When it comes to Jay's mood, is the joke on us?

OPINION

September 24, 2012|By Jack M Silverstein | For RedEye

With all the talk about Jay Cutler's emotions, I started thinking: What does a happy Cutler look like? He smiles during news conferences, but they're the kind of smiles Jack Nicholson flashed in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" when he was pretending to take his crazy pill to reassure Nurse Ratched that he was on board with ward policy.

So I headed to the locker room after a news conference last week determined to learn more about Happy Jay Cutler. As it happened, I passed Cutler in the hallway. Most guys will nod politely or say hello or at least make eye contact, but as with past encounters I've had with him, Cutler kept his head down and stepped past me.

The first man I saw was Gabe Carimi—a good one to talk to, I thought, because offensive linemen are likely to incur the wrath of Jay. So, Gabe, what does a happy Jay Cutler look like?

He stared at me like I'd asked him what a four-legged dog looks like. "Normal human characteristics. Smiling and stuff." He paused. Was a reporter really asking him what happiness looks like? "If people could see him not just when the cameras are on, yeah, you'd see a different side of him."

Next up was Roberto Garza, who quickly redirected my question into the standard pap about "going out there and trying to win football games." Garza is a nice man but seems skeptical of new reporters—when I noticed a few weeks ago that he and fellow offensive lineman Chris Spencer were wearing matching black T-shirts with hard-to-read text, I asked him what the shirts said. "What, you can't read?" he said, and strolled off, another reporter handled with care.

So why Cutler? Why do we care about the rough edges of his personality and not those of other players, such as Garza? Do we pick apart Cutler's disposition because it harms the team? Or is it simply because he doesn't package his prickliness in any fan-friendly format?

Or is this a Bears thing, a football thing, the same mythological bullcrap that spurns Bears fans to spout nonsense about the advantages of "Bears weather" with a roster full of guys from Texas, California, Florida and Hawaii?

The questions gnawed at me. I asked Eric Weems for three words to describe Cutler the football player and another three for Cutler the teammate. "Hard-working. Athletic. And smart," he said, and then, "Passionate. He loves what he does. And he's a great guy all around."

But is he jokey?

"Yeah, he's jokey," Weems said. "He's very jokey and happy, and when it's time to get serious, he's serious."

Across the locker room, Blake Costanzo, Geno Hayes and Sherrick McManis were hanging out. "Guys," I said, "three words to describe Jay Cutler the football player."

"Pass," Costanzo said as he and Hayes walked away, laughing. They seemed determined not to get caught up in the pseudo-firestorm that ensnared D.J. Moore, who said Cutler treated J'Marcus Webb unfairly when he yelled at and bumped the left tackle. This left McManis stranded. "Sherrick?" I asked.

"A … great … teammate." He grinned. "That'll work."

My efforts were going nowhere. But really, what business was it of mine, as either a fan or a reporter, to demand an understanding of someone else's relationship? A friend of mine summed it up nicely last week. She is in her 20s and her boyfriend is in his 40s. They get a lot of questions about "how that all works."

"A relationship is like a magic trick," she told me. "The only people who have to understand it are the ones who are in it."

Point taken.

Special contributor Jack M Silverstein covers the Bears for RedEye. Say hey @ReadJack.

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