The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

Back to Da’ Bears

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I used to go to Chicago Bears games with a small degree of frequency.  A decade ago,when I lived a lot closer to the city and my buddy Scott had tickets, I would make one or two a year.  They were hard to pass up.  The tix were free, along with admission to the WBBM hospitality tent before the game.  What would you do?

But life changes, people move, and the past becomes nostalgia.  I hadn’t been to a Bears game for eight or nine years until tickets fell in my lap last week.  I corralled my buddy Adam, and we made a go of it.  We’d been planning on getting together Sunday anyhow to watch my beloved Colts take on his beloved Patriots, but passing up that laugh-fest to actually go to a game was a no-brainer.

As such, I was standing on the Libertyville Metra platform at 9:05AM Sunday morning, ready to take the train downtown.  There were at least 25 other fans milling around, hoping to soothe the nervous hoping that has resulted from Jay Cutler going down with a possible season-ending injury a few weeks ago.  Before that derailment, we had built up head of steam and were chugging towards the playoffs.  According to Nick Rossie, a former college slot receiver who sits next to me in the office, the whole deal was Johnny Knox’s fault.  If he hadn’t fallen down on the play that resulted in an interception a few weeks back, Cutler wouldn’t have hurt his hand taking down the defender who had the ball.  Nick demonstrated Knox’s faulty technique last week, cutting on the carpet by our desks in his black dress shoes, his arms cocked as if in mid-stride.  He showed us the actual footwork involved, noting that Knox should have cut into his crossing pattern off his outside foot.  Knox cut off his inside foot, thus falling down and missing the pass.  An interception and return followed, and before you could say “fundamentals,” the Bears’ season was on the line.

But misery loves company, and the two dozen fans ready to hop the train took comfort in the company of others who believed that all our boys had to do to make the playoffs was win 3 very winnable games out of the 5 remaining.  One of those very winnable games would kick off in 3 hours, and many of us couldn’t help but mutter about the patheticness of the opponent, Kansas City.  Our revery was broken by the slam of a car door deep in the guts of the parking lot, followed by a voice bellowing, “Let’s go, Chiefs!”  A minute later, two guys clad in red and yellow stepped to the platform.  One toted a 12-pack of Bud Light; the other wore a babushka with the ear flaps raised.  They weren’t alone in their displays of loyalty.  I saw a few others at the end of the platform wearing the Chiefs colors, and one woman sat on the bench outside the station wearing #96 Chiefs home jersey with the name “Studebaker” on the back.  Had I been as brazen as any of them, I would have shown off what I had on beneath my sweatshirt and jacket:  My cherished #8 Cade McNown jersey.  I exposited about it last January when the Bears were in the playoffs, and that particular entry has since become the most-viewed entry in the history of The Seeker.

If nothing else, the ironic fashion stylings of fans boarding the train got me to thinking of a game Scott and I made up one Sunday morning outside the WBBM hospitality tent as we noshed brats and sipped suds.  We were remarking on the varied and often tacky attire of fans passing by, and got to thinking that you could guess where a fan was from based on what he wore to the game.  We dubbed our musings “North Side / South Side,” and the rules were pretty simple.  If someone walked past wearing leather, an authentic team jersey, all black, or were in some way “dressed up” for the game, we identified them as North Siders…  Lincoln Park, Lake View, Wrigleyville…  all that.  Carharts, hardhats, knock-off jerseys, face paint, and the like all pointed to the South Side…  Hegewisch, Calumet Heights, Washington Park, and so forth.  We didn’t draw any lines for suburbs, probably because we didn’t want to target ourselves.

The train pulled in to Union Station at 10:20.  I stepped off right behind two fans dressed as Santa Claus.

I set off to locating Adam.  We’d meet up with my friends Cora and Sandy, and then we’d be off to the game.  I tromped through the station, trying my best to staunch a lingering fear I’ve had ever since watching The Untouchables.  Someday, though, it’s all going to come down.  There will be a shootout between treasury agents and the mob, and I’ll get caught in the crossfire.  It didn’t happen Sunday, though, because I found Adam and we were out the door with the quickness.

Cultural commentary aside, “North Side / South Side” actually shows up a peculiar Chicagoism that you’ll never see at Comiskey Park or Wrigley Field.  The whole city will unite behind Da’ Bears.  People will call out down the street, strike up a conversation on a bus, or even light each other’s cigarettes if they’re both wearing navy and orange.  That’s not so with the baseball rivals.  People will fight each other for wearing blue or black and white.  It’s an odd feeling sitting next to people, or walking past them on the sidewalk, knowing that you’re all behind the same cause regardless of the divisions between neighborhoods or suburbs.  It’s almost enough to call it a “warm” feeling.  I was lost in those thoughts as we approached Soldier Field and the double-tight security that the NFL has mandated league-wide–like we need a reminder that football is a violent game, and that violence too frequently seeps into the stands; if it’s not targetted towards the other team, then it can many times go towards visiting fans.  No wonder there is a preponderance of on-site jails in NFL stadiums.  I’m not sure how common they are in baseball stadiums.  It definitely wrecks the effect, though, when you have worry about violence in the stands rather than merely on the field.

After wading through a sea of Walter Payton, Brian Urlacher, and Devin Hester jerseys, and climbing to a level higher than the luxury boxes on the other side of the field, we found our seats.  Once we sat down, I banished thoughts of catching anything that happened to find its way into the crowd, or even hearing the distinct crunch of helmets from a crushing tackle.

Section 429, Row 31, Seat 22

In the time before kickoff, a Punt, Pass, and Kick competition was played out on the field.  We had no idea that some of those passes off the arms of eleven-year old kids would be the best we saw all day.  Not to be outdone, a Pee-Wee football team took on a group of local mascots at halftime.  One of the pint-sized pigskinners grabbed a deflected pass on his team’s fifteen yard line and took it all the way to the house, thus outscoring Da’ Bears on the day.

We had no idea the game was going to be as horrible as it was.  I know that’s cliche and easy to say when you don’t have much to say, but that’s all that comes to mind–it’s freakin’ impossible to imagine a game being as god-awful as that one was.  The invasion of the Gallipoli peninsula looked better than what we saw.  The only thing that looked somewhat familiar was the signature Bears defense.  They kept Kansas City out of the endzone all day, except for a fluke Hail Mary at the end of the first half.  Anybody who follows football knows that the surest thing to do when defending against a desperate heave is to knock it down.  Da’ Bears did exactly that.  Heck, if you watch highlights, you can even Brian Urlacher stuff it like a volleyball at Montrose Beach…  right into the lucky hands of a falling Chiefs receiver.  Dumb luck.

Dumb luck was all the Chiefs needed, though, to walk away the winners, 10-3.  Let me be clear about this:  There were no offensive highlights for Da’ Bears.  The backup quarterback was sacked 8 times and threw 3 interceptions–one in the endzone that would have tied the game.  We ran for 93 yards total, a quarter of which came on one play.  If it wasn’t enough that Jay Cutler was out, Matt Forte, the second most powerful offensive weapon, suffered a sprained MCL and was out before the end of the first quarter.  He limped to sidelines with the full weight of his 1400 all-purpose yards for the season on his shoulders.  Once he was gone, the conversations around us were more interesting to follow than the offense. Basking in the warm memories of the kidney stone I passed last winter was more rewarding than watching the offense.  And to prove they aren’t total cement heads, the Chiefs kicked the ball away from Devin Hester all day.  In short, they showed up and the star quarterback was already out.  They took out the star running back, and then stifled the star kick returner.  It was an ugly game plan, but sometimes ugly is what it takes to win.

All that happened by the end was that I got to spend some time with a few friends.  I can say that’s enough and only be half-lying.  If I want to look deeper, I can remark on the peculiarity of being on the spot when Da’ Bears suffered the blow that killed both their playoff hopes and their season, for whatever that’s worth.  I guess I discovered, too, that Da’ Bears as I have come to know them have lived their best lives as chunks of nostalgia that sometimes rattle around in my mind.  It was great to go back to Soldier Field and absorb the zaps of gameday energy and relive the communal wonders of football (despite the horrid bathroom situation in the stadium), but I don’t really miss going to the games.  I can live another few years before I get the itch to go again.

Now please, God, please let someone beat the Packers.  Preferably in the Super Bowl.


Written by seeker70

December 6, 2011 at 8:49 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

3 Responses

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  1. As you know, I know nothing of football, but I think the picture of you two boys is darned cute!

    See ya Saturday, pal. Love you!

    Lauri Keagle

    December 7, 2011 at 7:30 am

  2. I was talking about the game with some people and one of them, I believe, characterized it brilliantly; “KC showed up like ‘Check this out, we are the most pathetic offensive team ever’ and Chicago was all ‘Please, get in line'”

    Adam Vollmers

    December 7, 2011 at 9:31 am

  3. As a Packers fan who likes to see the Bears fall out of the playoff race, even I was disappointed in this one. I get that they’re dealing with injuries, but you just can’t lose to the Chiefs at home when Kansas City has almost all their stars on Injured Reserve.

    I identify with the hostile environment you speak of. I went to a Packers/Bears game in December 2009 and got heckled all day for wearing my gear, and after the Packers put the finishing touches on the Bears’ season that day, a Bears fan literally kicked me. I don’t like going to games at Soldier Field, unless it’s a game in which I cheer for the Bears, and that only happens once a year: when the Vikings come into town.

    Stranger Danger

    December 13, 2011 at 6:36 pm

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