22 November 2011

Tuesday football: Potpourri

Caleb Hanie, the (unknown) future of the Bears.
Something I never thought I'd say:  "I miss Jay Cutler."

And, "We shouldn't have wished so hard for that."

To be fair, when we were booing, flaming, and otherwise disrespecting him, Jay Cutler hadn't been playing well.  We couldn't tell which was worse, Cutler or the linemen who were supposed to protect him.  After some nice preseason performances and a near-miracle in last year's Super Bowl semifinal, Caleb Hanie looked like a great alternative.

But then offensive coordinator Mike Martz finally justified the salary the Bears are giving him.  Finally abandoning his dream of recreating The Greatest Show on Turf, Martz shifted his emphasis onto workhorse running back Matt Forte, while convincing Cutler and his line to work much more closely.  It wasn't the machine Aaron Rodgers is running in Green Bay, but the Bears had finally generated an efficient offense.  For the first time, Bear fans could admit to actually liking Cutler.

Now that Cutler is out through the winter solstice, the Bears now depend on Hanie to see their run through to the playoffs.  Yes, he looked good when Cutler didn't, but he hadn't had to run an offense for two games that counted.  That changes this Sunday in Oakland.  Fingers are crossed from the Indiana exurbs of Merrillville and Michigan City all the way around to the Wisconsin line.  Brrrrr.

Outlook not so bad:  Congratulations to the Los Angeles Galaxy on their latest Major League Soccer crown.  The latest question for the league comes from the status of David Beckham:  will he stay, or is it back to Europe for him?  Some columnists think that MLS still needs Beckham, but I disagree.

The problem with arguments like this one made by NBC Sports' Michael Ventre is that it assumes that the sport hasn't made any advances in the U.S. since Beckham joined the Galaxy five years ago.  Both the U.S. men's and women's teams made nice runs in their respective World Cup tournaments.  Well known (if aging) stars like Thierry Henry, Freddy Ljungburg, Rafael Márquez and Roy Keane have made real contributions in their new MLS homes.  Most importantly, expansion franchises have succeeded spectacularly in Philadelphia, Portland, Vancouver and especially Seattle.  All of that isn't going to suddenly disappear just because one particularly glamourous Englishman left his club in Los Angeles.

Attention, SEC West woofers:  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  I know that LSU, Alabama and Arkansas are 1-2-3 in the BCS standings.  I can understand why you SEC West fans are whooping it up, trying to mock the rest of us.

And I hope this makes up for the fact that, in men's basketball, your little division completely missed March Madness last year.  Not a single SEC West team made the field of 68.

No, you can't count Texas A&M or Missouri.  Try again next year.

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