The text arrived about 30 minutes after my column went live on redeyechicago.com. It was my buddy G, a Vikings fan. He was not happy.
"I want you to know I take personal offense to your column," he wrote. "You went too far."
We'd been smack talking all day both privately and on Twitter, and perhaps I was still channeling that mindset when I wrote my postgame column about my dislike of the Vikings. I'd imagine my disrespect of the Vikings wasn't what bothered him, though, but rather my disrespect of Vikings fans:
"[The Vikings] tend to be feckless beasts, and their fans are no better."
Ripping the team is one thing, but taking shots at fans is another. He's right: I went too far.
Except here's the thing: all sports fans are a little insane. Myself included.
I feel sorry for Vikings fans, probably more so than Cubs fans. We at least have Wrigley Field, beautiful summer afternoons, day drinking and a national myth to cushion our sadness. Vikings fans have gruesome winters, lukewarm summers and a football team that leaves scars on every generation of fans without so much as a championship or even a championship surrogate. (Think: the Cubs-Giants 1998 one-game playoff.)
Founded in 1961, the Vikings lost four Super Bowls between the 1969 and 1976 and have never returned. In the 35 full seasons since, they have been to the playoffs 18 times and are 0-5 in the NFC championship game, the last three times being three of the most horrific losses a fan base could endure: a 30-27 home loss in overtime in 1999 after their kicker, who had the NFL's first perfect kicking season, missed a field goal that would have put the game out of reach; a 41-0 trouncing against the N.Y. Giants in 2001; and a five-turnover disaster in 2010, including a Brett Favre interception at the end of regulation that cost the team a chance at a game-winning field goal.
So are Vikings fans twisted, sad and put-upon? Of course. Do I feel sorry for them? Absolutely. But am I wrong in calling them "feckless beasts" as fans (not as people)? Not one bit. Their history has mutated them beyond recognition.
Growing up going to Bears games, there was only one fan base that was guaranteed to heckle my brother and me and other Bears children, and that was those hideous Vikings fans. Like all fans, they are victims of a primarily abusive relationship. Yankees fans are like rich kids whose parents pay them in "love" expressed as gifts—that being championships, and lots of them. That's why "losing" to Yankees fans is actually just not winning the World Series, and it's why they handle that state so poorly.
Cubs fans, meanwhile, are like malnourished poor children whose parents could work harder to provide for them but instead believe hugs and good cheer are a substitute for food and shelter. And Cubs fans, to our detriment, believe them.
Now, there is no excuse for sports fans using their pain and anger to justify actual violence, threats or even harassment of players and their families. But within the confines of sports, fans are, quite simply, crazy. It's a disease that turns Cubs fans into mawkish optimists and Yankees fans into entitled brats and spawns all sorts of movies about twisted sports fans who go too far. (See: "Buffalo '66," "Celtic Pride," "The Fan")
Sports fans have become so troubled and angry that they've even managed to snuff out one of their own, as famed N.Y. Jets superfan Ed "Fireman Ed" Anzalone left Thursday's Patriots-Jets game at halftime, deleted his Twitter account and, in a guest column in Metro New York, announced he will no longer attend Jets games as "Fireman Ed."
"I decided to leave Thursday because the confrontations with other Jets fans have become more common," he wrote. "Whether it's in the stands, the bathroom or the parking lot, these confrontations are happening on a consistent basis."
No kidding. Bears fans zinging Vikings fans and vice-versa, that's common. But a fan base effectively destroying one of its own is a problem. We do a great job supporting our favorite teams. Let's make sure we support each other, too.
Special contributor Jack M Silverstein covers the Bears for RedEye. Say hey @ReadJack
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