the Bears lost in December again

I just watched the Bears lose in stupendous fashion to their rival Green Bay on my little computer here. their eighth loss to the Packers in their last nine attempts. and their loss was terrible and awesome.

they went up early. and then they went down fast. and then they were hopelessly incompetent on offense in the second half, but they played some solid D and stayed in the game. and then, ultimately, they lost, in a flurry of offensive pass interference penalties and last-gasp hail marys. and it was legit.

keep on heading through the woods, man

keep on heading through the woods, man

a big chunk of America watches football, but something tells me that you aren’t especially a fan. I think this is a good thing; I’m telling you, staying away from this bullshit will save you a lot of grief.

use my rooting experience as an example: I’m a Chicago Bears fan. there’s a lot of us out there; the Bears are considered one of the more successful, storied franchises in professional football. but there’s a reason for that: the franchise is just so damn old. the Bears have been around about as long as my grandmother has been alive. and they are much more-oft discussed. and that’s some bullshit, too, I think. because I happen to think my grandmother is very interesting.

during the Bears’ 90 years of existence (they started out as the Decatur Staleys, a company team at an Illinois food starch plant) they’ve had some stirring victories, and plenty of thudding defeats. but it would happen that I’m only about 30 years old, and for most of that time they’ve been a steady average. and the Bears are, over the span of the last few decades, essentially an eight-and-eight team; one that always seems to to lose to the Packers.

and you know, but I swear to God, I almost prefer it this way. is that warped? to say that? it feels a little bit to typing it out. what kind of goddamn fan says such a thing: “I like it when my favorite team loses.” how … masochistic.

but hear me out! the Bears are not an all-encompassing thing for me. I don’t get tied up in the player- and coach-competency debates too often. I don’t blow money on jerseys. and I don’t go to games. but! but when I’m reading the sports page, I check their score first. and I know the names of almost all of the starters, and half of their backups. for they are the team I’m halfway interested in. and that makes me a fan. and so I got a stake.

let me bring you back to Cracker Barrel

I have memories of the Bears. I’ve got memories of all sorts of stupid shit; for this is the world I was borne into, where formative moments are tied to brand names. and as this is the hand I was dealt, so be it: I’m probably 16 years old. it’s November. it’s cold as a mug outside and it’s 1:30 in the afternoon. we have come from church to Cracker Barrel. we are celebrating an elderly relative’s birthday. we are in Hobart, Indiana.

the tables at Cracker Barrel are strewn freely with the peg-triangle game. (do you know this game? if you’ve ever been to Cracker Barrel, then probably, yes you do.)

my little sister Mar and I are are taking turns to steal way from the table, out to the minivan where we listen to the Bears game on the radio. the Bears are in the middle of a decade of Suck — they’re starting Cade McNown or Moses Moreno or some other no-name asshole at quarterback — but if you’re a Chicago fan you’ve long ago agreed to live and die with whatever middle-aged, journeyman stranger they stagger onto the field come Sunday afternoon.

so you’re gonna cringe and be embarassed by this terrible quarterback; because he will struggle, give it his all, and the Bears will lose. and we will all be bummed, and find ourselves listen to sports radio and feeling, strangely, a part of some larger community that is watching the Bears. it’s not football we’re watching, mind you, but the Bears.

so anyway: Mar and I keep tagging in and out of lunch, right? because Chicago is playing the Packers and that son of a bitch Brett Favre, and Mar and I, we just gotta know the score. so we keep jumping up, coming back, lingering in the driver’s seat of the minivan in the parking lot and looking down an embankment to where I-65 rushes past.

and it nears the half. Mar probably ordered a BLT or a grilled cheese for lunch and Cracker Barrel probably served it on a goddamn skillet, but she’s been out in the van with the radio. and her food’s getting cold! I tell mom, who can smell my bullshit and is beginning to notice our staggered absences. but don’t worry, mom. I’ll go get her. so she can eat her lunch, you see.

and so I do. and just into the parking lot, I meet Mar on her way back in. we’re up! she says. we’re up ten points at the half!

oh Jesus! we say. we jump into one another’s arms and then we jump for joy. and it’s some awkward shit, hugging in a Cracker Barrel parking lot on a Sunday afternoon in November. but right now we’re up, and Green Bay can eat it. and still, the Bears manage to lose the lead and subsequently the game in the second half. but this afternoon our Cracker Barrel meals never taste better. and I will have two glasses of iced tea.

Local H plays ‘hey Rita”

I don’t remember the score that day, but I honestly don’t give a shit. honest. because whether the Bears won or lost (and oh, they lost. they always lost.), I remember Cracker Barrel, and my sister, and November and the interstate highway. and while that moment hasn’t been a substitute for a championship, I like it nonetheless.

but we can’t all have these moments! they are fleeting. you’ve got to look for them. so if you are football unaffiliated, maybe don’t get involved in this time-waster.

and so, if you decide to shrug off my advice (feel free) and get involved in sports fandom anyway, then this is what it can offer you: some background noise to your life.

tonight the Bears lost at home in December, giving up the division lead and conceding the season sweep to their historic rival. and after that I left my apartment, met some friends and saw old standard Local H play at a club across town. and they were good, so good, and my ears are ringing. and in four days I’m going back to Indiana for the holidays. and I am taking the train! and it’s gonna take all night. and, shit: for this moment, maybe everything is just as it should be. and I’m looking forward to this train ride, honestly.