My sports fandom is a study in contrast: I’ve always approached sports with a deep analytical focus and historical base while being absolutely illogical in my emotional application of those insights.
I’ll give you an example.
In 2004, I saw great promise in a Bears defense in its first year under Lovie Smith, and after a 1-5 start we ripped off a three-game winning streak starting on Halloween. That brought us to 4-5, with a defense that produced 13 sacks, 10 takeaways, two touchdowns and one walk-off safety.
Nothing about that streak struck me as flukey. Our young stars were carrying the day, and we had speed and smarts all over the field. I also knew that teams had made stark recoveries after beginning 1-5 and gotten themselves back into the playoff hunt. Just three years earlier, Washington had started 0-5 before clawing their way to 5-5.
So here we had two factual elements: our defense was legitimately dominant and at 4-5 we could make a run at the playoffs.
My illogical application of those facts was to then declare that the Bears WOULD reach the playoffs. I even tethered that theory for some reason to the Carolina Panthers, who started the season 1-7 but whom I thought was better than their record. The Panthers proceeded to rip off a five-game winning streak to get to 6-7.
Both teams stood at 5-7 after December 5, which was our first game with Chad Hutchinson at quarterback, so in my fan-addled brain I decided that the Bears and Panthers storming into the playoffs in the same year both at 5-7 and meeting in a Wild Card game would be such a great story that it therefore made sense to predict its occurrence.
Which brings us to this season and the 2006 prophecy.
Readers of my work know that the Bears play the exact same teams this year as we did in 2006. After we lost to the Dolphins this year to fall to 3-3, I noted on Twitter that our only three losses in 2006 were to the three teams we’d lost to in 2018: Green Bay, New England, Miami.
My conclusion, therefore, was that the 2018 Bears would completely match the 2006 Bears step by step in the regular season. That remains an illogical assessment made even dumber by the difference in the two season’s schedules, namely that our three losses in 2006 extended from our 8th game to our 16th, whereas the 2018 losses all came in the first six games.
In order to match The Prophecy, that means we have to run the table and get to 13-3.
The delicious joy of The Prophecy really started before the Patriots game, when I wrote about how we were likely facing our final shot to beat Tom Brady. I wanted off the schneid both because I want to win every game regardless of any greater context, and because it would be nice for TB12 to retire without having sole ownership of his portion of the Bears-Pats rivalry.
I also recognized that it was very possible we would not win, as we were still a young team lo those many weeks ago, learning our way.
The Prophecy gave me an out:
Readers of my work know that I am a sports fan who believes to a degree in Signs and Symbols and Enticing Statistical Irrelevance. And so I noted last week that the 2018 Bears play all of the same teams as the 2006 Bears, and that our only regular season losses that year were to the Dolphins, Pats and Packers.
The prophecy states, therefore, that we will lose Sunday to New England, and then run the table to reach 13-3, ultimately losing to some schlubby carpet-treading dome-huddler in the Super Bowl. However I have instituted the 1984/1985 prophecy corollary to declare that our loss this year will be a Here We Come year, and we shall be glorious champions in 2019.
This seems silly, of course. And yet to me, it made, and makes, perfect sense. If we defeated the Patriots, we had a victory, an important victory and a victory over Tom Brady.
And if we lost to the Patriots I could chalk it up to The Prophecy and feel fine and dandy.
So that’s what I did. And not long after we lost, I tweeted this:
Just a reminder that the Bears play all the teams in 2018 that we played in 2006. We went 13-3 in 2006. Our three losses that season:— Jack M Silverstein (@readjack) October 15, 2018
So far, so good.@WCGridiron
I posted the same note on WCG’s Facebook page. Do you know what happened? The tweet and the post blew up. Bears fans LOVED it. Some of that love was just the realization of the coincidence, but I would bet that most was the self-imposed brain coercion that the loss to the Pats is Part Of The Plan. That it has Greater Meaning and Deep Significance.
In other words, that it’s all good.
I know this all seems silly to some. Yet here we are at 8-3 and I feel more confident than ever that I have approached this season the right way.
Why? Because the emotional component of sports fandom is inherently illogical, yet that component is also the only reason to be a sports fan, particularly a fan of a specific team. Otherwise you may as well just be a sports observer or a sports analyst, and from what I can tell those people have much less fun than the rest of us.
To me, there is actually no real reason to follow sports EXCEPT to be emotional — i.e. to transpose the team’s success and failure onto your own identity so that you can hijack emotions and grant yourself a richer emotional and communal experience.
The Prophecy does that for me. It drapes an analytical excuse over my emotional output and reaffirms my own belief in my fandom. It essentially is an internal loop of preaching to the choir, where I am the preacher and I am the choir.
So yes, the Bears are going 13-3. You can write it down in ink if you want, if folks still do that. You’ll also be happy to know that while The Prophecy technically means we will lose the Super Bowl this year, we happen to be operating based on The 1984 Prophecy, which says that a young team in an up-and-coming season will reach the conference championship as a springboard to the following season’s championship.
Recent Chicago teams that followed The 1984 Prophecy include the 2009/2010 Blackhawks and the 2015/2016 Cubs.
Enjoy The Prophecy, Bears fans. It’s as real as anything else.
Jack M Silverstein is Windy City Gridiron’s Bears historian, and author of “How The GOAT Was Built: 6 Life Lessons From the 1996 Chicago Bulls.” He is the proprietor of Chicago sports history Instagram “A Shot on Ehlo.” Say hey at @readjack.