Dickerson: Fan base tough foe for athletes

If there is one fight an athlete can't win, it's one against his fan base, whether the fans boo or not. Rob Grabowski/USA TODAY Sports

There are certain battles in life not worth fighting.

A pro athlete taking on a fan base is one of them.

Chicago Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher has taken on at least part of the Bears fan base. After the Bears suffered their fifth loss in their last six games Sunday to the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field, Urlacher criticized Bears fans who booed the home team during his weekly segment on Fox Chicago. He said it was "unbelievable."

Urlacher has called Chicago his professional home since 2000 when the team selected him in the first round of the NFL draft. In the last 13-plus seasons, Urlacher has probably had tens of thousands of positive encounters with Bears' fans, whether it be an autograph, a photograph or a simple hello. Urlacher has been great for the Bears' organization on and off the field, and will no doubt one day be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Many refer to him as the face of the franchise, which given his service time and consistently high level of play, seems like an accurate description.

Many Bears' fans grew up idolizing Urlacher, the club's best player since the Super Bowl team disbanded in the early 1990s.

But the easiest way to burn through all that good will is to take a swipe at the same fans who worshiped you, even if they weren't necessarily the exact ones Urlacher criticized when he said: "Two people I don't care about, fans or media."

If I played, I would be upset if the hometown fans booed at halftime with the score only 14-7.

And I take offense when people I'm close to -- or in Urlacher's case teammates -- get attacked verbally by others.

So I understand where No. 54 is coming from, and by the way I don't listen to half the things people say in the media, and I'm in the media.

There has been a quasi-adversarial relationship between the Bears and Soldier Field fans that dates back several years. I've seen players scream at fans in the stands. Jay Cutler got caught giving his opinion about the fans walking off the field at halftime of the Carolina Panthers game, just a few weeks after he lectured the fans on game etiquette on when to cheer and when not to cheer during the game. All the points Cutler made were valid, by the way.

But you can't do what Urlacher did publicly. He has to turn the other cheek and simply accept the fact that fans will act how they want to act, right or wrong. There is no positive outcome here for Urlacher.

While it's easy to lump all media together in one group, as most athletes and coaches tend to do, you should never do that to fans.

It's not worth it.

Urlacher is too good for that.