Monsters of the Midway

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Chicago's Soldier Field

I’ve spent 30 straight days in a tree waiting for just the right the monster buck to step within range of my bow, but at this time of year even when I’m hunting my mind is never far away from football. I’ve been a straight-up Bears fan ever since I was crapping in my shorts, and like most people in Northern Illinois I live and die with them. 

The 1985 Bears team won the Super Bowl on my seventh birthday. They were an amazing team with more than their share of outsized personalities. Even though I can’t necessarily compare myself to Jim McMahon or Walter Payton or William “The Refrigerator” Perry as a competitor, that’s something I hope that I bring to professional bass fishing – some character and color. I’m sure my friend Seth Feider would agree. He’s the least “vanilla” dude on tour and while some of the things he says and does might ruffle a few feathers, I think most people know that it’s all in good fun. We both just like to let our hair down a little.

Anyway, getting back to the Bears, my favorite player on that ’85 team was wide receiver Willie Gault. He was a thoroughbred and could run like the wind, but in order to be a receiver you kind of have to be a prima donna. They all think that they’re open on every play, even when they’re not. It’s kind of like watching some of the great bass fishermen I’ve been around – they fully expect to win every tournament that they enter. Go out one day and blank and they still fully expect to catch 20 pounds the next time out.

Heading into this Sunday’s game against the Vikings, the Bears are 6 and 3, just barely ahead of the Vikings in second at 5-3-1. We’ve won three in a row, and while I expected this team to be good, I didn’t think they’d gel this quickly. Our QB Mitchell Trubisky is only 24, in his second season out of UNC, but he’s performing like a veteran with 19 touchdowns versus only 7 picks. You know what I love about him? It’s not just the poise in the pocket, but also the fact that he can really move around for a big kid. That kind of reminds me of Jimmy Mc. Even though McMahon definitely wasn’t a running QB (there weren’t many of them 30 years ago), he shuffled pretty good when he had to.

The Bears added Khalil Mack at linebacker this year, and he’s been an absolute beast, just like Mike Singletary, Wilber Marshall or Otis Wilson back in the day (or Brian Uhrlacher more recently). The only place I’ve been disappointed is with some of the running backs. I’m a Fantasy Football freak. It’s a total release for me, and even though I never played football myself (hockey was my sport of choice other than fishing), I’m obsessed with the numbers. In my 10-man draft this year I had the 10th and 11th picks back-to-back, and I chose Dalvin Cook and Jordan Howard. Cook has been injured, and while Howard has gained some yards, they’ve killed my team. Look, I totally man-crush on Dalvin Cook, but this year he’s broken my heart.

Fortunately, some other members of the team, like Trubisky, have exceeded expectations. I give management a lot of credit. They’ve worked to build this team a lot like the way the Blackhawks got better. They were crap, too, but by getting on the right path it was possible to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it paid off with multiple Stanley Cup championships. This team may not be ready to win the Super Bowl, but they’re definitely going to make the playoffs and they might end up hurting a few feelings along the way.

They’ll have to go through the Vikings at least twice to do it. While they’re a bitter rival, we don’t hate them as much as we hate Green Bay or Detroit. In fact, I kind of respect the Vikings. Seth and I give each other crap about just about everything, but we both agree on our hatred for the Packers, and we both respect the current versions of each other’s team. 

This week is the Bears' week. It’s not going to be a blowout because these two teams are pretty evenly matched but coming off a bye week and looking ahead to Thanksgiving day against the Lions, I think that the Vikings won’t be in top form. Defense is going to win the game.

My prediction: Bears 24, Vikings 21. While Dalvin Cook may continue to disappoint me, keep your eye on Tarik Cohen this week. He might only be 5 feet, 6 inches or maybe 5-7, but he can make things happen and he’ll have at least two big plays that contribute to breaking Minnesota’s back.