We often describe preseason games as meaningless, because for the most part, they are.
But for Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, this weekend’s trip to Indianapolis will carry a different weight.
Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia in 2012, his first year as the Colts head coach. And the support he received while there meant more than any cheers during a game.
“I was only there a short time before I was diagnosed,” Pagano said, via Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune. “For that city and that community, the organization, to embrace me and support me and my whole family through that journey, it just speaks to that Hoosier hospitality.
“Living it like we lived it was truly amazing. Because they didn’t have to do that. But it just speaks to [that] there’s a lot more good in this world than bad. Really, really good people, and I was fortunate to be where I was at the time.”
Pagano coached the Colts for six seasons, and the ties remain. He went back to Indianapolis in May for a cancer research fundraiser, where he was surrounded by co-workers from the Bears, and Colts owner Jim Irsay donated $1 million.
“It blew me away,” Pagano said. “It blew all of us away. It was really unprecedented how in the National Football League, where everything is so secretive — nobody wants to share anything — two organizations [came] together. The generosity of the McCaskey family purchasing a table and supporting that cause and making the trek down there, it was unbelievable. And [it] just speaks to the people that own these two organizations, and the fan base and everybody in these two football buildings, to their character.
“It was a night where both organizations put football to the side and we all came together for a great cause — and that was to raise money for cancer research.”
And while Saturday’s game may not have the same meaning as that event, being in Indianapolis remains special for Pagano, and will continue to.