Last Saturday afternoon I was sitting in Josie Woods, downtown Manhattan, in the same seat, in the same corner I’ll spend a hundred hours this fall.
Above was the same television set, “the Bears TV” which you can at the far end of the image above, now showing a meaningless third-place Gold Cup match between the United States and Panama.
To my left the same ragged, barren wooden shelf which will soon hang the same now-doesn’t-fit-my-thigh Tom Waddle jersey like a championship banner at the Boston Garden.
In my hand was the same pint of Coors Light that has nursed me through Henry Burris and Jim Miller trying to tackle and whatever that was Rex Grossman did in the Super Bowl and The Marion Barber Game and – if I were drinking then – the entire decade of the 1990s.
It’s all felt the same, you see, being a Bears fan. Sure there have been some division titles since January 26th 1986. There have even been seasons almost as exhilarating as a championship run, a la the Mike Brown overtime interception spree of 2001 in the wake of one of our nation’s most trying times.
But it’s all been the same. A quarterback not quite good enough. A coach not quite good enough. A GM not quite good enough. Ownership not quite good enough. When those three elements are consistently subpar in the NFL sustained success, sustained excitement, sustained entertainment is an impossibility.
2014 was not the same. It was worse. Far worse than anything the Bears had previously delivered. They say you have to hit rock bottom as an alcoholic to seek help. Well the 2014 Chicago Bears drank a fifth of whiskey and woke up in the drunk tank after passing out pantless in a schoolyard.
The owner, this new creature called George, seemed to recognize that, firing the football leadership with an “enough is enough” swashbuckle. It was the first courageous move by Bears ownership in my lifetime.
The new GM was not someone who’d spent his younger years in the halls of Halas but a seemingly outside-the-box contender with a visionary approach to building a roster and sustaining an athlete.
And did Ryan Pace do what most young GM’s do when taking over an organization? Did he go with one of his guys and avoid “establishment” coaches? No sir. He went with the most veteran and accomplished man on the market: John Fox. I never believed Wannstedt or Jauron could win a title. I always questioned whether Lovie could win the big one and still don’t believe he can. Trestman…yea. Fox has been there. And the Bears for the first time have hired a head coach who has been a head coach and won as a head coach in a big way.
Off the field, the Bears were not the same. But time will tell if Sundays can be any different. Because same equals boring and boring leads to declining TV ratings, fan interest and stadium attendance. 2015 is about a return to the professional ranks for this Bears organization but it is also about restoring hope in the fanbase; hope that this owner, this GM, this coach and perhaps even this quarterback can bring a title to Chicago.
It doesn’t have to happen in 2015. But in 2015 we have to believe it is possible.