Football has the most schizophrenic fans in sport. The reasons why are (a) there are too few games and (b) there is too much time between them. Baseball fans get to hit the reset button every day. Basketball and hockey fans every couple of days. Soccer fans, especially European ones, never get overemotional about a result because they play a zillion matches. Football fans are only guaranteed 16 games over 17 weeks. Once the season starts, it’s almost over.
Never is that schizophrenia more on display than in the aftermath of Week One. For eight months, we wait. Postseason. Super Bowl. Free agency. Draft. Camps. Preseason. All that time, every moment, leading up to a single contest against a single opponent on a single afternoon (or night). It’s only 1/16 (6.25%) of the regular season campaign, but it just feels like so much more.
Carson Wentz is going to the Hall of Fame.
Alex Smith is the MVP.
Jimmy Garoppolo is going to fetch the Patriots eleven first-round picks.
It isn’t exciting to treat Week One with nuance, especially in Chicago. Nuance don’t get clicks in hashtag hot take culture. But the 2016 Bears require it. Yes, they lost their opener. On the road. To a non-conference opponent, a team that also happened to be one of the league’s five best defenses and a playoff team a year ago.
But anybody who expected the portrait of this young team to be fully painted on opening Sunday was nothing short of delusional. The Bears have some guarantees – Cutler, Alshon, the middle linebackers, the guards – but by conservative estimates the club started about a dozen new players on offense and defense. A dozen.
Sunday asked the questions the Bears will need to answer over the next fifteen games. They weren’t bad against the Texans. They just weren’t good enough. But unlike some of the league’s bottom feeders, the Bears believe many of the answers to those questions are actually on the roster. Kevin White and Cody Whitehair (as a center) and Leonard Floyd and HJQ won’t be judged on how they performed in Houston. They’ll be judged by how much better they are in Minnesota on New Year’s Day.
And so will the 2016 Bears. Nobody expects this team to compete for a title. And if you do, you’re just not paying attention to the rest of the league. But a fair expectation, a real expectation should be a team that improves weekly, wins games and by the end of the season makes everyone believe they are on the precipice of great things.
Yesterday the Bears led a good team, on the road, in the fourth quarter. It’s not a moral victory. It’s a sign. And the sign reads…Close.