By Dan Bernstein —
CBSChicago.com senior columnist
(CBS) It called for a shifting of our emotional gears, and we had about an hour to do it. From right smack-dab in the middle of the now for the Cubs, to the possibility of hope for the later for the Bears, nerves still buzzing and raw from the electrical hum transmitted by pitch-to-pitch playoff baseball and a notably charged atmosphere at Wrigley Field.
It’s hard to remember a divisional round game with those kind of outward displays of intensity that the Cubs’ 2-1 win against the Nationals had on Monday, with the tone set by the players themselves. Anthony Rizzo punctuated his go-ahead blooper by bellowing “RESPECT ME!!” like either an aggrieved gladiator or a frazzled seventh-grade teacher at the end of a long day. He apparently felt he had earned an intentional walk with a base open. Carl Edwards Jr. celebrated his bounce-back perfect eighth inning with a screaming stomp back to the dugout worthy of a WWE intro, and the final out landed in Rizzo’s glove as Javy Baez unveiled some kind of aggressive performance art in his face. It was a great win for a famously expressive group of young men, and we can only imagine what a clincher will now bring.
So our overloaded capacitors were still twitching as the Bears finally allowed their most talented quarterback to ascend to inevitability, and we transformed immediate and urgent attention to something aware of a longer and more patient time horizon – Mitchell Trubisky and the start that starts the start.
The first half of the Vikings’ eventual 20-17 win against the Bears was a punting exhibition that seemed to help everything settle down a bit, as we decompressed by still confirming en masse that this team screwed up by placing Mike Glennon ahead of the rookie Trubisky at any point and for any twisted or compromised, face-saving reason. Trubisky looks like what it is supposed to look like, clearly unpolished but with athleticism that later allowed for such things as perhaps the coolest two-point conversion ever executed. We were also reminded how many Bears players at other positions are uniquely bad at what they do.
Rekindled competition from that one play and the ballsy fake-punt touchdown pass kept the game simmering, as did a flag-happy officiating crew. The usually hyperbolic Jon Gruden was uncharacteristically reserved, however, avoiding what have become his signature overstatements, particularly about quarterbacks on a night that saw one slink away injured. And even as the game tightened, the slow draining of the clock by the Vikings diminished the energy of the day almost appropriately, helping us toward both perspective and eventually bed.
This was a long afternoon for attentive Chicago sports fans, living and dying in the crackling moments of a baseball game that, frankly, carried bigger weight than it deserved considering how recently removed all are from a World Series championship run.
Trubisky’s first game turned out to be in a way just right, sufficient confirmation of reasonable optimism and a way of sublimating the outsized sizzle of a tightly contested baseball game before the more meaningful stages fans here know so well.
One team is finally working in its most important individual part, initiating a long climb. The other is at the top and punching down, trading early stage blows for supremacy in the moment. It takes care to appreciate for what we are caring.