So I had a dream involving Rex Grossman and Kirk Hinrich last night.
Before you get any ideas, I should clarify that this dream was more of the nightmare variety. Allow me to explain.
Through some sort of wormhole, flux capacitor or other rift in the space-time continuum, I was able to simultaneously view the opening games of both the Bears and Bulls. I was sitting in a nondescript room full of strangers, like an airport terminal or something. In the span of a few seconds, Rex and Kirk both went down with what appeared to be season-ending injuries. I began to scream in horror and spew expletives as everyone stared at me like I was Ozzie Guillen at a press conference. Apparently no one else in there was a Chicago fan.
Before anyone gets too worried this might be a bad omen, I should point out that at age six I dreamed a shark ate me during a sailing trip with the Muppets, and that hasn't happened yet. Still, for the few seconds after I woke up I was convinced football and basketball season were already ruined.
The odd thing is, I can't remember a recent summer where I've been this optimistic about the Bears and Bulls respective chances. The dream probably says something about my inner-pessimist as a sports fan. Deep down I tend to expect the worst, and when the worst happens I tend to remember it the best.
For example, I was four-years-old in 1985 when the Bears won the Super Bowl. My only vivid memory of watching them that season is screaming at the TV in my kitchen as I watched Dan Marino pick them apart. I don't even remember watching the Super Bowl live, although the VHS tape we made has quite a few miles on it.
I'm sure you all find this bit of pop psychology and the trip down memory lane fascinating. The point I'm trying to get to is, for the first time in a while, we can reasonably expect to see both the Bears and Bulls in the playoffs with a solid shot at advancing. And part of me, obviously, is concerned.
The Bears have a weak division and a reasonably weak schedule. Even if "Rex the Wonder Bear" (by far my least favorite Mariotti pet name) goes down, Brian Griese has shown himself to be at least fairly competent over the years. Still, I can't help but think about how far and how fast the Bears came back to Earth following their last playoff appearance. In football you're always just a few key injuries from heading into a tailspin.
Most of the players on this Bulls team have never entered a season with these kind of expectations. Even if most people thought they would sneak into the playoffs again last year, many of us had a hunch they might struggle a little following the whole Eddy Curry debacle. Now? Anything less short of making the Eastern Conference finals is a failure. Consider the bar raised.
Don't get me wrong, I'll take high expectations any day over a team with no chance at doing anything. But just as there's nothing more exciting than a team coming out of nowhere to contend, there's nothing more crushing than watching a sure thing come apart. High expectations are tough to meet.
Just ask the White Sox.