Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Bears down and murder’s up

     How bad is it? I watched the Bears game Monday. Part anyway. The end of the second quarter. Enough.
     Why would I do that? Beats me. It was evening. End of another unexceptional day in Year Two of The Forever Plague. The old friend who was supposed to meet me for lunch downtown canceled at the last minute. Sick. That was disappointing. I was looking forward to going into the city, or what’s left of it. Maybe watching the game would connect me with the larger world, the community spirit of Chicago.
     My announcing that I felt like watching the Bears must have alarmed my wife. She joined me, to monitor the situation.
     “They get four attempts to move the ball 10 yards,” I explained, trying to bring her up to speed.
     “I know that,” she replied.
     Earlier, when lunch was still on, I contemplated the walk from Union Station to Michigan Avenue. Not too cold. Would a raincoat do? Yes. And what if I got shot? (Is that crazy? My hunch is, it’s exactly the calculus people perform nowadays.) No worries: I’ll tell my wife to bring the laptop to the hospital, so I could write up the experience. That would make a gripping Wednesday column ...
     But would it satisfy readers demanding more about shootings? Probably not. Whatever I write about, they pepper me with with complaints: “Waffles! You’re a joke! Write about the 800 murders in Chicago?!” You’d think that would be coming from city residents frantic over the crime spike. But they’re always from people who obviously a) don’t live anywhere near Chicago and b) don’t seem to really care much about urban crime or the people it affects.
     Rather, they are are angry red-staters trying to score points on the Fox World tally board. Crime is a real tragedy and constant worry in Chicago, even among those of us with little to worry about. But elsewhere it’s a schoolyard taunt, the kind of look-a-squirrel whataboutism that passes for argument.
     What’s there to say? Murder is up in Chicago because it’s up everywhere. That’s no big secret. “The U.S. murder rate rose 30 percent between 2019 and 2020 — the largest single-year increase in more than a century,” the Pew Research Center reported two months ago.
     And 2021 is just as bad. A dozen cities will break their all-time murder records. Chicago isn’t one of them.

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  1. The white lettering on those b/w images is reversed, which makes reading them difficult. One says "Bears vs. Cardinals, Wrigley Field"--but there's no date. Might be from the Thirties, or even earlier, because of the helmets...and the upper deck, which dates to the late Twenties. Very, very small crowd.

    The other image pre-dates the well-known Wrigley bleachers, and the vine-covered bricks of the right-field wall, both of which were erected in 1937. Same buildings on Sheffield Avenue, though. Most of them were already there when the park was first built, in 1914.

  2. The date's along the left edge: DEC-8-32.

    1. My wife's magnifying mirror tells all.
      As does the Football Reference website.

      The Three Bears (sorry!) are Jim McMillen, Red Grange, and Frank (Duke) Hanny. The year is 1925...the only season that all three were together on the Bears roster.

      The other image is from the Chicago Bears-Chicago Cardinals game of December 8, 1935 (Both teams called Wrigley home from 1931 to 1939). The Bears prevailed, 13-0, before 17,373 fans. Looks like even fewer.

  3. Good column. I would love to watch a Bears game with you providing some commentary. For someone who doesn't watch much you got the Ryan Pace look 100% correct.

  4. I'm sorry, but I'm very surprised to read "faith unshaken" described as a "beautiful thing" by you, somebody who is appropriately cynical and agnostic. If one had to pick the single most troubling aspect about America at this juncture, it seems to me that unshaken faith would be in the running for the top spot. Faith in the Biggest Loser and his elected stooges at all levels of government being perhaps the most dangerous example.

    But I like when you write about waffles! : )

    1. That's an interesting point. I guess I don't mean it as a general endorsement of faith in anything, no matter how vile. But sports fandom is generally benign, and to be so enthusiastic about a lousy team, is that not inspiring? Life ends the same way for all of us: a moldering corpse lying forgotten in the ground, our accomplishments having come to naught. Yet approaching life with enthusiasm is, as if it were significant, is I believe a noble value. That's what I was driving at anyway.

    2. Well, my comment was probably too serious and nit-picky of a response to your observations about the Bears game, regardless. But I was blind-sided by that take, as I'd have expected more of a "sheesh, look at that guy" attitude, rather than a salute.

      Sure, enthusiasm about life is a plus, especially in these dark days. Personally, though, as a recovering sports fan, I don't really find the world-wide fascination with professional spectator sports to be all that positive of a feature, not that you do. "Generally benign" sounds like high praise to me! But, sadly, no, I don't find a gentleman like that inspiring.

  5. Describing the uptick in murders and the reasons behind it here in Chicago so perfectly in so few words was very impressive. Tremendous aside in a puff piece. So good. So fucking good. And spot on.

    1. Thanks FME, though in truth, the murders are what the column is about. I started out writing on that. The Bears are just the frame I put it in.


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