Reporting Dan Bernstein
By Dan Bernstein
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) — I have no clue what the deal is with Marc Trestman, but I’ve decided I’m going to try to enjoy it.
Those of us who spend leisure time solving puzzles often feel compelled to find definitive answers to everything that perplexes, needing to put away that gnawing feeling of incompleteness. When a tough Sudoku effort stalls, for example, the grid mocks me from the kitchen counter until I put it in the recycle bin, only to later take it out for one last look before grim declaration of defeat.
And a typically-wicked Stanley Newman Saturday crossword can be even crueler, lacerating me with profane trash talk from its place on the nightstand. My wife says she can’t hear it, but she has to be lying. It’s too loud, and very specific about both that blank northeast corner and my graying hair.
So now that I’m at that point in trying to figure out the Bears odd, new head coach, I’m crumpling up the paper and throwing it out. Whatever this is, either it’s going to lead a team to a Super Bowl win or it’s not.
Trestman is already “Twin Peaks,” to me, the David Lynch TV series that ran for 14 months from 1990 to 1991. At first a fascinating set of clues and unsettlingly-juxtaposed visions, it careened quickly into inexplicable weirdness for its apparent own sake — still entertaining, no longer worth figuring out. Better to just let it all wash over, and take it in from a detached distance (fans of “Lost” may understand this too, the feeling of having wasted time with all the red herrings once it became clear that the writers themselves were just spitballing as they went along).
In fact, Trestman evinces some qualities that could be considered Lynchican.
In a 1995 essay published in Premiere Magazine, the late David Foster Wallace described Lynch’s image choices as “unexplained” and “visually incongruous,” with language marked by “long, self-consciously mundane dialogues.”
Did you watch that press conference Wednesday?
We heard about the importance of getting-to-know-you time at lunch, the concepts of “growing the football” and player “self-actualization,” and that “our players appear to be stimulated by the volume of plays.”
The stuff about interconnectivity and the momentum of off-season leadership took ten minutes, alone.
There’s something just a little off about him, that doesn’t line up with our aesthetic for Bears coaches. Mike Ditka established the modern standards — western Pennsylvania accent, mustache, simmering aggressiveness — that made Dave Wannstedt seem so watered down, like a half-Ditka with his many insecurities and half-‘stache. Dick Jauron was intellectual and quiet, but not particularly peculiar. Then our decade of Lovie Smith, who while a departure from the local archetype, was comfortably footballish enough as he affected Tom Landry’s unflappable Texas stoicism.
Trestman just doesn’t fit any category. Intellects like Jauron and Bill Belichick are remote or brusque, and hands-on, former-QB, offensive gurus like Jon Gruden can be garrulous, back-slapping yahoos.
Here we have both, and he’s neither. Bespectacled, slightly cadaverous, and apparently wearing a full serving of squid-ink vermicelli under a baseball cap, he’s running around the practice field like Gruden while admonishing a slow-poke offensive huddle by yelling “It’s not a symposium!”
Of course Trestman was such a success coaching in Canada, of all places. That’s the weirdest possible version of pro football that’s still football, with the comically-long end zones, wider field, three downs, and everybody in pre-snap motion. And Canada’s weird too, in just that same way of being a bit off from our points of comfort – it’s just like here, except for the unnerving politeness, extra announcements in French, and the coins that you have to check twice.
We have never quite had a specimen like this to observe in such a prominent position, even considering the quirks of his counterpart with the Bulls.
Tom Thibodeau has some unique wiring, obviously, a bundle of obsessive-compulsiveness in a suit, who has no time to be bothered with certain aspects of common human interaction. Midway through a season, he looks and sounds like acid reflux feels.
But Trestman is so much more complicatedly strange than that, conveying a general warmth of demeanor that conflicts with the usual stereotype of the pathologically-focused mad scientist. And he uses words not remarkable for their size or pretentiousness, but for the fact that we’ve literally never heard them in this context.
I have noticed, too, that he is capable of holding a facial expression for a beat longer than most. This observation may be skewed by his posing for photos on the day his hiring was announced, but this trait is also pointedly Lynchian.
Per Wallace, “I’ve determined that a sudden, grotesque facial expression won’t qualify as a really Lynchian facial expression unless the expression is held for several moments longer than the circumstances could even possibly warrant, is just held there, fixed and grotesque, until it starts to signify about seventeen different things at once.”
You bet I’m overthinking this. It’s part of the process – another nebulous term both Trestman and Phil Emery love to apply for multiple purposes.
But it’s not for me to solve. All that matters is that the Bears can.
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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