"Lovie Smith’s return to Texas bittersweet"
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Smith’s return to Texas bittersweet By Jimmy Carter firstname.lastname@example.org | Posted: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 4:00 am
ARLINGTON — Chicago’s “Let’s Go Bears” chant was alive and well at Cowboys Stadium on Monday night.
While Dallas fans headed for the exits late in the fourth quarter of Chicago’s 34-18 win, around 20,000 Bears fans started the chant and quickly filled the away stadium with arguably the loudest cheer of the night. The effort visibly surprised several Chicago players on the visitor’s sideline.
Loud as it was, the chant was missing one voice.
Shelly Smith, younger sister of Bears coach Lovie Smith, spent the summer anticipating being in attendance for her brother’s first game in Texas since 2010. The 52-year-old Big Sandy native died in Tyler on Aug. 31, though, losing her battle with pancreatic cancer shortly before the season began.
More than 40 of Smith’s family members and friends, mostly from East Texas, were in the stands Monday, but the ninth-year Bears coach couldn’t help but think about the family member who wasn’t present.
“It’s tough because we’re such a tight-knit family,” said Smith, who was born and raised in Big Sandy. “My sister was the biggest Chicago Bear fan that you can imagine. She was looking forward so much to coming down here to this game. That’s why it was special for the rest of the family to be here.”
Smith was able to find some solace in the Bears’ dominating performance in a win that improved the team to 3-1 this season, a record tied for first in the NFC North.
They earned the victory in front of a crowd littered with Chicago orange, including family and friends of five native Texans on the Bears roster. Smith’s number of guests didn’t compare to the more than 75 tickets offensive linemen Roberto Garza needed for guests from his hometown of Rio Hondo.
“There are a lot of Chicago Bears fans here because we have a lot of guys from this state,” Smith said. “There’s nothing like hearing the ‘Let’s Go Bears’ chant early and throughout the game. It’s outstanding. The Chicago Bears colors were all around.”
With the win, Smith improved to 2-1 in his home state against the team he followed as a kid in the 1970s.
“It’s special anytime you come home,” Smith said. “I grew up a diehard Dallas Cowboys fan. Two of my all-time favorite players are Roger Staubach and Bob Hayes. Grew up knowing every player on the Dallas Cowboys team.”
Chicago’s win on Monday Night Football was Smith’s second big accomplishment in his home state this year. In February, he joined Staubach and Hayes as a member in the Texas Sports Hall of Fame.
While Smith’s success in the NFL, including leading the Bears to an appearance in Super Bowl XLI, was the main reason for his hall of fame induction, he hasn’t forgotten where he started.
“I’m the head coach of the Chicago Bears based on being able to play high school football in the state of Texas,” Smith said. “It’s hard to put into words when you get recognized by your home state. I know what type of football is being played down here.
“For me, just to go down to the hall of fame and see all the special guys that have come through here and to be in that group is something else.”
Smith earned his 74th win as an NFL head coach on Monday night. It was a victory the Bears’ biggest fan would have been proud of.
“It’s special anytime you come home … It’s always good to come back and get a win anywhere, but especially here,” Smith said.