By Tim Baffoe--
(CBS) "Going all the way, Baff."
I deal with a lot of regular customers at the pizza joint where I moonlight. There's a particular couple that dines in about once a week every week. Every time for … I've stopped counting the years that I've delivered pizzas … the husband greets me not with any salutation but instead a summation of Chicago sports du jour, particularly if that involves the Chicago Bears.
It's always a slightly tongue-in-cheek overboiled, over-reactionary statement. The wife and I greet each other with a sympathetic sigh and an eye roll.
This week, the Bears are going all the way. Last week, the coaching decisions suggested "two more years of Trestman." After the Bears won two road games in a row, "This team is winning its division, watch." Before that, it was "I'm taking a bath on my damn season tickets." Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, depending on the week, is either getting the husband's inheritance or being fired into the sun. (Meanwhile, the wife talks of patience and smart rebuilding.)
I could poke fun to his face (and maybe do). I could mock him here in print (I won't). But either would make me a hypocrite.
Because while meatball fans are great fodder for ridicule and sarcastic columns — and I promise you I work at the Mos Eisley Cantina of meatball Chicago sports fans — the 2015 Bears are to blame for the emotional roller coaster the team has put fans on. Writers, too.
Before the season, I was finger-crossing for full tanking.
"Right now and even more so Sunday and each week hereafter, you, Jane Q. Butkus and John X. Payton, need to repress all immediate emotional discharge," I wrote. "And you need to consciously root against the Chicago Bears."
One week in, I was impressed as hell in a losing effort. Matt Forte inspired me.
"The mentality of this offense," he said after falling to the Green Bay Packers , "which I was proud of, is nobody had that stupid look on their face like before, when something would happen and they're kind of saying the game is lost already when there's time left. So, I was glad we didn't have that. We came out and kept fighting."
Two weeks in, Cutler was hurt, and I declared the season to be over.
"Maybe a veteran free agent gets signed," I wrote. "Rex Grossman would be a great choice for humor purposes, but there's nobody out there who can salvage any of Cutler's missed time."
(Note: I still want The Sex Cannon on this team.)
But Cutler started salvaging things and on TV, I didn't deny the Bears could be a playoff team (and I said the Vikings weren't for real because I'm smart).
After that, the Bears let me down. Just last week, I had resigned myself to watching an OK group of try-hards hustle their way to pointless mediocrity the rest of the way.
And then on Thanksgiving night in a short prep week, the Bears won in freaking Lambeau Field during Packer Homecoming festivities. I watched it in the home of a Packers fan relative and took so much joy in his cursing and misery and free beer, and now my needle is leaning back to some drunken delusion of positivity.
Fine, I concede. My hands are thrown up. I embrace that I lose myself in the weekly narcotic shot this usually-competent-and-sometimes-good-then-sometimes-WTF brings.
I'm a meatball, one who just happens to have a laptop and a thesaurus instead of a tailgating spot and a Muhsin Muhammad jersey. This season has me all over the place, and I own it.
And, hell, you should own it, too. Damn the haters. This Bears team is entertaining. A good product takes the field each week and is the farthest cry from the sad clown show of last year. The team's final record will be bleh, most likely. At 5-6, the Bears almost certainly have to win out to make the playoffs — and oh my gosh they can, just take a look at the rest of the way, as their opponents are 25-30. And ... there I go again, see?
Next week, I'll probably write something about how in the hell could the Bears lose on a safety at home in overtime to the lowly San Francisco 49ers. But in retrospect, this spastic season sure beats the doldrums I assumed we'd have to endure otherwise, even if it merits the 17th pick in the 2016 draft.
Whatever. I'm enjoying feeling things — surprise, anger, joy, frustration, any things — about the Bears. I look forward to each game rather than fill out a pregame Bingo card of ways the medicine show coaching staff and quitting players can embarrass everyone with a vested interest in the Bears.
"If you need me, I'll be unavailable the first Sunday of February," said the husband as he left the restaurant Monday night.
The wife and I shook our heads and rolled our eyes. And after they'd passed me, I smiled.
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.
for more features.