Wednesday, October 28th
Ouch! Thats going to leave a mark! I cant remember a game featuring a Chicago team that drew the level of disgust among fans that I witnessed, and have heard about many times since, than the Bears game on Sunday. (Obviously bartenders have short memories: we need to!) Not that Im surprised, its the nature of the football fan. Having a week off (usually) between games allows fans to work themselves into a lather, creating higher highs and lower lows among the faithful. The weekly hype machine starts early, and slowly leads up to The Big Game. In the NFL, for us fans, theyre ALL big! You only get 17. We wait all year for the 4 (plus 1 hopefully) month roller coaster that is pro football. Its a roller coaster because none of the other 3 major sports teams can mess with your emotions like your football team. Since the other 3 play so often, after a bad loss, they can say, Well get em tomorrow.
And most times, thats the case. But in football you have to sit on the emotions of a game for a whole week. Thus for me, as one who works with the public everyday, I dont need a scoreboard to know how the Bears are doing. I just have to go to work. From the constant chatter on my sports radio (You know what show Im listening to!), to the conversations when I pick up my papers, to the mood on the street when Im walking to the restaurant from my car, the feeling in the city is palpable. Let alone when I get behind the bar, the emotions of the fans in this city are plain for me to see. The change Im witnessing right now in Bears fans is dramatic and I think increasingly bitter. (And NO, this is not good for SALES!) As we all remember, last season ended with a very bad taste and numerous questions about where the Bears were headed. Then came, J.C.: Jay Cutler: And the enthusiasm and visions of a better tomorrow where everywhere. In spite of repeated media nay-saying in some parts, the vast majority of the city was on Cloud 6. (Im sorry.) Excited to finally have a franchise QB to call their own, Cutler was the toast of the town. Now real fans understood that this was not an over-night fix, but the toughest part of the puzzle to find was here, or so we thought.
There have been many discussions that Ive had at the bar about the identity of the Bears. For years, this was known as a defensive team, a smash-mouth team. Tommie Harris dominating the line of scrimmage (when healthy!), an excellent corps of linebackers and a ball-hawking defensive backfield, the defense made things happen. Add a QB and whats next? The skys the limit! Is it? Really? For a while now, this defense has been living on its rep, or at least the ghosts of 2006. It seems to me, that for at least the last 2 years, theyve become fundamentally lax. They like to strip the ball first, eschewing proper tackling technique, as theyre getting run over for chunks of yardage. Or, they get no consistent pressure against opposing QBs, exposing a defensive backfield that has a definitive lack of playmakers. There comes a time when you need to face the facts. The identity of this team is there for all to see. It is what it is. (to quote that famous philosopher, Brian MacNamee.) When you repeatedly do not show up on the road (2-7 record, outscored 233-149, in the last 9 road games) you have issues. Is it talent or coaching? You tell me. This is not a reaction to one bad game (are you new here??) its acknowledging a trend. This team doesnt always show up on the road.
Where does that leave them? Only they know the answer to that. I do know, that for the first time, that I take seriously anyway, that Im hearing the Lovie must go! venom being spewed. I dont know if I believe that, yet, but the defense has been on a constant downward spiral for 3 years and did not show up in a game that you know that everyone in the organization above the level of player wanted to win. What does that mean? What more do we need to see, to understand that maybe the expectations were a little out of whack here.
Because Im such a positive guy, I will remind of this though: Last year, a certain team from the east coast played these same Bengals in what might have been the most god-awful NFL game I ever watched, and left the Natti with a tie! When they were still the Bungles! (I recall a Chicago-born QB mis-rembering the o.t. rules.)(Two Clemens references in a football blog?!?!) From there, that team looked in the mirror, and then played inspired football all the way to the NFC Title game. Much of the inspiration coming from the firestorm of negativity they had created for themselves, Im sure. Maybe it can happen again. Maybe the team from the Queen City can make another team look in the mirror and cause them to get their act together. For my sake, I hope they do, because I show up for my job everyday, and its a lot easier when people arent looking at the TVs and rolling their eyes in disgust.