Bill Swerski's Superfans

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Bill Swerski's Superfans was a recurring sketch about Chicago sports fans on the American sketch comedy program Saturday Night Live. It was a prominent feature from 1991–1992, and its characters have made various other appearances since its inception.

Contents

Sketch history

1990-1997

The sketch typically depicts a television program wherein a group of Chicago sports fans obsessively discuss any topic at hand, usually the Chicago Bears football team. It first appeared on January 12, 1991 starring Joe Mantegna as the show's host Bill Swerski, along with Chris Farley as Todd O'Connor, Mike Myers as Pat Arnold, and Robert Smigel as Carl Wollarski. Subsequent sketches starred George Wendt as Bill's brother Bob, with occasional appearances by Beth Cahill as Bob's daughter Denise. John Goodman played Pat Arnold upon Myers' departure from SNL; the change in Pat Arnold's appearance was attributed to "massive weight gain." Mantegna's absence was invariably explained away by Wendt, saying his "brudder Bill" had just "had anudder heart attack."

Smigel originally wrote the sketch for the improvisational comedy show Happy Happy Good Show. Under the name "Chicago Superfans," it was performed in Chicago during the summer of 1988.[1] The inspiration for the characters were radio hosts in Chicago during the 1970s and 1980s. The name "Bill Swerski" was likely derived from Bill Jauss, the moderator of the WGN radio panel show The Sportswriters (1975–1993),[2] and from WGN radio and WGN-TV sportscaster Chuck Swirsky.[3]

The characters were typically shown in Mike Ditka's sports bar, drinking large amounts of beer, smoking, and gorging themselves on ribs, Polish sausage, and similar foods. All of the characters wore dark sunglasses and thick mustaches to resemble Ditka, the popular coach of the Chicago Bears at the time, and who was the idol of all the Superfans. In addition to discussing Ditka and the Bears, another frequent topic of discussion was the Chicago Bulls basketball team, and their star player, Michael Jordan, who were winning their first three NBA Championships at the time. Both Ditka and Jordan would make appearances (playing themselves) in episodes of the sketch.

Early sketches had posters in the background with the call letters WBBM, the CBS O&O TV, AM and FM stations in Chicago, though later sketches changed the call letters to WCBM.

The group would discuss upcoming sporting events and inevitably predict a huge victory for the Chicago team, using an exaggerated Chicago accent (a variety of Inland Northern American English), normally culminating in a uniform toast to "Da Bearss" and "Da Bullss". Their predictions were likewise exaggerated and their topics of conversation often ludicrous. Typical debates involved Mike Ditka versus a hurricane (in this particular debate, the Superfans believed that Ditka could defeat the hurricane, until it was revealed that the name of the hurricane was Hurricane Ditka); who would win in a competition for World Domination – "Da Bearss" or "Da Bullss"; Mike Ditka winning the Indianapolis 500 driving the Bears' team bus; or how many points Michael Jordan could score if he played an entire game by himself while lounging in a recliner.

One episode asked the outcome of the Bulls/Pistons game where Todd said the Bulls would win 402-0—but Jordan would be held to under 200 points. Todd usually predicted shutouts. During another episode, he predicted that the Bears would defeat the New York Giants by a score of 79-0, claiming that "the Bears' defense is like a wall. You can't go t'rough it." Pat once predicted the Bears would win their game by a score of 31 to negative-7. When asked how a team could end up with negative points, Pat replied, "Ditka'll find a way." He then asked oddsmaker Danny Sheridan, played by Kevin Nealon who he'd take in matchup between Ditka and the Giants, to which Nealon's character replied, "I'd take the Giants by 800." One episode featured a Jeopardy!-like game show starring Bob Swerski as host and the other Superfans as contestants. All the questions dealt with the Chicago Bears, Chicago, or Mike Ditka. The Final Jeopardy! question was "Bears vs. Bulls," which produced hilarious responses from the contestants. The correct answer was revealed to be that such a match-up would tear the fabric of the space-time continuum and destroy the planet, meaning the United Nations would have to step in prior to the match to prevent the mass destruction.

The characters appeared in nine episodes in two years. With Ditka's departure from the Bears in 1993 and significant cast changes on SNL, the sketch and characters all but disappeared. They did, however, make a special appearance at the celebration of the Chicago Bulls' 1991-1993 "Three-peat" championship victory. The NBC television network interrupted daytime television to broadcast the short speeches made by the Superfans. Bob Swerski and Carl Wollarski also made a special appearance during Michael Jordan's original jersey retirement ceremony at the United Center in 1994. The final sketch featuring the original Superfans was on October 25, 1997 in an episode hosted by Farley. This featured the second appearance by their idol Mike Ditka (he had appeared on an episode of SNL after his firing by the Bears); although, he was at the time coaching the New Orleans Saints, which resulted in a schism amongst the Superfans. Farley's death two months later seemed to preclude the possibility of future Superfan sketches.

Later appearances and fame

In 2003, Bart Swerski (Bob's nephew, played by Horatio Sanz) was introduced on a Weekend Update segment with his uncle, discussing the recent playoff failure of the Chicago Cubs. Instead of referring to the team as "Da Cubs," Bart said "De Cubs," but it was learned that this was due to a speech impediment. This same year, sports journalist Jay Mariotti decried the negative reactions of Chicago Cubs fans to the Steve Bartman incident, which went as far as sending Bartman and his family death threats, and commented that they were making Cubs fans look like "those mopes from the Superfans skits on Saturday Night Live."[4] (The Superfans themselves could be considered part of that group: Bart Swerski claimed during the Update segment that the desire to exact retribution on Bartman had united the people of Chicago as never before, and Uncle Bob said he arrived late because he had been at church, praying for divine assistance in hunting him down.)[5]

In 2006, George Wendt returned in Superfan garb alongside Ditka for a sketch prior to Super Bowl XL.

In a 2007 SNL sketch, Donatella Versace said to David and Victoria Beckham, "If you guys were a football team, you would be Da Bores." The episode aired the night before Super Bowl XLI, in which the Indianapolis Colts beat the Chicago Bears. Following the Bears' loss, the Superfans Bill Swerski, Bob Swerski, and Carl Wollarski returned in a TV commercial for Reebok, alongside Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri. A variety of Superfan-themed fan sites also sprung up during this time, including DaSuperfans.com, which gained significant media attention in Chicago and beyond.

In November 2008, ESPN ran a segment featuring Bill Swerski discussing Mike Ditka's possible run for an Illinois Senate seat in 2004.

On September 11, 2011, ESPN ran a segment featuring Bill Swerski discussing Chicago Bears Quarterback Jay Cutler and his image after the 2010 NFC Championship game.

The GEICO gecko performed an impersonation of the Superfans in a March 2012 commercial (complete with "Da Bears"), in which the gecko, who is in Chicago, demonstrates his efforts to make his cockney accent more understandable to the populace.

In a March 2012 episode of SNL, Andy Samberg, posing as Sarah Palin, who is usually played by Tina Fey, as he was being told to drop the act by Weekend Update host Seth Meyers, called out randomly, "Da Bears!"

In 2012 Old Navy introduced a commercial with the Superfans including coach Mike Ditka

References