Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Not-So-New Mantra: Perception Is Reality

On Sunday, the Chicago Bears faced their rivals the Green Bay Packers for the AFC Championship for the first time in 70 years and lost after a near-miraculous comeback.

In the third quarter, their THIRD-string quarterback, Jacob Hanie, took the field with every intent to get the Bears out of their 14-0 deficit.

In mere minutes, he had made TWICE as many completions as their lead QB Jay Cutler made the previous half and even made the FIRST 3rd down conversion for the Bears ALL SEASON! That is, he did what the Bears had never done and was doing it better than Cutler. Impressive, no?

The game became 14-7. People stopped looking depressed. Moans were turning to cheers. Then, horror of horrors - an interception by a Packer nick-named 'The Freezer" for his large ungainly size - and a touchdown! The Bears were down again by two TD's - but they IMMEDIATELY responded on the return, driving down field and getting ANOTHER TOUCHDOWN! 21-14 now! And then began a nail-biting drive in the 4th quarter - would the Bears get ANOTHER touchdown and tie up the game? They were moving fast and the 2 minute warning had sounded...

...and Green Bay intercepted a pass poorly thrown and the game was over in the last 39 seconds.

What a shame. The Bears lost. They were losers. Right?

Wrong. At least, not in the end, they weren't.

Green Bay had put 14 unanswered points on the board in the first half of the game - unheard of! Even the Bears defense admitted, "We didn't do anything differently in the second half. We just did what we were supposed to be doing in the first place."

So they woke up late. It happens. But they woke up.

Furthermore, quarterback Jay Cutler wasn't dong well at all. If the Bears had gotten ONE TD in the first half, it would have been a tie. As it was, Jacob Hanie, their third QB almost single-handedly upset the game, even with two pass interceptions. My reaction: "Dang! We should have put this guy in EARLIER!"

But do you know what everyone was REALLY upset about? The fact that Jay Cutler left the field because of a knee injury. It wasn't really his decision - the coaches, the docs, the trainers all saw he was not doing well and he had to sit out. He was doing poorly that first half, but no one knew why. The reason became apparent: he was hurting -badly.

But because he was standing on the side lines, as was possible for him to do, many fans thought he "wimped out" on them. It began to circulate even among pro's that he "wasn't tough enough." All because of 5 seconds of video show him standing.

One player said it well on a radio interview: "Perception is reality to these people. These guys have NO idea what his injury was like - and those X-rays show a torn ACL - you CANNOT play on that! You can stand - I have - but you cannot be out there throwing the football and getting sacked like Jay was." Another teammate pointed out in no uncertain terms how unjust their judgment was of Cutler. "Tough? He's one of the toughest men I know! You get out there and play with diabetes - yeah, diabetes - and get sacked 82 times in a season!"

Another said this: "You cannot play when you are injured like that. You hold back your team because you cannot do your job." So Jay would have been hurting his team MORE to keep playing. His exit from the game was an act of humility and doing what was best for his team.

So much for fan perception.

I am proud of the Bears, even though they lost. Big props to Forte and especially Brian Urlacher, who captained beautifully the defense against the Packers. Notice that there were NO field goals in the entire game? Think what that means, knowing one TD was an interception and his guys were not on the field to stop it.

I watched the movie Rocky again the other night. I think it applies here about having the will to endure loss for a greater reason. Rocky says something poignant about not "kidding himself" about his chances of winning.
"All I want to do is go the distance," he says. "Seeing that bell ring - and I'm still standing - I'll know for the first time in my life that I weren't just another bum from the neighborhood."

Rocky has been missing his potential all his life - and its the first chance he will have to show he is a fighter - a good one and not just a wanna-be - a bum, an enforcer for "a second-rate loan shark" a Mickey reminded him earlier before agreeing to train him.

Chicago started so badly this season, they should not made it to the playoffs.

Chicago also did so badly the first half of their championship game with a wounded quarterback, it should have been a total blowout by the Packers.

But in the last quarter, they were playing and playing to win. They were alive and fighting and throwing and running and doing what they had NEVER done before with a quarterback they barely knew.

They didn't win the game, but the Bears weren't no losers. The Bears weren't no bums.

They won in integrity, professionalism, faith, heart and soul.

That's something Chicago should be proud about. Very proud.

[I'll finish up later, 'cause there's something else I want to say on this broad subject]


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