Posted in Chicago Bears

Starbucks, Las Vegas, and Dick Butkus

It was the last day of our Las Vegas Vacation. My husband wanted to go to the Hoover Dam which left us with two options for that morning: find a Starbucks or settle for Hotel Coffee. Apparently, hotel coffee was no option. There was one at the Harrah’s which was on the next block, so it wasn’t exactly out of our way and it was an oddly comfortable day in the mid-80’s.

We were walking out of the Starbucks not long after when one of the many billboard trucks passed by. Except of advertising your morning dose of discount call girls or an opportunity to fire off an automatic weapon, this one was for Dick Butkus.

I’m not an English Major, so I can’t be sure if the situation can be described as serendipitous. As it is, my English Major friends already brace themselves at the constant question of, ‘Yeah, but is it ironic?’ What I can tell you is what Dick Butkus meant to me or, more specifically, my family.

I am what you would call a ‘Generational Fan.’ I am die hard. I grew up watching the Chicago Bears, both modern games and classics shown on WGN long before either NFL Network or ESPN Classic existed. I would hear retellings of Butkus’ games like they were war stories. He is #51, the embodiment of 1963. My father and I were convinced that we would have to win the lottery before we would have the chance to meet him.

My husband has been assaulted with the same stories over the past ten years. He could see how I froze on the sidewalk as the truck sped by. He knew it was that important to me. I pointed out that the appearance was just across the street. He suggested we should go.

But you wanted to go to the dam. The dam will always be there. But what if the line’s too long? Then we can just head back and still make the dam. But… This is important, and you wouldn’t forgive yourself if we didn’t try.

He was right.

We arrived a while after a slight deluded detour where I started walking towards where I thought there was a bridge but apparently I imagined it. I’m still trying to figure out how that happened. There were half a dozen people in line and they had just started signing. I was shaking in line while my husband rubbed my back so I wouldn’t hyperventilate. I would watch people from the line and grow confused.

No one else was this panicked. Maybe they were more prepared. They had their photos and footballs ready to be signed, so obviously they were aware of what was going to happen. Still, I was panicked. I was on the edge of tears the entire time and growing furious that I was the only one. The line was full of middle-aged men and their wives. The men would be polite and humorous while their wives would bear with it and took pictures.

I was, as I like to say, ‘flipping a mf’ing spaz.’

I don’t remember much of what I was able to say to Dick Butkus when it was finally my turn. It probably wasn’t coherent. I know I blubbered in the beginning and my husband had to translate it to Human English. At some point he had me introduce myself and I said I worked at Yahoo! Fantasy Sports, which amused him. And he asked if I had any questions. I said no, because if you have been watching sports long enough to know Dick Butkus is, you also have watched enough interviews and analyses to know there isn’t much more to be gleaned from 1963 that hasn’t already been said.

“This is weird, but I really want to hug you right now.”

That is what I clearly remember saying. He laughed and said I could and I hugged him. He was warm and I had finally lost it and started crying. Then I rapidly told him about how important he was to me and my family and how we thought we would never meet him.*

I can guarantee I’m the only one who reacted like that on that particular day. I shocked the hell out of the shop owner and Dick Butkus looked like he appreciated my reaction. When they gave us the picture they took of us three to sign, thankfully before I cried and shrieked, I had him include my dad and grandfather, since they weren’t there with me. My dad was at home but my grandfather had passed away. I think he appreciated that as well. Afterwards, he asked me something I remember very clearly.

“Do you want another hug?”

I shrieked again and hugged him, this time tighter. I staggered out of the shop and sat down on a bench out of direct line of sight to the shop’s door where I could spaz and cry in peace. Everyone who passed by stared and everyone we passed stared. I didn’t care. This was something my husband did for me that led to one of the single best moments that I will remember. If you can ever show someone, even if you’ve never met, what they meant to you, it will be one of your best moments.

That is how my addiction for Starbucks let me meet Dick Butkus. And for anyone who thinks this moment is a bit overdramatic, well obviously it was overdramatic. But that is exactly how it happened. I was a spaz. I cried. I hugged Dick Butkus. I feel glad that there is any person who makes me feel that way, where just meeting them for something that they did out of a passion allowed me to thank them for impacting my life for the better.

That’s the power of fandom. Not just for sports, but for anything where someone has a skill set above all others where you appreciate it on a level above yourself. I have mathematicians, scientists, writers, and other athletes on this list and if chance should have me meet them, I will jump on it. Everyone should have this list. I couldn’t imagine how empty or cold or sanitary a life would be without it.

*At this point in writing this, I’m now trying to not cry on the train. THAT IMPORTANT.

Posted in Chicago Bears, NFL, Sports

There is no room for Pity in the NFL.

The guys in my office and I give each other a lot of crap, especially where Football is concerned. I tend to be singled out since most of the guys there are either from the Bay Area and are 49er fans or are from Boston and are Pats fans. I am from Chicago. I am usually on the ass end of these conversations so I try to stay quiet.

Try to.

This conversation started about 10 minutes of straight Niner whining that they may not see the Super Bowl again in light of this year’s NFL Draft.

Engineer #1: It’s getting to the point it’s just hard to be a Niners fan these days.
Engineer #1: W-what?
Me: (in a mocking whiny voice, with back turned to the rest of the room) Oh Boo Hoo. We can’t make it to the Superbowl even though we went a bajillion times already. What Ever Will We Do?!
Engineer #2: Oh come on, we haven’t even been in playoff contention for over five years!
Me: Up until a few years ago, the Bears haven’t been in playoff contention for over Fifteen. CRY ME A RIVER.
Engineer #3: Ha, yeah we got a little spoiled with the 90’s…
Me: Yeah. “A Little.”
Engineer #4: You know the 49ers never lost a Superbowl that they got to.
Me: … I effing hate you guys so much.

Posted in Sports

The Olympics, Redux

The Olympics are around the corner again. Well, not for the general public. That would be next year. But if you’re in marketing or any sort of support for Athletics or the event in general, you’ve already been on it for a month.

One of the guys I work with and I get along very well when it comes to all sports all the time. He was talking to one of our product managers about the Olympics then turned to me and asked how I felt about Olympic coverage. He is a purist when it comes to live sports. Namely, it has to be live. So when the news came down that NBC was offsetting the times of the events for the 2012 Olympics, it was frustrating.

I told him that I preferred primetime viewing, to a point. The biggest problem was that I love the Olympics. Well, the winter ones. I’m not really a fan of summer sports. But when it comes to winter sports? I love international competition. Especially hockey! And it almost never gets played in a timezone you can watch. The other problem is that what you might want to watch may be different from what NBC expects you to watch, then you’re out of luck.

We came up with a brilliant system!

NBC should have primetime coverage. Some events will of course have a great deal of interest, like whatever event Michael Phelps is in. DirecTV, because it is the service we have in the office, should have 24/7 broadcasts. This way those who want to see it when it happens can, and they can show all that extra fluff between events down to what is going on in the Olympic Village. I hear Phelps has some awesome downtime activities.

Honestly, I watched the XGames in the summer. I don’t even remember what I watch during the Olympics… I know it wasn’t swimming.

Posted in Chicago Blackhawks, NHL, Sports

Sports in Review: Chicago Blackhawks, the Playoffs

We were out in one, but it was also the most intense first round contests of any sport I’ve ever witnessed. The first two games we practically threw away. Halfway through the third, a shock came to the entire team as Seabrook was blindsided by a dirty hit by Toress (VAN). It was brutal by Old School Standards. By modern standards, it should have been at least 5 minutes in the box though I was furious with anything less than a full suspension. But no, two minutes.

It didn’t matter. That woke the team up. Sometimes it takes something brutal to unite you as a unit. From then on, it was dominating once again. Granted, they lost Game 3. Games 4 and 5 were played as if they were a different squad all together. They played hard and Crawford instantly from Rookie to Headliner. It went from a 7-2 landslide at home to a 5-0 shutout  in Vancouver. The Hawks were back.

By Game 6, the stunned Canucks regained focus. Game 6 was what everyone expected the entirety of the series to be: a battle of Defenses. Back in Chicago, the Hawks scraped by 3-2 in overtime. When they had to finish in Vancouver, it went down even further losing 1-2 in overtime.

Losses are tragic, but this is one of those that could be a moral victory. I never expect a team that backs into the playoffs to excel, but they did. They turned their Rookie Goalie into a Wall competing against Legendary Luongo on the same ice where Luongo won the Gold for Canada in the Winter Olympics just a year prior. Next year, I will be excited from October to May. You can count on that.

Posted in Chicago Blackhawks, NHL, Sports

Sports in Review: Chicago Blackhawks, the Championship Slump

I haven’t had a lot of time to spend with Hockey for the same reasons as any Championship team finds it difficult to repeat: the season was incredibly long. I suffer from great superstition, just like many other fans. This is my reasoning for never washing my Kane jersey during the playoffs. The playoffs take forever and hockey jerseys are made specifically to be worn in winter in rinks next to large swaths of ice. Wearing it to work in the middle of of May can make even the hardest fans a bit whiny and miserable. I honestly have no idea how people survived the Blackhawks Championship Parade when it was in the 90’s and you’re crammed around the entire populace of the Greater Chicagoland Area and then some who weren’t at the Sox vs Cubs game.

This year, I knew my schedule would be even more restrictive. I was so right. I could tell at the beginning of the season when I was debating getting NHL Center Ice this year, I was coming home close to 9 pm every night. Also with the dreaded Byfuglien and Niemi trades, this year was going to be rough. In hindsight, I’m glad I missed a majority of it. Injuries plagued the team as well as trying to resync when half of your team is gone.

I knew it wasn’t going anywhere. Right now, every memory I have of this season is overshadowed by my memories of last season when we were dominant and sweating blood and awesome. I am not nearly attached to still playing the Goalie Carousel into the end of the season. I was only able to catch up during the last few weeks, when we were slowly but surely backing into the playoffs.