Family Ties: Who Got You Into Football?
I can remember it like it was yesterday.
It was in October 16, 2006 and the Bears were playing on a Monday night. I had started playing football in the eighth grade and in 2006, I was sixteen and a sophomore in high school. The Bears were on a roll with a record of five wins and zero losses. My grandfather and I watched the first half and felt the same thing we had felt for years. Disappointment.
I always called my grandfather Pa because when I was young it was easier to call him that instead of grandpa. Pa was a not a quiet person when the Bears played. Pa would scream, cuss, and always ask, "How is it the Bears can't do what that other team is doing? Why can't they run the ball, pass the ball, or win a game?"
For the longest time growing up, I had heard stories about how great the Bears defense was and how we never had a quarterback. The same was true at that time. Rex Grossman was playing horrible and by the end of the game he fumbled twice and had thrown four interceptions. The run game was nonexistent and to be honest that was what the offense was in that game. Non-existent. Through the screaming and hollering, Pa always had the defense's back. Pa would scream at Grossman for making the defense have to go back onto the field because he had lost the ball or thrown another interception. Pa would scream at Lovie for calling the wrong plays on offense and for not having any passion for the game. Pa praised the defense for giving it their all and playing like the team he remembered a long time ago in 1985. My favorite words to hear from him were, "The Bears never had a quarterback. Never. I guess because we never got one, God blessed us with a defense. Thank God we have had some great ones."
Being sixteen at the time, I had to go to bed. I had school, football, and work. At halftime, I told Pa good night and gave him a hug. I could still hear him screaming at the T.V. as if he thought Lovie would hear him and finally show some emotion. Luckily the defense must have heard my grandfather and came out in the second half and played even harder.
My biggest regret is going to bed that night but the smile on my grandfather's face the next morning was priceless. I sat down at the table to eat my breakfast before going to school and I asked him, "How bad did the Bears lose last night?" He looked at me and said, "They won." If you could imagine our grins at that moment, you would think Santa Claus came early and paid the rent while he was here. From that moment on, my favorite team was the Bears, my favorite player was Urlacher, and I watched every game I could with Pa.
During the Playoffs vs. the Seahawks, Pa and I were glued to our seats and biting what was left of our fingernails. Pa never thought Rex Grossman was our quarterback for the future. Thus, every play that was a pass Pa would scream out, "Here comes another interception!! Watch!! See the Bears will never have a quarterback. Never!"
Finally I began to notice that Pa was jinxing Grossman. It seemed that with every play, Grossman would regress every time Pa would put him down. Eventually I told Pa to go outside or in the hallway, during the fourth quarter, till the game was over. When the Bears kicked the game winning field goal in overtime, I saw him standing in the hallway near our dryer and washing machine. We both hugged each other and sat back down to listen to everyone talk about the Bears. Pa was right though. Rex was Chicago's quarterback but we had a defense.
My grandfather was a true Grabowski. Pa worked off the docks near Lake Michigan. The stories about how cold Chicago would get and how the Bears broke his heart for years always made me smile.
To him, the Bears would never have a quarterback, and he was okay with that because he was a defense kind of guy. He liked that kind of party.
Pa got to see his favorite football team win a Super Bowl at least one time during his life and enjoyed watching all the great defenses that they have had.
When he entered the hospital in the Summer of 2011, I stayed with him for two weeks. I asked him who his favorite player was for the Bears. Without hesitation, he said it was Walter. Pa said, "Never in my life have I seen another player play as hard as Walter. Sweetness was the reason I watched the Bears because he would take on the whole defense and get back up, he would get the ball 30 times and not complain, and he would always play with his heart. I can't name another player who played the game with that much heart."
My grandfather never cried about football games or over winning seasons or losing seasons. He did cry when Walter Payton died. He felt as if he lost a brother and a friend.
My grandfather passed away April 13, 2012. If it was not for him, I would not have started writing or enjoying sports. Pa got me into the NFL when he showed me how much he loved the Bears. His passion made me become a fan of a sport we all love and we all enjoy.
So now it's your turn. How did you get into football and how did you choose your favorite team? Let's hear your stories on the comment page below.
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