Chicago Bears

Year Won?

Year Won?

Friday, April 23, 2010
1:09 AM

No matter what the year or what the time, there is always one topic I cant avoid while at work, and no its not, What is a guy from Philly doing behind the bar at Harry Carays? Its ALWAYS, Whats up with the Cubs? From minute one, thats what the masses want to talk about more than any other thing. It forces a guy from Philly to try to understand this team that they call the Cubs. Never in my wildest imagination, while I was a youngster racing home to watch Michael Jack bash another ball out of Wrigley, could I have realized how much the occupants of that field would take over my life. In my 15 years here Ive been totally immersed in everything Cub, from the players, to the dugout, to the clubhouse. (A Don Zimmer, former Cubs manager, reference that never fails to make me laugh when I hear it. There is NO crying in baseball!)

The thing Ive learned from that Whats up question, is that it could almost always be phrased, Whats WRONG with the Cubs? 102 years of losing can make a fan base constantly look up to see whats going to fall on them next. The time that Ive been here, relative to decades past, really hasnt been that bad. Easy to say from someone whose team won it all 2 years ago and is a favorite to do so again this year, but I digress. Since 1998 and their appearance in the playoffs as a wild-card, the Cubs have fielded rosters that have been expected to contend. In the last 12 years they have had a winning record 7 times and made the playoffs 4 times. There hasnt been a run like this since the 1930s. (There were 6 consecutive winning seasons under Leo Durocher in the late sixties and early seventies, but no playoffs, the source of much of todays angst.) Bringing in high-profile managers, like Durocher, in Dusty Baker and Lou Piniella have only heightened the sense of expectation. But alas, with this expectation comes the reality of bitter disappointment. No longer are the results of the team greeted by the warm and fuzzy, Well get em next year! Cubs fan.

Lovable loser is no longer a description theyre happy with. The price of having Wrigley Field filled to the rafters game after game is that, after paying the highest average price per seat in baseball, when a Cubs fans takes a moment from their beer and cell phones to watch the game, they want to see a winning, notice I didnt type competitive, baseball team. Being from Philly has enabled me to deal with and understand these fans. I feel their pain, for my scars run long and deep too.

So as we begin year 102, one hyped with the arrival of new ownership, one thing is clear: failure is not an option. And by failure, I mean anything short of a playoff series win. Thats a ton of expectation, and pressure to put on a team. Is this one up to that? That is something that will be discussed here, and at the bar, in great detail all summer long. But one opinion I do have on this, that Ive repeated over and over, will, I believe, hold true. That the team here that does end the suffering, will be a special one off the field as much as on it. I will cite the 2004 Red Sox, 2005 White Sox and 2008 Phillies as examples. Those teams had the weight of years of failure in their past and a brief run of near misses before ultimate success. Sound familiar? But my images of the rosters of the teams that finally ended long periods of futility were ones that were built to handle the immense pressure on and off the field.

As examples, I have talked many times at the bar about the merits of Kevin Millar, Paul Konerko and Chase Utley. Great players on the field, but as leaders and motivators, they were the types that were able to stand up off the field at the most important times in their franchises history and lead the way. So as we enter this 2010 season and watch the team that has bedeviled a city for a century, Im asking: Who is that guy? Or guys? Who is ready to lead this team on and off the field? As time goes on the pressure is only going to get greater, and in Cubs tradition, the path is certainly not going to be easy.

'The world's against us': Bears plenty motivated to prove preseason expectations wrong

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USA TODAY

'The world's against us': Bears plenty motivated to prove preseason expectations wrong

BOURBONNAIS — There are 13 different teams on the Bears’ schedule this season. But as the Bears started training camp ahead of the 2017 campaign, they saw many more opponents.

“The world’s against us,” linebacker Danny Trevathan said Thursday.

Trevathan was referring to the almost universal lack of faith among preseason prognosticators when it comes to the Bears’ chances to make some noise this season.

The last three seasons have been miserable by the franchise’s historical standards, with last year’s 3-13 mark the worst the team ever posted in a 16-game season. So those doubting some sort of sudden turnaround have something to back their opinions up.

But down in Bourbonnais, the Bears are using that lack of confidence as a motivating tool.

“You want that mentality. You want it to be just us against the world. That’s how it is. It’s us,” Trevathan said. “A lot of people are going to say what they want to say, critics, all those guys are going to say you were 3-13, all this and that. But we know we can be way better than that. And we showed glimpses of that. But now we gotta go ahead and show it the whole season.”

Self confidence is never in short order for athletes, especially at the dawn of a new season when every team has the same record and there’s no new data to separate contenders from pretenders. But it’s not just the Bears pumping themselves up. They have a few reasons to believe that a flip of last year’s script is possible.

Health is a big one. Trevathan is one of a lengthy list of Bears returning from injuries that cut their seasons short in 2016. Impact guys like Kyle Long, Kevin White and Leonard Floyd missed significant time last season due to injuries. Their healthy return would figure make a big difference for the Bears this season.

[BEARS TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

New additions are expected to make a huge difference, as well. The Bears will have a new quarterback, with Mike Glennon the likely starter to begin the season and No. 2 overall pick Mitch Trubisky waiting in the wings. Two new faces, Dion Sims and Adam Shaheen, are earning plenty of attention in the battle for the starting tight end job. And Prince Amukamara, Marcus Cooper and Quintin Demps are a trio of new starters in the secondary.

Those guys, guys who weren’t a part of last year’s loss-a-palooza, are bringing a fresh perspective to the team.

“Last year is last year,” said Demps, who’s been to six postseasons in his career, including each of the last two with the Houston Texans. “You’ve got to come in each and every year and prove yourself. That’s the goal right now. We’re coming in with a clean slate, 0-0. We’re just trying to get better right now, trying to build a good team.”

But most importantly, the Bears see this season as the culmination of the cultural changes Ryan Pace, John Fox & Co. have put in place over the past few years.

“That change has been starting from two years ago, it’s been starting. It just hasn’t rolled over to the games,” tight end Zach Miller said. “3-13 is not acceptable for us. We put in all the work, and you can feel the change coming. Every year you walk into camp, everybody’s against you, it’s time to turn the tables, surprise some people, so that’s kind of the goal in mind right now and see how we can do it.”

“I saw spurts of us last year just blooming and being that four-quarter team to win games, close games,” Trevathan said, talking about the team and his defense, specifically. “A lot of people are not seeing the work that we’re putting in, the communication, pieces that we’re putting in, putting in work, guys coming in like they’ve been here before. It’s like we’re clicking on all cylinders right now, and it feels good to be part of a defense like that. I feel like we’re going to be one of the greatest coming up. As long as we keep that full steam ahead, that attitude, that hungriness and that drive, we’re going to be great.”

Never underestimate the power of bulletin-board material, something that’s been around almost as long as football has. There's enough of it floating around this preseason for the Bears to fill a few bulletin boards. As they said, it’s up to them to prove they’re better than everyone thinks, better than last year’s 13-loss season indicated.

But while 2016 was short on wins, one thing 2017 will not be short on is motivation.

“A lot of people have got their backs turned to us. And we’re going to come out swinging. They’re gonna come over to our side,” Trevathan said. “But right now we’re taking care of our business. Our thing is to get better and get better every day, and that’s our goal.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Cubs and Sox gear up for the decisive Game 4 in the Crosstown Cup

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Cubs and Sox gear up for the decisive Game 4 in the Crosstown Cup

Sports Talk Live is on location at Guaranteed Rate Field to preview the decisive Game 4 of the Crosstown Cup. 

Kap is joined by David Haugh (Chicago Tribune), Sahadev Sharma (The Athletic), David DeJesus and Scott Podsednik. 

Plus new Cubs outfielder Jon Jay talks about his first season with the Northsiders .

Listen here.