CHICAGO -- What an idyllic Chicago football Sunday. The rain came at a menacing slant, just like they draw it up in the city planning. The Bears lost. The big game yielded several areas for acid dissection of the home team.
I mean, were you an interloper just passing through, you hardly could come upon a day more exemplary. It was like walking through some sort of museum biosphere aimed at depicting essential Chicago football.
Only three events disappointed.
For one, the wind that would blow your car to and fro and create tiny tornadoes stirring up trash on the sidewalks through the afternoon died down some by nightfall, a clear breach of duty that left only a determined rain and made the city more unfittingly bearable.
For another, some forecasts that called for sleet by halftime failed to materialize, as if they had been drawn up by Karl Rove. This proved a downer as one always hates to miss a one-off chance at Chicago sleet at halftime.
And for a third, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler went out at halftime with a concussion, a bummer not only because we shouldn't want anybody to have a concussion even if that ethic goes violated by bilious fans all across the country each weekend, but because it robbed Chicagoans of the chance to further their complex relationship with Cutler.
Imagine what delights that second half might have unearthed, Cutler-wise.
Other than that came a whole lot of perfection, starting with the city itself. Of the 30 NFL metropolitan areas (separating Washington and Baltimore by their persistent request), you can feel a big game most in Chicago. New York swallows up a big game and most everything else. Washington might give it a run but then, that's such a sprawl and besides, the question demands that you actually have a big game at least once a decade or so. Dallas and Denver certainly have passion, but those are more newfangled cities with less cohesion and less fine claustrophobia.
In Chicago, you see and feel and hear a big game everywhere, the senses heightened even further if given the time to sprout all the way through a day with a night game sitting up ahead and full of promise. You see it on Irving Park Road, where an elderly man walks alone in front of a gas station mid-afternoon, Bears cap situated upon skull, ready for action. You hear it in restaurants, where staffers speak of expecting the crush come evening. You feel it on the streets gone barren near kickoff, even factoring in the nagging rain with the insufficiently miserable wind.
Up and down Wells and over on Division, in splashy new joints with futuristic screens and in old mainstays like The Lodge (which always makes my liver quiver), they watched in indoors sometimes gone hot with crowds. They applauded politely in the first quarter when head coach Lovie Smith opted to go for it on fourth and 1. They made ludicrously biased assessments of reviewed plays. When Cutler made a heady play (figuratively speaking) near the end of the first half, a churlish old man at the end of a bar on Wells informed the quarterback through the screen that it had been the first moment all night when he had done something that wasn't "stupid."
The play was nullified, of course, because Cutler had surpassed the line of scrimmage.
Yeah, if you're just an interloper (and former resident) observing for a day, you're lucky to get an excellent opponent in town, and just such a visitor did show up. The Houston Texans might not fit snugly in a country that loves its noise as much if not more than quality. They might not draw much attention in a country where Dallas and Philadelphia can play a national TV game with top-tier broadcasters even though the presence of either in the playoffs would not flatter the playoffs. They might have stoked far less pre-game chatter than the Bears even though Chicago’s seven victims have gone 24-39-1, the lone winning record belonging to Indianapolis (6-3), which Chicago crushed in Week 1 with the Colts still absolutely wobbly.
Still, the Texans do play an impressively airtight form of football, and their 43-13 destruction of a perfectly outstanding Ravens team would have to rank among the best two wins of the whole season, maybe alongside the Giants' 26-3 win in San Francisco. So when they won the turnover battle against the widely lauded turnover maestros and plucked the Bears 13-6, they afforded the final stage of experiencing Chicago in full flower.
That would be for the miserable ride home, with the miserable rain and the miserable windshield and the miserable defrost button and the miserable wipers in a gray misery symphony. Still, it became palatable and even pleasurable through a fresh barrage of radio spite directed at the home offense and the home fumbling and the home dropped passes and the home eight first downs and the home squandering of fortuitous field position. One voice viewed a 7-2 team and dragged out the word "panic" to highlight a feast of instant dissection.