February 6, 2007

Bears Leave Legacy

Print More

Congratulations to the Indianapolis Colts. Peaking when they needed to, they truly looked like — except for that first half against the Patriots — the best team in football throughout the NFL playoffs.

Congratulations to Tony Dungy. Not only is his accomplishment an important milestone for African-American coaches everywhere, but you can’t help but be happy for Dungy with the class and talent he has as a coach.

And, congratulations to Peyton Manning. Now with a Super Bowl ring and an MVP trophy, you have truly cemented your place in NFL lore as one of the game’s greatest quarterbacks.

But, what about that other team? What about my beloved Bears? Honestly, as a fan, it’s tough to say goodbye to such a thrilling season — especially one that ended in such disappointment — and not feel a little lost.

A great team that doesn’t win a championship is a lot like your friend from third grade whose family suddenly moves away one summer. One year, he’s your buddy in class. The next year, he’s nowhere to be found.

Every once in awhile, someone might mention his name and you’ll remember all the good times you had together. You might even get nostalgic enough to look him up on Facebook years later just for kicks. However, for the most part, he’s out of your life and thinking about him makes you feel sad for that fact.

That’s about how I feel right now. Two days ago, the 2006 Chicago Bears were playing football and the season felt like something tangible — like a friend. Who could forget some of those moments we shared, like the improbable fourth quarter comeback at Arizona? Or the overtime win against the Seahawks in the playoffs?

Nevertheless, with Sunday’s Super Bowl loss, the season is gone. And, surely next year’s team won’t be the same — free agency will take care of that.

I’m sure there will be moments in the future when I will think of the ’06 Bears, watch some old highlights, look up some old box scores and smile. But, with its championship hopes dashed, lingering over those memories for too long will just remind me of the disappointment of what could have been.

What makes the loss of this friend even harder is that I felt closer than ever to the team in the past couple weeks. With the prospect of watching the Bears play in the Super Bowl for the first time while consciously alive — I was an infant when the Bears shuffled their way to the big game in ’85 — I soaked up the extensive media coverage. Ditching class to watch ESPN’s around the clock analysis while YouTube-ing highlights from the season, I guess I became a little obsessed.

It just got worse this past weekend. On Saturday, I spent the afternoon teaching my coworker about football, even going as far to quiz her about the game using highlights from the Bears NFC championship victory. I figured that if I could convince her to be a Bears fan, it might have some cosmic-force-like effect that could sway the outcome of the game.

I woke up Sunday with butterflies in my stomach and an inability to keep my right leg from shaking with nervous energy. As sick as I felt, I’m sure my roommates appreciated the extra energy when I decided to work it off by cleaning our apartment in an effort to keep sane before kickoff.

When the game began, the initial excitement (understatement) over Devin Hester’s opening return for a touchdown merely led to disappointment as I watched the game slip further and further from the Bears’ grasp.

With the final minutes counting down and Chicago’s comeback attempts looking more and more futile, I began to grieve for the upcoming loss of what had become my close companion — the ’06 Bears — and the dream that went with it.

First came denial followed closely with bargaining, even prayer that a miraculous turnaround might take place. Guilt followed next, as I tried to figure out if there was anything, anything at all, that I could have done differently. At this point, I literally turned down the volume on the TV, and asked everyone in the room to stand up and change seats. No one listened.

Moving on to anger and depression, I yelled at the TV — while simultaneously consuming an entire pizza — as the Bears appeared to give up and run out the clock after getting the ball back with less than two minutes to play. Also, for the first time all season, I admitted that Rex Grossman is not such a good quarterback.

Nevertheless, as the final seconds ticked away, an acceptance washed over me as I said goodbye to the 2006 season.

Obviously confused by the trace of a smile on my lips, one of my friends — a newly converted Bears fan — asked why it seemed like she was more disappointed than me.

“I’m from Chicago,” I explained. “We root for the Cubs — we can handle a Super Bowl loss.”

Yesterday, as I got dressed to go to class for the first time in two weeks, I saw my Bears hat on the floor, automatically reached for it and placed on my head. Although the disappointment from the night before lingered on, I felt proud to have known and befriended the ’06 Bears. And, as I walked out my door, I couldn’t help but wonder what type of friend the ’07 team might be.

Scott Reich is a Sun Staff Writer. Scotty Doesn’t Know will appear every other Tuesday this semester.