A Colt in the Den

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I’ll start by breaking my boyfriend’s heart. Phil, I hate to say this in front of everyone on the Internet, but it’s true. So I have to say it. Phil: I hate football. I know Eagles games are the closest you come to having any sort of religious experience, but I just can’t do it. I’ve seen your fingers become eagle talons during games, and I don’t even know how to hold a football. You find ways to merge football and writing, and I don’t know how the game is scored. I don’t care to know. Maybe that’s really it — I don’t care. Hating football would mean I care about it. Hate requires energy. I just don’t care. But perhaps the following recollection will soften the blow. Because, Phil, and UPchicago readers, though I don’t care about football, I care about Chicago, and football was actually instrumental in helping me adopt Chicago as my new home.

I moved to Chicago July 9th, 2005. I worked full-time and went to school full-time, didn’t live in a dorm, so it took me a while to make new friends. I just didn’t have time. But by 2006, my social life began to pick up a bit, and by the beginning of 2007, I had an invite to a Super Bowl party. Super Bowl XLI, Bears vs. Colts. Did I mention I moved to Chicago from Indianapolis?

Make no mistake, readers. I am not going back on my word. I don’t care about football. But in 2007, I was still half a Hoosier, half a Chicagoan. I had spent eighteen years of my life in The Circle City (humor me and pretend like people outside of Indy know it has a nickname) and I’d spent most of my time in The Windy City working or sitting in a library. And, I missed home sometimes. I missed my family and friends. So when the Colts went to the Super Bowl, hometown pride kicked in and I walked to work on Super Bowl Sunday wearing a blue knit cap with a horseshoe on it.

I had an empty soda cup thrown at me from a car window.

But at the end of my workday, I ran home and made some appetizers to bring to the Super Bowl party. Hearing the trash talk at work and being hit with a Burger King cup had put it in perspective for me. I was going to cheer for the Colts in a house full of lifelong Chicagoans. A friend of mine had invited me to her parent’s house to watch the game. When I called to ask how much food I should bring, she said, “Oh, it won’t be that many people. Just me, my siblings, their boyfriends, my parents, my grandparents, my uncles, and some cousins.” I saw myself, the young, lone horse being mauled to death by the den.

When my friend’s mother answered the door, I held out the appetizers less like a hostess gift and more like a peace offering. My friend had warned her family a Colts fan was coming. As soon as I appeared in the living room, all heads spun. Time stopped. I searched their faces for a verdict, for my fate. The den was silent, their motives unknown. Then, seemingly all at once, they pounced. Yet instead of a mauling, I was attacked with bear hugs. The father was first, grabbing me like I was one of the cousins, and he proceeded to introduce me to the room. I was handed a beer, a plate and a bowl of food, shown to a seat, and asked if I was too hot or too cold. Of course, between all of the hospitable offers were jokes, but they were all good-natured. I held my own during a discussion of aldermen that took place at half-time. The bears adopted the lone colt as their own.

And then, the Colts won. The den fell silent, and all heads turned to me. I, of course, had been distracted by a shelf of books, and was reading about the Chicago fire, missing the winning play. Typical, really.

“You won!” a cousin yelled. “Aren’t you going to do a victory dance? Come on, we can handle it!”

“Oh,” I said, juggling a PBR, chips and salsa, and the book. “Awesome. Really great.” This made everyone laugh. The women gathered around the cake they had made, and as my friend’s mother began slicing into it, she said, “You know I didn’t get the food coloring quite right on the icing. This is really more of a Colts blue. I guess I’m psychic!” I was served the first piece of cake, we all chided Mom for throwing the game with her icing, and we drank way too much way into the night. An aunt looked at the plate I had brought one of my appetizers on and gasped. “Where did you get this dish?!” she exclaimed. When I told her I had taken the set when I moved out of my parents home, that it was the set they received as a wedding gift, she told me how she had also received the same set as a wedding gift, and then pulled out her wedding album.

I fell in love with Chicago a little bit more that night. While it could be said that I just found myself surrounded by a really wonderful family, I think they were just an example of the laid-back lovers Chicagoans really are. Don’t get me wrong; theirs was no laid-back fandom. Beer was spilled, pillows were punched, and tensions ran high during that game. But in the end, we all hated the same politicians, we’d all stepped into puddles the size of Lake Michigan at the Jarvis red line station, and all of our tongues were stained blue by the cake, regardless of whose blue that icing represented.

Mary-Margaret McSweene

About Mary-Margaret McSweene

Mary-Margaret McSweene makes her home in the Edgewater neighborhood of Chicago with the love of her life, a pit bull/black lab mix, named Jake. Buying old things that no longer function but offer extreme aesthetic pleasure is her vice; typewriters and rotary phones are favorites. Mary-Margaret also believes that anything in life can be articulated by a Tom Petty song.

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