Bears

Super Sunday! Super Memories!!

Super Sunday! Super Memories!!

Friday, Feb. 5, 2010
7:30 AM

Time for my favorite holiday: Super Bowl Sunday. Honestly, does it get any bettor? Oops, Freudian slip, I mean better. Besides Thanksgiving, is there any other day of celebration that we all can agree on? And, theres no tryptophan haze to deal with. Not to mention, for some folks, its not a mandatory family holiday, so many awkward situations, like with Uncle Tommy, can be avoided. Just food, friends and football.

Its the one day of the year that for most of my life, I can remember exactly where I was and what happened that day. (Forget about birthdays. Too many!) My first memory goes back to Super Bowl IV. I just remember part of that game though, it would be years later when I would realize the joy of just keep matriculating the ball downfield boys! and what the 65 toss power trap was. My first full-game memory is of Super Bowl V and Jim OBriens kick to beat the Cowboys. Even as a 9 year old, it was fun to watch Dallas lose, and almost forty years later, its still fun. Good times.

The game with my first official rooting interest was Super Bowl XI when the Raiders beat the Vikings. In my neighborhood, since the Eagles where awful for all of our young lives, guys would pick other teams to root for in the playoffs. Nearly all of them rooted for the Dolphins and Steelers, convenient for them, since those two teams won four consecutive championships. Of course I took a more tortured course (REALLY?!) and rooted for the Oakland Raiders. The Immaculate Reception game against Pittsburgh was especially tough. To fight the whole game and finally take a lead and then lose on a fluke 4th and 10 play with 22 seconds left was hard to take, especially knowing the ribbing I would take at school the next day. (An 11 year old has his priorities!) It only took 4 more long years until the Raiders had their revenge and won the Super Bowl. (The day after that Super Bowl, I could not wait to get to school!) It was made better by the fact that my parents took me to my first NFL game that year and I got to watch the Raiders pound the Eagles 26-7. I think that the fact that the first time I saw the Eagles in-person I was rooting against them explains a lot about me, what I dont know but Im sure that you can figure it out!

The next game of major significance for me was January 25, 1981. Eagles vs. Raiders! Do the ironies in my life ever stop?! Dick Vermeil coming to the Eagles was the start of a golden age of Philadelphia football in which the Eagles actually had 4 consecutive winning seasons and won 3 playoff games! To understand the implications of that statement, I suggest that you que your Netflix to INVINCIBLE and enjoy the show! For some reason, back then, you could not buy mass quantities of liquid refreshments on Sundays in Pennsylvania, so a venture over the Commodore Barry to New Jersey was required. We were on our way back over when Jaworski threw the first of his three picks to Rod Martin in their personal game of catch. Ugh. That was a long night, most of the other problems in the world where solved though. We had a lot of refreshments! (And another thing!)

Like the rest of the country, Philadelphia was caught up in Bears fever during the 85 season. That was a team of which no one has seen the likes of which before or since. That they put a 44-0 beat down on Americas Team made them even bigger in our eyes. But there was something else that made these Bears a fan favorite. I got to explain this to Steve Mongo McMichael at a Cubs-Phillies game this past summer. Noticing that he shot a razor glare at me because I was in a Cub fan V.I.P. area wearing a Phillies jersey, I couldnt help being myself when we were introduced. You know we loved your 85 team in Philly, I told him. You guys liked our personality? he asked wearing a satisfied smile. Nope. Not that. I replied, It was cover, cover, cover! You guys were a lock! Thats why everyone in the rest of the country loved you! He didnt seem to like that much and the smile went away. Too busy still living in 1985 I guess. Oh well, it is what it is. (One note: The house party I was at the night of that game lasted well into the next morning. Can you say parlay?)

Over the next 20 years, just about all of the games included me working or being with people that I got off of work early to watch with. The day has evolved from just a house party day to a party day. In the eighties and early nineties, Super Bowl Sunday, meant a slow work night for us in the restaurant business. No more, especially since I began working at 33 West Kinzie Street almost 15 years ago. In fact, I moved to Chicago on Super Bowl weekend exactly 15 years ago. Drove all day Friday and Saturday, enjoyed the game at a family party on Sunday, then went looking for a job on Monday. Ive only not worked at Harrys during the game once since then.

You guessed it. It was the Eagles next visit to the game after the 2004 season. That was the year that the danger of having hope kicked me in the face. Part of why I living here so much is that all of my family and friends here were so excited for me. I had large groups of friends join me downtown to watch the playoff games before I started work and then they followed me to Harrys when I started my shift to continue the fun. They were interesting nights. I had a chance to go to the game, but that didnt seem right. I needed to go back home to truly feel the emotion and share it with people who felt exactly as I did. My weekend started with my first appearance on Chicago Tribune Live with Dan Jiggetts. (And the celebrity life of an over-weight, over-caffeinated bartender was born! Funny, on that show when I mentioned to 85 Bear Otis Wilson my theory about his team, he laughed out loud.) Then it was an early flight on Sunday with the wife and kids to Philadelphia. The buzz in the airport was incredible. It was like the city was about to burst. Having four generations in the house to watch the game made it seem right, we would endure this together.(And I said endure before the game was ever played, because I know better) (I took a tape of my TV appearance for whoever wanted to enjoy it. What I enjoyed was answering Why are you on TV? thirty times , with no good answer. Honestly! A bartender on TV?!)

After McNabbs first interception, a familiar feeling came over the room as we all shot glances at each other, saying, here we go again. The flight home on Monday was not as fun, although the walk through a depressed city was kind of cathartic, time to leave it behind. Of course, as the plane was about to pull out, a fueling truck was stalled underneath us and would delay our departure. Travelling anywhere with a two-year-old is never easy and doing the math of the flight in my head led me to believe this was not a good sign. (Kids only have so many consecutive good minutes in them!) For the flight, my wife was in a group of three seats with the kids and I was across the aisle. Not very far, but it seemed like miles. After 45 minutes, we were off. As we were preparing for our descent into Midway, Im thinking, that wasnt bad. I mean, I only got about six dirty glances from my wife as the kids took all of her attention as I sat there reading my papers and enjoying snacks, bullet dodged!. Then it happened. My son, strapped into his car seat, lost his mind. Not the usual, I need attention because Im bored lost. No, I mean, top of his lungs, I cant take it anymore lost. As my wife desperately looked over for help, I gave her the, Do I know you lady? look. Not funny! Cmon honey, thats called gallows humor, Im in a state of depression. Still not funny. (To her!)

For my Bear brethren, the 2006 season was quite a ride. The bar rocked all year for the games, and the city was usually giddy on the days in between, with hope of what was to come. (Didnt anybody watch the Shawshank Redemption?!) But I was not a kill-joy, out-loud anyway. I reveled with them, always thinking, I dont feel good about this. (Well, maybe a few people knew that I agreed with Dennis Green.)That Super Sunday was fun at the beginning. We had three 85 Bears at the bar and Notre Dame All-American and nineties Bear Chris Zorich to share in the fun. Then there was Hesters return and the place was up for grabs. ( Zorich is one big dude! He was behind the bar and I was introducing him to all of the regulars. One of our marketing people took a picture of the two of us together. As Chris moved down the bar, I asked if I could see the picture. Oops, it didnt take.

I went down and explained Chris and told him about the picture and asked if he would come back down to my end of the bar to take another. No problem. Then, as these were standing with our arms around each other, and me feeling very small, Bridget, whose taking the picture, starts fumbling with the camera. After what seemed like 5 minutes of awkwardness with us still man-hugging, I turned to Chris and whispered in his ear, I paid her to do that. We laughed about that the rest of the night, although, I think his was nervous laughter. It was a joke! Not that there is anything wrong with that! Then someone handed Jim McMahon a microphone, and like the game, everything went downhill.

So as I get ready to spend another Super Bowl behind the bar at Harrys, I know that no matter what, its going to be a day I always remember. Its all about the game (and the end of the 96-hour pre-game show) and who we enjoy it with. A Super Sunday indeed! And if anyone reading this knows Chris Zorich, please let him know, Im still behind the bar! (Wink-wink!)

Promising start turns ugly as Bears drop another one to an NFC North rival

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USA TODAY

Promising start turns ugly as Bears drop another one to an NFC North rival

Oh, it all started so promising.

The Bears looked like a well-oiled machine early Sunday, looking like the kind of team bouncing back from a gut-wrenching loss to the Green Bay Packers a week prior. But with another NFC North rival in town, this time the Detroit Lions, things turned ugly in a hurry — and the result ended up the same.

The Bears lost for the seventh time in 10 games this season, falling to the Lions by a 27-24 score on the shores of Lake Michigan.

An offense that has struggled to put points on the board much of the year — and couldn’t match a Packers offense led by backup quarterback Brett Hundley last weekend — started strong, with three scoring drives in its first four possessions. Mitch Trubisky led scoring drives of 70, 55 and 73 yards, producing 17 points and had the Bears ahead by 10 midway through the second quarter.

The lone Lions points came after a rare miscue by the offense in the opening 20-plus minutes when Trubisky fumbled a snap, only for D.J. Hayden to run it back 27 yards for a touchdown. But still, the Bears looked the superior team on both sides of the ball.

It was then, though, that Matt Stafford flipped a switch and started picking apart the Bears’ defense. Backed up at his own nine-yard line after an offensive pass-interference penalty, Stafford marched the Lions down the field, rattling off completions of 17, 40 and 28 yards, the last a touchdown pass that took advantage of a badly burned Marcus Cooper.

Stafford then led a 73-yard touchdown drive, once again picking apart the Bears’ secondary and giving his Lions a lead right before the half, a sudden turn of events considering the Bears had a double-digit lead not long before.

After an uneventful third quarter, the Bears tied the game with five minutes remaining on a stellar touchdown run by Tarik Cohen. But Stafford marched the Lions right down the field immediately afterward, and the Lions cashed in with a 52-yard go-ahead field goal.

Trubisky led the Bears downfield and put them in position for a game-tying field goal, but Connor Barth’s attempt was way off the mark, sending the Bears to another upsetting defeat.

Tarik Cohen gets back in the game

After earning much social-media scorn the last few weeks, the Bears’ coaching staff brought Tarik Cohen back with a vengeance.

The rookie running back proved himself a dangerous offensive weapon early in the season, but he had been largely absent for weeks, combining for just five rushing attempts and three receptions in the previous three games against the Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints and aforementioned Packers.

Well, the Bears’ coaches must have heard all that criticism and heavily involved Cohen, who finished with nine rushes for 44 yards and four catches for 15 yards. He was targeted a total of six times.

And Cohen came up with a huge play late in the game, taking a shovel pitch from Trubisky, running to the pylon and flipping his way into the end zone, extending the ball in midair to make sure it was a touchdown. That score tied the game at 24 with five minutes left.

Banged-up Bears

The Bears’ defense — already well bothered with injuries — added a couple more to the list Sunday.

None seemed more significant than the one to Leonard Floyd, who was taken off the field on a cart in the fourth quarter after Kyle Fuller crashed into Floyd’s right knee. Floyd spent a good deal of time on the ground before the cart came out.

Fuller suffered a wrist injury on the same play, with TV cameras catching the sight of an awful lot of blood.

At various points, defensive linemen Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman left the field with members of the training staff. And on the offensive side, wide receiver Josh Bellamy was announced as being in the concussion protocol after a play in the third quarter.

Gustav Forsling showing improvement in his second season with Blackhawks

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USA TODAY

Gustav Forsling showing improvement in his second season with Blackhawks

On two consecutive Saturday evenings the Blackhawks were looking for a little more offense. On two consecutive Saturday evenings they got some from Gustav Forsling, whose shots got through to either tie a game (vs. Carolina) or take a lead (vs. Pittsburgh).

Forsling isn’t the big go-to guy when it comes to points but he’s nevertheless getting them for a Blackhawks team that’s starting to find its offense again. But this is more about Forsling’s overall game which, not long after he made the Blackhawks roster last fall, plateaued. This season he’s been more consistent and more confident from the start, and he and Jan Rutta have formed a pair that coach Joel Quenneville trusts and has kept together for most of this season. The 21-year-old defenseman talked of working on the mental side of his game entering this season and said he feels the difference.

“I’ve been working on it this summer and I feel a little bit better,” he said. “[Just] more confident with the puck and confident in myself and pretty much everywhere.”

Quenneville has seen the difference.

“I think he’s getting better with his reads,” Quenneville said. “He’s got a better gap. [Being] quicker all over the ice is part of that and nice to see him pound one that goes through because his shot can be a lot heavier than it’s been and we want him to use it a little bit more, too.”

Forsling says he feels comfortable playing with any of the Blackhawks’ defensemen but there’s no doubt he and Rutta have been good together. The two clicked immediately, and at times they’ve been the Blackhawks’ second pair.

“I think we’re thinking the same way out there on the ice. We have a great conversation out there and everything’s worked out fine,” Forsling said. “He’s a funny guy and we get along well.”

Forsling’s offensive contributions are welcomed but so is his defense. When the Rangers were looking for the game-tying goal late in the third period on Wednesday, Forsling was on Corey Crawford’s left side to prevent David Desharnais from scoring it. Seventy-six seconds later, Artem Anisimov’s goal gave the Blackhawks a two-goal lead.

“Great play by him,” Crawford said. “For us, we want to cover the short side there and it’s great or him to get over quick and get his stick there. Definitely a great stop by him.”

Forsling’s playing with more confidence. He’s added a little early offense. The Blackhawks wanted Forsling to reach another level this season and so far, he’s doing that.