Johnny Brogan tends the bar at the Copper Kettle in Woodside, Queens. He’s been behind the sticks for twenty-four years, mixing Bloodies and pouring thick pints of the black. He’s there on Thanksgiving. He’s there on Christmas. He’s there, seemingly always, the front man of my local saloon since moving to the neighborhood a decade ago.
Thursday, the bar was empty when I sat down fifteen minutes before kickoff. Brogie, as he’s known in the community, put an Amstel Light and pint of club soda in front of me. This was going to be a long day of drinking and I had to pace myself. I ordered a bowl of potato leak soup to lay something of a base. No bread. (I’m off bread.)
I approached Bears at Lions the same way I’d approached the last month plus of Bears football: with passionate indifference. The team – and more importantly the quarterback – lost me entirely with their shambolic performance against the New Orleans Saints. And the weeks since have been a slow drain of any emotional juice I might have pumping through my supporter’s veins. This is a rare mode for me to be in, as I’ve always espoused the “we’re only guaranteed 16 of these a year” mentality. But it happens.
Then it stopped happening.
Sometime on Thursday, things changed.
I don’t know why.
I don’t know exactly when.
But sometime during this Thanksgiving game, I found my hands clenched together tightly. The Amstels were going back quicker. The pacing started. The bathroom trips multiplied. Nerves. Anxiety. Even Brogie noticed. “Only seen you like this during the Masters,” he said, referring to my nerves watching Tiger wrap-up number 15 earlier this year.
Maybe it was the kid quarterback, playing with shattered confidence and a bum shoulder, putting his teammates on his back in the second half, delivering several of the best passes of his young career.
Maybe it was Roquan Smith, flying all over the field, reminding us all why he was considered one of the best young defenders in the sport coming into the season. We’ll never fully understand the mental sabbatical Smith took mid-season. But if he plays like that, we won’t remember it either.
Maybe it was seeing promising talents like Anthony Miller and David Montgomery dominate. Finally. And for the first time in 2019, having a sense that this offensive project under Matt Nagy makes some sense. That these fellas can deliver in this offense.
Nagy described the emotions of the post-game Club Dub as “organic”. A good word for the moment. The Bears could not have felt triumphant after beating the Giants a week earlier. They were terrible for most of the afternoon. The Giants, as is often the case with terrible teams, were just worse. This week the Lions, with a third-string quarterback, played a good football game. But from the whistle to start the third quarter on, the Bears were just better. And they celebrated like they knew it.
I can’t fake fandom. If I don’t feel it, I don’t feel it. I still watch it, analyze it as best I can, collect information on it, write about it. But feeling it is a whole different experience. It’s why I love sports and these Chicago Bears, the only team in all of sports I support. I felt nothing against the Chargers. The Rams. The Giants. I just wanted those games to end.
I felt this game in Detroit. And the Bears did too.
Now the Bears have an opportunity over the final month to keep these emotions at a heightened state. Go beat the fading Cowboys. Beat the Packers. Let’s see the quarterback pile up some solid performances. Let’s see the inside linebacker continue to dominate. Let’s see Miller and Montgomery and Wims and the lot of em build momentum for the 2020 campaign.
That’s what is at stake this December. We wanted these games to matter to us. And now they do. Brogie better get those Amstels on the bar quickly.