The top expert on the Chicago Bears this football season, or maybe just the luckiest, is a wisecracking, fast-talking, bike-riding waitress in a Jewish deli in Chicago.
Her name is Brenda Shore. She’s been waiting tables for more years than she cares to say. She insists she’s not a great waitress — “I’m not everybody’s cup of tea” — but her many loyal customers, in the words of one, consider her “one of the all-time great Chicago personalities.”
If Shore waits on your table at The Bagel on North Broadway in Lakeview, she’ll remember your preferences and anticipate your needs.
Do you like extra prunes in your tzimmes? Extra chocolate in your phosphate? Ask once and she’ll remember.
Shore will also talk football with anyone who’s willing, and when she tells you who’s going to win the Bears game, listen.
Since the first game of the 2018 season, Shore has not only predicted the outcome of every game correctly, she has done it for the masses, as a regular feature on “Fox Kickoff Sunday,” WFLD-Ch. 32’s pregame show.
With a record of 7-0 she has out-predicted the show’s bona-fide experts, one of them a former Bears player.
And she’s feeling the heat.
“I didn’t know it was going to be so important whether I was right or not,” she said Wednesday during a break at The Bagel. “It’s like watching a football game where you have money invested. It’s like added stress. But once it’s over and I’m right, then I’m excited for at least two days.”
It was Halloween and, sitting in a black booth, she was wearing an orange Bears jersey over leggings, along with a giant hat shaped like a football.
Many women like football. Few like it the way Shore does. She remembers when the passion first stirred, in 1968 while she was watching a game with her dad. A quarterback named Joe Namath came on the screen.
“So cute,” she said, “and so cocky.”
Her interest turned to commitment during the 1985 season when her boyfriend insisted she watch the Bears. Game by game, she became addicted to the spectacle, one she came to think of as a mix of boxing, ballet and war.
“It was like meth,” she said. She shrugged. “My love of football lasted longer than my relationship.”
Through the years, Shore worked various jobs, including as a pharmaceutical rep, then in 1992 settled into waitressing at The Bagel. Her football passion thrived.
She and her friend Patti took to attending Bears training camp. Once, they saw lineman Gabe Carimi walking across the field.
“I yell out, ‘Gabe, we are the only two Jews in Bourbonnais!’ He yells back, ‘I thought that I was the only Jew in Bourbonnais!’ I say, ‘No, dude, I’m here!’ With that, he comes over — all gorgeous, tall, blue-eyed, sweaty guy — and I get to talk to him, touch his arm and get his autograph. I was on cloud nine.”
Don’t misunderstand. Shore is not a groupie, and while some say she would have made a great stand-up comic, she’s not kidding about football. Dates, stats, history, she knows it all.
One of Shore’s customers works at Channel 32, and more than once she told him she should be on the pregame show. That’s how she landed her current one-season gig.
She made all her predictions, which are being aired one week at a time, in a single filming before the season started.
“It was way more terrifying than I thought it was going to be,” she said. “Nothing like talking to my customers.”
In her first week of prognostication, Shore confounded the pundits by picking the Green Bay Packers over the Bears. She was right again the second week, and in all the weeks after that.
But success doesn’t always equal self-satisfaction.
“Last week I was awful,” she said. “My performance was awful and stilted. I went home and ate a box of cookies. I found cookie crumbs the next day all over my floor. An entire box!”
Shore works a double shift on Sundays so she misses most of the games. She catches up through sports talk shows. As for playing the sport herself, waitressing is as close as she has ever come.
“I am a running back,” she said. She leapt up from the booth. “This is the way I serve food.”
She grabbed a plate from a table, extended an arm, her fingers splayed, and ran down the aisle.
Shore’s customers love her. She loves them back, but worries about her future. Waitressing gets harder as she gets older but she sees no way out, which is why she bicycles and goes to the gym, hoping to stay fit.
She had hoped that her TV gig might open new opportunities.
“You know what I’m shocked about?” she said. “How many people do you think watch this show? Half a million. It’s been seven weeks. I’m pretty cute. You don’t think that one man that’s watched this has decided they would like to come in and talk to me about football? Not one. I find that mind-boggling.”
There’s plenty of the season left, though, room for opportunities to blossom, even if, as she predicts, not all her game forecasts will be right.
“It just doesn’t work like that,” she said.
But in case you’re wondering: The Bears will beat the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
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