Being a fan is a serious commitment in Chicago. Being a fan usually means suffering. Championships are few and far between. The Blackhawks’ triumph this past spring was their first Stanley Cup in 49 years. The 2005 White Sox won their first World Series in 88 years. The less said about the Cubs’ epic futility, the better. Even the Bulls’ glory years are a dozen years in the past and receding fast. Someday, mystified young-uns will refuse to believe the Bulls were capable of winning six NBA championships in a single decade. Heck, I still can’t believe it. This is Chicago after all.
The Bears have won two NFL championships in my 58-year lifetime, and in these parts, that’s a fair return on a fan’s emotional investment. I’m sure Cubs stalwarts would settle for a World Series trophy every 30 years or so. Contrary to conventional Chicago orthodoxy, that’s not too much to ask of a professional sports franchise.
Though I never bonded with the Bears (I grew up rooting for the Chicago Cardinals), I turned on the TV a week ago Monday to watch the end of the Bears-Packers game, which, you’ll recall, ended rather well (as opposed to Sunday night’s debacle). Just because I’m not a die-hard fan doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy their triumphs, and this one was delightful.
Not because of what was happening on the field. What stood out for me was happening in the stands. When Robbie Gould kicked the game-winning field goal, the entire crowd struck up the Bears’ fight song, and for once the announcers shut up and let the cameras pan and the microphones tell the story.
Bear down, Chicago Bears, make every play, clear the way to victory.
Bear down, Chicago Bears, put up a fight with a might so fearlessly.
We’ll never forget the way you thrilled the nation
With your T-formation.
Bear down, Chicago Bears, and let them know why you’re wearing the crown.
You’re the pride and joy of Illinois.
Chicago Bears, bear down.
Catchy tune — and when was the last time you felt joy about being from Illinois? I don’t know if this happens all the time at Soldier Field, but it was the first time I’ve heard the song so clearly over the airwaves.
Since the mid-1960s, the Packers have often had the upper hand on the field, but the Bears still have the best fight song in the NFL — by far. Consider what passes for lyrics to “Go! You Packers, Go!”
Hail, hail the gang’s all here to yell for you,
And keep you going in your winning ways.
Hail, hail the gang’s all here to tell you too,
That win or lose, we’ll always sing your praises, Packers.
Go, you Packers, go and get ’em.
Go, you fighting fools, upset ’em.
Smash their line with all your might.
A touchdown, Packers, fight, fight, fight!
On, you Green and Gold, to glory.
Win this game, the same old story.
“Bring the bacon home to Old Green Bay” vs. “The pride and joy of Illinois”?
There’s just no contest.
The Bears’ fight song harkens back to a time when they were the class of the National Football League. It was written in 1941 by Al Hoffman, who also composed the immortal “If I Knew You Were Coming, I’d Have Baked a Cake.”
“T-formation” refers to a backfield innovation introduced by Papa Bear George Halas, which resulted in the “crown” earned the previous season after the Bears demolished the Washington Redskins 73-0 in the NFL championship game.
My dad, an avid Bears fan, told me the Redskins scored first in that game, but the touchdown was nullified by a penalty. Afterward, a sportswriter asked one of the Redskins’ stars if the game would have turned out differently without the penalty.
“You’re darned right it would,” the player deadpanned. “The final score would have been 73-7.”
The Bears may not be the “Monsters of the Midway” any more, but that didn’t matter a week ago Monday as the Soldier Field chorus gave full throat to a lovely moment of innocent, channeled, unalloyed joy on a gorgeous night in Chicago. Here were Cubs fans and Sox fans, who spend all summer, raucous and roaring and hating one another’s guts (and teams), united in loyalty and exalted in victory — in tune and in harmony.
The city could use more moments like this.