Football

The Vault: Chicago vs Washington, 2001

Welcome back to THE VAULT, the place where I wax nostalgic over players that eventually let us all down in one way or another (save for Peanut Tillman, he could never let me down). The overarching theme of these so far has been “remember this time the Bears sucked?”, so today I’ll highlight a win from a Bears team that had a strikingly similar vibe to the team that the field in 2018. Seriously, look at the 2001 and 2018 Bears side by side. They each had:

-Dalton-Line level quarterback play given their respective eras
-A young defense that just absolutely wrecks shit
-An inability to sweep the Packers
-Offensive players who were useless in fantasy football
-A young, potentially dominant middle linebacker
-A free safety known for defensive touchdowns
-Beaten in the playoffs at home by the Eagles

The 2001 Bears were the first squad that really gave me hope. It was destiny: the back-to-back Mike Brown overtime walk-off pick sixes were only two of the five comeback wins that season. Jerry Azumah was about to be Devin Hester before Devin Hester was a thing, and Anthony Thomas ran for over 1100 yards, which looks like a typo but I swear is accurate. Looking at the Bears offense in 2001 is awful, but we’re two weeks into 2019 and I don’t want to watch current game tape because it’s SO SO SO BAD, so not much has changed.

A lot of the 2001 team is etched into my memory. I won an award in 2016 that the Bears sponsored, so when I won they asked me who my favorite Bear of all time was. Out of the 16 teachers that won, there were three players listed: Brian Urlacher, Walter Payton, and Mike Brown. Guess which one I picked. I really do believe Mike Brown could’ve been Ed Reed if he stayed healthy, because he was always around the ball. Book it: the Bears win Super Bowl XLI if Mike Brown doesn’t get hurt in the Arizona comeback game and Daniel Manning isn’t put back there and toasted to a crisp by Peyton Manning. Tony Parrish used to lay motherfuckers out, and Rosevelt Colvin looked like an all-time great pass rushing LB. It was literally impossible to run up the middle on this defense, sporting 700 lbs of combined BEEF between Keith Traylor and Ted Washington. Just looking at the defense lined up on Youtube today looks downright goofy with all that space those two managed to occupy. It’s also weird to see the 4-3 look so good, since the NFL seemed to make the switch wholesale to 3-4 being the dominant defensive front a few years after this season.

This shit-ass offense managed to beat Washington in 2001, but it took Brian Urlacher’s first ever offensive touchdown on a pass from the illustrious Brad Maynard on a fake field goal to push the Bears to a win. The box score tells you all you need to know about this game:

Jim Miller: 13/26, 98 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT- 59.3 QB rating
Brad fuckin Maynard: 1/1, 27 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT- 158.3 QB rating

Brian Urlacher was the second leading receiver for the Bears in this game, but the defense managed to sack Tony Banks six times and force two fumbles. This was the second of four straight wins for the 2001 Bears, a streak that took them straight into the woodchipper against the Eagles in the playoffs as demolition crews sat outside Soldier Field to begin renovations. I heard totally unfounded rumors years later that the Bears were paid to throw the game so construction could start (I’m pretty sure the dude who told me that was wearing a Korn shirt so take that shit with an entire shaker of salt), but if there’s anything that could undermine a team as fated for the Lombardi Trophy as the 2001 Bears were, it would be Chicago political graft.

To end on a positive note: two weeks after this game the Bears played the Jaguars, and Keith Traylor returned an interception 67 yards. No politician, regardless of how corrupt they are, could ever take that from us.

Football

It was the year 2000, I had just turned 22-years-old and like most of my friends, I was about to begin my first post-college job. Except I wasn’t interviewing with insurance companies or cardboard box manufactures or board of trade firms. Instead, I was living in Albany, New York, playing for the New York Football Giants.

I had no idea what to expect from my first NFL training camp – the closest I had ever come to an NFL camp was driving up to Platteville, Wisconsin one summer only to see Jim McMahon taking a piss in a garbage can. I was 7-years-old…something like that cannot be unremembered.

4 years of high school training camp in the mid 90’s was as uncomfortable as a Cody Parkey Today Show interview: Two-a-days, full pads, full contact, extra conditioning, and no water breaks – all while being told you were a pussy. Like a 15-year old needs to question his self confidence even more.

Training camp in college was much easier; mostly due to the fact that I was now strictly a kicker/punter. This was the type of shit I could handle – no hitting, rarely a full pad practice, and a specialist period that accounted for exactly 1/12 of the total practice time. Kick for ten minutes with the team, go to a side field and kick some more, then socialize – teammates, coaches, managers, trainers – finding literally anyone who would listen.

As I arrived in Albany as the 3rd specialist alongside Brad Maynard and Brad Daluiso, I was overwhelmed by the fact that I had no idea where I was going or what in the fuck I was doing. After a few days, I eased myself into the monotony of an actual, real life, NFL training camp: the morning session for specialists would be reserved for individual work on a side field, while the afternoon session included an early special teams team period. After the special teams period was over, we would head back to our side field for some more individual work, after that we were free to leave. So, to recap, we would basically walk back to the locker room 25 minutes into practice and our day was done. We would then make our way back to the dorms and sit around for hours until team dinner in the cafeteria.

What made these boring afternoons exponentially better was that when we arrived back into our rooms, the extremely fappable Angie Harmon was often there waiting for her fiancé, Jason Sehorn to return from practice. Until he did, Daluiso, Maynard, Angie Harmon, and I would sit there for hours on these shitty, used ass, SUNY-Albany owned couches watching TV and talking about who the fuck knows what. I do recall her saying that Calista Flockhart needs to eat a cheeseburger and that her dad still cuts articles about here from the newspaper and puts them in scrapbook. Other than that, my afternoons were filled by watching her watch TV and try to hide my erection. For the record, she was extremely gorgeous of course, but she was also very kind and borderline funny for a girl. I also remember thinking, like every guy in the world does about the boyfriend of a hot girl; what is she doing with this clown? Aside from his good looks, athleticism, and millions in the bank, what does he have going on that I don’t? It’s amazing to look back and think I was truly convinced that if I could just continue to make her laugh, she eventually couldn’t resist the 165 pound kicker with a non-guaranteed contract who was going to be cut six weeks from now.

So, in conclusion: high school training camp is the absolute worst. Training camp for kickers is the best. And I used to think Angie Harmon was going to dump Jason Sehorn and start fucking me instead. Fast forward almost 20 years later and I am selling industrial warehouses by O’Hare airport and writing football blogs on a hockey website. Sweet!

Sidenote: I apologize if you began reading this with the assumption that you were going to get some super informative Bears training camp talk – I’ll have that for you as well, but I’ll also be sharing my personal experiences from various training camps I’ve been in over the years.