: For fans, Packers-Bears rivalry starts here
Photo at left: Dionne Brown builds Packers and Bears snowmen Wednesday in front the Country Station at the intersection of Wisconsin Highway 11 and U.S. Highway 14 in Darien Township. Brown, and her sister Cari Alberts, came up with the idea to get the attention of Illinois and Wisconsin motorists who travel through this busy intersection on weekends. Dan Plutchak/WalworthCountyToday.com.
Is Walworth County the geographical center of the Bears-Packers rivalry? Newspapers from the New York Times to the Chicago Tribune seem to think so. Those who live here, however, always have known that.
The best I can figure, the center of the Packers-Bears fans universe is most likely the intersection of Wisconsin Highway 11 and U.S. Highway 14 in Darien Township.
That's where I found Dionne Brown Wednesday morning, busy making snowmen -- one Bears, one Packers -- in front of the Country Station store that anchors the intersection.
Her sister, Cari Alberts, actually came up with the snowmen idea. They're both Packers fans, but they know this intersection is an important crossroads for fans from both teams.
Beginning mid-afternoon nearly any Friday throughout the year, the intersection sees folks from Illinois heading north to find a little Wisconsin relaxation, while Wisconsinites head in the opposite direction for some big-city excitement.
The dividing line between Bear Country and Packer Country has been the subject of intense media speculation this week as the two football teams head into Sunday's National Football Conference championship game. The winner will play Feb. 6, 2011 in Super Bowl XLV in Dallas, Tex.
There is likely no other county where conversation quickly falls into debate between Bears fans and Packers fans.
If the economists who calculate these sorts of things can come up with the number of work hours lost due to Packers-Bears arguments, we could nick a good chunk off of both states' fiscal deficits.
In the Chicago Tribune yesterday, writer John Keilman found his way to Genoa City, and declared it the heart of the Bears-Packers rivalry. STORY
By his calculation, the village is split, 50-50, in its allegiances.
"Bear and Packer fans are a lot alike," resident Nikki Schulz, 38, a Green Bay backer whose husband favors Chicago told the Trib. "They're both very supportive, and they love to stick it to the other guy."
"Packer fans don't rub it in until the end," said Rhonda Keenan, proprietor of the 332 Fellows Bar. "Bear fans rub it in all game long."
The New York Times, in a story Monday, determined Wisconsin Highway 50 as the demilitarized zone between the Packers and Bears nation.
Writer John Branch didn't stray too far I 94 on his way up to Green Bay for his story. But in a visit to Kenosha's Brat Stop bar, where Gail Khayat said, “This is bigger than the Super Bowl.” STORY
If the Highway 50 dividing line observation is true, that would split Lake Geneva about evenly into Bears and Packers camps as well.
Come to think of it, maybe that's not so far off at all.
With the hype surrounding this game, most haven't looked beyond Sunday. If you think there's lots of needling now between fans, just wait until next week.
That's when one group will be able to point out -- over and over again -- that their team is going to the Super Bowl, while the other half will have to grin and take it for a whole year.