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Week Four Game Preview, Volume II: Nagy Rebound Effect, Trib’s Pearson on Arlington Heights & Trying to Predict the Unpredictable

| October 1st, 2021


Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears. 

And I’ll say this about the 2021 Bears…they’re interesting! The coach might be nuts. The quarterbacks may stage a mutiny. The GM may be in witness protection.

Who the hell knows what football team is going to show up on Sunday?


The Nagy Rebound Effect

The first major hiccup of the Matt Nagy era in Chicago was the 2019 opener. The Bears were lifeless on offense against the Green Bay Packers, the quarterback was horrible, and the team lost 10-3 at home. How did they rebound from that effort? They won their next three games, two on the road, by a combined score of 62-35.

The next significant hiccup (light term) of the Nagy era came at the tail end of a six-game losing streak in 2020. After being blown out by the Packers at Lambeau, the Bears collapsed against the Detroit Lions to fall to 5-7. Many, including this space, called for Nagy’s firing. How did the team rebound? They won their next three games, scored a million points, and found themselves in the postseason. (You can bring up the opponents here if you like but the results are the results.)

Like it or not, the Bears have rebounded from the shakiest moments of Nagy’s tenure. And one can argue there has been no shakier moment than Sunday in Cleveland. Will they rebound again?


Arlington Heights: Three Questions with the Tribune’s Rick Pearson

Rick Pearson is one of the country’s finest political journalists. He is also one of my favorite people on the earth. Follow him on Twitter – @Rap30

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DBB: You suggested in your Tweet there’d be no interest in using city money to keep the Bears in Chicago proper. So if George and Ted went to the city and said, “We need X amount for renovations and improvements and we’ll stay three more decades” does the city see no value in making that happen? Or is the money just not there?

RP: Those TV establishing shots of Soldier Field on a warm spring day over Lake Michigan look very enticing and perfect for a post card. But the state and city have a heavy postage due bill. If George and Ted came to the city and state and listed their desired improvements, they would be listened to. But the only real answer for the team in the way the modern-day NFL operates is a new stadium. Soldier Field has been renovated as far as it can be without being torn down—an unlikely situation for a historic war memorial even though its 2006 renovation stripped it of its national landmark status. The stadium’s historic colonnades prevent the sidelines from being widened to add new seats to the smallest gridiron in the league.  Neither the state nor city has the money or the appetite for a new multi-billion dollar stadium—either in Chicago or in Arlington Heights. More than $430 million in debt is outstanding on the renovation that created the current Soldier Field, paid largely through hotel taxes, and the agency that issued the bonds is at junk-bond credit status.

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DBB: Nobody builds these new buildings without taxpayer money. That conversation is coming. How will it be received? Do you think it can be avoided?

RP: As I said, there is very little appetite for public financing for a brand new stadium. In fact, there’s resentment that the Bears would likely leave before the latest bonds have been paid off, coinciding with the team’s lease through 2033. A new stadium in Arlington Heights would get minimal public funding for things like roads and sewer, similar to what the privately owned United Center got on the West Side. But Arlington Heights and its 326 acres provide the Bears with several funding opportunities. They can link up with a private developer to create retail and even residential opportunities. The NFL has a loan program for new stadiums and the Bears, as a founding member of the league, would likely get favorable terms. In addition, a domed stadium also would provide new year-round opportunities for revenue. And the team wouldn’t have to split some of its revenues with the Chicago Park District, its current leaseholder, and would be able to sell naming rights. Then add the prospect of a sportsbook on game days, which is something the Bears clearly want and haven’t been able to get.

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DBB: What do you think it will mean to the city – specifically that area of the city – to lose the Bears to the burbs?

RP: The South Loop, where Soldier Field is located, is among the fastest growing areas of the city and can withstand the loss of 10 or so events. Soldier Field would still exist for Chicago Fire soccer, admittedly less of a draw than the Bears, as well as a home for international soccer matches which, when Mexico plays, have filled the stadium. Soldier Field also would continue to be a place for major outdoor concerts. The team’s fan base is strong in the suburbs and while traffic to Arlington Heights might get bad, it was always worse trying to get to and park at Soldier Field on game days. And hey, regardless of a move to the suburbs, they’ll always be the Chicago Bears—and the eyes of all Chicagoland will be on them every time they play.


Stats of the Week

  • The Lions have played the Niners, Packers and Ravens in this early stretch of the season and they are gaining 162 yards per game more than the Bears. (Sunday, of course, swayed these numbers against the Bears but Sunday did, in fact, count.) When you look at these two offensive rosters, that seems inconceivable.

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Three Questions with a Bears Fan, Episode III: Rick Pearson of the Chicago Tribune

| March 16th, 2020

Reverend Dave and I first met Rick Pearson at the Billy Goat Tavern a bunch of years ago. Now, he’s family. He’s also one of the best political journalists in this country. He covers Chicago the way it demands to be covered. He’s dogged. He’s dubious. He’s one hell of a writer. But fuck all that. He introduced me to my favorite meal in the entire city: Nanna’s Gravy at Cafe Bionda in the South Loop. And that’s what matters.

Here’s Rick.


DBB: I’m surprised I’ve never asked you this during a Billy Goat session, but where did you watch the Bears win the Super Bowl? What was that experience like in Chicago?

Pearson: Ah, but I wasn’t in Chicago then. I was the political editor of the Rockford Register Star, a city about 90 miles northwest of Chicago and a place with a large number of Green Bay Packer fans, given its proximity to the Wisconsin border.

That, of course, gave me a chance to gloat about everything Bears, everything Chicago and I celebrated by hosting a chili party. For someone who grew up during the Gale Sayers, Jack Concannon and Bobby Douglass era (when under Douglass the Bears’ greatest offense threat was pass interference by the other team), I wasn’t sure that I would see such a glorious team, a team for the ages that could back up its swagger on the field. And it was finally a chance to enjoy the success that the friendly(???) neighbors up north often enjoyed.


DBB: You are one of the best political journalists in the country. (Yea, I said it.) But we’re entering a dangerous period for American journalism. Hedge fund takeovers of newspapers. The Athletic buying up sports writers. What do you tell the 22 year-old journalism major at Northwestern or Loyola when they ask you for career advice? Where should they go?

Pearson: I appreciate your confidence but there are several others in political journalism that I look up to and from whom I’ve learned and offered respect. But yes, we are in a tumultuous time for newspapers and journalism as a whole and I do not know where it will lead.

It was difficult attending a Bernie Sanders rally in Grant Park the other day when one of the earlier speakers, a local university professor, brought up the Chicago Tribune as endangered by hedge-fund ownership. I didn’t expect my paper to become part of a rally for a democratic socialist, especially with the long history of the Tribune and its editorial board support for Republicans.

So what do I tell the journalism major? It’s been something I’ve been doing for the last decade. First, the rules of journalism are the same no matter where you are—print, broadcast, photo, video, blog, Twitter, podcast, you name it. You write the truth, you write the facts, you write what you know, you don’t embellish and if you can, you provide the “why.”

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Week 14: Cowboys at Bears Game Preview & Poem

| December 4th, 2019


Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears…

…and it would be a big moment for this coach and his program to get this season over .500. I think he does it.


The Game Haiku

I saw Rick Pearson

at the Billy Goat Tavern.

That’s all I recall.


Three Thoughts on the Cowboys

  • After struggling to contain Kenny Golladay a week ago, the Bears could have faced a similar issue with Amari Cooper. But the Cowboys’ best receiver didn’t finish their game on Thanksgiving and, while an MRI revealed no structural damage, he won’t be at full strength should he play. Guard Connor Williams, a really good young player, is done for the year.
    • From head coach Jason Garrett, in a Dallas Morning News story: “Connor has been a good player for us,” Garrett said. “[He] started a lot of games for us last year as a rookie and then came back after his injury, did a good job for us in the playoffs and again has been the established starter at that left guard spot all year long. He’s really grown and developed as a player and done a really good job for us, got bigger and stronger than he was his rookie year, [and] we expected that when we drafted him.”
  • The Cowboys were a solid, if unspectacular defense in 2018, as their coordinator Kris Richard became a name mentioned for several head coaching vacancies. Now his security in Dallas is uncertain, as Dallas has allowed 26 points or more in three of their last four games.
  • Let’s look at how these two teams compare with the big ticket numbers:
    • Both are 6-6.
    • The teams the Cowboys beaten are a combined 18-54. (Really, really bad.)
    • The teams the Bears have beaten are a combined 20-50-2 (Not so good either.)
    • The Cowboys point differential is +74, which tells you they are beating down the bad opponents and losing relatively close affairs (averaging 5.5 point deficit per loss) to better teams.
    • The Bears point differential is +4, which tells you they basically play a coin flip every week.
    • If the season ended today, the Cowboys would host a game on wildcard weekend.

Tweet of the Week (Another Cowboys Thought)

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