The Chicago Bears in 2006-07

The city of Chicago is deeply divided when it comes to sports, especially when it comes to its baseball teams. It wasn’t all this way. Back in 1906 both baseball teams played in the World Series and the city did not burn down and there were not riots. The White Sox beat the Cubs for their first World Series title and everyone seemed to show good sportsmanship and the city celebrated the fact that both teams were the best at the sport and that this hugely popular sporting event had taken place in their city. I highly doubt that this would happen were the two teams to make it into the series these days.

I don’t know when this started to happen in Chicago. Every season, for a long time, the two teams would play an exhibition game somewhere in the middle of the season. It has become known as “The Crosstown Classic.” It didn’t count and since both teams were bad and not likely to get very far it was mostly for bragging rights. Maybe the real hatred started to come out when the games actually began to count.

I stay away from the crosstown games. I have no desire to go. They are mob scenes. Looking at the barely-controlled chaos on television I am generally glad I am not crammed into either sports park trying to watch those games in person. Who knew I would long for the days when the Sox were not so good and the stadium was less crowded. Of course, even then the crosstown series was always full.

At some point, usually in the fall, the city does manage to come together. This is when both baseball teams are usually out of contention and their seasons are over. This is the time when football season starts.

When you talk about Chicago you are talking about a football town. Yes, we have great baseball traditions and basketball traditions and even a few hockey traditions but it is football that has always been the big sport in this town. I don’t know if there is just something that seems blue collar about football, despite the million dollar salaries, that appeals to the supposedly blue collar city or what.

At one time, of course, the players were blue collar. Mike Ditka was not a wealthy man when he played. Dick Butkus was certainly a blue collar guy. Butkus was a great player. He was a huge influence in my family. At one time, when you went to games you could get these blow up, balloon-type figures that had player’s numbers on it. We had a Dick Butkus one and a Chicago Bulls one in our house. There are pictures of me standing next to the balloon Dick Butkus. In fact, one of my first words was Butkus. My dad used to ask me what the name of whatever the hell Dick Butkus’ number was and I would shout “BUTKUS!” and everyone would laugh.

Even as a child football was instilled in me. Too bad throughout my childhood the Bears were so horribly bad. So, it was a continuing and constant thing in my house to back a loser. This was the status quo in my house for most of my childhood. Then the Bears had to go and win the Super Bowl in the mid-eighties and spoil this city. Then the Bulls had to go and win six championships.

It is the strangest thing in this city when it comes to Sunday afternoons. If you want to go to a mall or go grocery shopping the time to do it is Sunday afternoon. This is when the Bears are playing and this is when everything is empty. Of course, when you are out and about at this time be prepared to be out and about with a lot of football wives. Still, it’s pretty cool to ride a shopping cart down the dairy aisle and not worry about running into anybody.

When it comes to football these days I have divided loyalties and that is why football is an odd season for me. When it comes to baseball, of course, I am a diehard and love the White Sox and that is, for the most part, the end of the story. For most of my life I was a Bears fan and nothing else. Then the Bears went through a bad spot and they sucked so bad it was embarrassing to watch. I stopped caring about football all-together. Then I moved to St. Louis at the same time the Rams came to town. Before I knew it, I was rooting for the Rams and became a Rams fan. Then I dated, and eventually married (and then divorced, ladies), a woman from Indianapolis. When I was there her father would watch Colts games and I would watch with him and so I like the Colts as well. Now I am back in Chicago and I watch Bears games again. So, when it comes to football I am a Bears, Rams, Colts fan. Whew.

I do love the game. I love watching football. I just love watching how a play develops. I love watching as both sides spring into action and you can sort of see the play beginning to take shape and then the ball gets put into play and it’s all very exciting stuff. It’s great to watch. I love college football too. Since the NFL has no minor league system, essentially college football is the NFL’s minor league system. And, damn, that last Rose Bowl has to have been one of the most exciting football games I have watched at any level, anywhere, ever.

Here in Chicago it is turning towards football season again. The Sox are still in a hunt for the post-season and it looks like it will go right down to the wire. Meanwhile, the Bears are practicing and training. It’s nail-biting already. Already the lead-off stories on the nightly newscasts with tales from Bears camp.

The Bears just lost their first pre-season game as I write this. Suddenly there is a quarterback controversy when we had been told repeatedly there was not one. One of our back, Thomas Jones, got demoted at the start of the pre-season, reportedly for missing some “voluntary” practices over the summer. If they are voluntary then why do you punish a guy for not showing up, is what I have to ask. If you punish someone for not showing up to something they are supposedly free to miss then I would have to say that is pretty mandatory. Then again, I am not a Webster’s Dictionary so what do I know.

The Bears did really well last season and they have the city’s hopes very high. This is a dangerous thing. This city has always done better when no one expects a team to do anything.

So, for the sake of the city, I am going to declare the Bears as hopeless losers for this season. You can mail me my Super Bowl ring, thank you.

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