Well members of Cubs Nation, it happened whether or not we were ready. The 2016/2017 season of the National Football League has encroached on our tense, exciting baseball playoff vigil.
The Chicago Bears hosted their first preseason game on Thursday night against defending Super Bowl champs the Denver Broncos. They walked away from the field at the wrong end of a 22-0 drubbing. Normally it would be fine to get crushed by a champion, but Denver no longer has Peyton Manning as its spiritual leader and de facto coach. They have Mark Sanchez (I’d laugh but…Jay Cutler). And as for the Bears’ performance? I’ll let ESPN Staff Writer Jeff Dickerson explain:
“Let’s see…busted coverage? Check. Leaky pass protection? Check. Zero first downs? Check. Critical special teams error? Check. Hey, at least the Chicago Bears were consistent on Thursday night. They really touched them all.”
However there’s more than shoddy play from the Bears to annoy Cub fans about the commencement of football activities. If you’re like me, you started receiving notifications from your fantasy league Commissioner this week – keeper deadlines, new rules, draft schedules. Also if you’re like me, these alerts proved more annoying than welcome because fantasy is a lot of work. And I’ve already got my hands full evaluating the Cubbies from every angle.
As our Brian Johnston wrote this week, there’s a real chance we won’t see troubled Tommy La Stella back on the field this season. He’s been a strong player but emotions and the politics of business are tangled in a way that could set a bad precedent if management doesn’t proceed cautiously.
The Cubs pitching staff has been on fire – yesterday’s bullpen shellacking notwithstanding. The roster has a collective 3.14 ERA season to date and of the five starters, Jon Lackey is performing the “worst” with a number of 3.56. There have been dark, shameful seasons when some of us would have considered bartering our firstborn children for that kind of performance.
But we are a weary and tested people, Wrigleyville Nation. Things weren’t going so well before the All-Star break, frightening enough that whispers of “1969” echoed throughout the city. The Cubbies seem to have found their footing again. Yesterday’s loss ended an 11-game winning streak for the team, the longest since the 2001 season. However relief pitching remains a concern. As Vinnie Dubin of CSN Chicago writes:
“The Cubs are without their seventh- and eight-inning men for the time being, with Hector Rondon unavailable of late and Pedro Strop on the shelf for four to six weeks after Friday surgery. In other words, the bullpen is missing two of its top relievers, and exactly how much the team misses those guys was painfully evident in Saturday’s 8-4 loss to the visiting St. Louis Cardinals.”
This season has been an emotional roller coaster. Wrigleyville Nation hasn’t been able to look away for a minute. And with the Cubs’ back to being the best team in baseball, with certain playoff odds (Don’t take my word – as of this morning, Baseball Prospectus lists them at 100 percent), I have little energy or enthusiasm for a fantasy draft. How we can we possibly think of football at a time like this?!
Obviously this post is written with a little bit of tongue-in-cheek, but just a little. My NFL fantasy league draft is set for September 4 and I have to give the commitment some real thought. In years prior, I welcomed gridiron distractions from lackluster baseball seasons, but this is the dawn of a new era. If the baseball gods smile fortunately upon the North Side of Chicago, we’ll be watching Cubs action through October – eight full weeks past the NFL kickoff. What’s a sports fan with only so much emotional bandwidth to do?
Becky Sarwate is the current President of the Illinois Woman’s Press Association, founded in 1885. She’s also a part-time freelance writer, award-winning columnist and blogger who lives in the Ravenswood neighborhood of Chicago with her partner Bob and their beloved pup, Jude. Her collected works are published athttp://www.beckysarwate.com