IMG_0852 (2)The phone rang in my apartment on a cold January 20, 1986. It was a Monday evening. Back then, a phone call was usually mystery. This was 1986. There were no cell phones, let alone something called “caller ID.”

I took a chance. I answered.

It was John. Whew, it least it wasn’t a bill collector.

“Hey, John, what’s up?

“Well,“ he somewhat calmly as if not knowing what to say next. “We won the ticket lottery.”

Just the season before, I had started sharing season tickets for the Chicago Bears with John, a longtime family friend and youth basketball coach of mine.

It had been over a week since the Bears qualified for Super Bowl XX, and we had long given up hope of having tickets to the game. Besides, even if we were one of the fortunate ones to win a pair of the few tickets allotted to the Bears, what would we do? We were about to find out.

I paused. I really had no money saved up for the ticket, let alone a spontaneous trip to New Orleans. It’s amazing how many thoughts bubble over in your head when you meet a simple statement.

All I could think to say was, “I’m a little strapped for cash.” But at the same time, the bubbles of thought were starting to think of a way.

John said, “It would be a little tight for me too on short notice. My dentist said he’d buy them, if we wanted to save up for next year …”

“Hold on, John,” I interjected. (Next year, I thought to myself. Next year? Chicago sports hopes have clung to next year forever. No, the bubbles of thought said. There may be no next year) “Let’s think this through.”

“Okay,” he replied.

I continued, “Remember last year, when the Cubs made the playoffs?”

“How they choked in San Diego.”

“Yeah. That’s the point. My friends and I had tickets for the Playoffs AND the World Series. Brian, who lives in North Carolina took a pass on the playoffs. Said he’d come in for the World Series. That World Series never happened, at least not in Chicago. Not last year, not this year, not any year in my lifetime“

“I see your point. What if this opportunity never happens again?” John surmised.

“Exactly. I’m gonna make some calls maybe ask for a favor or three. Why don’t you see what you can come up with? We’ll talk tomorrow.”

“Good idea.”

I sat back and started working on a plan. Super Bowl XX. It looked so congruent, so regally Roman. The Chicago Bears were in the Super Bowl. The Monsters of the Midway or as they were known by the end that 1985 season, the Bears Shufflin’ Crew, Shufflin’ on down doin’ it for you.

And do it they did. The Bears had just finished a splendid regular season and dominating playoff run and were the toast of the town having just made toast of the New York Giants and Los Angeles Rams shutting the both teams out by combined score of 45-0.

They headed to the Super Bowl after breezing through the regular season with only one freak loss. They were kind of like the homecoming queen who had a zit on her chin all week, but when the dance came, she looked marvelous. It was only a blemish. I had to have that date to the dance.

By Tuesday, all the pieces of the puzzle fell into place for me. A close friend, Chrissie had moved to Lafayette, Louisiana a few years prior and was the key element. She set me up with viable transportation options and accommodations in the French Quarter. Who knew?

My Uncle Denny always said to me after a few beers, “If you ever need anything, Cowboy, you let me know?” I let him know the chance I had to go to the Super Bowl and he gave me a generous loan.

Even the boys in the mailroom at work took up a collection for a short term loan to fill in the gaps because they decided I HAD to attend.

I flew out on Friday.

In the meantime, John had finagled the finances and booked a one day charter flight in on Sunday, Game Day. His dentist would have to be content with filling teeth that weekend.

We met at the first Jazz Bar on Bourbon Street, about a half hour walk from the Superdome.

I recently read a post on social media attributed to the British actor, Hugh Laurie. “It’s a terrible thing, in life to wait until you’re ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now. And you may as well do it now. Generally speaking, now is as good a time as any.”

John and I experienced a glorious 46-10 Super Bowl victory for the Bears. They have never won one since and at least I can say we went to the one they won.

Had we waited until ready, we never would have been there.

The cover photo this week is an original pompom from the 1986 Super Bowl run. Really, it is.