I heard Mike North on the Mike & the Mad Dog show yesterday and he was asked about Brian Urlacher's popularity in Chicago. "If he wins this, he becomes a legend," North said. If he wins this, he becomes a legend. Not to play the role of the cock-eyed optimist but I don't think this will be Urlacher's last rodeo. This team is too young, too talented, too deep and too well-coached to not have a couple more shots at atleast GETTING to a Super Bowl.
But North is right. For as much as Peyton Manning can cement a Hall of Fame legacy by winning Sunday, being great in Indianapolis isn't quite the same thing. Playing defense in Chicago is like playing the blues in Memphis: if you're it, you'll get mixed into the civic gumbo. Bill Rhoden said it best on The Sports Reporters this week when he said Chicago has been eternally divided on its racial and rooting interests. The one unifier has always been the Chicago Bears. Look around Soldier Field on Sunday and it isn't hard to figure out who the cream is in the city's twinkie.
Brian Urlacher is a great football player. But if they told tales of winning conference titles, Thurman Thomas would have his own wing in Canton. They write books about champions. Ali. Mantle. Payton. Jordan. If Ditka hints at rooting for another team, we get furious. If McMahon won't come to the stadium, we get upset. If you win, that's it. You're a Bear, like it or not, for the rest of your life. Call it a forced immortality but its immortality nevertheless.
Grossman may be the story. Lovie may be the coach. But this is the Urlacher Era of Chicago football and in six seasons we've won three division titles and are playing in the Super Bowl. Sunday they'll play that Super Bowl and this time THEY includes the Chicago Bears. Brian Urlacher's Chicago Bears. And if they win I'll be first in line at Urlacher's Fish & Chips on Rush Street.
A very old man walks into a South Side bar at 1:41 in the morning. The bartender, a stocky man in his late fifties, looks up from the monotony of wiping the recently spilled vodka and club off the oak bar and gruffly says, Ã¢â‚¬Å“WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re closing in a few minutes.Ã¢â‚¬?
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I only came in for one drink,Ã¢â‚¬? says the old man. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I thought this might be my final drinkÃ¢â‚¬?
Ã¢â‚¬Å“ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s always tomorrow,Ã¢â‚¬? the bartender offers, engrossed by the use of the word final.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Not for me, sir.Ã¢â‚¬?
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Why is that?Ã¢â‚¬?
Ã¢â‚¬Å“You see I got this terrific relationship with the Lord Almighty. Jesus. He and I are like those old vaudeville teams used to play the theatres down on West Madison. I do the songs. Jesus does the jokes.Ã¢â‚¬?
Ã¢â‚¬Å“You and Jesus have a vaudeville act?Ã¢â‚¬?
Ã¢â‚¬Å“IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m just a drunk, you see? Other than a couple bucks for a fresh glass of beer I never had need for nothing. I never asked the Lord for nothing in my life till now.Ã¢â‚¬?
Ã¢â‚¬Å“What did you ask for?Ã¢â‚¬?
Ã¢â‚¬Å“What did you ask for from the Lord?Ã¢â‚¬?
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I was born in 1911. Saw the Bears win their first championship in 1921. Saw them win in Ã¢â‚¬â„¢32 and Ã¢â‚¬â„¢33. I was in Griffith Stadium in the nation's capital to see them beat the Redskins 73-0 in 1940. I was there!Ã¢â‚¬?
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Well I asked the Lord, I said LORDÃ¢â‚¬Â¦give me one more... Give me one more chance to look at the television set and say We did it, weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re the champions of the world. If you give me that, Lord I said IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll walk into the pub tonight and when I walk out IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll never take another drink."
Ã¢â‚¬Å“WhatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d he say?Ã¢â‚¬?
Ã¢â‚¬Å“He said if the Bears win Sunday, drinks are on Him.Ã¢â‚¬?
Ã¢â‚¬Å“GodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a Bears fan?Ã¢â‚¬?
He drinks from the freshly poured pint.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“He just hates the fucking Packers.Ã¢â‚¬?
(Please continue talking below. Ignore me.)
There's something about this kid Grossman. I went back and looked at all the Rex-related headlines of the season, from eREXion to the District's brilliant A kick in the Rexticles. There were calls to unleash him (Turn Him Loose) and calls to shut him down (Turn Him Off). All in all, Rex is who we thought he was: a work in progess - ever talented and always unpredictable. Still there's something...
On Sunday the whole world is going to sit in front of their television sets and wait for him to fuck up. He knows that. He knows the "story" will be his failure. But what if Rex Grossman reverts back to warm weather Rex and plays like the MVP of the first half of the season?
If Grossman is who I think he is, he realizes that Sunday isn't just an opportunity to earn the respect of Chicago and the nation. Sunday isn't just an opportunity to make himself millions of dollars. Sunday isn't just an opportunity to win Super Bowl Piccolo. No.
Sunday is an opportunity for immortality, a chance to be an NFL Films documentary and have Stevel Sabol in his life. There isn't any pressure to be great when no one expects greatness. It is surprise that breeds sports legend. Ask the 1980 U.S. Men's Hockey Team. Ask Buster Douglas. No one's given him a chance on Sunday. After all how can he compare to the great and all-powerful Oz - calling his wacky plays from the line of scrimmage? He can't. But I'm telling you...there's something about this kid Grossman.
I expect greatness. How about you?
I have to wake up today and be a human being. Same for tomorrow. It isn't possible, I know, but I don't have a choice. At the end of this week they're going to play the Super Bowl. This time, THEY includes the Chicago Bears. Gabe Reid and the 2006 Chicago Bears.
I've changed a lot in my life and experienced quite a bit in a short amount of time. I've learned things don't always go your way. Sometimes parents don't stay married. Sometimes girlfriends don't stay faithful. Sometimes dream jobs can't find funding. Sometimes a harmless Tuesday morning in September can change your neighborhood and life forever.
But to paraphrase James Earl Jones in Field of Dreams, "The one constant through all the years has been...the Chicago Bears." No matter what was happening in my life, the Bears were going to play football and I was going to watch them do it. They have marked the time like road signs along the New Jersey Turnpike. The jerseys I've worn don't just say 45, 9, 87, 97, 54. They remind me of where I've been and what I used to be.
For three hours a week, these Bears have been my life. All the losses. All the heartbreak. All the Wannstedt. All of it can be erased like my police record when I turned 18. On Sunday, they're going to play the Super Bowl. This time, THEY includes the Chicago Bears.
DaBearsBlog in the Press Report: Alex Goldfayn writes about us in today's Tribune. Even our devoted reader Coxy gets a mention.
In one week the Chicago Bears will play for the world championship but if you believe what you've read in the papers and heard on ESBS, we actually lost to New Orleans last week. Even still, analysts I abhor and adore alike have made it abundantly clear: your Chicago Bears are so outmatched at quarterback - they shouldn't bother to make the trip to the state Ponce deLeon (the most overrated man in history) discovered.
They're wrong. Every single one of them. Rex Grossman won't just lead the Bears to their first title in twenty-one years. Rex Grossman is going to be the MVP of Super Bowl Piccolo. It's going to happen...
BECAUSE this isn't a time for fairy-tales. It is Peyton Manning's turn to find out. For Rex Grossman to stand at midfield in Miami would be the perfect encapsulation of the 2006 NFL season. It would be redemption in the Shakespearean sense: the complete exoneration of one of the nation's most scrutinized athletes. I can only tell you that hearing Salisbury & friends backtrack on Rex will bring the smiliest of smiles to my face.
BECAUSE he'll have had two weeks of hearing he's the worst starting quarterback in Super Bowl history. Bears fans know what the rest of the league doesn't: when you write this player off, he does special things.
BECAUSE Tony Dungy is a smart coach and he'll see an eery similarity between Jones/Benson and Jones-Drew/Taylor. Dungy knows his rush defense hasn't been fixed and he'll call the kinds of defenses that will give Grossman the chance to make big plays early. If Rex starts hot, the Colts won't know what hit them and the loud thump you'll hear at 7:24 pm will be the jaws of the nation hitting their living room floors, accompanied by a lot of folks saying, "This guy looks pretty good to me."
BECAUSE this Super Bowl is essentially a battle between the league's finest special teams unit and one of the league's worst. If The Weapon can give the Bears good field position while Maynard pins the Colts, Rex will have opportunities to throws TD passes. Statistical success does an MVP make and TDs make voters salivate.
I've been asked about a hundred times in the last week, "When are you leaving for Miami?" I'm not. I'm not going. People seem to be having a hard time understanding how someone who puts extra Chicago Bears on his bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches could miss the chance to see his boys play in the biggest game of their lives.
The answer is simple: I have Josie Woods Pub. For seven years now I've sat in that little bar in the East Village and watched Chicago Bears football with my friends. I remember ringing the Bears bell as Alex Brown sacked Billy Volek in overtime to end the Titans game on a safety. I remember losing to Carolina and sadly walking up the stairs back to reality. I'll never forget pouring champagne from behind the bar last Sunday and passing it out to a sea of smiles.
If I were in Miami next Sunday and the Bears were to win, I'd miss Wayne, Noah, Brian, the Reverend, Stephanie, Vinny and the crew. I'd be on my cell phone for hours afterwards. No, I'm not going to Miami. I'm staying home. I've sung the fight song with these folks for seven years. Let's hope we sing it one more time this season.
We start breaking down the ballgame on Monday. For now I really want to know where everybody is watching the game, especially if there's something stupid you do...IF YOU'RE GOING TO A BAR IN A PARTICULAR AREA OF THE COUNTRY, LET ME KNOW. WE'LL COMPILE A LIST AND MAKE IT AVAILABLE FOR BEARS FANS NEXT WEEK.
Yesterday I was interviewed by this guy for the Chicago Tribune (article to be linked when available) and he got my silly ass talking about Tom Waddle. (Sigh) Tom Waddle. My all-time favorite Chicago Bear.
As the Bears find themselves eleven days away from Super Bowl Piccolo - I find myself thinking about the Bears of the last twenty-one years who never got this chance. Players like Chris Zorich and Big Cat Williams and Neal Anderson. Players who exemplified what it meant to play Chicago Bear football but never had the wins to show for it. I still have my Tom Waddle jersey. It doesn't fit any part of my body but it isn't going anywhere.
You see, I have two brothers. One is a psychopathic New York Jets fan. The other is a now-in-remission Dallas Cowboys fan. Here's what BearsHistory.com has to say about Waddle's '91 season:
Against the Jets on national TV, he caught 8 balls for 102 yards, making an impression on the nation. Perhaps his shining moment in the NFL and as a Bear was his performance against Dallas in the 1991 playoff loss. Waddle scored the Bears only touchdown and caught 9 passes for 104 yards. Many of these catches were spectacularly acrobatic, and sent him to the sidelines with assistance after a hammering by Dallas linebackers. At points during the game, the entire Soldier Field crowd was chanting "Waddle, Waddle, Waddle."
Dave Wannstedt said Tom Waddle couldn't play for the Bears anymore because Dave Wannstedt is a cunt. What Wannstedt should have known is that Waddle will forever be more important to the history and legacy of this organization than he will ever be. Waddle was everything good about the National Football League and I can't help but wish he'd get his Phil McConkey moment.
So who else deserved a chance for Bear immortality? I open it up to you...I'm going to leave this up till Friday morning because I wanna hear some names I haven't heard in awhile.
If I didn't see it with my own eyes, I wouldn't have believed it.
1-10-CHI31 (5:51) T.Jones left guard to CHI 45 for 14 yards
1-10-CHI45 (5:20) T.Jones right tackle to CHI 47 for 2 yards
2-8-CHI47 (4:46) T.Jones right tackle to NO 20 for 33 yards
1-10-NO20 (4:14) T.Jones right tackle to NO 13 for 7 yards
2-3-NO13 (3:38) T.Jones right guard to NO 11 for 2 yards
3-1-NO11 (3:03) T.Jones right tackle to NO 9 for 2 yards
1-9-NO9 (2:21) T.Jones right guard to NO 2 for 7 yards
2-2-NO2 (2:00) T.Jones right tackle for 2 yards, TOUCHDOWN
Jay Mariotti called it The Thomas Jones Drive. If it were the final drive of a close game, it might be remembered as one of the most stirring performances by a running back in the history of professional football. Today I read and watched a great deal of coverage and heard no one mention Jones. Not Peter King or Dr. Z. Not Mike and the Mad Dog. Not the brilliant minds of ESPN. Our Tom Jones has perhaps been the most emblematic of Bears - when he's not maligned, he's ignored - even when he's brilliant. Even I wanted him benched a few months ago.
Most players talk about being at their best come the end of the season. Jones doesn't talk at all. He set the physical and emotional tone against New Orleans, even more evident watching the game a second time. On Sunday Thomas Jones left aside the possibility of his becoming a footnote in the lineage of brilliant Chicago Bears backs. Sunday he placed himself at the doorstep of Nagurski, Sayers and yes - even Payton.
A big performance in the Miami sun two weeks from now opens that door and sets his place at the dining room table. Chicago Bears football will always be middle linebackers and running backs. Everyone knows the guy making the tackles. I get the sense very few know the ball carrier. I know one thing: Sunday he was the best player on the field. If he repeats that feat in Miami he'll join Richard Dent as the only other Chicago Bear to be the Super Bowl's most valuable player.
One more game.
Kiss your wife. Tell your girlfriend you love her. Tell your kids you're proud of 'em. The Chicago Bears are going to the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl. Say that to yourself a couple times at work today.
I've loved sports since I've been conscious. Yesterday a throw sailed through the sky and into the hands of Bernard Berrian on the goal line. Yesterday a prayer went up and was answered. Suddenly all the years of anger and satisfaction - tears and cheers - seemed worth it.
We'll have two weeks to cite great performances and analyze the coming game. Right now I'd like to thank Lovie Smith and the Chicago Bears for fighting with the heart and intensity a game of such magnitude deserves. Thank you, boys.
One more game.
I'm breaking the posting hiatus for this one. I had to. Today the Bears declared loudly and angrily that they belong in the Super Bowl. Nobody outside of Chicago gave us a shot. (Okay, Rick Majerus, calling the Wisconsin-Illinois game picked the Bears, but he thought Ditka was still coaching.) Only the fans believed.
And could any fan have asked for a more balanced victory? A safety and four turnovers by the defense, and it could have easily been six. They made the vaunted Deuce McAllister disappear. Our quarterback didn't turn it over, despite widespread expectations that he would. Instead, he fought through early drops and incompletions to deliver unpasteurized, triple-creme leadership. It helps when you have playmakers like Bernard Berrian, and a punishing running game that has struck a lethal balance. Special teams also delivered today: Robbie Gould gave us a lead we never gave up, the coverage was excellent, and the Weapon didn't lay it on the ground. This most cohesive of teams delivered the most decisive victory of the playoffs just when everybody had counted them out. Can they win one more? I believe; do you?
Today is Rex Grossman. Be smart, play smart and guide your team to the biggest game in any of their lives.
Today is Brian Urlacher. You're one of the greatest players this organization has ever had. Give yourself a chance to play for what Singletary has, what Butkus never did.
Today is Olin Kreutz. You spurned more money from Miami to stay here. Now give yourself a chance to go down there and show them why.
Today is Thomas Jones. You may not be Sayers or Payton or even Neal Anderson but today you can forever install yourself into the history of the most storied sports franchise in the universe.
Today is Cedric Benson. This team will be on your back the next five years. Start today.
Today is for Robbie Gould, Brad Maynard, Devin Hester. Be special.
Today is for the fans of the Chicago Bears. We've waited nearly 20 years for the chance to play in the final game and today it happens. We've worn our loyalty like a pair of ripped jeans and this afternoon that loyalty is rewarded. Bear down, Chicago Bears. Win. Win and bask in the glory of our praise for the next two weeks. Win and every Grossman interception, Tank arrest...becomes a memory.
Win. Today. Just win.
JEFF ALERT VOUME TWO! Yours truly will be on WGN Radio tonight at 7:40 pm ET (6:40 Chicago). Stream it or listen to me avoid saying incredibly inappropriate things on the live radio.
I don't usually post singularly about someone else's writing but the piece Wayne Drehs wrote for ESPN deserves to be read by every Bears fan who has a few minutes free. I've been a big supporter of how the Bears have treated Tank Johnson this season - putting their faith in a man they consider part of their family. Here's a few highlights...
Either way, there's a chance Johnson will have reached the pinnacle of his professional football career and not be allowed to participate..."I can't even fathom that," said teammate Ian Scott. "I don't know even know what to say. I can't imagine what that would be like."
But the two sides to Tank Johnson are nothing new. Since the days of growing up in Gary, where gang members once poured gas on Johnson and threw a match at him, his has been a life caught in the middle of the tug-of-war between good and bad.
"It felt like the weight of the world came off my shoulders," he told reporters afterward. "I've just been going through so much to be inside that arena and make a play, it just kind of washed away a lot of the bad thoughts I've been having in my life. It felt good."
Tank Johnson faces the biggest three hours of his life on Sunday. If he makes the plays he's capable of making, Tank can erase some of the pain and disappointment of 2006 and replace it with the hope and possibility of 2007. I'm rooting for him Sunday. Maybe more than any other player on the field.
JEFF ALERT! Yours truly will be on WGN Radio tomorrow night at 7:40 pm ET (6:40 Chicago). Stream it or listen in live to my dumb ass.
I'm on record with the fact that I think Don Pierson is the best sports columnist in Chicago. Today he wrote the column I've been waiting for all week. The Bears are villains this week in the Grimmest of fairy tales. Good. I like it. I wouldn't have it any other way.
We don't have the quarterback in eleven national commercials. We don't have the cover boy who is apparently enrolled in the European Model of the Month Club. We weren't ravaged by a storm. The nation will sit in front of their television sets and root against the Big Bad Bears. In Sacramento. In Birmingham. In Gallup. In Wooster. Every Grossman completion will draw groans. Every Jones and Benson first down will be a blast of cold water on the face of a dreaming nation.
The Bears are going to win Sunday. Close the book. The End. And we'll all spend two weeks telling the world that Peyton Manning (or PeyRod as I call him) is not getting his first championship this year either. This is not the Season of the Storybook. This is ouuuuuuuur season. If the nation wants to smile, tell them to watch 30 Rock on Thursdays. Sundays belong to the Big Bad Bears. Hansel and Gretel stay in the oven. Little Red gets eaten. Jack sees a giant and the giants steps on his face.
Bear down, Chicago Bears. Nobody loves you but us. But we more than make up for the rest of them.
So the psycho known as me watched the Bears-Seahawks game today for what I promise is the final time. That third quarter is tough to watch even when you know the outcome. Here are the things I saw that need to be corrected before Sunday.
He throws a beautiful vertical pass but I tracked six big situation throws on crossing and slant routes where he missed wide open receivers, including the two back-shoulder incompletes to Moose and Bernie B. Because of his inaccuracy, the Bears went to a short out and screen passing game late.
He called a brilliant game but on the last Bears drive in regulation with plenty of time remaining, he called three throws. I am a firm believer that unless this team is down two scores, they should never abandon the run - especially in a game where Thomas Jones was possessed in the first half and Benson was brilliant in the second.
I understand he comes out in nickel packages. I just don't like it. He made three terrific plays Sunday, including in a man-to-man situation with Jerramy Stevens in the endzone where he saved a touchdown.
Turner's utilization of Rash Davis was a masterstroke but the more throws to the Des Dispenser, the more comfortable Rex became all season. I can only imagine the Saints will be protecting Fred Thomas with a safety all day - this should open up the middle of the field. The Bears have three viable targets at wideout...add in the tight end and we're talking about a dynamic offense.
Pissed Off has been on this all week and he's been right. The Bears made one positive play with their coverage units the entire game. They let Nate Burleson run wild. Dante Wesley committed a stupid interference penalty (also made the one positive play). Give the Saints a bunch of 60 yards-for-a-touchdown situations and the Bears will be down double digits at the half.
Some folks over at the Trib want me to help find them some extreme tailgaters. If you're one of those people who gets to the Soldier Field parking lots at like 2 AM, smokes three joints and eats brats till you can't stand up - you're probably who they're looking for. It'd be a cool chance for you to get your name in the paper if nothing else.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll pass your information along.
I'm losing it and I knew I would. I woke up at 5:51 AM this morning and actually sat up immediately and thought, "God, what if they win this one more game?" I've spent the whole day at my desk checking this website to see what all of you have to say about things. I listened to the ESPN 1000 stream of Salisbury & Rosenbloom from 10 to 1. I've read every single word about the Chicago Bears available on the internet. John Clayton, Dunyo Demasio and this guy at Fox Sports all like the Bears.
It's only Wednesday. It is only fucking Wednesday. I'm a live-for-today kinda guy and everything but I have absolutely no use for the rest of this week. None. I can't think about anything else. How many times can I watch Rex to Rash and hear Joe Buck's perfectly delivered, "The biggest throw in Rex Grossman's career."
I don't need the game Sunday like I needed the Seahawks game. I want the game Sunday more than I want a cold beer on a hot summer day. I want the game Sunday - quite honestly - as much as I've ever wanted anything.
Someone tell me what to do...
When Muhsin Muhammad signed with the Bears, he was brought here to be the difference in a passing game that was one of the worst things in the history of life. He was paid quite nicely to make us forget that David Terrell ever existed and that our brilliant coaching staffs of Christmas past believed players like Curtis Conway and Bobby Engram weren't going to amount to anything.
I don't care how much athletes get paid to play sports so this is not about money. I do care when men are paid to do a job and they're not doing it. Muhsin Muhammad is being paid like a number one receiver and after watching the tape of Sunday's game several times, it is clear that he's playing more like a number three.
He had 3 catches for 38 and two big-time first downs. But his performance was devastatingly marred by letting Grossman's early 4th quarter throw bounce off his back shoulder pad into the arms of Pete Hunter. The Bears were down three and on the Seahawk ten yard line! He catches the ball and at worst the game is tied. Instead he did what he has done far too often this season: he failed to be the big-time player the Bears paid for.
A big game Sunday can change all that. Without one, I may start to wonder if the emergence of Berrian, Bradley and Davis may have made Moose expendable.
Four quarters. Sixty minutes. As Joe Banks says in the brilliant Joe Versus the Volcano, "I can taste it like sugar on my tongue." One more win and we're...
I recorded Sunday's game and I've watched that last drive about a half dozen times now. The 3rd and 10 throw to Rash Davis. The big runs by Cedric Benson (dramatically underrated) and the kick. God, what a game. Sunday was the reason I love football and the reason I put everything I do into this football team. It isn't often...but sometimes they repay me tenfold.
The Saints are good. But more importantly, the Saints have magic. Defensively, we don't match up well with a team that executes the screen as perfectly as they do. I still have Ahman Green nightmares (for you, PiB). So I'm going to start my look ahead to the NFC Championship Game with this:
This Bears defense will be defined by how they perform Sunday. If they are a great unit, they'll be great at home on Sunday. The offense will score points - especially with the way Jones and Benson are running. It is up to the defense Sunday and the magic number is 20. Hold these Saints...these incredibly tough to root against Saints...under 20 points...and we'll spend two weeks writing sonnets about you. This is the time for Brian Urlacher to forever extinguish the "overrated" label. This is the time for Tank Johnson to make his season about on the field performance. This is the time for Charles Tillman to catch that ball and take it back for six.
The Saints are good. But more importantly, the Saints have magic. Let's take it from them and do as Obama wishes. Let's end the fairytale Sunday. Little Red Riding Hood is coming into Chicago and the Big Bad Wolf is wearing navy blue and orange. These are not the '85 Bears but we never asked them to be. Be the '06 Bears...the defense that shutout the #1 offense in football in the NFC Championship Game.
The Bears don't win games like they won yesterday. Not in my lifetime. But there was a quarterback making big time throws. There was a little guy from Penn State kicking his way into history. There were the Chicago Bears. Your Chicago Bears. Winning a game they never win.
If they could only win one more . . .
Jeff is on his way down to Atlantic City, so I'm just gonna give you all space to do your thing.
That was a big one.
I had a dream last night that the Bears weren't playing the Seahawks tomorrow. They were playing the Lions. The Lions had a black kicker and the Bears had a 26-16 lead with ten minutes to go. Then I woke up.
Sometimes I wish I just made these things up but I don't. When my first play was produced I dreamt for a week about audiences throwing shit at me and vomiting in the aisles. Now - with the pain of the Panthers as fresh as Union Square produce - I find myself not only wanting a victory Sunday, but needing one.
I'm done analyzing and discussing. I can't find a single reason why the Bears should lose tomorrow and that scares the living shit out of me. Enjoy the game all. I hope to come back here late tomorrow night and find a wide range of reactions - hopefully the fuck-all-night arousal of the first playoff win since Hoover was in the White House.
Bear Down, Chicago Bears.
There's only one team left in the National Football Conference that can beat the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. And if you want to visit a website created by and for their fans, go here.
Yes, that's right. It appears that fans from the outside world have confused the tension on this website and around Chicago with fear for their respective teams. Let's get something straight: whether the Bears win or lose has absolutely nothing to do with who they play. Last night while I stumbled through a bullshit five and a half hours of sleep in New York and Pissed Off seemingly did the same wherever he is, the Seahawks were not on my mind.
Johnny Vegas has set this line at eight and a half points - second only behind Pats / Jets for this postseason's largest differential. All of the analysts at Sports Illustrated have the Bears winning easily. Why? Because they should win easily. But no team beats the Chicago Bears more consistently during the Lovie Smith era than the Chicago Bears and that's what will make the next few days so hard.
I believe the Bears are going to win Sunday and for the first time since 1994 we're going to rejoice a playoff thrill. I believe the Bears are going to win Sunday and for the first time since 1988 we're going to play for the chance to go to the Super Bowl. I believe the Bears are going to win Sunday because damn it all to hell...I'm a Chicago Bears fan. And the day I stop believing this team can win the whole thing, shoot me in the head and keep the casket closed for the wake.
I believe the Bears are going to win Sunday. (Just as long as the Bears don't beat them)
Addendum: Great column on the Bears by Wayne Drehs at ESPN. Take a look and post your thoughts.
Whenever I get on an airplane, two things scare the living shit out of me. First I don't like it when there's a celebrity on board, especially celebrities on the B and C lists. I flew to Jacksonville with James Gandolfini (before The Sopranos). I flew to London with Timothy Busfield (good actor). These are the kinds of people that always die in the plane crashes. I also don't like convenietly labeled flights. TWA Flight 800 seemed like it was named by Tom Brokaw so it would sound horrifying on television.
I flew to Jacksonville with Tom Coughlin on Continental Flight 99 and I spent two hours plus in the air assuming I was going to die.
I'm starting to do the same thing with football teams that oppose the Chicago Bears. I'm starting to look for players that (a) are just irrelevant enough to rise to stardom by destroying the Bears in the playoffs and (b) will be easy for me to say "Remember that whoever-the-fuck game in 06 playoffs."
D.J. Hackett. I found him and it didn't take me long. D.J. Hackett has everything. He's crappy. He's irrelevant. And I can see him running go routes past our secondary all day long while Joe Buck repeats, "Are the Bears going to cover Hackett today?" And how GOOD does it sound, sitting on my bar stool in two or three years..."We would have been in that Super Bowl but fucking D.J. Hackett...D.J. Hackett."
Each of their three losses this season came with this type of player. Joey Harrington at Soldier Field. Tom Brady RUNNING the football. Ruvell Martin? Seriously...Ruvell Martin? Look out for D.J. Hackett. Let's hope he misses the team flight and gets on Delta Flight 707 with Dermot Mulroney.
I'll start sleeping less and less as the week goes on. About Wednesday I'll start calling radio shows. By Friday I'll be laying the 8.5 with every bookie in Central America. Saturday (my birthday, send gifts) will be a series of shakes and quivers. Good Rex...Good Rex...Good Rex. Sunday I'll wake up around 4 AM and pace the apartment, drink three pots of coffee and be at the bar twenty minutes before they open.
The Bears have to win Sunday. It's a requirement. In what is supposed to be a cold and stormy day at Soldier Field - the Bears finally have their chance to silence the critics and legitimize their season. A win sends them to the NFC Championship Game. A win puts them a win away from Miami.
And I want this one badly.
Around the league note: I like the Falcons hiring Bobby Petrino but I have an idea for them. Call the Oakland Raiders. Offer them Michael Vick and your #1 for their #1. Then draft Calvin Johnson and start Matt Schaub. This deal makes both teams immediately better and there's no match made closer to heaven than Vick and the Raiders.
He hit like a tsunami on the shores of Football America. It didn't matter what day of the week or what time of the day, if you turned on the television you'd find Bob Costas interviewing Tony Romo. CNN at noon - Costas and Romo. Cinemax at 2:30 AM - Costas and Romo. NBC actually started a new network called TRNBC which became an immediate hit with its motto, "Like Other Channels, Except Nothing but Tony Romo."
His first five games were undeniably brilliant. The movie version might use montage. Cut: Romo throws a touchdown pass. Cut: Romo on the cover of Time. Cut: Romo runs for a first down. Cut: Romo doing lines of coke off Jessica Simpson's chest. Suddenly he's in the Pro Bowl though one need look no further than our hallowed Halas Hall to understand the new sports mantra, "Never judge a quarterback after five games."
The passer rating dropped faster than my standards after midnight and the interceptions started to creep up on the touchdowns. He was awful against New Orleans. He was a disaster against Detroit. Suddenly America's Team leader had an eery similarity to the leader of America: suspect decision making, lack of discernable plan in battle. For as good as he looked in those first five games, that's how lost he looked down the stretch. But the Cowboys and their fans held out hope that #9 would become a playoff hero like 12 and 8 had before.
Then the hold. The movie version might use slow motion and glorious John Williams score. The ball snapped perfectly from center into Romo's hands. It slides away. The man picks it up and in a last gasp runs for the endzone, knowing in his heart he hasn't a prayer. Bergman might cut to a man in a black bursting a bubble with a pin. It was over. The Cowboys and their GQ quarterback were going home.
And they just played the final notes of the national anthem on TRNBC. Let Tony's story be a reminder about this game we love so much. For every Rudy, there's a Romo.
I'm in rehearsals all weekend on a new play but I'll be back on Monday morning with a look at our divisional round opponent. Some thoughts from around the Bears...
I don't see Ron Rivera as a contender for Miami (Ken Whisenhunt), Pittsburgh (Russ Grimm) or Oakland (Mike Martz, Jim Fassel). That would leave the major vacancies in Atlanta and Arizona. Atlanta is looking for a head coach to come in an manage Michael Vick which will probably be San Diego offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. That leaves Arizona. With the offensive talent firmly in place, Rivera might bring the physical toughness that will finally elevate a disaster of a franchise.
PROMOTE BOB BABICH
Lovie won't listen to me, I'm sure, but I hope he promotes Bob Babich to defensive coordinator should Rivera leave. Babich (currently listed as Assistant Head Coach / Linebackers) has been paying his coaching dues for over twenty years. Every time the television cameras cut to the Bears bench, there he is rallying the troops. I'd much rather see him move up than Lovie bring in some re-tread coordinator like Donnie Henderson.
SHOWING THE LOVIE
Apparently the extension of Lovie Smith's contract is all but done. I'm hearing they expect the announcement before the Bears take the field next weekend.
HE CEDRIC, SHE CEDRIC
I called for it a long time ago but I think the Bears are starting to see what a lot of us have seen this second half of the season: Cedric Benson is going to carry this franchise on his back for a whole bunch of years. Running backs coach Tim Spencer has apparently joined our side. I love Thomas Jones but Benson seems to have been created by Soldier Field scientists.
Enjoy the games this weekend. It has been a silly NFL season so I'm taking all four dogs this weekend: Kansas City +7, Dallas +3, New York Jets +9, New York Giants +6.5
He stalks his prey like a kodiak bear in the outer reaches of the Alaskan wild. Sideline to sideline he runs, closing faster than any other person to ever play the position. He is our middle linebacker. The way Dick Butkus was our middle linebacker. The way Walter Payton was our running back. The way Mike Ditka was our coach. A kid from Lovington, New Mexico has become the soul of Chicago, Illinois.
In 2006, he added to his ever-growing legacy. His break-up of a surefire touchdown pass to Itulu Mili turned the Seattle game on its head. His interception of Chad Pennington in the Jets endzone was the Bears defensive play of the year. His performance in the desert on a miraculous Monday night - wherein he added the strip to his 25 tackles - was a thing of greatness.
But perhaps the play that defined how the Bears fan feels about Brian Urlacher happened in Foxboro. As the Patriots were facing a third down, their Hall of Famer found himself face-to-face with our Hall of Famer and Mr. Brady left Mr. Urlacher pantless. If it happened to Peanut, I would have broken something. If it happened to Chris Harris, I would have hit my head on the bar. But it happened to 54 and in that moment Tom Brady reached into the chest of Bears fans and ripped out our hearts. It was one of the rare moments in sports where we fans must tip our caps, clap our hands and acknowledge you've beaten our best.
The 2006 Most Valuable Bear is the 2005 Most Valuable Bear. I made a mistake early in the season and called Tommie Harris the best player on the Chicago Bears. It's almost ironic. While the rest of the idiotic world of talking-head sports analysis has called him the most overrated player in the league, I've underrated him.
But every Sunday I wear his number on my back. And every Sunday I'm proud to do it. Whenever I hear the Chicago Bears doubted on Sunday because of the quarterback, because of the secondary...I smile. Because I know we're never out of any game when 54 is standing in the middle of the field. And I say this - there's not another player in the National Football League I'd rather have in the navy and orange.
New York Giants.
I don't care. I don't care today. I won't care Saturday. I won't care Sunday. And I certainly won't care next weekend when the Bears have to lineup and play ball. What's the difference? If this Bears team is the best team in the conference - they'll beat whoever walks into our building.
To paraphrase the great Steve Fuller, "Bring on Seattle. Bring on Dallas. This is for Lovie and Papa Bear Halas."
You can worry about the secondary till the Chicago River floods downtown. You can wonder if the offensive tackles will hold up under the consistent pressure of top tier defensive ends. You can question the aww shucks coaching philosophy and whether over-exposing He Gone has slowed him a step or two on returns.
But this is Chicago Bears football and as Frank Sinatra once sang, "It's just the same old song and dance." You'd think in a city noted for its wind, a good quarterback might have blown through town by chance. But instead there were John Madden and Al Michaels talking about Sid Luckman - as every broadcaster seems to do when the guy taking (or fumbling) the snaps fails in a big spot.
Is Grossman a good quarterback? No. Might he be? Sure. But could be and maybe so won't melt the cheese on my bacon and eggs. There's a question mark on the chest of the most important player on the conference's top seed. Call him The Riddler if you want. I'm calling him Coin Flip - one side or the other. Heads and the Bears find themselves playing for it all in Miami. Tails and the Bears find themselves playing video poker at Rossi's on North State the weekend of January 21st.
The coin is in the air. We'll know which side it lands on in a couple weeks.
I am sick to my stomach and just don't care for anything I just watched on television. Should they start Rex in two weeks? Should they play Griese? Is the defense any good?
I have no answers to any of these questions. I just know they look terrible. Nothing surprises me now.
MORNING AFTER HANGOVER UPDATE
Still sucks. I'm not ready to bury them, my fatal flaw again resurfacing. I believe in the Chicago Bears.