Brian Urlacher won’t leave me alone.
I was driving to Halas Hall recently, and 10 billboards with photos showing off his bald-to-coiffed transformation shot past me. He used to be everywhere on the field. Now he’s everywhere on I-294, plugging a procedure that has placed him among the haired again.
The ad bombardment was a reminder of how hungry Chicago is for a superstar Bear who is actually, you know, still playing. Someone the city can hang its hat on, not to hide a bald spot, but to watch, appreciate, cheer for and, if it so desires, idolize. Urlacher’s last season was 2012, but it seems much longer since he was Brian Urlacher, menacing linebacker.
Before that, you have to go back to Mike Singletary, Richard Dent, Dan Hampton and Walter Payton to satisfy your superstar craving.
That explains the deep civic yearning for Mitch Trubisky. The rookie won’t play in the Bears’ opener Sunday at Soldier Field, unless starting quarterback Mike Glennon gets hurt, throws three interceptions in the first half and/or gets escorted to the state line on a sea of Mitch Mania. But Trubisky is the future, and until Bears fans see a turnaround from last year’s 3-13 belly flop, it’s all they have.
We have before us a raging battle over the Bears’ soul, and it’s best summed up by two phrases: “Hurry up, already!’’ and “Easy there, tiger.’’ It’s a battle between all the people who are fed up with no Super Bowl titles and few stars since the 1985 season and all the people who would like to proceed cautiously with Trubisky, figuring that a rush job will result in a very Bear ending — a permanently damaged quarterback.
Trubisky hasn’t done a thing in the NFL, other than shine in the preseason, which is to say, will it be Mitch or Mitchell below his Hall of Fame bust? That’s how it works around here with Bears hype. A woman glances at you, and in your mind you’re already setting a wedding date. The Bears pick a quarterback in the first round, and he’s the next John Elway.
It’s futile to tell these people to give Trubisky a chance to grow into an NFL quarterback. That ship sailed about two months ago, with fans and media manning it. As for Glennon, there seems to be a healthy portion of the fan base wishing for his immediate failure. The faster the fall, the quicker Trubisky gets onto the field.
The Bears surely knew what they were getting into when they traded up one spot to take him with the second overall pick in the April draft. It’s up to them to manage all of it, with both his development in mind and the distinct possibility that three straight losing seasons could mean lost jobs. Good luck with that.
There’s no black and white here. If you’re at all thoughtful, there should be an inner tug of war going on between the part of you famished for a great player and the part of you that has been burned so many times before. Remember, Jay Cutler was supposed to be the answer to all your prayers. Either you prayed for an enigma or God has a twisted sense of humor.
Trubisky is the Great 2017 Experiment, and it’s not even clear that the Bears have the right equipment in the laboratory. To whom is the kid supposed to throw if he’s pushed into action against the Falcons? Is there a wide receiver worthy of your trust?
In anticipation of the game, the Field Museum draped a Payton jersey on a dinosaur skeleton outside its building. Not a Jordan Howard jersey. Not a Danny Trevathan jersey. And certainly not a Trubisky jersey. Too soon. And bad form. But if the museum really wants to get people in to see “Jurassic World: The Exhibition,’’ slapping a No. 10 jersey on a T. rex might be its best bet.
Team history has been the franchise’s stock-in-trade for the better part of three decades, as if gauzy memories, not championships, are what fans seek. It’s what teams do when there isn’t much of recent vintage to celebrate. Out of options, Bears fans and museums oblige. Would you rather celebrate Mike Ditka’s windy honesty or John Fox’s raspy non-answers?
Now there’s someone new in town who brings hope, and the city doesn’t know whether to hit the gas or the brakes.
I went looking for an online list of all the Bears who have made the Pro Bowl or were named first-team All-Pro. When I found one, it featured an ad with Urlacher and the words “Get Your Hair Back!” Look, I’ll go through the procedure without anesthesia if the guy stops pestering me.
My kingdom for the next Bears superstar! But not until he’s ready.