Schadenfreude -- a feeling of enjoyment that comes from seeing or hearing about the troubles of other people.
Beardenfreude – a feeling of enjoyment that comes from seeing or hearing about the troubles of Bears fans after a Bears loss.
I don’t know when I started enjoying a Bears loss, but by the turn of the century it was in full bloom. A big reason was that when I moved to Chicago it was the tenth anniversary of the super bowl winning team. I understand reminiscing and nostalgia and all of that, but the deification that the 1985 Bears received was remarkable, in a bad way. If a man was a member of that team it went beyond the “free dinner wherever he goes” kind of attitude. According to most fans, everyone on that team should be in the Hall of Fame. Of course this is nothing compared to the reverence shown to Mike Ditka. “Da Coach” is still, almost thirty years since his greatest success, an
almost worshiped presence in the city. It was all a bit much for a new person to the area.
At the same time, my love of football took a serious blow. My hometown team, a team I loved, up and left town. In 1995, the Cleveland Browns shuffled off for Baltimore. If you asked me which Cleveland team would move to greener pastures, it would not have been the Browns. Even though the Indians and Cavaliers were enjoying great success in 1995, Cleveland was a Browns town through and through. When the team left, a lot of my loyalty to Cleveland sports left as well. I knew folks who rooted for the Ravens when they moved, but I couldn’t. By the time the “new” Browns came on-line, I had found others things to do with my Sunday afternoons. Not only that other, smarter folks than me have said these Browns weren’t my Browns. I’d moved on, not just geographically.
Unlike my baseball apostasy, I wasn’t attracted to the Bears at all. It started with the hero worship of 1985, but it was more than that. When it comes to the Bears and their fans, the civic blindness is beyond imagination. Well that isn’t true. The SNL skit of “Super Fans” is a lampoon of Bears fans to everyone, except to Bears fans. Like all good parodies, there is an element of truth. In this case, it’s more of an element. It is also more than simply living and dying with a certain team. It is a strange mix of worship, arrogance and willful ignorance. Add a dash of constant comparisons to past generations of players (Butkus, Payton, Sayers, Butkus, McMahon, Singletary, Butkus, Ditka, and now Urlacher) and you get the idea. Not only did I not share that history, I had no interest in that history.
It wasn’t just the history, or the attachment to the history, or the glorification of that history. It was the constant insistence that past players and one coach should be brought back. Maybe since the last Super Bowl appearance, but the populist cry to “bring back Ditka!” has finally died down. It isn’t gone, but it is fairly marginalized, thank god. And yet his opinion is still valued by local media. Even after Mike Singletary pulled his pants down, there were calls for him to replace Lovie Smith. Somehow the Bears offering Urlacher 2 million dollars was an insult, especially odd considering it was the only offer he received, from anyone; and this is just the tip of the call-in iceberg.
Speaking of the call-ins, that is probably where Beardenfreude gets its greatest fuel, makes me all warm and fuzzy. Listening to the post-game shows and the Mondays following a Bears loss is simply divine. The rash judgments, insane personnel theories and just plain incoherent and illogical discussions are a feast to enjoy. Whenever I hear that “Bob” is on the line I simply start to smile. Jay “Jerk Face” Cutler has made this all the more fantastic. His good games are never quite good enough and his bad games…oh how to describe them? All I can say is that with every interception he throws my spirits rise simply in anticipation for the caller wanting Cutler benched or released. One glorious time, someone actually posited the idea of Tim Tebow taking over for Cutler. If only I could remember the exact date of that one. I would make that the official Beardenfreude holiday.
So much of this wouldn’t be nearly as possible to enjoy without such a compliant media. The Chicago sports media has gained a certain reputation for being soft on our local teams and it is certainly deserved when it comes to the Bears. From television to radio to print, the majority of those that cover the Bears are little more than public relations officers for the team. What’s more, they take the whole, “speaking for the fan” to a whole new level when it comes the Chicago football team. There is a theory about trying to make trades in sports called “Out of Town Stupid.” Basically it is the hope that another team will be dumb enough to take whatever dregs the local team is peddling. In the case of the Bears, however, it is the inverse or “In Town Stupid.” ITS extends beyond trades however. The media often exhibit the same deranged rage and over the top optimism as fans, media objectivity be damned. Case in point: Of all of the "experts" at the Chicago Tribune, only two picked the Saints to win yesterday. Really? If you are in search of good reporting on the Bears, look to national sources because the local options are about as useful as dryer lint.
One final note when discussing Beardenfreude, it is not wanting the Bears to lose or to help out another team or a dislike of the team, its players or the organization per se. I don’t have a horse in the NFL race and I find myself most of the time watching the Bears and, passively I’ll admit, rooting for them. No the actual loss means little; it is the glorious aftermath that makes my Mondays glow. It is the civic pall that hangs over the city, the renting of garments and gnashing of teeth that gives full flower to the magical misery that is Beardenfreude.