My husband loves football. Between his deep devotion to the Chicago Bears and his zeal for his fantasy football team, it seems that nearly every televised game is crucial for his life in some way.
I, on the other hand, could not possibly care less about football. I am one of those people who, at Super Bowl parties, talks through the game and watches the commercials. Despite the fact that I was in the marching band and went to every one of my high school's football games, I still only have the most basic grasp of how the game is played.
We're used to being different, Mark and I. We're opposites in nearly every other way, too. But when I was writing my list, I thought for a while about how I could move toward him in some of the things he really loves. Football, which consumes so many Sunday afternoons and Monday nights in our house, seemed like a promising choice.
The easiest way to pique my interest in a sporting event is to teach me something personal about the players. So I set out to learn about some of Mark's beloved Chicago Bears. I grilled Mark about them, and here's what I learned from him and from the web.
Jay Cutler, #6, is the quarterback. He's 28 and has been playing for the Bears since 2009, when he was traded to Chicago from Denver amidst some drama. He's also occasionally engaged to reality star Kristin Cavallari, so...more drama. Cutler has diabetes, which he treats with insulin shots, and he has to check his blood sugar levels multiple times during each game. He works with diabetic kids, and the "fan of the week" on his website is often a young Chicago fan living with diabetes. He also volunteers with developmentally disabled youth.
Brian Urlacher, #54. I knew this name already because Mark has a couple of jerseys with "Urlacher" on the back of them. He's a well-respected middle linebacker who pretty much runs the defense. Earlier this fall he left for a few days because he lost his mom, whom he had once referred to as "my heart." When that happened, his teammates were interviewed about him and had nothing but nice things to say..."he's the heart and soul of this team," "he's everybody's friend in the locker room," "one of the greatest guys in this league."
Devin Hester, returner and wide receiver, #23. Another popular number around our house, but not because of Devin Hester. :) Last year Mark spent a lot of time yelling "Go! Go! Go!" at the television thanks to Hester, who had a recurrent habit of returning kicks for touchdowns. Wikipedia tells me he brings a Bible to every game. He turned 29 last week. He's married and has a son, and he feels so passionately about being present in his son's life (after seeing the effects of so many absent fathers in the lives of those around him) that he's started writing a column for Chicago Parent magazine. He had the misfortune of being pantsed during a game a while back, so be careful if you google images of him. I'm just saying.
Julius Peppers, #90, has a fantastic name and should absolutely open a restaurant. He's a defensive end. Mark tells me that he's not only a talented player but is HUGE (he's 6'7" and weighs 287) and therefore occupies more than his fair share of opponents on the field. He seems reluctant to open his life to the world, and one of his former teammates from North Carolina said of him, "The people who think they know him don't. The people who do, don't say." The article called him "an intentional mystery even to those who worked with him daily." Interesting. Great smile, don't you think?
Matt Forte, #22, is a 25 year old running back who is pretty amazing. At the moment he's in the last year of his rookie contract and is mad because the Bears haven't yet offered him another deal, especially because he's proven himself to be worth a lot more than he was as an untested rookie. Mark says he's special because he can run AND catch, which: it sounds odd to me that someone would be good at only one of those and still be in the NFL, but I know that I'm clueless. I did just see another website that called him "one of the finest young backs in the NFL." So there you go. He likes playing shoot-em-up Xbox games, but besides that and some baby-mama-drama from last year, it's hard to find interesting Matt Forte info online due to the copious coverage of the contract thing.
Lovie Smith is the Bears' head coach. Lovie is his real name--he was named after his great aunt Lavana. Awesome. He seems like a pretty terrific guy. He still gives regularly to his home church in TX even though he lives in IL. An ardent supporter of the American Diabetes Association (his mom lost her eyesight to the disease), Lovie donates ten tickets to every game to children suffering from diabetes. Also, he and his wife set up a foundation providing college funds for impoverished kids. He's not shy about using his platform for good, saying, "God put me with a franchise that is visible. And He wants me to be a certain way. There's a message that He's trying to get out through me.''
There are more. A lot more. Football teams are bigger than I realized. I could tell you about Roy Williams, the big-time wide receiver who's recovering from a ball-dropping period. Or about Gabe Carimi, first-round draft pick who got sidelined by injury, like, right away. Or about Earl Bennett, the wide receiver who went to school with Jay Cutler. But I won't. Takes too long, and frankly, my attention span re: football has just about run out. I have to do this in small bites.
I will say this, though. If I were looking for some kind of internet venture, I might set up a centralized site with these kinds of details. I can't be the only non-fan out there who is motivated by personal information. And if I could sit on the couch next to Mark, reading on a laptop about the players on the tv in front of me, I'd definitely be more motivated to pay attention. Who's a nice guy? Who's a jerk? Who's been in highly-publicized trouble? Who's a hero in his small home town? Who's been making the world a better place?
If someone could get on that ASAP, I'd appreciate it. Thank you. Go Bears.