Living in Chicago and its sprawling suburbs and ex-urbs this week has been an experience that any long time resident will never forget and will relish for the rest of their lives.
This is especially true if the sun rises and sets only for Our Beloved Bears. Always much more than a sports franchise and something slightly less than a religious icon, The Beloveds in many ways have defined the city of Chicago for more than three quarters of a century.
Chicago has always been a working class town whose immigrant population prided itself on displaying a tough, no nonsense, hard working personae. The poet laureate of the working class, Carl Sandburg immortalized that personae in his incredibly descriptive and strangely lyrical poem Chicago:
Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders:
And the lesser known stanza that has spoken to Chicagoans for generations:
Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning
as a savage pitted against the wilderness,
Building, breaking, rebuilding,
Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with
Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young
Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has
never lost a battle,
Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse.
and under his ribs the heart of the people,
Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of
Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be Hog
Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with
Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.
Tough words. Tough town. Is it any wonder that the city so desperately loves its football team? Sandburg may as well have had the Bears in mind when he wrote that poem. “Stormy, husky, brawling” could describe any Bears defense of the last 50 years.
Those of you who live in other great American cities where sports teams play for championships on a more or less regular basis will, I hope, forgive the excess of civic pride which has morphed into a kind of fevered insanity over The Beloveds and their trip to the Super Bowl. Each day that passes brings the city closer to nirvana – that blissful, dreamlike state where all cares and concerns are set aside and visions of Bears linemen doing a sack dance over a prostrate Peyton Manning dominate the figments of fans all over town. A euphoria beyond drugs, beyond revelation, beyond the moment your divorce became final has captured the city and turned ordinarily logical and reasonable Chicagoans into raving lunatics. Consider:
1. The world famous lions that grace the entrance to the world famous Art Institute of Chicago were fitted recently with football helmets bearing the insignia of the Chicago Bears:
2. A Chicago resident, Jennifer Gordon, sold advertising space on her pregnant belly to Ubid.com. Her asking price? Two 50 yard line tickets to the game in Miami.
3. Bears at the Brookfield Zoo were treated to a pinata in the shape of an Indianapolis Colt’s football helmet. After utterly destroying the enemy symbol, the Ursus arctos toyed with the remains to the great satisfaction of onlookers.
4. The CNA Building in the loop configured its lights to spell out “Go Bears” after dark. Several other office buildings also programmed messages of support including “Da Bears” lighting up one building on Lake Shore Drive.
5. Both local sports talk radio stations sent their entire contingent of on air hosts to Miami. That means that more than 50 big mouth, arrogant, opinionated, and truly dumb Chicagoans who don’t know jack about football are living it up in the sun while the rest of us are freezing to death.
Hizzhoner, Da Mayor got into the swing of things. The traditional bet between mayors of the competing cities usually involves an exchange of some kind of tasty cuisine that each city is noted for.
You can see Daley’s dilemma immediately; what is there to eat in Indianapolis that any Chicagoan would recognize as food?
Not always known for his tact, Daley graciously gave Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson an out by ignoring tradition and substituting volume for quality:
Dozens of delicacies from the city’s finest culinary establishments are offered including, the world’s finest coffee roasted and blended right here in Chicago. Several tins of Stewart’s Coffee will be delivered along with cheesecake, ribs, burgers, sausages, nachos, pizza, beer, wine, nuts, hot dogs, Italian beef, popcorn, pretzels, candy and cinnamon rolls.
Peterson has yet to offer anything to eat in return from Indianapolis which isn’t surprising. When you live in a city that boasts a famous sandwich joint known as “Illinois Street Food,” there isn’t much you can say or do to erase the ignominy.
Chicago sports fans have learned to savor these moments of success. And for Bears fans especially, who have been able to dance a victory dance only once in the last 44 years, this year’s incarnation of destiny’s heroes is particularly sweet because of its unexpectedness. No one in town really thought The Beloveds would make it all the way to Miami back in August when the season started. But here they are. And as much as the locals have gone over the edge of sanity and decorum in showing their pride in the team and the city, all of this is but a pittance compared to what would happen if the Bears actually win on Sunday.
The shoulders of this city wouldn’t be big enough to handle the weight of unadulterated joy which would pour forth and spillover into the streets if that were to happen.
LiMack in the comments reminds me that the Field Museum placed Brian Urlacher’s #54 jersey on one of the dinasours on display. I wonder if it was put on the T-Rex Sue?
The largest T-Rex ever found intact, Sue was a cause celebre in the scientific community due to the unusual circumstances surrounding her discovery. A seven year court battle that brought up issues of academic science vs. commercial fossile hunters as well as federal vs. private ownership of land made Sue’s journey to the Field Museum an epic trek indeed.
The size of Sue is beyond belief. She’s 42 feet long and an astonishing 13 feet high at the hip. It is unclear how T-Rex got around but if she were to have settled on her back legs, it is estimated that her head could have been 25 feet from the ground. Only Gigantasoraus, a South American therapod was a bigger meat eater.
Background on the case can be found here.