The SPORTS PHILOSOPHER Says: “Sometimes It Can Be a Good Thing When The Bears Lose….Huh???”

January 25, 2011
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      Yeah, the Packers beat the Bears last weekend.   I know.   The score was 21 to 14.   I know.   The hated Packers are going to the Super Bowl and we lovable Bears are not.   Yes, I know.


      But that isn’t the story.

The way they played in the first half, you’d think Rex Grossman was STILL on the Bears

The way they played in the first half, you’d think Rex Grossman was STILL on the Bears



      The Packers were probably a much better team.   In the first quarter and a half they went up and down the field on the vaunted Bears defense like a college team versus a pee wee team.   Makes it all the more amazing that the Bears almost won.   For them to almost come all the way back from 14 points down to the mighty Packers, armed with only their guts and their 3rd-string quarterback, well, it made me proud to be a Bears fan.


      But that isn’t the story.


       Speaking of that 3rd-string quarterback, there will always be a special place in my heart for Caleb Hanie.   He deserved better.   The unknown 25-year-old out of Colorado State University had only thrown a dozen or so passes in his entire pro career before Sunday, yet on Sunday he passed for over 150 yards in the 4th quarter alone, after replacing the Bears’ 2nd-string quarterback Todd Collins (who my brother Jeff charitably characterized as a 39-year-old walking cadaver), Collins having thrown four errant passes in a row while looking both scared stiff and frozen still at the same time, and Hanie might have pulled this game out had not his head coach, Lovie Smith (who proved once again he is the worst in-game coach in pro football) cleverly called a time-out on 3rd-down-and-three deep in Packer territory just as the Bears were commencing a running play that was busting wide open and might have been a touchdown to tie the game.   He panicked.   Smith also gets the blame for having Hanie 3rd on his QB depth chart in the first place, rather than Collins.   He thought Hanie was inferior to Collins.   You know.  The cadaver.


      But even that isn’t the story.


      No, the story is the Bears’ 1st-string quarterback, Jay Cutler.


      How shall I put this….as of today, Jay Cutler is probably the most unpopular human being in Chicago since Mrs. Cate O’Leary, whose now-famous cow kicked over an oil lantern in 1871, starting a fire which burned down the entire town.


      If you are a football fan you know what happened.   First, Cutler played a lousy 1st half.   He was only 6-for-13 passing for 80 yards on the day by intermission.   He had three opportunities to complete a deep ball downfield during the half and missed them all.   And then he got hurt.   Perhaps we’ll never know just how badly he was, is, hurt.   What we do know is that he played just one brief series in the 2nd half, left the game, and never returned.   MRIs the day after the game revealed he sprained his medial collateral ligament.   Not tore, sprained.   I’m sure it was painful.


      But people, this was the NFC Championship game!


      Cutler allowed himself to be replaced by Collins, then trumpeted after the game the age-old football cliché that due to his injury Collins gave the Bears the “best chance to win”.   Best chance to win?   Collins?   You remember Collins.   The cadaver!   Actually, most national sportswriters were more charitable describing Collins’ abilities than my brother Jeff.   They generally used more bland descriptions and phrases, like “Collins is a nice guy, but is no longer fit to play quarterback in the NFL”.   I’m not sure if that’s milder than “cadaver” or not….


      Anyway, this is what, and who, Cutler left Bear Nation with when he did not demand to return to the field.


      Reaction from around the NFL after the game was swift, disbelieving, and ruthless.   Arizona Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell Docket tweeted, “If I’m on the Chicago team Jay Cutler has to wait till me and the team shower, get dressed, and leave before he comes in the locker room!”   Jacksonville running back Maurice Jones-Drew tweeted, “All I’m saying is that he can finish the game on a hurt knee….I played the whole season on one.   Seattle Seahawks defensive end Raheem Brock tweeted—and I promise never to say ‘tweeted’ in a column again— “Cutler….wut a sissy….This is the NFC Championship game! Guaranteed if it was Brett Farve he would still be in the game!”   I guess the angry Brock, whose team Cutler himself torched into defeat last week with two running and two passing touchdowns, can be forgiven in his fit of anger and jealousy for mis-spelling Favre’s quirky name….


      Former players were equally hard on Cutler.   Deion Sanders, who will probably be voted into the Hall of Fame next week, said, “I never question a player’s injury but I do question a player’s heart.”   Ouch.   Former Redskins defensive lineman Mark Schlereth said, “As a guy with 20 knee surgeries you’d have to drag me out on a stretcher to leave a championship game.”   Brutal.   Even the Greatest Bear Of Them All, the bombastic Mike Ditka, who is both a Hall of Fame Bear player and a Super-Bowl-winning Bear coach, said he would have to be “paralyzed” to come out of a game of such magnitude.   Egad.


      Of course Jones-Drew missed the last two games of this season with an injury, sitting when it really counted, virtually costing his team the playoffs, and Sanders used to miss games with “turf toe”, which sounds more like a ballet dancer’s aches and pains than a significant football injury.   There are definitely two sides to this story.


      Cutler’s Bears teammates vigorously defended him.   Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, center Olin Kreutz, defensive back Chris Harris, all blasted Cutler’s detractors as, basically, jealous, ill-informed, hypocritical idiots.   Cutler’s coach, the cranially challenged Smith—the only Bear whose face features a more consistently vacant, brain-dead expression than Cutler’s own vacant visage—lined up foursquare behind his quarterback.   These are all great and loyal teammates, and they did what they were supposed to do, and it was nice to see.


      The problem is, it just doesn’t add up.   Cutler just didn’t look or act that hurt.   When he came out after halftime he played one series, and he moved fine.   Plus he throws off his back foot better than any quarterback in football, so he needs to plant his left foot less often and less well than anyone else.   Plus he spent the whole second half on the sidelines, with no crutches, with no ice on the knee, standing up half the time, while giving no help or advice to the two QBs who followed him.   Several NFL players tweeted home this very point—oops, damn….I promised not to mention that foul technological disease; sorry.   My point, though, is that if you’re that hurt, YOU’D BETTER DAMN WELL LOOK AND ACT THAT HURT!!!   I’m old enough to remember when Jack Youngblood of the Rams played the whole 1980 Super Bowl on a broken leg.   Someone should have told Cutler about Youngblood.   Plus it just hurts to see that vacant, clueless expression of his.   Like he just doesn’t get it.   Doesn’t get anything.


      Plus, did I mention that this was the NFC Championship game???


      Compare Cutler not begging, insisting, and demanding to stay in Sunday’s championship game to Philip Rivers, the San Diego quarterback who played an entire playoff game three years ago on a torn knee ligament.   Played pretty well, too.   Rivers knew 60% of his best was better than 100% of any other San Diego quarterback’s best.


      And yet, if we are to question Cutler’s toughness, or lack thereof, what about his being sacked a league-high 52 times this year while never once complaining or asking to come out?   What about his playing big-time football with Type-1 diabetes?


      Truth is, I don’t know what to think….


      Cutler’s public relations problem is that no one liked him very much before the game, let alone after.   He has always been characterized as arrogant, moody, full of himself, not forthcoming to reporters, etc.   So the Cutler haters, including, evidently, a lot of his fellow NFL players, were obviously waiting and hoping for something like this to happen.


      The problem for Bears fans is that the Bears put all their chips into the pot for this guy.   They traded their own starting quarterback AND three or four high draft picks to get him.   They also signed him to an enormously lucrative contract extension.   They hitched their entire collective emotional wagon to this man.   And so today, all Bears fans, like me, are asking….


      ….Is this all we get?   Really?


      So then finally, what about the headline of this column?   How can any of this possibly be good?   That’s easy.   When anybody in sports does something crummy like Cutler did, I try to use it as a positive life-lesson for my 14-year-old son.   Rob.   Rob is a great kid, but he’s a kid, and therefore needs constant reminders and examples of how to do the right thing in life.   Never mind that Cutler has—to some degree—gotten a raw deal here.   The reaction of a lot of these current and former players has been, indeed, a little over the top….not to mention vicious and hurtful.   But a kid needs to see tangible, real examples of bad behavior if he is to avoid it in himself.  


      So I decided to use only the negative aspects of the Cutler case to drive home my point.   Fathers have to use whatever tools they are given sometimes, even if, in this case, perhaps America has been a tad too hard on the moodiest Bear.


      Fortunately, Rob is a Bears fan.   That was the opening I needed.   He texted me, frantic with worry, “Dad, why did Cutler come out of the game?   Why isn’t he going back in?   Who is Hanie???”   The lad was beside himself.   He dearly wished his Bears might get back to the Super Bowl.   He was only ten the last time they were in it, and they lost that game.   Like his dad, he’s looking to taste that championship feeling.   But his text clearly revealed his angst.   He’s only 14, but even to him there was clearly something wrong with seeing the one man capable of bringing a championship to Chicago sitting on the sidelines with a stupid look on his face, standing, walking, but not playing.


      Immediately, I began to instruct Rob on doing the right thing, using Cutler as a negative example.   A role model in reverse.


      I went on and on about how it was inconceivable to me that Cutler would not do everything in his power to stay on the field in a championship game, how clueless he was, possibly gutless, probably selfish, anything and everything I could think of.   An old-school guy, I added, “Son, there’s no way a real leader like Johnny Unitas would ever leave a game with anything less than a devastating injury far worse than Cutler’s wobbly knee (Never mind that Unitas indeed left the field in Super Bowl V, in 1970, before halftime.   With an injury.   I left that part out.)


      So I went on and on, explaining to him that it’s important not to quit in life.   Stay the course, follow things through.   Rob has a lot on his plate right now.   He’s on his freshman baseball team.   He plays both acoustic and electric guitar.   He’s trying to get off to a good start in high school, with college looming in the near distance.   It’s important to learn early on that not quitting and not giving up and finishing what you start are valuable life-lessons that literally cannot be over-emphasized.   So for my boy’s sake, I buried Jay Cutler.   I piled on.


      “Don’t be like Jay Cutler, son,” I said, then added, inventing a new noun, “Don’t be a ‘Cutler’.”


      Yep.   Fathers nowadays need to take advantage of every break that comes their way.


meet….The Sports Philosopher!image0024

Brad Eastland is an author, historian, film buff, undiscovered fictioneer, and lover of the Chicago Bears—win or lose.   Brad’s other recent columns for LaVerneOnline can be found in Sports under ‘The Sports Philosopher’ and also in Viewpoint under ‘Brad Eastland’s View’.    Brad has also written 4 novels and over 20 short-stories.    Samples of his best fiction work can be discovered by clicking the delightful yet unappreciated links below:




One Response to “The SPORTS PHILOSOPHER Says: “Sometimes It Can Be a Good Thing When The Bears Lose….Huh???””

  1. Hey Brad. I watched that game with my friend Mike – a Chi native and devout bears fan. I immediately thought of your column and your take on Cutler. Me? When he threw that short pass over the middle and it was low and outside, I said “man, there is something wrong with him”. Seemed like a legit injury. Too bad they could not wrap the hell out of it and just call all shotgun plays / no roll-outs. Anyway, good column again. Love the way you weave fatherhood into it. Makes it/you real.

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