The great Beat writer, Allen Ginsberg, once wrote a poem called the Wichita Vortex Sutra. Basically, Ginsberg was driving from New York City to Dallas, when his car broke down. Forced to spend a few days in Wichita, KS his experience was so horrendous, the people so uninspiring, he wrote the poem, which plays on the theme of tornadoes (given Wichita’s presence in tornado alley) and the fact that Wichita is the center of all evil. Fascinating read, especially if you grew up there, which I did.
Growing up in Ginsberg’s “Center of all Evil” was bad enough…what made it worse was the lack of any professional football. If you lived in Wichita in 1985, you were stuck watching either an annoying Tom Landry led Cowboys team or rather insufferable Chiefs team. Talk about the lesser of two evils…
So it was, during the winter of 85-86, that I began to hear about this team from Chicago, so-called the Bears. Where the Chiefs had boring, the Bears had pizzaz… They had the Shuffle, the Fridge, and of course “Sweetness”. I was hooked. I jumped on the bandwagon and never looked back. And believe me, there were many opportunities to hop off over the years…I think the Bears had 148 starting quarterbacks in 20 plus years I followed them…I fell in love with Erik Kramer, would have taken a bullet for running back Neal Anderson, and thought Mike Ditka walked on water. I started every year, convinced, this would be the team to go 16-0…I was a fan, through and through.
So last week, followers of my twitter feed began to wonder what I was doing at the St Louis Rams training camp. The Rams camp, not unlike many others I’m sure, is made up of mostly middle-aged men, sweating profusely, wishing they could join the autograph line, yearning to see these larger than life players up close….no righful Bears fan would ever go to a training camp of another NFC team, right? Let alone, take his two young, impressionable sons…
One of my favorite authors, Bill Simmons, writes about how we only have a few years to brainwash our children to love our teams, before they develop a mind of their own…so shouldn’t I be talking up Jay Cutler, not Sam Bradford? What am I doing? Where is my fatherly judgement?
Sports is about shared experiences, traditions, and loyalty. I graduated from the University of Kansas, my father took me to games in Allen Fieldhouse when I was a boy. I saw “DownTown” Terry Brown drop seven 3-pointer in a 150-95 route of Kentucky. My grandpa still spends Saturday afternoons listening to Jayhawk football games over the radio in McPherson, KS (or Macpherson as Ginsberg refers to it). I save money every month so my boys will be able to go to college…but if they think even one dime of that savings is going to go to the University of Missouri, they’d be mistaken. To bring my boys up as anything but Jayhawkers would go against the family, and you saw how good that worked out for Fredo. Love the Missouri Tigers in my house? You just don’t do it.
So how is my love of the Bears any different? Why don’t feel the same way? I find myself taping pre-season Rams games, buying my boys Bradford jersey’s, while researching 5th round draft picks…all this for a team that’s won maybe 5 games in 3 years.I guess I care more about the shared experience than the tradition and loyalty. My love of the Bears is only one generation…my generation. I jumped on the bandwagon, no one will miss me when I jump off. My dad turns his favorite NFL team in every few years like a used Toyota. My grandpa stays loyal to the Chiefs, but for me, that shipped has sailed. Besides, should my loyalty to the Bears mean that my boys can’t experience sports? Do I stand on my team principles, while my sons get no local NFL exposure? Doesn’t seem fair to them. What’s a DadFan to do?
I care about my sons…seeing their eyes light up at the sight of Rampage the Mascot was the highlight of my week. I want them to remember those hot August days, when Dad took them to see the Rams camp. Yes, I take videos of them on the Play60 obstacle course, set to music, because I’m a dork, but mostly because I want those memories. I’d rather find a new love, a new team, if that means I get to share in those experiences. Oh sure, I’ll root for Cutler, Urlacher…I’ll still love me some Lovie Smith. But it won’t be the same. And that’s OK… After all, I’m a DadFan raising three SonFans, and that’s what DadFan’s do.