Early euphoria turns to post-game blues

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Durbin's restaurant in Tinley Park: As the final minutes of the game ticked down, Maribeth Aguirre, 45, of Frankfort, sat with her arms folded over her chest and pain etched on her face.

"It's been a roller coaster ride," she said. "It started great, but finishing is everything."

Still, some fans were thankful for that ride this season.

Anne Garvin, 46, of Joliet, said she enjoyed seeing Chicago come together in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl.

"It's fun to go to work and to see everybody be happy and have the spirit," she said. "Someone had to lose. Unfortunately, it's the Bears."

Despite the tough loss, most of the lingering crowd joined in singing the Bears' fight song after the game. Garvin sang the loudest.

From Tribune reporter Jo Napolitano.


A cold end to Super Sunday: People who had packed the bars near Division and State Streets began filing out into the frigid night after the game. Police had a heavy presence on the street and the exodus appeared to be peaceful.

Some were sticking around inside the bars, having a last drink.

One pair of friends, Fonzie Weninger, 28, and Francoise Bebla, 26, both of Chicago, could not agree on what to do.

Weninger was upset by the Bears loss and wanted to leave, but Bebla insisted they stay and watch some of the post-game coverage.

"This is only a game," Bebla said to him, trying to be encouraging.

Weninger replied, "Don't say that stuff. We lost. That's it."

From Tribune reporter Antonio Olivo.


Peyton place: At Mullen's in Wrigleyville, Colts fans broke into song and cheers as the game clock ticked down.

That didn't sit so well with the Bears fans there: One threw a drink in a plastic cup across the room at the Colts fans, but they just laughed.

"I can't even finish my beer, I'm so disgusted," said Nick Ortiz, 22, of the Colts' fans jubilation.

But some were more upbeat.

"The game was still a lot of fun, but if there's anyone who deserves to win in the NFL, it's Peyton Manning. My girlfriend will be looking forward to the backrub that I bet her," Corey Newman, 26, said.

From RedEye reporter Victoria Fine


On the bright side, spring training starts next month: Resigned to the Bears' fate, the fans at the Montclare Leyden VFW started filing out in the last two minutes of the game.

Don Johnson, 63, summed up the night best.

"Everybody walked in happy, everybody's walking out sad," he said as he patted a fellow depressed fan on the back.

But some people here have already moved on to thoughts of spring. From the back of the hall, shouts of "Go Cubs!" could be heard.

From Tribune staff reporter Kayce Ataiyero


Unbearable to watch: It was a quiet crowd at Finn McCool's, a Gold Coast bar, as the final seconds ticked off.

John O'Neill threw up his hands at the end. "They're a bunch of underachievers," he said of the Bears.

From Tribune reporter Antonio Olivo.


Ex-Rex fan: At Butch McGuire's, a bar on Division Street, one disgruntled Bears fan was calling the game before it was over.

Said Steve Black, 39, of Chicago: "It wasn't Manning that won this game. It was Grossman that lost it."

From Tribune reporter Antonio Olivo.


Still believing: Fourth-quarter desperation has begun to set in at the Montclare Leyden VFW, where people are gathered around the television with serious looks on their faces, as if they were trying to will the Bears to victory.

Louis Ocasio, 39, said he was confident in a comeback.

"I know we're going to come back and win. We have to. We are the Bears," Ocasio said.

Bob Baron, who earlier had shown off his four Bears T-shirts, echoed Ocasio's optimism.

"Don't look so sad, they are going to win," Baron said. "I didn't wear all these shirts for nothing."

From Tribune staff reporter Kayce Ataiyero


Mike Jeracki, 43, of Tinley Park, has a reserved seat at the corner of the smoky bar at Old Tinley Pub and Eatery. He's here every Sunday and arrived today at 3 p.m. He's been cheering ever since.

"When the Bears play I just scream at the TV, " Jeracki said. "I can't help it. It's just what I do."

The mood at Old Tinley matched the nervous excitement hanging over bars across the south suburbs, with cheers and "ohhs" coming in equal doses.

For Jeracki, the Bears mean memories of growing up.

"I remember watching them with my father when I was a kid," Jeracki said of his beloved team. "I was 5 years old. He'd be the official quarterback. We were out there playing tackle football with no pads. That's when Butkus was the linebacker."

Jeracki said this year's team is good, but needs to focus.

"They've got to step up," he said. "They fell asleep for the third quarter. It's time for them to play real football."

From Tribune reporter Jo Napolitano.


A real nail-biter: By the beginning of the second half, Molly Gaik, 41, of Tinley Park, had no fingernails left.

"I bite them down to bloody stumps because I'm a nervous wreck," Gaik said while watching the game at Durbin's Restaurant and Lounge in Tinley Park. "I want them (the Bears) to kill them. I don't like close games."

Gaik, a lifelong Bears fan, was studying abroad in Ireland 21 years ago the last time the Bears were in the Super Bowl.

Her husband, Mike Gaik, 35, prognosticated a close game because of the downpours that were making the field slick.

"It's going to come down to the last minutes," he said. "It's either going to come down to a Robbie Gould or an Adam Vinatieri field goal."

From Tribune reporter Jo Napolitano.


Colts on Bears turf: At Mullen's on Clark in Wrigleyville, the bar was packed an hour before the game started. With every Bears touchdown, the height of the room appeared to go up 3 feet, as fans jumped on their chairs to high-five each other and sing "Bear Down."

Not to be outdone, a strip of Colts fans in the middle of the bar jumped on their chairs with every Colts touchdown.

As the game wore on and Bears fans became more serious, the Colts fans became more emboldened, singing together and complimenting each other on their wardrobes.

At halftime, nobody in Mullen's was paying attention to Prince, instead tables ordered rounds of shots. It was going to be a long game.

From RedEye reporter Victoria Fine.


Calling Hester — again: The crowd was getting a little tense at Gold Coast bar Finn McCool's, as the Colts made a drive deep into Bears territory.

But Andy Amiri, 21, said he was still optimistic about Chicago's chances. The reason? Amiri was still riding the buzz from Devin Hester's touchdown return of the opening kickoff.

"It was unreal," Amiri said. "It really boosted our spirits."

Just then, though, the Colts gained 30 yards on a run from scrimmage. "That's not good," Amiri muttered. "We need more offense."

From Tribune reporter Antonio Olivo.


These fans are on fire: None of the men inside Orland Fire Protection District Station No. 3 would call themselves football fanatics, but by the time the opening coin toss was over, they swarmed around the television like bees.

With the smell of mostaccioli and garlic bread hanging thick in the air, the firefighters cheered when Devin Hester scored the game's opening touchdown, and jeered when Rex Grossman threw his first off-balance pass.

All of the firefighters here say they are Bears fans, and chide newcomer Travis Herrin, 34, who spent much of the last decade living in Denver, where he rooted for the Broncos. Herrin said he has switched camps and has faith in the home team Bears.

"They've got a better defense and are just a better team overall," Herrin said, soft-spoken compared to his comrades.

Sean Merck, of Alsip, was worried about the Bears' quarterback. "Rex is consistently fair in my eyes, and fair ain't gonna win the Super Bowl," Merck said.

At the end of the first half, Lt. Chris Smith called the game a "nail-biter," but was confident of a Bears victory.

"It's gotta be the Bears," Smith said. "You've got to believe in these guys."

From Tribune reporter Jo Napolitano.

Raining on their parade: By halftime in Dolphin Stadium in Miami, some Bears fans professed they were a tad worried.

With their team down two points and the rain unrelenting, some of the early game giddiness had waned.

"We're a little nervous," said Miranda Stokes, 32, of Chicago, who waved her arms emphatically as the Colts missed a field goal at the end of the first half.

Nearby, Bill Wells, 49, of Chicago, confessed he, too, was "nervous-excited."

Drenched from head to toe, his soaked Bears hat dripping water, Wells cheered the rain.

"I think Mother Nature is a Bears fan," he said, alluding to a rash of rain-induced turnovers that Wells thought helped Chicago. "It's keeping us in the game, honestly."

From Tribune reporter Jon Yates.


Bearly covered: At the Montclare Leyden VFW on West Diversey Avenue, about 150 people assembled for a Super Bowl party, munching from a huge halftime buffet, happy to have a break from screaming at the TVs.

One of them, Bob Baron, 53, was sporting the No. 54 jersey of linebacker Brian Urlacher, which he peeled back to reveal four different Bears T-shirts he had layered underneath.

"You can see I'm a real Bears fan," he said.

From Tribune staff reporter Kayce Ataiyero


What kind of beer was I drinking?: Fans who paid $100 for a table were packed in at John Barleycorn in Lincoln Park and screeching at the televisions with every play.

Sean Milnanow, 25, of Elgin, said he and 12 friends arrived at 4:30 p.m. and haven't been able to sit still.

"It's the best game I've been a part of,'' said Milnanow, a financial aid advisor.

Milnanow raised his fist into the air and bellowed at every positive Bears step. After Rex Grossman threw for the Bears' second touchdown, Milnanow jumped and high-fived his pals, then dipped and kissed his girlfriend, Jackie Hoy, 24.

Hardly anyone was sitting as the second quarter rolled on, even those who paid for a table. Most were too busy screaming, "Oh yeah!" "Go! Go! Go!" at the TVs.

Asked what type of beer he was drinking, Milnanow said, "At this point I'm not too sure."

Irvin Lucas, 25, a medical sales rep from Wrigleyville, stood drinking a Captain Morgan and Coke. He wasn't smiling.

Beads of sweat covered his forehead, and he stared at the screen like a pilot flying through dark clouds.

From Tribune reporter Sara Olkon.


Laundry and los Osos: Bears mania has reached even The World's Largest Laundromat in Cicero, where most of the 12 televisions were tuned to the Super Bowl. Many of the patrons are of Hispanic descent and admitted they don't understand American football.

Some watched the game with curiosity as they folded laundry; others gathered around another television showing a Mexican soap opera.

Jose Sylvestre, 47, of Cicero, watched first-quarter action as he munched on a bag of popcorn. He said it would be better for the Spanish-speaking community if someone printed the rules of the game in Spanish so they could better understand what was happening on the field.

"I like it (the game), but I don't understand the rules," Sylvestre said. "I understand when they intercept, they have to knock them down, correct?"

Still, Sylvestre said he knew enough to predict a Bears victory.

Norma Gonzalez, 32, said she was scheduled to host a Super Bowl party at her home and was trying to get home by the second quarter.

"I have to hurry up and fold my clothes so I can get home," Gonzalez said.

From Tribune reporter Antonio Olivo.


When the home TV just won't do: The Super Bowl party at Abt Electronics in north suburban Glenview featured an 80-inch plasma TV in the store's atrium, where employees handed out fresh chocolate chip cookies and popcorn and children were getting their faces painted with Bears colors.

Mary Mulroy, of Glencoe, brought her two children Enya, 9, and Declan, 11, to the festivities, where she said being a Bears fan had "reached a whole new level."

"In my gut I feel like they're going to win," Mulroy said.

From Tribune staff reporter Kayce T. Ataiyero.


'Jinx' can't resist watching: Tension and excitement was high at Fitzgerald's, a sprawling bar and concert venue in west suburban Berwyn.

Sitting at the corner of the bar and decked out in an orange Bears jersey and knit cap, Millie Ayala, 47, nursed a Bloody Mary and tried to shake her feeling that she is a jinx for the team. She said every time she has watched the Bears this season they have lost, and today she is a nervous wreck.

"I'm more worried. They could lose," Ayala said. "I'm an intuitive person, and I can see the weakness of this team."

Ayala's husband, Tommy Marshall, said he grew up in New England and was tending bar in Boston in 1986, when the Bears decimated his beloved Patriots in Super Bowl XX. By the second quarter of the game, the bar was nearly empty, he said.

"I made no money that night," Marshall said. "I hated the Bears, I hated them."

So great was his hatred, he said, that even after moving to Chicago in 1991, he could not bring himself to root for the Bears. All that changed last year, when he decided that holding a grudge was a waste of time.

He said once he decided to get on board, being a Bears fan was easy.

"It's because of their whole ethos of smash-mouth football," Marshall said. "If they do that today they will win."

From Tribune reporter Antonio Olivo.


Bearing down at the bar: At the Brew & View at the Vic, in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood, about 350 people were chatting at small tables in the cavernous theater while highlights from the Bears' season played on a 20-by-30-foot screen.

Stephen Varela, 42, grew up in Chicago but now works in architectural design in Green Bay, Wis. Varela said he drove more than three hours to spend the weekend in Chicago and watch the game with friends.

"It's been brutal living in Green Bay, with them laying the licks on you," Varela said, sipping a Miller Lite in the Vic's darkened theater. "I'm going to go home with a big can of whoop-ass."

A graduate of Lane Tech High School on the North Side, Varela said his parents emigrated from Mexico and had no time for football. For him and his friends, he said, rooting for the Bears and mimicking their play in sandlot games symbolized their becoming American and helped keep them out of trouble.

As for the fans, Varela said Green Bay can't hold a candle to Chicago.

"It's their perseverance. Nobody gives up," Varela said of Bears fans. "You don't give up on your team."

At Matilda lounge on North Sheffield Avenue, a crowd of about 100 people, mostly in their 20s, plunked down $55 for an all-you-can-eat-and-drink Super Bowl bash.

Tracy McGuire, 26, of Lakeview, said he came with a group of 17 friends that has gone out to watch Bears games together throughout the season. He said the last time the Bears were in the championship game, he was too young to appreciate it.

"It's been so long. I was 5 years old when they won in '85," McGuire said. "We are old enough now to know that it matters."

From Tribune reporter Sara Olkon.


Bears bust: Chicago police today arrested three men accused of selling bogus NFL merchandise, much of it related to the Chicago Bears, officers said Sunday.

Police also confiscated counterfeit items valued at more than $250,000 and about $20,000 in cash.

The suspects were arrested outside the Skylark Motel in the 5400 block of South Archer Avenue after a witness spotted the men with several illegal items, including Bears apparel like sweatshirts and baseball caps, said Chicago Officer Tom Polick.

"The officers met the complainant who said that he was an agent with the NFL, and these offenders were observed taking counterfeit merchandise from three rooms at motel and placing them in rental trucks," Polick said.

Osceola Clark, 38, and Siddiq Mumin, 55, both of Los Angeles and Gregory Shakir, 44, of Las Vegas were arrested about 10 a.m., police said.

Each man was charged with one count of misdemeanor unauthorized use of trademarks, according to police.

From Tribune reporter Tonya Maxwell.


Fan's wish: No stress, please: By 4 p.m., about 30 people, mostly men, had gathered at Phil's Sports Bar in Elmwood Park, where they munched from a small buffet of Mexican food and talked about the upcoming game.

Jeffery Bormann, 51, a painter from Elmwood Park, said he has a lot of emotions riding on a Bears victory. In 2006 his mother, brother and several friends all passed away, and just last week he had his hand broken when he stepped into the middle of a fight at Phil's.

"Last year wasn't too good, this year ain't starting off too good either," Bormann said, waving his left hand, which was still bound in a soft cast.

Bormann said he could use an emotional lift…in the form of a Bears blowout.

"I don't need the stress" of a close game, he said.

From Tribune reporter Antonio Olivo.


Daley arrives, declares victory: Decked out in a Bears cap and sporting a "C" pin on the lapel of his sport coat, Mayor Richard Daley arrived at Dolphin Stadium almost three hours before kickoff.

Walking in with his wife, Maggie, the mayor drew cheers from passing Bears fans, some of who stopped to snap his picture while he spoke briefly to Chicago media.

Daley praised the team's ownership and coaching staff, and predicted victory. He declined to speculate on the score.

"They're just going to win," he said.

The mayor said Chicagoans were making their presence felt in sunny South Florida.

"There are a lot of Bears fans down here. I mean, they're all over Miami, all over Florida and they're excited about it," he said. "It's going to be a great game."

Maggie Daley called Sunday "a great day for Chicago." Before walking up to the couple's seats, she offered one last thought: "Go Bears."

From Tribune reporter Jon Yates.


Da Fans defy cold: At sub-freezing temperatures, spilled beer freezes in about 10 seconds.

This impromptu experiment was just one lesson Jeremy Grossenbacher, 22, and two friends learned as they tailgated in a parking lot south of Soldier Field earlier today.

Another lesson: Few Bears fans, no matter how devoted, were willing to brave gusts of wind and bitter cold to root on their team nearly seven hours before they were set to take the field more than 1,000 miles away in Miami against the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLI.

In fact, Grossenbacher and his friends, Andy Becker, 26, and LeAnna Lowe, 24, were the only fans out there, and their red Saturn was the lone car in the lot.

"We're just soaking in the atmosphere," Grossenbacher said. "Look, we got Soldier Field right here," he added, gesturing to the stadium about a half-mile away.

Becker and Lowe, who are engaged, decided the night before to head to the lot in the morning. Before they left, they roused Grossenbacher, Becker's roommate, from bed. They arrived at the lot about 9 a.m., paid the $15 fee and parked.

"We thought there would be a ton of people here," Becker said. "We just wanted to meet some other fans, get together with some other people."

"Where are you, Chicago?" Lowe piped in.

From Tribune reporter Andrew Wang.


Ready at Wrigley: Hours before kickoff, orange and blue gear — particularly knit hats — were still flying off shelves at Sports World, an apparel store across the street from Wrigley Field.

``I've been wiped out for the last three days,'' said Brad Rosen, the store's partner, as he stood by a display of Bears shirts, sweatshirts and jackets.

If the team defeats the Colts, Rosen said the store will quickly restock with thousands of hats, shirts and sweat shirts emblazoned with the words that would warm any Chicagoan's heart: Super Bowl Champions.

Merkel's Bar and Grille had no empty tables by 10:30 a.m., as fans sipped beer and Bloody Marys and made their game predictions. A painted sign in the bar's windows proclaimed ``Super Bears.''

Inside, Seth Weidner, 32, took periodic breaks from his pint of coffee to squeeze his head into his childhood football helmet.

So, how important is a Bears Super Bowl victory?

``It'd be like having my first born,'' said Weidner, who flew to Chicago from Los Angeles to spend time with friends for the game. ``It's a really big deal.''

Nearby, Chris Jamrozy and his friends secured spots at their lucky table by 9:30 a.m. The group, which has watched every Bears game this season from the exact spot near the bar's jukebox, planned to open a Bears-themed Monopoly game as they waited for the game to begin.

``The Bears unite Cubs and Sox fans,'' said Jamrozy, 26, who predicted the Bears would dominate the Colts. ``This is the one team that all of Chicago can cheer for.''

From the Associated Press.

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