I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the Bears home opener in person with none other TK, which meant we got to experience the thrill ride known as Devin Hester live and in-person. A few other thoughts before we get to Hester, though. First, with this being my first visit to the “new” Soldier Field, I must say that as much as it looks as if though they plopped the upper deck at U.S. Cellular Field in the middle of the classic colonnades from the outside, the interior of the stadium has spectacular sightlines even in the higher sections. Second, I had been much more worried over the offseason about the Bears running game in the hands of Cedric Benson as opposed to Good Rex/Bad Rex, which was certainly validated after that pathetic performance in the season opener against the Chargers. His performance against the Chiefs was certainly better by gaining just over 100 yards, but for the life of me I can’t understand why he dances to the outside when he’s a downfield power running back. From what I saw, Benson is being way too indecisive when he gets a hand-off, which is not a good thing since he’s the type of back that needs to hit the open hole immediately as a guy without the breakaway speed of someone like Ladainian Tomlinson. Third, I’m simply at a loss with Rex Grossman. I don’t want to pile on him since his approval rating in Chicago right now is hovering at around O.J. Simpson/Britney Spears levels, but the two interceptions yesterday were completely his fault and he can’t fault a non-existent running game (even if it wasn’t spectacular) for not opening anything up downfield. Let’s face it – the Bears should have been able to score on the Chiefs the way the Illini took down Syracuse on Saturday (you know that I had to weave that in, no matter how pathetic the Orange are this year). Yet, those two interceptions kept a Herm Edwards-led team in the game on the road in a hostile environment until late in the fourth quarter. At the same time, the only offensive touchdown this season has been a trick play to a backup offensive tackle (which TK brilliantly called as soon as John St. Clair reported as an eligible receiver). I’ve generally been a Rex defender if only because I know that Brian Griese isn’t really that sexy of an alternative – the old Wolverine simply doesn’t have the arm to keep opposing secondaries honest. Meanwhile, Kyle Orton seems to be on a mission to grow more hair than Chewbacca – I swear that I saw him pouring some Jack Daniels into his Gatorade bottle on the sidelines. Anyway, if teams can stack eight in the box like they did against the Bears from two years ago, we’re simply not going to far.
That being said, I’m running out of superlatives for Devin Hester. I was telling Minneapolis Red Sox in an email exchange earlier today that nothing compared to watching Michael Jordan in person in terms of electricity in the building. However, the way the crowd buzzed every time that Hester got in position to return a kick was akin to those moments when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa came up to plate in 1998 (which in hindsight with the steroid scandal seems almost farcical, but those who went to any Cubs or Cardinals games that year know what I’m talking about) – everyone in the crowd stopped and there were several moments of anticipation that we were all about to witness something special. When that special moment actually comes through, like when Devin Hester broke free for a touchdown on Sunday, you’ve got a story to tell your buddies and kids for years on end.
Devin Hester isn’t going to be the greatest Bear in history (with names like Payton, Butkus, Sayers, and Grange out there, there’s no real shame in that), but I feel as though that even if he doesn’t score another touchdown again, his burst into the NFL going to remembered as one of those flashes of sports brilliance that will live on years later, like Dwight Gooden’s rookie season or Bo Jackson’s football career. Bears fans need to enjoy these moments while they last.
(Image from Chicago Tribune)