The Bar at the Peninsula, Chicago
In the corner booth with Troy Aikman and Joe Buck. Troy with his scotch, Joe with his Baileys.
Troy: Well Joe, here we go again. The Second City, great bar, and another Bears-Packers game. Best rivalry in football.
Joe: I know, time to put on my game day aura, but I can’t stop thinking about how it’s up to us to bring the mood of this country up, with all the airwaves filled with the latest tragedy in Connecticut, and Sandy still traumatizing thousands of people. At least that NYC 12-12-12 concert helped a bit. Adam Sandler’s piece was the best, the way he nailed the Jets, hailed Jason Kidd and the Knicks, and did his piece on the now-Brooklyn Nets.
Troy: I heard about that concert. Interesting they can do something like that for Sandy, but Katrina never got that kind of game plan. What is THAT about?
Joe: Politics Troy, all about whose running the show and the recovery effort. Think about that one.
Troy: Well, I wish I could do what Costas did a few weeks back, with his halftime commentary on Jovan Belcher’s murder-suicide, quoting KC’s Jason Whitlock and gun control. But then again, we work for Murdock, who’d probably have me fired if I even went off script like that.
Joe: Ya think? Hey, with you in Texas so long, I thought everyone cherished their 2nd amendment rights. And to think Costas had the guts to do that IN Dallas stadium. Boy, our Murdoch’s Fox News backlash went bananas, like Rove did on election night after Ohio was called for Obama.
Troy: I give Bob a lot of credit with his statement on gun control, but if you watched the Daily Show do their piece on this whole thing, it was Jon Stewart at his best.
Joe: Wow, I learn something new about you every day don’t I? You watch him and Colbert? Great hour of TV to take my mind off sporting news, especially with what is going on in the NFL these days. Goodell probably blowing up after Tagliabue’s decision on Bountygate, adding a few extra teams to the playoffs, trying to field a team in London – I mean, really?
Troy: Okay Joe, let’s calm down a bit here. You need some chamomile tea? Tell me, what have been your best moments this season?
Joe: Honestly? Game 7 of the NLCS, Giants beating the Cardinals 9-0, and then sweeping the Tigers in 4! Romo was off the charts, Sandoval hitting 3 HRS in Game 1 of the World Series, TWO off of Verlander, and watching Buster Posey come back with his MVP season and series. What a tag at home plate that was.
Troy: Wow, like that Monday night when the Bears beat the Lions and the Presidential Debate was on, you were so lucky – I really envy you, calling that game. Great baseball playoffs we had. The Orioles, the A’s in, & no Yankees, no Dodgers, no Angels, no Rangers – pretty awesome surprises. So what about now? Any letdowns?
Joe: Football this season just hasn’t been there for me, Troy. The concussions, the amount of players being injured this time of year, I know I’ll get into it at Soldier Field on Sunday, but let’s be real: Cutler is damaged goods, Marshall, who is on fire, is the only offensive weapon on the Bears, their offensive line is a bust, Forte isn’t as reliable as in previous years, and their injuries are killing them. The latest, Robbie Gould, who at least is one of the best kickers in the NFL, especially knowing Soldier Field like the back of his hand, is truly a loss.
Troy: No excuses here, Joe. Green Bay has had their fair share of guys on IR, and had 13 when they won the Super Bowl. Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson are doing a great job. They have a system that works to perfection, especially with Rodgers as an elite QB, that they can plug their holes fairly well.
Joe: I’ll keep going with the Bears, though. That Hester experiment is a complete bust. He should have just stayed on special teams, period. But really, their O-line is made up of a center who is a converted guard, a right tackle who is now a guard, and pray tell me, if Clay Matthews comes back, how many of these guys can guard his pass rush?
Troy: It all comes down to the coaching, Joe. And of course, the draft picks. Angelo didn’t help them at all. Between Gabe Carimi and Chris Williams, my mother could have done better. And that’s because she watches “Mike and Mike in the Morning,” bless her heart. Really now, Lovie was so focused on defense, that he forgot to draft some lineman to protect his franchise QB, or make some holes for Forte or Bush.
Joe: She watches Greenie and Golic? Good for her. Man, Golic just turned 50 on 12-12-12, can you believe that? And he won’t stop talking about Notre Dame. Man, I’d love to see them win the BCS title game. He’d be one proud papa with his son playing for them.
Troy: Well, as I said on their show the other day, the Bears are just too reliant on one receiver to make all the plays. They need production from others, and it’s usually that 3rd or 4th player who creates the most problems for other teams, something the Bears simply lack.
Joe: I see what you’re saying. When the Bears had Jeffrey, Bennett, Hester (if he ever caught a ball) Forte, and Marshall, they won a lot of games this season. Now, who is the only dependable guy? I mean, at least Rodgers has Finley, Jennings, and Cobb. And Rodgers is dangerous as a running back also, when he spreads the field.
Troy: Exactly. I mean, the Bears have not addressed these other positions like the Packers. Forte has only 36 receptions. Their biggest concern is that they’re a team who wins when the defense has take-aways. But when you rely on that for your scoring, you can’t win. You’re done. And lately, even Briggs and Peppers aren’t making the plays.
Joe: So is that what you’ll be saying to our national audience on Sunday? You’re fairly certain they’ll lose, right? How do you think the Chicago fan base will take this?
Troy: Well, there’s one thing I’ve learned about Chicago sports fans. They know their sports. They love their teams. And they’ve put up with a lot of losses under Lovie Smith. Just look at him being in such a state of denial right now. He’s been here 9 years, and made the playoffs only 3 times. He’s definitely on the proverbial hot seat, as he should be.
Joe: So who do you think would come in here if Virginia McCaskey actually fired Lovie if he didn’t get in the playoffs? Gruden, Cowher?
Troy: Glad you mentioned that. Did you know that the Bears have never hired an NFL head coach to become their head coach, ever since Halas? It’s always been some coordinator or someone from the collegiate ranks. In a city like this? Fans who are so committed to their teams? Pretty absurd, and pretty cheap.
Joe: Wow, that’s bad. And I just read that Sean Payton is from around here. Think he’d come if the money was right?
Troy: Doubt it. With Bounty gate coming to a close, he’ll probably go back to New Orleans, or possibly Dallas where he owns a home. Now that would please the hell out of me. I’ve actually thought of a dark horse candidate like Ron Rivera. I don’t know where he is with his contract on the Panthers, but wouldn’t that be ironic, after how he was treated by Lovie? And possibly Andy Reid, if he doesn’t get booted.
Joe: Look Troy, I’m already preparing to be doing some scoreboard watching on Sunday. Redskins, Giants, Falcons, Steelers, Ravens, Seahawks. Of all the games we’ve done this season, this one just doesn’t stir me up. I’d rather be talking about the bigger issues of the NFL: Goodell screwing up and Tabliague bailing him out, stretching the season to 18 games, adding more playoff teams……
Troy: right – another 7 – 9 team getting into the playoffs. The only thing keeping the NFL going well is fantasy football and all the bucks that betting brings in. The players and the union despise Goodell. That’s where Tagliabue and Gene Upshaw at least had a working relationship.
Joe: How strong is the union these days? Look at the NHL and how Bettman and the owners are ruining the sport. I mean, look what just happened in Michigan, union busting – and Scott Walker in Wisconsin going after them too. And really – Aaron Rodgers Day in Wisconsin on 12 – 12- 12? Is that the way to make this guy popular for re-election in 2014?
Troy: Joe, concentrate here – stick with the game plan for Sunday. Let’s make sure we tell the audience that Brandon Marshall is the only NFL player to have over 100 receptions on two different teams. He’s the man here. It’s still a rivalry. What will be interesting is to see how many cheesehead fans are in the stands. I’m told that this is the one game that season-ticket holders can scalp these tickets for 3- 4 times their value.
Joe: Yeah – and the way Marshall went off on how he does not like the Packers was a pretty foolish thing to say, given that he’ll be double and maybe triple-teamed the whole game. Those Packer fans will go crazy every time one of their own breaks up a pass thrown to him.
Troy: My thought would be for Tice to do what the Saints did when they won the Super Bowl. Put both Bush and Forte in the backfield on nearly every play. Let one of them block and the other rush. Or have them both block so Cutler can throw to an open receiver with a quick 2 step drop slant. They’ve got the weapons, but don’t use them. I mean, what else can they do?
Joe: Nice thinking there pal. Well, what are the odds for this game, and of course, whose getting into the playoffs? I know Las Vegas usually has it right, but who would have thought that Carolina would have pulled off that upset last week?
Troy: Joe, we know the Falcons are in, and probably the 49ers, Packers, and Giants – and I like the Seahawks and Redskins, assuming RGIII stays healthy enough. And then the Patriots, Texans, Broncos, and even the Colts. Lots of ins and outs here.
Joe: Actually, there is one source I’d rely on without a doubt. And I don’t understand why the bookies don’t even go there.
Troy: What’s that?
Troy: Again, please?
Joe: Nate Silver, the genius who has called the last 2 national elections. The mathematical guy who uses facts and numbers to tell the world what the chances are of what politician will win his/ her race.
Troy: Well, what does 538 stand for?
Joe: The number of folks voted to the House of Representatives and the Senate. He called nearly all the races correctly before the election.
Troy: Can we talk about this on the show then? Seems like a great piece of conversation for a national audience. It would help fantasy football like nothing else if we got 538 involved in calling each game, player, etc.
Joe: I’ll have the producers make the call to Nate so the three us can just meet. If anything else, he can make us look like geniuses on the air if we can just make a few game day calls.
Troy: I’ll let you do that work. I can’t be seen doing any back room deals even close to that. Don’t forget the Pete Rose odyssey.