To the men in the graying goatees who pull those ridiculous-looking navy No. 54 jerseys over slight paunches every Sunday, and the women who proudly wear the pink model, you don’t matter to the Bears’ franchise player.
To young kids across Chicagoland with the Brian Urlacher bobbleheads collecting dust in their bedrooms or Urlacher Fatheads and framed photos hanging on their walls, sorry, you don’t either.
To the fan in Section 154 of Soldier Field who caught the keepsake football Brandon Marshall joyfully hurled into the seats after scoring a touchdown against the Packers or the fan in his living room still stuck in 1985, neither do you.
To every hard-working stiff who plunked down the equivalent of a car payment to attend a Bears game this year and bought the right Sunday or any day to boo one of the NFL’s most disappointing teams, Brian Urlacher considers you irrelevant.
“Two of the people I don’t care about: fans or media,” Urlacher told WFLD TV while defending coach Lovie Smith after Sunday’s loss. “They can say what they want to about our head coach, about our players. … It does bother me. They don’t know what they’re talking about, obviously.”
Obviously, the customer isn’t always right in Urlacher’s world.
Everybody gets Urlacher grunting at the media — being at odds with pro athletes goes with the territory. We understand, like many players, Urlacher will hate the media until he becomes part of it. But nobody should accept the face of Chicago’s most beloved franchise thumbing his nose at fans who voice frustration over a fading Bears team or a head coach consistently hard to hug.
Asked about Urlacher’s fan criticism, Smith claimed to know nothing.
“It’s hard for me to respond when I haven’t heard the comments,” Smith said.
By 1 p.m. in the NFL’s second-largest media market, Smith had yet to hear about Chicago’s most popular post-’85 Bears player ripping fans 18 hours earlier?
Urlacher can’t care about you as a consumer but dismiss you as a football fan. He can’t care what cable provider you choose, what soft drink you buy, what deodorant you use or what tennis shoe you wear and then disregard what you think about Bears issues. He needs an attitude adjustment — or a stronger publicist who advises him to save the sarcasm for winning streaks. To stop being so boorish to people so Bearish, especially after a mediocre season.
“Our crowd was pretty good today for the most part. They were loud for a minute there. The boos were really loud, which is always nice,” Urlacher said sarcastically. “The only team in our division that gets booed at home is us. It’s incredible to me.”
What seems more incredible is how a guy spends 13 seasons in a passionate football city that adores him and still feels unloved. So what if the crowd booed and Smith feels fans’ wrath. Sure, some Grabowskis cross the line, but most pay attention enough to know the Bears started 7-1 and are within two weeks of a historic NFL meltdown. Fans reacted during the game for the same reason Marshall did after it; they crave accountability and are at their wit’s end.
In blasting those same fans who helped create his celebrity, Urlacher helped make the Bears as unlikable as they have been unwatchable. Urlacher also made it much easier for a fan base to cut the emotional cord with the future Hall of Famer if the Bears decide not to re-sign a linebacker in decline with bad knees who turns 35 in May.
“Leader of team can’t make comments like that! Guy leaving town can,” Bears fan Chris Faulds tweeted, reflecting sentiments across social-media platforms and perhaps beyond.
But will Urlacher’s comments resonate at Halas Hall?
Bears Chairman George McCaskey spent two decades in the ticket office, dealing regularly with everyday folks. McCaskey is one. My lasting impression of McCaskey came in the spring at the United Center during a Blackhawks game when I sat next to him. Wearing an oversized No. 7 jersey in honor of his grandfather, George Halas, McCaskey danced to “Chelsea Dagger” after goals and high-fived fellow season-ticket holders. He made sports conversation with strangers. He clearly enjoyed interacting with sports fans of Chicago he respects.
By George, it’s time McCaskey holds accountable anybody on the Bears’ payroll who doesn’t.
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal