This is an entry in Fangirlish’s What Sports Mean To Me series, where our writers discuss memorable sports moments and how sports have impacted their lives.
I don’t really know how to start this post because it’s hard for me to describe my love for the Chicago Bears. Not that I’m not good with words — because I’d like to believe I am — but I don’t think that words could ever really do my feelings justice. But I’ll try my best to articulate my feelings for my one true sports love.
Everyone has that one team that affects them like nothing else. Where a win can turn around your entire day, week, or month. Or where a loss can feel like a part of your heart has been ripped out of your chest. Sometimes you find yourself wondering why the hell you’re so invested in this team if they cause you so much pain. But it’s that pain that teaches you how to love in the worst of circumstances on top of the best of circumstances.
Then there’s the added emotional component. Much as everything sports, sharing my love of this team with my dad really makes this more than just a game, more than just a team. This is our team. Both of our true sports loves. My dad was exactly like me when it came to the Bears. Only he says I’ve taken it to another level. But our love for this team has allowed for so many amazing experiences. Whether it’s driving to Bears Training Camp in Illinois every year or going to so many away games we’ve grown used to being the visiting team or just watching every preseason, regular season, and postseason game together, there are too many priceless memories to count.
“I, Alyssa, take thee Bears to be my one true sports love. To have and to hold, from this day forward…”
The first thing you learn about me when you meet me is that I’m a Chicago Bears diehard. It’s not quite a personality trait, but when it comes to me, it might as well be. For the past 17 years, I’ve lived and died by this team. I’ve felt on top of the world and cried tears of joy. But, more often than not, I’ve felt beaten and broken by the heartbreak. And yet, the Bears remain my one true sports love. Pain and all.
Now, the Bears weren’t my first sports love (which you can read about here.) But as is in life, your first love isn’t necessarily your true love. And that was certainly the case for me.
When the Bears became a part of my life in 2001 it was unlike anything I’d experienced. It had all of the feelings of my first sports love and more. It didn’t take long for me to realize that this love was different. This was true love.
I was completely enamored by the game of football — the way the violence seemed to take on a beauty. Just how much each player relied on their teammates to succeed. The thrill of scoring a touchdown or hitting a game-winning field goal. The power behind a bruising sack or tackles for loss. I wanted to know everything there was to about this game.
And then there were the Bears. The team that I would experience every single football moment with. I learned pretty quickly that I cared far more than I should. But it was later that I realized that it just came with the territory.
Year after year, season after season, player after player, win after win, loss after loss, every moment cemented itself in my brain and in my heart. It quickly became a part of me in a way most sports fans are familiar. I cared way too much for something that was out of my control. But that’s just what it means to be a sports fan. You put your faith in something that you have zero control over. It raises the stakes. It makes the wins that much sweeter, and it makes the losses all the more painful.
“For better, for worse…”
Usually, sports fans endure more heartbreak than happiness. It’s just how the cookie crumbles. The odds are stacked against you. One team out of 32, in my case, where everything needs to go exactly right, where luck needs to fall into the right place, and you know that the chances of all of that happening aren’t great.
Being a Bears fan has made me stronger. Now, non-sports fans will laugh at that statement. “How can a sports team, that you have no control over, make you stronger?” The answer is one that only sports fans will understand.
The emotional roller coaster that a team — your one true sports love — can put you through is unlike anything. The emotional energy that you put into following your team eventually takes a toll. Basically, the wins can propel you to euphoria, and the losses to plummet you to pure unbridled misery.
Unlike my good fortune of growing up a Red Wings fan where I was absolutely spoiled with 25 consecutive playoff appearances and four Stanley Cups, my experience with the Bears falls more on the heartbreak side of things. Because of course. Of course my one true sports love would cause me the most pain.
As far as the better goes, I’ve been lucky enough to see the Bears play in a Super Bowl in 2007. Granted, they lost in heartbreaking fashion. But I can distinctly remember that playoff run — from hiding behind the wall in my kitchen as Robbie Gould nailed the game-winning field goal against the Seahawks in the Divisional Round to the Bears defense shutting down Drew Brees and the Saints in the NFC Championship game.
I remember those two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl. Every morning I’d stop at 7-Eleven on my way to school and buy the national newspapers that were talking about the Bears and this Super Bowl. I remember skipping school to watch Media Day (sorry, mom). I remember wearing my Bears gear anywhere and everywhere whenever I could and feeling a sense of pride and excitement. And even though they lost, I wouldn’t trade that month for anything.
Keeping with the positive side, I’ve been lucky to watch some pretty great teams. The 2001 squad, the 2005 squad, the 2006 squad, and now the 2018 squad. All were great in their own way. And all of them made me feel on top of the world.
But, as I said, my stint as a Bears fan has been marred with more heartbreak than anything. That Super Bowl loss? That was nothing compared to the heartbreak that was the 2010 NFC Championship game (which will get its own post from me later.) And don’t even get me started on what the Green Bay Packers have done to my psyche. I’ve been raised since birth to hate the Packers — I hated them before I even knew about football. And after all the pain they’ve caused me — especially that 2010 NFC Title game — it’s no wonder the colors green and yellow make me wanna vomit.
It’d be easy to root for a team that’s good. It’d be easy only to care when a team is relevant. But being a fair weather fan is never something that’s interested me. Experiencing all of the pain and heartbreak that comes with loving a team gives you a deeper appreciation and love for your team. And it’s been experiencing that heartbreak that’s established the foundation of my love for the Bears.
“To love and to cherish, till death do us part.”
But despite all of the pain and the heartbreak — all of the times where I was left crying or needed 30 minutes to cool down — I love the Bears more than words. Even when they kept on losing, I loved them. Even when I found myself swearing I was done going to games, I keep going. Even when I felt at my absolute worst, I keep coming back.
I’m not a Bears fan because they’re a good team. I’m a Bears fan because they’re the team that I love. They’re the team that I’ve followed for most of my life. They’re the team I’ve chosen to pledge my allegiance to. They’re my team. And there’s nothing that will ever change that.
Hopefully I’ll get to witness the Bears win a Super Bowl in my lifetime. But even if I don’t, that won’t take away from my love for this team. All of the great times I’ve had because of them. All of the priceless memories I’ve shared with my dad. All of those road trips. All of the tears — happy included.
We all have that one sports team that we love the most. It doesn’t take away from our other sports loves, but we all have a favorite team. I know we’re not supposed to — kind of like a parent shouldn’t have a favorite child. But as sports fans, we do. We all have that team that can make us feel the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. We all have that team that we own too much merchandise for. We all have that team that we’ll go to battle to defend. We all have that team that we talk way too much about to the point where people have probably zoned out. We all have that team that has forever changed our lives as we know it. We all have our one true sports love. And I’m thankful everyday that the Bears are mine.