One of my early sports memories was an NFL playoff game in January 1995. My family had people visiting from overseas and wanted to show them American football and the dumb rituals around it. I grew up a Chicago Bears fan, and in this particular postseason, the Bears had made it to the second round where they would face the San Francisco 49ers. The Bears got their asses beat. (The 49ers would go on to win Super Bowl XXIX.) I don’t think my family and our visitors watched the entire game. My mother and sister didn’t really like sports, and my father had a habit of turning the TV off when the Bears, Bulls, or Cubs started to lose by a lot. This of course helped teach me great lessons about avoidance and giving up.
Getting your ass beat is one of the sub-rituals of being a Bears fan. They’ve made the playoffs just four times since that drubbing in San Francisco when I was seven. In 2001, they earned a first round bye and had a second round home game against the Philadelphia Eagles. I was really excited and got to go to a cooler kid’s cooler house, eat pizzas his mom made us, and watch the Bears get their asses beat. The Bears lost Super Bowl XLI when I was a sophomore in college and have since been consistently shitty.
Sports fandom is generally a waste of time and emotional capital, but being a fan of Chicago’s vaunted and founding NFL franchise has seemed an especially useless enterprise for someone like me born after their Super Bowl winning team from 1985. The best offensive Bears player in my lifetime is a guy named Jay Cutler, and any time I think about Jay Cutler, I get annoyed and angry. To be a Bears fan is to try to see the good side of all the qualities you most hate about yourself.
What’s more, the NFL is manifestly awful. It long ago eclipsed baseball as America’s game and regularly reminds everyone why America sucks so much. When a guy named Colin Kaepernick got upset in 2016 about systemic racism and state violence against black people, he sat on the bench during the national anthem. A few weeks later, after speaking with a former football player and U.S. military veteran, he decided to kneel to show respect for members of the military while he protested. In the two years since, the NFL, the United States, and our demagogue president have teamed up to show the world how dumb, ahistorical, and insanely racist our country is, all over a guy silently taking a knee for a song at a game.
Also, football kills people. And the NFL punishes its players far more harshly for marijuana use than for domestic violence. One of the best players in the NFL right now, a running back named Le’Veon Bell, refused to sign the one-year franchise tag deal offered to him because he wanted a long-term deal. Running backs have the lowest average career span of any position, and playing on a one-year deal for Bell is a big risk for his future earnings. His teammates, including the team’s fucking union rep, are all pissed off at Bell for trying to secure some money before his team and his sport destroy his knees and body.
Simply put, there’s really no defense for liking this macabre and oppressive sport.
Recently, the Bears have been especially shitty, posting a record of 19-45 the last four years. This, frankly, has been awesome for me. I haven’t lived in the Chicago area in years, so it’s been blissfully difficult to try to see live games. I waste almost no time gathering news on the Bears or NFL, which allows me to spend time with more fulfilling pursuits like reading about baseball and screaming into the abyss about Republican sycophants and enablers.
My NFL ignorance reached such depths that I didn’t even know who Khalil Mack was when I saw the news that the Bears had traded for him. Turns out, he’s a former NFL Defensive Player of the Year and an overall beast who steals footballs and souls from quarterbacks. He’s also made me a giant hypocrite.
In addition to Mack, the Chicago Bears have added some impressive and young talent to their defense and have a really solid running back and a new coach. This got me interested in seeing how the team would fare two weeks ago in their first game of the season against the Green Bay Packers.
I finished my Monday morning classes (Sunday NFL games happen on Mondays in Seoul) and checked the first half score. The Bears were dominating. Mack was unstoppable, the young quarterback was playing well, and I was full tribal fan dolt. Hell yeah! Bury the evil Packers and fuck all of Wisconsin! Put up 40 points! This team is winning the division!
The Bears ended up losing that game. I don’t really want to think about it because it makes me upset. Which in turn makes me more upset that I am again caring about this awful team in this awful league playing this awful sport.
But then they won the next week. Hell yeah! Their third game happened last Monday on a Korean holiday, so I didn’t have to work and woke up at five in the morning to watch the Bears get a solid come-from-behind victory on the road. Yes!
A win this week against a 2-1 Tampa Bay will keep them in first place. The D should continue to be solid, and hopefully the young QB will show more consistency. They play starting at 2:00am Korea time Monday, so I will try to catch the end as I get ready for and commute to work. I’m pretty excited about it.
God damn it.