Town divided over Bears-Packers title game

By Marc Strauss

January 19, 2011 Updated Jan 19, 2011 at 10:48 PM CDT

The trash-talk leading up to Sunday's NFC Championship game has already begun. And that doesn't even include the players.

But if you think the Bears-Packers rivalry is spirited around here you should experience it 20 miles south of the Illinois-Wisconsin border. That's where News 25's Marc Strauss spent the day.

You won't find a town more divided this week than Rockford.

Mike Phelps is a Packers fan. His neighbor, Paul Krominga, roots for the Bears.

Everyday Mike is forced to look at the giant Bears banner that Paul's hung from his porch, strategically placed so it faces Phelps' house.

"I've always wanted to hang his banner upside down," admitted Phelps. "I'm thinking that's probably the plan. I just won't let him know yet."

Mike's already turned the friendly rivalry on its head. He playfully responded by putting up a tote board on his front porch, on which he proudly displays the results of every Packer game.

He's even left spots open for two more victories. That would mean a trip to the Super Bowl.

"He's truthful though. He puts up the losses as well as the wins. He's a good neighbor," said Krominga.

The city is so divided they're even selling the local newspaper this week in separate boxes. Its sort of a competition to find out which there are more of, Packers fans or Bears fans.

"Packer fans are saying that Bears fans are going to sabotage the Packers rack," said Scott Daily, who works for the Rockford Register Star, "and Bears fans are worried that Packer fans are going to sabotage the Bears rack. Or even throw them in the river."

Daily's not exactly an impartial journalist. To counter his partisan Packers necktie co-worker Sandy Staskal has been wearing her Brian Urlacher jersey to work this week. She says its for good luck in the biggest game the two old rivals have ever played against each other.

"This is bigger than the other Bears-Packers games. Its pretty serious here at the end," said Staskal. "And we're the ones who let the Packers in in the first place (by losing to Green Bay in the last game of the regular-season), so we're not too happy about that."

We did find one safe-haven for Bears fans. The gang at CJ's Lounge on State Street is predicting a Chicago victory.

"Its as big as the Super Bowl," said Frank Giardono. "Easy."

Even though the kickoff isn't until 2 o'clock on Sunday, in Rockford, the game has already begun.