Exactly one week from today the NFL season begins. This will be the first football season in 8 years that I will be able to enjoy in its entirety. No homework. No classes. No papers. No excuses. Am I ready for some football? I just ordered a new Bears t-shirt and bought a new Bears logo plate for my car. I believe that answers that question.
In honor of this one week countdown, I will post my favorite football memories, pictures, thoughts, players…well, you get it. Anything football. And I will attempt to do this on a daily basis (you were right, Chandra). Now, where to start.
How did I become a football fan. Blame my mother. No, that’s not a huge typo. Don’t blame my father for this one. My mom is the football fan of the family. She is the one who introduced me to Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers, aka the Kansas Comet. She is the one who taught me the importance of preparing dinner before noon on Sunday, so as not to be bothered with cooking during the games. From her I learned that nachos, popcorn, an ice cold Pepsi, and the occasional beer were added essentials to the food pyramid during football season. And that Mass on Saturday evenings was mandatory from September to January. Couldn’t take the chance that Padre’s sermon would last too long on a Sunday morning and we’d miss kick-off.
And she taught me words like kick-off, offsides, encroachment, the Hail Mary, sack, fumble, dumbass, dammit, and touchdown. And she educated me in loyalty. Pick a team and stick with them.
I liked that Gale Sayers was from Kansas. I watched Brian’s Song every single time it was aired, always crying in the end. And I actually met Gale Sayers at a Walk for Mankind event in the 70s. Plus, my favorite color is orange. Naturally, I became a Bears fan.
I can’t tell you the exact year I began adding blue and orange to my wardrobe, or when I memorized the Bears Fight Song, but I know my affair with the Monsters of the Midway began with Gale Sayers. Maybe it was my mother’s tone of voice whenever she spoke of him, always reminding me “he’s from Kansas, you know.” Or the way he smiled at me amidst a throng of sweaty, blister-footed kids on a break from our walk. Or maybe it was James Caan as Brian Piccolo dying in that hospital bed.
Or the speech by Mr Sayers, portrayed by Billy Dee Williams, at the end of the movie. Whatever it was, it seeped into my veins along with my mother’s sacred Sunday ritual, and I was never the same.
Since 1970, the Chicago Bears veterans vote and award the “Brian Piccolo Award” to the Bears rookie who exemplifies courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication, and sense of humor of the late Brian Piccolo. Now that I think about it, possibly it was the angel of Mr. Piccolo who touched my heart and caused me to fall head over heels for the Bears.
So there it is. Brian Piccolo is to blame. After all, he was a jokester like that.