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Monday, November 7, 2016

On the Cubs, Grandfathers, Fathers, and Sons

I have said many times before that while my father is a die-hard Cubs fan himself, I actually inherited my Cubs fanhood from my grandfather.

Dad is loud, boisterous, gregarious, quick to the occasional outburst but equally quick to make it up to you with kindness a thousand times over. His temperament has always been more suited to the Bears, a team he could follow once a week, with a game on the TV in the corner of the garage as he worked on yet another project, never one to sit still, certainly not for the 162 games a baseball season demands. He's probably lucky a hip surgery rendered him immobile so that he had no choice but to sit and watch the greatest postseason in Cubs history, rather than fuming off whenever things went south. So yeah, while I love the Cubs and I love my old man and my old man loves the Cubs and the first call afterwards went to Dad and we both cried on the phone together, Cubs fandom is something I share with him, but he's not the reason I care so much.

That came from Grandpa. Grandpa was the Cubs, man. Proud and old and stubborn as hell, always willing to tell you a story about life in the 1930s. He was raised in the Depression, and patience was his greatest virtue, and it suits a Cubs fan well. He'd save every nickel for rainy days, sometimes to the frustration of my Grandmother, whose kitchen came straight from the set of That 70s Show even in 1997. No one was more well equipped to handle the kind of annual disappointment and prolonging that the Cubs would throw at you than Grandpa.

I think back often to Grandpa's 74th birthday party, held on the day of game 5 of the 2003 NLCS, the Cubs up 3-1 and looking to close out the Marlins. They lost that day, stymied by a Josh Beckett gem, and yet I had all the faith in the world they'd pull it off. I had Dad and two uncles trying to ward off the pain, begging me to take heed of their scars and their pain, warning me that even Prior and Wood could lose back to back games at home. Grandpa believed, though, and he told me to do the same.

Game 6 and 7 came and went, and I earned my first true Cubs scars, exhibit A and B in the case I built to defend the pervading cynicism that would color my fanhood in the years to follow.

A funny thing happened, though. When the Cubs were swept in the playoffs in 2007 and 2008, whent hey lost the NLCS in 2015, I still cared. The more I tried to hide myself in snark and sarcasm, building a wall of scar tissue to protect my heart, I never did succeed. Some part of me believed they'd do it someday. Grandpa's voice won out. It meant they could still hurt me, sure, but it meant the joy I'd feel if they ever pulled it off would be something to behold for sure.

On Tuesday night (actually Wednesday morning), the Cubs did win it all, and man, did I feel it all.

Every bit of disappointment gone in an instant, every heartbreaking loss, every bit of snark and cynicism I'd put together as a self-defense mechanism vanished in an instant (alright let's be honest, an hour, a day, entire years I will feel this feeling because f--k you, I waited a long time for this). I sobbed, like a baby, and my wife must truly love me because somehow that's not on facebook right now for everyone to mock. I called my Dad and I don't know if he got a single word out of me other than "*sob* CUBS *sob*!"

That speech from Field of Dreams can get awfully sappy and pretentious but for a moment I truly was dipped in the magic waters James Earl Jones discusses, the memories of a lifetime of baseball with Grandpa, and Dad, and friends and family just overwhelmed me. At some point when words were manageable again I whispered aloud "Grandpa, they did it" as though he wasn't watching, riveted, from wherever he was anyway.

Then my son stirred and woke up and cried and I went and picked him up and hugged him tightly. He is just 18 months old tomorrow, but already he swings a stuffed bat at a stuffed ball on a tee whenever you'll let him. He wears a baseball cap everywhere because Dada wears a baseball cap everywhere. He says "ball" excitedly whenever the game is on TV and I sure hope that sticks. Any composure I had regained up till then broke and I cried some more holding him and thinking about how different life will be for him growing up as a Cubs fan in this brave new world. Because the only thing that should ever grip you tighter than the past, as a Cubs fan and a person in general, is the future, and that future is really bright.















-If you used to read this blog for Bears takes, I'm sorry, they broke me, and they still suck.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Sixteen More Weeks of Winter

Far Cry 3 was the game that changed everything in 2013. Which of course means "another first-person sandbox but with prettier shrubs or some other damn thing." And those shrubs were indeed gorgeous. And I guess the game was okay.

In my experience, it was a game about hunting increasingly dangerous animals like sharks and cassowaries because only their skin was fit to make me a bigger wallet even though my pockets were just overflowing with crocodile skins and deer pelts and tiger rugs and all manner of perfectly serviceable wallet-crafting animal hides. Sometimes I also climbed radio towers, and toward the end I got a wingsuit that was nowhere near as fun as the parachute in Just Cause 2.

Also I murdered like 10,000 dudes. Come to think of it, they probably had wallets I could've just stolen.

I guess the actual game was like... an Apocalypse Now type story about becoming the jungle or whatever. A bunch of white people get stranded on an island full of savages who are all black except one German guy who helps you because this is a Ubisoft game. Your name is Connor or Carter or something and a voodoo swamp witch gives you a magic tattoo that implements basic RPG leveling elements because people sure liked those Arkham games, and you have to just murder brown people until you get off the island.

The primary antagonist is Vaas, a man who I swear to Christ is modeled on and voiced by Charlie Day even though IMDB has been telling me for three years now that I'm wrong.

The gang murders a bunch of tourists.
Vaas here is always droning on about the definition of insanity, which is "doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result." In his case it relates to killing... Jason? The protagonists name is Jason? Maybe his brother was named Connor or whatever? Who cares.

He keeps trying to kill you and you keep getting saved by narratively convenient tattoos, and he keeps droning on about the definition of insanity until you murder him.

And while that was pretty irritating because I couldn't skin him to make a bigger quiver, the guy that actually said that thing he kept quoting wasn't wrong. Which brings us to the Chicago Bears and the last 9 months or so of radio silence.

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Cycle Begins Anew

Jay Cutler could still win a Super Bowl. After everything he's done to me, after everything we've seen, I still believe it. I've seen what he can do in a system that works for him and the players around him. I've seen what he can be when he decides it's time to release the dragon. Jay Cutler could still win a Super Bowl. He's just never going to, because we're getting ready to throw the next five years in the garbage before they even start.

These last few years, the Bears were conducting a grand experiment. They broke free of tradition and hired a GM who looks weird and talks weird and acts weird and drafts weird players. That guy brought in a coach who was also weird, and together they tried to turn the Chicago Bears into a modern NFL franchise.

They failed. Oh, how they failed. The first year was a given. Honestly, it went better than I expected it to. The offense worked like a charm, and I'm not going to fault any one person for the fact that the defense crumbled into dust and we had to ask Shea McClellin to be a starting defensive end.

And then this season happened. And good God, was it a shitshow. Matt Forte played well because he always does, and Kyle Fuller looks promising. That's about the enthusiasm I've got. The Trestman Experiment revealed very little other than the fact that Marc Trestman moved to Canada for a reason.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Hello. Is it crushing, systemic failure you're looking for?

I haven't watched an entire football game in seven weeks. I haven't watched a Monday Night Football game in ten.

Of all their many crimes, perhaps the worst thing the 2014 Chicago Bears have done is rob me of my enthusiasm for football. Because it is more or less impossible to watch a sport for twelve hours on a Sunday when you know the one game you should care about is just going to make you sad.

I watched some of the Thanksgiving game. I peek my head in on the Sunday games. And you know what? If anything, it looks worse.

The offense continues to lack any kind of purpose or direction. Receivers give up on routes, blockers just kind of... don't, and Jay just hurls it downfield every few plays in the hope that something is going to happen. This is almost never planned, as I don't think Trestman has called a pass longer than six yards since the Niners game.

Matt Forte, of course, continues to be one of the best Goddamn running backs in the NFL, and it somehow counts for less every week.

The defense, so surprisingly stout in some of their early contests, is right back to form. Zones so soft receivers can sleep in them, missed tackles, lethargic pass rushing from everyone but Willie Young... we've got it all right here folks.

Shit, this is the article I said we weren't going to write. "Bears still bad" isn't much of a story, I said. But I miss them. I miss you. God damn it Bears, I wish I knew how to quit you.

This is the joke I was making.
You might say there's kind-of exciting drama in the fact that Jim Harbaugh is apparently up for trade, but you know we're not even going to look twice. We like our guy. Give him more time. Despite the fact that the team has performed worse each season of his career and the one thing he was brought to town to fix is as bad as it ever was during Lovie's day, we have to be patient.

And maybe we do, but right now it would be nice to even put on a show of considering your options. Because as far as I can tell, this is who we're going to be next year, too. And when our free agents come up, and our guys who are retirement age are thinking about Miami, they'll be weighing their decision against a team that is literally sucking the life force out of everyone involved.

It seems scary and early to be throwing around the term "rebuilding phase," but I can't help but feel like that's where we are. There are two real years left in the Cutler contract, and unless he wins a title I have a hard time believing that option gets picked up. Matt Forte can't do this forever. Marshall is also on the wrong side of 30, and he's currently on pace for his first sub-1,000-yard season since he was a rookie.

There's young talent here, but not nearly enough to expect any kind of resurgence when the Old Guard moves on.

If only there were a coach who had proven adept at taking teams bogged down with bad-to-mediocre seasons and turning them into contenders. Shit, I'd settle for "respectable" or even "not a total shitpile" right now. Hey what's that Harbaugh guy doing? Sure would be nice to take a look at a guy like that.

And I'll take to my grave that this is a coaching thing. 53 grown-ass men don't all get worse at their jobs on the same day by coincidence. It's hard to blame the GM when a healthy number of his acquisitions have done well for most of their time here.

Is it Trestman? Is it Tucker? Is it a curse cast by the homeless man who was sleeping under the team bus when it so rudely departed during a rainstorm? I don't know. And I hate being this guy, but like... wouldn't it be nice to at least feel like there's a bit of a fire under their asses?

I know the reason we fired Lovie wasn't his record that season, but we did just fire a guy who went 10-6 and had almost never fielded a truly bad team. If you bring in a guy and he does worse, you could at least growl a little when you pass him in the hallway.

Anyway, I don't really have anything to say here except "The Bears still appear to suck." I just miss you all. How's everybody doing? Had a good Thanksgiving? Mine was pretty quiet.

We three will be united in the physical world this weekend, and I imagine we will spend all of it pretending football doesn't exist. The Hawks are coming off a very successful road trip, we could talk about them. I have a lot to say about that Star Wars trailer if anybody is interested in that?

You did this to me, Chicago Bears. You've robbed me of my wit, my sparkle, my very dignity. Just give me a headline that says "Bears In Talks Over Harbaugh," I don't even care if it's a rumor based on a memo found in the garbage. Just... please, give me something here. You've got me reading Morrissey.

God damn you.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Bears 23, Patriots fif... holy shit, 51: Sucker Bet

Pack it up, boys and girls, that was the season. Playoff hopes may have died last week against Miami, but yesterday was the Bears' last chance to convince me that there was going to be anything good to take away from this year. There's no more "Well, they could go on a winning streak," no more "work out their issues and finish strong."

This was the game to convince me not to just toss this season in the trash. A road game against a strong opponent, something the Bears had been inexplicably good at to this point in the season. Instead they gave up 51 points and managed to score just one touchdown while they actually had a chance to stay in it. Sure, they ended up putting up 23 points (which is still terrible); but once it's 45-7 I doubt they're really trying super hard to stop you from putting a couple away in garbage time.

I'm not gonna do good, bad, ugly because that's Kyle's thing, and almost everyone would be "ugly" anyway.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Season Two, Episode 17: THE HATENING

In keeping with this week's theme, Kyle and I spent about 40 minutes just personally insulting every player and coach in the Bears organization. Enjoy our shameful rage.



Download this episode (right click and save)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

I am Rick Morrissey. We are all Rick Morrissey.


After Sunday’s baffling, embarrassing loss to the Dolphins, reports surfaced of shouting from the Bears locker room. Of fingers pointed, fans griped at, and voices raised.

The confusing thing to me is that people are acting like that’s a bad thing. That it’s unwarranted. Because you know what? They should be mad. I’m mad.

Ever year, I get excited in the months leading up to the season. Every year, they make just enough moves to make it look like they’ve solved their problems. And every year, every Goddamn year, this doomed, underperforming shitpile of a team finds a new way to be just good enough to get my hopes up.

So yes, boys, point fingers. There’s blame enough to go around, because damn near every one of you fucked up on Sunday. Just put Ratliff, Willie and Forte in the other room and let it all out.