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The Meatball Confessions

By Drew Hays

Some of my favorite childhood memories are of watching Bears games with my father. We’d watch together as Sweetness would carry yet another mediocre team through another disappointing season. Avellini, Harper, and Scott were weak decoys as each defense keyed on Walter.

“Ram it down their damn throat,” he’d shout.

Marveling at Payton, Dad would tell me about the speed of Sayers.

We’d watch a few years later as Singletary would intimidate with intensity and leadership. Dad would tell about the relentless and merciless Butkus.

“Monsters of the Midway!” “Knock the pi__ out of ‘em!” His weekly refrains.

And those ’85 Bears. In an otherwise difficult year in which a fifteen year-old son was often at odds with his father, this team kept the connection going.

Then the snow. The Dent tomahawk. The Marshall scoop… and the high five with my dad that I will always cherish.

“That’s Bears football!” Ditka and Halas.

I could relate. We could relate.

Thus, with great frustration, I held unrealistic expectations for Anderson, Harris, Salaam, Enis, and Jones. For Minter, Cox, and Urlacher.

Bears’ success and a shared experience between generations have fostered what some local media members refer to as “Meatball Mentality”. While easy to dismiss as an unnecessary, self-imposed limitation of football philosophy, a greater point is often misunderstood, overlooked, and totally unappreciated.

From a fan perspective, the very best sports can offer is the opportunity to unite in celebration. For the last few generations of Bears fans, those opportunities have not come at the hands of (do I really need to insert that embarrassing list of quarterbacks?) anyone other than elite running backs and defenses.

Familiarity, comfort, and nostalgia are natural and it should not shock anyone that a perceived identity has formed for many. The team itself reinforces this during the video sequence before each home kickoff. “Tradition”, it reads.

This will not be my son’s perception of Bear football. Just as the city has traded blue collars for white, the team (and the league) has responded in kind. Clearly, the league is different now. You can’t really touch quarterbacks or receivers anymore. These are reasons to harbor hope for all things Cutler and Martz.

Not that this is bad. It’s just a new reality for many.

“I don’t give a sh__ how they win, I just want them to win,” my father says now. I think all Bears fans would agree. Even us Meatballers. We have, or will evolve.

That won’t stop me -- as the first snow of the season falls into Soldier Field or the when the Bears defense, well, “knocks the pi__” out of someone – from exclaiming to my son, “That’s Bears football!”

Follow me on twitter @drew__hays


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