One of the major tenets of being a sports fan is the conflict you assume with other fandoms. By choosing your side, you actively take up distaste and antipathy for other sides automatically. The back-and-forth is supposed to be part of the fun/misery. And the way these things work, the way sports are supposed to work, is that there will be a give and take in fortunes between the two over time. That you will have periods of success and triumph that you can reference when the other side has them, and they’ll still be fresh enough to be relevant. Taken all together, you’re supposed to be able to look each other in the eye, stonewalling each other for your entire lives.
There is no worse feeling for a fan than when not only have you been down and lost, but there’s no response. There’s nothing to cling to. There’s nothing to crow about. There’s no scoreboard or banner anywhere to point to. The absolute bottom is when you can’t even muster a response, when you’re out of life. You’re truly beaten, with no outs. Quite simply, all your passion is simply drained out of you.
I knew what would happen when the Bears pulled within three points yesterday. We all did. We deluded ourselves for a couple minutes just for the sake of it, but it was a half-hearted effort to blind ourselves to the truth.
Aaron Rodgers would drive the Packers down the field with the ease of someone playing his much younger sibling, because that’s what we’ve always been. There might even be a couple third downs where we would allow ourselves to believe for just a second, before #12 took that belief and wrapped it around our throat. It’s not that Rodgers has ever needed last-minute drives to beat the Bears. I can’t even remember one. In fact, the only last-minute drive against the Bears I remember him engineering ended in failure on Brett Favre Night. (Editor’s note: Years of enthusiastic drug use have caused Sam Fels to block out Week 17 of the 2013 season. We apologize on Sam’s behalf, but we certainly don’t blame him.)
No, what he’s always done is just come up with the insultingly easy and smooth series of plays late in the third quarter or early in the fourth to stamp out any hope after the Bears have pulled within three, or seven, or even 10. The polar bear waiting by the air holes of the seals. As soon as we can sense oxygen, our head gets bitten off. We can’t even get close enough for Rodgers to have to sweat. We’re swatted away flippantly, which is far, far worse.
And that’s what happened yesterday. You may think we punch walls or kick chairs after every first down. We don’t. Maybe 10 years ago we did. We just stare blankly. I could even hear the Soldier Field faithful doing so. It’s the same as the movie you’ve seen 20 times on HBO, but you tune in to kill for 15-20 minutes simply to coat yourself in the familiarity. You can’t be shocked by the twists or laugh at the jokes anymore, you know them so well. It’s almost stasis at this point.
It was all capped off by the touchdown run from Rodgers that I’ve seen enough times that I could illustrate it from memory and I can’t even draw. That brief slice of a millisecond where you think all the receivers are covered for once and you just might get to him. And then he slithers out of the pocket, slower than he did before, which makes it all the more infuriating (if I could even feel at this point), and your mind can do the calculation on the screen before even the broadcasters can. There’s far too much green around him, the angles aren’t there, and he’s going to waltz into the endzone exactly a yard and a half before any defender can get there. Your muscles may tighten for a heartbeat in an attempt to cosmically will some linebacker or defensive back to become faster than they ever have before. Or maybe that’s just your asshole prepping for the pain wave that’s become so subtle now. I don’t know.
The greater football commentariat wants to believe that all us Bears fans were swearing right back at Rodgers from our homes when he informed us he owns us. Or that we were livid and putting our collective head through the drywall. Even in the solitude of my own home, with no one watching, I couldn’t even spasm a muscle. I doubt many others did. The lowest of the low, we just had to watch it.
What were we going to say? Or do? It’s been nearly a decade and a half of this shit. Oh sure, he’s only won one Super Bowl. The Bears haven’t even been to one. Only got close to one, where on the way they lost to...Aaron Rodgers. There’s no retort. There’s no solace. We don’t even tell the Big Bad Wolf about our chinny-chin-chin. We see the wolf coming over the hill, pack up the cats, and leave and watch our house fall over from afar. And the wolf barely has to exhale by this point.
Sure, Justin Fields provides hope that it might change one day. Combined with Rodgers’ seeming desire to fuck off from Wisconsin forever (the first time Bears fans have felt a bond with him) and it actually feels tangible for once. But it’s still so many years in the future that we can climb back up on any sort of level pedestal, and who has the gumption for that right now?
We just had to sit there and take it. Watch it. I’d say feel it, but that’s beyond us. There was no comeback. Nothing to comfort. He’s right. He’ll always be right. It’s just the truth. And nothing hurts more than that.