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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

SKO vs. Telander 4: The Pastening

When the news came out that Brian Urlacher was leaving Chicago, I was sad for a number of reasons. First, a player who had been synonymous with the idea of “Bears Defense” for a decade was leaving us to (maybe) play for someone else.

And second, because nobody at the Sun-Times was flailing around like a lunatic about it. Even Morrissey wrote a sensible, well-measured column about how this was the right decision, no matter how painful it was.

But then, like a light out of the darkness, came Rick Telander. Riding his high, high horse and holding a jar of the finest French paste aloft, he seemed to say, “Fret not, Erik. For just as I prophesied in August that the Bears could, and should, cut Urlacher for maybe having a hurt knee, so too shall I now overreact in the complete fucking opposite direction because I have the short-term memory of an earthworm.”

And lo, Telander did open his mouth, and forth spilled italics.
Try to put a face in the Bears’ helmet, the face of the franchise.

What’s happening here? What are you doing in my house?

Who would it be?

I’m calling the police.

It’s OK if you stumble. This was easy when Brian Urlacher was a Bear, like three days ago. It’s not easy now.

Well, that’s really not fair. I mean, he had to retire eventually, and it’s really not a priority to line up a guy as the “next media face of the franchise.” There are more important things to do here than pander to the media.

Quarterback Jay Cutler?

I guess. If Joe Fucking Flacco can be the face of a franchise, so can Cutler. I still don’t really understand what we’re talking about here.

Still hasn’t won the big game…

Neither has Brian Urlacher. Jesus, Rick, you were just talking about him three lines ago. Have you seriously already for— oh you’re eating paste now. Okay.

… came from the Broncos….

Because no traded player has ever become the face of a franchise and one of the most beloved players in the NFL.

… has the lovability of a porcupine.

Because nobody with multiple homicides on their record has ever become the face of a franchise and one of the most beloved players in the NFL.

Remember how often Cutler has said he doesn’t care what anybody says or thinks about him? You reap what you sow. Might as well spit in the fans’ faces. Blow snot on the media.

Well, that got out of hand pretty fast. It’s things like this that make it so hard for me to take anything these guys write about Cutler seriously. What you wrote was an extremely hyperbolic statement. What I read was “WAAAAAAAAH. JAY CUTLER CRUMPLED UP THE NOTE I SENT HIM ASKING WHETHER HE LIKES ME OR NOT!”

Lance Briggs?

Hell yes. Lance Briggs has been just as much a part of this team as Urlacher for years. If it must be a linebacker, well… it’s not like we only had one.

The outside linebacker has been with the Bears his entire 11 years in the NFL, is a seven-time Pro Bowler, a dynamic presence whose 102 tackles, two interceptions for 110 return yards and two touchdowns last season were pretty darned good stats for a 31-year-old.

They were “pretty darned good stats” for anyone, Rick. Weaving his age into the conversation does nothing for you here.

Briggs had that little car incident a few years back — his sleek 2007 Murcielago ended up demolished on the side of the Edens Expy. at 4 a.m. with Briggs nowhere to be found — but he has been a decent soldier since.

He was a decent soldier then, too. In fact, a car accident has almost nothing to do with the ability to play football so long as you aren’t injured by it.

Still, Briggs is not in the middle of things, and he’s aging. As was Urlacher. Who was unceremoniously dumped.

“The Bears should not have cut Brian Urlacher just because he’s getting old and slow. Who do they replace him with? Briggs? Hell no! That guy’s getting old and slow!”

Brandon Marshall?


We’ll give him major props for harnessing his borderline personality disorder…

Like…to fight crime? I’m not sure “harnessing” is really the appropriate word here.“Controlling” maybe, “overcoming,” sure; but it’s not like he’s juking defenders by asking them for donations to his foundation and then running away while they fumble with their checkbooks.

…for being a tough, fast, big wide receiver who always gets you 1,000 yards. But he’s too new. The Bears are his third team in four years, and it’s hard for a team leader to be the man spread wide, out past the mayhem.

Well I guess that’s fair, but was there really a big section of the fanbase putting Marshall forward as the new face of the Bears?

Who else?

Running back Matt Forte?

Nah. Too quiet.

Devin Hester?

The dude who cried and said he was thinking about retiring? The man who never should have been a wide receiver, just a return specialist, but always wanted more? No way.

Now I feel like you’re just beating up straw men here, Rick. Nobody with an IQ over 100 ever thought Devin Hester was the Future of the Bears, even when he was actually like… accomplishing things.

Kicker Robbie Gould?


Love the guy. But a kicker? As if.

Did you steal the keys to an Elmer’s warehouse again, Rick?

Julius Peppers? No. Charles Tillman? No.

Wait, hold on a second. Why not? Both of those guys are excellent players with years of experience in this system and this town. Hell, Tillman has been a Bear his whole career and just went back-to-back in the Pro Bowl. How did you spend more time on Devin Hester than Charles Tillman?

Tyler Clutts?

Is there a point to this story, or are we just reading a list of names?

Oops, the Clutts-ter’s long gone. Kidding, anyway.

Oh. Oh that was a joke. HAHAHAHAHAHAH fuck you.

So let’s conclude with the obvious: There’s nobody in that Bears helmet. The Bears right now are a team without a clear identity.

Well they just got a new coach and their GM is in his second year, that’s not really surprising.

Not on the field, anyway. Linebacker Nick Roach is gone, and there’s nobody on the roster who could possibly take Urlacher’s Hall of Fame-to-be middle-linebacker spot.

Here we go. People get old, Rick. Aging is a thing that happens to everybody, all the time. I’m aging right now. And loving it. Urlacher is a first-ballot Hall of Famer if I’ve ever seen one, but he sure as shit didn’t look like it this year.

The actual face of the franchise is a hydra-headed one, an image you never really wish for…

Really? That sounds pretty fucking awesome to me.

…but which seems to sprout often in these times when athletes are sanded of their sharp edges, traded at a whim, released any time, when the quality we used to call ‘‘personality’’ is now renamed ‘‘police blotter’’ or ‘‘sociopath.’’

What? Ray Lewis murdered those guys. Tom Brady and Philip Rivers both have what therapists would call abusive relationships with their teammates. Joe Flacco exists. Plenty of players are outspoken, rude or downright mean and play with the same team for years.

The chiseled heads of general manager Phil Emery, coach Marc Trestman and president Ted Phillips —with a hundred McCaskeys peering over their shoulders — are the Bears these days.

Is that… a Mount Rushmore joke?

Anyway, no. Those people own and/or control the team. That’s how football works. The Bears are not the only team in the league with owners. Are you suggesting that the owners shouldn’t have a stake in the direction of the franchise?

Management makes the noise. The suits control all.

Fuckin’ Corporate America, man.

They couldn’t come up with a decent contract for Urlacher because he was old and slow, nostalgia be damned.

You’re taking this really fucking hard for a guy who was suggesting they cut him without a shred of remorse last August. It’s almost like you’re just trying to drum up as much outrage as you can and call it— oh I get it.

‘‘We were unable to reach an agreement with Brian, and both sides have decided to move forward,” Emery said in a statement. “Brian has been an elite player in our league for over a decade. He showed great leadership and helped develop a winning culture over his time with the Bears. . . . Brian will always be welcome as a member of the Bears.”

Pretty much sums it up. They only have so much money to spend, and Urlacher wanted more than his production was worth. I love the guy and I’m sad to see him go, but this was absolutely the right decision.


I love that last sentence:‘‘Brian will always be welcome as a member of the Bears.’’

I do, too, Rick. He may leave and go somewhere else, but nobody is going to remember him as anything other than a Bear. He’ll go into the Hall in orange and blue no matter what happens, and there’s not a Bears fan alive who would change their opinion about him no matter where he plays next.

Demonstrably untrue…

Oh I cut you off while you were being a pedantic asshole. Sorry.

…it should be reworked to, ‘‘Brian will always be welcome as a member of the Bears after he stays away for a few years, quits griping, acknowledges that we are the gods of fate and hobbles back, lame and broken, a retired ballplayer scraping our boots and kissing our butts.’’

Holy shit, Rick. Just… holy shit. You don’t think you might be reading a little bit too much into this routine roster move?

The end.

If only.

That’s how it goes far too often for great players. They somehow morph from heroes into bad guys —turncoats, even — and they are sent off without ceremony or real praise.

I don’t think anyone anywhere is suggesting that Brian Urlacher is a bad guy or a turncoat. He’s an elite athlete who wants to keep playing, and that’s fine, but we don’t have a responsibility to break the franchise’s back to keep him happy while his production sags.

Think of the Chicago sports stars who left the mother ship in anger and sadness: Bobby Hull, Dick Butkus, Mike Ditka, Frank Thomas and, perhaps the saddest of all, Sammy Sosa.

Did you know that Michael Jordan played for the Wizards? Or that he now owns the Bobcats? Or that his father was almost certainly murdered in connection with his horrific gambling debts? Probably, which brings me to my point: professional athletes want to play. They want to compete. They want to do so long after they’re actually in any kind of physical condition to do so at a high level, and eventually the franchise is right to stop paying them like they are.

Alienation comes, and it can only be shattered by time passing, bitterness dulling, apologies flowing and most people forgetting the rancor of the past.

While this is true, I’m not really sure I see why it’s such a bad thing. That’s just how it goes for literally everyone in the Universe. And as far as I know, Brian Urlacher lives in the same Universe as we do.

Even coaches aren’t immune from the upheaval. Doug Collins, Denis Savard, Phil Jackson, Lovie Smith — none of their ends was pretty.

“And I spent many years loudly and openly asking for it to be that way.”

It partly is a function of salary caps and finances and the youthful turnover in all competition.

No, it’s not partly that. It’s entirely that. Urlacher was old and slow, he didn’t do his job, and he’s getting injured more and more often.

But some of it is just coldblooded, knife-in-the-throat, see-ya-later bean-counting and whimsy.

Excuse me, are you suggesting that they cut Brian Motherfucking Urlacher on a whim? Or that they are somehow wrong for not paying him to sit on the bench? This is coming from a man who described Urlacher as a “shiny-headed cheerleader” nine months ago, by the way.

Who’s going to take Urlacher’s place as the locker-room man? Cutler wants to be that guy? Good luck there, Jay.

If he wants to. It seems like the majority of players like and respect Jay, whether the Sun-Times does or not.

Who, in fact, will take Urlacher’s spot on the field, right there where everything happens, at the rugged defensive position so honored by Bill George, Butkus, Mike Singletary and Urlacher himself?

I don’t know, Rick, but I’m guessing they don’t just plan to leave a hole there. I know we’ve had good middle linebackers in the past, but I am sick to fucking death of hearing about how this city needs to be true to its traditions. If there isn’t a 2006 Brian Urlacher available right now, that’s okay. Being true to our traditions got us 28 years of mediocrity.

Surely, Emery has a plan. And if it comes from the impending draft, great. Could it be Manti ‘‘Catfish’’Te’o, the Notre Dame middle linebacker who has been scrutinized and ridiculed beyond the pale? Cleansed of his lying sins and improved on his lateral speed, Te’o is the kind of intense, sincere player that I could see actually leading the Bears for years to come.

“I don’t care what this team needs, we should draft Manti Te’o because he plays middle linebacker and CHICAGO BEARS LINEBACKER FOOTBAW.” Just give it a fucking rest, Rick. People much smarter and considerably less impaired by consumption of rubber cement than you are at the wheel.

But that’s a reach, something that would take time to go from pupal form to adult.

Did you know that you’re the one who said it? Just one sentence ago. That was you. Did you just mock your own statement?You’ll put me out of a job, Rick!

Meanwhile, the helmet with no face reigns.

No it doesn’t. “Face of the franchise” is a totally ceremonial thing. It’s for you, not them. Having a go-to media personality is in no way related to winning the Super Bowl. Just… oh thank God, he fell asleep.


Lee said...

Best sequel ever! You were superb as always, Erik, but someone should give Telander a Razzie for the "script".

Erik said...

Thanks, Lee! And, to a lesser extent, thanks, spambots!

Code Red said...

God damn spambots. I have to clear them out every day. Why, oh why, did Haloscan stop doing the commenting? Not only did we lose all of the comments from the last four freaking years, they had a spamfilter and blogger just doesn't. It's shit.