Chicago Bears’ failed shuffle saddens MU fans

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At the beginning of Super Bowl XLI, Swiderski, a fifth-year senior in the College of Business clad in a jersey bearing the name and number of linebacker Brian Urlacher, couldn't avoid standing and shouting celebratory profanities anytime the Chicago Bears did something he liked.,”

They were the fans you always wanted to go to a game with. They were fun, loud, knowledgeable and full of banter.

First-year law school student Thomas Plis, clad in a white No. 8 Rex Grossman jersey: "Are you keeping your shirt on this week?"

Fifth-year College of Business Administration senior Matthew Swiderski, sporting linebacker Brian Urlacher's jersey: "Probably not." (The Urlacher jersey stayed on, although he did remove an undershirt.)

Let the game begin

At the beginning of Super Bowl XLI, Swiderski couldn't avoid standing and shouting celebratory profanities any time the Chicago Bears did something he liked.

Touchdown? Give us a few minutes to run around the Union Sports Annex and celebrate with plenty of yelling. Two-yard run? Running back Thomas Jones is the man. The man, dammit! Does a call go against the Bears? The refs suck.

Even at halftime, with the Bears down by a couple points, Swiderski and his table of six were into the game, loudly cheering, arguing and in some cases drinking and swearing as the game continued.

More than a game

His whole life, Swiderski said, he has been a Bears fan. He grew up with parents who had grown up in Chicago, and his dad had been a rabid fan his whole life. His godfather had season tickets.

"I had a Bears jumper under my christening gown," he said. "Supposedly, I sat in my playpen (in 1986, when the Bears won the Super Bowl) and watched when they won – I don't remember it, though."

This season, he has spent nearly every week watching the Bears from his table in the Annex.

"I love the service at the Annex," he said. "They got, like, five people waiting on us."

And the staff, sure enough, bantered freely with him as well.

Plis has known Swiderski since they were 3 years old and now joins him on the university's club football team. His family isn't all for the Bears: His mother and sister are Green Bay Packers fans – and his mother holds Packers season tickets.

Was this a fun rivalry?

"It can get violent," he joked.

Another football player, Justin Rathkamp, a student in the College of Arts & Sciences and veteran of the war in Iraq, said he was glad to finally watch a full game, even if he was a Packers fan (he said he liked the Bears, too). A few years back, he had seen part of a game but had to leave because he needed to go on a mission for the Army.

The other three, all freshmen, were new to the group. They said they had sat at the table during the Bears' conference championship game and had been invited by the regulars to join the group. They were quieter, but also into the game.

Two others were missing in action: One was in Miami for the game and the other was at home, watching with his family.

Game over

In the fourth quarter, Swiderski still had glimmers of hope even though his Bears were losing.

"It's all right – we won't ever give up," he said.

Less than 30 seconds later, Bears quarterback Grossman threw a floater that was easily intercepted. The game was pretty much over.

After that, it was mostly silence, with Swiderski and his tablemates blankly staring at the television, almost in tears. Intermittent small talk was made. Occasionally, one of the people at the table griped about one of the Bears and how badly things had turned out. But they sat, in silence, as the game ended. The Colts hoisted the championship trophy, quarterback Peyton Manning and coach Tony Dungy were interviewed and an all-new episode of some mundane CBS show came on.

It was time, already, to move on. There were two pitchers of beer left for Swiderski and Plis and a few snacks left to finish.

"It's a game – it's football," he said.

And, cliché as it is, there's always next year.

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