Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Most Important Game of the Year...for Me

I have had the Chicago Bears visit to the Louisiana Superdome etched in my mind since January 2007.

Due to the NFL’s brilliant (no sarcasm here…seriously) schedule rotation, the Monsters of the Midway were not due to visit the domed confines of Poydras and Loyola for four years after the Saints’ first trip to an NFC Championship game.

Everything about that Soldier Field experience was miserable.

The weather.

The Saints’ ball handling.

The final score.

And most especially the Bear fans, or as I like to call them, Chicagoons.

I wasn’t optimistic about the Saints’ chances of winning at Soldier Field, which is a surprisingly loud venue considering it’s an open air stadium. I didn’t think the Saints would adjust to the field and weather conditions without practicing in a similar environment.

But I also wasn’t going to miss what was then the biggest game in Black and Gold history.

The first omen of the misery to come was in the form of a pair of jackasses in Bears gear merrily pasting orange letters on a large blue sandwich board sign that read: Bears Finishing What Katrina Started.

I felt an impulse to capture that image, so I turned my black and gold Saints hat around, walked up to tweedle-jack and tweedle-ass and asked to photograph the fruit of their labors. They happily obliged. After taking the picture, I turned my gold fleur-de-lis cap around to the front and commented “I’m going to make you famous” and walked off.

Despite the best efforts of the Chicago Tribune to track the pair down, they remain anonymous to this day. But their “artwork” came to symbolize the abusive behavior more than a few Saints fans received at Soldier Field, including this one.

Growing tired of the threats of physical violence and Katrina taunts from screwballs whose blood alcohol levels were increasing with the Bears’ score, I did what I rarely do: I left a Saints game early. Being a longtime Who Dat, I can stand losing a game..I just wasn’t game to losing teeth.

And so I trudged out on to the frozen tundra along Lake Michigan, still happy about what the Saints had accomplished in the 2006 season though bitter about the lack of class and decency of Bears fans.

Now, I would be remiss if I did not mention that the Bears players (not the fans) made it up in 2009 by defeating the heavily favored Minnesota Vikings, which contributed to the Saints’ securing homefield advantage during the playoffs. That game marked the first time I had cheered for Chicago in anything since the 2007 NFC Championship game, however my love for the Saints trumps my dislike of any team. Even the Dirty Birds.

This week tens of thousands of Who Dats will have that Soldier Field experience on their mind as they stream into the Superdome. Doubtlessly the several thousand or so Bears fans who made the road trip to the Big Easy are also cognizant of what happened in the stands that day.

I encourage Saints fans attending the game to be passionate this Sunday about their team not hostile to the visiting Bears fans. Show them how the best fans in the NFL behave and act. That’s not to say smacktalk is off-limits.

That said I almost pity the Bear fan, who having had one too many hurricanes or handgrenades, decides to work in Katrina cracks into his rhetoric.

The Saints fan being taunted might very well have lost more than his Archie Manning jersey in the storm.

So I will close this with one request for the Saints: if you can’t bring back a second Lombardi Trophy this season at least beat the Bears.