A feel-good first game for Bears fans in Joliet
By BRIAN STANLEY Bstanley@stmedianetwork.com September 9, 2012 8:20PM
Kristi (from left), Don, and Donny Roby, of Ottawa, watch from Heroes West Sports Grill in Joliet as the Chicago Bears began the 2012 season Sunday. | Brian Stanley~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 11, 2012 6:18AM
JOLIET — Chicago football fans watching Sunday’s opener were up on the team’s chances to Bear Down this season.
Most of the 44 screens at Heroes West Sports Grill were showing the Bears vs. Indianapolis Colts match-up, and a majority of the patrons were wearing navy and orange.
Donny Roby, his father, Don, and sister, Kristi, came from Ottawa to enjoy the food and a chance to cheer on the team with other fans they aren’t related to.
“I’m optimistic. I think they’re going to improve substantially this season over last year. (Free agents) Michael Bush and Brandon Marshall are going to make a huge difference,” Donny Roby said. “Keeping the starting safety rotation will be huge, but having the best wide receiver in the game (Marshall) doesn’t hurt either.”
Roby was also encouraged to see defensive mainstay Brian Urlacher had recovered enough from an injured knee to be on the field, but he worries the offensive line remains the team’s weakest point.
Roby was going to add a positive assessment on the team’s draft picks when quarterback Jay Cutler hit Marshall with a short pass for the Bears’ second touchdown and the bar erupted into applause.
Not clapping, however, were William Zupancic, of Joliet, and Pam Mansfield, visiting from Texas. The pair sat at the center of the bar wearing Colts paraphernalia and chuckled at being complimented for their bravery. Never mind other customers couldn’t see that Mansfield’s tattoo of a purple hippo has a tattoo of its own — the Colts horseshoe.
Zupancic, who grew up idolizing Johnny Unitas, believes it won’t be hard for his team to improve on last year’s 2-14 record.
“I’m not a fair-weather fan. I’m a fan of good football,” Zupancic said. “(Instead of sitting on my couch) I’d rather hear people getting excited even if it’s for a different team.”
Zupancic said he wouldn’t be rooting against the Bears if they were playing a different team, but getting booed out of the bar after the game would’ve been the “best-case scenario.”
Instead, “the other passionate fans” Zupancic met got to celebrate a 41-21 Bears victory.
That pleased Kayla McCauley, of Minooka, who was wearing a Jay Cutler jersey; Jaime Bell, of Minooka, who was wearing a Brian Urlacher jersey, and even Maggie Robbins, of Joliet, who was wearing a pink t-shirt.
“I’m not a big football fan. I just wanted to spend time with my friends,” Robbins admitted.
Bell, who invites her friends to Bears parties every weekend, feels the team “just looks better this year,” while McCauley, another lifelong fan, is excited Cutler has some quality receivers.
Bell and McCauley are also eager to spend autumn weekends teaching and perhaps mocking Robbins about the game.
“Today I learned there are four quarters in a football game,” she said as her tablemates laughed. “Still, the Bears are my favorite team.”