Thursday, Jan. 7, 2010
For most people, change, is something that is avoided like the plague. That is, in their lives. As far as how they view others, its completely different. Its far easier for someone else to change than it is for them. This is especially true when it comes to sports. In this age of instant gratification, success better be now or its, NEXT!
In relation to players, everyones a GM. A player isnt producing, get rid of him! Its just like you do with your fantasy team, easy enough. Well, as weve learned around here, long-term contracts have made that increasingly difficult. Once you sign someone to a big-money contract, youre usually stuck with him for the duration, no matter what his production is. (Alfonso, this is Carlos, get to know each other, when youre not counting your money.)
Most fans understand this, well I think they do. The Bradley situation with the Cubs was an extreme situation, one that could not be put in better perspective than by looking at the contract that they had to absorb with Carlos Silva, just to get rid of Bradley. Ouch! (At least it was a pitcher with a bad contract. Who knows maybe theyll get lucky. Doubt it!)
Still, player movement will always be part of pro sports, and through it, an organization can point to the good things that will come. For all but that one lucky team each year, it is also vital. It is part of what a team needs to get better and it shows the fan base that you are trying. In the fan relationship, that is a very important thing.
Once you become a fan of a team, you are there for better or worse. Sound familiar? Well, where I work, I listen to fans from all over talk about teams from every different sport. The one thing that sticks out is the loyalty that they feel towards their team. Obviously it is more fun when your team wins a lot, Ive listened to enough obnoxious New Englanders lately to understand that, but thats not going to be the reality all of the time. Fans want to be part of something, to share in the experience. The shadow a team casts in a community is a large one and there are many covered by it. A team is something that can unite and provide civic pride. I know sometimes it can be over-the-top, but, as always, its fun to win!
The team in Chicago that unites like no other is the Bears. My own opinion, and Im a sports geek who follows just about every known sport, is that the NFL rules. The NFL in the collective communities where it resides is the heartbeat, especially in one of the original cities, which has one of its signature franchises. With out a doubt, the most animated sports discussions in the bar almost always involve the Bears. I always tease that, instead of bed-time stories, the story of the 85 Bears is read to youngsters here. Why else would everyone know the story of that team so well, or revel in its accomplishments to this day. I have heard about that team everyday since I moved here! 15 years ago!
Well, 1985, in sports terms, is a long time ago. The fan base wants to live that story, since a large portion werent around, or were too young to comprehend what was happening. Not to mention, the ones who can remember, need a new story to tell! I know way too much about Mongo and McMahon!
That 85 team was never able to produce a follow-up to that magical season. Most of the fans I talk to dont blame the players on that team. They also treat the coach, Im sorry, Da Coach, of that team as a football god. The blame always seems to go a little further up. All the way up.
That brings us to the events of the last 3 years. The 2006 season was a magical time in this city. Led by a rampaging defense, the Bears were the toast of the town. Coming off a playoff disappointment in 2005, they were a force to be reckoned with. Alas, Peyton Manning ended that dream on a rainy night in Miami. The blame, all seemed to agree, was with the play of the quarterback.
So too, it would seem, to be for the results of the 3 disappointing, playoff-less seasons that have followed. At least that seems to be the story that comes out of Halas Hall. No matter the fact that for 3 years the defense has been living on its reputation, the problem here lies with the offense, so offensive coaches, adios! I wrote here last April that the big winners in the Jay Cutler trade were Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith.
Smith for the fact that even though there were grumblings after 2 playoff-less seasons after the Super Bowl tease, could throw his offensive coordinator under the bus this season if things went bad, and say that he needs a Cutler guy running the offense, his expertise is on the defensive side. (WOW! How did I see that coming?) With Angelo, its 2 extra seasons, because this season its the O coordinator, next year its Lovie. Look to his comments before the Baltimore game as proof. The talent is here to win.
Unfortunately, all of this is too easy to predict. Its been happening for a long time. Is that a coincidence? You tell me. What I know is that the fan base doesnt seem to be buying what its being sold. Theyre still Bear fans. That will never go away. Theyre loyal as the day is long. But, that loyalty is to the team on the field and WHOEVER can lead them to that next title. In the end thats what its all about. That this generation can have a team that it can embrace for eternity. After 25 years of no repeat, its a testament to their devotion that they are always there. What they want is a change they can believe in. Not a change that seems suspiciously like one that was done to save some jobs of people that are not living up to the hype. Bear down.