By Paul Hines
In the sports world, rivalry games are the pinnacle of excitement.
They can create the most contentment-filled joy or cause the most soul-sapping pain.
It's the same at any level. At the high school level, Mt. Vernon-Centralia fans know what that's like along with Woodlawn-Waltonville supporters.
The world of sports is filled with regional rivalries and some that extend beyond geographical boundaries like the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots.
As a longtime fan of the Chicago Bears, we've had some classic clashes with the Green Bay Packers. Another one came just a few days ago, and the result still stings in the middle of the week.
Some people might claim fans experiencing an emotional deflation of this magnitude have their priorities mixed up, and maybe that's the case.
The emotional investment for a sports fan is a curious thing.
The Chicago Bears comprise a group of individuals who I will most likely never meet, but their success or failure can control my happiness or sadness for a certain amount of time. That period of joy or pain increases with the importance of the game.
Sunday was simply a regular season game, the final one of the year for both Bears and Packers. Yet it had the winner-takes-all bonus attached to it. The winner automatically advanced to the postseason while the loser's season ended. The last big game between the two teams occurred in the 2011 playoffs. The winner went to the Super Bowl. The loser went home. The Packers knocked off the Bears and eventually claimed the Super Bowl title.
Bears fans are quite familiar with the pain inflicted from prominent Packers quarterbacks like Brett Favre to the more obscure like Don Majkowski.
I should have seen the signs. It was nearly a Shakespearean plot twist that played out.
Current quarterback Aaron Rodgers had missed weeks and weeks with a collarbone injury suffered earlier in the season against the Bears.
Just a couple days before the big game, he announced he would be healthy enough to play. He shook off a rusty start and threw the game-winning score with just 38 seconds left in the game.
Once again, the rival Packers had stomped the life out of Chicago's season.
The game created a new rivalry chapter and fresh heartache for all the Bears fans who care a little too much about their team.
It's safe to say like any respectable Bears fan, I will be rooting for anyone but the Packers in the postseason.
Paul Hines is the sports editor at the Register-News.