Oct. 1, 2016 – Is it ever ok to root for your team to lose?

As week four approaches, and my team is 0-3, with too many injuries to count, I ponder is it ever ok for you to root for your team to lose? If so, at what point? At what point does one say there is no chance of us going to the playoffs. I want to win but I question if getting a higher draft pick would be a better option in the long run? Does that make you less of a fan? When do you take your heart out of the situation and listen to your head?

I go into every season believing the Bears will go 16-0 and win the Super Bowl. Those dreams usually are quickly shattered. Every week in my football pool I still pick them to win every week. Every week. No matter what their record is I pick them to win. Is that too much fandom? If I pick them to lose is that being a bad fan or is it being a smart player who just wants to win them self.

Growing up and living in the Chicago area where the Cubs haven’t won the World Series since 1908, I know what it’s like to lose. Though the Cubs could break that curse this year. (Full disclosure – I’m more of a White Sox fan but don’t hate the Cubs as I’m not a huge baseball fan.) The Blackhawks have won three Stanley Cup championships in the last seven years. Is this playing a factor in my feelings towards my beloved Bears?

Maybe week four is too early to throw in the towel and give up hope. We still have 13 games to play. Who knows what could happen? I mean that’s why they play the game isn’t it? They could turn it around right? Oh geez, there goes my heart talking again.

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Sept. 30, 2016 – Can Injuries Ever be an Excuse for Losing?

In the NFL, injuries aren’t supposed to matter. They’re not supposed to be a reason, an excuse, for losing. If you’re a player on a team in the National Football League you’re expected to be ready to play, to compete. If a starter gets hurt it’s next man up. That player is expected to come in and play just like the starter. But, they’re not a starter for a reason. They don’t get practice time like a starter. Is it fair or sensible to say injuries don’t matter?

The theory is if you’re good enough to be on the team that is all that matters.The thinking is that a team, a good team, a smart team, will only have individuals on the roster that can help the team to win. That if the starter goes down, no one will notice anything changed in regards to the play on the field and the results. The only thing different is the number on his jersey. The expectation of the Coach and General Manager is they have put together a team full of “starters” so it’s an even trade when an injury occurs. Is this reality? Very rarely.

For some teams, very few teams, this is how it works. Player down, next man up, no worries. For most teams, it spells disaster when a key starter goes down, their quarterback for example. Most of the time when this happens, the wind is sucked out of the team and their fans. Unless of course you’re Bill Belechick in New England where he’s 6-0 with rookie starting quarterbacks. What? That’s crazy!

Let’s face it, the fans know when one player goes down you can probably survive, unless it’s your quarterback, two down, it’s questionable, three or more, it’s time to study college football’s best players and start counting down to the draft.

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Sept. 28, 2016 – Why are so many Players getting hurt?

Is it me or does it seem like there are MORE injuries in the NFL than in the past? The most recent collective bargaining agreement, signed in 2011, made major changes to the way teams practiced during the off season, training camp, and during the regular season. There are less days with pads and no two a day practices. Is this why there are so many injuries? Did the agreement actually hurt players when it was meant to make the game safer and have less injuries? Are players not “game” ready when kickoff comes?

Concussions are down which is a great thing. But is that due to simply changes made in the rules to attempt to decrease concussions? Players aren’t allowed to hit or basically play defense the way we knew it years ago. It’s changed incredibly just in the years, ok, decades, I’ve been watching. Many of the old time players can’t believe how much it’s changed. Football as we knew it is long gone.

So if it’s supposed to be safer why are there so many injuries? Players now practice mainly without using pads so they’re not really hitting each other. Now I agree during practice you can’t have players of the same team hitting each other like in a game cause you sure don’t want your own team member to take out another player. But players have to be somewhat in shape and ready to take the hits before the game. Should there be more days in pads? I’d like to research and see how the number of injuries now really compares to the number say in the 60’s and 70’s when training camp was brutal and defense was about taking a guy out. I mean could Dick Butkus and Ed O’Branovich play the game today with all the changes? Would they want to play it?

So with so many players going down, can it be used as an excuse for losing? Stay tuned.

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Sept. 24, 2016 – The Day Before Game Three

It’s the day before game three. How are you feeling about your season so far? I’m feeling pretty crappy and with very little hope. I try to stay positive, I mean we’ve only played two games. The problem is, we’ve looked really bad in more than half of each game. The bigger problem is we have more injured players than healthy. Ok so that’s not quite the case but it sure feels like it. Last Monday night it was one player after another. Why are so many players getting injured? Why? Why? Why? Is it due to the lack of true game like practice? But that’s another blog. Stay tuned.

If your team is 2-0 you so far are feeling pretty good. If you’re like me and your team is 0-2 you’re not too excited. Again, I try really hard to stay positive and if the games were close I’d be ok. Not so much. They looked terrible and now key players are out. I won’t give up yet but statistics for a team to go 0-3 and make the playoffs are like slim to none. I mean only five teams have made it since 1970 that have started 0-3. It’s tough to feel your season is over by week three. I know there are worse things in the world but when you wait six months and your hopes and dreams are dashed in three weeks it’s heartbreaking. Especially for the fans that spend their hard earned money going to games home and away. It’s a choice yes but it’s also a passion, it’s an escape. It’s football for crying out loud and some of us just love it. Is it too much to ask to just give us a little hope for a little more than three weeks?

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Sept. 18, 2016 – New theme song for Sunday Night Football

Is it me or does the new theme song for Sunday Night Football lack something? It just doesn’t have that rhythm or that I want to sing along pizazz to it. I mean I’d look forward to the start of the game and that song and the video that went along with it. Why did they have to change it? Why? What was wrong with it? I mean even after a day of football, getting up early, going to the game, experiencing the joy of victory or the agony of defeat, I still couldn’t wait for another football game because it’s true, I’d been waiting all day for Sunday Night. The 3rd game of the day, another game to enjoy before facing the fact there’s work tomorrow. It just had a great beat. You knew the words and sang along.

I’m sure eventually the old will be forgotten and the new will seem normal. I mean honestly, I had forgotten that I used to be asked if I was ready for some football every Monday Night. How about you?

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Sept. 11, 2016 – Opening Day 2016 – It’s Finally Here!

Finally, opening day of the NFL season. I know. Thursday night was the official kickoff game of the season. For the majority of us though, today is opening day. The day we’ve waited for since February for football. The off season for some was longer than for others. Most fans have interest in other things, other sports, but for the die hard NFL fan this is it. For the next 21 weeks, we can talk about football, we can listen to sports talk about football, we can watch football, we can dream about football. We determine our daily schedule around football. We play in our pools and pick our fantasy teams and pretend we know what it’s like to be the General Manager of a team. We have days we proudly wear our team colors from head to toe and we have days we almost wish our license plate didn’t let the world know we’re a fan.

Whether you go to the game or sit home and watch, it begins with joy, with hope. Good luck and enjoy the ride!

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Sept. 10, 2016 – The Day Before, Have Blind Hope

One more day until the fun begins! One more day until the countdown to Super Bowl LI begins. One more day until the joy of victory or the agony of defeat becomes a Sunday mainstay. Or for some weeks, it happens on a Thursday or Monday. Whatever day your team takes the field, the day begins with hope, no matter what the past week brought, there should always be some hope at the start of the day. As the day progresses and the game is played, that hope transforms into triumphant or “ugh, here we go again.”

Today though everyone should have some hope. All but one team (Carolina since they lost Thursday night) is still on the road to 16-0. Every team has a chance at the ultimate prize, the Lombard trophy. Even if your team was terrible last year, it could happen. We’ve seen it happen. The surprise team that comes out of nowhere and totally turns around their season and goes from last to first. We’ve seen it, from last place to winning the division and beyond!

Today, think with your heart, think like a fan that can only see in team colors. Believe it can happen. Picture it, there you are, in the stands, in Houston, in February, going crazy, jumping up and down, screaming like there’s no tomorrow, “We won the Super Bowl!”

Just for today, don’t let reality creep into your thoughts. Enjoy the day! Bask in the possibilities because tomorrow, that could all change.

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Sept. 5, 2016 – Saying good-bye to a beloved player

We’ve all had to do it. We’ve all had to say good-bye. We’ve all seen one of our “guys” get released or traded. We hear it all the time, football is a business. That doesn’t make it any easier when it happens.

Last night, seven days before the NFL season starts, the Chicago Bears released 11-year veteran, all 11 years with the Bears, kicker Robbie Gould. What? I know he struggled in pre-season and was making over $3m for the season but it’s Robbie!!! He’s the Bears all-time leading scorer! The oldest team in the NFL. The all-time leading scorer I said as well as their most accurate kicker. Wow! And we love Robbie! Fans love him and we trust Robbie! He wasn’t perfect but when he went on the field we were pretty sure we’d be hearing “Bear Down” play shortly after.

It’s seven days before the seasons starts! We went 1-3 in pre-season and for the most part looked horrible in the first three games and you release one of our mainstays? One of the very few players on the team we have all the confidence in the world in? Please tell me I’m dreaming. Please pinch me so I can wake up and see this was a horrible nightmare!

Robbie will get picked up by another team I’m sure. I hope he does. We did sign another kicker. One that is younger and cheaper and um, played in a dome last year. Please tell me he’ll be practicing during the week at Soldier Field as the wind can get pretty crazy and swirl around during those fall and winter games by the lake.

Goodbye Robbie. Hello Connor Barth. Hello 2016 NFL season. I’ll get over it. I’ll recover. It just won’t be easy or quick but I’ll get over it just like I have all the other cuts and trades.

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Sept. 4, 2016 – Four days and counting

Four days until it starts. Four days until Sunday becomes a day when faces are painted, flags are flown, homes and friendships become divided, and the quest for Houston in February begins.  Four days until team colors are the normal apparel and certain other color combinations become forbidden to be worn. Four days until the 2016 NFL season begins. It’s been a long off season. Training camp is over. Pre-season games are played. It’s time for the real thing.

Four days and we get teased with the prospect of the season beginning. It’s just one game. One game featuring a rematch of the Super Bowl which really isn’t a rematch considering the Broncos no longer have Peyton. Then we anxiously wait for three more days for Sunday. Sunday when there’s over ten hours of football. If you add in the pre-game and post-game shows it is well over sixteen hours of football. Sixteen hours of pure heaven, unless of course your team losses. Then it’s “well, I guess we won’t be undefeated this year.”

Four more days. I can “bearly” wait.

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Aug. 21, 2016 – 50/50 Raffle at NFL games – Stepping up for Others

I just read, as it was scrolling across the bottom of my television screen, on the NFL Network (I’m desperate for football. I was watching a pre-season game, of which neither team was my team.) that the New Orleans Saints are donating the proceeds from their two pre-season games to the Louisiana flood victims. I thought the way it read it meant all proceeds from the game and thought WOW! That’s awesome. Way to go Saints! Stepping up to help your fans, and probably some who aren’t, in their time of need.

As I was writing this I thought maybe I should research to see how much this might be and discovered, as least from what I interpret, they are actually going to start having 50/50 raffles at every home game and donate the money to charity. The two pre-season games donations will be for the flood victims. Now don’t get me wrong, this is a great idea. I’ve often wondered why NFL teams’ charitable organizations don’t have 50/50 raffles at games. They have it at NHL, NBA, and MLB games. These are much smaller audiences, 20,000+ (40,000 for MLB) compared to 60,000 to 80,000 and more at NFL stadiums. I’ve seen those totals get over $50,000 hockey and basketball games. Even with just half of that going to charity it’s a nice amount. So triple or quadruple that and it’s a nice chunk of change.  I was at Soldier Field when the Blackhawks played there in a Stadium Series game a few years ago in a snowstorm, and the total to split was $80,000+.

Yet, hats off to the Saints and the other NFL teams for finally figuring out what the NHL, NBA, and MLB have know for quite some time. There may be NFL teams that have done this before this year and I’m just not aware of it. I didn’t take time to research it. I’ve been to every stadium except Buffalo and I don’t recall ever seeing a 50/50 raffle.

So when you go to a game this year, take a few extra dollars to buy a ticket for a chance to win a great prize and to help others in need.

That said though, donating the proceeds from two 50/50 raffles is not the same as donating the proceeds from two pre-season games. Somehow this got lost in the translation to the NFL Network.

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