Posted by spmack on January 19, 2011 at 01:42:47:
Former Bears voice Wayne Larrivee back — for Packers
He's glad to be in visitor's booth, but he still has great things to say about Chicago
Phil Rosenthal Media
January 19, 2011
Some will say the Chicago Bears' biggest loss to the Green Bay Packers over the course of their long rivalry might not be the 37-3 defeat at Lambeau Field in 2007, the 40-3 drubbing in 1994 or 49-0 rout in 1962. They point to 1998.
That's when Wayne Larrivee, whose lean and clean radio calls are part of the 1985 Bears' Super Bowl season soundtrack, closed out a stellar 14-season run here to become the voice of the Packers.
Still in his prime, he left for the team he rooted for growing up in Massachusetts, the team whose games he now has announced for a dozen seasons, and the team for whose fans in Wisconsin and beyond he'll be calling Sunday's NFC championship game against the Bears at Soldier Field.
That was a loss.
"It was an unusual career move, but for me it was the best move I could make," Larrivee, 54, said Tuesday. "When I'm walking through Lambeau Field on a Sunday for a Packers game, there's just no other place I'd rather be broadcasting in the NFL.
"I never would have left the Bears for anything else, including a network TV job. I loved Chicago. That was 14 of the best years of my life. There are great, great people down there. … But I came to Green Bay because how often do you get to cover on a regular basis the team you grew up following as a kid? That experience has been everything I thought it would be."
Sunday's game will be big, Larrivee knows, the biggest ever between the Packers and Bears, whose only previous post-season meeting was the week after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, long before television made the National Football League and everything connected with it what they are today.
That's why the ticket prices are skyrocketing even as temperatures plummet. That's why the giddy execs at Fox are licking their lips.
It may be destined to exist in the shadow of the "Super Bowl Shuffle" Bears and the Packers' 1967 "Ice Bowl" title victory over Dallas, which was frozen in time, along with everything else, thanks in part to subzero weather. But those eclipse almost everything in football and all of sports.
"It's hard to imagine something bigger than the 'Ice Bowl,' but this is right up there with it," Larrivee said. "Depending on what kind of game we get and who wins, it could be remembered as fondly as the 'Ice Bowl' is.
"Now, in the pantheon of great sports events in Chicago … I don't know, but I do know Chicago is united behind one team and that is the Chicago Bears. So in that respect, maybe this is bigger than anything else except for the Super Bowl run of the '85 Bears."
That was Larrivee's first season in Chicago, having come to town from Kansas City to join Dick Butkus and Jim Hart on Chicago Tribune parent Tribune Co.'s WGN-AM 720. For all the swagger of Mike Ditka and Buddy Ryan's team, what Larrivee remembers is just how anxious Chicago fans were when they reached the playoffs. The city had gone a generation without a major sports championship, and it's not as though it hadn't gotten tantalizingly close.
"People were talking about the '69 Cubs and how the Bulls used to run into someone every year in the playoffs and not make it," Larrivee recalled. "There was great apprehension because no one could believe the Bears were going to get this done.
"So when the snow started coming down, and Wilber Marshall picked up that fumble in the Rams (NFC championship) game and started running toward the south end zone, there was an exhale from Chicago like nothing I've ever heard or felt in my life. Finally, the Bears were Super Bowl-bound."
In the Packers, he has a team of the same iconic standing as the Bears, or the Cubs (whose games he occasionally announced while here), or the Michael Jordan-era Bulls (for which he did play-by-play on Tribune Co.'s WGN-Ch. 9).
Such are the emotional bonds to the Packers that when Larrivee elected to go to Green Bay, he called it a spiritual decision. He is not alone in feeling that strongly. Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Anthony Shadid, a Middle East correspondent for The New York Times, has spoken of running up huge satellite-phone bills to follow critical Packers' games. Other far-flung fans are mostly content to buy DirecTV packages and pay for special content from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel to satisfy their addiction.
Given the antipathy for the Packers in Chicago, however, it is testimony to how well-liked and respected Larrivee remains in this city that he kept his Bulls TV job for a decade after he left the Bears. A Sun-Times survey in March found him to be the former Chicago sports broadcaster that readers most wanted back, racking up double the percentage of runner-up Jim Durham, the great former Bulls announcer.
And even though he's happy to be in the visitor's radio booth at Soldier Field on Sunday, he still has affection for the city.
"It was a tremendous experience doing the Bears in Chicago," Larrivee said. "You talk about passionate people and fans. It's the same thing here. I've got to tell you, I haven't done much in my career, but I have done Bears games and Packers games. That is, to me, the epitaph for my entire career. That is amazing."
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