Talked to my Dad tonight-the guy that in 1979 got me started on my Bears addiction as an eight year old, and he said “you know what, I think the Bears are going to win Sunday.” Doesn’t sound very poignant, unless you know the story.
When I was eight, my Dad took me to my first two Bears games. My very first game was a loss, to Tampa, and the second was the rousing 42-6 defeat of the Cardinals in the finale that got the Bears into the playoffs. Which I watched the Bears lose in the opening round the following weekend at Philadelphia, thanks to the referee blowing an illegal motion call against Brian Baschnagel.
Between the games and my Dad taking the time to tell me stories about what he had watched at Wrigley Field in the 1960′s: the ’63 Championship, Brian Piccolo, Sayers and Butkus, Abe Gibron, I was hooked. (All the things I enjoy teaching people about these days). By 1981, he got season tickets while the Bears were horrific, and we endured watching a poor team every game from 1980-1984. By 1985, my Dad was the biggest Mike Ditka fan that has ever lived, and we rejoiced seeing our team win Super Bowl 20 after so many years of losing.
I have a great father that’s just not the hugging type. But I told myself when we won Super Bowl 20, we were going to hug and celebrate the triumph after so many years of losing. And it was a special moment.
As I grew up in the late 1980′s, I still went to practically every game with my Dad. And he was the biggest Bears fan in Plainfield, IL. As I grew up, he began ceding his seat to my friends more often than not, even making sure I was able to take 2-4 friends to playoff games in ’87 and ’88.
Sharing the Bears with my father went on a very long hiatus in January of 1993. Everything that stood for what was right in Bear nation was taken from him on January 5, 1993, when the reviled Mike McCaskey fired Ditka. It was a very sad end to a great era for my father, and he vowed to give up on the Bears forever. Actually, I’m very lucky I was able to inherit his season tickets in 1999, because he was very close to pulling a Bob Swerski and telling the McCaskey’s to shove it. Although I did end up with the seats, literally my father paid very little attention to the Bears for the ensuing 16 years. And I was bummed that this caused me to miss out on living and dying with the Bears with my father for a very long time. But it’s what he had to do.
My Dad did eventually come back to Soldier Field once with me in 1998, to see the short reign of Moses Moreno. Then again for the second game after the new stadium opened in 2003, so he could check it out. Once again in 2005, and finally in 2006, the year after his heart attack. That’s probably the last time he’ll go to Soldier Field, it’s just too difficult for him anymore.
But over the last month, literally for the first time since 1992, do I dare sense a little of the old Bears passion rekindling in my father? Prior to the Viking game, which I really didn’t know if the Bears were capable of winning, he told me “the Bears will win this game, but I don’t know about the Eagles game.” He was right, then prior to the Eagles game, he called me while I was tailgating and again said “they’re going to win today.” And I’ll be damned if he wasn’t right again.
So my Dad, well traveled in Bears history, tells me tonight that the Bears will beat the Patriots Sunday. I’m with you Dad. And by the way, I know you care again.