Before Marty and I married, he confessed that, although he only earned a minimal salary driving cabs (while going to law school at night), he splurged on Chicago Bears season tickets. I was/am a sports fan and therefore I was delighted to join him in his upper-deck “nosebleed” seats. When our children were school age they clamored to be with us. Using Bear fan “reasoning” we rationalized that our games could be ideal family outings. We agreed to take them out of Sunday school 15 minutes early in order to arrive by kickoff. We thoroughly enjoyed this arrangement. Marty and I attended the games together for over 40 years.
Traveling to Wrigley Field, where the Bears used to play, was always a challenge. Marty used his cab-driving skills to maneuver through Chicago streets and game-day traffic. My dear Marty could not resist less traveled roads — which meant we often found ourselves going in the wrong direction!
Parking near Wrigley Field was also always difficult. Local residents sold spots any and everywhere they could, including on their front lawns. One Sunday, we paid for an ideal spot in a homeowner’s driveway close to the stadium. After the game, we were greeted by an angry homeowner and a hefty police-issued ticket on our car. It seems someone posed as the homeowner and sold us this driveway spot that was not his!
My brother and sister-in-law attended some games with us. She liked celery salt on her hot dog, and although we teased about her stuffing a jar of celery salt in her purse, we became aficionados of the condiment. And, of course, respectful of Chicago’s dining standards, we made sure all hot dogs were safe from ketchup! (An aside: What is it about outside game-watching that elevates the lowly, unhealthy hot dog to the status of delicacy?!)
It’s no secret that many folks bet on games, my family included. Our “high stakes” wager was always the same: loser pays for hot dogs, next game! On cold days, the guys toted blankets, and I filled the thermoses with warming broth and hot cocoa. Marty brought giant plastic bags to sit inside, keeping us dry in inclement weather. Every game, my sweet Marty gave me a big yellow mum corsage, festooned with orange and blue ribbons, that read “Go Bears!”
The Bears won or were in close contention most of those games. They were the team to beat, and over which opponents were proud to prevail. Sadly, they haven’t had a winning record in recent years.
Early on, when the team lost a game, we’d be furious at the poor performance of players and the coaches. That was especially true when they played the Green Bay Packers, their most fervent, long-standing rival. But I do not remember a game where the Bears were as thoroughly trounced as this recent Home Opener. Although they failed in every category — offense, defense, and even home field advantage was of no avail — I felt no anger at the team, only empathy.
At my tender age, I no longer attend games. I’m a less enthusiastic fan, and I’m more concerned about possible injuries to players. I’ve given up believing I’m a better coach than the Bears’ coach. An armchair-sitting, TV sports-watching fan, my coaching career is now “sidelined.” These days I have a different view of games and players. My reaction to that opening-day loss was not that of an angry, fault-finding fan. Rather, I was grandma, feeling sorry for the dejected players who’d take responsibility and lots of bashing for their poor showing. Many of my views about football, other sports, and life in general, have changed over the years. I’ve gained what I feel is a measured and a more reasonable perspective that informs my actions and thoughts, and I’m appreciative for that. Let’s hear it for maturity frequently teaching us to think before we react.
Note: A personal, full-circle moment: My little daughter who’d watch the games with us years ago, never thought she’d be out on the football field itself. Lo and behold, that’s where she will be during halftime in October with the Voices of Hope Community Chorus, voicesofhopecc.org.