LONDON — Never mind that Sunday’s first-ever NFL tilt at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium was a supposed home game for the Las Vegas-bound Oakland Raiders vs. the Bears.The Khalil Mack Bears jerseys, like those donning the numbers “10,” “34,” “50” and “54,” among countless others, were everywhere.
Black and Silver representation? Seemingly much more sparse, much more so than the Black and Silver domination in a stunning 24-21 victory over the Bears.
But the fan turnouts should surprise no one, not only because the Bears are the NFL’s charter franchise and a legitimate Super Bowl contender, but the wayward Raiders are mired in sub-mediocrity and soon to jettison Raider nation in Oakland.
This is a story about Bears fan venturing near and far to take in their beloved’s first game in London since 2011.
For instance, Dennis, Marcel and Daniel (pictured below), whom we chatted with in the Marriott Regents Park Sunday before heading over to Tottenham, made the hour-long flight from Germany.
“Bratbears,” one of them said, alluding to the commonality in one of Germany’s most popular food items and a pregame tailgating staple outside the gates of Soldier Field.
The trio said they’ve been “Bears fans since the beginning,” and also said some things about the Raiders that would never make their way past our editor.
Or how about the the crew of Liam, Gregg, Ross and “T-Rex” — one of whom is a Raiders fan but hedged by wearing a Bears t-shirt under his Black and Silver attire, so we’re protecting his pride by letting him remain anonymous — which took the two-and-a-half-hour train ride from Cardiff, Wales. All rugby players, including one with what appeared to be a freshly broken arm heavily wrapped and casted, met their former coach, Scott, a Dallas native, in London.
They meet annually for Bears games, including the most recent one at “Jerry World” against the Cowboys, and a Chicago double-header in 2016 that took them from a 17-16 loss over the Jaguars at Soldier Field to Clayton Kershaw flummoxing the Cubs, 1-0, in Game 2 of the NLCS at Wrigley hours later.
Suffice to say, Sunday’s outcome was also gut-wrenching.
But prior to the Bears getting outplayed by the Raiders, we had a lively and enjoyable discussion revolving mostly around Walter Payton and whether he’s the greatest player — not Bears player — ever. They were also — surprise, surprise — wanting to know a lot about Mack: what’s he really like? Will the Raiders make it out of Sunday alive? Stuff like that. (We would’ve loved to report back to them after chatting with Mack in the postgame locker room but he refused to talk.)
We also chatted a bit about the parallels between rugby and football, with one of the guys suggesting NFL players are soft because they get to wear pads, and the coach explaining why he thinks rugby players are less vulnerable to suffering brain injuries because removing the helmet means teaching them how to tackle safer.
The quintet’s pregame plan was a trip to Whitehart Lane, a festive area full of pubs near the field, a gorgeous, brand-new facility nestled smack dab in the middle of a neighborhood.
And speaking of the stadium, we’d estimate, conservatively, the ratio of Bears-Raiders fans in attendance was roughly 80-20 — though the latter’s fans surely had a lot more reasons to celebrate during and after the game. Good thing they could head back to Whitehart Lane, albeit with many within that overwhelming majority of blue and orange faithful also there drowing their sorrows before a long trip home.