Hardcore Bandwagon

It wasn't a bet, per se.

True, the Bears won that game and true, I didn't leave the bar with any less than I entered it with. Only I had anything on the table and in reality only I had anything to lose. Still, they felt the sting of another loss, although this time it wasn't from the likes of the Steelers or the Broncos or the Chargers, just a careless fan who didn't understand why the city that works didn't have more to show for its efforts.

"They" were those most loyal and devoted of the most loyal and devoted, the Cleveland Browns fans. And I, for a moment, was but a missed field goal away from joining their ranks.


Let me backtrack for a second and explain this isn't a slight against the Bears. I grew up here and still look back at 1985 as one of the greatest years in the history of mankind.

I remember how cool Dan Hampton was. I know that no matter what anyone says, Sweetness was the best football player of all-time. I know why Singletary and Dent ruled. I know Jim McMahon was one of the greatest flukes in sports history and I know why his "Don't Be a Punk and Get Drunk" posters were so funny. I know that a George Wendt or Chris Farley "Da Bears" shirt is worth its weight in gold. I know that Ditka sweaters are the ultimate fashion statement. I know a Willie Gault jersey is about the coolest thing I could be wearing right now.

But I also know that this is Chicago. This is the city where the last governor was just sent to jail, where the president of the county board effectively stole the job from his father, and where half of the public transit system is about to be all but shut down for the next three years.

This is the city where the property tax structure has been set up in a way that it's totally legal to steal from citizens and not tell them where the money went.

This is the city where the mayor has been implicated in nearly every major political scandal and has not only managed to dodge charges but is probably going to get re-elected because would-be opponents have too much to lose by going against him.

This is the city where an Olympic bid is being assembled on the strength of a stadium that's going to throw an entire neighborhood into upheaval and a billion-dollar rail line that isn't really going to make it easier for residents to get around.

This is the city...well, you get the point. We take a lot of hell here, be it from our jobs or our commutes or our bills or the parking situation on our street or even something as basic as the damn weather. So is it asking too much for the Bears give us something to cheer about?


I'm not saying we don't get our share of victories around here. I remember the Bulls dynasty and of course I remember the 2005 Sox. Unfortunately, those aren't for everyone.

Chicago, for all its high-rises and culture and nightlife, is still one of the most segregated cities in America. Race, class, age: pick your dividing line. And of course this extends to even something as ultimately trivial as our sports teams.

Half the city hates the Cubs; the other half hates the Sox. Unless they're winning championships, the Bulls are nonexistent. Absolutely no one cares about the Hawks.

And yet, everyone - everyone who's not from somewhere else, I should say - likes the Bears. Maybe it's the old stadium. Maybe it's the archives full of footage of guys like Dick Butkus and Richard Dent destroying pretty-boy players on the field. Maybe it's the idea that Da Superfans are not a joke here but reflections of at least someone every one of us knows and loves.

Or maybe it's just the fact that despite making millions of dollars per year, these guys still have to brave the same snow and ice the rest of us do when they go to work.


I mean, come on, how does a team that plays in Foxboro, MA, and refuses to align itself with any one city establish a modern-day dynasty? How lame would it be to root for the Midwest Bears as they take on the Canadian Shield Vikings?

This is Chicago. This is a city that can find a way to make anything happen for itself, and yet unifying victory remains all too elusive. In a way, maybe that's some kind of cosmic justice: you can have a World Series, but half your city's going to resent it. You can have six NBA titles in eight years, but just watch how fast the glow of those trophies wears off the people who were so happy about it that they burned down most of the West Side.

Meanwhile, back on the mean streets of the city by the lake, the jobs and money keep rolling. God, Karma, the universe - someone or something up there has been doing a hell of a job beating the spread all these years.

Which gets back to my original deal. If the Bears lost their first playoff game this year, which I really didn't know if they would, I was going to switch my allegiance to the Cleveland Browns. Yes, the Browns are in a sad state these days. Yes, it meant a lot of suffering as a fan. So what? At least when your team goes 3-13 you know where you stand.

Which, if you think about it, is all a man can really ask for in life.

But the Bears won, and won again, and saved this boy from having to make a painful divorce from a team that defined his youth until he learned how to really be a Sox fan. Instead we, as a city, can get excited together about something for a little while.

They're going to win. Everyone in Chicago knows this.

"But Andrew," you might ask, "how can you be so sure?"

Because they have to. Because the players want it, and because they know we need it.

And because there aren't any funny shirts about the Colts.