Super Bowl a super bust for me

Well, that was fun. There’s nothing like waiting 21 years for your favourite football team to make an appearance in the NFL’s championship game only to watch them get beaten soundly by a team you really can’t stand. I am, of course, referring to the pounding my beloved Chicago Bears took at the hands of the Peyton Manning-led Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLI on Sunday night. I’d love to be able to say the Bears fought hard and only succumbed to the Colts in the waning moments due to some spectacular feat of football wizardry performed by Manning. I’d love to be able to argue that an errant call made by the officiating crew cost the Bears the title. Heck, I’d love to be able to say the Bears gave the game away on one stupid play and that they otherwise were the better team. The sad thing is I can’t say any of those things. Simply put, the Colts were the better team in just about every conceivable way Sunday in soggy Miami. What’s even more sad is that I let myself believe for a few minutes that the Bears actually might pull out an upset victory and end what has been a tough two-plus decades for me and every other fan of the storied Chicago franchise. I started to believe they had a chance at winning when I saw the weather reports leading up to the game. The forecast for the biggest game of the year in normally sunny Miami? Rain, rain, and more rain. The best part of the forecast was that the weather prognosticators weren’t just calling for a smattering of rain or light showers. No, every person with access to a Doppler radar was calling for a deluge of rain. A torrential downpour. A veritable monsoon. And the forecasts were music to my ears. The Bears are a team designed to run the ball down the other team’s throats. Chicago possesses not one but two quality running backs in the form of Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson, as well as a gargantuan offensive line. I had visions of rain falling from the heavens as the Bears mauled the undersized Colts’ defence—and Jones or Benson pounded the ball for huge gains. On the other side of the coin, I was certain the Colts’ offence wouldn’t be able to function in the adverse weather conditions. Indy, after all, plays its home games in the comfort of a domed stadium. What do teams who play in a dome know about playing in less-than-ideal conditions? And how would a team that’s designed to outrun the opposition fare when they couldn’t get their footing? No, this was going to be perfect. My excitement only grew when kick returner extraordinaire Devin Hester ran through the porous Colts’ coverage team—taking the game’s opening kick-off back for a touchdown for the first time in Super Bowl history. Less than 20 seconds into the game and my Bears were up 7-0. I was convinced the football gods finally were smiling on me after years of plaguing me with crummy Bear teams. Apparently I was very wrong. The wheels started to fall off when Benson got injured. The normally durable running back damaged his right knee late in the first quarter and was unable to continue playing. Looking back, I’m convinced this is where everything went terribly wrong. Suddenly the Bears seemed to deviate from their running game and that meant the offence was relying on the much-maligned Rex Grossman to win the game with his arm. This was my worst nightmare prior to the game. I was completely petrified that I’d have to watch as Grossman tried to pass his way to a win. To say Grossman has been erratic this season would be like saying Pamela Anderson only has slightly bad taste in men. The Chicago pivot has been up and down like a yo-yo all season—and that’s certainly not the type of quarterback that normally wins championships. It turned out I had every right to be fearful. As Grossman lead the Bears to three successive short drives, Manning was resurrecting the Colts’ offence. Indianapolis quickly erased Chicago’s 14-6 lead and took a 16-14 lead of their own into halftime. The Colts picked up where they left off in the third quarter, extending their lead to 22-14 courtesy a pair of Adam Vinatieri field goals. It was at this point that I knew the game was over. With the Bears trailing by eight points with a quarter to go, I knew Lovie Smith and the rest of the coaching staff were going to have to let Grossman throw the ball. I also knew that wasn’t going to go very well for Chicago. Sure enough, Grossman’s first interception was returned for a touchdown by Colts’ back-up corner Kelvin Hayden while his second interception, this time by safety Bob Sanders, sealed the Colts’ win. I was pretty crushed, but then it got worse. In a move I’m sure was pre-determined before the game, Manning was awarded the MVP trophy. Manning was good Sunday, but he wasn’t great. If I’d had my choice, I would have split the award between the Colts’ two running backs: Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes. My only solace in this turn of events is that Chicago should be good again next season. They’re young and talented while the rest of the NFC is pretty bad. Maybe next season will bring the Bears the championship I’ve been longing for for 22 years (and counting). acruickshank@fortfrancescom

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