Bears fans, be warned! We are about to embark on a rickety roller coaster ride – this 2010 season – for at least seventeen weeks. There are many possible outcomes, most of which we’ve discussed ad nauseam. The disaster of a 5-11 season, missing the playoffs for the fourth straight year and an overhaul of football operations at Halas Hall. The plodding, mundane nightmare of another campaign hovering around the .500 mark, missing the playoffs for the fourth straight year and an overhaul of football operations at Halas Hall. A solid, respectable ten-win year and early playoff exit, subsequently followed by a city-wide debate over the future of Lovie, Jerry and company. And then there’s always a wonderful winter, confetti and champagne, seas of orange sweeping the American landscape.
The Chicago Bears open with the Detroit Lions of “but it’s the Lions” fame. A loss and a new refrain may be coined, “If they can’t beat the Lions…” The Bears need that win, need to start 1-0 and then need to find a way to split their next four (at Cowboys, home Packers, at Giants and Panthers) before embarking on the easiest three-game stretch of their season (home Seahawks and Redskins, at Bills in Toronto). Anything less than 4-4 after the first half of the year will make playing games in January a tall order.
Never one to succumb to optimism, I am succumbing to optimism. Something about this year – the desperate staff, the lowered expectations, the toy maker/scientist offensive coordinator, smart free agent additions – makes me think the special is coming. What is the special? Double-digit wins. A division title. A trip to the NFC Championship Game. Yes that would cement Jerry and Lovie’s place in Chicago for the next few years. Yes that would probably upset some Bears fans, the ones who seem to enjoy rallying against coaches more than winning football games. But it would also mean that Lovie Smith’s Bears would have won three division titles in the last six years. And no matter how you slice it, that’s pretty good.
Last year the world got on the Bears bandwagon. I did not, thinking the team would need half a year to put things together. This year everybody has leapt off. I’m saddling up and riding. I’m allowing myself to do what I have prohibited myself from doing so many years previous. I am believing in the Chicago Bears. And I think you should too. And if the ship sinks, we’ll each grab a violin and play.