By Jack M Silverstein
8:43 PM CDT, August 15, 2013
Training camp is over, and we are poorer for it.
I'm jacking that opening sentence from Hunter Thompson, a man who loved pro football and considered it as powerful and compelling a drug as anything else he took.
And I think Thompson would have enjoyed training camp, too. After all, camp grants football fans live access to their favorite sport, the kind of access they can't get during the season.
Me? I liked watching drills. I liked seeing Brandon Marshall work tirelessly on the first few steps of an inside route, or seeing Devin Hester square his body and set his feet as he fields punt after punt.
Above all though, I LOVED seeing Bears fans cheer Bears players, without any of the usual griping, jeering, or complaining about performance. You want to know what was absent from Bourbonnais? Booing.
And I wonder if it's because we view attending practice as a privileged opportunity to watch highly skilled professionals perform their craft, instead of behaving as if players owe fans victory by virtue of high ticket prices.
After last year's December loss to the Packers, in which fans at Soldier Field booed the Bears at halftime, I asked players if there was anything they wish fans understood about professional football that might change the way they interact with players during their time as spectators.
Specifically, would it help players if fans cheered in those frustrating moments instead of booing?
Though I did not end up using this part of the interview in my story, Tim Jennings' thoughts stayed with me throughout the offseason:
"Well, of course if you were more consistent with whether or not you're going to cheer for us, even when we are at our lowest, of course that would make a difference," he said. "But when you're inconsistent with it just because things are down or you want to boo us, then when things are up you want to cheer us, we're gonna take that into consideration and say, 'They're just cheering because things are looking up. They're not really with us when things are down.' That's why we keep among each other and know we have to do this for each other and know that we can't really worry about how the fans are treating us."
I told him it was as if fans were cheering for an outcome rather than a team. He agreed.
"You could say that. Yeah," he said. "And when we're not [winning], it's not like you're cheering for us to say 'Come on, let's do better!' It's not really healthy but it comes with the business."
Sports fans like to use the first person when talking about our favorite teams. "We gotta beat Green Bay this week!" or "There's no way the Vikings can beat us!" It's a privilege to be a part of a team. Let's just remember that the next time we're losing.
Special contributor Jack M Silverstein covers the Bears for RedEye. Say hey @readjack.Want more? Discuss this article and others on RedEye Sports' Facebook page.
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