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When it comes to sports, I'm a lover, not a hater. I love my teams with a passion that is constantly on display. When my Chicago Bears lost Super Bowl XLI to the Indianapolis Colts, I sat in the stands at Dolphin Stadium, soaking wet from hours of non-stop rain, crying as I watched Peyton Manning and Co. kiss the Lombardi Trophy under a waterfall of confetti. I've shed tears of joy as well, most recently while riding one of the buses in the Chicago Blackhawks' Stanley Cup championship parade, waving and crying with happiness at the million or so people waving back.
I'm not the only person to live and die by my squads, but unlike many sports fans, I don't spend an equal amount of energy hating my teams' rivals. On any given night, I might despise the opposition -- say, the Golden State Warriors team that beat my Chicago Bulls on Saturday night -- but once that game is over, it's on to the next one. There is no opposing team powerful enough to engender hatred from me, no team that deserves that kind of energy or emotion. There are a few guys I'm not too fond of -- the Vancouver Canucks' Alexandre Burrows earned my disdain for his weak-sauce fighting tactics (hair-pulling in a hockey game?), Tiger Woods' rampant philandering didn't earn him any points in my book and Michael Vick's inhumane treatment of defenseless animals means I'll never root for him again -- but I know that one player does not a team make.
So while it may be hard for haters to accept, I offer a hearty and genuine congratulations to the Green Bay Packers on their Super Bowl XLV victory. Aaron Rodgers is a supremely likable guy who stood in the shadow of one of the game's greats and then quickly proved to be great himself, when given the chance. Tough as it is to admit, this whole darn Packers team is likable (even Clay Matthews, despite that terrible stringy 'do). I'm supposed to hate them, to bash them, to wish for them to fail, and yet I found myself feeling nothing but respect for their unlikely Super Bowl run. They may not have been the best NFL team this season, but they were the better team on the field in every game that mattered. They overcame injuries to major players all season -- and then again on Sunday night when veterans Donald Driver and Charles Woodson were knocked out -- making their depth and resilience the biggest story of the season.
While some may not understand it, congratulating Green Bay on its win doesn't make me any less of a Bears fan. Hating another team doesn't make my love for my team any stronger. Fans who fight or throw stuff at supporters of the visiting team or hate others simply because they wear the "wrong" colors give sports a bad name. When it comes down to it, your geographic location is usually (but not always) the greatest indicator of your loyalties, and the truth is, if I were born near Green Bay, Wis., I'd most likely be a Packers fan and I might even enjoy wearing a stupid foam cheesehead on my dome. So congrats to my neighbors up north. Let's just hope the NFL lockout doesn't suspend football, lengthening the term on the Packers fans' bragging rights. I don't think I can handle more than a year of "defending Super Bowl champion" trash talk.