These Bears are cool as ice(bergs)

  • Bears receiver Earl Bennett feels it ... the hope this team has despite its mediocre tendencies.
Bears receiver Earl Bennett feels it ... the hope this team has despite its… (Nuccio DiNuzzo / Chicago…)
December 17, 2013|By Ben Johnson | For RedEye

On the surface, the Bears are having what seems to be another in an unending series of very Bearsy seasons.

The team is on top of the NFC North with an 8-6 record by a paper-slim margin with two games to go. This could be anywhere between an 8-8 season in which a depleted roster fought bravely but narrowly missed the playoffs, or a valiant 10-6 run with a brutally cold home playoff victory that eventually, probably in playoff Round 2, ends somewhere else.

So far, so Bears. But is it me, or are the Bears different now?

Football is an odd sport. The ball is shaped funny, so it bounces around all crazy, and everybody on the field at any given time is extremely large and strong and fast, and an accepted defining aspect of the game is mashing into other people in a way that can sometimes cause severe injury.

In essence, a football game is a collision of two icebergs, and we're watching from above the water and rooting for one to "sink" the other. But we see only the tips. Under the surface is where a majority of the mass is. And this is where the Bears are different.

Doesn't this year feel different? Isn't this a more hopeful-than-usual version of tenuously holding onto the division crown at 8-6?

The Bears have an NFL offense now, with two wide receivers in it and an offensive line and everything. When Jay Cutler gets hurt, that offense doesn't turn, Cinderella-like, back into a rotten potato. The defense is decimated by injuries but gallantly hovering around league average while populated with youngsters and second stringers getting valuable reps in.

This isn't one of those 8-6 Bears teams that perpetually feels like 5-9* with a (*plus the miraculous Devin Hester) asterisk attached. This is 8-6 with a bullet. This is "wait till next year" and meaning it, a typical Bears "yeah, but" that ends in "next year they probably won't have five defensive starters on injured reserve" rather than "they can't complete a pass longer than 4 yards without Cutler getting maimed."

Sure, the results have been familiar. The results are the same, actually. And they're still the Bears. But these aren't the same old Bears. You just have to look under the surface. They're bigger than 8-6.

RedEye special contributor Ben Johnson is a comedian at iO Theater in Chicago.

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