Temperatures in Chicago are approaching levels that would have most Pomona students layering their hoodies and doubling up their Uggs for the trip from Clark I to snack, but for the Windy City’s professional sports teams and their fans, things are heating up. The sting of yet another abysmal baseball season has faded—although, for at least half the city, 102 years of scar tissue has probably rendered them pretty numb to begin with.
The defending World Champion Blackhawks are back on the ice and just four points behind conference leader Detroit. The Bulls are leading the Central Division despite having started the season without a key member of their lineup. And finally, after a month of being sidelined and Armani-suited with a hand injury, their big off-season acquisition, Carlos Boozer, is expected to take the floor for the first time this week.
Despite all of this, the buzz from Lincoln Park to Woodlawn is over the 8-3 Chicago Bears, who are coming off a decisive victory against Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles last Sunday.
Thanks to this week’s loss by their archrivals in Green Bay, the Bears currently sit atop the NFC North with five games remaining in the regular season. However, their path to the playoffs is by no means assured. They have a tough upcoming schedule, even considering this Sunday’s gimme against the hapless Lions, whose fanbase probably consists of the only 500 people on Earth who aren’t entitled to make fun of the Cubs. Following the game in Detroit, the Bears will have to play their less laughable conference rivals in hostile environments as well as the league-leading Patriots and Jets at Soldier Field.
In the Bears’ coming quest for a playoff berth and home-field advantage, it couldn’t hurt for quarterback Jay Cutler to perform like he did last week, when he threw four touchdowns and earned a passer rating of 146. He will have some leeway, though, thanks to a typically aggressive, physical defense and a league that still hasn’t seemed to figure out that punting the ball backwards is probably a better idea than giving Devin Hester the chance to return it. The Bears are also a team that the sports world still hasn’t fully recognized as a legitimate contender to go deep into the postseason. That may be a good thing. It allows them to fly under the radar and could give them a useful chip on their shoulder.
Best of all, a 2010 Superbowl Shuffle isn’t in the cards—no one should ever have to see Robbie Gould rap.