CHICAGO — It’s Bears-Packers week and even though the usual excitement over the renewal of the NFL’s oldest rivalry is tempered a bit because both teams have losing records this year, the long-standing grudge match always stokes passions and ignites memories for football fans.
There are images from Bears-Packers games that endure. Fans can probably conjure a mental image of a black-and-white photo of “Papa Bear” George Halas and Vince Lombardi dressed in snappy fedoras, shaking hands at Wrigley Field.
There’s a classic photo of Gale Sayers, the Bears’ Hall-of-Fame running back, picking up steam with Mike Ditka blocking for him.
WGN News found a snapshot of a struggle, as William “The Refrigerator” Perry got in the face of a Packers lineman during a tense game in the mid-1980s.
There are any number of pictures showing a powerful Walter Payton emerging from a pile of Packers players, and many more of Brian Urlacher facing off with Aaron Rodgers.
There’s also the lasting image of Jay Cutler, the polarizing Bears quarterback, injured on the sidelines of the 2011 NFC championship, which the Bears would lose to the Packers 21-14 on a cold day at Soldier Field.
There is another powerful picture in the album of our collective memory.
On September 21, 1969, at Lambeau Field, the great Dick Butkus appeared to stand alone – arms outstretched — defending all of Chicago from the archrival Packers.
In a recent interview with Butkus, WGN’s Mike Lowe got the Bears legend to explain more about the story behind the photo.
MIKE LOWE: “There’s that great picture of you. You look like you’re turning away the entire team.”
DICK BUTKUS: “Yeah.”
LOWE: “Can you describe what was going on in that picture?”
BUTKUS: “I was coming up the line and I guess I was near the goal line or whatever, and I don’t know, it was all stacked and it kind of looks like I’m doing everything, but I really wasn’t. I was just behind my defensive lineman.”
Obscured in the pile is the green bay running back.
BUTKUS: “I figured out who the ball carrier was, so it’s a good trivia question.”
LOWE: “Who was it?”
BUTKUS: “Well it’s a trivia question. You’re going to have to figure it out.”
WGN did some research and found that in the photo, Butkus stopped Travis Williams (a Packers running back and kick returner) on the one-yard line in the third quarter.
Green Bay won the game, 17-0, a forgettable outcome for Bears fans. But at least the game gave fans an image of Bick Butkus worth remembering for all time.