Welcome to the 30-Day Challenge. Every day in the month of June we’ll ask readers to respond to a different question related to the Chicago Bears. Make sure you participate the entire month so we can all get to know the WCG community a little better. In order to kick off the series, we are starting with a round-table that asks each of us to go back to the beginning—what is our earliest Bears-related memory.
Josh S: my first Chicago Bear memory was my dad (a college football fan) telling me to watch Walter Payton run. He didn’t explain anything, he just said “watch this man do this”.
Lester W: I wasn’t always a fan of the Bears. We’re talking late 1970s, so as a youth my fandom went from the Cowboys to the Steelers, but once my stepbrother told me to watch Walter Payton run the ball (1981) I immediately converted to the Navy and Orange.
Alex O: My earliest Bears memory will date me a lot but it’s easily Hester’s return in the Super Bowl.
Bill Z: My first Bears memory was attending my first game at Soldier Field… against the Broncos… in 1983. Willie Gault had himself a game.
Jeff B: My first Bears memory is watching the Fog Bowl. New Years Eve 1988.
Steven S: My first was writing an article about the Bears in 2001 for the area high school newspaper insert, and the main paper editor added the headline “Bears Dominate NLFL Football.”
EJ: My first Bears memory would be before I really locked in as a Bears fan (that was 1983): probably around 1980 - watching Vince Evans and Walter Payton struggle along... and thinking (of Payton) “Man, that guy is getting the hell beat out of him.” That and occasionally seeing Fencik absolutely crack somebody.
Robert Zeglinski: The first time I can recall even acknowledging the Bears’ existence was around a few weeks after my birthday in 2005.
It was an uncharacteristically warm and lazy Sunday. I still had some frozen cake left over in the fridge that my parents had saved for me on a rainy day. I was also bored. Extremely bored. Time to read an esoteric textbook bored. Rather than actually do my homework or go outside and play with friends like a normal, well-adjusted child, I remembered that the Bears, who I had heard so much of at school when several of my teachers wore jerseys on the Casual Friday right before, were playing the Panthers on FOX. What followed over the ensuing few hours was me drifting in and out of actively paying attention as I watched this “Steve Smith” character, who I remember thinking looked like a very angry and very speedy bowling ball, dunk all over this poor “Charles Tillman” guy. I didn’t completely understand the concept of a touchdown or the line of scrimmage right then, but I did think that Tillman seemed incompetent at whatever his job actually was. Without also entirely understanding the concept of pity by then, I definitely pitied Tillman. I felt bad for him. “He must feel terrible,” I thought as I finished the last third of that cake by myself from the comforts of my bed.
Of course, I had no further interest in watching the Bears after that game. No one rational soul would. But that initial experience has been very emblematic of what it’s been like to follow them since.
Jack Salo: My family had recently moved from McHenry, IL to Mesa, AZ and the Cardinals were hosting a talented Chicago Bears team on Monday Night Football. I wasn’t really into the NFL yet; my new friends and I liked to throw the pigskin around in between batting practice, and any team wearing Chicago had my support, but I wasn’t following the sport closely at all. Then Brian Urlacher, Mike Brown, and Devin Hester won me over that night. The big news in Arizona was how long Dennis Green would be retained, as many in “The Valley” called for his firing directly after his famous “They were who we thought they were!” postgame rant.
Sam H: My first memory: I came to live sports slightly later than a lot of kids. I remember the game being on but never really sitting and paying attention until 2001, when I was about 12-13. That crazy season! I can distinctly remember being on the phone with a friend of mine when Mike Brown intercepted the pass against the 49ers in OT for the walkoff and that being the first time I was really invested in a sports game I was watching and thinking “You know, this is a pretty cool game.”
ECD: It was November 7th, 1999, just days after the G.O.A.T. Walter Payton passed away. My grandparents came down to Florida for a visit. My grandfather, a lifetime Packers fan, also arrived with the intention of beginning the brainwashing process. Heck, he owns an autographed copy of “The Packer Way” by Ron Wolf, along with an autographed Brett Favre jersey and stock in the Packers. His first gift to me was.... a Green Bay Packers shirt.
Not knowing any better, along with *slight* peer pressure from my mom (also a Packers fan), I wore that shirt as we tuned into the game.
My dad and grandpa made a bet with each other. My grandpa declared I would become a Packers fan when Brett Favre earns yet another victory at Lambeau Field - he previously never lost a game against the Bears in Green Bay. My dad wagered $50 bucks I would become a Bears fan, and where dad is a Steelers fan, he had a strong disdain for the Packers.
The game ensued. We reach the point where Green Bay sets itself up for the would-be winning field goal attempt. Bryan Robinson wound up blocking the kick! The Bears recorded their first ever victory against Brett Favre at home. After the conclusion I jumped up and shouted, “I’m a Bears fan now!” My grandfather then jokingly (I think) asked my parents, “can we put this kid up for adoption?”
From that moment on, I became the blacksheep of the family, and the Bears fan I still am today.
Ken M: I did an article on mine a year or two ago, so I’ll go a different route:
I was in college at a tiny little private school in Missouri with a historically bad football team. I was in the lunch line next to a few of the players, and I heard one call another Fencik...
With lunch line being as casual of a conversation as possible I pipped up “yeah, I’m a big Chicago Bears fan and Gary Fencik is one of my favorite players!” Everybody laughed, and Fencik said “yeah, Gary’s my brother...”
So for those of you who don’t know, Rick Fencik was a tight end for the Culver-Stockton College Wildcats in the early 1980’s, and Culver had a ready-made “sports banquet speaker” connection for a few years. That’s how I got to meet Gary for the first time, when he was in town to do a banquet speech.
Now it’s your turn—what’s your earliest memory of the Beloved?