By Gregg Hoffmann Special to Published Sep 16, 2004 at 5:17 AM

{image1}The Bears come to Lambeau Field Sunday and make perfect home opener foes for several reasons.

First, of course, is the traditional rivalry between the two teams. This one goes back to the early days of the NFL, and even if one team is dominant over the other in any given season it still means something.

Second, the Bears should be beatable. They dropped a 20-16 decision Sunday to the Lions, who broke a 24-game road losing streak with the win.

The Bears have a new coach, Lovie Smith. If Packers' fans can't have some fun with that name, they should have another shot or two of brandy.

Rex Grossman also is starting at quarterback for the Bears. In their seemingly endless quest to find an eventual replacement for Brett Favre, the Packers bandied Grossman's name around a couple years ago. But, nothing ever developed.

Grossman is a talented young player, but is still learning the ropes of being a QB in the big time. He threw an interception in the end zone with 18 seconds left last Sunday to kill any chances for a come-from-behind win for Chicago.

So, the Packers undoubtedly will put as much pressure as they can on him, and do some ball hawking in the secondary.

Combine all these factors with the way the Packers played in their season opener Monday night, and it looks like the Pack faithful could have a good time Sunday.

Defensive coordinator Bob Slowik's blitzing defense stymied the Panthers' offense in the opener. Once the Packers had Carolina's offense under control, they just rammed the ball down the Panthers' throats with Ahman Green behind a superb effort by the offensive line.

Brian Urlacher and the rest of the Bears defense will be looking to hold down Green, but even if you are able to do that it can open things up for Favre. He passed just enough Monday night to keep the defense honest.

River Challenge

One of the great sports events in Milwaukee for the last four years has been the River Challenge, a crew race down the Milwaukee River. This year's event is Saturday.

Chris Ahrens and Beau Hoopman, two Wisconsin rowers who won gold medals in Athens, are expected to row for a U.S. National Team. Teams from UW, Marquette and other universities will join the Milwaukee Rowing Club and others in the competition.

The races run from near St. Paul Avenue on the south to a turnaround at Humboldt Avenue. There are several good viewing points along the river. An open house and main activity area is at Pere Marquette Park.

History at Miller Park

You'd like to see the Brewers be the ones who make history in their home ballpark, but we'll take Barry Bonds' quest for the 700 Club as a substitute. Bonds did not get the homer Tuesday night, but was scheduled to play in Wednesday's game. See an update at the end of this column on Thursday to see if he hit 700 then.

Bonds has never been a favorite of the media. His accomplishments also have been tainted somewhat by reports of steroid use.

But, enhanced or not, Bonds should go down as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, hitters of all time. He is having a remarkable season this year. He has a good shot at surpassing Hank Aaron's career homer record.

Almost as remarkable as his homers are his walks. Bonds has received more intentional walks than any team in baseball. Managers continue to walk him, even though results show it is not a great strategy.

For example, the Brewers walked Bonds twice Tuesday night - once intentionally - and the Giants scored both times after the walks. The Giants are hitting almost .400 after Bonds is walked for the season.

Hot Tix

The Packers game starts at noon on Sunday. Remember to look for coverage in On The Pack on OMC Monday.

The River Challenge races begin at 11 a.m. Saturday. Competition will be held in both open and masters 8s and 4s for both men and women.

There are other events going on around Milwaukee and the state. The Brewers wrap up their series with Bonds and the Giants with a 1:05 p.m. game Thursday at Miller Park.

The Brewers go to Houston for the weekend before coming home to wrap up the home season next week with four games against the Cardinals and a weekend series against former manager Phil Garner and the Astros.

The Badgers travel to Arizona for a 3 p.m. game Saturday. Fox Sports Net will telecast the game.

In small college football, Wisconsin Lutheran will debut its new Warrior Field with a game against Concordia at 1 p.m. Saturday. Most state college teams are still playing non-conference schedules. Perhaps the most interesting, from a state perspective, is Lakeland at Whitewater at 6 p.m. Saturday.

A couple other collegiate sports worth noting: Marquette women's soccer team hosts UW-Green Bay at 7 p.m. Friday, and several teams will compete in the Midwest Collegiate Open cross country meet Saturday on the UW-Parkside course in Kenosha.

Gregg Hoffmann Special to
Gregg Hoffmann is a veteran journalist, author and publisher of Midwest Diamond Report and Old School Collectibles Web sites. Hoffmann, a retired senior lecturer in journalism at UWM, writes The State Sports Buzz and Beyond Milwaukee on a monthly basis for OMC.