It came out of nowhere, a gift from above, a sure sign that the goofiness had finally, marvelously returned.
Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky was talking with reporters in a video conference a week ago, and behind him was a framed version of Theodore Roosevelt’s famous “Man in the Arena’’ speech from 1910. The speech is a middle finger to those sallow ninnies (critics) who wouldn’t know the meaning of “macho’’ if a cargo plane dropped a load of pecs and biceps on their heads.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better,’’ Roosevelt said. “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood.’’
I wish Trubisky had framed Roosevelt’s much-lesser-known speech from 1911, “What’s It Going to Take to Get You to Throw the Football to Our Team Instead of the Other Team?”
I’ve missed you, Mitch. And I’ve missed the NFL. The earnestness. The over-the-top enthusiasm. Coaches fawning over someone or other’s work habits. But what I really miss is Trubisky, who is always thinking about things that sort of have to do with football but not really. Things like leadership, slogans and the importance of bonding with “my guys.’’ Also, motivational speeches.
If the framed address in Trubisky’s home was meant as a shot at reporters for criticizing his play last season, I would suggest the time he has spent reveling in its message would have been better spent working on his game. The manly Man in the Arena would have looked at Mitch’s 83.0 passer rating from last season and asked him where he gets his nails done.
I don’t mean to bash Trubisky. It’s too early for that. It’s June. And I’ve already seen several articles declaring that he’ll beat out Nick Foles for the Bears starting quarterback job. Perhaps he will, though Foles’ $24 million contract might have something to say about that. But it’s good to be talking about Mitch again. For me, his little dig at the media signals the official beginning of the NFL season. And we need it, especially at a time when the country is at wits’ end, sports-wise, because of the pandemic.
So thanks for being you, Mitch.
We’ve already heard Bears players praise Trubisky for organizing informal throwing sessions with receivers this offseason and for being “a hard worker.’’ And it wouldn’t be the Bears without someone gushing about Mitch’s abilities in football activities that aren’t actual football games.
“He’s slinging it right now,” running back Tarik Cohen said. “You still see the talent in Mitch. He’s making throws on the run. The normal Mitch you see when he’s playing at his best.”
Those are my eyes rolling back in my head.
It wasn’t long after Trubisky’s video conference with media members that Bears coaches put their hyperbolic skills on public display. Coach hyperbole is something you can count on, even in this time of COVID-19. It’s another reminder that football is coming, unlike baseball, which has had us locked in Lawyer Negotiation Hell for months.
In terms of football coach-speak, we’re already in midseason form.
Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano on new Bears linebacker Robert Quinn: “He’s a great pro. He’s a great teammate. He’s a great person.”
Outside linebackers coach Ted Monachino on linebacker Khalil Mack: “He’s training like I have never seen anybody train before.’’
And, of course, the obligatory Mitch-is-devoted-to-football quote, this one from new Bears quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo: “There’s no doubt in my mind he’s got what it takes in terms of that lifestyle we talk about.”
DeFilippo deserves an award for getting everyone amped up in June. Here he is describing to reporters the “juice’’ inside the Bears quarterback room:
“Passion, energy and swagger, baby. That’s how we’re defined in our room.”
What comes first, ability or swagger? Foles has won a Super Bowl Most Valuable Player award. If he has swagger, it comes from that accomplishment. Trubisky is coming off a rough season. I don’t want swagger from him at this point. I want baby steps — some proof that he has what it takes to play quarterback in the NFL.
Hold on. It is suddenly dawning on me that I never played in the league. The Man in the Arena almost surely did, even though the NFL didn’t open for business until 1920. But don’t tell him that. He’s on a roll.
“… at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.’’
I can’t imagine whom he means by “cold and timid souls.’’ But, brrrr, did somebody leave open a window in here?