Both Merriam-Webster and Oxford dictionaries define the word “fan” as an abbreviation for “fanatic.” The definition of a fanatic is, “excessive enthusiasm and often intense uncritical devotion.” As a sports fan, it might be hard to be completely uncritical, but being devoted is a requirement.
As an avid sports fan, myself, I believe strongly in devotion – no matter the sport. Now that it’s fall, I’m thoroughly enjoying the countless opportunities I have to be entertained by football. Between Friday night high school games, Saturday college football and NFL Sunday, there really isn’t a moment during the weekend when a game isn’t on.
It recently occurred to me how much of an impact football has had on my life, ironically enough, while I was playing in a golf tournament in Jackson Hole, Wyo. The destination was incredible, Shooting Star Golf Club, and the weather was something the Chamber of Commerce could only dream of. After each day, the group would gather together to enjoy drinks, and of course, watch football. During my time with these guys made me really think about how much football has become our nation’s pastime, and mine as well. No offense to baseball, but if football hasn’t taken over that title, then Kim Jong-il really did have 18 hole-in-ones in a single round!
Being a fan of sports in general, I’m entertained by any game, but there’s truly nothing better than watching and supporting your own home team. And we all have our teams. We all know what it feels like to have that “excessive enthusiasm,” and for me, my devotion lies with the Loyola Academy Ramblers, the UCLA Bruins and, of course, the Chicago Bears.
I have amazing memories of all three teams – some of which don’t even have to do with watching the game itself. For instance, during crisp fall weekends in Chicago, my friends and I would go to watch the Ramblers, and end up chasing girls instead. I remember the feeling of warm sun on my face during Saturdays at the Rose Bowl while watching the Bruins. At those games, we did a combination of watching, chasing girls and, well, drinking beer. My fondest memories, however, are Sunday Bear games that spanned throughout most of my life.
As a native Chicagoan, I believe you’re simply born with a devotion to the Bears, just like you are with a consistent appetite for deep-dish pizza. My affinity for da Bears, however, was even more intense due to two key factors. First, the former general manager of the team lived in the house behind mine, and his son, Stump Finks, was one of my best pals. I essentially lived at the Finks’ house growing up and was even driven to games by Mr. Finks himself. Also, my dad, a fellow devoted fan, managed a radio station, which was home to the Chicago Bears. You want to talk about access? We had season tickets and a parking pass for inside Soldier Field. I was even able to attend Bears practices, and also got the chance to enjoy a day with the team at the amusement park Great America. The memory of going on a wild roller coaster with offensive linemen Revie Sorey and Noah “Buddha” Jackson is forever etched into my mind.
Even though I know how lucky I was to have all those unique experiences, nothing beats the memories I have of simply watching the games with my dad. Our love and devotion for the Bears was quite special. We were so emotionally tied to the team that a win or a loss of a Sunday game would set the tone for the week ahead. Unfortunately, our run from the mid ‘70s to mid ‘80s was pretty dismal, so we had many bad weeks, but the 1985 season made it all worth it. As a Bears fan, you’re part of a family, which means you love them unconditionally and accept the good, the bad and the ugly.
Even during those not so great years, our dedication was unwavering. Regardless of a losing streak, we would gladly sit in minus 20-degree temperatures, eating too many hot dogs and freezing our asses off just to watch the pigskin being thrown around. Even when the team went on the road, we would pull up a chair by the fire on White Oak Lane in Winnetka and eat home-cooked vittles, and we were just as happy. The high-fives, the boisterous cheers and the devastating footwork of “Slo Mo” Bob Avellini made for some of the best times of my life.
Isn’t it amazing how your home team can bring a group of people together? Whether it be your dad, a grade school buddy, a college roommate or even members of your fantasy league, there’s something about the bond of fan-hood that is like nothing else.
My loyalty has never been questioned in my new adopted home, Los Angeles, until the city of Angels decided to bring back an NFL team. But like I said before, the literal definition of “fan” includes devotion. Devotion means loyalty. Loyalty implies, no matter the circumstance, a steadfast faithfulness. While I do wish the Rams well, they will never replace my Chicago Bears, or the memories I have.