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Da Bears

Tailgating at Wembley?

Yes, there’s a lockout and there’s a distinct possibility there will be no football next fall. But if there IS football, the Bears will have a road game in London against Tampa Bay.

This game somehow excites me to no end. Three years, one much smaller mortgage and no children ago, I’d be booking this trip. I don’t know what about the trip excites me. But the idea of a bunch of meatball Bears fans attacking England to eat a ton of sausage, drink copious amounts of beer, and butchering the Queen’s language somehow makes me all warm and fuzzy.

London is a fun, fun city and I suppose it’d simply be a good excuse to go there. Even if I can’t go (and barring lottery winnings or bus parts being deemed the new gold, I can’t), I’m thrilled about it.

I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because the Cubs were losing 7-0 when I lost interest tonight. Who knows?

The curse of the 1985 Bears?

The Marni Yang trial went to the jury today. An hour ago, the jury came back with a guilty verdict for for the murder of Rhoni Reuter and her unborn baby.

But let’s face it, Shaun Gayle was the one on trial in the public eye. Gayle was no prize, juggling numerous girlfriends (or should we just use the sterile term sex partners?) even while his longtime girlfriend Reuter was pregnant with his daughter.

Yang is a cold, calculating killer, and the real villain. However, Gayle was inviting trouble by continuing a relationship with her.

The past year hasn’t been kind to the 1985 Bears. Sure, Richard Dent was inducted into the Hall of Fame, but otherwise it’s been rough for many other members of such a once-in-a-lifetime team.

Just last month, Dave Duerson committed suicide, troubled by financial troubles, personal issues and possible physical problems brought on by head trauma during his football playing days.

Jim McMahon acknowledged earlier this year that he is experiencing memory loss, probably as a result from the punishment he took as a player.

William Perry was featured in an Outside the Lines episode on ESPN. He’s still stuggling with the effects of Guillame-Barre Syndrome, and even more troubling, alcoholism. This is a sad story for a guy who, by all accounts, has a great heart.

Mike Singletary lost his job as San Francisco 49ers head coach. Even though Leslie Frazier hired him as linebackers coach with Minnesota, Singletary can no longer be considered a rising coaching star.

Wilber Marshall is basically a shut-in in Virginia, collecting disability. He refuses to be photographed as he is allegedly a shadow of his former self when he was a dominant force.

The curse continues. Not only did the core of the 1985 Bears go on to win just two more playoff games after Super Bowl XX, but it’s been rough for other players.

Mike Richardson spent time in prison for drugs. Center Jay Hilgenberg suffered a heart attack before he was 40.

And there was also the tragic story of Walter Payton.

If you’re scoring, that’s eight of 22 starters. Canadian weekly McLean’s suggested there was a curse on the ’85 Bears this week. They didn’t touch on the Marni Yang-Rhoni Reuter-Shaun Gayle tragedy.

Ron Rivera and Leslie Frazier are head coaches, but coaching Carolina (Rivera) and Minnesota (Frazier) might not be prizes. We’ll see.

The Party’s Over?

Timing is everything. And so it goes with the NFL, which locked out the players today. The players de-certified the NFLPA, opening the door for antitrust suits that should linger in the courts for months.

Translation: Don’t count on the NFL season starting on time. The Chicago Bears are counting on my season ticket money coming in on time. Barely two months after the Packers ended the Bears season in the NFC Championship Game, my $3,000 for four season tickets in the very last row of the South End Zone are due. At $75 a ticket, the season tickets have begun to test my threshold. Another increase like that and I might not renew.

The Bears are looking for revenue wherever they can get it, and that’s really the rub of this labor conflict. The players aren’t campaigning for higher pay, better benefits, free agency or anything beyond keeping the status quo. The league is all about trying to maximize revenues by adding games to the schedule and cutting expenses by asking the players to agree to setting the salary cap at a lower percentage of league revenues.

Both sides are going to have to give up something. Expenses probably need to be cut, and revenues are not going to increase much — no matter what the players allow the owners to do.

Sports have been a booming business for the past 40 years now, and I’m afraid the market has crested. It was brewing ever since the credit market meltdown of 2008.  The next decade won’t be kind to any professional or major college sports league, and the changes to the landscape will be sobering. Look for an NBA and NHL team or two to simply suspend operations one year and a few more teams needing to turn to their respective leagues for financial help. The Texas Rangers needed Major League Baseball to bail them out during the dark days of Tom Hicks. Fred Wilpon’s ownership group is in a world of hurt as their cozy connections to Bernie Madoff might make them liable to some of Madoff’s victims. The Mets are looking for an equity partner, and they’re struglling to find one.

To assume revenues will continue to grow at the pace they have since the 1970s is folly. Given the competition out there, even the NFL will find how hard it is to captivate the attention of the viewer. The lockout started today, and sports fans have plenty on their plates: college basketball’s championship week, spring training, NBA and NHL playoff races heating up, and intriguing pro golf tournaments. Pro football won’t be missed until after Labor Day.

Even then, fans will have found ample substitutes to the product. Life will go on without the NFL.

The pie is starting to shrink. Let the real games begin. These will be played in courtrooms and negotiating tables. And in these games, no one wins.

Godspeed, Rex

 

Yes, he had a lot to do with the Bears winning the NFC title in 2006.

In better days...

As David Haugh explains in Thursday’s Tribune, the Rex Grossman era ends tomorrow as he enters free agency.

Plenty of Bears fans will cheer Grossman’s exit from the Bears. I am not one of them.  Grossman did not turn into the next Sid Luckman, but he was cursed by bad luck, a lack of stability and no patience from the fans. Put aside three forgettable games in 2006: a stinker in Arizona, an awful game against Miami, and the meaningless Monday Night game with the Packers, Grossman’s run in 2005 and 2006 was quite good.

Pop quiz: In the playoffs following the 2006 season, who had the better QB efficiency rating – Grossman or Peyton Manning? If you said Peyton Manning, you were wrong.

As Haugh puts it:

Nothing about Grossman’s tortured six-year tenure with the Bears ever was fair, from the rash of injuries that wrecked his progress to his treatment outside Halas Hall.

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The biggest concern going into the Bears’ season

No, it’s not Kyle Orton, nor is it the bad offensive line, nor the uninspired preseason play by the defense. The biggest concern I have centers around the drum corps.

Please make them go away.

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