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A trip to Bear country

I went fearing Grizzlies but found Teddies instead.

The much-maligned (at least below the Mason-Dixon Line) fans of the Chicago Bears turned out to be warm and fuzzy, claws sheathed for Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints.

Since I have written in this space before about fan misconduct (insert: afraid for my life in San Francisco, 2012), it seems only fair to give ink to the friendly crowds at Soldier Field.

The tailgate park pre-game was a sea of orange and blue, with accents of black and gold mingling with the masses. I snagged a beer from a friend of a friend decked in C gear, then sampled crawfish, jamabalaya, Kickass Bloody Mary mix and ate tacos at various stops through the south parking lot. The worst we heard? A boo or two, and sotto voice at that.

Perhaps it was the azure sky, unmarred by either the clouds or rain forecast the day before. Or the first crisp hint of fall weather, with orange leaves framing the park walks. Or maybe the Bears/Saints rivalry is simply getting watered down by migration and relationships: There was an abundance of mixed fan families in the stands.

I talked to one former New Orleanian who had traveled from her home in Milwaukee to celebrate her wedding anniversary with a Saints fix -- alone, as her husband had gotten sick the day before. But she didn't celebrate quite solo: She ran into a pair of helpful Chicago fans on the train who made sure she got to the stadium -- and paid for her cab.

Most of the Bear fans had headed for happier environments long before the final whistle. But as the last play drew to a close, one of the few Chicago stalwarts turned to me in stands now dotted with black and gold.

"Thank you," he said, "for not being obnoxious winners."

Saints fan Leo Getz, of Leo Getz Promotions (met over sliders and beer at a Chicago hotel), snapped these shots of Saints fans and celebrities in Chicago:

 

Renee Peck is editor of NolaVie. Email her at [email protected]