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Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Car dealer makes bet on Bears-Packers

By Brendan Murphy
ESPNChicago.com

When the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers kick off on Christmas Day, Ron Matula, the general manager of Sawicki Motors in Rochelle, Ill., will be watching with much more at stake than civic pride.

Matula, a life-long Chicago fan, has made a bet, of sorts, with a few of his customers. If the Bears shut out the Packers, Sawicki Motors will rebate the purchase price of any car bought at the dealership between Dec. 16-23.

As news of the promotion has spread, the typically stagnant car sales season that precedes the holidays has been atypically busy at the dealership.

"We've been getting phone calls from all over the country," Matula said. "A lot of people [have been] joking around with us. Just general questions about how it works. The word 'free,' it can spiral out of control. It's actually a rebate."

Sales have increased during the promotion, but not at an astronomical rate. Matula estimates that the dealership has moved around 10 cars since the deal began.

"Versus last year, I would say we're up a couple units," Matula said. "The main thing that we have is a huge increase in phone traffic."

Matula said the dealership has insured the promotion up to $1 million in sales. He's also aware that the odds are long.

"Anything is possible," Matula said. "It was more of an idea for a promotion to try to drum up some traffic, and the rest is history so far."

The reeling Bears are in the midst of four-game losing streak, and will head into Green Bay, home of the 13-1 defending Super Bowl champions, as 13-point underdogs. The over-under is 45 points. Furthermore, the Bears haven't shut out a road opponent since November 2010 -- a 16-0 win in Miami.

The bad blood of this historic rivalry has made headlines in the automotive industry fairly recently. In February, an Oak Lawn, Ill., dealership generated publicity when salesman John Stone was fired by his Bears-fan boss for wearing a Packers tie to work before the teams faced off in the NFC Championship game.

If the Bears do pull off the near-miracle and shut out the Packers, Matula won't feel a twinge of regret.

"I'd be elated for all my customers as the manager of the promotion," Matula said. "That's kind of what was rolling around in the back of my head when we did this whole thing. ... Not only is my team going to make the playoffs, potentially, but also there'd be a bunch of happy people."

It's fair to assume Sawicki Motors' insurance agent won't be sharing in the joy.

Brendan Murphy is a staff editor for ESPNChicago.com.