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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.

The Bears are bad. I'm pretty sure the last article I wrote definitively states that this is a shit franchise run by shit people and we've all been kidding ourselves for the last 30 years. But that never stopped me from spending a cumulative 64 hours or so watching actual Bears football games (to say nothing of other teams, reading and writing articles, podcasting, etc) only to end up disappointed.

After last season's complete and utter meltdown, I took it pretty easy this offseason. I didn't really like any of the players except for Matt Forte because he is above reproach in all things. I didn't care about the new administration because it's the most generic coaching staff and style in football. Then I got real mad because they signed Ray McDonald and tried to act like they got points for "thinking long and hard about it" when he immediately beat up his girlfriend again and was indicted for sexual assault. But hey, a multimillionaire shelled out like 500 bucks for a flight to Chicago. What a guy!

After watching the Blackhawks notch their third championship this decade, I started thinking about fandom and what it means. And while it is patently unfair to compare the Bears—or any team for that matter—to the improbable amount of success the Blackhawks have achieved in recent years, the core of the experience should be the same.

Being a fan is something that should be fun once in a while. It should make you feel good, or at least not take your money and then actively make you feel bad for decades on end. If your team isn't winning, they should at least be showing some sign of contrition or progress. They should at least pretend to be likable humans and not 53 people who hate each other and their coaches who all show up in the same clothes on Sunday because they don't get paid otherwise. And if they're gonna do that, they sure as shit shouldn't hire a clearly guilty domestic abuser and then say "Aw shucks" when he beats up his girlfriend on their dime.

Nothing good has happened to Chicago Bears fans since... what, the Brandon Marshall trade? The best thing that's happened to this team since the 2006 defense dragged Grossman to a Super Bowl they had no chance of winning was that we acquired a good wide receiver who helped tear apart the locker room from a studio in New York and then moved there to play for the Jets.

Every year we shuffle a couple pieces around, maybe make a halfhearted effort at "innovation" or whatever, but it never seems to work out any better. And this isn't just a Cutler-Trestman-Fox thing. It was no different under Lovie. I wasn't really old enough to care before his time, but it doesn't take a lot of detective work to see that this team has had two seasons approaching anything like dominance since the Super Bowl team broke up. Which was almost thirty years ago.

Fans of historically shitty franchises are often depicted as these sort of humbly heroic, lunch-pail, salt-of-the-Earth kind of people. Rooting for a bad team is ritual. We're honor-bound to tune in on Sunday and watch a team we know doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of clearing .500 get stomped on by a team that's been through five or six championship rosters since the last time anybody thought we could win a Super Bowl. We gather in poorly lit pubs in the snow and grumble into our cheap beers about grit and toughness and heart and the good old days.

So I tried to get into it again this year. Oh my God, did I try.

I made it through part of week two. I watched the Packers game and thought "You know what, they shouldn't win this game. At least they looked like they knew what they were doing." But it was just a lie I was telling myself. They looked like they knew what they were doing under Lovie, too.

Then the next game, as soon as Jay Cutler threw a shit-stupid interception and injured himself failing hilariously to tackle the guy, I threw my hands up and went to clean the porch. I have better things to do with my time on Sunday than watch this team continue to do the same exact thing over and over and expect a different result.

I love the Chicago Bears. Part of me will always mourn for those few years in the late aughts and early... twenty-teens? We'll work on that later. Anyway, part of me will always mourn the days when I was young and full of hope and it seemed like every year was the year they were gonna turn this whole thing around. But I no longer feel obligated to watch the full duration of a game in which Jimmy Clausen appears. I no longer feel the need to avoid making commitments on Sunday because the Bears game is on. If I'm out of town I don't have to find a sports bar that will have it.

Like anything else you love, there are parts that suck. Sometimes my cat wakes me up at 4:30 a.m. by biting me because he's decided it's time for breakfast, and I shout all manner of curses at him and lock him out of the room until morning. Spouses and significant others have hobbies or interests or friends family members you don't like, but you watch that show or go to dinner with that couple because you love the someone who does like them.

Even though every single person's baby is the cutest most precious sweetest young man in the whole wide world, I would bet that there's not a parent alive who doesn't occasionally think "You know, I almost never used to get pooped on."

This is the part of my relationship with the Chicago Bears where they just keep pooping on me. And every time I think they can't possibly have any more shit in there, a little more comes out. But unlike an actual baby, the 2015 Bears don't do one of those cute little baby smiles that makes you forgive them for whatever horrible smells and sounds they were making earlier. They don't nuzzle up to you when you finally let them back in at a more reasonable hour and apologize for the whole biting thing. They just keep shitting and shitting and shitting.

But also unlike a baby, the Chicago Bears will not die if I take my eye off them for a little while. It won't affect their long-term development if I miss a game or two.

And I no longer feel like it'll somehow cheapen my enthusiasm for their theoretically inevitable next good season if I didn't watch every single snap of every game between now and then. I don't think that suffering through Jimmy Clausen's reign as starting quarterback is the purchase price for entry to the fanbase in 2020 or 2025 or whenever they finally figure out that what they're doing isn't working.

My point, if I have to have one, is that I don't really intend to watch the Bears much this season. I may not next season, either. It makes me angry and frustrated and sad, and expecting this team to give me a different result right now is just insanity. Especially when I could be devoting that energy to watching the Cubs not realize that they're too young to be allowed to do the things they're doing. Or literally any other thing that isn't sitting in the living room and grunting in frustration for three hours every week.

But I missed writing and I missed you all so I wrote all these words about it.


dvxprime said...

Thank you, Eric.

So, what's up with Code Red and Iggins! these days?

Pat said...

We miss you too!