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Bill Speare, a rabid Bobcat fan, thinks of his three years in law school at the University of Montana as his time "living in the belly of the beast."

Speare, a Billings attorney, came away from his Missoula sojourn as an even more zealous Cat fan.

"My parents and my sisters and I were all Bobcats," Speare said.

Since he played football in high school, he bears a special contempt for fans who are ignorant of the game's finer points. He talks about suffering through the "drought years," the 16 straight years without a Bobcat victory over the Grizzlies, as if it were a personal trial.

"It's easier being a Griz fan. It's less painful," said his wife, Lisa, a Billings attorney and ardent Griz fan.

When the Cats finally broke the Grizzly winning streak in the fall of 2002, he was at a game-day party in Billings.

"It was the happiest I'd ever seen my husband, and that includes our own wedding day," said Lisa, who was a Griz fan long before she went to college and law school at the University of Montana.

"I was a lot more of a Griz fan before I married him," she said.

Her law firm is "all Grizzlies." Her parents are Griz fans and her three sisters went to UM, but her two brothers graduated from Bozeman and married Bobcats.

Since her wedding, she has toned down displays of fan loyalty in deference to her husband's passion for the Cats.

While their "mixed marriage" has none of the familial drama of Romeo and Juliet, Bill has neither forgotten nor forgave the relatives who took his first-born daughter Julie to her first Griz game at the tender age of 4 or 5 and stole her heart with snow cones and the team's famously kid-pleasing mascot, Monte.

Afterward, he tried to woo her back with an expensive Bobcat cheerleading outfit, but the die was cast, the damage done.

Before the birth of their second daughter, Mary, in 2000, Lisa coached her side of the family not to even consider sending any baby-sized Griz outfits.

Mary has been raised as a Bobcat fan.

A bumper sticker in their garage reads "A House Divided" and shows a Bobcat on one side and a Grizzly on the other.

Bill likes to watch both teams play, if only to spot weaknesses in the Grizzlies' line-up.

Sometimes, they watch the Cat/Griz game on separate television sets.

While Bill claims to have mellowed over the years, he still can't bring himself to root for the Grizzlies, even in national championship games.

"I try. It's a visceral thing," he said. "It's not a conscious thing. It's a gut thing."






Contact Donna Healy at or 657-1292.