Football

Welcome back to THE VAULT, my weekly “REMEMBER THIS IRRELEVANT BEAR” article where I threaten Fels that I’ll go be a scab for Deadspin if he doesn’t let me write 750 words about Johnny Knox. For what it’s worth, he didn’t get mad when I wrote an entire article about weed so I think I’m earning the coveted “Respected Journalist” title. I’ll be angling for a press pass so I can get into Halas Hall and score some free lunch and yell stats at the players I love. I got to go to Halas Hall in early 2018 and lemme tell you, I INSTANTLY found a pic of Corey Wooton sacking Brett Favre on what would be the last play of his pro career and was high on fumes for days after.

Today we’re going to hop back into the time machine and look at the second Bears/Lions matchup of 2011. I was fortunate enough to be at this game, a Bears win (37-17). I was at this game and in a weird place emotionally, since this ticket was originally promised to a friend who beat brain cancer, only to have that cancer reemerge months later and take his life. On top of that, Bears tickets had run in my family since the early early Soldier Field days, but they were sold in 2009, so this was my first Bears game since then and also my first Bears game with friends instead of my father. My dad was in recovery for alcoholism growing up (proud of you, pops) so I never drank at a Bears game, so even though I was 25 this was my first experience with two things central to the Bears gameday experience:

1. The $9, 8oz beers at Soldier Field
2. Tailgating next to racists

For real, I was drinking in the parking lot with some friends and there were Lions fans next to us, and at one point the guy leaned in close to ask me a question, the type of gesture that coming from a stranger usually means they’re about to say something racist or ignorant. He leaned in, smelling of Busch Light and Faygo (probably) and asked me where all the black people were. He was confused when I gestured broadly at the city of Chicago surrounding us, and he specified that he was talking about people who go to tailgates and collect cans for the return deposit. I hit him with a Big Lebowski line: “obviously you’re not a golfer” and that was the end of our conversation. He walked away and I finally saw the name plate on his apparently custom Lions #40 jersey, and it read simply “Kid Rock” and everything made sense. Say what you will about Juggalos, but when it comes to hanging in parking lots with people from Michigan I’d take a bunch of face-painted clowns who will talk to me about pro wrestling over the average Kid Rock fan any day of the damn week. Shit they might even put me through a table. Woop woop.

The Bears came into this game at 5-3, looking at a potentially deep playoff run on the heels of their NFC Championship loss to the Packers the January prior. After this victory, the Bears were on a roll that would eventually be snuffed out by Jay Cutler’s thumb injury the next week and the team then dropping their next five games. Yet on this Sunday afternoon, the orange-uniformed Bears looked like a team primed for another postseason run. This team dominated the Lions in all phases of the game, scoring on offense, defense (twice!), and special teams. Matt Forte scored on the ground, Devin Hester took a punt back 82 yards, and both Major Wright and Charles Tillman took 3rd quarter interceptions to the house. Brian Urlacher almost took a first quarter Calvin Johnson fumble back for six as well, but since 2011 Brian Urlacher didn’t have the requisite amount of hair to break away in the open field, he was caught from behind.

Hester took a punt 82 yards for a score, his last punt return touchdown in Soldier Field. Earl Bennett led the Bears with 6 catches and 81 yards, and future felon and NIU alum Sam Hurd even made the stat sheet. This one was a blowout, folks. The score was 37-6 when Tim Jennings picked Stafford off for the 4th time in the game, and the frustrated frat boy grabbed a blocking DJ Moore by the shoulder pads and whipped him down, leading to a minor brawl after Moore returned the favor by getting up and absolutely trucking a kneeling Stafford.

NFL fights are almost always the most disappointing brawls in all the major sports, save the Andre Johnson/Cortland Finnegan one from 2011, which is without a doubt the Ali/Frazier of NFL fights. If that was Ali/Frazier, the DJ Moore/Matthew Stafford dust up of 2011 was like watching a World Star video. If my memory serves me right (which it may not because the tailgating and beer vendors most certainly over served me right), that got the crowd HEAVY into the “Detroit Sucks!” chants.

The Kid Rock fans were already gone when we got back to the parking lot.

 

Football

Welcome back to The Vault, a weekly series where I dust the THC cobwebs off my brain and try my best to remember how to spell player names, information that is surely replacing things like “how to change a flat tire” or “my home address” in my limited memory bank. Catch me on the shoulder of the Eisenhower at 5pm looking at a flat and mentally spelling out “Brandon Manumaleuna” over and over again whilst in tears.

Let’s set the scene for this throwback recap: it’s late 2009, the 11-3 Vikings arrive in Soldier Field for a Monday Night Football tilt against our beloved 5-9 squad. The Bears sucked that year. This was year one of the Jay Cutler experience, and the acid hadn’t kicked in yet. Their first pick was Jarron freaking Gilbert, a player I had to look up on Monday night when a friend and I were trying to remember the guy the Bears drafted because there was a Youtube video of him jumping out of a pool and landing on his feet. He had 1 career tackle, and is cousins with NBA ICON Javale McGee. That pool video is cool as fuck though, not gonna lie to you. You can’t coach those kind of pool-jumping skills.

I watched this game at a local restaurant/bar, which is rare for me. I hate going to bars to watch games, mainly because you can’t smoke pot there and food is way cheaper at home. This bar, however, had one of those free halftime buffet deals and I was going back to college, so I took my Rodney Dangerfield lookin-ass down to this bar in the dead of winter to watch the 2009 Chicago Bears. Woof.

The game itself was a classic: a 36-30 overtime shootout that found the local boys victorious. The Bears jumped out to a 16-0 halftime lead behind the leg of Robbie Gould and a Jay Cutler to Greg Olsen TD pass.The free halftime buffet was destroyed before I even got up there, but hey no big deal, as long as the game is good, right? (about here is when I started going outside to chainsmoke instead of paying for bar food)

Even with a two score lead, any Bears fan could’ve told you Brett Favre was going to make the game uncomfortable. He left his training crocs in the locker room (probably to creep out any female staff members), and mounted a comeback that turned the fourth quarter into a legendary shootout. Each team scored a touchdown in the final 5 minutes. Look at some of the names of the players that drew pistols in this duel: Favre. Cutler. Peterson. Shiancoe. Bennett.

Side Note: Earl Bennett never got the recognition he was due. Not only was he a starting-caliber punt returner that didn’t get to do it since Devin Hester was there, but he was the best Bears possession WR of the last 10 years. His stats don’t do him justice, and if Jay stayed healthy all those years he might have made a Pro Bowl as a slot WR.

…okay maybe Pro Bowl is a bit of a stretch.

Despite these heavy hitters, it was Devin Aromashodu that truly drew first blood, in the sense that he won the game in overtime after a clutch Adrian Peterson fumble gave the Bears the ball with a chance to win it. Win it, he did.

Being a Bears fan means holding permanent grudges towards people you’ll never meet, for things that happened so long ago that they don’t even matter anymore. Brett Favre is one of those people that I will ALWAYS, ALWAYS resent. Yes, he was a creep and was sending the most awkward dick pics to team staff when he was in New York. Acts like that are unequivocally gross and should condemn anyone’s reputation. Yet any Bears fan could’ve told you he was suspect as fuck judging by the way he always dismantled the local boys. It always seemed like he took perverse pleasure in ruining my childhood Sundays. Beating Brett that night was great, and gave me a completely unearned sense of smug self-satisfaction the entire solo walk home back to my apartment with a margarita buzz on.

Fuck Brett Favre.