Judge Dan Mancini bleeds blue and orange.
Our reviews of NFL Greatest Rivalries: Cowboys Defeat Redskins (published October 2nd, 2010), NFL Greatest Rivalries: Packers Defeat Bears (published October 28th, 2010), and NFL Greatest Rivalries: Redskins Defeat Cowboys (published October 28th, 2010) are also available.
"You can feel the energy here and it goes with the great tradition. Lovie Smith said no special speech needed for a match-up like this on opening Sunday, but he did show his team a specially edited video of the history of this great rivalry—the most recent history, even Brett Favre admits, dominated by the Bears."—Chris Myers, Fox Sports Broadcaster, September 10, 2006
Sports rivalries are a dime a dozen, but really great sports rivalries are rarer than one might think. They require teams that are evenly matched (or close to it) and have the same stubborn resolve to win, yet employ contrasting styles of play. Perhaps most important, the teams must have equally impassioned fan bases. As far as I'm concerned (and, granted, I say this as a die-hard Bears fan), there is no greater NFL rivalry than that between the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers. I realize that many would make the case for the Cowboys-Redskins rivalry being the greatest in the league, but the Bears and Packers have been at each other's throats for nearly twice as long, the deep-seated dislike between the teams originating in 1921, a mere year after the NFL was born. No other NFL rivals have faced off as many times as the Bears and Packers (180 at the time of this writing). No other NFL rivals are as passionate about beating each other to a pulp (in the past, both teams have relished the opportunity to dash the other's playoff chances, even when they themselves had been mathematically eliminated from a playoff berth). Part of what makes the Bears-Packers rivalry so potent is how similar the teams are. Both are classic Midwestern clubs—vicious, hard-hitters known for playing in open air stadiums in all manner of inclement weather. Both made their names under the leadership of two of the greatest coaches the NFL has ever seen—the Bears under George Halas, and Green Bay under Vince Lombardi (two grizzled old coots the likes of which the NFL will never see again). Yet the two teams are also opposite numbers to a certain extent. If the Packers are known for their offensive prowess under the leadership of a line of great quarterbacks that includes Arnie Herber, Bart Starr, and Brett Favre, then the Bears are known for crushing defensive units that have included the talents of Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary, and Brian Urlacher.
For both the Bears and the Packers (and their fans), there are no more meaningful games each season than the two they play against each other. The Bears can suffer a painful-to-watch sub-.500 season, but if their handful of wins includes two humiliating defeats of the Packers, that's enough succor to keep me going until the next season. As a Bears fan, any Packers loss carries a measure of satisfaction—even if it's not to the Bears. A Packers fan would say the same thing about a Bears loss. It is that intensity of emotion to which NFL Films and the NFL Network is pandering with NFL Greatest Rivalries: Bears Defeat Packers, a three-disc set featuring a trio of memorable games, unexpurgated, from this greatest of NFL rivalries. (Fear not, Packers fans, NFL Greatest Rivalries: Packers Defeat Bears is out there to cater to your tastes, too, however depraved and wrong-headed they may be.)
Disc One (11/7/99, 14-13)
Disc Two (9/10/06, 26-0)
Disc Three (12/22/08, 20-17)
Honestly, NFL Greatest Rivalries: Bears Defeat Packers is one weird DVD release. Each game is presented in its entirety (sans commercial breaks and between-play banter), but there's zero context provided by John Facenda-style voice-over narration or even snippets from the pre-game coverage—and, let's face it, context is everything in sports, the source of most of the drama. The first two games are derived from Fox's coverage, while the third is from ESPN's Monday Night Football broadcast. As far as DVD presentation goes, NFL Greatest Rivalries: Bears Defeat Packers is about as low-rent as it gets. Each of the three discs has a fairly static menu that presents the date, location, and final score of the game, a slideshow of stills from the game, and options to jump to the beginning of each quarter (the 2008 game also lets you go straight to overtime). Each game is presented in full frame (which is a drag for the 2006 and 2008 games, which were both broadcast in high definition). Image quality for the 1999 game is surprisingly rough. Colors are decent, but detail is lousy, especially in long and aerial shots which are hazy at best. The entire presentation looks very much like an old videotape. The transfer for the 2006 game is considerably better, though nothing to write home about. The 2008 game delivers a crisp, clean video image that looks exactly like any standard definition broadcast you'd watch on a Sunday afternoon. Audio for all three games is presented in Dolby stereo. The mixes are in keeping with stereo broadcast quality, which is to say a step down from the 5.1 surround audio you get with high def presentations of games.
There are no extras.
NFL Greatest Rivalries: Bears Defeat Packers is pigskin porn for die-hard Bears fans. Unless you really, really enjoy watching the Bears beat the Packers, the raw unexpurgated game footage, sans any sort of context whatsoever, might make for a solid insomnia remedy, but that's about it. I am a Bears fan, yet I'm still not quite sure what to make of this release. Owning these games on DVD and watching them again and again? That way madness lies.
Screw the Packers.
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