OFF WITH YOU ME LAD, AND BE LIVELY

 

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It seems like every year I go through this futile exercise of rooting against the Patriots only to find that they are again on the verge of yet another championship and begrudgingly admit they’re probably the best of all time.

It’s like complaining because the sky is too big, or that there are too many waves in the ocean.

The Patriots are like the Bailey Brothers in “It’s a Wonderful Life”. You just can’t keep them down.

Maybe it’s the rest of the world that is the scrooge of Mr. Potter trying to stop them. 

Or maybe the world never did stop them and is with George and his Angel, Clarence at Nick’s getting loaded. “Mulled wine, heavy on the cinnamon, light on the clove——off with you me lad and be lively.”

One thing for sure is that the whole world has gotten so tired of watching them, like they’re almost forced to. No matter how beautiful and uniquely Frank Capraian or Bill Belichickian, and no matter how much they’re a cut above the rest. 

Most everyone finds themselves at some point rooting for the bad guys, even when or especially when the same good guys are winning all the time.

Don’t get me wrong, I really do love it when the good guys win. It’s just hard when you want to see somebody else take the reins.

What did Barack Obama say to console all the petrified Democrats when Donald Trump became president? Something about people wanting that new car, and that new car smell?

Anyone that gets too high, like Dr. Seuss’s Yertle the Turtle, there seems to be a very human urge to knock them down and give somebody else a chance the climb up.

Businesses are constantly doing this, knocking each other over and reinventing themselves. The flow of our entire world economy cannot be afraid of that sometimes rather intimidating voice telling you you absolutely must change.

If you talk to poets you’ll find that they’re trying to say something that nobody else has said yet. If 99 out of 100 people use the word cute to describe a baby, a poet might use the word, exe—cute, and use it in such a way to make the baby better than all of the cutes put together.

So all this got me thinking about everything that will be happening on Super Bowl that is way better than the New England Patriots.

5) Most people wake up Super Bowl morning and have a Super Bowl Breakfast and I am no exception. Eggs, sausage, potatoes, cheese, english muffin and cream cheese, all covered with chives. I guarantee Tom Brady won’t be eating anything nearly as good. Maybe when he retires. When is that going to be exactly?

4) While making the big breakfast I have a kitty that watches everything I do like he was the student and I was the professor, copiously taking notes and when its all done he comes up after class and asks for some kind of extra credit. Whether I give it to him or not, it shows real dedication. Way more than all those Super Spoiled East Coast Yakety Yaks. I mean really how hard is it to follow a team that is always winning? Find me the fans that follow when your team loses. That is the fan you go to the bank with. 

3) A lot of people have a Sunday routine, Super Bowl or otherwise. Coffee, Sunday Papers, get out the iPhone read about what’s going on in the world. Those with families do family things. I am a writer and so I have writing projects that I’m always engaged in. Whether it’s Super Bowl Sunday or New Year’s Day I am writing, and it will be this way until the day I die. Because of it I feel I am the luckiest person in the world despite all my handicaps and shortcomings. I’ll take all my problems over all that New England pomp and circumstance any day.

2) Sunday drivers. My dad always hated them. A slower more deliberate Sunday driver that slows the whole flow wouldn’t be a Sunday without them. Since the Patriots do have a reputation for cheating, maybe the Super Bowl Sunday Drivers could organize something to slow the team traveling from their hotels to Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta for the game. Uber, wherefore art thou?

1) Most people on Super Bowl Sunday have snacks that they are preparing. Since I’m watching the game alone I won’t be doing anything extravagant. Cheese and crackers, chip and dip, pizza and wings, cheeseburgers, something easy. Maybe three green olives and a very weak martini. I will be having something special, but nothing to fancy. 

When my beloved Chicago Bears were in the Super Bowl all those years ago I got one of my best friends at the time to drive me 3 hours away from school to where my family lived and was going to be watching the game, and I proceeded to watch every bit of pre game show that the networks would allow. But this game? No way. The game starts at 5:30 so I’ll start watching maybe at 5. 

But even though I’m complaining, I’m really not. Even though I really did think the Bears had a shot of making it to the Super Bowl this year, the fact that they got closer than they have in 8 years is worth celebrating.

Also, one last thing to keep in mind. Even though most every other civilized country has some kind of Super Bowl like event that it celebrates, right now we got the Super Bowl, and that makes us the luckiest people in the brief history of the planet, ever, New England or not.

 

THINKING FOR YOURSELF

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“Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?”

Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

 

When you look at what the Bears could be and what they are, it’s a lot like the student who shows all kinds of promise but still keeps getting C pluses.

I know because that once was me. I always went to class. I took notes. I did homework. I talked in class. I read the book/poem only once, and when I got my paper back it was always just a little above average. 

I’d look at papers of students with jealousy at their A’s and A minuses. I was easily as bright as them and wanted to be that good but I wasn’t. Eventually I turned it around but it wasn’t easy, and it definitely wasn’t handed to me or done for me. So what changed?

Well, the first thing I think was I tried to have an original idea about the subject. To think outside the box. A lot of teachers don’t want you to simply regurgitate what is being talked about in class. They want you to think for yourself. I think NFL coaches might feel the same way.

I started to read through the material more than once. Sometimes I had to read through it several times before something would then come to me. It might’ve come from another piece the author wrote. It might come from a hint of something else. A perception, a feeling, a shape, a smell.

It helps also to have a sense of history, too. History about the subject and the author. History about where in time and place it’s happening. A knowledge of history maybe repeating itself. Often subjects that are  tangentially related can also help tremendously. Like if I’m writing a paper about free verse I might bring up the subject of jazz, as an example. I might write my whole paper about it.

I began to turn it around when I began to interpret the story or poem for myself, and develop arguments that sought to assertively prove and disprove my theories. It helps to know your weaknesses too, on the football field and in English class.

I also began to turn it around when I wanted to say something I didn’t think anybody else would want to say. Call it that thing that makes you special. Makes you stick out. Something extra. Something that almost shocks the reader’s sense and sensibilities. Something to wrestle with. Something to discover. 

I think the same might hold true for these Bears.

If the NFL is a poem, and I think it most certainly and emphatically is, then what about it is inspiring you to perform at your best and/or at your worst. In essence, how do you perceive the game you play, and what is your take on how you fit in?

One thing that sticks out to me about this team that isn’t true for other Bear teams for many years now is that they seem comfortable in the hurry up and get points back quickly when they do. When the QB doesn’t have to spend those extra mili-seconds deciding. When it’s quick and easy. 

I remember John Madden being asked why a team that hasn’t been able to move the ball at all, once they get into a hurry up all of the sudden are able to march down the field and score. It happens almost in every game, all the time. Why is that?

His answer was very telling to me, he essentially said he didn’t know. John Madden. Didn’t know. All NFL. All Madden. All everything. Professor Emeritus of the NFL. Didn’t know. 

But then he would also give several ideas before, during and after the game that would answer the question he said he didn’t know.

I don’t remember him saying these points, per se, but I do think I learned them from him, as much as from my own watching of the games.

One—-An offense that is challenging the field vertically makes the defense play tentative and back on its heels. Conversely, a defense that pressures the QB makes an offense play back on its heels as well.

Two—The offense always has the advantage because only they know where they are going and thus can fool the defenders into thinking they’re going to one place when they’re really going to another.

Three—-An offense can pick on the weaker defenders that aren’t as good and exploit the defense. The offense can do this forever until the defense discovers how to solve this problem.

Four—A team that is marching down the field makes the defense tired and forced to play substitutes.

Five—-It’s an easier game of pitch and catch when the quarterback just makes his reads and hits the open guy, or dumps it off or throws it away when nobody is open. 

Six—It’s an easier and more relaxed game for the QB when he isn’t being hit by defenders all the time. 

Seven—-Football is a game of momentum. When you use it more to your advantage you have a better chance at winning.

I get the feeling that Matt Nagy might start going to the hurry up more often. Scoring is always a great way to lift the team up.

My read on the Patriots game was that Mitchell Trubisky in addition to being inaccurate was also forcing a lot of throws. Maybe he needs to play a more gut and feel game as opposed to a mind and read game. Maybe he needs to think less about the game to be more in it.

That’s how I see it. I see them like the student that’s trying to figure out why they’re not doing better. 

One last thing. I also found that going to see the teacher about the very problem I was having was a really good idea. Particularly if you came to the teacher and showed them you were thinking about the subject and presented them with your thoughts, rather than just asking for the answer and wanting the better grade. Often they were not like they were in class. The good ones were appreciative of your concern. They tried to work with and help you generate new ideas or think in fresher ways about old ones. They really wanted you to succeed.

Maybe the key to the Bears isn’t in any of the film or stats or lessons being taught from the coaches. Maybe the keys are found elsewhere. Maybe the keys can be found with individual perspective.

SO HOW GOOD ARE YOU, REALLY?

 

 

 

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I know the Bears game against Miami is lingering a lot like that pepper you don’t see hiding in the huge realm of the pot, and before you know it you’re Homer Simpson out in the desert talking to coyotes that sound a awful lot like Johnny Cash. 

I know 4-1 feels a lot bigger than 3-2, and 5-1 is a mountain compared to 3-3, but they are where they are. The beauty of a spirit quest is that it doesn’t matter what your record is, and it can start at any time.

I mean they could be 5-0 easy. Nobody has really dominated them. Not for 60 minutes. Not even for 30. But now New England comes in with all their bluster and the ridiculousness of their last 18 years and how good they’ve been and how good they still are. We’ll see right away where this Bear team stacks up.

The Patriots have that effect on teams. They make all the great teams look ordinary and the ordinary teams look bad. The last time they came to Chicago it was snowing and beautiful and cold and they beat a Bears team that made the Conference Championship by 29 points. That year was the last year the Bears were in the playoffs. 2010.

Something feels different about this Chicago team, though. Something tells me Matt Nagy isn’t going to sit on the ball and hope a 53 yard field wins the game for him. Something tells me he knows that against the Patriots you have to keep scoring. 

I’ve heard many people equate Tom Brady to Micheal Jordan and that seems fair. Even when Jordan and Co weren’t playing well they were always within reach, and Bill Belichick does what Phil Jackson always did, he keeps attacking even when it might look like they have a comfortable lead. They keep bringing it no matter what.

The Patriots are such a great test for this team right now. It’s the kind of game you dream about playing when you were a kid. If you wanna win the whole thing, you gotta pay the man and beat the best. 

No doubt Khalil Mack needs a big game. So does Trubisky. No excuses. No turnovers in the other team’s end zone. No giving up the big plays at the end of the game. No mental mistakes. 

If they can pressure Brady and if their offense can keep scoring, why can’t they win? Make the old G.O.A.T. wish he was back in the barn with the horses talking about how he left the game at the just the right time.

I always thought that football more than all the other games hinges on being able to harness the right kind of emotions to your advantage. Bravery, fearlessness, an edgy attitude, enthusiasm on the positive side, and apprehension, grief, frustration, misplaced anger on the negative side.

Brady is only about the positive. I can’t remember the last time I saw him frustrated. It doesn’t mean that it can’t happen, though. Even when he’s losing he’s always real cool. What an amazing, amazing talent. He’s so galaxies ahead of everybody else. What a privilege to go up against him. 

Remember what Lombardi said, “if you got any spunk in you at all you’re going to try to be the best at your job whatever it is.”

So how good are you, really?

Bears 28—Patriots 27

Keep Taking Baby Steps

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I know you want sexy. That you want that 15 to 19 yard pass play in the middle of the field hitting the tight end in stride on a skinny post and marching like the Patriots with a potent offense threatening to score every time you touch the ball.

I know that’s what you want and if you were paying attention after the second Bears touchdown where they marched down the field with short passes and runs you saw Matt Nagy whispering into Mitch Trubisky’s ear before commercial.

That right there is why I feel good about this team. The fact that Nagy knows what it’s like to be QB1 and the fact that Trubisky is humble enough to want to learn is all reason for hope.

Yes Trubisky threw two picks and made some really bad decisions. Yes they might’ve tried to stretch the field a bit too far. Yes they probably need to run a little bit more.

I’d like to see Cohen and Howard get more touches. Cohen particularly. Give him a chance to bust it wide open because the guy has all sorts of talent. 

It would’ve been nice to see the Bears blow that team out. Maybe they’re learning how to do that.

And what about that defense? Six sacks in a game?! It only seems logical to me that all that pressure on the quarterback is going to give those corners a great chance for more picks. Will they step up?

And Mack? My goodness! Yet another great Bear defender in the Bear tradition of great defenses. 

I’m glad they got their night games over with. A night game is more pressure on a young qb than a day game and if he’s already doing this well in prime time, what might he be?

An 83 qb rating while still throwing two picks is impressive. Why can’t he get better?

I know to be December relevant would be a dream. So let us just keep it there for now and in the mean time keep taking baby steps.