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Big Ten Teams as Characters From The Bear

Every Second Counts (Sorry James Franklin)

The IMDb Portrait Studio At The 2023 Independent Spirit Awards
Kiss Me I’m Midwestern
Photo by Michael Rowe/Getty Images for IMDb

It’s America week at OTE, and that means articles about America’s great export, pop culture. The Best Show this summer is season 2 of The Bear, which fits because season 1 was the Best Show last summer. You can watch it right now on Hulu or FX or whatever, I’m unclear how television actually works anymore.

If you have seen it and loved it, then the main question you’ve had after the season finale is which Big Ten team most resembles Richie. Read on, readers. Also, spoilers for season 2 abound here, so don’t blame me if you are five episodes behind.

Carmen Berzatto: The Ohio State Buckeyes

Ryan Day looking at the defensive playbook

Carmy is the star of the show. Everything lives and dies based on his great talent and drive to be the best chef in America. Also, he is plagued by crippling self doubt and tends to accidentally lock himself in a fridge in big moments. He somehow drags the crappy restaurant forward despite being surrounded by a colorful cast of incompetent misfits. Also he burns though a lot of cash.

Richie Jerimovich: Michigan Wolverines

Tastes like milk, aged 12 days

Richie replaces competence with brash arrogance. He’s constantly angry at Carmy for turning his beloved restaurant into something that functions. He’s plagued by a deep feeling that he is completely useless and everything in life has passed him by. But in a surprising twist, he actually stops moping a bit and learns some useful skills. Jimmy Richie wears suits now.

Sydney Adamu: Michigan State Spartans

Fourth and eight feels like a run play

Sydney knows where she wants to be. She wants to be a great chef, at a great restaurant, and she will sacrifice everything to make that happen. Also, at her last job she served lamb ragu over Hawaiian Rolls and ended up moving in with her dad. There’s a palpable sense that Syd believes that no matter how hard she works, she isn’t talented enough and will fail in the end. Sydney No!

Marcus: Illinois Fighting Illini

Bert appreciates the perfect donut

Marcus starts the show as just another guy. But he quickly develops a fascination with desserts, especially donuts, and with his fascination comes something even more unexpected: a lot of talent and success. You get the right guy in the right situation with the right support, and you will get some really amazing desserts.

Mikey Berzatto: Nebraska Cornhuskers

Looking at the Nebraska depth chart

Mikey was the eldest son of the Berzatto clan, and the family star revolved around him. Carmy was off doing his fancy cooking thing, but Mikey was the one working, day in and day out, and making the family proud. Also he’s currently dead.

Uncle Jimmy: Penn State Nittany Lions

Hmm about that timeout...

Uncle Jimmy is the old mobster/shrewd businessman in the background of the show. His initial loan to Mikey got everything off the ground, and when Carmy found the money and didn’t return it and instead start a new restaurant, Uncle Jimmy said screw it and gave him even more money. He has all the resources to do whatever he’d like with the restaurant or whatever else, but he seems happy to let everyone have a good time and enjoy a good meal. The nicest mobster this side of Bobby Baccalieri.

Ebraheim: Iowa Hawkeyes

You say we won’t have a fullback?

Ebraheim has been through the shit. He survived the Battle of Mogadishu and is perfectly happy, excited even, to cook crappy sandwiches in Chicago. He is by all accounts a capable co-worker and everyone would be happy to have him on the team. Things go a bit south when the team tries to turn him into a chef and sends him to culinary school. All those new fancy offensive concepts cooking techniques are probably for someone else. He’s there to not screw up and serve something mildly edible.

Tina: Wisconsin Badgers

I can totally cook up the Air Raid

Like Ebraheim, Tina is an old soul who has seen a lot and is going to curmudgeonly stick to her ways. In fact, much of the first season deals with her fighting against every change Carmy wants to introduce. However, she eventually accepts the new way, and also goes to culinary school. Unlike Ebraheim, she embraces it and reinvents herself from short order cook to a competent sous chef. Yes Jeff!

Neil Fak: Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Nobody wants me here :(

Good ole trusty Fak is there to do all the things. Need a toilet fixed? Gas system redone? Wait tables? Fak is here. You wouldn’t say he is exactly good at anything, in fact Richie would argue he’s actively bad at everything. He wants to be part of the restaurant, but it’s not clear anyone at the restaurant is reciprocating. But he keeps cleaning toilets and apparently cashing a paycheck until people just assume he’s there for good.

Natalie Berzatto: Purdue Boilermakers

What am I doing here

Natalie “Sugar” Berzatto is tied up with everything despite her best intentions to not be. Of all the characters, she is the one who actually lives a life of somewhat normalcy, and has a career and a family. Of course, she torpedoes her stability by getting invested in the restaurant, and eventually her whole net worth gets tied up in it. She could be just living her best life and instead she is having a near nervous breakdown over the fate of her team family restaurant. Also she has mommy issues.

Donna Berzatto: Maryland Terrapins

I might run over my own house

Donna Berzatto makes a hell of an impression. Never without a glass of wine, she cooks and argues and yells and drinks and scares all her kids. At times she is soulful and beautiful, and at others she is driving the station wagon through the living room. Always an adventure with that one.

Uncle Lee: Minnesota Golden Gophers

Can I interest you in a fork?

Uncle Lee has a brief appearance, but it’s enough to round out our list. His role is a bit undefined - is he really an uncle? He seems awfully into Donna and Mikey seems awfully perturbed. Of course, maybe Lee is just a big scam artist who is trying to get over on the gleefully crazy Donna. Of all the characters, Uncle Lee almost certainly has the Nekton Mentality.

That wraps us up. Sorry to all the teams that didn’t make the cut, but The Bear only has so many characters. Good Lord next year we have to deal with sixteen teams. I’m going to need to find shows with a bigger cast.