Why The Chicago Bears Represent Value

I make Matt Millen right. Walter Cherepinsky will be mad. Not just mad. Really mad. Really, really mad. I’m well versed in recognising the special love that ol’ Walt reserves for Millen, but on this one, Matt’s right. Really right. Really, really right.

I refer to Willie McGinest’s Power Rankings on NFL Network, that I watched having returned home from work on Friday afternoon. Work…it’s been a beautifully truncated week here in London (well, the whole of the UK benefited, if I’m honest, but I don’t live in the whole of the UK; I reside in the future home of the Los Angeles Rams) in deference to the Jubilee celebrations and some of us have had trouble getting motivated all over again. I need to revert to making Jack a dull boy.

Power Rankings, something not easy to engage in, despite its simplicity. I dabbled in it last season and encountered headaches…it’s not quite as easy as A(rizona), B(uffalo), C(arolina) so I decided to stick to the handicapping of football games. The scope for debate afterwards is immeasurable and the thirst for proffering one’s polemic limitless. Which brings me back to McGinest and Millen…in a short while.

I’ve written previously of an attractive outright price for Super Bowl XLVII that caught my eye on bet365.com, a price that will (likely) remain until kickoff on September 9th, irrespective of what transpires in New Jersey on the evening of the 5th. Said attractive price is the Chicago Bears at 30/1.

Yes, they play in arguably the toughest division in football and in the stronger conference, but despite this, there won’t be many teams relishing the prospect of facing them this season. I want to say at any stage this season, but they had a successful grip on their own destiny last year until they lost both Jay Cutler and Matt Forte and with the injury Gods liable to strike at the most inopportune of moments, no team’s ever safe.

However, they’ve taken out safer insurance policies this offseason with the acquisitions of Jason Campbell and Michael Bush to back up Cutler and Forte respectively. The signing of Bush went somewhat unheralded, but it’s a shrewd piece of business, in my opinion. Perhaps the reason for Bush’s introduction to Chicago via the back door was due to the seismic headlines surrounding a new Marshall in town. Brandon and seismic headlines do good bedfellows make, but he’s been a paragon of virtue since riding in to the Windy City and I think the planets must need realigning because his behaviour thus far has been extraordinarily exemplary.

From the perspective of considering the Bears tremendous value this season, should you, like me, wish to invest a little of your hard earned on Chicago, we may have the Denver Broncos to thank for affording us a good run for our money. The shared experience enjoyed by Marshall and Cutler of playing together at Invesco Authority Sports Elway The Drive Field at Mile High Stadium has had the most positive of effects and who would have ever have guessed that the only man alive capable of calming Marshall down was one Jay Christopher Cutler.

It does remain to be seen how long Marshall keeps this up for, but with Cutler able to target the at-peace-with-himself receiver, Alshon Jeffery and Devin Hester and with Forte and/or Bush keeping defences more than a little honest, I see the Bears being very competitive and about the best value outright bet there is right now.

I do hear whispers of a shaky offensive line in Chicago (and Cutler just this weekend did more than speak at a whisper about those (not) protecting him) and yes, it isn’t the strongest unit in the league, but consider this: it’s the same bunch of guys as last year and Forte did OK, thank you very much, for the 12 games he was able to suit up for in 2011, rushing for 997 yards at an average of 4.9 YPA, the latter being a career high.

No NFL coaching staff are idiots (alright, I stand corrected on this) and those running the show in Chicago obviously have confidence in those making holes for Forte because they did absolutely nothing to alter or upgrade the line whatsoever, aside from bringing in Chilo Rachal, a guard from our very good friends from the red half of the Bay Area.

I think it’s about time I took us back to Willie McGinest and Matt Millen. I actually thought Willie was going to really indulge us and count down from 32, but, alas, he wouldn’t dare do that so offered up his top 10. I should have known better on NFL Network…they’re the Yoda of Top 10’s.

I knew the Seahawks wouldn’t be near the top 10, but here’s McGinest’s take: 10. Lions, 9. Steelers, 8. Saints, 7. Texans, 6. Eagles (good choice and rightfully this high), 5. Ravens, 4. 49ers, 3. Packers, 2. Patriots, 1. Giants.

Step forward, Millen…”don’t undersell the Chicago Bears.” I wasn’t expecting that and I don’t know if I should be pleased at Millen’s opinion or not! But, he’s right. Really right. Really, really, right. Additionally, I found some vindication in Vegas. However, before that, further good news.

Being able to receive 30/1 on Chicago at bet365.com had me, as it turns out, underselling the Bears myself as williamhill.com are actually offering a staggering 33/1. Now, I don’t know if it’s because British bookmakers/sportsbooks are ignorant to the NFL offseason, but a truer reflection of their odds can be found at sportsbook.com (via Vegas Insider), where they can be backed at only 18/1.

How is it that a team as talented as the Bears can be backed at almost double the odds as what’s on offer in Vegas? Regardless of the reason, I’m all over it and one simple truth is that they’re definitely going to begin the season 1-0 because they host the Colts in their season opener. Their schedule also includes the Rams and Jaguars in the first five weeks so I expect them to be 3-2 at the very least as they head into their bye week; the two losses could come in Green Bay and Dallas, but that’s worst case scenario.

Not that it’s necessarily eye catching, but here’s something that, er…caught my eye. Sportsbook.com are offering a line on the Super Bowl, with the NFC currently favoured by 2.5 points. Now, for example, should anybody favour the Patriots to bounce back and take all before them, then take the AFC + 2.5 points early because, should they rip it up early in the season (and they could easily begin 7-1), that line will decrease to + 0.5 by midseason and we may even see the AFC favoured by 0.5.

With very little, if any, odds/line movement around at the moment, finding little gems like that will keep me ticking over until September 5th.


The business of sports has grown at such a fast pace financially over the past few decades, that the essence of what really constitutes a sport has been lost – fatally blurred somewhere between physical activity, entertainment, and business.

What constitutes a sport is certainly debatable, but most would agree that factors impacting a sports ‘legitimacy’ include a) the degree of physical skill and activity required to succeed b) the extent to which the sport’s objectives are relatable and understandable and c) the simple matter of how fun/exciting the sport ultimately is to watch. Given the three criteria above, mixed martial arts should easily rank among the top sports in the world, but despite UFC’s valiant attempts at getting its brand and the sport of MMA accepted into the mainstream – it still remains largely ignored or misunderstood outside of the Americas.

Perhaps my journey from complete ignorance on the matter to one of its biggest fans can shed some light to others still standing on the fence about a sport that just until a couple of years ago, was still referred to as ‘human cockfighting’.

My first foray into the world of the Ultimate Fighting Championship and mixed martial arts came unexpectedly – following a late-night conversation with a friend about reality TV. Frustrated with irritating reality-TV drama queens running their mouths unchecked, I suggested it would be rather satisfying to see the participants just fight it out as the petty and over-the-top arguments felt neither genuine nor provided any sort of satisfying closure.

My buddy told me about a reality TV show called “The Ultimate Fighter”, in which the drama didn’t need to be artificially fabricated and the ‘beef’ was settled in the most gratifying way possible, a ‘no holds barred’ fight inside a steel cage. Several episodes into TUF Season 1, in between Chris ‘The Crippler’ Leben urinating on some poor fellow competitor’s bed, and UFC President Dana White giving the infamous ‘do you wanna be a fighter’ speech off the top of his dome better that Denzel Washington or Al Pacino could ever act out – I was completely hooked.

It didn’t take long for my appreciation of the raw grit and humbling nature of the action to translate into full appreciation for the sport of MMA. It turned out it wasn’t just trashy reality-TV that was phony, but most of the popular sports that western civilization and I had grown to love. Baseball’s number-heavy approach all of a sudden seemed tedious to the point that it felt more like a sports simulation rather than a sport everyday people can relate to. The NBA meanwhile lacked a sense of urgency, with its lengthy and inconsequential regular season resulting in teams and players too often not giving it their all to win. Soccer was plagued with players trying to trick referees, the NFL lacked fluid and lengthy action, while tennis and boxing were impaired by insufficient competition and a general lack of creativity.

To top it all off, all of the sports mentioned above including boxing were built around a specific system that was rooted in tradition and logistical simplicity – rather than giving fans what they really wanted to see. The UFC, I found, always managed to find a way to repeatedly spoil its fans with dream salivating match-ups while in comparison the only time Kobe Bryant and LeBron James have ever really squared off in a meaningful way was in a Nike commercial involving puppets.

Sports of all types feature similar cliché phrases like ‘do or die’, ‘chance of a lifetime’, ‘giving a 100%’, ‘backs against the wall’ but its only until you watch a main event of a UFC event that you understand that in MMA, it’s not just hype or hyperbole.

I made a rather bold claim a while back, that in no sport did athletes ever come close to giving it their all, that it was always possible to make someone give it just a little more if the right motivation/punishment was instilled into the back of their mind. MMA just so happens to naturally pack that highest level of adrenaline into its competitors, where a simple mistake or lack of preparation can be the difference between delivering a knockout blow or being on the wrong side of a broken limb. In other sports, the difference is often as inconsequential as shooting a Bogey instead of a Par 3. In which case do you suppose athletes more often give the fans ‘their money’s worth’ ?

If there is one thing I have learned about being a sports fan, it’s that your perceived gravity of the consequences of a particular sporting event have more of an impact on your level of engagement/excitement than almost anything else. That’s why over 30 million Americans on average watched the 2012 Olympics and probably chanted ‘USA! USA!’ at their TV screen despite not being overly familiar with the sports in question. That’s why a couple hundred bucks wagered on a college hockey match can turn it from unwatchable to unmissable. And that is also why the UFC and MMA is so exciting. The UFC’s built-in high stakes factors include a) possible bodily harm b) a loss often setting back a contender’s championship hopes by years, sometimes forever c) anyone having a ‘puncher’s chance’ and d) the fact that MMA fights are so infrequent not only for the organization, but over the course of an athlete’s career that it automatically inherits a sense of rarity and therefore importance.

Putting aside the layers upon layers of intricate mastery present in the sport of MMA and the self-sacrifice necessary to even try to compete, the sport of fighting seems to have a clear a leg up over all the other sports in the world from a objective spectators’ point of view. How long will it be until the general population wakes up, and starts demanding a less ‘phony’ sport?


The sporting world has been turned upside its head in recent years with the ascension of me-first athletes and a degenerate society that has found a breeding ground via the social web. The building blocks of traditional ethical grounds are hastily eroding away and what’s left in the ruins is something far removed from what we would have, until recently, labeled a success.

The concepts of home, loyalty, professionalism, hard-work, and paying your dues are starting to mean very little to a generation who have grown up witnessing MNC’s ship jobs abroad, businesses fire long-time workers, one percenters making millions off taxpayers’ dime. The lottery of making it big using one’s own merit through new-age tools like YouTube are the shining beacon that keeps desperation from taking a firm hold of today’s youth.

It’s no surprise then, that the fabrication of such a desperate, flash-in-the-pan, materialistic and morally corrupt society would also rear its ugly head into the world of sports.

When LeBron James made “The Decision” to break his home’s heart on national television in a deliberate act of showmanship, a paradigm shift occurred in which the world of professional basketball would forever be changed. A clear message had been sent from King James in which he openly proclaimed his wish to conquer the sport in his own way, rather than chase glory in an honorable way as a loyal knight.

Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard have been the three most notable free agents since LeBron relocated his talents to South Beach and each have revolted to get the freedom they believed was rightfully theirs, in a show of emancipation that was the basketball equivalent of the Arab Spring. Owners have become even more clingy towards their superstars, willing to throw out coaches who have done little wrong and ready to commit just about any sin that will keep their cash-cow on home soil. Sponsors are rumored to be wielding greater power in terms of where stars ends up, further complicating matters in an organization that once used to be about teams, not players. Even fans have become more wary of their franchise players, mentally ready for a split that could in seconds turn their worshiped heroes into their teams’ number 1 enemy. Call it the ‘LeBron effect’ if you will.

It’s not fair to place all the blame on one man, but at different times throughout history, certain visionaries have risen to the forefront of their domain, and for better or for worse, cultivated a revolution that only needed a single drop to burst open the flood gates of that way of thinking. Players are now jumping ship at the first signs of trouble like treacherous pirates, teams are relocating to new cities like backpackers looking for the next thrill, news reports have turned to TMZ level gossip with Twitter taking over the news-breaking function. Even the NBA has brought scrutiny onto itself and its motives by foolishly taking over an NBA team, allowing an extended lockout, meddling in NBA trades, selling its team after earning the number 1 draft pick, and now trying to make changes to Olympic basketball for its own profit deriving interests.

In 1992 it was another star calling the shots league-wide, but Michael Jordan used his power to punish Isiah who had disrespected the meritocracy of the All-Star game, and demanded he be left off the Dream Team. LeBron’s influence on the game seems to be, ‘to each his own, f**k everybody else’.

I wrote nearly 5 years ago that the NBA was turning from a sports into pure entertainment. It turned out I was slightly off, the NBA is turning more into a modern day business rather than anything else. Gone are the camaraderie of the old days and the sense of team, as everyone is just a Tweet away from laying the groundwork to bolt out of town. Fans now find themselves less connected to their ‘home’ team with the ‘face of the franchise’ and even team jerseys changing every few years in an attempt to conceal the vicious cycle of failure facing the majority of the league’s small market teams. Without a sense of TEAM for neither players nor fans – we are getting to the point where we might as well just simulate the next season through NBA 2K13.

We are too far along to halt the momentum of this new way of life – LeBron has conquered basketball, is firmly in charge, and doesn’t show signs of letting go his tight grip on the throne. The ring he earned over the claws of the Durantulla will protect him to the end and holds as much value to him as it did to Gollum in “Lord of the Rings”. This is our new reality now and the King’s footsteps are deeply entrenched on the psyche of young adults who are embarking upon the road to sports stardom before being able to make the simple differentiation between ‘Shakespeare’ and ‘Pear Shakes’. Perhaps we can’t change it, but there’s no reason that we should encourage it. So in this new reality we find ourselves in, isn’t it about time we change the barometer of what success in sports really means?

Everything else in the sport has changed, so why should the ideal of success remain stationery? Perhaps once upon a time, when stars showed loyalty to their home teams and battled it out till the end with the soldiers put alongside them, it was enough just to be a champion. But in today’s league where a superstar can join their rivals and handpick their teammates and act as general manager of the club – shouldn’t the premise of achieving ultimate success change in some form?

There have been players and teams in the past who have tried to take the shortcut to ultimate success (Barkley’s Rockets in 1996, Malone’s Lakers’ in 2003, Shaq’s Heat in 2006, Garnett’s Celtics in 2008) but all of those players were well past their prime and none took as deliberate an approach as LeBron James’ Miami Heat. So if we can for one moment step back from the emotions sparked from King James and Durantula’s Marvel-esque NBA Finals clash, and analyze the latest volatile arc in LeBron James’ life under the premise of this article – the degree of his accomplishment becomes easier to evaluate.

At the end of the day, success is no fixed thing, it is simply what we as a society believe it to be at any given time. So at this point we need to re-evaluate whether – someone who pretty much destroyed every fabric of what made sports special, what made a earning a championship a dream come true – should be treated with the same type of approach in his times of success as he mistreated failure in his times of trouble. Is it fair to skip a majority of the parts that makes earning a championship tough, and expect the same type of praise as someone who took the tougher road? Let me phrase it in a simpler way – do we really want our kids to look up to their sports stars, and see betrayal and taking the short-cut as the model for success?

King James might have conquered the sport, but in this day and age, we the people still have power to determine his legacy.


It wasn’t suppose to end like this, not in Los Angeles where happy endings are scripted out of thin air and certainly not with Kobe Bryant involved, who had defied the laws of physics and biology way too many times during this tumultuous season to come crashing down in this manner.

In a game that will go down in history as the end of an era, Kobe Bryant came down twice with injuries before a third finally took him out for good, with the infamous Achilles injury leaving another legend in its wake. If this is the last we see of him, it was a heroic way to go out, with Kobe Bryant fighting to the bitter end and contributing to the cause until the last ounce of blood had been shed.

In all honesty, this whole monstrosity of a season should have been put down way before any signs of life ceased to exist. All the experts had already written off the team’s chances and not even the most loyal of believers could see this discombobulated squad survive 2 months of grueling must-win games.

But there was one among the ranks that held faith. For Kobe Bryant, the season had transformed from one with championship hopes to something grander in significance. This was no longer just about additional glory for him, first and foremost, his tribute to the deceased Dr. Buss hung in the balance, his guarantee to his fan base was also on the line, and his legacy was at at risk of taking an insurmountable blow.

Stuck in a team that had no chance of working out, Kobe didn’t yield for one moment. Even through inexplicable coaching changes, frustrating teammates, an ever ending list of injuries, and a poorly put together team that logically made no sense – Kobe kept at it like a stubborn kid refusing to admit that he was wrong. Except, he wasn’t wrong, one way or another Kobe Bryant had put the team on his back and was well on his way to taking them where he said he would.

It was by no means pretty, or even convincing for that matter – but with each passing game, with each miracle stacked on top of the other – Kobe gained support and belief that perhaps the impossible could be achieved. Whether he needed to be the crafty play maker, the bad guy in the locker room publicly asking more from team mates, the cold-blooded assassin taking over games in the fourth, the defensive stopper shutting down opposing team’s point guards, or simply taking the form of a machine with minutes cranked to the maximum – Kobe did it all and redefined what it meant to be a ‘man on a mission’.

Unfortunately, the miracles ran out on Saturday, just on the brink of reaching the basketball holy land known as the Playoffs. Finally breaking down on a routine move that he had “done a thousand times”, it almost was if the basketball gods were watching and took action to stop this mere mortal that was threatening to blur the line between human and supernatural. The postmortem reaction from the Black Mamba himself was one you would expect, hell hath no fury like Kobe scorned:

This is such BS! All the training and sacrifice just flew out the window with one step that I’ve done millions of times! The frustration is unbearable. The anger is rage. Why the hell did this happen ?!? Makes no damn sense. Now I’m supposed to come back from this and be the same player Or better at 35?!? How in the world am I supposed to do that?? I have NO CLUE.

Yet after all the accomplishments, the milestones, the obstacles overcome, and the talks of retirement that had begun to surface, perhaps this is what was necessary to provide Kobe one final challenge. Maybe, just maybe, Kobe has one miracle left in him, one miracle that would surpass all those before it – coming back from the insurmountable, and essentially, defying death.

“One day, the beginning of a new career journey will commence. Today is NOT that day.” – Kobe Bryant