What Makes You A Bears Fan? Pt.1
by, 10-10-2009 at 08:33 PM (648 Views)
Many years ago (about 48 actually) I began to take notice of football. I was already into hockey as was every other kid my age. We all got hockey skates for Christmas and spent every day freezing our butts off at the school ice rink. Of course we never realized we were freezing because we were having too much fun. We were all sports nuts back then, mainly because there were a lot of empty lots in our relatively new neighborhood. Empty lots were perfect for sports. That year, when I was 8, I saw some bigger kids playing football in the neighborhood and I wanted to play.
I was a small kid. While most of the other boys were all at least 5 feet tall I was about 4' 6". Every time I would ask to play they would say I was too little. That really pisses a kid off to hear that kind of thing over and over. So finally one day there weren't enough "big" kids to make up 2 equal teams and one of them asked me if I still wanted to play. So I grabbed my helmet and shoulder pads and ran over to join my first game. As it turned out, because I was so much smaller than all of them I had a lot of speed and could outrun almost all of them, especially the fat kids that thought they were the best because they were the biggest. All it took was for me to score a couple times and I was invited into every game from then on. That was my entrance into the world of football.
My dad is a Bears fan that has stood by the Bears every year for at least 60 years. He would go to almost every home game at Wrigley Field and then Soldier Field regardless of the weather. On the days that the Bears were away, he would watch the games on our old black and white TV. We didn't have a color TV until I was about 15. When my dad watched football he was a maniac. He was up and down from his chair throughout the game. He would yell at the players, the refs, and the coaches, and we would hear some pretty nasty cusswords whenever there was a bad call or play. That year I turned 8 I started to watch games on TV, and I copied everything my dad did - except for the swearing of course.
As I grew older I became a much more intense Bears fan. I watched every game with all of the intensity of my dad. My brother was about 2 years older than me and he would watch the games with us too. We were without a doubt a Bears fan family. One of the best things about the games was the inevitable phone call that would happen at the end of nearly every game. Everybody on my mom's side of the family lived up around Green Bay and of course they were Packer Backers. Since we were from Chicagoland, every game would tie into the Bear Packer dynamic. The division revolved around one of these teams or the other winning and losing, and the phone calls at the end of the games depended upon which team won and if the other one lost. If the Bears won and the Packers lost, my dad would make the call to my Packer Fan uncle. "Ha ha you son of a bitch. How do you like that?!?", was pretty much how every one of my dad's calls started. When the Packers won and the Bears lost, the phone would ring immediately after the 2 games and it would be my uncle with his call, only he was a super Catholic and probably used son of a gun instead.
As I grew up watching games with my dad and hearing those phone calls every week I would wish that when I was older and married I would have a relative who was a Packer Fan just so I could be the one make the SOB phone call. Of curse I had a couple of cousins that would grow up in a Packer home, so I knew I would at least have them to call. I was always going to be too small to play football all the way through school, so I had to be the best fan I cold possibly be. Then my dad came up with the way to make us better fans.
My dad sold mens' clothes for a living. He sold suits to all of the cities bigshots and rich guys. Fortnately for my brother and I, every guy that bought a suit and some shirts, and a couple ties, also needed one other item. One of the items dad sold was Esquire Socks, and that was the secret weapon. Every winter Esquire Socks held their father and son dinner in Chicago. It was always at one of the finest hotels downtown, and every year they had at least 2 Chicago Bears stars as their guests of honor. Lucky for us, my brother and me got to go with our dad every year for about 6 years.
We got to meet who ever was the rising star on the Bears football team, and one year we got to meet a star from another team. I had my picture taken with Mike Ditka 3 years in a row! I met Ed Obradovich, Dick Butkus, Johnny Morris, Gale Sayers, and Ted Karas. I got to stand in next to Gary Ballman from the Steelers one year because we share the same first name. I really wanted to stand next to Ditka, but the name thing you know. On top of meeting these guys at the sock thing my dad took us one year to meet Johnny Unitas and he gave me and my brother autographed footballs. You talk about star struck, to a kid that's between 9 and 14, meeting guys like this was huge. My user name of MikesNephew came about because when I was younger and my friends would ask why I was i so many pictures with Mike Ditka, we'd lie and say he was our uncle. Hence, MikesNephew. By the way, the last year we went to the sock convention they changed it to Father, Son, & Daughter Night. It kind of ruined it for us boys because the girls didn't give a squirt about football.
My dad would take my brother and I to Bears games whenever someone he knew was giving up their tickets, and we had a blast seeing a game in person. My dad was part of a group that got their tickets, a bus ride, and beer and snacks on the bus as part of a package deal. A ticket broker would sell them as many seats as they wanted, needed , or could afford, but the broker "owned" the seats. It worked out pretty good because nobody had to drive home from Chicago after a game and a bunch of beer. It was about 32 miles, and it was always better to let the bus driver worry about traffic and parking anyway.
When I was 19 I got an invitation from the US Government to join them in their effort to keep America free, and I entered the US Army. When I was away from home I really missed watching the games with my family. I met other Bears fans along the way, but it just wasn't the same. When I was stationed overseas it was even worse. I was in Italy for over 3 years, and we had no TV over there. Italian TV only showed Soccer and Bicycling meets on Sundays. I was really missing football. I would have to stay up until 2 or 4 Am to listen to a game on the short wave radio, and that would make being in the Army the next morning a real drag. When I was going to get to come back to the states for a visit, I asked my dad and brother to get tickets to a Bears game so we could all go together.
It was 1974 and my dad, my brother, and I went on the bus to a Bears game. I can't remember a whole lot about it because we all 3 drank a lot more beer tham we should have. One of the cigarette companies was handing out those little sample packs with 4 or 5 cigarettes in each one, and when the girl gave my dad one he said to her, "Come on. Give me a pocket full. All your boss cares about is that you gave them away.' She gave us each about 15 packs. We laughed so hard because my dad said he wasn't going to smoke the horseshit things anyway. It was raining and drizzling and everybody was covering up with plastic sheets. My dad took out one of the free cigarettes and lit it, tossing it immediately and joking about how it tasted like horse crap. So he lit a couple more and did the same thing. When he flicked the last one in the little pack it landed on the plastic sheet of a lady about 6 rows down. It burned through the plastic, then through her scarf, and down onto her head. She jumped up screaming and thrashing at her head to put the cigarette out. She turned around looking for the person who tossed it, but we sat there stonefaced. When she turned back around we all laughed so hard I thought I would wet my pants.
It was a miserable day weatherwise, so that little cigarette distraction made the game for us. As it turned out, it got so foggy that we couldn't even see the field. It was worse than the "Fog Bowl" of 1988, which we were all at too. The fog poured into the stadium from the northeast corner and flowed down the seats like a stream. It filled the field from one end to the other and then it was impossible to see any of the game. We sat through the whole thing anyway since we couldn't leave until the bus did. As we got on the bus after the game though, we found out that everyone else had gone to the bus as soon as the field fogged up, and they were all sitting there waiting for us. We had another good laugh, and what should have been a lousy stinking day turned out to be one big laugh.
I got back to the states from Italy in August of 1976 and was once again able to watch football. My next duty station was Fort Carson, Colorado. I don't know why, but everyone expected I would turn into a Bronco fan. There is no logic in that. I don't know too many people who have moved and then gave up on their old team just because they lived near a new one. Not me anyway. I had a hell of a time watching any games though. I couldn't find a bar anywhere in town that showed the Chicago games except for Old Chicago, and it was in no way a sports bar or a Bears bar. I found a Vikings bar that tolerated me as a customer and they would turn on the Bears games whenever they didn't coincide with the Vikings games. This was in the day of the first satellite dishes that were like 8 feet around. They had to go outside to turn the thing to aim it where it would pick up the signal. At least I got to see the Bears games.0 BEAR DOWN!, 0 High Fives, 0 Like, 0 Dislikes, 0 Fap, 0 Facepalm