Chicago Bears: A special ‘thank you’ to Walter Payton

Chicago Bears (Jonathan Daniel /Allsport)
Chicago Bears (Jonathan Daniel /Allsport) /

With the Chicago Bears 100 celebration behind us, it’s time to say a special thank you to an all-time legend.

Fairly regularly, I am asked the question ‘how did you become a Chicago Bears fan?’ While that may seem like an innocuous question, a little context may be in order.

First, I currently live in the South, not even remotely close to Chicago. So when asked the question, what typically follows is ‘you must be from Chicago.’ However, they become even more perplexed when I reveal I grew up in Upstate New York — again, nowhere near the Windy City. Now dumbfounded, they ask again –‘how the heck did you end up a Bears fan?’

The answer is simple — Walter Payton.

Growing up, I was a huge baseball fan and would routinely be glued to the television — even at the age of three — to watch my beloved New York Yankees. It wasn’t until a couple of years later that I began to watch football, which just so happened to coincide with the 1985 season.

At that point, I became glued to the television anytime the Bears were on — which admittedly wasn’t often. There was no Sunday Ticket, or Reddit, or streaming options. Basically, I had to hope the Bears played the Buffalo Bills, New York Giants, or New York Jets or had a nationally televised game. The only other option was Monday Night Football, which would always result in me getting grounded for sneaking out of bed to tune in. Let’s just say as I kid I had a hard time containing my excitement following a big play and consequently would wake up the house. However, I couldn’t get enough of the Bears as a kid, and especially during that season.

Now yes, the Super Bowl Shuffle was catchy and left an impression on a youngster just getting into the sport. Yet it was Payton who not only drew me in but left me captivated. Even at a young age, it was clear I was witnessing greatness.

The way he carried himself on the field made it clear, even to someone who knew nothing about football, that he was elite. There were certain players whom you knew were role models, and did things the right way. It’s funny how, not knowing a thing about the game, I immediately gravitated to Payton.

He had no idea that in that moment, and in that season, he would leave such an impression on a child that it would blossom into a love for a team that has only grown stronger each year.

He was the reason I tried to get my hands on any Bears paraphernalia I could, to include that sweet Walter Payton uniform being modeled in the above picture. To this day, I have not gotten over the atrocity of being robbed in that Halloween costume competition. But I digress.

Regardless, he is the reason I continued watching through the lean years but remained as passionate a fan as ever. Why I threw passes as a child to a bush across the street and pretended it was Tom Waddle. He’s why a teenager, nearly 19-years ago, was shattered when he learned the news of Walter’s passing. He was an otherworldly football player but was twice the human being, which is why the passing of a man I never met still impacted me deeply.

A special moment is brewing for the Bears. dark. Next

He is the reason I continue to root for the Bears to this day and why I have been able to connect to a network of other Bears fans around the world through writing for this site and social media.

Walter Payton was a lot of things to many people, but most importantly for me, when asked why I am a Chicago Bears fans, he is the answer — and for that, I say ‘thank  you.’