32 Fans, 32 Countries: Simen Stubbrud, a Chicago Bears Fan in Norway
32 Fans, 32 Countries is a look at the global reaches of the NFL. For this project we have attempted to interview 32 different fans of all 32 teams in 32 different countries all around the world (UK, Canada, and Mexico excluded). As readers will find, the paths to fandom are as varied as the cultures and customs of each country. Check back every day for a new profile. First up: A Bears Fan in Norway
In Norway, hockey has long been king. Then there is soccer. Then skiing. Then maybe handball. Historically, you would have to dig deep into the bowels of Norwegian society to find any hint of Americana, let alone football. But in the early 90’s, there was an American sports fad in which Norwegians purchased American sports caps in droves, and some residents such as Simen Stubbrud of Oslo went so far as to become a fan. Stubbrud picked the Chicago Bears, because he was mildly interested in football and thought the Bears “sounded the best.”
Back in the 90’s, Stubbrud couldn’t watch games, so he’d follow the scores without even knowing players’ names. Yet he had some knowledge of the rules because he played football in the same decade, at a junior level from ages 16-19.
Playing American football in Oslo was very much a niche. Stubbrud says there were only a few positions and “maybe four teams in all of Norway.” While his league mostly followed American football rules, they were a bit looser. Stubbrud, who was a lineman, said, “As long as I didn’t move or hold before the play started, I was fine.”
Stubbrud remained a very casual Bears fan in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. A friend of his, also a rare Norwegian football player, was a fellow Bears fan. And like Stubbrud, he was a elementary one. Their Monday conversations would go something like this:
Stubbrud: “OK, so they beat the Vikings.”
Stubbrud’s friend: “That’s cool.”
That was it. Neither had much to say about players or schemes or terrible officiating. But they felt the need to utter something about the Bears.
Stubbrud’s level of devotion all changed after the Bears went to the Super Bowl in 2006. He had watched every Super Bowl, but it always felt like “just two teams playing.” After the Bears lost to Indianapolis in the Super Bowl, Stubbrud, with help from the Internet, took it upon himself to learn the rules on a more intricate level and started becoming invested in individual players.
Stubbrud, at his home in Oslo.
Now Stubbrud is a multi-year subscriber to Game Pass, the NFL’s package available in many non-US countries that not only provides live access to all games, but also archived games from the previous three seasons. With this tool, Stubbrud has spent significant time breaking down film. He has also become an avid reader of Bear Report, which with its advanced analysis is really designed for the most ardent element of the Bears fan base.
Bear Report also provides a community for Stubbrud because, while the NFL has gained some momentum in Norway, Marc Trestman’s “kumbaya” coaching method is not exactly a hot topic of conversation across the Oslo bar scene.
Stubbrud did make it to Bears/Bucs game at Wembley Stadium in 2011 and says he would definitely go back to London if they ever returned. “I like the extra feeling of being with Bears fans who share your point of view,” he said.
The only part of NFL fandom that Stubbrud can’t seem to grasp is turning athletes into idols. “They are just players doing their jobs,” he said. Still, Stubbrud does admit to liking (but not loving) Julius Peppers.
(Every fan profiled is a native of the country he or she is representing.)