By Tim Baffoe–
(670 The Score) If you are a dreamer, come in.
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer…
If you’re a pretender, come, sit by my fire.
For we have many a flax golden tale to spin
When I saw new Bears head coach Matt Nagy at his introductory press conference Tuesday, my first thought was Shel Silverstein. He wasn’t in denim strumming a guitar to “A Boy Named Sue” or anything like that. It was the beard, the challenged follicles atop Nagy’s dome that I can so relate to.
I love Silverstein’s poems. A Light in the Attic and Where the Sidewalk Ends were on my childhood bookshelf at a young age and have migrated with me through adulthood for periodic respites from its bitterness. His might be classified as children’s poetry, but that’s true in so much as the reader never fully lets go of his or her childhood. Whether 6 or 66, there’s a quality to Silverstein’s irreverent, silly, sweet verses that make the real, gray world seem just as silly if not quite so sweet.
When I think of Silverstein, I reflexively go to “Invitation.” And as I looked at Nagy, half my jaded brain tuned out the special mulligan stew of football press conferencisms he and his new boss, general manager Ryan Pace, chewed in their most earnest tones. I began to think of the various flotation devices the decent Bears fan out there — not the caricature spittling sausage chunks or the Cubs fan hybrid eternal pessimist — is currently using on this sea of frustration and insecurity we were flooded with years ago as punishment for the 10-6 Lovie Smith firing. And I thought of what keeps any of them afloat, not giving in to just easily, mercifully sinking away.
I figured it’s that tiny glow deep within, the one that flickers ever so brighter with the thought of what a new franchise era might bring despite so many letdowns since the VHS in your parents’ basement of the Super Bowl in January 1986 or the sardonic twitch of the corner of a lip at reading “The Sitter.” It never quite extinguishes, no matter the crushing realities of ownership with your favorite team or office.
That decent Bear fan is still a dreamer. A wisher and definitely a liar. A hope-er? Check. A pray-er? God yes. And the decent Bears fan has bought a lot of magic beans in the Marc Trestman time alone. (Raises hand.)
So Tuesday’s press conference was an Invitation to re-ante whatever is left in the damaged Bears fan’s soul, and golden tales were spun about how this time everything’s gonna be all right. For reasons why, who really knows? Nagy is the “hot” candidate, but there’s one of those every year and only so many coaches who repeatedly show up in the postseason. More hot coaches cool than burn on.
“I like his energy and I like how creative he is and how innovative he is,” Pace said of Nagy, unintentionally (or not) indicting John Fox before the corpse was cold. “He’s willing to think outside the box. Those are intriguing traits.”
Yeah, cool, whatever. Did he come up with the idea for five downs instead of four? Forgive me if “outside the box” doesn’t move me anymore, even if it’s un-Foxian. No disrespect meant to Nagy. It’s just that the decent Bears fan can no longer feed on new shiny potential alone. “Everything seems swell, and then/ The nighttime Whatifs strike again!” wrote Silverstein long ago of the anxiety in us all.
Nagy showed Tuesday he can talk the talk — is over-honest even — but that isn’t what wins. He’s excited to work with quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, and the relationship seems simpatico for now. And he and Pace were peppered with questions to try to get to “know” this newest most important man in Chicago, because we keep falling for the ol’ trick of thinking we can ever “know” a football coach whose purpose is to operate in an environment unrivaled outside of The Pentagon in clandestineness. It all ends up “The Zebra Question.” But then I read Kevin Fishbain’s piece in The Athletic in which he notes that Nagy likes to journal. And the record scratched.
“It started out as writing down about life and then it kind of transitioned into a combination of coach Reid’s speeches that he would give in certain situations, maybe after a tough loss,” Nagy said. “Usually it was with adversity when I wrote those down.”
The journals do have sentimental value, Nagy said, as being something he can show his kids down the line, but he will try to steal time during a flight to an away game or when it’s quiet to write in his journal.
I don’t know if or how journaling can translate to victories. But a decent Bears fan floats on something, anything sometimes. Maybe even a journal. It’s part of being a dreamer.
And then it all came back to the bald and bearded poet from Chicago who also like to jot stuff down when he got a quiet chance for the voices in his head to stretch their legs. That glow flickered again.
“The dream I have now is to be a head coach in the NFL, and I’m gonna make it happen,’’ Nagy said in May of last year.
OK, Matt. Come in. Come in.
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.