It was my first Bears game and I was ready.
We arrived at Soldier Field just in time to watch the sun set over the skyline. The night was cool and clear. Perfect football weather. Dressed in head-to-toe navy and orange, I had also brought along a blanket decorated like a mini football field. Thought it added a nice touch. Even though we were undisputedly in the nosebleed section, and my poor father had to take more than one break while ascending the sixty or so stairs leading to our seats, we had a gorgeous view of the city and Navy Pier. It had all the beginnings of a wonderful evening.
Moments later, we saw them heading up the same set of stairs. Two gold and purple jerseys. Two gold and green jerseys. The Viking fans made sense; they were our opponents that night. But Green Bay? Why were they here? I anxiously watched as the foursome, already on the receiving end of multiple boos and other non-PG outcries, kept climbing those stairs… and kept getting closer and closer to us.
Sure enough, they turned in at our row. I silently prayed that they wouldn’t be sitting next to my dad and me. It was grade school all over again. Nobody wants the social outcast kid to share your seat on the bus. As mean as it may be, the brutal truth is that you’re tainted by association. That’s when one of the guys clad in an Aaron Rodgers jersey plopped himself down next to my dad, put his arm around him and declared, “You and I are gonna be best pals!”
Okay, they weren’t so bad. After all, they were from the Midwest. By and large we’re all pretty nice people. We got to talking with them, and I could quickly sense that Rodgers’ charm was working its magic on my father. They wouldn’t shut up.
Know who else wouldn’t shut up? The drunken douchebags sitting five rows behind us. Fueled by liquid courage, these guys were relentless in their onslaught of verbal insults:
“What are you doing here? Are you lost, Rodgerrrrrsssss???”
“Go back to Wissssconnnnsinnnn!!!”
It was funny for about five minutes. Everyone loves to razz a rival, especially one with whom you have a storied history. Though by the third quarter, I wasn’t amused anymore. Not only were they yelling nonstop, but also they were doing a spectacular job of showing off that melodic Midwestern nasal accent. Finally I turned around and glared at them. For a moment they fell silent and blankly stared back at me; then one of them pointed to Rodgers and loudly whispered, “He sucks!” Thing is, I had to disagree. As much as I would like to pretend it’s not true, the Green Bay Packers are the current Super Bowl champions. By definition that pretty much means they don’t suck.
I actually began to feel bad for Rodgers. He was being quite the gentleman and didn’t so much as acknowledge the jerks behind us. I on the other hand kept turning around every few minutes, hoping that my icy stare might permanently silence them. It didn’t seem to be working.
I couldn’t take it anymore, and in a way, I blame the Bears. They were steamrolling the Vikings, so as the game was winding down to the fourth quarter, it was getting a tad boring. As demented as this sounds, had the game been closer, I would have been less prone to distraction. Yet all I could focus on were those morons and their incessant ranting. I wanted nothing more than to tell them to shut the hell up.
What stopped me? Okay, truth time… I didn’t want the crowd to think I was siding with a Green Bay fan. What if they thought we were friends or something? As nice as Rodgers and his pals were being to my dad and me, I couldn’t bear the idea of all those perfect strangers whom I would never see again for the rest my life thinking that I was defending a Packers fan. The horror. These were the same guys who nine months earlier had humiliated us in our own house and took away both the Halas Trophy and a shot at the Lombardi. For better or for worse, you stick by your fellow fans. Kind of like when your embarrassingly drunk friend pukes all over the ladies’ room, but you still make sure she gets home okay.
So I just sat there and silently fumed until finally the douchebag troop decided to leave early. Of course they continued with their obscenities while descending all sixty stairs, thus entertaining an entire section of fans that perhaps hadn’t been able to hear the show for the last several hours. As for my Green Bay and Viking pals, we continued to chat and laugh with them until the final seconds of the game ticked off the clock. They then graciously thanked my dad and me for being so nice to them, and we graciously thanked them for not holding us accountable for our socially stunted fans.
Perhaps there’s hope yet for a world where Bears and Cheeseheads can live together in harmony.