Football

Happy Thursday and welcome back to THE VAULT, my weekly sermon where my pulpit is a Dave Wannstedt-run sideline and my scripture is just whatever relevant pages and boxscores I can find on Pro Football Reference.

Today’s Vault is a deep dive into the Monday Night Football tilt between the Bears and a visiting, defending Super Bowl Champ Dallas Cowboys team that took place on September 2nd, 1996. It was a Week 1 surprise Bears victory over a Michael Irvin-less Cowboys team where Deion Sanders had twice as many passing targets as any Bears player, and seven more targets than anyone else on the Cowboys. Of Deion’s 67 passing targets in 1996, 15 of them came in this Monday night opener. What a weird fucking timeline.

How weird was this game? Take a look at some of these goofy ass stats:
-The only passing TD thrown in the game was from Curtis Conway to Raymont Harris
-Bears punter Todd Sauerbrun had more passing yards than Curtis Conway, also from a pass that was completed to Raymont Harris.
Bryan Cox was responsible for as many points (6) as the entire Cowboys team
Herschel Walker caught two passes for some reason

This Cowboys team was still stacked with declining talent left over from their time as the dominant team in the NFL: Aikman, Irvin, Smith, Sanders, Moose Johnston, Leon Lett, Charles Haley, Darren Woodson. The Bears had Curtis Conway, Raymont Harris, Erik Kramer, Walt Harris, and Mark Carrier. Yet somehow, they came out on top.

I was looking back on the 1996 NFL Draft because I love second-guessing Bears drafts from the past, and aside from the amazing players they passed on, it should be noted that current Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri came out in the 1996 NFL Draft. Surreal.

The Bears were overmatched in this game, but they pulled out all the stops and got a W. A ton of trick plays and some key turnovers were the difference, so with that I’d like to take a second and praise Raymont Harris, or as you may know him, THE ULTRABACK (emphasis mine).

It’s hard as hell to find any good Raymont Harris tape on Youtube, and it’s a damn shame. By comparison, I found dozens of Jason McKie videos, and he wasn’t nearly as cool and certainly didn’t have a dope nickname. Raymont Harris has a fan page on Facebook with 39 likes and no profile picture. Players from the 90s that weren’t superstars will always get a raw deal in my eyes because they’re young enough to still know how to open a PDF but don’t have their middling highlight tapes available for me to peruse when I’m avoiding lesson planning. Like, they know they’re missing out, you know? Think about the fact that Donnell Woolford doesn’t have a sick Youtube compilation. I guess I’m really just hoping to watch old Bears videos and see if these players were actually good or fun to watch, and while there’s no good Curtis Conway videos there’s a Marcus Robinson 2000 highlight tape that I could watch if I so choose. It should be noted that I chose to watch that Marcus Robinson hype video and they spend half of the time talking about Dez White, Bobby Engram, Marty Booker, and Kaseem Sinceno.

You read that right, during a Marcus Robinson highlight video, the name Kaseem Sinceno was said.

I digress. Obviously fullbacks don’t have much room in today’s NFL so it’s not really that interesting of a thought experiment to ponder how well he’d do in the modern league, but he had a rare size/speed combo that looks good in the videos I can find of his time at Ohio State and various Sportscenter clips of Bears games from this era (I miss your voice so much, Stu Scott). He was apparently named the “toughest running back in the NFL” by a poll hosted by the Denver Post in 1997, and signed a one-year tender to compete for lead back duties that season with Rashaan Salaam, another player I loved.

To really wrap this Vault, I should mention that while Rashaan Salaam has a couple dope highlight videos of his on-field play, all the videos you can find of him came after his tragic death on December 5th, 2016; I’m not complaining but in an age where I’m so used to watching highlight tapes where players are making huge plays with like a Lil Wayne track as the backing music, it’s surreal to watch Salaam run through people at Colorado while Erik Satie’s “Gymnopedie No. 1” plays in the background.

Bears won in 1996, Bears win in 2019. Go watch some obscure Bears on Youtube if you can. Or just settle for watching Raymont Harris do a cameo on Married With Children.

Football

Welcome back to another edition of THE VAULT, a weekly segment where I leave our global consciousness behind and ascend to an alternate reality where Curtis Conway is a first ballot Hall of Famer and all of our dads quit drinking in the early 90s.

Two weeks ago I did a Bears/Lions preview and to be honest I’m fucking sick of the Lions, and this space is where I get to talk all my shit, so let’s talk shit. Instead of bringing back some historical Bears game, I’d rather use this space to help prime you for watching a Bears game with your in-laws who range from “casuals” to someone who hasn’t watched a football game since the AFL/NFL merger but says they stopped watching when players started taking a knee during the anthem. This guide is for you, so that when they add you on Facebook and post their hot political takes/Minion memes/Ben Shapiro quotes, you’ll be able to safely unfriend or block knowing you did all you could to help them understand football.

Yes, you read that right: the only thing I have to offer as it pertains to how I can improve the lives of strangers is trying to teach them the finer points of the RPO.

Your in-laws and your extended family suck at watching football. Mostly, they’ll be on their phones or loudly talking over the broadcast if you live in one of those homes where people say “let’s turn off our phones this holiday” or you actually like your family. Luckily, the Bears play the early game of the day’s slate, so hopefully the game is damn near over before your uncle gets hammered and says something racist about some player being “one of the good ones”.

You’ll have to talk Trubisky with people who have no idea exactly what’s going on with his pisspoor mechanics or fragile mental state. Just tell them they’re right in their analysis and you read on Twitter the Bears are considering bringing in Colin Kaepernick for the rest of the year.

“What’s the deal with that Nagy guy? He only runs short passes or runs up the middle!” Yeah, you’re actually spot on with that analysis there, Uncle Kev. That said, you could try to explain the intricacies of the total oblivion that is the Bears offense, but he’s just gonna forget and then compliment your new romantic partner on their body. Tread lightly.

Your family is gonna be spewing takes straight out of Skip Bayless’ wet dreams, and it’s up to you to pick your battles. I wouldn’t try to defend the offensive side of the ball, save explaining anything about this team when the defense gives up a field goal after a turnover and your cousin talks about how shitty they look this year even though as far as being athletic is concerned, the only running that cousin has done in the last year is from child support.

My advice for you is to either get to the place hosting your Thanksgiving dinner after the Bears game, or get there early and hope nobody shows up until the Dallas/Buffalo game. That one’s the easy one, since everyone’s non-football fan family members remember Dallas and will probably root for them, and you can play bingo trying to keep track of how many of them compliment Cole Beasley for being “gritty” or “sneaky fast”.

The Saints/Falcons will be a great nightcap, and for once you can use your fantasy football team to get out of those post-dinner conversations. I’ve spent the end of multiple Thanksgivings in my car, blasting one-hitters while listening to the Westwood One broadcast of the late game; those late nights are some of my favorite Thanksgiving memories. I guess that makes it sound like I hate my family, but that’s not true. I just have a lot of reverence for this stupid game we all love and if I can use it to get away from the hot takes that my in-laws spew over the holidays, I’ll take it.

Football is a great way to ignore the politics of Thanksgiving, and this year we are lucky enough to watch our beloved Bears shit the bed on national tv again!