MORGAN PARK — Make no mistake, Bubba Ludwig roots for the Bears.
But that didn’t stop the St. Cajetan School second-grader from inviting New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees to his first Holy Communion party.
“Well, Drew is a Super Bowl-winning quarterback. And that’s the most important thing for a quarterback,” Bubba explained. “And he’s a really nice guy. He’s also my team’s quarterback on Madden.”
Plus, Brees helped Bubba’s mom, Katie Ludwig, win her fantasy football championship.
So, the 7-year-old, whose real name is Howard, penned a letter in his best printing and mailed it off, fully expecting Brees to show up to celebrate with him, and maybe even bring a present.
When I asked why he didn’t invite Bears QB Jay Cutler, Bubba was blunt as a kid could be.
“Cutler didn’t win the Super Bowl,” he said.
That reminded me of a particularly memorable game at Old Comiskey Park in July 1986 when I found myself rooting for Cal Ripken Jr. instead of the White Sox.
It was “Beach Sandal Night,” and the group of drunken Sox fans sitting in front of us had one seat piled high with free flip-flops.
A guy sitting behind us heard me cheering for Ripken when he homered in the second inning and tapped me on the shoulder.
“I’m Cal Ripken’s cousin, kid,” he said. “And if you get me a pair of those sandals I’ll send you an autographed baseball.”
So, I swiped a pair from the drunken fans' stash and gave Cal Ripken Jr.’s alleged cousin my home address.
My boyhood pal Brian Knittle called me an idiot and a traitor for trading stolen White Sox sandals for the promise of a Ripken autograph.
But I didn’t care. The Sox stunk that year, and Cal Ripken Jr. was one of my favorite players.
Bubba Ludwig told me he felt the same way about being a Bears fan, but still cheering for Brees.
“Winning the Super Bowl is the most important thing for a quarterback,” he said. “And I don’t really think it will happen for [Cutler].”
Last week while Bubba was at an after-school art program, hard at work making a collage of football pictures, a FedEx envelope arrived at this house.
It was a letter informing Bubba that Brees wouldn’t be able to make it to his upcoming party. But that didn’t bum the 7-year-old out because of what else was inside the envelope.
“When I saw it I said, ‘This is so wicked awesome, to get a letter and an awesome Drew Brees photo,'” Bubba said, smiling as he held up the autographed picture that he and his dad, DNAinfo Chicago contributor Howard Ludwig, had already put in a frame.
In that moment, I knew exactly how Bubba felt.
A few months after swiping those sandals at Sox Park, I got a giant envelope in the mail with a handwritten letter and a autographed 8-by-10 glossy picture of Ripken.
I kept that picture on my dresser until the day I moved out of my parents’ house.
The Hall of Fame shortstop signed it, “To Mark, Never give up. Cal Jr.”
At least I think that’s what Ripken wrote.
I can’t tell you for sure, because after scouring my house I couldn’t find it anywhere.
So take it from me, Bubba — hold on tight to that precious autograph.
Because when you're an old man, you'll be sad to know that you've lost it and will never be able to find out how much it'll sell for on Ebay.