By Dan Bernstein-
How deeply twisted do you have to be to continue to root against the Bears, in your hopes that the Lovie Smith regime is ushered out?
I don’t know how many of you are actually left, who proclaimed your conflicted belief that the best long-term interests of your team would be served by short-term failure, but life can’t be fun for you right now. The Bears are 8-3, in first place, and looking at a 92% chance of going back to the playoffs.
Their popularity is soaring, with perception of their quality rising commensurately with the eyebrows of national writers and broadcasters. The win over the Eagles Sunday drew the best TV rating of any game on any outlet this season, and was the most-watched game on Fox since 1996.
CBS had already responded by promoting Bears/Patriots to a 3:15 PM kick. The Bears are good, and the nation loves it.
You however, cannot. Because this was supposed to be the year that Smith and his assistants were exposed, paving the way for a properly-mustachioed Bill Cowher to swoop in and restore your comfort.
Listen – I get it. I always respect a team being held to high standards, and there was a fair amount of real, articulated logic from some who made the case that the Bears’ recent performance under Smith had slipped past the point of return. It was an uncomfortable position to take, but well-intentioned.
Some facts of this season, however, have intensified the cognitive dissonance. First, the aforementioned won/loss record and status atop the division are inarguable. Second, the league is crazier than ever, with each week’s results often seemingly unrelated to those previous. We have spent months trying to figure out what “good” is, and have to admit that setting even a championship standard is increasingly difficult in a league where so little separates competitors.
So I’m not sure that the logic of the long-term holds as we have perceived it. No matter our quibbles with Smith – and I have mine, believe me – we must see that the Bears are overachieving in a week-to-week environment. Is the greener-grass alternative of Next Coach Whomever so tantalizing, still, that it prevents you from appreciating or enjoying a good, fun team?
That’s too bad. (Though I get the sense that even the most entrenched of defeatist dead-enders are guiltily celebrating every win, with furtive fist-pumps and strategically-muffled high-fives, stealing out of the room for a lonely, brief sack dance)
The Bears are better than I thought they would be. Smith may not be the greatest coach to ever walk an NFL sideline, but he’s pretty good.
That’s ok enough for me to enjoy a resurgent season in a randomized league without any qualifications or second thoughts.