During my lifetime, I have penned hundreds of thousands of words. Books, book chapters, articles, dictionary entries, reviews—these have all been a part of my creative activity for five decades. I love words; I love putting them together, crafting sentences full of evocative meaning. Sometimes this means I use a lot of them. My wife, Patricia, when I begin a conversation with an extensive backstory, often (but lovingly) invokes the words Abigail Adams apparently said to her husband, “John. Do you always have to start at Genesis?”
So, when I recently entered a contest that required a 100 (or fewer) word essay and those 100 words won the contest, I shook my head in amazement. 100 words? For the biggest contest prize I have ever received? I often say that I have trouble saying “hello” in fewer than five thousand words. But 100 words? And I won? How did this happen? Well, to start at Genesis. . .
Pat and I love football. We had season tickets to Arizona State University Sun Devil Football when I was ASU’s trombone professor from 2012-2016. School spirit was a big thing and we loved those years when we followed college football. But our primary football interest is the National Football League. From our years living in Boston where we attended many New England Patriots games (although we were not season ticket holders—I attended many games when the Boston Symphony brass section played the national anthem) to our six years in Arizona where we had season tickets to see the Arizona Cardinals, we have always felt that we should be “all in” with the teams that play near where we live.
Photo above: Chad and Doug at Soldier Field, Chicago Bears vs. New York Jets, October 28, 2018.
When we moved to Illinois in 2018 (to live closer to our two grandchildren), I knew I wanted to take my son-in-law, Chad, to a Chicago Bears game. The NFL season had already started by the time we moved to Illinois and we were immersed in unpacking and getting our life together. Season tickets to the Chicago Bears were not in the front of my mind at that moment in time. But I knew that Chad had loved the Bears since he was a young boy and I wanted to go to a game with him. So I purchased tickets to a Chicago Bears/New York Jets game last October at Soldier Field in Chicago and as you can see from the look on Chad’s face above, we had a great time.
Photo above: Doug and Pat at Soldier Field, Chicago Bears vs. Minnesota Vikings, September 29, 2019.
Actually, we had a REALLY great time. So much so that the next week, Pat and I decided to purchase Chicago Bears football season tickets. We have great seats on the 50 yard line, and going to Bears games (we share the tickets with Chad and our daughter Linda—grandma and grandpa stay at home to watch the game with our grandkids) has become a big part of the life of the part of our family that lives in the Chicago area. Doug and Pat; Linda and Chad; Doug and Chad all going to games—fun times.
Photo above: Chad and Doug at Soldier Field, Chicago Bears vs. Los Angeles Rams, December 9, 2018.
When Chad and I go to a Chicago Bears game, we want to experience everything. Every moment of our time there is meaningful. Watching pregame warmups, having food in the United Club, walking through Soldier Field’s historic colonnade, singing the national anthem, singing “Bear Down, Chicago Bears” when the team scores, watching the players congratulate each other at midfield after the game. We are never in a hurry to leave Soldier Field. It’s a special place where special things happen for our family.
Photo above: Doug and Pat in front of the newly unveiled statue of Bears founder George S. Halas at Soldier Field, October 27, 2019.
Flowing from going to Chicago Bears games are all manner of other activities that bring us closer to what the team is all about. The Bears are a founding franchise of the NFL; the team’s first coach and owner, George Halas, is considered to be the driving force in the founding of the league in 1920.
Photo above: Chad (in orange # 23 Devin Hester Jersey) and Doug (in blue #50 Mike Singletary jersey) at the orange carpet at the Bears100 celebration, June 7, 2019.
This year, the NFL and the Bears are both celebrating their 100th anniversary, and Chad and I went to the Bears100 celebration in June of this year. What a weekend it was! We even were able to be part of a select group of fans to be there when team members past and present—including many Hall of Fame Players—”walked the orange carpet” before the Bears100 opening ceremony. Yup, we’re Superfans.
As a season ticket holder, I receive emails with team news from the Bears every week. This fall, I received an email from the Bears announcing a contest. The Bears would send two people to Super Bowl LIV in Miami all expenses paid. Two tickets to the game on February 2, 2020, round trip plane fare, three nights in a Miami area hotel, and more. How to win? You had to write a 100 word essay.
Photo above: Chad repping the Bears in 1989, age 9.
If you don’t enter you can’t win. But of course, when you enter a contest with a big prize, you know the odds of winning are very, very slim. However, this contest was more than just a random drawing for a winner. There was a task to do, an essay to write. There was no question that I would write the essay about Chad. His love for the Bears and football is passionate. And I thought that HIS story might be interesting to the Bears. Here’s what I wrote; who I would like to take to Super Bowl LIV:
My son-in-law, Chad, a Chaplain for Seasons Hospice, Pastor of Care Ministries at Trinity Lutheran Church in Lisle, and a passionate Bears fan since childhood. Chad could not play sports as a child; a rare medical condition kept him off playing fields. But he loved the game, and the Bears were a lifeline for him when life threw hard knocks his way. For Chad, the NFL exemplifies perseverance, excellence, the ability to pick oneself up when down, sportsmanship, teamwork. To go to Miami wearing Bears jerseys to celebrate the best of the NFL with Chad would be an unmeasurable joy.
And I sent in my entry. 100 words.
Photo above: Doug and Chad at Soldier Field, Chicago Bears vs. Detroit Lions, November 10, 2019.
In the meantime, the Bears season rolled on. Football parties with family and friends when the Bears were playing teams away from home. More games at Soldier Field. Then, last week, my phone rang. On the other end of the line was George McCaskey, Chairman of the Bears. He’s a son of Bears owner Virginia Halas McCaskey—she is the daughter of George Halas—and the McCaskey family are spectacular stewards of the Chicago Bears. After a little small talk, Mr. McCaskey asked me what I was doing on February 2. I went to my calendar on my phone and it showed two events. Groundhog Day. And Super Bowl LIV. And then he said words I would never forget, “The Bears would like to send you and Chad to the Super Bowl.”
I wrote 100 words and Chad and I were going to the Super Bowl. The Bears liked my entry and Mr. McCaskey told me that they noted that my essay was exactly 100 words long. Gotta follow the rules! The Bears received thousands of entries to the contest. The odds of winning were very small. But here we are, going to the Super Bowl thanks to the Chicago Bears. Wow.
So, we got together at Linda and Chad’s house to tell them the good news. Standing in front of a wall in Chad’s office which is decked out in Bears colors (photo above), we surprised him. When I handed Chad the Super Bowl LIV ticket invitations the Bears had sent to me, well, it was a very special moment for all of us.
I don’t have adequate words to express our thanks to the Chicago Bears organization, to the McCaskey family, and to all of those at the Bears who do so much to make our game day and year-round Chicago Bears experience so meaningful (including our season ticket representative, Dillon Knight, who has helped us in ways large and small and who is always attentive to our thoughts, suggestions, and so much more). Here in the 100th anniversary season of the National Football League, Chad and I will be going to the big game. While we would love to see our Bears on the field in Miami (the Bears have had a challenging season this year but there is still hope!), we look forward to celebrating this game that will feature the very best teams in the NFL in what will be an unforgettable experience.
100 words. Sometimes you don’t have to start at Genesis.
Thank you, Chicago Bears! And, Go Bears!
Photo above: Limited edition bobbleheads given away free to fans who attend Chicago Bears home games at Soldier Field during the 2019 season, to celebrate the Bears’ 100th anniversary season. Left to right: George S. Halas (only given to season ticket holders), Red Grange, Bronko Nagurski, Sid Luckman, Bill George, Gale Sayers and Dick Butkas, Walter Payton, Mike Ditka, Brian Urlacher, Khalil Mack (only given to season ticket holders). Mike Singletary and Devin Hester will be given to fans at the last two home games later this month).