A predominantly German-American population made early Forest Park seem like a slice of Wisconsin that had slipped below the border. Football-wise, there’s still a Cheesehead influence in town.
Brad Olson, for example, flies a Packers flag and displays an inflatable Packer on his lawn. “As a kid playing football in Forest Park, everyone wanted to be a Bear but I wanted to be a Packer. I didn’t get many kids to join my team.” Brad can thank his parents for the green and gold in his veins. They were Wisconsin natives who owned Richard’s Tavern.
Brad has watched many games at Lambeau Field. In fact, he was on the 14-yard line, on November 5, 1989, when QB Don Majkowski threw his infamous winning touchdown pass against the Bears. The refs flagged Majkowski for being over the line of scrimmage but newfangled instant replay reversed the call. Brad may be a loyalist but he’s certain Majkowski crossed the line.
Brad was also an eyewitness to the darkest moment in Bears-Packers history. Sitting in Soldier Field in 1986 with his Packer jersey on, he saw Charles Martin body slam Bears QB Jim McMahon waaaay after the whistle had blown. Bear fans pelted Brad, until his friends were able to cover up his hated colors.
It was lonely being a Packer fan in Forest Park but Brad had a partner in Dennis Moran. They used to take a motor home to Green Bay and tailgate with steaks from Richard’s. They were also early supporters of St. Bernardine’s Game Day celebrations of Bears v. Packers games.
Now Brad’s son, Spencer, is feeling what it’s like to root for the team from the north. As Spencer serves in Afghanistan, his Facebook page receives a lot of ribbing from Forest Park friends.
Speaking of ribbing, Dennis Moran converted to Packerism forty years ago. He was hunting in Spooner, Wisconsin, when a family invited him to Thanksgiving dinner. While they watched the Packers, Dennis endured insulting remarks about the Bears. Taking the path of least resistance, Dennis immediately switched football faiths.
Football fans of both denominations gathered for St. Bernardine’s 22nd Annual Game Day on January 2nd. They enjoyed hot appetizers and a halftime meal, donated by Forest Park eateries. The school secretary, Della, said the gatherings have a nice community feeling and raise money for the school’s athletic programs.
I plan to attend Game Day next season but I was home for the big game. It was Sunday, so I was reading a prayer sent to me by a Bears fan. “And lead us not into fourth and long but deliver us from Rodgers.” Alas, the prayers of Bears fans were not answered. But I couldn’t help being thankful that the Green Bay Packers brought happiness to one of our own in Afghanistan.
John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.