By Tim Baffoe–
(670 The Score) Has the anxiety that comes with a hangover set in yet?
Following a fantastic Super Bowl that saw the Philadelphia Eagles improbably outlast the New Patriots for the former’s first title in franchise history, we here in Chicago are now left exhaling. And looking around us. And asking, “Now what?”
And becoming suddenly worried about the possible answers.
One week from today, pitchers and catchers for the Cubs and White Sox report, the other side of the demarcation of the meteorological sports year that ends with the last NFL game. The TV shots of relievers stretching gives us a pleasant saccharine taste of warmer things to come and a conscious, fleeting attempt to force spring forward. But mid-February is just a tease that real baseball is further away. The continuation of the established Cubs and the building White Sox can’t yet fill the void we have here, even if regular-season games do start in late March.
This sinking feeling of having so little Chicago sportswise to enjoy for now is very temporary and more a figment of the mind than anything dire, but it doesn’t make it any less uncomfortable. The Super Bowl highlighted for us the conundrum that is the Chicago Bears, a team that may be trending upward, but who the hell really knows? Sure, the announcement Saturday that former Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher had been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame felt great and validating and fitting the franchise’s positional stereotype of George and Butkus and Singletary.
“If history says that, I guess I’m a part of that category now,” Urlacher said. “It’s a great honor to be associated with the Hall of Fame and now to be in it. It’s awesome. This experience has been very cool for me. Very humbling.”
So cool. But the Bears of today are still in flux. Will Mitchell Trubisky become anything like Nick Foles or Carson Wentz have been for the Eagles? Is new 39-year-old head coach Matt Nagy the next sideline phenom or another in a streak of bad-to-uninspiring that we’ve dealt with for the better part of three decades?
“Andy Reid told me that Matt Nagy is the best head-coaching candidate he’s ever had,” NFL.com’s Adam Caplan podcast in November. “He told me that at the owner’s meetings. I just happened to ask him who some candidates are on his roster of coaches and he loves Matt Nagy, who he had in Philly.”
That’s a great endorsement when you consider Nagy joins five other of Reid’s assistants as current head coaches in the NFL and will have former head coach Brad Childress’ help, as the Bears hired him as an offensive consultant Monday. But is the current state of the Bears following the psyche-and-soul drainings of the Trestman and Fox eras the stuff of the glasses half full?
The NFL draft is months away and the next Bears game much more distant, though. In the meantime, there are the Blackhawks and Bulls, if you’re into that. The championship window on the ice closed fast and hard this season, with the Blackhawks as of Monday holding a mere 15 percent chance of making the Stanley Cup playoffs. This is a team that had the most points in the Western Conference last season.
“We still got a lot of time left,” coach Joel Quenneville said over the weekend. “But I don’t think you want to look any further than one game and trying to capture some momentum. Trying to get some consistency for a 60-minute game, that, to me would be some nice momentum.”
Not exactly inspiring. Goalie Corey Crawford, who last played in a game on Dec. 23, was back on the ice working out the past three days, which gives a glimmer of hope of salvaging the season, but his return to gameplay is, well, as clear as any NHL injury update.
“That’d be optimistic, days,” Quenneville said of how far away Crawford is from wearing a game sweater. “And when I say days, the fact he’s on the ice, I don’t think it’ll be too far away, once he’s practicing with us, that he’d be able to play.”
The Bulls are … entertaining? But Nikola Mirotic is now traded, and others may follow between now and Thursday’s trade deadline. The players’ best effort to defy the tank has proved futile, as they’ve lost seven in a row, including to the otherwise-tanking-harder Sacramento Kings in a spectacular battle of the tanking wills Monday night.
The Bulls have the league’s sixth-worst record, but they have the moxie to sink lower and are only two games out of the league’s bottom spot. That whole “Hey, the Bulls are overachieving” scare has gone away thankfully, and draft lottery thoughts become a big ol’ warm afghan for the time being.
So it seems we have a few months of what-ifs across the Chicago sports board to fill the now what until baseball. It feels icky in the stomach, but at least it doesn’t last.
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.