Bear Down

The Blonde Side t-shirts in Chicago

CHICAGO — Being at Soldier Field on Veteran’s Day. Let that sink in for a minute.

Regardless of the outcome of the game between the Houston Texans and the Chicago Bears on Sunday night, all 62,410 fans in attendance, whether wearing navy and red or navy and orange, cheered for the country’s servicemen and women. Walking into the stadium, on all sides, fans were met with a simple but powerful message and reminder:

SOLIDER FIELD 

Dedicated To The Men And Women Of The Armed Services

Flying out of Houston Hobby Friday morning, the airport was packed with enthusiastic Texans fans. If there’s one thing for sure about this Houston Texans team, fans travel well. And the team is good. Really good.

If there’s one thing for sure about this Houston Texans team, fans travel well. And the team is good. Really good.

Barret and Desiree Ortega were sporting their custom-made Texans T-shirts. The front read: “Howdy. ‘Chicago Blows’” with a Texans logo in place of the “o”.

The back read: “Dang auto correct – ‘Windy City.’”

The duo agreed it was a mutual creative idea; Desiree made the shirts, but Barret came up with the quote.

“We go to an away game every year but this one has to do with Veteran’s Day. He’s [Barret] in the Marine Corp and Solider Field has got to be one of the coolest places to spend this special day. Being from Houston, we wanted to go where it’s cold and we’ve been season tickets holders since Day one,” Desiree said holding her husband’s hand.

“Make sure you tell people we’re here proudly representing the Yellow Lot,” Barret added, referring to a popular tailgating spot near Reliant Stadium.

Barret and Desiree Ortega show off their sweatshirts before heading to Chicago

Barret and Desiree Ortega show off their sweatshirts before heading to Chicago

Mass appeal

Based on my trip to Denver back in September, I knew that Texans fans travel in masses. Eight home games clearly isn’t enough for some fans and while the team takes their show on the road, fans tag along for the fun. And the bragging rights being in the midst of all the gridiron action.

I began to wonder – are all these Texans fans BFFs (and why wasn’t I cordially invited?) or is there some underground fandom even I’m not aware of? And then I ran across a Facebook post from the ever-so-awesome Stephanie Stradley and the pieces started to fit together.

Stradley is a fan blogger (she goes by TexansChick) and at least for this Chicago game, drafted an “unofficial” Texans itinerary for the thousands venturing into the Windy City. To ensure the “travel in packs” mentality was in full effect all weekend, Stradley, with the help of some serious fans, itemized a traveling fans dream checklist.

To ensure the “travel in packs” mentality was in full effect all weekend, Stradley, with the help of some serious fans, itemized a traveling fans dream checklist.

She fully detailed what color to wear to the game (Battle Red), what bars fans would be at on Saturday night (including drink specials a link to the bar and address), where to meet if you want to partake in the group picture, and a simple yet friendly reminder that “the line between enthusiasm and obnoxious can be very thin.”

Her goal was to make sure Texans fans showed up strong and, more importantly, had a great time and respected the Bears fans in their house.

Texans fans at Soldier Field

Texans fans at Soldier Field

Thanks to unrivaled tailgating and bloggers like Stradley, Texans fans have been bonding over beers and tough seasons for a full decade. Now, they finally have something to cheer about. The teams have only met two times prior to this season, so it was a no-brainer that Chicago would be a big game. A primetime battle of two talked about defenses, a great city and an even greater team – one finally worth traveling for.

I ran into Mike Stephens at the Pony sports bar Saturday for a huge A&M watch party. Mike flew into town with seven of his friends for Sunday’s big game.

“I am here with friends that I’ve known for 30 years, and because this will be the best game of the year. Two 7-1 teams. Outstanding. Great football, great friends, great city,” he said.

Too cool 

Inside Soldier Field, the crowds were loud and bundled up. With pouring rain and temperatures in the 40’s, most Texans fans were covered head-to-toe in warm gear, a poncho (or trash bag) and multiple Texans branded apparel items. But there was one Texan who wasn’t afraid to show a little skin. In the first quarter, a Southern little blonde sporting a Texans midriff and unseasonably tan skin, flexed her muscles for the Jumbotron, getting fans riled up.

Just before heading into the raining tailgating festivities, I ran into Monica Rojas, another Houston fan. “Watt Ya Know About Them H-Town Peeps?” she kept saying to all the opposing fans, including the ESPN radio guys broadcasting live inside Jimmy Greens.

“Can’t wait to get home to Houston and thaw out. My draws are frozen and my fingers and toes are numb, but winning in Chicago’s house and celebrating with my fellow Texans fans was the greatest. 8-1! #bullsonparade.”

“We’re here trying to show Chicago how us Texans fans roll. We have family that lives here but we love and support our Texans – home and away. We are predicting the Texans are 8-1 after tonight baby!” Rojas said.

And she was right. Both teams entered Sunday nights’ game, the one many referred to as a preview for Super Bowl XLVII, at 7-1, but only one team left 8-1. The Texans, still the team to beat across the league, continue to be undefeated against Brian Urlacher and the Chicago Bears (with an all-time record of 3-0).

Looking at the front row of the lower bowl, I’m a TEXAN, WE ARE TEXANS, and other Texan-logo flags were strategically placed for all the viewers at home to see. Texans are proud.

A Texans fan on a mission, Patrick Reyes marks Chicago as just another stop on the away schedule.

“The game was ugly but I don’t think I could have had a more appropriate Chicago experience. The weather, the fans and a defensive battle. Great win for our Texans. As long as we win, I don’t care how we play. Next stop for me, New England on December 10th,” said Reyes who plans to utilize Stradley’s helpful tips along each stop.

Another avid fan and season ticket holder, Justin Capetillo, managed to type out a Facebook message even with frozen fingers after the big win. “Can’t wait to get home to Houston and thaw out. My draws are frozen and my fingers and toes are numb, but winning in Chicago’s house and celebrating with my fellow Texans fans was the greatest. 8-1! #bullsonparade.”

Ty and Sharon Coburn are celebrating more than just a franchise record-setting team.

“We are here celebrating our anniversary and it’s funny because it’s the Texans 10-year anniversary and it’s also our 10-year anniversary. Last night’s win was priceless. The win just completed our amazing weekend. I was wet from head to toe and Ty kept telling me ‘hang in there darling’ – it’ll all be worth it. It was amazing. We were sitting around some really grouchy Bears fans, but we had a great time,” said Sharon Coburn.

“Last night’s victory validated who we are – we are THE team,” said Ty.

I’m sure every other Texans fan, whether in Chicago, Houston or elsewhere agrees with Ty’s sentiments.

This article was featured on Culture Map, Houston’s Daily Digital Magazine in the sport’s section.