John Hansen, 77, of Mendota has been going to Chicago Bears games since 1976, with season tickets for 40 years and a personal seat license (PSL) for the new stadium.
If there’s been a home Bears game, John has been there, through thick (1985 Super Bowl Bears) and thin (many seasons), missing only a few games along the way for “something family-wise that was pretty important.”
He’s famous for always saying, “you never leave a Bears game early,” and has been rewarded for his loyalty and patience by staying for many games that the Bears have pulled out with seconds to spare.
“I will not leave early. The very first Bears game I went to, Kansas City went up by six points with 26 seconds left and the people who took me said, ‘Ok, let’s go. It’s over,’” Hansen said.
“Well, we got in the tunnel below and the place went wild. They won the game and I had to go home and watch it on TV. I’ve never left early since.”
For the first time in 44 years, Hansen has been on the outside looking in, like all other Bears fans sacked by the coronavirus pandemic, which has closed the doors of Soldier Field.
He said it’s been very frustrating and taken the length of getting a new 75-inch TV to watch games, setting it up in his garage and watching from the driveway to give more of a game-like atmosphere.
But as sweet as Walter Payton himself, Hansen will be getting to go to see his beloved Bears this year. Christmas is coming early.
Hansen’s seven kids (Kim, Stacy, Rachel, Krista, Amanda, John and Luke) gave their dad his Christmas present early last weekend, surprising him with tickets for the Bears game in Jacksonville the Sunday after Christmas (Dec. 27) vs. the Jaguars, where fans are allowed to attend. He will be accompanied by daughters Rachel Schlipmann and Krista Hansen-Byers, and their sons, Rolen and Brady.
“We really didn’t want him to miss seeing them play in person,” Hansen-Byers said.
Hansen is pretty excited to go and especially looking forward to see Jaguars rookie star James Robinson play. Robinson played for Rockford Lutheran and John got to see him play against his grandson, Paxton Kennedy, at Mendota.
Bears games have become a family tradition for Hansen and his family. He has two season tickets and takes turns taking his seven children or their children with him.
“We try to get everybody to a game and been doing it for a long time. Kind of a family tradition we love to do,” Hansen said.
“We all take turns. The older siblings have given their tickets up to their kids, but not Rachel and I yet. But sometimes our kids get to go to preseason games or if dad’s friends have extra tickets,” Hansen-Byers said.
“I’ve been going to games for at least 30 years. It’s a very special time spent with my dad and I look forward to it every year. I use to get the Packers game for many years. Then the other siblings banned me from that game, because they said I was bad luck. Well they didn’t do any better when I quit going to that game.”
They have been to games where they got sun burnt, Hansen-Byers said, and others so cold that she has not been able to feel her toes until half way home on the bus.
Hansen-Byers accompanied her dad to the famous “double doink” Bears/Eagles Wildcard game in 2018, and witnessed the very last game at the old Soldier Field in 2001. She said the Bears “literally were tearing seats out as people were leaving as soon as the game was over.”
The next year the Hansen tour followed the Bears to Champaign while the new stadium was being built.
“I love all the memories we have made up there. We even ran our first family 5K up there, the Ditka Dash. And yes my 70-plus-year-old father ran, too,” Hansen-Byers said.
When asked who is favorite Bear of all-time, Hansen quickly says, “Walter,” adding that Walter Payton “played harder than anybody and he was a good guy. No celebrating. Here’s the ball and go rest up and score another one.”
He also loved watching the Bears’ defense play from the 1985 Super Bowl champions.
Kevin Hieronymus is the BCR Sports Editor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org