Has the haze of the dream subsided? Does everything feel all too surreal while simultaneously meaningful beyond comparison?
With one fell swoop, years and years of pain were washed away for Chicago Cubs fans on Wednesday night. Just like that.
With one snap of the finger.
Well, not one snap.
If it was that easy, the Cubs would have won a championship long ago. But the thing about sports is, you don’t dictate your fortune. You don’t get to pick and choose. You merely take the proper steps and hope luck as well a general vision come through for you in the end. We’re forever at the mercy of unpredictability and unrelenting tension. We watch for decades on end for a glimpse of a few faint moments, spending the rest of that time endlessly debating the qualifications of people we’ve never met in our lives, to bring us another one of those special moments.
It’s a short period where we’re united with everyone and everything we love. These things are deep seeded among sports fans and even families.
There’s anger. There are tears. There’s frustration. And sometimes, we step away, until we see a semblance of progress, which is okay too. You can’t define how someone chooses to be a fan.
It took five years of meticulous and incredibly detailed planning in combination with fortune, to conclude the last great American sports story. How the Cubs organization built it’s once in a century team with patience should be admired and revered all the same. To be etched in sports legend, you better grab your own carving tools and bunker down.
No, it didn’t take the minute snap of a finger to build these Cubs.
And that ideal applies to these Chicago Bears as well.
It didn’t take one snap for three decades of futility for the Bears to come into sole possession of Chicago sports embarrassment, humiliation, and the new seemingly never-ending emotional cycle. It took dozens of failed quarterbacks, draft picks, inopportune injuries, and all while under a less than watchful eye of several general managers hired by ownership lacking direction.
Yes, football’s proposed Mecca in the Bears now owns Chicago’s longest professional sports championship drought. As sobering as it is to ponder, since the Bears last enjoyed any semblance of glory, we’ve been through two separate dynasties in two separate sports with the Bulls and recent Blackhawks. And now, with the Cubs finally winning to join their fellow Chicago baseball formerly downtrodden White Sox, the Bears stand alone.
A bullseye of thirty years right at the forefront.
Do you remember Devin Hester’s kickoff return touchdown to start Super Bowl XLI?
The euphoric feeling of beginning to let the ‘85 Bears finally go by the wayside. Finally another legendary team to forever dream of and tell your loved ones about. Unwavering confidence, belief, and happiness. Nothing supposedly could’ve or even should’ve derailed that train. This was a coronation, not another footnote in another team’s history like the Colts.
And yet, here we are. Blame Rex Grossman, Cedric Benson, or the loss of Tommie Harris and Mike Brown, on the defeat, it doesn’t matter. They all played a part, but it does no one favors to dwell, regardless of the reason.
That was 10 years ago.
Chicago has made the playoffs just once since. The opposite of a marvel of success. That one appearance in 2010, culminated in a loss beyond all reproach to a hated rival at home with a chance to go to the Super Bowl, so it’s difficult to remember the season fondly while looking back.
Since 1992, the unremarkable conclusion to the Ditka era- whether you believe he’s overrated or not- the Bears have had a playoff berth five times out of an astonishing 24 seasons. They’re even on a five year playoff drought, barring talk of any championships. Of course, this isn’t including what could happen in 2016, but a current 2-6 record, makes it highly unlikely the Bears reverse course barring a magical and welcomed second half run.
These have been dire times on the lakefront indeed.
But, as the Cubs proved, that humiliation doesn’t last. Curses too, they aren’t real, just rationalizations for what went wrong. Bunker down, and grab some carving tools.
All may seem lost with Chicago’s last and increasingly growing punchline, yet it isn’t. Whatever the detractors will say, there’s hope.
Like Cubs president Theo Epstein- a man who has been carved into sports lore- Bears general manager Ryan Pace has his own plan. It’s drastic to compare the two right now given Epstein’s resume, but it’s not like Pace’s roster movement is off kilter. Injuries to key positions have derailed the progress on that blueprint in the win and loss column this season, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t on track.
Go on down the line as to what there is to look forward to.
A budding and talented center in Cody Whitehair. A star tailback in the making, hammer of a safety, and potential shutdown corner, all found in the depths of the draft in Jordan Howard, Adrian Amos, and Deiondre’ Hall, respectively. Growing un-drafted building blocks in Cameron Meredith, Bryce Callahan, and Cre’Von LeBlanc. A stalwart nose tackle in Eddie Goldman working in tandem with a pass rushing athletic dynamo becoming more confident and able by the day in Leonard Floyd.
Then, rattle off free agent acquisitions, from Josh Sitton, Pernell McPhee, Akiem Hicks and Eddie Royal, to Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan. This isn’t even including the young Kevin White- who while he has his development on hold with injury- is still an option at contributing for contention. The talent influx to go with some of the men from previously maligned regimes like Kyle Long, Alshon Jeffery, and Kyle Fuller, all demonstrates misconstrued aspects of a lack of depth or quality.
All of the surrounding negativity- while sometimes justified- has been drastically overstated while made inherently painful to not see results immediately come to fruition. But make no mistake. These Bears are being built to win consistently, and soon. A few more pieces such as a ballhawk safety and or a right tackle, and this is a roster that’s one of the most complete in the NFC.
Pace, the young man with a vision and model of his own. The man tasked with making the Bears consistently relevant again. Something so many have failed at before. And, while criticized, he’s done well to begin to take this team away from being the laughingstock it’s evolved into. These Bears are right on the cusp.
Think about it.
What’s another year or two to experience the complete feeling of that legendary Hester return? There’s a missing puzzle piece. Someone scrambled the tape. A director’s cut that we won’t have access to until the Bears allow us to. But you’d be remiss to say there isn’t a hunger to play it through your mind mind all the more greater after seeing the Cubs of all teams, finally break through their wall of suffering.
The Bears are the new emblem of Chicago sports failure, but perhaps, only for now. There’s hope and there’s reason to believe. It’s about engraving new history yet again.
If 108 years can be erased, a little more than 30, well, doesn’t seem so daunting anymore.
Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for the Rock River Times and is a staff writer for Windy City Gridiron and Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.