Well, that game was a letdown. We were probably do for something like it; there hadn’t been a true blowout since Tampa Bay dominated Oakland in 2003, and many of the games since have been classics. The commercials were also a bit of a letdown. I’m not sure any of them will join the pantheon of great Super Bowl commercials (possibly the saddest pantheon of them all) although I enjoyed the Muppets (as always), and the Budweiser efforts were strong. But overall, just not a great viewing experience, and as a football fan the biggest letdown was the game itself. We may have been spoiled by a great slate of playoff contests, some similarly intense regular season games, and the recent history of the Super Bowl, but none of that changes the fact that the most important game of the year was a dud.
- Brett’s post at the parent site discusses whether you’d prefer to see your favorite team make the championship round and be destroyed, or not make the playoffs at all. I would always rather see the team I pull for make the playoffs and have a chance; the Bears were a prime example of this in 2013. That Green Bay loss caused just as much heartbreak, and though there are some obvious ancillary benefits to the loss (draft position chief among them) the good would have outweighed the bad. None of my favorite teams (if you’re keeping track, they’re the Bears, Cubs, Pacers, IU basketball, and U.S. men’s soccer) have won a championship in my lifetime. (Well, IU won in 1987, but I was 2 weeks old, so it hardly counts.) Some have played for championships and lost, others have come agonizingly close to making the championship round, and the US soccer team is probably not winning the World Cup (but some of their highs and lows have been just as incredible.) But the memories of those championship losses are some of the most vivid sports memories I have. They made me feel something, which is all you ever really want from sports. And I can only believe that having felt all the different varieties of pain that can be caused by my favorite teams losing in a variety of ways, I’ll really be able to appreciate any eventual triumph. What I’m saying is, I’ll take a chance at a championship any day of the week, even if losing is almost virtually assured.
- Speaking of virtually assured losing, I saw a some Twitter activity last night saying that Seattle’s dominant win shows how far the Bears are from competing for a championship. I’d disagree with that assessment of the landscape, for a couple of reasons. First, as I always caution, one game is not enough of a sample from which to extract meaningful conclusions. Especially not a game as fluky as that one. Second, although Seattle did play very well over the course of the season, that’s no guarantee that they’ll continue to play at that level going forward. Russell Wilson is due a contract extension at some point (he’ll be a free agent in two years), and it might become very difficult to maintain the level of defensive excellence as they’re forced to manage the cap. There are so many variables to NFL success that it’s tough to successfully prognisticate future success. Say the Bears manage to revamp the defense to a more respectable level, stay reasonably healthy, and make the playoffs next season. Do I think they’d be favored on the road at Seattle? No, but I also don’t think they’d be a lock for defeat. If anything, I was encouraged by last night’s game. If that kind of stuff can happen, anything can happen.
- And now, what’s probably the most significant bullet for the Bears: on Saturday evening, Charles Tillman received the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award. He’s done some amazing charitable work, and he seems like one of the good guys. (That link has video of his speech, and it’s a great display of emotion.) I’ve always been a fan of Tillman on the field, and he only enhances his likability off the field as well. Whether he returns in free agency is still up in the air, but I’m glad he won the Walter Payton award as a Bear.
- On the same night that Tillman was honored, the NFL gave out its other league awards: Peyton Manning won MVP and offensive player of the year, Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly took defensive player of the year, Eddie Lacy of the Packers and Sheldon Richardson of the Jets took home offensive and defensive Rookie of the Year honors, and Panthers coach (and former Bear player/coordinator) Ron Rivera won coach of the year.
- Finally, the 2014 Pro Football Hall of Fame class was unveiled: Derrick Brooks, Aeneas Williams, Walter Jones, Michael Strahan, and Andre Reed were elected from the ballot, while Claude Humphrey and Ray Guy (the first punter to make it) were elected by the Seniors Committee. I don’t have a problem with those names, although based on career accomplishments and the eye test, Marvin Harrison clearly had the better case than Andre Reed. But football has an odd voting system, limiting the number of entrants to five per year; that leads to some newer names taking a back seat to some players who have been on the ballot for longer. When you consider the sheer number of players in the league at any given time, it seems sort of odd to limit the potential Hall of Fame class to such a small number; baseball allows for 10 names on a ballot, and they have less than half the number of active players at any given time.