Friday, January 1, 2010


Bob LeGere has a great homage up to Lance Briggs up on the Daily Herald's web-site. It is a welcome piece, particularly viewed in light of the constant stream of negative stories about a historically disappointing Bears team.

Two weeks ago, I dug out our car from two feet of snow on Sunday morning just to make possible a trip to M & T Bank Stadium for our daughter's first Chicago Bears game. Four hours of solid work, our 19-month old donning her Devin Hester jersey, me in my Adrian Peterson (OAP) jersey, my wife in a granny Bears sweater that would make our respective families in the western suburbs proud, and we were off to Charm City. But despite our efforts and those of a few hundred other Bears fans also in Baltimore, the Bears largely stayed on the plane. A listless, apathetic squad got torn apart by a team that is a far better reflection of working-class culture than the descendants of the Monsters of the Midway.

I would have more complaints about going to the game except for two things. First, M & T Bank Stadium is the nicest away stadium that we've been do, both in terms of the set-up of the urban stadium and the atmosphere. Ravens' fans are fantastic. While there were, as everywhere, drunken morons in attendance, they were far outnumbered by a committed and passionate fanbase that witnesses the event with rapt attention. The difference between Ravens games at M & T and Redskins games at FedEx could not be more pronounced. I cannot imagine that any group of Ravens fans could get away with what happened at the last Redskins game we went to -- where a group of "fans" screamed for ten minutes that Jason Campbell should be pulled from the game (because he "suuuuuuuuuuuuuucccccckkkkkkkssss") despite the fact that he had been injured at the very beginning of the game and had not played a down in the last two quarters -- not because there weren't inebriated fans, but because surrounding fans wouldn't have tolerated it. Although we were decked out in Bears gear, even before the game became a ridiculous blowout, the fans in our section were exceptionally friendly and accommodating. In fact, I fear that a few more seasons of Turner-neptitude and our daughter may grow up a Ravens fan.

But this possibility is countermanded by the other part of the experience we enjoyed: Lance Briggs is worth the price of admission alone. Whatever is going on with Lovie's ego and his inability to adjust or jettison failed strategies, Lance Briggs comes and plays every game as if his paycheck depends on it. Briggs recorded 13 tackles during the game -- all apparently solo -- his fourth game this season with double digit tackles. Briggs is a superstar. In seven seasons with the Bears he has done enough where he deserves to be part of the discussion as one of the best linebackers in the team's history. Certainly, in my lifetime, Briggs is the best outside linebacker that I have ever seen play for the team and I grew up with a near fanatical adulation of Wilber Marshall (although they are not really comparable; and I recognize that any discussion about the merits of football is immediately sobered by the thought of what the entertainment given by Wilber's play cost him). Outside of Scottie Pippen, I can't think of any other player from the teams I follow who has been as underrated despite constantly fully harnessing his immense talent. And this makes little sense, as Briggs is the consummate Bear; he works his tail-off, pays careful attention to the fundamentals of the game, hits like a Mack truck, and doesn't seek the limelight. At Baltimore, two Sundays ago, Lance Briggs showed the team's front office what pride in the shirt means. Although I doubt that it will make much of a difference to the people who matter, it made a huge difference to me.

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