Welcome to Sunday School in Chicago

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Welcome to Sunday School in Chicago
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

There is no choice when you grow up in Chicago as to what football team to cheer for. 

You are raised to believe Mike Ditka is god, Soldier Field is your place of worship, and the Green Bay Packers are the devil. 

You are told Walter Payton's sweetness was disgusting to all competition, and he was merely a dream which will never be seen again. 

You whisper the name Dick Butkus, for fear he may jump out from behind a bush and physically tear you apart. 

Football season was meant to put all the squabbles over who was the best baseball team in Chicago aside, because neither team ended up winning (except, of course, in 2005).  But everyone came together to focus all of Chicago's hatred toward the Green Bay Packers. 

Being a Chicago Bears fan is not a a cult, it is not a religion, it is not a "nation." It is life; you question it, find faults in it, are crushed by it, are brought to tears and to your knees with it, but in the end have a strong belief you will one day rejoice in it. 

As a child, where you sat on Sundays during football season was just as designated as your classroom desk, but for good-luck purposes rather than learning purposes. 

You learned math by counting the inches on the football field and history by staring at Soldier Field, those blue and orange jerseys and wars between the green and yellow jerseys.  You learned vocabulary by listening to odd curse words muttered or yelled by your father and uncles. 

Your field trip was to the museum known as Soldier Field.  Your science experiments revolved around guessing the temperature while staring at your breath blowing in the wind.  Lunch was served in a parking lot off a grill or deep fryer, not in a cafeteria, with the smell of cheap beer surrounding it.  Welcome to Sunday school in Chicago.

Although being a Chicago Bears fan is passed down to children when they are barely able to read, what drew me to the Bears was the game of football itself.  In no other sport is such fury unleashed in a matter of seconds as is with each down of a football game. 

You grip the grass, grit your teeth and basically say to the man in front of you, "I am stronger than you," to which he responds, "Prove it."  You look in the eyes of the man next to you knowing he will get your back in case you are proven wrong. 

You allow endzone dances because you know the next time down the field that player will be barely able to walk.  You dance in the endzone because you know six points on the scoreboard is worth getting punished the next time down the field. 

Coaches grin at one another from across the field as if to say, "I know exactly what you're going to try to do."  There are no champagne celebrations, but rather celebrations with mud, sweat and blood.  This is football.

I have always said "put the sport ahead of your team" when discussing sports, but I find it hard to stay away from my allegiance to the orange and blue after the incredible highs and terrible lows we have been through. 

With all my favorite teams comes horrible pessimism going into each year, but for the Chicago Bears I have some strange sense of pride and love that will not allow me to give up.  It is as if they are my child and no matter what they do, I will always be in their corner believing in them. 

It is cheesy and completely misunderstood, but only in the sport of football can an allegiance like this occur.  I know one day all the tears, sweat and blood will be worth it and I'll be right where I always am—standing behind the Chicago Bears.

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