JP Presser: Jarrett Payton’s letter to the head coach of the team from Wisconsin

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Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton leaps over a pileup of Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers during a season opener in Soldier Field on September 2, 1979. The Bears won the game 6-3, before a sellout crowd of more than 58,000. Payton had 36 carries for a total of 125 yards. (Ernie Cox Jr. / Chicago Tribune)

Dear Mike McCarthy,

Just to let you know, we heard you loud and clear down here in Chicago. Before we kick off the NFL season on Sunday though, let’s assess the situation. The Bears and your team from Wisconsin have the longest standing rivalry in the NFL. Also, it is the foundation that the league was built on with Halas and Lombardi. The first meeting was back on November 27, 1921 and the Bears beat your team from Wisconsin 20-0. Over the years the battles that have taken place have become bedtime stories that have either laid me down to sleep peacefully or, as of late, given me nightmares.

I was born December 26, 1980, and when I was old enough to understand what the rivalry meant to my great city, I had a better understanding of my father. He was always focused leading up to game day, but it was just a little different when it was against your team from Wisconsin. He was more focused and dialed in on the task at hand.

Back in 1986, I came home from school after overhearing kids at school calling your team from Wisconsin a bunch of names that I wasn’t able to say at the time. All the way home on the bus I couldn’t wait to tell my dad some of the things I had learned at school that day. So, I ran into the house looking for my father. I found him in his office getting off of a conference call. The first thing he asked me was, “What did you learn to at school?”

I proceeded to tell him about my day then at the end of our conversation I said, “The team from Wisconsin sucks!” My dad looked at me like it was the fourth quarter, his team down by a touchdown and he was taking the field with his headband on and his Jheri curls perfect.

He said, “Son, we don’t say that word.  No matter how much you dislike your opponent, you always show them respect.” Now, Mr. McCarthy, that statement came from a guy that is the best player to have ever played and will ever play within the rivalry from either team.

Back in 1985, before the Bears and your team from Wisconsin played at Lambeau, the guys in yellow and green placed horse manure in the Bears locker room. Mark Lee was ejected after he pushed my dad over a bench in the first quarter. A few minutes later, Ken Stills was flagged for leveling Matt Suhey, long after the whistle. Even with all that he told me to respect the team I’d grown to dislike.

Sometimes we say things that we don’t really mean and sometimes we say things in the heat of the moment. I do believe that you meant what you said, but the only beef I have is that you said it publicly. As a former athlete, I understand that there are things said which are meant just for the locker room.

This year the Chicago faithful have come to the understanding that we are rebuilding, and it’s going to take time to get back to the Monsters of the Midway. Don’t worry sir, we will be back on top of the NFC North. Anything worth having always takes some time.

The one thing that I need to thank you for, Mr. McCarthy, is the bulletin board material for our beloved Bears locker room. You see, your team from Wisconsin has expectations to do great things this season and with that comes pressure. This season the Bears do not have many expectations and the great thing is if we beat your team from Wisconsin this Sunday, it will be in some small part thanks to you. What better building block than defeating your division rival to start the season. The odds may be small, and you probably don’t want to think about it… I understand. #BearDown

See you soon,
Jarrett Walter Payton

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