After an exciting and ultimately enjoyable weekend of football, Cheesehead Nation is faced with the specter of something truly ugly. Something known for corruption, venality and evil. Something that calls for a thorough horsewhipping and probably some disinfectant wipes.
That's right - it's an Illinois double-feature.
Badgers vs. Illini
Packers vs. Bears
It's sometimes difficult for Minnesotans to understand, especially Vikings fans who consider the Packers their fiercest, most hated rival. But it needs to be said - Wisconsinites harbor their greatest enmity for the precincts to the south. For Illinois.
You will get arguments among Badger fans about the school they hate the most. The longest, most traditional rivalry is with the University of Minnesota, but the Golden Rodents have been rebuilding for most of my lifetime and, generally, the Badgers have owned them since Barry Alvarez came to Madison. Some people hate Michigan or Ohio State the most, but everyone hates those schools, so there's nothing particularly special about the rivalries. Then there is the University of Illinois. The Illini are a schizophrenic amalgam of ag school hickishness and Chicago Alderman chicanery. No school has been caught cheating more often than the Illini. They have employed rogues like Mike White and Lou (Shingle Head) Henson. The Illini have been up and down, and mostly down, for a while, but under new coach Ron Zook they look like they are coming back. And the Badgers, now ranked #5 in the land, are going down to lovely Champaign with a huge target on their backs. For me, a non-alum but longtime follower of the Badgers, my personal opinion is that beating Illinois is hugely enjoyable. As the parody version of the Illinois fight song goes:
You're out of the race, Illinois
We spit on your face, Illinois
Feel the love. Then there's this beauty:
Q. What do you call a dead pig on a tractor?
A. The University of Illinois homecoming parade.
Ah, but the hatred gets turned up a notch the next day.
The Packers have been playing the Bears (a/k/a Team Satan) since the dawn of the National Football League. This rivalry has been filled with insult, injury and chest-thumping for over 80 years now. George Halas was a giant, no doubt about it, but his Bears have been villains since the league began. The Monsters of the Midway (a name stolen from the University of Chicago, by the way). There are many enduring images of the Bears, including a snarling Dick Butkus, the impossibly graceful Gale Sayers, the indomitable Walter Payton and the google-eyed Mike Singletary. Oh, the players. Meanwhile, we've sent the Alabama Antelope (Don Hutson), the Golden Boy (Paul Hornung), the Good Soldier (Bart Starr) and Ol' Number 4 (Brett Favre) into battle. So much fun. So much hatred. And so much history. With the Packers coming into the game 4-0 and the Bears suffering through a disappointing start, this one has the makings of a real war.
And now that the Brewers/Cubs rivalry is heating up, it could be open war in places like Kenosha and Waukegan, Beloit and South Beloit, Dickeyville and Galena. The jawing starts here!