Bears fans

Chicago Bears fans from left, front to back, are Phil and Tim Nemeth, Tony Nemeth, and Steve Troeger pictured at Sign-A-Rama Friday. (Tribune Photo/MARCUS MARTER)

Big game. NFC Championship. Bears-Packers. Historic. Tough ticket. The epitome of pro football. Don't even think about selling.

Well ...

Chicago Bears fans who live in Michiana don't bat an eye at hitting the Toll Road early Sunday morning for 90 minutes; paying a hefty price to pull into a Soldier Field parking lot; breaking out the Hibachi to cook up some treats, before finally heading into the stadium. There's the three-hour game played in all sorts of weather; then, the 90-minute drive home.

All for the love of the game.

Every person is supposed to have his price. But three Bears season ticket holders from Michiana aren't about to put their allegiance on sale.Reports suggest tickets for Sunday's showdown between the bitter NFC North rivals could be sold for anywhere between $500 and $1,000, quite a bit over face value of about $160.

Roy Chalko of South Bend might be a bit more pragmatic than South Bend's Andrea Tafelski and Tim Nemeth of Granger, but the message is the same.

Chalko was on the waiting list for season tickets for 10 years. Fifteen years ago, he finally got the call, and he's bought them every year since. Besides the annual cost of the tickets, he also paid the one-time $5,000 PSL fee, guaranteeing him ownership of the two seats in the northwest corner of the north end zone, about 12 rows up from the field.He's not about to mess that up.

Chalko's what might be called a warm-weather fan. August, September and October, no problem. Once it gets into November, December and, (brrrrrr) January, he's content to stay home and let family and friends attend.

"If I sell my tickets to a stranger, and that stranger does something stupid, it's my ticket that's going to be taken away," said Chalko.

That's why his son, Chris, a physical therapist in the Chicago area, was able to take a friend to last week's win over Seattle. That's why his daughter, Katherine, a student at Purdue, will take a friend to Sunday's game against the Packers."I'm probably the oddball of the group (of season ticket holders)," Chalko said. "It's great to be there high-fivin' the people behind you; you're there in the minute. But there's also something to be said for watching the game on your TV in front of the fireplace with a glass of wine in your hand and a pizza in front of you."

Don't tell that to Tafelski. She and her husband, Scott, have had four season tickets for 20 years. Family connections kinda helped the process along.

Scott's grandfather was friends with Ed McCaskey, Bears' founder George Halas' son-in-law, and a high roller in the Bears organization. A couple decades ago, when they first applied for season tickets, Andrea said they were "Number 6,000-blah, blah, blah" on the waiting list. By some miracle (or family connection), a few months later, they had their tickets.


Now, the Tafelskis have four in the south end zone. They plan on taking Lawrence Minor of South Bend, a staunch Green Bay fan, with them to Sunday's game.Is there a difference between watching the game in the stadium and on TV?

"Oh, oh, my goodness," Andrea said, who was in Miami with Scott for the Bears' last Super Bowl appearance in 2007. "I married into a football fan family. Maybe I don't appreciate going to games as much as I should. But, it's great."

Sorry. No sale.

Nemeth and his son Tony were there in the Miami rain four years ago, watching a promising start -- a Devin Hester return of the opening kickoff for a touchdown -- mudslide into a Colts victory.

If the Bears beat the Packers Sunday, Nemeth's not sure he'll be entered into the Super Bowl lottery, like the last time. About 11 percent of the season ticket holders who purchase playoff tickets are selected in the Super Bowl lottery. Problem is, Nemeth hasn't officially bought playoff tickets this time.As is customary, Nemeth sent in his money to cover the cost of all the playoff tickets six weeks ago. However, the Bears never received the payment. Last week, the Bears admitted their mistake. He found out Thursday he had tickets for the Seahawks game. Rather than being in the northeast end zone, below the Jumbotron, where he normally sits, the Bears upgraded Nemeth to 12 rows up from the field near the Bears' bench.

"Players look bigger from there," Nemeth said. "The game looks a lot different."

He found out Wednesday he'll be at Soldier Field again Sunday.

After all he had to go through, Nemeth wouldn't even consider selling the tickets he finally got for Sunday's game -- no matter the profit.

"It's the excitement of the experience," Nemeth said. "It starts early in the week when the menu for the (pre-game) tailgate is being planned. You're making great friends in the parking lot with people you'll never see again. There's no substitute for being there."Temptation to sell isn't even a factor. Game's on.

Staff writer Al Lesar: