Chicago Bears: Once more unto the breach, dear friends

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Chicago Bears fans are once again running for the cliff of optimism. It’s like we’ve seen this before in another part of town.

Here’s something you don’t really think about whenever Chicago Bears season rolls around — as if it ever stops in this town. Some would argue it’s been permanently stopped since at least 2006 as well, and I don’t argue. But, basically, to a majority of Bears fans, they’re the same as the Cubs were before 2016.

While the Bears themselves have never bothered to recognize this — it’s hard to do when you’re searching for a consulting firm to tell you which plumber you should hire to redo the office bathrooms — and some fans remain oblivious. Bears fandom is something you have endured and/or mourned for a good two decades now.

1985 becomes more and more something for those who have to carry an oxygen tank around. No, they’re not that old but preferred diets have left them aging ahead of the curve and aggressively so. Me, I was in kindergarten. I don’t remember it. I couldn’t read or write, and clearly not much has changed in the intervening time.

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It doesn’t mean anything to me. And it doesn’t mean anything to really anyone I know. For a bigger and bigger percentage of Bears fans, “1985” might as well be “1908.” Especially in the NFL, where wins and championships are spread around like the rich kid’s joint. You’re supposed to be able to just stand still and it’ll just end up in your hands. And yet the Bears are down there with the Bengals and Browns, who keep ending up with the roach in their laps.

In my Bears fan life, just shy of 30 years we’ll call it, I’ve seen six playoff wins. That’s one every five years. Two of those came in the Super Bowl year, and one came over a team that wasn’t over .500. I’m among a generation of fans whose defining moment was the ultimate failure, losing to the Packers at home in the playoffs. I have only known disappointment, confusion and parody in that time, but for brief snippets of the sunlight.

The Bears’ record in that time is no better than the Cubs’ was, and it may well be worse. There have only been two close calls. The 2006 season and 2010. And they weren’t even that close, in reality. What’s galling, if you take the time to think about it which you should definitely not do if you value stability, is how much time they’ve wasted.

They’ve only been over .500 in six of the past 16 seasons. Again, this is the NFL, where if you maintain even the minimum amount of oxygen-intake for just three seasons or so, a +.500 season will hit you in the head like an icicle falling off a building. And the Bears haven’t even managed that.

And we Bears fans, we keep going back much like Cubs fans did. We knew that watching Shane Matthews, Jim Miller, Cade McNown or Chad Hutchinson thrash about like they’d been fish-hooked in the eye was pointless, but we did it anyway. The overworked running backs who had body parts turned into dust. The procession of offensive linemen doing an impression of a concierge. The safeties that you sure were the right-fielder with the glove on his head from Little League.

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Every Sunday we tuned in, knew what would happen, would still be aghast when it did, and then wonder why we did it in the first place and why we’d never really “love” in the traditional sense. We’ve had 25 years of this.

And there’s always hope. We hoped when Brian Urlacher arrived, or at least when Dick Jauron actually would get him on the field. We hoped when Lovie Smith arrived and that first year you were like, “Wow, that defense is fast.”

We hoped after a couple Rex Grossman passes in the preseason, telling ourselves it was a genuine NFL arm while willfully ignoring that it wasn’t NFL feet, NFL brain or NFL height for said brain. We hoped when Jay Cutler arrived. Every time, we thought (or tried to convince ourselves) that the years in the NFL bog were over. We had paid, and here was our reward. And every time, it was back to the swamp and our shack therein.

And here we are again. A new coach with an innovative playbook (heard it before, Marc Trestman). A productive offseason with nifty free agent signings and draft picks to get excited about … assuming he ever signs. What appears to be a plan, with a coach and GM in harmony. If nothing else, you tell yourself, it’s “interesting.” It’s worth watching. No Sundays in the abyss, where far too many have been tossed to never reclaim. At least there’s a story here, we keep saying.

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It all starts again tonight, really. They’ll at least be on the field for a brief moment. At this point, we should know better. But hey, there’s really not much else to do on Sundays.