Packer fans celebrate

Chicago Bears fans Cheryle Richter and Randy Klema (left) each had to wear Packers gear after Sunday’s NFC Championship game after losing their bets. The two were part of a large crowd of mostly Packers fans at Murray’s Irish Pub & Grill in Menominee. EagleHerald/Mike Desotell

MENOMINEE - The stage is set for Super Bowl XLV. The Green Bay Packers will face the Pittsburgh Steelers Feb. 6 in Dallas. The Packers beat the division rival Chicago Bears 21-14 Sunday. Making the victory even sweeter was winning the George Halas trophy at Soldier Field.

Fans not at the game either watched from the comfort of their living room, at a friend's house or at their favorite social gathering spot. One of the hot spots in Menominee was Murray's Irish Pub & Grille on 1st Street.

Owner Tim Murray is the grandson of Richard P. "Jab" Murray, one of the original Green Bay Packers who played alongside Curly Lambeau between 1921 and 1924. The elder Murray was a standout football player for Marinette High School before going on to play college ball at Marquette and then with the Packers.

"A lot of people forget that and it gets brought to my attention now and then," said Murray. "I usually have to tell people the whole history about how I decided to name this bar and how the sign became green and gold. I've got the little tint of color around the side to get the old jersey in and I've got the present colors."

This will be the fifth trip to a Super Bowl for the team from Titletown. The Packers won the first two Super Bowls after the 1966, 1967 seasons. They won Super Bowl XXXI against the New England Patriots but lost to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXXII.

Helping make Sunday's battle between the historic rivals live up to the hype, Murray's offered free bratwursts and drink specials to fans of both teams. Some fans were even brazen enough to smuggle in Bears decorations.

"They brought their paraphernalia in before I got here and hung it up in the building," said Murray. "I put a 'free' sign on the Urlacher jersey." There were no takers.

Bears fan Randy Klema was sitting at a table surrounded by fans dressed in green and gold. "I've been a Chicago fan since 1980 and I migrated into the U.P. and took Chicago with me," he said. "Of course my friends are all Green Bay fans."

The Packers were up at halftime and to pay off a bet Klema had to wear a pink Packers sweatshirt. He hemmed and hawed a little but being a man of his word, he slipped the opposing outerwear over his own. "I always represent Chicago but I guess Green Bay has the best of me right now."

Cheryle Richter of Marinette is also a transplant from the Chicago area. She sat at the bar next to her friend, Tim Erickson of Amberg, a Packers fan of 48 years. When asked why she hadn't done much cheering during the first half she replied, "Because I was eating my salad and it's rude to talk with your mouth full."

Erickson said the two drove in separate vehicles because of their intense fan difference. The reason the two were even watching the game together was simple to explain for Richter, "He lost a bet."

The game could have gone either way in the second half as the Bears started to chalk up points. But in the end it was the Packers who earned the right to go to the Super Bowl. "Everybody deserves a lucky break," said Richter. "More power to them, let them live their moment."

Klema still had two more bets to pay off. He was physically stripped of all his Bears gear and had to wear another Packers sweatshirt. But the biggest blow came when he grabbed his No. 54 Brian Urlacher jersey from behind the bar and headed out the side door.

There he kneeled down and attempted to incinerate his pride and joy. A couple Packers fans rushed out and stopped him, telling him he didn't have to do it. Tears of joy could be seen running down his face.

Back in the bar, Mike Nesbitt was playing disc jockey cranking out tunes like, "We are the Champions," "Another One Bites the Dust," and "The Night Chicago Died." Packers fans were still giving high-fives and toasting a trip to Dallas long after the game was over.

Owner Tim Murray promised to host a Super Bowl party even bigger and better than the one on Sunday. He said he'd probably have to open the ballroom on the second floor.