By Dan Bernstein
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) — With all the cartoonishly broad characters, utterly implausible scenarios and statements that you can’t believe actually came out of someone’s mouth, you finally turn to the person next to you and say “Are you seeing this?”
“Sharknado” was one thing, however. The upcoming coverage of the 2013 Chicago Bears long, hot summer is another, and much of it will be fit for its own SyFy treatment – pushing the edges of reason and leaving you bewildered, unsure if you’re supposed to take it seriously.
That’s what happens when it’s only mid-July, and both of a city’s Major League baseball teams are in the process of being sold for scrap. A Cubs first-round draft pick comes to town to say hello and it’s front-page news. We spend multiple segments on a radio show getting all excited about trades for international signing dollars. Phegleymania runs rampant, a frenzied epidemic of hope.
I wonder if Marc Trestman has any idea what he got himself into, signing on as the new head coach for an expectant season when the collective Chicago sports media is counting down the days until his team opens training camp, ready to fill time and space with a little bit of meaningful information and heaping amounts of cooked-up silliness.
Enough about the primitive, fetishized fondling of the Stanley Cup, people — we need to track Brandon Marshall’s receptions in seven-on-seven drills, then overreact to a post-whistle shoving match and unfairly question his professionalism and sanity! There will be time for Derrick Rose later, too – this is when we have to ask the rookies if everything looks faster to them at this level!
And here come the former Bears, thrown at us from every direction just like those storm-whipped sharks, not one of them too insignificant or inarticulate to be called an “expert analyst.” Every angle of the team must be packaged, branded and sold, with programmers, editors and producers brainstorming right now to come up with the next hot product. I expect to see, hear and/or read regular features like:
Paul Edinger’s Kicking Korner. The press kit says “Paul leads a roundtable that includes Jeff Jaeger, Carlos Huerta and Chris Boniol. They go toe-to-toe, debating every practice attempt of a field goal or extra point. This show’s got the distance…and it’s good!”
Inside the Salary Cap with Cliff Stein. The Bears’ contract wizard uses a series of animated graphs and charts to explain how restructuring works, the key differences between signing bonuses and roster bonuses, why second-round picks can have the best overall value, and how the intricacies of the collective bargaining agreement are really kind of beautiful, if you look at them right. Only three people have any idea what he’s talking about with any of it.
Name that Facial Expression. Lucky contestants in Bourbonnais are shown a series of photos of Jay Cutler’s various sneers, eye-rolls, frowns and yawns. The trick? Determine which one proves he hates Aaron Kromer, which one tells Earl Bennett to switch his route to a slant, and which is just a product of heartburn from his new wife’s first attempt at his mom’s famous green-bean casserole. The clock is ticking, and Bob from Aurora just might win big!
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. Wait…What? Various ex-players in every stage of football-induced dementia introduce themselves to the camera, stare blankly for several minutes, and then introduce themselves to the camera.
CrimeLine, NFL. No pro-football camp is complete without some public indecency, assault and battery, or drug-possession arrests to spice things up. FBI agents and prosecutors are standing by with all the anonymously-sourced info you need, even if the charges bring Patriots-style drama. The usual stuff is fine, but this season could feature criminal acts you’ve never seen before: High Treason! Cyberterrorism! Regicide!
Fred Mitchell Talks To the Dead. The veteran Tribune scribe extends his rolodex of phone numbers to include Bears who have shed their mortal coil, yet could not be more willing to talk about this year’s team. Here’s a sneak preview, obtained by CBSChicago.com:
FM: “What do you think of that third-down throw by Josh McCown, Zombie Sid Luckman?”
ZSL: “BRAAAAAAAAAINS!” (gets head blown off by a shotgun-wielding Jeff Joniak)
JJ: (blowing smoke from gun barrel and squinting into the distance) “Zombie ex-Bears, you are ridiculous.”
Empty Gibberish from Mike Ditka. In what has become a seasonal rite, the iconic coach spends several minutes each day spouting a largely incomprehensible and increasingly disconnected series of phrases and clichés that remains totally devoid of identifiable content. For this he is paid handsomely, then he falls asleep.
Matt Bowen Says Cool Stuff That We Can Repeat to Sound Smart. Whether in print, on-line or on air, the meticulously thorough analyst gives us terms like “Ace personnel package,” “Flat-seven combo” and “Spill to open-side contain.” The primary purpose of this, we now know, is to give us things to regurgitate witlessly in someone’s living room, not at all confident that we used it right, but still pretty pleased with ourselves.
Bears Camp 2013 is coming, and with it our own penchant in local sports media for overtreatment, hyperbole, repetition and disregard for common sense.
And you know you can’t wait, either.