Justin Fields, Bears Fans, and the Tragedy of Hope

One perk of being a Bears fan who lives in Chicago is that you never *really* need to have watched the game to know how the Bears played over the weekend. On Monday, if you go about your routine as usual and notice a distinct lack of orange and navy in your peripheral, there’s probably a good chance Chicago didn’t fare so hot. Conversely, you’ll need more than two hands to count all the Bears jerseys you’ll be seeing if they play in any way similar to what we saw on Monday night against the Patriots. So, if you find yourself in Chicago after an impressive win (as I did today), who could you expect to see out on the streets? Certainly some Macks, a few Paytons, and maybe even a Hester or two. Tragically, you also might run into one of the many quarterbacks whose names won’t be hung from the rafters at Soldier Field: the Trubiskys, Cutlers, and Grossmans of the world. These jerseys are scars, to put it poetically. They represent a man who tried, and failed, to break the eternal carousel of Bears quarterbacks throughout franchise history. Even as a lifelong Chicago fan, something about seeing these scars interests me, as I believe that they tell us a story about the fan, and more specifically, give insight into an instance when their heart was most likely broken.

The Eternal Carousel
Buying an NFL jersey feels a little bit like gambling. Sure, maybe you’d like to pick “your guy” who may have only just gotten hot in the last few weeks, but NFL jerseys certainly aren’t cheap. So while maybe the correct answer now would be to pick your favorite niche, young player, there’s no way of knowing how long he’ll be in town for. Anecdotally, I found myself close to buying a Tarik Cohen jersey on several occasions in 2018, but never actually ended up pulling the trigger. Four years later, we all know that that was the correct decision. Because of this, most NFL fans tend to gravitate towards quarterback jerseys, a historically stable position. That choice is easy for say, a Packers fan, or a Kansas City fan. This is, of course, because the guy Packers and Chiefs fans currently have lining up behind center will have their name chiseled into the stadium’s foundation by the time they decide to hang it up. For Bears fans, this choice is a lot trickier. That decision relies on hope more so than anything. A hope that Jay Cutler will reach elite status; a hope that Mitch Trubisky will develop into a franchise cornerstone; a hope that Mike Glenn- just kidding, I don’t think anyone bought a Mike Glennon jersey. The point that I’m getting at is that you buy a Bears quarterback jersey if, and only if, there’s some level of confidence that the guy you’re repping will suit up in orange and navy for the long haul. That’s what is so interesting about seeing these “scars” in public: you can reasonably conclude that the jersey you see represents the last time that the fan wearing it had truly believed in a Bears quarterback. As of writing this, we are in the middle of another one of these cycles with Justin Fields, and it’s hard to say how it will pan out this time around.

Justin Fields
The NFL is built upon storylines. It’s what makes it interesting to tune into games, even when your favorite team isn’t playing in it. The storyline that has surrounded the Bears franchise for as long as I’ve been a fan is the question: “will Chicago ever find the answer at quarterback?” It’s this simple question that makes many Bears fans, myself included, reluctant to fully buy into the Fields hype. We’ve all been down this road before. I can’t tell you how many times Mitch Trubisky had me convinced that he was one game away from ascending into stardom. Justin Fields has given me moments like that too. However, I can’t help but be excited to see what he does every week. His flashes are generational, while his mistakes are loudly concerning. The fun in it is that we don’t truly know what we have yet. He could be the next Josh Allen, and he could also be the next Trubisky. You can’t really say that about a lot of other players. I for one would rather bear witness to the development shown by Fields each week than know what a player like Kirk Cousins will do every time he touches the ball. Even if it is sometimes bad for my health, I can’t help it; the kid is just too dang fun to watch. I can’t go on record and say that Justin Fields will be our savior from this cycle. I feel like my answer to this question switches on a weekly basis. I suppose a better question to ask would be whether or not I have hope for the future of the Bears. After seeing Chicago win against New England because of Justin Fields’ performance and not in spite of it, I would say that I have hope. And judging by the amount of #1 jerseys I saw today on the streets, I’d reckon the city of Chicago has hope in the kid, too.
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