Football

I don’t like talking too much about myself in these articles, because really who cares? This isn’t one of those cooking blogs where people tell a 500-word story about themselves and then tells you how to make “authentic” Thai Iced Tea or whatever (it’s not? – ED). With that said, I need to preface what I’m about to say by telling you a tiny bit about me.

The meagre five-figure salary that Fels pays me to write for FFUD only covers so much, so I moonlight as a high school teacher. I work with low-income, high-risk kids that have been expelled from their home schools for whatever reason. It’s been this way for the last five years. I love my job, and I’m good at it. In 2017, I won a “Heroes in the Classroom” award for my work, which was from some company called Symetra and sponsored by the Bears. I scored tickets to a game, got my dumb face on the jumbotron, got a signed football from Leonard Floyd, went to Halas Hall and got a custom jersey with my name on it. Pretty cool shit, all things considering. It’s one of the coolest moments of my life. The wonderful human being who nominated me for that award knew how much of a Bears fan I am.

Okay, now that I got that out of the way, let’s talk about Jameis Winston. Not only is he a league-average quarterback at best, he’s an awful human being. So, imagine my disappointment seeing so many Bears or national blogs linking Winston to Chicago this upcoming offseason. There are a ton of things this team needs, but Jameis ain’t it, man.

(Side note: I like this Bears team. They’re scrappy, they like each other, and for the most part the team has good character guys on the roster now. For the most part over time up until the present day, I’ve had okay feelings about rooting for most players on the Bears, though some players have done some pretty rough stuff and still gotten money from the organization after.)

I’ve always wondered how Steelers fans still root for Ben Rothlisberger, or Chiefs fans root for Tyreek Hill, and I always feared this day would come- even if the Bears don’t sign Jameis, they are bound to sign someone who has been potentially involved with some publicly-known assault allegation. How does that make you feel? It leaves me feeling incredibly conflicted.

Goddammit I love football so much and it would be so… hopeless(?) to boycott the franchise. If they sign Jameis I couldn’t watch the Bears the way I always have, I’ll feel completely disconnected from the team I have grown to love football because of. I know, it’s so bleeding-heart and it doesn’t make any difference to their bottom line, but I can’t do what I do professionally and with my entire heart while also rooting for a team that employs someone who did what he did in Tallahassee in 2012, and then again to an Uber driver in 2016.

How could I go into my classroom on a Monday morning and try to empower young women to advocate for themselves knowing the day before I was cheering on a man who has repeatedly taken agency away from women? The short answer is I can’t. The long answer is I can sit on my couch at noon on Sundays and make excuses: maybe act like people are just making baseless accusations, or say that my boycott wouldn’t matter anyways so who cares, or even just say fuck it and watch it knowing I’m a hypocrite.

This article is my promise to myself that I won’t make any excuses. If the Bears sign Jameis, I’ll start writing about something else during the week. Maybe I’ll be the fantasy football guy, or I’ll write different reviews of the same Truckfighters album every week, whatever. I won’t make excuses. I’ll just watch RedZone instead. I won’t make excuses.

Look, I know I’ve lost 99% of you reading this by now, but if you’re still there: I’m not judging you. Football means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, and your reasons to continue to watch people like Tyreek Hill or Ben Rothlisberger or Ezekiel Elliott are yours and not for me to critique. For me, though? I can’t be a “Hero in the Classroom” and also support the type of people that I want to protect my students from. If the Bears sign Jameis Winston, I can’t continue to hold onto that award.

That stupid certificate and jersey and football are the coolest things I own, but I don’t feel okay having them around if they evolve to be representations of an organization that gives millions of dollars to someone who has done what he has done.

I don’t know what I’ll do with that stuff if the Bears sign him. I won’t burn it like so many MAGA dorks and their Colin Kaepernick jerseys, because that’s so dramatic and silly. Maybe I’ll put it all in storage, or just throw it out. If I put it in storage, maybe I’ll revisit it someday. I don’t know how these things work, really. Do I like “get over it” when the Bears cut Jameis after he throws for 40 interceptions in 2021? Do I hold a grudge forever, and just cut off that part of me for good? I don’t know.

These questions are so big to me, this whole thing has me fucked up. I don’t know what to do or feel, and I just hope I don’t have to make that moral decision this spring. Since I know for a fact that Virginia reads my articles: Please don’t sign Jameis. Please.

I’d feel the same way if Jameis was the QB who would take the Bears to the Super Bowl, for what it’s worth. Winning is always “the most important thing” but employing people like that doesn’t feel like winning no matter what happens on the field. The game is all about winning, but life is bigger than the game. Showing people that the organization won’t give millions to people who have proven to be a danger to women is bigger than the game. Recognizing that people care who plays for the Bears is bigger than wins and losses, it’s bigger than the game.

You and me, as individuals, no matter who you are reading this- we’re bigger than the game. Our safety is bigger than the game. Respecting people’s bodily autonomy is bigger than the game, as is not rewarding those who don’t respect it.

 

Football

Welcome back to another edition of THE VAULT, a weekly segment where I leave our global consciousness behind and ascend to an alternate reality where Curtis Conway is a first ballot Hall of Famer and all of our dads quit drinking in the early 90s.

Two weeks ago I did a Bears/Lions preview and to be honest I’m fucking sick of the Lions, and this space is where I get to talk all my shit, so let’s talk shit. Instead of bringing back some historical Bears game, I’d rather use this space to help prime you for watching a Bears game with your in-laws who range from “casuals” to someone who hasn’t watched a football game since the AFL/NFL merger but says they stopped watching when players started taking a knee during the anthem. This guide is for you, so that when they add you on Facebook and post their hot political takes/Minion memes/Ben Shapiro quotes, you’ll be able to safely unfriend or block knowing you did all you could to help them understand football.

Yes, you read that right: the only thing I have to offer as it pertains to how I can improve the lives of strangers is trying to teach them the finer points of the RPO.

Your in-laws and your extended family suck at watching football. Mostly, they’ll be on their phones or loudly talking over the broadcast if you live in one of those homes where people say “let’s turn off our phones this holiday” or you actually like your family. Luckily, the Bears play the early game of the day’s slate, so hopefully the game is damn near over before your uncle gets hammered and says something racist about some player being “one of the good ones”.

You’ll have to talk Trubisky with people who have no idea exactly what’s going on with his pisspoor mechanics or fragile mental state. Just tell them they’re right in their analysis and you read on Twitter the Bears are considering bringing in Colin Kaepernick for the rest of the year.

“What’s the deal with that Nagy guy? He only runs short passes or runs up the middle!” Yeah, you’re actually spot on with that analysis there, Uncle Kev. That said, you could try to explain the intricacies of the total oblivion that is the Bears offense, but he’s just gonna forget and then compliment your new romantic partner on their body. Tread lightly.

Your family is gonna be spewing takes straight out of Skip Bayless’ wet dreams, and it’s up to you to pick your battles. I wouldn’t try to defend the offensive side of the ball, save explaining anything about this team when the defense gives up a field goal after a turnover and your cousin talks about how shitty they look this year even though as far as being athletic is concerned, the only running that cousin has done in the last year is from child support.

My advice for you is to either get to the place hosting your Thanksgiving dinner after the Bears game, or get there early and hope nobody shows up until the Dallas/Buffalo game. That one’s the easy one, since everyone’s non-football fan family members remember Dallas and will probably root for them, and you can play bingo trying to keep track of how many of them compliment Cole Beasley for being “gritty” or “sneaky fast”.

The Saints/Falcons will be a great nightcap, and for once you can use your fantasy football team to get out of those post-dinner conversations. I’ve spent the end of multiple Thanksgivings in my car, blasting one-hitters while listening to the Westwood One broadcast of the late game; those late nights are some of my favorite Thanksgiving memories. I guess that makes it sound like I hate my family, but that’s not true. I just have a lot of reverence for this stupid game we all love and if I can use it to get away from the hot takes that my in-laws spew over the holidays, I’ll take it.

Football is a great way to ignore the politics of Thanksgiving, and this year we are lucky enough to watch our beloved Bears shit the bed on national tv again!

Everything Else

Let’s get one thing straight—the owners of NFL teams are terrible people. They’re succubi who feed off of young men, particularly young men of color, by profiting from the damage done to those young men’s short- and long-term health in exchange for a large sum of money that, while still large, is actually a fraction of the wealth of the owner, and more importantly, a fraction of the wealth that the player will bring to the owner, who ends up coming out way ahead in that deal. They’re succubi who feed off of taxpayers by extorting stadium funding, the receipts from which go overwhelmingly back to the owner, rather than the community that paid for the building. This is the most blatant of their extortions, but they also suck out subsidies and tax breaks that, like a slow bleed, drain resources away from the very community that is then threatened by the owner with the loss of their team.

Everything Else

At this point in my life, at least circling the concept of being an adult without actually becoming one, I know that separating the art from the artist isn’t only a good idea, it’s pretty necessary most of the time. I know Jeremy Roenick is getting ever more bloated, both physically and philosophically, and has essentially been a barking face-orifice for the past five to ten years now. So I have to keep his playing career, perhaps the single element most responsible for my Hawks and hockey fandom, separate from the man himself. And most of the time, it’s easy.

But every so often…