Think back to early September of 2005.
No, not about baseball, but about the football team that was named after our beloved Cubs. Yes, that's right -- the Bears took their name in the early 1920's (after starting life in downstate Decatur as the Staleys, after a long-defunct car dealership) to capitalize on the popularity of the Cubs.
Was there any one of you who thought that on the day after Christmas, the Bears would be one victory away from playing in the NFC Championship game? Or that they'd have a bye week in the playoffs, much less be in the playoffs at all, and then play a home playoff game?
I suppose some would seek out and criticize "Pollyannas" among Bears fans who were saying such things on September 10, the day before they started their season ignominiously with a 9-7 loss to Washington. Or maybe there were those who were even still thinking "playoffs" on October 10, after the Bears stunk out the joint against Cleveland, one of the worst teams in the league, and became 1-3.
Jeff is a Bears season ticket holder as well as a Cub season ticket holder, and as we were all discussing their prospects at the tail end of the Cub season, he and I and the rest of our bleacher group agreed that the Bears would be lucky to go 4-12 this season. The Chicago Tribune's so-called "experts" were a little more kind -- but even most of them didn't have the Bears as much better than a 7-9 club, and every one of them said they'd lose to the Packers on Christmas Day.
Well, reality sometimes has a way of biting those who think they know it all in the butt.
The Bears have had a special and magical season, and though they didn't seem this talented early on, they do indeed have a chance to make the Super Bowl.
The point of all of this is to say -- on December 26, ninety-eight days before the Cubs take the field to play a game that matters, we simply do not know how they are going to perform. Is it likely that, given the Cubs' current roster, they are a postseason contender? No, it's not. But the team has not taken the field. There could be more changes before spring training, or even Opening Day. And I remind the naysayers that before each of the four playoff seasons in my lifetime, that not a single one of those clubs was expected to do a thing (and in fact, three of those four seasons -- 1984, 1998 and 2003 -- were preceded by 90+ loss campaigns).
That's why they play the games.
Finally, and this is going to give you an indelible image that you will NOT be able to erase from your mind, and you'rewelcomeverymuch -- during our morning show today, while we were running Bears highlights, one of my colleagues, on seeing Muhsin Muhammad's TD catch in the first quarter, dubbed him Muhsin Squirrel.