I'm hardly old enough or smart enough to believe I can dispense wisdom and am certainly not enough of a bully to think I can tell people what to do, but here's a bit of NFL preseason advice from your friends at Tremendous Upside Potential: despite the strong gravitational pull of professional football, preseason games are best left ignored. They're full of false hope and false despair, and, at least in this football drunk city, generally leave fans irrationally upset over nothing at all. The Bears were atrocious and win-less last preseason and would go on to host the conference title game. Even in the once-in-a-millennium season of 1985, Chicago finished the preseason 1-3. These games are the dirtiest liar you know, only with a vague chance of catastrophe hiding beneath every five-step drop. Watch if you must, but only with held breath and one eye closed.
Still, sometimes duty calls. Chicago baseball has given us zero inspiration this season, and another nasty lockout is robbing the world of the flimsy NBA rumors we all so desperately desire. Fake sportswriters must write about sports every day, and on Monday, the Bears were practically the only game in town. Since even our best rules are made to be broken, I swallowed my tongue and took in a whole half of preseason football last night. Here are some (brief) thoughts:
- Brian Urlacher being in his 12th season is the type of occurrence that can make a human of my age feel old, or at least nostalgic for the very recent past. In 2000, as a 13-year old, I remember pouring over my father's Pro Football Weekly NFL Draft preview magazine thoroughly enough to tell everyone on my junior high bus that the Bears should take some mysterious linebacker out of New Mexico. One dude even reminds me of this whenever I see him, once or twice each year. I've been under this spell with athletes before (Allen Iverson, Ken Griffey Jr.), but it's different with Urlacher: I've seen nearly every play of his career, and he's essentially spent that entire time as a personal favorite. Urlacher is still going strong, and, if he can stay on the field, will likely provide another steady, if not borderline-Pro Bowl, performance once again. But, man, 12 seasons. That's an eternity in the life of an NFL'er, and even a decent amount of time for us common folk.
- From the department of Things That Make Me Giddy For The Real Games: Julius Peppers forcing his signature 'intimidation false start' penalty on the Giants first drive. Help: we need a better name for these. Peppers' sack numbers weren't extraordinary in his first year in Chicago, but I doubt you'll find a Bears fan to say a bad thing about him. He'll have to be just as good (and healthy) this season to keep Lovie's favorite unit up to snuff, and little tokens like the forced false start serve to remind you that the Bears really do employ one of the game's best players on their defense.
- We know he hasn't been very good, or even very average, for a couple of seasons, but, damn, it still felt weird when the first team offense failed to convert a third down to see a man other than Brad Maynard trot out to punt the ball. The book on Adam Podlesh has yet to be written, but I know this much: with 8 on his chest, the dude chose a bad number. In Chicago, that means Rex Grossman and Cade McNown and.......Dickey Simpkins.
- Things that are good to see: Peppers' making Eli Manning pee himself, Cutler to Hester down the sideline for a beautiful completion, Matt Forte taking a screen pass for a whole mess of yardage.
- Things that remain discouraging: Hester slips one play, drops a pass the next. Many missed third down conversions, too. I also read a hot tip on the Internet that said the o-line might still need some work.
That's all I got. Chicago, what did you see in preseason game No. 2?