I nearly fell out of my chair laughing when I found out that the Chicago Bears and the Indianapolis Colts would meet each other in this year’s Super Bowl. I call it the Champaign-Urbana Bowl, and the reason why requires some detailed explanation.
I grew up in the Chicago area, so the Bears were my football team for most of my life. But I’d always liked the Green Bay Packers, and when I moved to Madison, Wisconsin four years ago, I was on the fence about whether to root for the Packers or the Bears. I’d only been to Green Bay once as my family was passing through from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The distances to both stadiums were similar–to Soldier Field it was 148 miles, and to Lambeau Field it was 136 miles. I decided to watch the Bears and Packers play on Monday Night Football to see where my loyalties were. I decided at that point to switch my allegiance to the Packers. There were two reasons for this. First the Bears’ threat to build a new stadium outside the city limits resulted in renovations at Soldier Field that ruined the classical appearance. The stadium was de-listed as a national landmark while ironically reducing the number of seats. They preserved the Neo-classical columns, but it now looks like an alien ship has landed on the Acropolis. Secondly was the fact that I now lived in Wisconsin, liked how the Packers were publicly owned, and it felt right to declare myself a member of Wisconsin’s official state religion.
Four years ago, the Packers were threatening to make the Super Bowl and the Bears had yet to beat them in this century. Fortunes reversed themselves last year when the Pack went 4-12 and the Bears won the division. The Bears and Packers met in the last game of the season late last year, and prior to the game, the Bears had already clinched their division, and the Packers stood at 7-8. If the Packers were to beat the Bears, not only would they be 8-8 but would stand a good chance at making the playoffs. So to the Bear fans I knew, I proposed a win-win situation. The Bears had been playing rather lackluster ball the last couple of games, so I figured that if they would let the Packers beat them, the Packers might make the playoffs, but the Bears would benefit, too, because it just might be the kick in the tush needed to get the Monsters of the Midway serious about the playoffs. But I found no takers among Bear fans. As it turned out, the Packers beat the Bears handily, but did not make the playoffs because the New York Giants won the previous day.
But there was another time when a few of us decided to stray from our loyalties as Bear fans. When I was a senior in college at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, my housemates and I decided that we wanted to see a Bears game. But this was the late 80’s, and the Bears were still a dominant team after their Super Bowl victory a couple years before, and when we made inquiries about tickets, we learned that the entire season was sold out.
The twin cities of Champaign and Urbana, Illinois are a good 2-3 hours south of Chicago. But I began to wonder if Indianapolis might be closer. I did some checking and found out that was indeed true. We didn’t have Mapquest back in 1988, but a recent check of Mapquest shows that Soldier Field is 138.17 miles from where we lived in Urbana, and the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis (now the RCA Dome) is 119.62 miles from where we lived. The Indianapolis Colts had moved from Baltimore just four years before and were not a very good team—maybe a couple of games below .500. But when we called, it turned out they had tickets available. So at that moment, on the basis of ticket availability and closer proximity, my housemates and I decided to become rabid Indianapolis Colts fans.
The whole thing was kind of a joke. None of us were rabid sports fans to begin with, but for fun we decided to play the whole thing up to the hilt. So on Sunday, when the Colts were playing, we’d try to catch the game on TV, and sit on the couch in our boxer shorts, drink beer and belch as we cheered on the Colts. (This included the one female among the four of us, who also had her own pair of boxer shorts.)
And then, on one cold November afternoon, we piled into my VW Beetle and took a road trip to the Hoosier Dome to see the Colts play the New York Jets. I must say, it was a little bit of a strange experience seeing a football game in a dome. It looked like football players in full padding were playing on a giant tennis court. But the Colts won as we cheered them on, and to this day, it remains the only NFL game I have ever seen.
So now I find it hilarious that the Bears and the Colts are meeting each other in the Super Bowl eighteen years after our momentary defection from the Bears to the Colts. I’m not quite sure whom I am going to root for yet, especially since my primary loyalty is now with the Packers. The RCA Dome is now 330.07 miles from my home so on that basis I should root for the Bears, but I don’t know. Each team has won one Super Bowl, but the Colts’ one Super Bowl victory occurred in 1971 when they were still in Baltimore. The Colts have had a great team for years, but couldn’t make the Super Bowl until now. The Bears weren’t supposed to make it far this year either, so it’s hard to say who the Cinderella team is here. As of now, I’m leaning slightly towards the Colts.