It's a little more than a week to the 41st Super Bowl and Herndon resident Tom Davis is already excited.
"Oh, I didn't think they would make it this far, I can say that," said Davis over a beer with friends at Jimmy's Old Town Tavern last Friday, his dark brown hair tucked beneath a royal blue Indianapolis Colts cap. "There's really nothing wrong with the [opposing] Bears, but I really just hope that Indianapolis wins."
Davis is one of several local football fans who, despite seeing a local favorite Washington Redskins team fall short of making the playoffs, are still excited about the result of this Sunday's Super Bowl between the Chicago Bears and the Indianapolis Colts. It will be a rare matchup of NFL superstars in Indianapolis' future hall of fame quarterback Peyton Manning and Chicago's all pro defensive player of the year Brian Urlacher. The Bears haven't been to the big game since the legendary 1985 champion team under head coach Mike Ditka. The Colts have never been.
It's Davis' respect and admiration of Manning that puts him firmly behind the Colts. Davis, a local contractor, has been a fan since watching Manning become the all-time leading passer for the University of Tennessee back in the '90s.
Davis and his son have been backing the Colts to win the Super Bowl the whole year, he said.
"When you look back at the great quarterbacks in history, Dan Marino, Peyton Manning, you always want somebody that great to make it," to the Super Bowl, Davis said. "Now, it's finally his year and I couldn't be happier for him."
A FEW DAYS LATER and across town at Herndon High School, retired 1st Sgt. Billy Williams III of the school's Navy Junior ROTC program takes a break from eating lunch and writes on the dry-erase board in his office.
"That's my prediction for the game," Williams said, looking towards fellow teacher Cmdr. Rick Cassara and moving away to reveal what he wrote — "Colts 34 / Bears 15."
"This guy has no idea what he's talking about, he's from Tennessee," Cassara, a native of Chicago's south side, retorted. "That's the final score next Sunday," he said, pointing to his own writing: "Bears 28 / Colts 17."
The Super Bowl means a lot to Cassara, a life-long Bears fan with a collection of Bear figurines and statues from around the world and a personally signed photo of Bears Hall of Fame linebacker, Dick Butkus.
"Chicago's a town that deserves to have champion sports teams," he said, "it's the third biggest city in the country and they've just got an extraordinarily loyal fan base and tradition that deserves to have winning teams in any sport."
It's especially gratifying, Cassara said, to see Chicago back in the Super Bowl after missing out for more than the last two decades.
"See, we beat New England back [in 1985] and they've now won something like three championships since then, we haven't won any," he said. "I've got a feeling that while this team might not be the same team we had in '85, it will just be a much more memorable win."
"More hard-fought and hard-won."
AS THE DAYS count down to the game on Feb. 4, the hype and opinions will continue to build surrounding the match up and Herndon, although far from the Midwest, is no exception, said Jimmy Cerrito, owner of Jimmy's Old Town Tavern.
From now until game day, the restaurant will be hosting its annual tradition of serving special entrees representing the two Super Bowl contenders. This year, it's original hot dogs from Chicago and the original "Peyton Manningwich" barbecue beef sandwich.
And the predictions as to the outcome of the game are held just as strong as team loyalties.
"I'm seeing them playing the defense like they did last week, with bodies flying everywhere," Cassara said. "Bears football."
For Davis, who has picked the winners of the last two NCAA college football championships, it's all Indianapolis.
"I really hope Peyton [Manning] has a great game," he said. "If he can get the ball moving down field, I think they've got a great chance."
But not everyone is reveling in the support of one team over the other.
"I think either way, it should be a great Super Bowl, you've got two really good teams," said Kenny Opachko, an electronic technician from Chantilly, while sitting at the bar in Jimmy's Old Tavern last weekend. "You gotta love Peyton Manning, the guy is a great athlete, but the Bears' defense is something else."
To a certain extent, Davis takes this same perspective.
"You know, I'm not that hard core of a fan where I'll be upset if Chicago scores," he said. "That's what sports is all about. It's an amazing story on both sides."