By Tim Baffoe–
(670 The Score) Are you going to watch the Chicago Bears on Sunday? It’s like, yeah, it’s football and just what gets done on a Sunday. But it’s also Christmas Eve, maybe you have running around to do or gifts to wrap or anything remotely more constructive than watching a four-win Bears team host the winless Cleveland Browns.
Let’s just say you’re cold and alone like me and will watch or least will have the call of Tom McCarthy and Steve Beuerlein on CBS as ambient noise. We’re past the point of serious interest in the Bears for 2017, so what’s the hook?
The quick and easy answer is quarterback Mitchell Trubisky’s progress. But as we saw two weeks ago in the Bears beating the Cincinnati Bengals followed by losing to the better Detroit Lions, slapping around a weak team does little for measuring anything worthwhile when Mr. Biscuit then throws three interceptions in the second half against a halfway decent team. Trubisky against the Browns, who have given up an average of 290 passing yards in their last three games, is a lose-lose. If he smokes them, it’s unimpressive, because it’s the Browns. If he struggles, it’s alarming, because it’s the Browns.
I will be rooting for Cleveland on Sunday for reasons both emotional and logical. Regarding the former, the biggest hook for me is watching an 0-14 team trying to win one damn game. There’s something inherently human in empathizing with that. We want Charlie Brown to eventually kick that football even if Lucy is wearing our favorite logo. It’s undeservedly sadistic to hope for the Browns to go winless. They aren’t dislikable. Their players haven’t killed some albatross to deserve being such a joke.
If the Browns win a game, we would all be able to identify with that release that we would see on the faces of the players, none of whom want to enter O-fer lore. There’s humanity in that, as we are all calibrated to at least root against suffering and root for sports joy even when it may occur in an otherwise throw-away situation.
Related to that, I’m a self-loathing Bears fan, and when a season is lost as this one is, I root for chaos that doesn’t involve limbs snapping in half. Talk about cold and lonely watching this game on TV — imagine voluntarily attending that game. Waking up to get to Soldier Field to willfully sit in 25 degrees and swirling winds to convince oneself that Bears-Browns in person is a good life decision. Part of me wants the 65 percent of the stadium that will be filled Sunday to suffer. To be able to say with a thousand-yard stare years from now, “Yeah, I went to Bears-Browns on Christmas Eve in 2017. I saw things, man.”
The Bears in the final two weeks of the season are a struggle to get past deep ennui. I want to feel feelings, and right now that only involves laughing at them. Beating the Browns does nothing of value. Losing to them would be great fodder for sardonic sad sacks like me.
Just think about how coach John Fox would have to rasp his way through a postgame presser after losing to Cleveland. Consider all the glorious possibilities of vague replies and hypotheticals and clichés and condescension. He’d probably even slip in a “They’re a good football team, give them credit.” It would give the man an opportunity to paint his microphoned masterpiece.
But even if you’re a super serious Bear fan dorkbag who can’t find gallows humor or mercy in your super serious sports, a loss Sunday would at least solidify the probable exit of Fox and would act as a proper punctuation on his distasteful tenure in Chicago. If the loss is on the offense, it takes Dauphin … Delroy? Loggains with him. It would embarrass the McCaskey family to no end. These are things that even the most religious Bears fan stereotype can get behind.
But most logical of all is the issue of the 2018 NFL Draft slot. At the moment, the Bears occupy the sixth spot. Three other teams — the Texans, 49ers and Buccaneers — have four wins. The Colts have three, while Bengals, Broncos and Jets have five wins. Losing to the Browns could have a major impact on the shuffle in the final two weeks of the regular season. Maybe the sixth overall pick for the Bears would be no different than the third or fourth. Or maybe losing to the Browns and then at the Vikings to end the season will keep Bears general manager Ryan Pace from trading up to get a player he’s in love with but maybe didn’t have to trade up to get.
Rooting against your favorite team is tough to do in the moment, between the actual whistles. In this rebuilding year, my mind has been on tanking and developing the rookie quarterback at all times except when the game starts, when I’m back to making noises on my couch like the team is a playoff contender.
I expect Sunday to be much of the same. Meanwhile, go Browns.
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for 670TheScore.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not Entercom or our affiliated radio stations.