Monday, February 12, 2007

Last Minute Super Bowl Knowings

Friday, February 02, 2007

Last Minute Super Bowl Knowings

I haven't listened to music for two weeks now. For once I don't think the media hype surrounding one game is too much. Funny how that works. I can't get enough of the over-the-top NFL Live shows or whatever talking heads may be spouting nonsense on the Boo-yah channel at any given time.

Beyond that, I have tried to stream Chicago sportstalk radio as much as humanly possible. I don't want to be underprepared, underexposed, or underhyped for this game. Ok, so that's probably not a problem.

One thing about 670 The Score out of Chicago streaming online now is...they actually talk football. They don't just do the celebrity interviews even though they are broadcasting all their shows live from Miami. They are talking Xs and Os and ins and outs and this and that. It's filling my head with enough info to be able to absorb the game as it happen and watch what's happening and why. Maybe. A few of the guys on that station know what they're talking about.

A couple people have asked me my thoughts on the Bears being in the Super Bowl. Nothing really. I guess I just want to take it all in, yes. But I realized earlier this week I'm just flat out excited about watching another Bears football game on TV. It's been two weeks! I just want to see them again. Forget the hype, the commercials, the halftime show. I like watching the Bears play. I like to observe them play football. I like watching Rex throw to Berrian and Davis and Muhammad. I like watching the defense take the ball away from the other team and I like watching the other team running after Devin Hester. I'm just pumped to be able to watch one more Chicago Bear football game this year.

I know it's probably the biggest single sporting event of my life to date. The Bulls never got to a game seven in any of their six championship runs. And while the Cubs had a game seven against Florida in the 2003 NLCS, that wasn't for a World Championship. I was only six when the Bears last had a Super Bowl to win. So this is about as monumental as it's ever gotten for me. For one game.

That said, it's hard to take myself too seriously. I was taught to enjoy sports, but that they were never important enough to stress over, to riot over, to cry over, to lose sleep over, to pray over, son on and so forth. That's why my team can lose a big game and it doesn't ruin my day. Or that's why my team can win a big game and I don't make a fool of myself (it also helps that I don't hate the team they're playing. At all).

But I don't know what's worse...a team getting there after years of futility and not knowing if you'll ever get back, or a team that is in the picture every single year and finally has a chance at the big one.

You know there are people in every corner of Indy and Chicago who had to go dig to find their Colts or Bears shirt just for these last two weeks. I know some people think it's juvenille or a sign of immaturity for adults to wear clothes supporting sports teams. But it's times like these that I'm glad I have never been afraid to wear my Bears gear year-round (or decade-round for that matter). That way there's no question. There are no front-running accusations. Gameday, offseason, win big, lose big, that's who I've been. That way people know in advance. (In case something ever does go right).

And you know it happens to fans of both teams. People love a winner. I just don't understand why people wait until monunmental wins to show their team pride. That's why I value the few true Colts fans I know that are actually authentic. I'll be glad for them if the Colts win. All these others? Well...(anyone who was alive during the Bulls' dynasty knows what I am talking about).

There are people who I didn't even know that they knew what sport the Colts played that are all talking trash now (not to me necessarily, just things I've observed and heard). Again, I know it happens with every winning team, but I've still been taken back by it all.

Before the Kansas Bradley basketball game in the NCAA tournament last March, a bunch of KU fans came over to and started talking an unreasonable amount of trash. At the time I found that curious because Kansas was favored in the game! It was a 4/13 matchup! What does the 4 have to gain by trash talking the 13?! If they win, well…they should have. It was a 4 against a 13. And if they lose?! Well…how do you ever live that one down?

Now the Colts aren't as heavily favored as the Jayhawks were, but it's similar. That's why I find all the relentless trash talk somewhat amusing. And surprisingly little of it is backed up by anything even resembling football knowledge. Just a lot of "We're going to stomp 'em." Or sentiments indicating that the game is already over. Riveting. About four weeks ago you couldn't have found a fan base more down and out than that of the Colts. Now it's as if the ring has been theirs along.

I don't think there's any question that the Bears aren't ready for this. But then, no one is. If the Bears or Colts ever make it back to the Super Bowl, it's a given that--to a man they will say, "Yeah the first time I made it I was a little wide-eyed and got caught up in all the hype. This time it's a business trip and I want to be able to just focus on getting the job done." I just wish the Bears could skip to that step this year. But I don't think it could happen.

As far as whom the better team is? I don't know. I think it's clear the Bears are a better football team but the Colts have better football players. If that makes any sense. I'm pretty sure that if Manning, Harrison, and Wayne are firing on all cylinders, the Bears have very little chance.

But from a technical standpoint? It's a decent matchup for the Bears. You have the Colts' best unit (world-famous offense) against the Bears' best (sturdy defense). Then you have a sometimes flashy, sometimes inconsistent Bear offense against a statistically weak Colts defense (which is playing better these days). And Adam Vinatieri aside, I think it's been established that the Bears have the edge on special teams.

The numbers don't lie. One of them has thrown six playoff interceptions in 2006. One has thrown one (in one fewer game, admittedly). Peyton has had one stellar half. But that was the most recent half so that's what people remeber. He destroyed New England in the second half of the AFC Championship. Who's to say what kind of player he will be on Sunday? I really have no idea what to expect out of the guy.

Rex has zero pressure. He's not the one who "can't win the big one." I think he took the pressure off himself by winning the St. Louis game in the regular season, and then again by making the right plays down the stretch in the first two playoff rounds. He made every play he needed to. I'd rather be the guy who used to stink but now may be just good enough, than the best player in the history of the world who better win the big one or else…

...can't play the pass and the run every play. I think the Nick Harper injury is huge. Even if he does play, he'll need some help from time to time. If they bring Bob up to stop the run, why not pick on Harper? If they keep Bob back to help, what will become of the run defense? I think we've seen that story...

but I wish Tommie Harris and Mike Brown were healthy. If the Bears had Tommie Harris and Mike Brown (two Pro Bowlers by the way), I really don't think the Colts would have a chance. It affects every aspect of the once mighty Bears defense. What are their two concerns defensively right now? 1) Getting pressure with their front four, and 2) suspect safeties. Enough said. Also, Mike Brown is to the Bears' run defense what Bob Sanders is to the Colts' run defense. Only with more leadership and experience.

That said, the Bear defense looked as good as ever last time they were on the field. They held the mighty Saints to two scores and forced turnovers like they did in the earlier part of the season. I'm not saying they're going to shut down the Colts, because they won't. But I'd rather be coming off an intimidating and dominating performance like that in the NFC Championship game than the alternative.

Forget Bob Sanders, Peyton Manning, Brian Urlacher, or Devin Hester. Here's my key to the game. Muhsin Muhammad. If he can be a number one receiver just one more time in his career, the Bears will win. If he can bail Rex out and provide something opposite Berrian, the Bears will win. I would love to see that guy step up and play some ball on Sunday. If he plays well, the Bears have a chance.

...wrote this yesterday: "Sports Guy ended today's column with this line, 'I haven't run into one person who thinks the Bears can win on Sunday. Not one.' I wasn't aware the Super Bowl winner was decided via caucus."

The funny thing is, I've seen a lot of people picking the Bears. Just not the big names, I guess. I don't believe it's quite as lopsided as people think. I will say this...the people I've heard/read who have picked the Bears (not even counting Chicago people) have delivered articulate, well thought-out corroborations of their arguments. While those picking the Colts have by and large simply spewed the tired AFC-over-the-NFC factor, that Peyton is better than Rex, or the ever-popular "gut feeling."

I'm still fine-tuning the details, but I might as well get to the prediction. Let me get one thing straight. The Bears can win and probably will win. However, I picked against them last game and it worked. So I'll type the prediction from my head, not the one from my heart. (The one from my head is something like...if the Colts don't get the ball first and march down and score and then Rex throws a pick-six on the very first play from scrimmage making it 0-14, the Bears should win...)

Here goes. I think Hester will go ahead and get his return TD out of the way in the first half, while the Bears defense will hold the Colts to field goals on two out of three promising drives in the first half. The Bears will be up 17-13 at halftime, but the Colts will get the ball to start the second half. When they score on their first possession to take a 20-17 lead, the Bears will be faced with the biggest possession of their lives. If they don't get points out of that drive it will be a tough trail from then on. A three and out would give the Colts the edge they need. Two more TDs and you're looking at a 34-20 final in Super Bowl XLI.

On The Score this week they've been talking about how this matchup is the best the Bears could have hoped for out of the AFC elite teams. And I think I know what they're talking about. I would have taken the Ravens maybe. But with the Colts' suspect run D and shotty special teams coverage, I see what they mean.

It still may not be enough. And if that's the case, it's the best matchup I could have hoped for in terms of grieving a Super Bowl defeat. A loss to the Patriots? Grueling. BUT a loss to the Colts? Well, Manning probably deserves it. Nothing to hate about the Colts. Sure takes some of the sting away. And hopefully that will help me sit back and just enjoy the 60 minute game of American football.


Monday, January 29, 2007


With the Super Bowl approaching, I felt compelled to compile some of my favorite images from over two decades as a Bears' fan. Admittedly, this list may be recent-heavy, as I had ready access to pictures from the current season.

Three absolute Bear legends. George Halas. Dick Butkus. Gale Sayers. I particularly like the Butkus picture because it is a good image of the Bear Packer rivalry portrayed in an old school fashion.

This uniform set was the gift for my sixth birthday. The box said "Ages 7-12," so I was sad that I had to wait an entire year to start wearing it. Believe me, this was one gift that got every ounce of use imaginable.

I couldn't get enough of the William Perry craze back then.

This was my first Bears' football card ever. I was eating breakfast one Saturday morning in 1987 when Dad told me there was a pack of football cards in the top drawer of his dresser. I didn't finish my Total that particular morning. This card was in that pack.

I just like the colors in this picture. No other major sports team uses the dark dark blue and orange like the Bears do. If you see a Bears' uniform you know it immediately.

And to think that Perry scored but Payton did not in Super Bowl XX.

I couldn't find the picture of Ditka lecturing Harbaugh, but this is a good one as well...

That '85 team seemed so much larger than life in my little brain back then. And I guess they still do to some extent.

I was a young Christian in 1986, but I heard that God answered prayers. So when I went to the store and saw Pete Rose on the cover of Wheaties, I went home and beseeched the Lord that Wheaties might put either Walter Payton or William Perry on the box. I don't remember how much longer it was, but I distinctly remember mom pulling this box out of the grocery bag.

Neal Anderson was my favorite player of the post-85 era. I used to listen every Monday night on WBBM as he and Dave Eanet would host a live radio show. I liked that.

Who didn't love Jim Harbaugh? He beat the Lions at the last second to open the 1992 season and made SI.

My brothers gave me a Cade McNown jersey for my birthday one year.

I like this picture because it encapsulates the magical 2001 season. This is Mike Brown at the end of just one of his unbelievable interception returns. The Bears didn't advance past their first playoff game that year, but 2001 was one of my favorite seasons. The Bears found just about every way imaginable to win that year.

Even though the Bears lost their first round playoff game again in 2005, it was another outstanding season. And even though Devin Hester would match this play with a 108-yarder of his own in 2006, this Nathan Vasher run back against the 49ers last year is still very memorable.

When Lovie Smith took the job he said one of his two main goals was to beat the Packers. Well, in 2005 it happened. Twice. Brett Favre was a mess of a man in his two matchups with Chicago last year. This picture provides a glimpse.

I like the cover of the 2006 media guide because it reminds me of when I first saw it during training camp. The Bears were talking about the Super Bowl like crazy at that time. To be able to look back and see how it all unfolded is good stuff.

The Arizona game was unreal, but this was the key play. Urlacher deciding he needed to strip Edgerrin, and then doing it.

My favorite scene from the regular season: Urlacher shaking his finger at Pennington and the fullback he just leveled during the Jets game.

Likely the most lasting image from 2006: People chasing Devin Hester. The two TD returns in the St. Louis game were unbelievable.

Gould beats the Seahawks.

This catch didn't get nearly the pub it deserved. It was among the best you'll ever see. Key play in the win over New Orleans.

Lovie looking so smooth.

Sic 'em.

She's old!

It happened.

The City has never looked better...

...and here's hoping I'll have to come in and edit in some more celebratory pictures on Sunday night.