Everyone was just at that point where they begin pounding the table with both fists, in unison, and chanting “Bears! Bears! Bears!” when I raised a hesitant finger and said in a quiet voice – and this part is absolutely true: “We have to keep in mind there are some people who don’t care about the Bears.”
Silence. Not only silence, but silence with crickets in the background, the chorus of gentle chirping that greets Daffy Duck when he shouts “Ta-da!” and does a kneeling Al Jolsen slide to the edge of the stage, his arms thrown wide.
The silence was broken by a distinguished, gray-haired editor who said – and this too is untouched by whimsy: “I don’t like to think there are people like you working in the newsroom.” It wasn’t said in a jokey manner, or in a we’re-all-pals-here manner, but in a flat, steely, I’d-cut-your-heart-out-and-nail-it-to-th
I don’t know what it is about sports that cannot tolerate indifference. No other form of entertainment enjoys such status. Sports fans don’t even like to think of their passion as entertainment-it’s life or death, fate of the world news; it’s the central hub of the spinning universe.
That’s the General view. From my perspective, the end of a football game is no more in question than the end of “Casablanca.” Ilsa always walks off with Victor Laszlo. The game always ends and someone wins-or, OK, ties. Big whoop. It isn’t as if - say – the players might suddenly storm the stands and eat the fans. That might be interesting.
But I don’t want to pooh-pooh sports. I see that it’s important, culturally. It lets off steam. Guys who normally wouldn’t loosen the know in their tie are suddenly painting their faces orange and blue and taking their shirts off in January and woofing and hugging and dumping beer on each other. Without sports, some guys would never speak at all.
We need sports. When you think about it, American society is utterly uptight, utterly reserved except for sports. We don’t have big Mardi Gras or wild bacchanalia. No Fool’s Parades, no inversions of daily life where the low are brought high and the normal strictures of society give way to gaiety and frolic. You never get the chance to put on horns and caper around in public, unless of course you’re a Vikings fan.
So, I see the utility of the thing, for others, a consideration, I might add, never reciprocated when it comes other non-sports events. I bought my tickets to ”The Magic Flute” months ago – paid 95 bucks apiece for ‘em, and would have gotten even more expensive seats if I wasn’t concerned about my wife flaying me alive. I’ve got the CD and the libretto and hum the Queen of the Night’s aria as I walk by the Lyric, excited for an evening that is only 6 weeks away.
Yet if I piped up with, “Hey, we really need to amp up our opera coverage because poor Wynne Delacoma shouldn’t be forced to shoulder the entire burden, and remember this year is Magic Flute!” they’d all think I’m crazy. People hate opera – boldly, openly, without shame – and they’ve never ever been to one.
I’ve been to a Bears game, years ago. They were playing the Detroit Lions, if I recall. And the temperature was about 40 degrees below zero, or at least it felt that way. Not a day that called out for a person to spend 3 hours sitting outside. But a friend prevailed upon me, and it seemed an experience one should have in Chicago. So I went.
There were some pleasant surprises. Hot cocoa mixed with peppermint schnapps is actually quite pleasant - a tad sweet, true, but bracing on a bitter day. And everyone was bundled up that you tended to overflow into the seat next to you so that the crowd became one mass interconnected life, a single living entity attached through bonds of goose down and Bears fandom. That was the part that really thrilled me – I have no idea what went on down on the field – the leaping up, borne aloft by those on either side of me. My, I thought, cheering, this is rather like being a polyp aggregated on a coral reef.
Afterward, we tumbled, numb and happy and boisterous, out of Soldier Field, northward into one of the bars at the Hilton. There we stood, shaking off the cold, clinking glasses and recapitulation the game.
“How about that Dzibernowski!” one said (or something similar, effaced by time).
“Freakin great,” said another.
“Didja see that pass?” marveled a third. “Bleeping bleep.”
“Blankin Blank!” another agreed.
The bar was noisy and festive and crowded. Someone turned to me and asked how I liked my first game.
“Great!” I gushed. “I felt like a polyp being aggregated on a coral reef!” There was silence, salience with crickets in it, and I sensed my friends edge away from tme at the bar, which suddenly seemed subdued and soon emptied out. Nobody has ever asked me to a Bears game since, and I cannot say that I am terrible Brookfield.