The Pride & Joy of Illinois?

The Pride & Joy of Illinois?

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.

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks win, Jimmy Butler starts All-Star Game

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks win, Jimmy Butler starts All-Star Game

Here are some of Sunday's top stories in Chicago sports:

Jimmy Butler: 'Hopefully I’m not going to get traded'

Patrick Kane leads Blackhawks to win in Buffalo homecoming

What Joe Maddon wants to see next from Javier Baez

Jose Abreu ready for 2017 after season full of 'different challenges'

Wojnarowski: Bulls-Celtics Jimmy Butler trade talks 'will loom over the entire week'

After surreal offseason, Ben Zobrist comes to Cubs camp in style as World Series MVP

White Sox rookie Charlie Tilson out at least 10 days with foot injury

Fire score five goals for fourth preseason win

Simeon beats rival Morgan Park for city championship

Former Northwestern football player Torri Stuckey now focuses on helping others

Jimmy Butler: 'Hopefully I’m not going to get traded'

Jimmy Butler: 'Hopefully I’m not going to get traded'

NEW ORLEANS — Every All-Star isn’t created equal, even by the slimmest of margins as the best 24 NBA players take their turn on the midseason stage.

So Jimmy Butler being announced among the first five as an All-Star starter had to represent some form of validation, now that he’s not a novice at the whole experience and he’s able to go through the motions of the hectic weekend without breaking much of a sweat.

But despite being a three-time All-Star and routinely mentioned as one of the game’s top 15 players or even top 10, he can’t shake the trade rumors that have seemed to follow him since this time last season.

As he finished up his All-Star experience at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, clarity was nowhere to be found—although heading to some tropical island for a couple days to actually unwind with clear water and warm air seemed to be the best therapy if he’s stressed by the uncertainty of the next few days.

“What’s Thursday? Oh, trade deadline,” Butler said. “I don’t know. I don’t know. Am I anxious? Come on, man. I don’t worry about it. It don’t bother or scare me none.”

“Hopefully I’m not going to get traded but I don’t know. I don’t control that. Control what I can control, like going on vacation.”

Surely it has to be frustrating for a guy who’s elevated his game yet again, averaging 24.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.8 steals for the Bulls in 51 games. But he refuses to let it damper his All-Star spirits, playing with some of the best players in the world and a few guys he calls friends, like DeAndre Jordan and Kevin Durant.

“Not for me,” said Butler of the potential stress. “Not saying I’m untradeable but I don’t think about that. If I’m not in a Bulls uniform, I’ll give you a hug and say goodbye to you.”

Moments after Butler made his statement in the media room, the floodgates opened for the trade market as fellow Olympian DeMarcus Cousins was traded from the Sacramento Kings to the New Orleans Pelicans for what seemed to be mere fodder, pennies on the dollar for the most talented center in the NBA.

[SHOP: Get your Bulls gear right here]

While Cousins is far more of a handful than Butler could be, the trade almost signals a consistent truth that always bears repeating—that short of a select few, anybody can be traded.

Even a franchise altering talent like Cousins, who was traded to the city he was physically in for All-Star weekend, and included in the package of players was a guy who hit him in the groin last week (Buddy Hield), resulting in a Cousins outburst and ejection.

Butler has made his name with the Bulls, although not necessarily on the All-Star stage, a player who values defense and doesn’t have as much flash as some of the game’s shinier players.

With a six-point outing in 20 minutes, Butler was an on-court afterthought despite being a starter for the first time.

“Six? Should’ve gone for eight,” he sarcastically deadpanned.

In a relatively jovial mood through the weekend, Butler joked about the talk surrounding him and tried to brush it off as mere chatter as opposed to the franchise not seeing enough in him to make a firm commitment for the long-term, as the Boston Celtics are always hovering.

League sources expect the Celtics to engage the Bulls in conversations for the next few days, but nobody has a great feel for what either side is truly looking for.

But as Butler insisted, he’s only controlling what he can control, which is making himself a fixture for All-Star games to come as opposed to some of the first-timers who don’t know if they’ll get back here again.

“I think I got two underneath my belt,” Butler said. “I know what they’re feeling the first time, It’s so surreal like maybe I do belong here. That’s how I was thinking. Now it’s how do I get here every year? I think that’s the fun part, that’s the challenge. A lot of those guys have done it 10-plus years, hopefully I’m one.”

The only question seems to be, which uniform will it be in because the crazy season has begun.