The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

The Seeker Retrospective: Bear Down, Cade McNown

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This is one of my all-time favorites on The Seeker because I had so much fun writing it–reminiscing and researching often make for a good writing experience for me.  Plus, this quickly became the most-read post in the history of the blog, and held that record for over a year, until I ranted about the cinematic turd that was Marvel’s The Avengers.  Still, this one pops up pretty frequently when I check blog stats.  I don’t know if it’s necessarily because of the quality of writing so much as I wrote “Cade McNown” in the title, hoping that anyone who Googles his name might stumble across it.  I talk later in this entry about the curse of the McNown jersey and the pains I went through to break it; I may have spoke too soon.  I wrote this because of the pending NFC championship game between Da’ Bears and the Packers, which the Bears lost.  Maybe it’s time to reconsider my devotion to the jersey.

Da’ Bears have been all the buzz in Chicago this week as they have prepared to face Green Bay for a chance to play in the Super Bowl.  Bears flags have been snapping in the Arctic air, and navy and orange have been haute couture everywhere you go.  The fervor has me thinking about my status as a Bears fan.  I feel devout, though some of my closest friends would take issue with how I express myself.  That’s because I own a Cade McNown jersey, and more often than not I wear it on game day.  It’s not something many Bears fans would admit, or even write about in their blogs, but I do.  I own a Cade McNown jersey.

Most Bears fans will roll their eyes at the mention of the mostly forgotten McNown, the Bears #1 draft pick out of UCLA in 1999.  Instead, they prefer to focus their ire on Rex Grossman, the Bears quarterback who foundered in Super Bowl XLI and the season subsequent to it.  Grossman’s ineptitude in the title game four years ago is the stuff of legends.  He completed 20 of 28 passes for 154 yards, threw two interceptions, fumbled twice, and got sacked once.  His performance rivaled those of Vince Ferragamo and Steve Grogan in their respective Super Bowls.  His numbers with the Bears over six seasons were ugly.  He completed 53% of his passes, had a touchdown-to-interception ration of 33:35, got sacked 58 times, had an average Quarterback Rating of 70.2, compiled an overall record of 19-12, and spent most of his first three seasons on injured reserve.  But if Grossman’s numbers were ugly, then McNown’s numbers were hideous.  He completed 54% of his passes, had a 16:19 touchdown-to-interception ratio, ate turf 45 times, had an anemic QB Rating of 67.7, and was a staggering 3-12 as a starter.  Furthermore, McNown got himself banned from the Playboy Mansion, was implicated in a handicapped parking scandal at UCLA, and couldn’t pay the fee at a toll booth driving out of Chicago one time.  A friend of mine once had seats behind the Bears bench, which afforded him a great view of the hissy fit McNown threw when he couldn’t find his helmet during the game.

So how in the name of “Papa Bear” Halas could Bears fans forget all that?  It was only ten years ago!  More importantly, why in the hell do I not only own, but wear, a Cade McNown jersey?

It started in late summer of 2001.  I was tailgating with my buddies Scott and Adam before a preseason game.  Just days before, McNown had been released after two pathetic seasons.  As such, we were commiserating the sorry state of Bears quarterbacks.  Never one to pass up the chance to venture an absurd proposal, I vowed that if we found a Cade McNown jersey for $10, I’d buy it and wear it at the game.  Soon enough, we walked past a souvenir stand and there it was, like a turd in a punch bowl:  A white #8 Bears jersey with “McNown” printed across the back.  The price tag read $10.  I asked the salesman if that meant he was going to pay me $10 for taking it off his hands.  He chuckled, took my sawbuck, and I slipped my new jersey on over my t-shirt.  It was but the first of dozens of times I would wear it.

Since that fateful night a decade ago, I’ve come to love my McNown jersey.  The price was definitely right, it’s proven rather durable after numerous washings and wearings, and adds an ironic seasoning to my allegiance.  Since I bought it, the Bears have compiled an 87-73 record, made the playoffs four times, and played in the Super Bowl.  Plus, it’s usually good for a laugh or an off-handed comment when I wear it in public.  I once wore it to a Milwaukee Brewers game for the sole purpose of aggravating Cheeseheads.  It worked.

But it has not all been gags and glory with my #8 rag.  For a time, the jersey held a playoff curse.  Such is the risk you assume when you twit the authority of the football gods.  I was wearing the jersey five months after I bought it when the Bears, having unexpectedly wrapped up the NFC Central with a 13-3 record, fell to the Eagles 33-19 in the divisional playoffs.  Scott, Adam, and I watched helplessly as it unfolded.  I thought it was a coincidence.  Four years later, the Bears faced the Panthers in the playoffs.  I had a rowdy group over at my apartment feasting on jambalaya and fried catfish as we watched the game, and there were a few comments about me wearing the jersey.  The Panthers mauled the Bears 29-21.

I knew it wasn’t a coincidence.  I could sense it from the way tiny hairs stood up on the back of my neck when Muhsin Muhammad dropped a pass late in the game.  As soon as the debacle was over, I practically tore the jersey off and threw it in the snow on my balcony.  It layed there in a haphazard slump for three weeks, until I was certain that any evil spirits had fled its frozen threads.

It worked.  A year later, the Bears fought their way to the Super Bowl, and I wore #8 all the way through Seattle and New Orleans.  But the Bears faced the Colts for the title, and as much as I like the boys from Halas Hall, I couldn’t deny my roots.  I was born and raised in Indiana and was a Colts fan for fifteen years before I came to the Bears, so I was obliged to wear my blue and white hoodie and back Peyton Manning.

None of what happened during the Bears futile attempt in Super Bowl XLI, though, changes the fact that the curse of the McNown jersey has been broken.  Since the exorcism, the Bears are 3-0 in the playoffs when I’ve wore it.  I have full faith in its renewed powers and how it represents my fandom.  I’ll be wearing it Sunday afternoon when the Bears face the Packers at Soldier Field.  I hope we beat the hell out of ’em.  It’s going to be World War III.

So yeah, I’m a Bears fan.  I own a Cade McNown jersey.

Written by seeker70

August 15, 2013 at 1:01 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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