Sunday, Sept. 21

Sunday, Sept. 21

9:30 a.m.: I awake refreshed and ready to root my Chicago Bears to their second victory of this young season. Last week was a rough one. We had the lead late against the Carolina Panthers only to watch as it slipped helplessly away. But today is another day. It's the home opener and the Bears faithful are thirsty for Tampa Bay Buccaneer blood.

9:45 a.m.: I shower and sit down to make last-minute changes to my fantasy football team. My name is Chris Conrad and I am a fantasy wonk. I don't remember how this all started, because I'm sure living and dying by the statistics of steroid-pumped millionaires wasn't always the driving force behind my Sunday afternoons. Should I sit or start Braylon Edwards this week? He has let me down so far this year. Funny, I've never met the man, but if I could, I would ask him why he has decided to personally make my life a living hell this year after I drafted him third overall.

Maybe I should drive to his home in Cleveland and ask him myself. Since when did my life turn into "Taxi Driver"?

10 a.m.: I arrive at the Oak Tree Northwest Bar & Grill in Ashland. This is where I will spend the next seven or so hours on this sunny day, with temperatures hovering in the mid-80s and not a cloud in the sky. I walk in to find the Bears game on the large television above the bar. It's the "featured" game this week.

The Oak Tree's installation of flat- screen televisions bedazzle the walls of the bar. Each panel blasts forth the colorful violence that is football in perfect harmony with the one hanging beside it. Is this what heaven will look like?

11:30 a.m.: Holy cow! The Bears go into halftime with a 14 to 9 lead. Sure, we've not managed to score a touchdown of offense; the only points have come via the field goal. But quarterback Kyle Orton doing something called "playing within himself." I hear NFL talking heads say this a lot about Bears quarterbacks. I think it means they soar when tapping into the latent talent burning deep inside their hearts while leading us to victory.

12:30 p.m.: Is this a dream? With just over six minutes left in the game the Bears have a commanding 24 to 14 lead. And Bears running back Matt Forte, my sleeper fantasy pick, is having a productive game. This is the perfect time to start running my mouth to whoever will listen on how the Bears are going to shock the world this year on the way to the playoffs.

1 p.m.: So the Buccaneers have scored 10 unanswered points in the final six minutes to knot the game at 24. Is it too early for a beer?

1:42 p.m.: Buccaneers kicker Matt Bryant punches through the game-winning field goal in overtime after the Bears' total meltdown on defense.

Another Pabst, please.

2:20 p.m.: I'm watching the Denver Broncos game with friends. Man, the Broncos can move the ball and actually play some defense. The Broncos fans in the house look at me with a mixture of pity and perverse delight. Whatever.

3 p.m.: I declare myself a Broncos fan. My new team has a great quarterback. What is the name of the stadium my team plays in?

3:20 p.m.: Check fantasy team. I'm losing by 30 points and my opponents' best players are still putting up big numbers late into their games. I hate all football.

4:30 p.m.: I leave the Oak Tree to find the sun will be setting soon. The day has drawn to a close and I didn't notice. This can't be all there is to life. Can it?

8 p.m.: My friend John from back home calls and we commiserate for about 20 minutes. I am no longer a Broncos fan. Having come to my senses I realize I will have to live with the Bears until I breathe my last. It's kind of like having herpes, being a Chicago Bears fan. You never get rid of the symptoms of failure, you just learn to deal with them over the years.

Wednesday, Sept. 24

1 p.m.: I'm working hard to make the right fantasy football trades to put me over the top for Week 4. This week it's all going to come together. I know it. And I just learned the two best players for the Philadelphia Eagles could miss the Bears game Sunday night.

All is right yet again. I'm confident this Sunday will bring only glory. It's all downhill from here. Go Bears...

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471; or e-mail cconrad@mailtribune.com.