Pay No Attention To The Men Behind The Curtain

Sunday was a good day.

I woke up refreshed after a good night’s sleep, secure in the knowledge that the Cubs had defied 71 years of “curses” to earn a chance at a title in baseball’s World Series.  My back, arms, and neck, sore from a long, exhausting week of doing some work conference type stuff, suddenly felt much better.  But it wasn’t these two things that brought a wave of euphoria over me Sunday morning.

No, it was the fact that the Bears didn’t play that Sunday.  They couldn’t ruin a 3 hour chunk of my day with more football stupidity.  They couldn’t sully my twitter feed, dripping of Cubs praise, with mellow-harshing football ineptitude.  No Cutler/Hoyer blathering.  No “FIRE _____ NOW!” stuff.  Just Bears radio silence all across the sports scope.

That’s how it should be this season.

Their plummet from relevance and dignity is nothing new for most Bears fans, and in a stroke of brilliance, the team substituted president & CEO Ted Phillips in for John Fox to interview with their people for “The Coaches Show.”

One of the portions of that interview particularly stuck in the craw of many fans, and it is this:

Joniak asked Phillips with the growing success of the Cubs and Blackhawks what the Bears are doing to keep everyone engaged with their brand during a period when they are trying to get things going in the right direction?

“When we talk about appealing to sponsors, we never talk about wins and losses,” Phillips said. “A lot of the sales pitches that get done, they don’t talk about wins and losses. They talk about what the Bears mean to the city, the loyal fan base, the crossover of fans who are Bears fans and also fans of the other sports teams and I think for the most part we have had a lot of success doing that because people understand the power of the Bears brand and what it means to the city of Chicago, what it means to the NFL, what it means to their own brand. We’re pretty proud of that that you can kind of sustain strong business relationships without worrying about wins and losses. Obviously, when you win it’s better.”

I admit I know very little about Ted Phillips’ duties as President & CEO of the Bears, beyond the obvious grind of making sure the team remains profitable.  With thousands of no-shows at home games becoming a new Soldier Field tradition, one has to wonder what the financial picture of the Bears looks like.

There will always be fans at Soldier Field; that much will never change.  Chicago fans are nothing if not stubbornly loyal, even with despising team ownership and upper management with great regularity across all the teams in the city for many, many years.  The fans show up, for better or worse.

What’s meddlesome about the Bears is that Virginia McCaskey isn’t solely responsible for the state of the Bears.  George McCaskey is a bit more responsible, yes, but to what extent is unknown.  The same can be said for Phillips.  The Bears are weird – very, very weird – about a great many things in their also-ran organization, but emotional fallout from seasons of losing & the reluctant battle of the fans to accept that the Bears are now among the NFL’s routinely worst teams has made the arrow of blame scroll continually upward until once again the fan base seems to have reached a new consensus:

Nothing about the Bears is going to change so long as the McCaskeys own the team.

It’s a very simple thought, and the ratio of truth to be gleaned from that crude statement is endlessly debatable from an outsider’s perspective.  It makes what the Bears are – a complicated, young, secretive hot mess of an organization – much easier to digest as we continue to see this team lose, lose, and lose again.

Phillips’ statement does betray that the team is settling in for the long haul of losing and rebuilding, marketing around Bears fans undying allegiance & attendance, but at least it’s indicative that Ted (publicly) has no impact on the football side of the organization.  Which is for the best.

The strange thing is that with all this losing is that if the team feels so content in staying the course, secure in the knowledge that fans will never abandon them, maybe they should re-strategize.  The last home game at Soldier Field featured 5,370 unused tickets in a game that featured the Bears squandering a 13-0 lead against the similarly youth-oriented Jacksonville Jaguars.

With the Cubs NLCS push taking precedent, even the most ironclad Bears fans appeared to prefer watching the northsiders:

Overnight viewership estimates, obtained from an independent source, showed the Cubs’ triumph averaging a 24.1 household rating between 7 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. in the Chicago market. The Bears game, on both WBBM-Ch. 2 andNFL Network, averaged only a 12.8 household rating between 7:30 p.m. and 10:15 p.m.

That’s approximately 835,600 Chicago-area homes for Cubs-Dodgers to 442,500 homes for Bears-Packers.

Roughly 38.5 percent of all Chicago-area homes in which people were watching TV here were tuned in to see the Cubs. The Bears game only had a 19.6 percent share of those homes.

It makes sense – the Bears suck right now & the Cubs are on a historic run, so why bother watching Bears/Packers?  Many fans, like myself, likely took advantage of a unique home setup to watch both games at the same time, resulting in the faces of drama:

But on Sunday?  On Sunday there were no Bears to distract us from the wonderful Cubs.  There was no need to even watch football, really.  It was beautiful.
Next Sunday too will be a wonderful thing, totally devoid of Bears football.

Next Monday, however?  Spooky things await, and with Jay Cutler returning and the Bears hosting the 5-1 Vikings, maybe the team can exorcise a few demons after all.

They can’t keep counting on the Cubs as a distraction.

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