Poets on Sports

I’m So Unsatisfied – “Bear Downers”

By Elliot Imes
Last Monday night, the Cowboys played the Bears in Chicago. I do not have ESPN, and neither does my friend Dave (who also happens to be a huge Bears fan), so I suggested we watch the game at my part-time stomping grounds of Trophy’s Bar and Grill. After Dave accepted, I realized that the two previous times I’d been at Trophy’s, it was dominated by Cowboys fans. Perhaps I had accidentally invited my friend into his enemy territory. I would have felt bad if I had the capacity to feel bad about such things.
And then we got to Trophy’s and I remembered that I live in Iowa, which is close to Chicago, which means a lot of Bears fans also live here. Some Cowboys fans of course were representing, but the bar was dominated by the Bears. This may have been a poor decision.
No disrespect to Dave, but if I lived in a different city, I would have watched this game with my grandpa Buddy. Up until a few weeks ago, he was living in a drab nursing home in Maquoketa, IA, about 20 minutes from Dubuque, where my family lives (but I am not from there – I’ll explain some other time). Buddy had been kicked out of his previous nursing home in Dubuque due to…gross misconduct on his part. That’s all you need to know. But just recently he was diagnosed with leukemia. He is 87 years old, already in very frail health, so no doctors will approve chemotherapy or radiation for him. He has been moved back to Dubuque for hospice care.
Many of my friends have tight, close relationships with their grandparents. They confide in them, they revere them, and if they’re moved into hospice care, they will immediately go to see them. I envy these friends because that is something I do not have with Buddy. My grandma died in ’88, and at that point they had been divorced for 12 years because Buddy cheated on her, and as a semi-known radio personality in Dubuque the details of his sordid affair became public knowledge, to the embarrassment of my family. My mom was still living at home, and had to suffer through harassing phone calls from the mistress’s husband saying horrible things about her father. My grandma said things to my mom like, “You know, if Buddy died and went to Hell, I’d be okay with that.” I have no idea how my mom made it out of this situation as a sane person.
This story is sort of a microcosm of how my grandpa Buddy has lived. Most of my life he has lived far away from me and hasn’t made it a big priority to be in touch with me. Any interaction with him has been positive and sort of fun because he has an outsized personality and loves to entertain people, but we’ve never had an actual connection. He’s not big on that. Even my dad’s parents, who have lived in Hawaii since before I was born, have been more consistent grandparents, and my dad died over 25 years ago. They still are better than Buddy. I hate ranking grandparents like this, but if I’m being unnecessarily honest in a column about the Dallas Cowboys, I might as well do that.
Ever since I learned the story of Buddy cheating on my grandma I started piecing together the details of how my grandpa maybe wasn’t the best dude in the world. I began the process of detaching from him. I wish him well, but it feels like sending well wishes to the old man who regularly sees you at the grocery store and makes conversation with you. I haven’t felt much of anything, even now, as he nears the end of his very long life.
But somehow, I was moved to despair when hearing of a recent development. My mom visited him at the crappy nursing home just before he moved into hospice care, and there they watched a Bears game together. Buddy was born in Chicago in 1926 and has been a Bears fan his whole life. It seems to be the only professional sports team he ever cared about (though he’ll take any opportunity to tell you about the time he sang the National Anthem at a Denver Nuggets game). My mom and her father watched a Bears game, and these days Buddy is so out of it due to dementia and medication that he slept almost the entire time.
This makes me really sad. At this point in his final months, one of the few things that could bring happiness to Buddy would be watching his Bears somehow win games with a backup 34-year old quarterback, but he can’t even do that. Now he just sleeps and forgets where my mom lives. It is no way for anyone to be. Any connection that I previously lacked with my grandpa has now been brought back around, simply because I envision myself in his position, unable to do anything, just wanting it to end. Regardless of how many irresponsible, thoughtless actions Buddy has committed, he still doesn’t deserve this.
Maybe there should be a quiet comfort in slowly dying in front of a TV showing football, but I haven’t found it yet.
Watching this Bears/Cowboys game with an 87-year old man would have been infinitely preferable to what ended up happening Monday night. Once the Bears figured out that no one on the Cowboys defense could cover any of their receivers or realistically stop their running back, they said, “Oh cool, let’s just kick the shit out of these idiots.” So they did. Seconds before halftime, Josh McCown threw a wild rainbow to the very corner of the end zone, and with two Cowboys defenders desperately trying to do their job on him, Alshon Jeffery still rose up and caught it. The Bears fans around me exploded in delight, with one jerk in particular hopping around the table right in front of me.
I have never in my life had to fight such an overwhelming urge to flip off an entire crowd of people. It was way worse than when the Lions beat the Cowboys a few weeks ago. I was actively talking myself out of it, weighing the pros and cons of angering a group of dudes, all because of a football game. My barely-present common sense won out, so I just sat and glared. Dave was a gentleman and never rubbed any of this in my face, opting to offer friendly conversation in order to distract me from the misery at hand.
It is a good thing that I didn’t piss off any Bears fans because minutes later I was in the bathroom by myself, and a particularly thuggish little guy came in, probably drunk, definitely a Bears fan, and very red-faced. Dave and I were disturbed by the redness this guy’s face was somehow able to contain. If I had angered the red-faced guy, and it was just me and him and the bathroom…let’s just say I don’t know how to defend myself and it probably wouldn’t have gone well.
As the Bears continued to destroy the Cowboys in convincing fashion, I was beginning to question my reasoning for ever having placed faith in this team. But then, an angel got up and made a speech. He may have been an angel, or maybe a disgruntled Cowboys fan, I’m not sure. Whatever he was, he stood up at the end of the third quarter and proceeded to yell at every Bears fan in the bar. I wish I had recorded his soliloquy on my phone because I was too busy yelling in agreement to remember much of what he said. But the gist of it was this:
– The Cowboys are still great
– Y’all Bears fans don’t know nothin
– How BOUT them Cowboys
It was honestly one of the greatest moments I’ve ever experienced while watching a football game. Us Cowboys fans had absolutely zero room to talk any shit at this moment, and yet that’s exactly what this guy decided to do. He deserves a Medal of Honor for his bravery. I hope to one day speak at his funeral.
That reminds me: the plan right now is that we will not have a funeral for Buddy. I know this sounds awful, but my family doesn’t think enough people would come. I still think they’ll give in at the last minute and book a funeral home, but if they don’t, I guess we will just have a family gathering whenever he goes, and we will recall memories of Buddy, some fond, some not fond. For me, one of those memories will be Buddy’s denial of reality, insisting that everything was fine, just like the Cowboys Angel of Trophy’s. When everyone in the room knows it’s not the case, you can still insist that you are Number One. Who’s to stop you? If you believe it, it can become the truth.
Even if it might not be the entire, honest truth…I still believe Grandpa Buddy was an okay guy. He believed it, so I guess I can too.

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This entry was posted on December 12, 2013 by .
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