At a bar recently I was asked a very pointed, very specific question: "At what point will you stop caring about the 2011 season?"
I thought about it before answering. It was shocking to me in that moment that I'd never considered the question before. I had never considered a moment in time wherein I would hold my hands up in the air and declare an NFL season unimportant to me. For almost the entirety of my existence on this earth the Chicago Bears have marked my calendar, defined the second half of my year. For almost the entirety of my existence Sundays have been holy days and I don't belonng to a church.
What if there is no training camp? What if there are no games in September and October? Would I ever be able to know the Chicago Bears were playing a football game that counts and not care about it? Would I be able to avoid the third seat from the end at Josie Woods? Would I be able to abandon the relationship I've developed with all of you on this blog over the years?
The answer is "no" on all counts and perhaps this is the eternal power of the NFL. Even if the entire 2011 season is missed, I'll be right back on that barstool for opening day in 2012. I have a severe emotional investment in the Chicago Bears. I want them to win every time they touch the field and a Super Bowl title would mean as much to me as a bank account with a mysterious $25,000 placed in it. And while I'm disappointed to not be discussing free agency and mini-camps, while I'll be disappointed with every day of training camp missed and every minute of game action skipped, I don't take these things personally.
I will protest, though, however quietly. I won't be at Soldier Field in 2011 for the first time in a decade, spending my money at concessions like a sailor on leave. I won't buy a single piece of Chicago Bears paraphenalia this season. I don't have DirecTV but if I did, I'd cancel the Sunday Ticket and go to the local tavern and watch the games anyway. I will not spend a nickel on the National Football League. It might not matter to the billionaires. But if enough of us took steps so minor, it would have a lasting impact.
So to answer his question, it doesn't matter from here on out. I'll watch every single of action once they return to the field. They just won't be opening my wallet.
What about you?