By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) Michael Jordan is the current owner of the Charlotte Bobcats. Before that, he was in charge of the Washington Wizards. He even played two seasons for them.
Yet that uniform he’s wearing in all the highlights still says “Bulls” on it. Amazing, I know.
Jordan’s brand is still chugging along, selling various sorts of things by attaching any remaining fabulousness to ad campaigns, and it’s still the Chicago version. Nothing that he has done in his aimless meandering since leaving town has caused editors to airbrush history or marketers to ignore it.
Jordan retired as a Bull, then retired as a Bull, then retired as a Wizard, then bought another team. And nobody particularly cares.
So let’s all stop the stupidity over Brian Urlacher needing to keep some kind of pristine connection to the Bears, as if the mere sight of him limping around the field in any other colors is somehow unthinkable. This goes for the Bears themselves, primarily, who continue to perpetuate such antiquated silliness for reasons unknown.
Joe Montana retired a Chief, Wayne Gretzky a Ranger, and Willie Mays a Met. Ron Santo finished up his legendary Cubs career as a member of the White Sox — and a designated hitter, no less.
Even Jim McMahon, quarterback of the 1985 Bears, said farewell to the NFL as a member of the Green Bay Packers. Have you recovered from that, somehow?
“The reality is we would like nothing more than for Brian to finish his career as a Bear,” team president Ted Phillips told the Tribune. “He’s turned into one of the best middle linebackers in Chicago Bears history. I hope his career ends with us.”
What’s telling in his remarks and similar comments made by chairman George McCaskey is that they stop short of calling for Urlacher to be re-signed, and merely express this outdated desire that his legacy remain untainted by an appearance elsewhere.
The truth is that nobody involved actually cares.
It appears that Phillips is fearful of some kind of backlash that would never occur, so he panders passive-aggressively. His words can be interpreted as a wish that Urlacher simply retires right now, even as they come off as complimentary. They also send this message: “We would be fine with him taking the lowball offer on the table. If he can drum up more money somewhere else and money is more important to him, then that’s his call.”
Urlacher has never been bothered by public perception one way or the other, or even seemingly aware of it. Strangers’ feelings are his last concern, which is fine. There is no romance here, and never has been.
What’s more, there’s no clamoring for some storybook ending. Most fans understand fully how these things work, and it’s not like we’re even dealing with some loveable, pet superstar whose departure would break hearts. Prevalent No. 54 jerseys notwithstanding, Urlacher is the least-embraced franchise face in the city’s long sports history.
In 13 seasons of sullenness, he has never cared to even form the bonds his bosses seem so afraid of severing. His lack of desire to talk has occasionally been overcome by a forgettable grunt here or there, or enough words strung together to threaten a training-camp holdout to extort more money. Messy paternity-case stories and that bizarro fling with Paris Hilton were not exactly PR victories. And there was no championship.
Anybody who has appreciated his stellar play in Chicago can continue to do so no matter how this is resolved, no matter where he ends up. Nothing is undone or struck from the record.
There is no good reason to pay lip service to some wistful concept of loyalty or continuity, especially in this case of someone so emotionally distant for so long. He’s never asked for it, unless it meant more guaranteed dollars.
Brian Urlacher is free to retire a whatever.
Dan Bernstein joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995, and has been the co-host of Boers and Bernstein since 1999. Read more of Bernstein’s columns, or follow him on Twitter: @dan_bernstein.
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