KAY ADAMS: It’s time for our new segment—I think this is going to be a fun one—it’s called Stake and Take and it’s sponsored by gamballers.com. For the first time on Good Morning Football, we are actually putting our money where our mouth is and betting real hard-earned cash on the team we believe is going to win.
NATE BURLESON: And we’d be remiss not to thank the Supreme Court, the New York State voters, and of course, commissioner Roger Goodell for allowing an exception to the company policy on betting. We love you Rog!
KYLE BRANDT: But the great thing about this is and the great thing about gamballers.com is it’s not just a bet—the “Stake.” The site also has it integrated so you can tweet out what you’re betting and why—the “Take.” They’ve basically incorporated social media into the sports betting delivery platform.
KAY ADAMS: It’s genius. So smart. That’s why they’re making the big bucks and we are here betting just 1 to 10 dollars on the team we believe in. Which, by the way. is a more substantial amount for a media personality than you might expect. Soo this week we’re doing the classic rivalry Bears at Packers. Peter start us off—
NATE BURLESON: Woah woah woah. What was that? Are you complaining about our pay? Kay’s campaigning for a raise over here in the middle of our segment.
KAY ADAMS: Ok. First of all, I’m not the one who just told our commissioner I “love” him. Second, I don’t think an 14% raise would be unreasonable. In fact that seems like probably the right number off the top of my head, but that’s between my agent and the company. I’m not getting involved.
KYLE BRANDT: (laughing) Yeah, you’re not getting involved on national television. That’s what you’re not doing.
PETER SCHRAGER: Can I start!?
KAY ADAMS: Yes. Please.
PETER SCHRAGER: Ok, so the Bears have done a lot of good things this off-season. They brought in Matt Nagy from Kansas City. They retooled their receiving corps. They drafted Roquan Smith. But the Packers still have Aaron Rodgers, and they’re playing in Lambeau, so I’m going have to Stake my Take on the Packers. $8.
Peter Schrager’s tweet scrolls across the screen: Expect Bears to come to play Sunday, but won’t bring enough to beat AR12 in his element #StakeandTake.
KAY ADAMS: See I agree with Peter that this game is going to be won by AR12, but I’m talking about a different AR12: Allen Robinson #12 for the Chicago Bears. I’m seeing a huge debut for him. I’m picturing Josh Jackson against Allen Robinson in man coverage getting burned over and over again. The Packers’ second round pick is a great zone corner, but he struggles in man coverage and we all know how Mike Pettine loves his man coverage schemes. So I am going to Stake my Take on the Bears. All 10 dollars because I’m feeling it for this game and I’m feeling that raise coming.
Kay Adams’ tweet scrolls across the screen: I’m calling it: My Bears prove they’re for real this season in Week One and take down the Packers at Lambeau Field #StakeandTake.
KYLE BRANDT: Ok, so has anyone seen Clay Matthews after his nose “reconstruction surgery.”
KAY ADAMS: Yeah. He looks good.
NATE BURLESON: Let’s just call it what it is. Real talk. He got a nose job. He broke his nose and he used it as an excuse to get a nose job.
KYLE BRANDT: I don’t disagree. But hear me out. He’s looking better than ever. He’s feeling confident. I see a bounce-back year coming from Clay Matthews. And I hate to say it because I love the Bears, but if that Packers defense gets right, with Aaron Rodgers on the other side, we’re looking at a Super Bowl team. I can’t see the Bears beating them at home. I’m Staking my Take on the Packers. $2. Because I can’t bet it all against my Bears!
Kyle Brandt’s tweet scrolls across the screen: Clay Matthews’ new nose and Packers new DC are going to be too much for the Bears developing offense this Sunday. #PackersOverBears #StakeandTake
NATE BURLESON: See I disagree with you completely Kyle. I’m picking the Bears and I’m picking them because I don’t think the Packers are going to be ready for what they’re bringing on offense.
KAY ADAMS: Sorry to interrupt you, Nate. But this just came in and I think we need to hear it. This is a tweet from Anthony Miller, the Bears’ rookie wide receiver. You know him?
PETER SCHRAGER: Of course. Memphis Tiger. Sleeper rookie of the year candidate if you ask me.
KYLE BRANDT: I love him.
KAY ADAMS: Well I’m not sure he loves you. He just replied to your tweet “@KyleBrandt Mane I’ma dedicate my first touchdown to this trash tweet. #BearsOverPackers #EatYourStake”
KYLE BRANDT: Nooo. I’m sorry Anthony. I want to be wrong! I just don’t think it’s going to happen. If you prove me wrong, I will gladly eat my stake.
KAY ADAMS: Ok, sorry Nate. We’ll let you finish.
NATE BURLESON: Ok, so Matt Nagy is bringing over his version of the Chiefs’ offense, one of the best offensive schemes in the NFL, and it’s one the Packers aren’t very familiar with. The Packers have only played the Chiefs once in the last two years. Now you can say the Eagles with Doug Pederson bringsthat same Andy Reid offense. Ok, the Packers have only played the Eagles once in the last two years. So I’m going to say the Bears bring it and the Packers aren’t ready. But in honor of Greebo and Strap, the best baller rappers in the game right now, I had to make my tweet rhyme.
Nate Burleson’s tweet scrolls across the screen: Bears show up Sunday ready to attack, do just that, and smack the Pack #StakeandTake.
KAY ADAMS: Ok. Before we move on. It looks like Anthony Miller is watching us live because we’ve got a new tweet and I think it’s about you, Kyle. @Anthony.Miller3 says, “Only thing sadder than a Bears fan betting against the Bears is a talk show host backing off of his take after less than a minute because of an unproven rookie’s tweet. smh. #gmfb” Sorry, Kyle, no time to respond. We have to move on to our next topic, Who will win a playoff game first? Matthew Stafford or Charlie Whitehurst?
Vanessa quickly covered her face, turned, and walked the opposite direction on Michigan Avenue from Staley Da Bear.
“Vanessa, hold up!” Staley’s effortlessly welcoming voice immediately dissipated any tension Vanessa’s reaction had built up. Vanessa continued walking away, but slowed down.
“I’m glad I ran into you,” Staley began. “I really enjoyed talking to you the other night.”
“That was work.” Vanessa said coldly, still not showing her face.
“And sometimes people enjoy their work,” Staley didn’t miss a beat. “Look. My friends ‘warned me’ about you. And they told me they saw you with that Silverspoon guy. I don’t care about that. What I care about is how I felt when I was with you at Bearaoke. Personally, I think we can feel that again.”
Vanessa turned around. She didn’t speak but she met Staley’s gaze and they locked eyes in silence for several seconds.
“So what will it take to see you again?” Staley asked. “We don’t have to call it a date. But you should know that is how I’m going to mark it down on my calendar.”
Vanessa looked deep into Staley Da Bear’s warm orange eyes and sighed. “Mr. Softee...”
“I’m not as soft as I look,” Staley replied.
“No. Mister Softee. The soft serve ice cream truck. Pick a corner and a time. I’ll meet you there. If Mister Softee comes at that time. I’ll stick around.”
“You don’t make it easy on a Bear.”
“Nothing good in life is easy,” Vanessa grinned and walked away.
“How do I get ahold of you?” Staley shouted?
“Ask Silverspoon.” Vanessa called back as she turned the corner.
The Chicago Bears bore the stench of molding curds and roar of mindless cheeseheads like true warriors as they took the field at Lambeau. In fact, as each Bear took a deep breath and experienced the pure repulsiveness of the stadium’s odor, he felt empowered, knowing that if he could dominate his own deep visceral urge to regurgitate, he could dominate anything. That dominance showed in the first two downs, when Vic Fangio’s defense held Aaron Rodgers and his cast of clowns to just two yards, setting up 3rd and 8.
Right at the snap, a yellow flag flew up into the air, and Rodgers sailed a hail mary ball deep towards the end zone. The ball luckily flopped into the awkward hands of rookie wide receiver Equanimious St. Brown and the crowed erupted in cheers.
“I think that’s going to be for 12 men on the field,” Chris Collinsworth began. “I didn’t count, but Rodgers has gotten so good at this. I feel like I call it at least a few times every year: he gets the snap off before the defense can substitute and gets a free play.”
The referee came on to the field. “There is a flag on the play. Too many men on the field - Offense. 5 yard penalty. Repeat third down”
A caucophony of boos and confused grunts spread through the crowd. “Well I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that before. 12 men on the offense. And as well roll back the tape we see Randall Cobb running back onto the field after he was clearly substituted, and it looks as if he’s hunting for something on the turf even as the play develops.” Collinsworth was in awe as he relayed the facts to the television audience.
“What the hell are you doing?” Rodgers screamed at his increasingly-irrelevant slot receiver.
“Sorry, Aaron. I lost my contact. If the camera shows me with one contact, they’ll see that I wear color contacts. I’ve gotten this far into my career hiding my secret, I can’t let it out, now. I just can’t!” There was true panic in Cobb’s voice.
“What are you talking about?” Rodgers asked, looking at his receiver. “Your eyes are still the same color.”
“Are you blind!?” Cobb shrieked at his clueless QB. “My right eye has its contact in, and it’s appropriately seafoam green. My left contact is gone, and my left eye is the hideously banal aquamarine that my parents burdened me with!”
Rodgers shrugged as Cobb continued to hunt for his contact and incur three additional delay-of-game penalties. He was confident they would have no problem snuffing out the Bears regardless.
That confidence was certainly wavering when the Packers were down 21 to 6 near the end of the second quarter. The Packers’ last hope to salvage the game before halftime came when their mediocre defense managed to grind out a 3rd down stop against the Bears, forcing them to punt on 4th and long at their own 40 yard line.
As the Bears lined up their special teams unit, Pat O’Donnell looked to the sideline to Chris Tabor. Tabes gave him a knowing nod and O’Donnell returned his focus to the field.
“The Bears line up to punt,” Al Michaels began. “And it’s a low punt. And oh my goodness it appears to have struck in one of the Packers in the face. It’s stuck in his helmet. It’s Clay Matthews—he’s reeling forward and shaking his head wildly. I don’t know what he’s doing but as long as he keeps forward motion, it’s a live play. And a Bear has grabbed the ball from his helmet. Special teams Ace Sherrick McManis! And it looks like Matthews’ nose is broken again. It doesn’t look pretty.”
Clay Matthews nose was broken again. And it did not look pretty. In fact, none of his subsequent seventeen rhinoplasties would be able to recover the glory his nose had briefly appreciated after the first. But the Bears were able to recover the ball, now past midfield with under a minute on the clock.
As Kay Adams had prophecied, Allen Robinson beat Josh Jackson on two consecutive deep outs, as Jackson’s poor eye discipline let the better AR12 repeatedly break free at the top of his route stem. Frustrated, Jackson vowed to not make that mistake again, not fully processing the zone coverage call on the next play. On that play he followed Robinson tightly, commendably never averting his gaze. This allowed Anthony Miller to get wide open on a corner route behind him. Trubisky had no difficulty hitting him in stride, and the rookie high-stepped in to his first NFL touchdown.
Nobody understood Anthony Miller’s touchdown celebration live. And only very few caught its significance in instant replay. But it quickly went viral when a savvy fan posted a split-screen video showing his motions mirrored perfectly with the opening sequence to 2001’s Real World Chicago—Kyle Brandt’s debut in the entertainment industry. In retrospect, it would go down as one of the most savage touchdown celebrations of all time.
The Bears went on to win 56 to 6 after Nagy decided to pull his starters in the 3rd quarter. It would prove to be the Packers’ best-played game of the season.
It had been embarrassing for Staley to reach out to Reece Silverspoon to get Vanessa’s contact information. But Staley was never one to limit himself because of pride, so if pretending he wanted to deliver her season tickets with a surprise singing bearogram was what he had to do, he didn’t have a problem with it.
What was difficult was finding the most consistent Mister Softee in Chicago. Ultimately, he settled on finding one he could bribe to come outside Riverdale Plaza at exactly 5:30pm. Staley stood at his chosen spot at 5:28, waiting anxiously. It had been a long time that he’d felt this way about a woman. He was torn. He knew Akiem Hicks and his other friends would not approve of him seeing her again, but he had to admit that added to the excitement.
At 5:29 he could hear the Mister Softee song approaching around the corner. He saw the front of the blue and white truck stopped at the stop light just after it turned red.
At 5:30pm, Vanessa approached. She stood next to Staley without making eye contact. Staley stood patiently, not wanting to break any of the stipulations of their ‘date.’ The incessant ice cream song played from the corner as the light refused to change, and Vanessa checked her watch three times, at exact 20 second intervals before turning and walking away as the clock turned to 5:31 and the truck turned the corner, stopping in front of Staley.
If Staley was disappointed that Vanessa had walked away or annoyed at the Mister Softee driver, he didn’t show it.
“I’ll get two twists,” he said. “Dipped in chocolate with peanuts.”
“That was a little presumptuous to assume I would come back after you missed my deadline.” Vanessa was standing right beside Staley, but he hadn’t seen her because he’d been painstakingly forcing himself to avoid looking in her direction.
“Not at all,” Staley responded. “These are for me. Please, also get my companion whatever she wants.”
“I’ll have a twist,” Vanessa said. “With peanuts and dipped in chocolate. Please put the peanuts on first before you dip it in the chocolate.”
“Now you’re just trying too hard to be different,” Staley Da Bear teased.
“No.” Vanessa said. “I’m trying to keep my peanuts from falling off.”
Staley froze in place for several seconds. He’d been ordering soft serve for years and never considering putting the chocolate over the peanuts would keep them from falling off. His mind was blown. In this moment, he was exceedingly vulnerable. It was quite likely he was falling in love.
After an incredibly awkward pause, Staley tried to save face with a joke, “I’m only interested in eating the peanuts who are willing to stay.” He shrugged to play it cool. But even Mister Softee knew he had just been schooled.
As Vanessa bit into her chocolate-dipped cone with equal parts unbridled passion and tempered precision, Staley couldn’t help notice a large gemstone on her ring. “It’s encouraging to see you brought out your best jewelry for the occasion.”
“Oh this?” Vanessa gestured casually to the plus-sized rock on her finger. “It’s a sapphire. I didn’t have anything in Bears’ navy blue, but this was the closest I could find.”
“It will have to do,” Staley grinned.
“So where are we going?” Vanessa asked, locking arms with the ruggedly-handsome bear and taking another massive bite of her ice cream.
“To the pedway,” Staley responded, leading her towards Chicago’s underground pedestrian walkway.
“Why? It’s a beautiful September evening?” Vanessa asked.
“That’s exactly why. We’ll have it all to ourselves.”
They did, for the most part, have it all to themselves. But after a few minutes of talking and laughing, they came across a pair of young teenagers, trying to figure out how to kiss and licking each other’s face-lips in what they thought would be privacy. When the teenagers saw Staley and Vanessa, they started running away, the girl pulling the boy, who slowly followed without turning his gaze away from Vanessa.
“This is an open situation,” the young boy barely managed to yell before being punched by his date as they continued to slink away.
“They only know this place because I brought the girl here for a date last week,” Staley told Vanessa.
Vanessa couldn’t help smiling, letting out a louder laugh than she would have if she didn’t try to hold it back.
“What if I didn’t know you were joking?” Vanessa asked the charming Bear.
“Then you wouldn’t be who I thought you were,” Staley shrugged, and pulled her hand into his paw as they continued to walk the pedway.
“So what’s your favorite thing about your job?” Staley asked.
Vanessa paused. “You know I can’t tell you details about my work. But my favorite thing about my job is winning. Knowing that I danced with someone who had everything to lose, that they did everything possible in their power to oppose my agenda, with everything they loved on the line, and I beat them. I didn’t care even a sliver as much as them but I still beat them because I was that much better.”
Staley felt a chill as Vanessa talked. He was frightened and attracted at the same time. Again he felt himself freeze for an embarrassingly long time.
“My favorite part of my job is when the Bears win. So...there’s that.”
“We don’t have to be the same.” Vanessa smiled at Staley, and it was the first time he felt her present with him without reservation. He felt a beautiful warmth inside and continued to walk hand-in-paw. This time, he didn’t care if this was an awkward silence.
The two walked and talked through the evening, their laughter echoing through the halls of the empty pedway. Staley shared his most embarrassing story—falling onto the field during a celebration dance in college causing a game-losing penalty for his Alma Mater, the Baylor Bears. Vanessa admitted to Staley that she once accidentally framed the wrong man for drug smuggling, but later found out the man she’d mistakenly condemned to a life in prison had actually been a children smuggler—this had alleviated her guilt but not her embarrassment.
“I have a surprise for you.” Staley took Vanessa’s hand and led her out a pedway exit onto Randolph street. They looked across the street over Millennium park. The night sky was so perfectly clear to her that she could see even the dimmest of stars. The two took in the beauty of the universe for a pure moment before a brilliant shooting star soared across their vision.
“Wow,” Vanessa was truly impressed for the first time she could remember. “How did you possibly set that up?”
“Oh, that? That was just a coincidence. Your surprise is coming.”
Sure enough Vanessa’s ears soon perked up to the tell-tale sound of Mister Softee coming down the street. This time—and every time thereafter—Staley got his peanuts under the chocolate dip.
They ate their soft serve in the park. The conversation, smiles, and laughter flowed more freely than ever during the ice cream encore. As soon as Vanessa took the last bite of her cone, she dismissively tossed her napkin in the trash.
“Thanks. Tonight has been perfect. I can never see you again.”
Staley was so shocked that he laughed out loud. “That doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
“My life doesn’t make sense. And there’s no scenario where you can be a part of it. If it makes you feel better, I thought it through.” Vanessa avoided making contact with Staley’s sad beautiful eyes as she spoke.
“I’d like to respectfully disagree,” Staley responded, but the warm confidence his voice usually carried was wavering.
“Goodbye.” Vanessa embraced Staley before he could respond. They held each other for several seconds. Staley let go of his hopes of changing Vanessa’s mind, closed his eyes, and felt their hearts beating for the last few moments of their perfect evening. With her arms wrapped around Staley’s back, Vanessa pulled a small metallic device from behind the sapphire on her ring, and fixed it to Staley’s jersey.
The two star-crossed lovers slowly pulled back from each other’s arms, and Vanessa turned and walked quickly away. Staley couldn’t see the tears in her eyes. He stood dumbfounded in the starlight as she slowly disappeared.
Just before she was out of view, Vanessa turned around.
“Some life advice,” she shouted. “Wash that jersey. It smells disgusting.”
Vanessa was far enough away that she knew the bug she’d placed wouldn’t be able to pick her words, even though Staley’s ursine senses would have no trouble making them out. She slunk away into the night. Still crying, she smiled briefly, realizing she would have this night to remember fondly for the rest of her lonely life.