Football

The Bears Offense Is Basically My Creative Writing Process – I’ll let you in behind the curtain a bit. From time to time, I like to dabble in fiction writing. Just to do something different, just to see if I can, just for myself. I have these big ideas, and occasionally one of them sounds pretty cool. And I poke around the edges, feeling like I might crack the case on a truly great story that might actually go somewhere one day. I come at it from different angles trying to find what will feel right. I prod, I rewrite, I ponder. But I never really get to the middle of it. Whether laziness or stubbornness or simple lack of talent, I just can’t quite bring to the page what I only have a loose grasp of in my mind. It never looks like it I think it should, even if I can’t actually state what that is clearly.

Maybe that’s why I identify with what the Bears have looked like the past few weeks so closely.

There are times when Matt Nagy and Mitch Trubisky look like they’re really moving toward what makes the Bears offense move. Whether it’s rolling him out, play-action, no-huddle, simplifying everything, the Bears actually get down the field. You saw it. There are big plays. People look open and Mitch looks decisive.

And then it just goes away. For whatever reason. Maybe a penalty, maybe one bad throw or bad decision, or sometimes just overthinking it and a constant telling of themselves, “You aren’t this you are something else so go back to your home, loser!” Or thinking it’s not creative enough and no one will care. And you saw that too, and you keep seeing it, with various pitches to receivers or RPOs or Tarik Cohen finding the next best way to run to the sidelines.

The Bears are inching, at an excruciating pace, to what would have made for an average offense. And it’s probably too late. Mitch has looked better, at an increment you can’t see without various tools, each week. But he only had one way to go. It’s sad, because even the meager total of 19 points every game would have seen the Bears with three more wins and not only in discussion for the playoffs but the division again. And 19 points isn’t even good!

Maybe both the Bears and myself have to hold ourselves to lower standards, and believe that through steady work we can crack open something. Or maybe I just like identifying myself in the ways I choose to waste my time.

I’m Sorry For Ever Doubting Khalil Mack And Am Terrified He Will Come Looking For Me – As you’ve probably guessed, from the very first half against Green Bay last year, Mack may be my favorite Bear of all time. There’s just something about a player who can make other people who are the best in the world at their job look so helpless. So maybe I was just disappointed I wasn’t getting to see him simply throw people out of his way like they were beaded curtains as often this year.

It’s hard to fathom that Mack went through a game like last week that he didn’t scratch anything on the stat sheet. Surely it was Chuck Pagano’s fault for not finding new ways to get him one-on-one. Or maybe it was everyone other players’ fault on the defense for not taking advantage of the wide berth he was giving them. Or, gasp, was it that Mack just wasn’t as good as we thought?

Pish tosh.

Mack has been facing two or three blockers every goddamn play, and without Akiem Hicks to Kool-Aid Guy his way through the middle of the line, the Bears haven’t been able to make that count. That’s not on Mack. And really, the Bears only need one or two plays from Mack to change a game. And they got one yesterday.

I’m sorry Khalil. Please don’t hurt me. I’ll never lose faith again.

Soldier Field Will Always Be Toxic – I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a team booed on the opening kickoff before, but I guess I can scratch that off the list after Eddie Piniero sent that kick out of bounds. After missing two field goals last week, he always was going to have a short leash. And I want to believe a lot were doing it out of humor, but I doubt that. Because when have Bears fans had a sense of humor?

I’m not saying a team should always be cheered when they play like garbage. And lord knows Bears tickets are expensive enough that when the product before the customers is that unwatchable at times, bile and ire are going to rise at a quick rate. But it feels like we’ve become the new Philadelphia, where fans are simply waiting for the chance to boo and are almost only there to do so and are becoming the show. It’s part of the identity now.

And it’s been this way for a long time. If Bears fans had earned any cred, maybe you’d go along with it. But this is the same group that makes as much noise as it can while the Bears are on offense. Who openly bitched about Lovie Smith’s defense and then spent years pining for it again. Turned on Jay Cutler about four minutes into his Bears career. Still thinks Mike Singletary was any good or should be coach now. Ditka.

Look, the Bears have deserved a shit-ton of criticism and booing this year, there’s no getting around that. But when it becomes the main objective, what are we even doing?

Everything Else

Box Score
Event Summary
Extra Skater

I could not have been more excited about the Blackhawks playing at Wrigley Field back in 2009. The Hawks were still on their way up and there was finally energy back in the stands. I gladly paid hundreds of dollars for two tickets for my brother and myself to sit in centerfield, lose all feeling in my toes and fingers to watch the Hawks get off to a fast start before getting demolished at the hands of Scum. This year, while I was tempted to go to the game and even had tickets offered the day before, I couldn’t muster up the same excitment. Whether it was my ongoing headcold or just my disinterest in Soldier Field compared to the iconic Wrigley, I just wasn’t as excited. That doesn’t mean the game didn’t turn to be a pretty exciting and beautiful spectacle though. It just means I was happy to have been watching it from a bar where I only had to walk 5 feet to get a new beer and not worry about whether I would lose a toe.

Everything Else

The big news last night was that the NHL is expanding its outdoor schedule to carry five more outdoor games in larger venues in addition to the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day at the Big House in Ann Arbor. In that series, the Hawks are scheduled to take on the Penguins on Saturday, March 1, 2014 at Soldier Field. And thus far, most have seemed to agree with Puck Daddy’s Harrison Mooney and his claim that this is a cynical cash grab. But while Mooney is right in that aspect of it, he’s incorrect in stating that it’s a bad thing. In fact, it’s exactly the sort of thing Hawks fans should be glad is happening.

Everything Else

The heroes on the ice gave back to the real heroes in uniform on Saturday and I was lucky enough to get a firsthand view of it.  I had the incredible opportunity to watch USA Warriors and the Chicago Blackhawks private skate from the glass at the most unlikely of places, Soldier Field.  Standing on the 20 yard line of the infamous stadium on an incredibly windy, yet sunny day I got to witness my favorite team play rat hockey with a group of men and women who sacrificed so much for our country and it was an experience I will never forget.

I volunteered to work the Office Max Hockey City Classic media relations staff.  Late Friday night I got an email about this wonderful event and how after our walk-through we could watch this take place.  I had no idea what to expect, it was cold, and the team had a game the night before. The other volunteers and I lined up to watch both teams enter through the tunnel opposite of where the Bears enter and everyone had a smile on their face. Every member of the team and coaching staff attended and even some of the Hawks brass was there. The Hawks went through their warm ups, stretched and more or less just screwed around. Then the Warriors took the ice to a big cheer from about the 50 people in attendance. They skated what appeared to be 20 on 20 for about 40 minutes.

There were four goalies and each took turns at the opposite ends of the ice.  It was dangles and snipes from both teams, fake elbows and slashes all around. Fun was had by all and I genuinely mean that. Joel Quenneville spoke with the Warriors coach the whole time and at the end all the guys came together for a keepsake picture and hugs.

I think the biggest thing that I will take away from the event Saturday was the genuine class and enjoyment that each Hawk player showed on the ice. Whether it was Patrick Kane setting up someone from the Warriors with a sick backhanded pass to score on Ray Emery or the constant goofing around everyone on the ice shared. I saw a real enjoyment of everyone‘s face and real reverence for the event that had just taken place.

In the end it was the Blackhawks honoring our heroes, there was no spectacle, no real publicity just a quiet, semi private event to show gratitude to people that have sacrificed so much. To me it was 40 guys playing shinny on an outdoor rink; I didn’t see millionaires and war veterans, I saw hockey players having fun and playing hockey in its purest form outside on a cold winter’s day.

A special thanks to Intersport for the wonderful opportunity to work with their media relations staff and for showing why Chicago is the best Hockey Town in America with such a great event that was the Office Max Hockey City Classic.