My girlfriend received a text message from a friend of hers -- a fellow Bears fan -- as we watched our beloved team roll to a 27-13 victory over the Vikings on Sunday.
"Tell Kevin to tell his work he is going to need Super Bowl Monday off," the text read, punctuated by multiple exclamation points. "We are all going to Dallas!!! Super Bears, Super Bowl!!!"
The friend was half joking, of course, but it was a reminder of the roller coaster relationship that Chicago sports fans have with their teams.
Win, and we're title-bound. Lose, and it's "wait 'til next year."
Even I, who counts himself among the Bears' most skeptical supporters, allowed myself to believe that these truly are the reincarnated Monsters of the Midway (as the team's ad campaign would like you to believe). Could the Bears really be the best team in the NFC based on their performance against the dilapidated Vikings, a team that decided on multiple occasions to kick the ball to Devin Hester (who does that!)? Why not?
Write it in ink, print several copies and mail it to your friends: the Bears have a solid Feb. 6 date with Super Bowl XLV in Dallas.
Sure, the season is barely past the halfway point. Sure, the Bears have looked, at times in 2010, like they were re-creating outtakes from the Three Stooges' "Three Little Pigskins" episode.
It doesn't matter. The Bears are Super Bowl bound... this week.
Like few other cities' fans, Chicagoans have a tendency to blow wins way out of proportion and suffer losses with Dionysian angst, punctuated by man tears and guttural noises usually reserved for childbirth. Fact is, few impartial observers would look at the Bears' six wins over mostly middling teams thus far and tell you that they're the favorite to play in Dallas.
Just don't tell that to true Bears fans. Especially not this week.
It should speak volumes that arguably the season's brightest spot -- outside of the team's six wins -- is quarterback Jay Cutler's lack of interceptions. While the number of his blunders is significantly decreased (he had 17 interceptions after Week 10 last year, compared to nine this year), it's safe to say that this year's collection has been far more heartbreaking, perhaps because the Bears have had some success. It's never been about Cutler's propensity for throwing the pick. It's the timing of them. It's the ugliness.
It's like when you're playing Madden, and your parent or significant other asks, "Can I try a play?" You hand over the controller only to watch them do something so incredibly inhuman. That's how I've been able to cope with Cutler's picks. I just pretend my mom is manipulating him with a PS3 controller and I have no choice but to have faith in Cutler despite the pain.
But it makes sense that Chicagoans should be so passionate about our teams. This is a city where extremism is routine. We're not content to simply skew democratic in our voting habits -- we invented the Democratic Machine. We don't just celebrate St. Patrick's Day. We celebrate the holiday with a party that was eventually deemed too raucous to exist. We're not home to just any World Series drought -- we boast the most ridiculous championship drought in sports.
But when our teams are in the hunt, believe me... it's on. A win is never just a win. It's the first step (or another in a series) along the road to a Grant Park rally. A LaSalle Street parade. Chicago immortality.
Likewise, our teams don't just lose games. A loss is a step off a cliff that leads to a chasm that turns into an endless, title-less abyss. Chicago infamy.
With games left against New England, Philadelphia and the New York Jets, we'll have plenty of chances to reaffirm our belief that the Bears are who we hope they are. And along with that, we'll have plenty of chances for our worst fears to come true (and a coaching staff poised to join thousands of out-of-work Chicagoans).
But for now, we're OK. For now, let this serve as notice to my current employer: I'll be taking off Feb. 7 as I'll be recovering from my trip to Dallas. Super Bears, Super Bowl, indeed. That is, unless they lose to Miami on Thursday. In which case the answer to your question on Friday is, Yes. I have been crying man tears and that was me making guttural noises usually reserved for childbirth.
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