Category: Sports

Some things never change, NFL QB edition

Pro Football Rumors:

The Jaguars have agreed to trade Nick Foles to the Bears, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). In exchange, the Bears will send a compensatory fourth-round pick to the Jags. The former Super Bowl MVP will restructure his hefty contract as part of the trade, Mike Garafolo of NFL Network tweets.

It’ll be new surroundings for Foles, but he’ll have plenty of familiar faces to help him adjust. Head coach Matt Nagy is among the staffers that have worked with him in the past, which will help with the learning curve.

The Bears have been exploring alternatives to former first-round pick Mitchell Trubisky this offseason, though they’re not necessarily out to replace him. Instead, Foles figures to serve as competition for the soon-to-be 26-year-old.

Trubisky showed plenty of promise in 2018 as he led the Bears to an 11-3 mark in 14 starts, a campaign that resulted in his first ever Pro Bowl nod. However, things got really rocky last year – Trubisky had just 17 touchdowns against ten interceptions and the Bears’ D couldn’t make up for the shortcomings. The Bears went 8-7 in Trubisky’s 15 starts and finished .500 on the season, leaving them short of the playoffs.

Chicago initially insisted after the year that they’d roll with Trubisky in 2020, but reports soon emerged that they were going to look for a veteran to push Trubisky. They’ve been connected to a number of signal-callers including Foles, Andy Dalton, and Teddy Bridgewater, and we heard Monday that they were focused on trading for either Foles or Dalton.

The Bears will take on the last three years of Foles’ contract, which pays a base value of $50M before the restructure. The Jaguars will be left with a substantial dead money hit of $18.75MM in 2020 and a mid-round pick. Jacksonville seems prepared to turn things over to Gardner Minshew, the sixth-rounder who went 6-6 last year as a rookie and finished the season with a top-10 interception rate.

Foles has had plenty of success at Soldier Field, as his last win as a starting quarterback was in Chicago in the wild card round of the playoffs two seasons ago in the infamous ‘double-doink’ game. While the Bears have insisted they aren’t giving up on Trubisky, it would be highly unusual to pay a backup quarterback as much money as Foles is getting, and it would be surprising if he doesn’t take over at some point.

Chicago now has even less draft capital, as they’ve already shipped out a bunch of picks in previous deals. They now have the 43rd and 50th overall selections in next month’s draft, but no other picks in the first four-rounds, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune notes in a tweet breaking down all of their picks.

Keith Olbermann said this in the late 2000s, and now this needs updating:

So the Bears have a quarterback problem. Thus has it been for the length of the era of Rex Grossman — and the eras of Kyle Orton, Brian Griese and Jeff Blake; Chad Hutchinson, Jonathan Quinn, and Craig Krenzel; Kordell Stewart, Chris Chandler, Jim Miller, Cade McNown, Shane Matthews and happy Hank Burris. Well, that takes us all the way back to 2000.

Following Orton’s return three years after the first of his two benchings came the era of Jay Cutler … and Todd Collins, Caleb Hanie, Josh McCown, Jason Campbell, Jimmy Clausen, Matt Barkley and Brian Hoyer. That takes us from 2009 to 2017, when the Bears let Cutler leave, signed Mike Glennon and drafted Trubisky.

Bears fans wring their hands when after two games, Rex Grossman’s quarterback rating matches the speed limit. But this is one of the NFL’s great unrecognized traditions. With brief interruptions of stability from the likes of Jim McMahon and Billy Wade, the job has been unsettled since Sid Luckman retired.

Wade was the quarterback when Da Bears won the 1963 NFL title. The next season, Wade was replaced by Rudy Bukich, only to replace Bukich one season later, only to be replaced by Bukich one season after that. Bukich was out by 1967, when Jack Concannon arrived, only to be replaced by Rakestraw for two games. Bobby Douglass and Virgil Carter arrived the next season when the Bears inexplicably cut Rakestraw.

This is how Da Bears could have two Hall of Fame players — running back Gale Sayers and linebacker Dick Butkus — and end up with two winning seasons (their first, 1965, and 1967, the first and last of the Packers’ threepeat NFL titles) and zero playoff berths. (Sayers’ career ended in 1971, two years before Butkus retired.)

There has always been a Rex Grossman, he has always underperformed, and they have always been about to replace him. The Bears have had 13 starting quarterbacks in the last eight seasons and 40 in the last 47. They’ve started Moses Moreno, and Larry Rakestraw, and Doug Flutie for two games in 1986, and Peter Tom Willis — all three of him.

As compared to 13 starting quarterbacks in eight seasons a decade ago, Da Bears have done much better in the past eight seasons — nine starting QBs. Dating back to the 2010 season, when Da Bears teased their fans with an attempt at a Super Bowl run (and needed three quarterbacks to lose the 2010 NFC championship to the Packers), the count is 11 starting QBs in 10 seasons.

Moreover, once the Bears told George Blanda he was too old to do anything but kick any more. This was in 1958; he would quarterback the Raiders in the AFC Championship Game in 1970.

They drafted Bobby Layne and traded him, and they drafted Don Meredith and traded him, because who would need Don Meredith when you already had Ed Brown and Zeke Bratkowski?

So there’s no explaining this revolving door at quarterback for the Chicago Bears. But if history is any indicator, it is sending this message to Chris Leak, the Florida quarterback whom the Bears cut last month: stay in touch, your era may be next.”

A decade later, there still is no explaining this revolving door at quarterback for the Chicago Bears, which indeed remains one of the NFL’s great unrecognized traditions.

 

A day unlike any other

I mentioned Thursday that I was getting to announce my 16th state tournament in Green Bay Thursday morning.

The radio announcer and visitor in 2015, when the radio guy got to cover two state champion teams.

And I did. But it was, as CBS-TV’s Jim Nantz intones in Masters golf tournament promotions and as I said in my hastily created open, a state tournament unlike any other.

The girls basketball team was already in Green Bay. The high school fan bus, band coach and radio personnel left Thursday morning. About 20 miles on the way to Green Bay, we got a phone call from our guitar-playing son that the bus was going back to Platteville. Less than 12 hours after the WIAA said state would take place according to plan, the WIAA decided the games would take place but without spectators, except for 88 per school.

Suffice to say the ambiance was not what it usually was. At the beginning of the second game, a player was injured. The Resch Center was so quiet that up at the top, you could hear the TV announcers down on the floor.

All this took place while other breaking news was taking place back in Platteville that the newspaper editor (with the assistance of the passenger) got covered as BREAKING NEWS!

Readers know that one of the biggest events of my young life was playing in the band at the 1982 state tournament. I know how incensed I would have been had we been told that we couldn’t play at state. And that’s exactly what happened to our guitar-playing son, who got a shoutout by a team member at Wednesday’s pep rally at the high school. The WIAA’s decision, justified or not, basically ruined the state experience for everyone who wasn’t a player.

We left officially believing Platteville would be playing in the state Division 3 championship Saturday afternoon. Last night, the boys sectional semifinals were played, with the winners also to play Saturday to go to state.

Or not. Between Wednesday night and late Thursday night, the National Basketball Association and National Hockey League suspended their seasons, the National Collegiate Athletic Association canceled its basketball tournaments, and Major League Baseball suspended spring training and the start of its season.

And the WIAA announced late Thursday night that state and the rest of the boys postseason was canceled.

In a sense it’s the NBA’s fault, because it pulled the plug first, and, as a radio colleague said, “Monkey see, monkey do,” and everyone followed suit, justified or not.

It is strange to me that the NCAA flat out canceled its tournament instead of postponed it. It is similarly strange to me that the WIAA canceled its tournaments instead of postponing them. The players and coaches absolutely would have jumped at the chance to finish the tournaments in April, or May, or this summer.

I feel also for the people for whom my hobby is their line of work. The Facebook sports announcers group was full of people who are paid per game to announce, for instance, high school and college basketball and baseball. No games, no work.

Gary Wipperman had a similar experience Thursday. His conclusion is that life isn’t fair. And it’s not. And the kids who didn’t get to go to state at all, and the kids who didn’t get to finish the state experience they had earned, learned that the hard way.

This was used once. It was supposed to be used Saturday too.

 

Stories I never thought I‘d see

At 1:15 or so this afternoon I will again get to announce a state basketball tournament on this radio station.

Someone on a sports announcer Facebook page asked the members how many state tournaments they had gotten to announce. In my case, the answer is five football championship games, three boys basketball tournaments, two girls basketball tournaments (with the right teams winning in each), two spring baseball tournaments, one summer baseball tournament, one boys soccer tournament and one girls volleyball tournament. That list includes six state champions. Not bad for a part-time announcer, who feels very blessed to be able to this as essentially a hobby that, unlike most hobbies, makes money.

And now, this message from the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association:

The WIAA State Girls Basketball Tournament and the boys basketball sectionals scheduled for this week are continuing as planned.

The WIAA Executive Staff has been in continuous discussions with local and state health officials and organizations, as well as other high school associations in the Midwest. We continue to look at all the medical evidence and breaking information regarding COVID 19 to make the best decision possible with the information available to us.

While circumstances may change, all of the leading health resources we have been working with indicate the best way to proceed is to be overcautious and reinforce the universal guidance and precautions to know your health risk, especially those at higher risk for severe illness; wash hands repeatedly with soap or sanitizer; cover your sneeze or cough; keep hands away from your face; and if you feel sick, stay at home.

We will continue to monitor any new information, and if anything changes with our Tournament Series events, we will issue a statement. …

At this time, we have discussed options for continuing to conduct the WIAA Basketball State Tournaments. The staff at the Resch Center has been diligently working to ensure that the 2020 WIAA Girls Basketball State Tournament can be conducted in a safe environment.

  • Obviously increasing all of their cleaning efforts. This includes all departments
  • Wiping down all areas with disinfectants
  • Providing hand sanitizers for all of our staff working the event
  • Providing hand sanitizers available to the public and all of our restrooms will make sure all of our restrooms have hot water and soap
  • Concessions taking extra care with wiping down all counters and equipment
  •  Overnight staff will be cleaning all confined spaces—locker rooms, elevators, meeting rooms will all be sanitized
  • Allowing and promoting if patrons want to bring in their own hand sanitizers or Purell
  • Major signage in the venue both static and electronic with messages provided by the CDC

… While we hear that universities and colleges have been closing their campuses, it is important to keep in mind that their student populations include international students who are returning to campus from spring break and countries which may have been infected more. In addition, those students are being quarantined as they return. …

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that the immediate health risk in the United States is low for the general public.

This is an appropriately measured response by the WIAA.

This, from the National Collegiate Athletic Association, is not:

The NCAA continues to assess the impact of COVID-19 in consultation with public health officials and our COVID-19 advisory panelBased on their advice and my discussions with the NCAA Board of Governors, I have made the decision to conduct our upcoming championship events, including the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, with only essential staff and limited family attendance. While I understand how disappointing this is for all fans of our sports, my decision is based on the current understanding of how COVID-19 is progressing in the United States. This decision is in the best interest of public health, including that of coaches, administrators, fans and, most importantly, our student-athletes. We recognize the opportunity to compete in an NCAA national championship is an experience of a lifetime for the students and their families. Today, we will move forward and conduct championships consistent with the current information and will continue to monitor and make adjustments as needed.

A basketball game, and life

Tonight, Ripon College opens the NCAA Division III men’s basketball tournament at St. John’s of Minnesota.

This game is taking place 20 years after St. John’s and Ripon faced off in the D3 tournament at Ripon College — the last time RC hosted (and probably will host given changes in the tournament format) an NCAA playoff game. Ripon and St. John’s freshmen and sophomores were not alive yet during the story I’m about to relate.

This was the first year that my friend Frank and I announced Ripon games. I had been a fill-in announcer the previous season, when I learned about what Midwest Conference road trips were like. Then the radio station made a broadcaster change and brought in Frank (who had announced for the station previously and was the long-time timekeeper at RC games) and myself. We hit it off immediately because we had similar interests in cars and sports, in addition to a similarly warped sense of humor. Frank tried to be helpful to opposing referees, yelling “WHERE’S THE FOUL?” during key offensive possessions.

(Cases in point: We did two games at Carroll University’s Van Male Center, where the heat had gone out. I heard a vacuum cleaner running that sounded to me like a Zamboni machine, so I cracked up Frank by saying coming out of commercial, “Back at Van Male Ice Arena.” Later that season before a game I helped Mrs. Presteblog, then pregnant with our first child, up the bleachers to our broadcast position on the top row. Frank, who was already setting up our equipment, said, “Is this man molesting you, ma’am?” My response: “Too late, Frank.”)

The previous two seasons Ripon had won the Midwest Conference regular-season and tournament titles, the latter of which, then as now, gave the winner the conference’s automatic berth into the NCAA tournament. That didn’t happen in the 1999–2000 season, because Lake Forest College went undefeated in the MWC season, giving them the right to host the tournament.

The Sunday before the conference tournament, we decided to make a baby-furniture run to Ikea in suburban Chicago, in search specifically of a crib and a changing table, preceded by brunch at Cracker Barrel (whose Appleton location was known as the “Pig Trough” by my business magazine coworkers) in Menomonee Falls. Plans immediately went awry because other diners had the same thought we had, and the excessive wait prompted us to go to a nearby Country Kitchen. (That should have been foreshadowing for what was about to happen.)

I was driving the first of our two Subaru Outbacks, an all-wheel-drive station wagon with such equipment as heated seats and a five-speed manual transmission. On our way to Ikea we stopped at a bowling alley not far from the Gurnee Mills outlet mall. While I was a business magazine editor, I was also applying for a job at Mercury Marine, owned by Brunswick Corp., which had a bowling alley that was a test facility for the latest bowling equipment.

I spent about a minute at the bowling alley, then drove off to Ikea, stopping at an intersection to make a right turn to get to the Tri-State Tollway. I shifted into first … or tried to. Nothing happened other than horrible grinding noises whenever I tried to shift to any gear other than neutral.

I had owned manual-transmission cars before the Outback. I had never blown a clutch on the previous cars. (It turns out that if the manufacturer upgrades the engine but not the clutch, the clutch might last only 68,000 miles.)

So here we were in north suburban Chicago, a husband and pregnant wife and disabled vehicle, knowing no one in the north suburbs to call for help, and, back in the days when cellphone service was more dependent on carriers than today, without a working cellphone. Fortunately a man in a minivan saw our plight and let me use his phone to call the Amoco Motor Club, of which Mrs. Presteblog was a member through her employer, Ripon College.

The club sent a flatbed truck and driver to take us to the nearest Subaru dealership, Libertyville Subaru. (He also charged us $4 because the tow was $4 more than the $50 allowance of club membership.) I filled out a form at the dealership, threw my keys in the envelope, and stuck it in the box.

Libertyville is about 140 miles south of Ripon. So we were 140 miles south of home without a way to get home. Across the street from the dealership was an Amoco station with a police car. We walked across the street and explained our plight to the officers, and they gave us a ride in the back of their squad (featuring a plastic shield separating us from the officers and a plastic-covered seat, and interestingly no seat belts) to the police station.

Mrs. Presteblog also had a membership through work for Enterprise Car Rental, which had facilities at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago and Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee. Enterprise rented cars with no mileage charge, which was good since I had an 80-mile round trip for work. Since we were trying to go north back to Ripon, it seemed logical to go to Mitchell Field for the rental car, but that required getting to Mitchell Field.

It turned out that Libertyville is right in between O’Hare and Mitchell Field. Perhaps because of that, the phone directory was full of airport limousine services. We selected the least expensive appearing one, and were driven in a Lincoln Continental limousine to Mitchell Field. (Which was at least my first limousine experience, because for our wedding we were chauffeured by Mrs. Presteblog’s sister and husband, who owned a camper.) Cost including tip: $85.

We got to Mitchell Field and rented a Pontiac Grand Am for me for the week. The cost was more than $200, but it would have been worse with a mileage charge. We found dinner (Edwardo’s pizza) and went home, without our car, more than $300, and the intended baby furniture.

Five days later, the conference tournament began at Lake Forest. We started the weekend by eating lunch at the previously mentioned Cracker Barrel with Frank, and then announced the semifinal, which Ripon won over Knox College to move to the tournament final against archrival Lawrence or host Lake Forest. Dinner was at a restaurant called Flatlanders in Lincolnshire, Ill., managed by a Ripon native. We went to the hotel and called Lake Forest’s sports phone line to find out the score of the other semifinal and found out that Lake Forest had been upset at home by Lawrence, setting up two archrivals, the third and fourth seeds of the tournament, for the title and NCAA berth.

On Saturday, we drove to the Subaru dealership to retrieve the Outback. In the days of $74-per-hour service, replacing basically the entire clutch assembly cost $937.50. We did not have time to go to Ikea, so we returned to Lake Forest, announced Ripon’s win over the Larrys to clinch their third consecutive NCAA berth, celebrated the tournament win at Mars Cheese Castle with the players, their parents and the coaches, and after returning the rental car returned home, having spent $1,300 or so without buying one piece of baby furniture.

This is where our story takes a sad turn. We had no children at the time, but we had two dogs, Puzzle and Nick the Welsh springer spaniels, along with Fatcat. Puzzle was a few months older than Nick, and had dealt with hip dysplasia her entire life. This didn’t stop her from being a goofball, doing such things as jumping not up, but out at people (toward a particular spot of the male anatomy), playing fetch about three-fourths of the way, and tacking like a yacht on walks while Nick, using his dog show experience, resolutely walked forward.

A Ripon women’s basketball player had watched the house and dogs while we were gone. We noticed on our return that Puzzle seemed quite sick as she had never been before then. The first thing I did Monday morning was to take her to our veterinarian, where she was diagnosed with an infection and given IVs and antibiotics. She seemed to perk up on her return home.

The Ripon–St. John’s game was Thursday night. Ripon was coached by Bob Gillespie, the son of Gordie Gillespie, college baseball’s all-time winningest coach. Bob was also the athletic director, which made him Gordie’s boss, though Bob was also Gordie’s assistant coach. Bob’s youngest son, Scott, would be a four-year varsity player for Ripon High School and Ripon College, which made me, as a TV announcer by then, sort of the Gillespie family’s personal announcer. (That’s a different story.)

The game started poorly for Ripon, which trailed 8–0 at one point, trailed at the half, and trailed by seven after a three-pointer relatively late in the game. Then came Josh Glocke, a shooting guard who proceeded to score 15 consecutive points and gave the Red Hawks a 54–53 lead with 3:43 left.

Ripon led 57–55 in the last minute, with, according to Mrs. Presteblog, the next generation of Prestegard jumping around in her womb. Then the Red Hawks committed a nine-second violation. Yes, the replay showed the inbounds pass, the referee counted to nine, and blew his whistle for what he claimed was a 10-second violation, while Frank yelled, “Oh, no! Where is the foul?” (While, by the way, the St. John’s announcers next to us were bitterly complaining about how the Johnnies were getting homered by the same officials.)

St. John’s, perhaps hampered by their leading scorer having fouled out, tried to get the ball inside but succeeded only in air-mailing the ball over the intended receiver. (“Kareem on a ladder couldn’t have gotten that!” said Frank.) One free throw and a missed three-point shot later, and the Red Hawks had the win and a date in Chicago for the second round at the University of Chicago.

Our celebration was brief. Back home, Puzzle was in worse shape. I figured she would have to go back to the vet Friday morning, and dreaded the decision we might have to make about her.

Puzzle saved us that decision. She died overnight. I took her to the vet to have her cremated. And then I had work and game prep for the next game. There was really no time for grief over Puzzle, and I’ve noticed since then that death that is not unexpected doesn’t get the same reaction as unexpected death. You get reminded in later moments, when, in this case, you’re only feeding or walking one dog, or that no dog in the house is frantic during a thunderstorm.

(We also discovered as a result of Puzzle’s death that Nick was deaf. We had always thought Puzzle had selective hearing, and she did. It turned out, though, that Nick couldn’t hear our calling for him to come inside, making me resort to waving at him, after which he would then trot in.)

Earlier in our pre-child days we would take the dogs to work with us. As bad as her hips were, Puzzle was always very curious whenever anyone brought in a baby in a baby seat and would get up on her bad back legs to sniff all those wonderful baby smells. We called her “Aunt Puzz,” but she died before she had a chance to live with a baby brother. (Nick didn’t have the same interest. He lived, however, until two weeks after our daughter was born.)

On Saturday, we (with an added guest, the radio high school analyst who doubled as former fire chief and father of the aforementioned restaurant manager) headed to Chicago, stopping again at Flatlanders, then to Loyola University for the game against the University of Chicago, hoping that Ripon might do what it had never done — advance past the NCAA second round. Unfortunately Chicago won, but it was a great experience anyway. (In part because when you announce college basketball, sports information staffs do much of your work for you.)

I remember a pleasant drive coming home, with Mrs. Presteblog snoozing, and Frank and Bob and I discussing Ripon and Ripon College things, with Bob occasionally suggesting that Jannan not listen.

A lot has gone on in our lives and elsewhere over the past two decades. We’re on a different set of pets now (two of each), with one, our Siamese cat Mocha, having died five years ago. (Also the night before a basketball game I was announcing.) The succeeding dogs also like to ride like Puzzle and Nick did.

Many other things have changed. (No kidding, the reader thinks.) Ripon College games are no longer on the radio, though they are streamed live, with announcers from The Ripon Channel, for which I formerly broadcasted Ripon High School and Ripon College games. (I stopped doing Ripon games following the next season because I got a job with another college, though a few years later I got back into Ripon games despite also doing hockey games for the college at which I was employed.)

 

NASCAR Don

Todd Starnes:

The Centers for Disease Control is grappling with a massive outbreak of Trump Derangement Syndrome among Democrats and the Mainstream Media following pre-race festivities on Sunday at the Daytona 500.

President Trump was named grand marshal of “The Great American Race” and his appearance sent leftists scampering to their designated safe spaces.

Tens of thousands of race fans cheered, “USA, USA” as Air Force One flew about 800 feet over the speedway as “America the Beautiful” played over the public address system.

When the president arrived he was greeted with spectators waving “Make America Great Again” flags and chants of “four more years.”

“It doesn’t get more American than this,” NASCAR driver Joey Logano said.

And then he did what no other sitting president has done – he took a lap around the track. “The Beast” was the official pace car of the race.

Despite the fact “The Beast” is actually a diesel truck with a limousine body.

Among those breaking out into a flop-sweat was New York Times White House correspondent Maggie Haberman. She accused the president of “using the official apparatus of government for what appears to be a political event.”

It’s as if she’s already writing the first draft of another round of Articles of Impeachment: Abuse of the White House Motor Pool.

NBC White House Correspondent Kelly O’Donnellnoted that the trip to Daytona was an “official White House event.” Meaning, that the president’s appearance and trip around the track in “The Beast,” was paid for by the “taxpayers.”

And as near as I could tell the American taxpayers overwhelmingly approved of the president’s visit.

So why were so many Pajama Boy Snowflakes and Mexican Man Shoe Feminists so bothered by the Daytona 500?

Could it be that the race started with an invocation that included a preacher praying in the name of Jesus? Or was it the fact that no one took a knee during the singing of the Star-Spangled Banner? Or maybe it was the display of so much red-blooded “toxic masculinity”?

I contend Ms. Haberman and Ms. O’Donnell were more upset with the people in the stands. President Trump explained why in his address to the fans.

“NASCAR fans never forget that no matter who wins the race, what matters most is God, family and country,” he declared.

The reason why Democrats and the Mainstream Media suffered a sudden onset of Trump Derangement Syndrome is because NASCAR values are the antithesis of everything the leftists stand for – freedom, liberty, patriotism.

The president’s lap around the Daytona International Speedway was a victory lap for gun-toting, Bible-clinging, flag-waving patriots. Well done, Mr. President.

And if you’ve got a problem with that, might I kindly suggest you blow it out your tailpipe.

Perhaps those NASCAR hicks (as Trump non-fans have been saying on social media today) realize that Democrats are the party that would like to ban auto racing for being unsafe and harmful to the environment, and private vehicle ownership. Democrats, after all, foisted on us Cash for Clunkers, in which workable cars were deliberately destroyed. Plus, of course, hunting and fishing, gun ownership, meat-eating, animal agriculture and other red-blooded-American activities.

Ironically the race itself was rained out and rescheduled to today. Liberal tears are blamed.

 

If you hate Joe Buck, don’t read this

Fifty years after Jack Buck announced Super Bowl IV, featuring the Kansas City Chiefs (coached by Hank Stram, Buck’s future radio partner), for CBS …

… Buck’s son Joe is announcing Super Bowl LIV for Fox Sunday.

The younger Buck (whom sports fans love to hate, because, you know, he hates every team) writes of both:

The Super Bowl has never ended in a tie, but my dad’s Super Bowl began with one. It was a beautiful striped necktie, and I would wear it for the Super Bowl LIV broadcast if I could find it. It was his attire that first caught my eye last week when I sat in my home office and clicked on the link that led me to that grainy, black-and-white footage from Super Bowl IV in New Orleans precisely 50 years ago.

I refer to that as my dad’s game because it was the only Super Bowl that my late father, Jack Buck, ever called on TV, even though he did years of them on radio. It was also the last time the Kansas City Chiefs appeared in the Super Bowl, and the only one they won. So this is a full-circle game not just for Kansas City, but for my dad and me.

I noticed the necktie because its kind of funny fashion has come all the way around. So it’s taken 50 years for my dad’s style to be relevant again. When I think of him, I think of how he dressed when he was 70. He was colorblind, and he used to joke that he was one of those guys that got dressed in the dark. Things didn’t match. He needed my mom to lay out his clothes for him, and it started to trend into loud blazers. He looked like Judge Smails in “Caddyshack.” He kind of looked like Ted Knight anyway, but that’s how he dressed, kind of country-club chic, even though he didn’t belong to a country club.

Looking at my dad and Pat Summerall, I see two guys coming off a big night on Bourbon Street. They’re sweaty, my dad’s a little bloated, and I can tell they had fun. They weren’t stressed about doing the broadcast like I will be before this year’s Super Bowl. I’ll be tucked in my bed with eye pillows on, and his eye pillows were coasters at a bar. I’ll try to go to bed by 10 or 11, and I’ll probably lay there for an hour and a half. I’m sure he probably knocked himself out with four Manhattans and went to sleep whenever he laid down.

My dad’s wearing a monstrous headset that goes entirely over his ears — my dad and I were blessed with rather large ears — but they’re tucked in there. And the neck contraption holding up a stick microphone just doesn’t look comfortable. You’re already on national TV and trying to do a Super Bowl, and you’ve got two guys that are crammed into a tight space. They look like they’re on top of scaffolding on the roof of Tulane Stadium. It looks makeshift to me.

Troy Aikman and I will be at Hard Rock Stadium, and we’ve already scouted it out. We’ve got a green screen and all sorts of snacks laid out, a Keurig machine, and we’ll both have thick rubber mats beneath our feet because we’re standing the majority of the game. My dad and Pat look like they’re fishing off the bridge at Lake Pontchartrain down there.

If I count the monitors in front of Troy, I’ve probably got 10 screens I can look at. I’m sure they had one tiny, grainy monitor that was hooked up to the truck. The picture quality probably felt like it was from “The Flintstones,” with a pterodactyl inside carving it out of stone.

They do not have the “best seat in the house.” They’re in the “Uecker seats” up there. This Sunday, I’ll be splitting the 5 and the 0 of the 50-yard line, and I will be midway up. I’ll have the best seat in the house in a place where the get-in price is $5,000.

Also, I’m sure my dad doesn’t have a bathroom nearby. That’s my No. 1 fear and the first thing I check out before I’m doing a big game. How close is the bathroom? In this case, in Miami, it’s just outside our booth door. I think for him, he probably had to go through a “Mission Impossible”-type pulley-and-lever system to get down to the main press box so he could go to the bathroom.

The commercial breaks are longer in the Super Bowl, so I don’t have to regulate my fluid intake before the game. If the bathroom is easily accessible, I don’t worry about it. But in places like Cleveland, it’s a dead sprint to get to the bathroom and back. My dad told me when I was just starting my career at 19, “Don’t ever run to a microphone, because you’re going to be out of breath, and you’re never going to catch up. You just start talking right away.” It’s virtually impossible in some stadiums to get back to the microphone in time. There, if I didn’t run, you wouldn’t hear me on first or second down. Sunday, I’m good to drink as much tea and coffee as I need. I’ll probably go through about six hot teas, two bottles of water and at least two coffees.

In the Super Bowl IV broadcast, if they were any closer to the camera, their noses would be smudging up against the lens. Troy and I have plenty of room in the booth. If my dad’s camera shot is indicative of how much room they had, there weren’t a lot of people up in the booth with them. We’ll have at least 10 people in the booth to make us look smart, including editorial consultant Steve Horn, who has been my right-hand man for 25 years.

Then you have a makeup person. I’m sure my dad and Pat just pulled up their ties and went on national TV. We’ll have makeup “artists” come in and try to defend us against high-definition television. I’m sure my dad put no thought into his outfit or looking “shiny” on air, and yet it’s perfectly fine. There’s nothing that appears out of the ordinary. It works.

There’s a beauty to the simplicity of the broadcast, a nice pace to it. It’s more of a radio commentary because both guys were coming over from radio, and people’s pictures at home were not high-definition, 65-camera shoots. Back then, you had to buttress the pictures with words to try to describe the action, because the video wasn’t what we present today.

The differences are in technology, and how crisp the pictures are in 2020, and how fuzzy it was back then. The audio is so much better now too. But overall, what Pat and my dad did back in 1970 is not a whole lot different than what Troy and I will do Sunday. They were two guys watching a game and giving their observations.

I’m seeing my dad at his best. Before age set in. Before Parkinson’s took hold. Before he went through lung cancer. Before he had diabetes and a pacemaker. Even the stresses of life. I’m seeing my dad at his peak. And I didn’t know him then. I was 8 months old, but I never knew him as that man. It’s crazy to sit in my office, turn on YouTube, and in some ways do research about the Chiefs and their Super Bowl history, and have my dad brought to life for me by people who restore this old footage. I’m so thankful because they’re presenting my dad to me like he’s broadcasting last week. It’s a lot of things that are brought to a head with one click of a mouse.

My dad makes a small mistake right at the beginning of the broadcast, then corrects himself. That gets me. It hits me like, “Oh my God, he makes a mistake.” These days, you try to be perfect in large part because of social media. You try to be fluid and brilliant, and never say something stupid. And in the case of a Super Bowl, you’re on the air for four hours on live TV in front of 115 million people, and you’re going to say stuff that people don’t like. You’re going to say stuff that people think is stupid. You’re going to misspeak and correct yourself.

Back then, without the pressure of social media ready to eviscerate you from people who have no idea what it feels like to be in that spot, I think they were just freewheeling and having fun. More than anything, I hear my dad and Pat relaxed. Even though national television broadcasts back then were still relatively new, and I’m sure there was an element of fear and unknown, those two still were able to be themselves.

Today, whether you’re an official or Jimmy Garoppolo, who has taken his team at 15-3 to the Super Bowl, all you hear is criticism. All you hear is, “Yeah, but he can’t do this…” I hear it too. Eventually, that stuff takes the fun out of it. I think for my dad, and certainly for Pat, they had fun. They felt little stress going into a game.

Stress is all I feel. It’s this weird pressure to try to be perfect on something that isn’t perfect, on a live event. It’s impossible to be perfect, and yet that’s the standard I hold myself to, and it takes a lot of the fun out of it.

After every game, I take two Tylenol. That’s pressure. It’s why I see a chiropractor. It’s why at the end of the game, the tension is in the back of my head at the top of my neck, because I’m standing up the entire broadcast, and I’m almost hunched over looking down over the ridiculous number of monitors we have to try to see the near sideline, to try to see the entire field. You’re almost holding your breath while you do it. I broke my neck in high school playing football, and I guarantee you whatever atrophy or disintegration I have in my spine is where the tension sits.

I remember my dad sitting at the kitchen counter, coffee steaming, cigarette lit. He would be writing the names and jersey numbers of players onto an 8-by-10-inch piece of paper he would Scotch tape to a corkboard. In the booth, a spotter hired just that day would push thumbtacks into whichever names were on the field for each play.

Using a program developed by Troy, I have a color-coded, spiral-bound spreadsheet I fill out on for each game. My spotter and stat guy, Bill Garrity and Ed Sfida, are so important to me that if they didn’t make their flights from Atlanta and Philadelphia, I might not be able to do the game.

I have had the opportunity to call some of the iconic plays in Super Bowl history, including the David Tyree helmet catch, when the New York Giants beat New England the first time. My call of that catch makes me cringe, because people said, “You weren’t over-the-top crazy on the air about how good that catch was.” The simple reason was, I couldn’t see it. It was really hard to see clearly from my angle. The last thing you want to do is to pull a groin muscle calling the Tyree catch, and then they come back and blow the whistle and say incomplete. Then you look like the idiot, and that’s all people remember.

Troy and I are on camera at the beginning of the Super Bowl broadcast. When Troy’s talking, I’m thinking: “Remember to smile so I don’t look like I’m nervous. Look back at the camera because that’s who you’re talking to.” A lot of times, I’ll picture my kids on the other side of that camera. Back when I did my first major event, in 1996 doing the Yankees’ World Series, I pictured my dad on the other end, like I was talking to him.

When Troy and I were paired in 2002, we would almost write out our on-cameras segments like we were doing a scene from “Hamlet.” Now, even though we’re going to be doing this game for over 100 million people, we really won’t talk about what we’re going to say in the “open” until we actually do it. We’ll rehearse it once, maybe twice, but we don’t have exact words. And if you don’t have exact words, then that forces you to really listen to the other person.

The other thing I try to do is try to get Troy to smile. If there’s one thing Troy has over everybody doing TV football is he’s got a great laugh. If we make a mistake in the game, we’re going to try to laugh at it. We’re going to enjoy each other’s company.

Troy will tell you that it’s just as intimidating when that red light comes on as it was for him to throw his first pass. And then you just kind of settle in. Back then, he was worried about a wet football in his first Super Bowl, at the Rose Bowl. He didn’t sleep the night before. He was deathly afraid of a wet football. We don’t have to worry about wet footballs or wet microphones, or wet anything. We’ll have a good grip on everything.

I wouldn’t even have realized that my dad called Super Bowl IV, but for CBS’ Jim Nantz mentioning it at the end of the AFC championship game between the Chiefs and Tennessee Titans. I’m appreciative beyond words that Jim pointed that out. Because for some reason over the years, it’s almost like you don’t really talk about the other network. Whether it’s CBS, NBC, ESPN … and yet we’re all friends. Everybody knows that CBS just did the championship game, and they’re finishing up and they know that the next game is on Fox. Things have changed over the years, and that’s refreshing.

I don’t know him that well, but I know him well enough to know how genuine he is. He did that because he knew it would be cool for me. I sent Jim a text saying, “That meant the world to me, but you brought my mom and my sister to tears. I’ll never be able to repay that on air.” That was a gift from a guy at another network who had nothing to gain.

If I could find that necktie my dad wore, I’d wear it. I think I’ll wear his watch this Sunday. He gave it to me one day at breakfast when we were broadcast partners on St. Louis Cardinals radio. I was 23. He said, “Let me see your watch.” I took my watch off, he took his off and said, “I want you to have this.” It was a gift from his employer for his years of hard work, and he wanted me to have it.

I think my dad would be proud Sunday and glued to the TV.

If he were alive, I’d call him after the game and ask him about the job I did. When I dialed him in October of 1996, after calling Game 6 of the World Series, he acted like he didn’t know what time the game was coming on, as if he didn’t watch any of it. Then, after a pause, he said: “It was great, Buck. It was great.” And he handed the phone to my mom.

The next day, I called home and said, “What was with Dad last night?” And she said, “He was crying so hard that he couldn’t talk.”

Back when I had ambitions for the big time in my career, I would have been envious. I have figured out over the years that doing sports broadcasting as a side thing is more enjoyable, given what I’ve seen about radio management. TV announcers today get pilloried for bias that isn’t necessarily there. (In my experience announcers sort of root for the team that’s behind because they’d like a good game.) Fans don’t necessarily like to hear bad news about their team. And certainly social media will, as the younger Buck points out, jump on announcers for things viewers don’t like.

The Super Bowl IV broadcast is also interesting because of the announcers’ (future) history. Jack Buck had just been promoted to the St. Louis baseball Cardinals’ top announcer position after Harry Caray was fired after the 1969 season. Buck had been hired to announce Cardinals games, then was fired (to make way for Joe Garagiola), then was rehired. At the same time, Buck was working for KMOX radio, the Cardinals’ flagship (owned by CBS), while announcing American Football Leagues (and at least one college basketball game) for ABC-TV.

After the AFL moved from ABC to NBC, Buck moved to CBS-TV in the era when CBS had announcers dedicated to teams. He announced not the Cardinals, but the Bears for two seasons, then the Cowboys, which made him part of the Ice Bowl announcing team.

The pairing of Buck and Summerall ended during the 1974 season, when CBS Sports president Robert Wussler decided that Buck and Summerall sounded too much alike. (That is curious since arguably Summerall and Ray Scott, Summerall’s first play-by-play guy, sounded even more alike.) Summerall, who had worked for years on WCBS radio in New York before going to TV, said he wanted to do play-by-play, so he was paired with Tom Brookshier, with whom he had worked for NFL Films. Buck was paired with Wayne Walker (later a long-time San Francisco TV sports anchor and 49ers announcer), then left for NBC, only to return to CBS two years later … all the while announcing Cardinals games.

 

 

The last sportscast (for now?)

I am, I must say, opposed to Jay Wilson’s retirement from WISC-TV in Madison.

I’m opposed because I remember when WKOW-TV in Madison hired Wilson to do weekend sports. Then he left for WISN-TV in Milwaukee, and then he came back as WKOW’s sports director when I was a sports intern there, working mostly with Paul Rudy, now found in San Diego.

One of my highlights was when he sent me (and my then-girlfriend) to Green Bay to pick up videotape from the Packers–Chicago Bears game:

I also interviewed then-New Orleans Saints coach Jim Mora and UW hockey players after their 1988 WCHA Final Four title (where I played for the UW Band).

I went into print instead of TV largely because I got my first job offer from a weekly newspaper instead of a radio or TV station. But working at 27 was an interesting experience, including answering the phone and hearing someone say “somebody’s going to blow up your fucking TV station” because the station chose to run informercials instead of Formula 1 racing that Sunday.

He has always presented himself as someone who doesn’t take himself too seriously and has fun doing what he’s doing, but is always informative and insightful. The first piece of advice in broadcasting is to “be yourself,” but if I were showing a college student how to be a TV sportscaster, I’d show him Jay Wilson video. The reason he was called the dean of Madison sportscasters was not just because of his longevity, but because his work was good enough for much larger markets.

My favorite work of his was in 1993, when Wisconsin needed Michigan to beat Ohio State to give the Badgers a chance at the Rose Bowl. All Wilson did was show highlights of the game with no narration, but the Michigan fight song, “The Victors,” which the Wolverines were that day. That came a few weeks after the Camp Randall Stampede, when the Badgers’ win over Michigan was concluded by students’ trying to rush the field and getting crushed against a nonmovable fence, resulting in 70 injuries. Wilson demonstarted that he could report news as well that day.

One perk of being WKOW’s sports director is getting to announce the state basketball tournaments on TV. That is one thing I’ve wanted to do and have never been able to do since I’m not on the air for one of  WKOW’s owner’s stations. (That, though, comes with its own challenges due to the WIAA, from what announcers have told me.) Wilson got to announce state games, and I was always impressed at how well he did on play-by-play for someone who didn’t do play-by-play on a regular basis. Most people get good at it only by seasons’ worth of games.

For a few years Jay and I would run into each other at the WIAA state football championships, where he called games for Fox Sports North. I have been privileged to announce a state game for four years in a row on the radio. (Including, this year, the game that had the first two replays in WIAA history.) Since WISC’s parent company also owns the stations where I broadcast, I guess that made us coworkers of a sort.

Wilson calls his departure a “resignation, not a retirement.” Let’s hope we see him on the air around us.

 

Evers vs. hunters

M.D. Kittle:

Talk about tone deaf.

Gov. Tony Evers demands the state Legislature convene a special session at 2 p.m. [Thursday} to take up gun-restriction bills — just 16 days before the start of Wisconsin’s nine-day gun deer season.

The annual hunting season is a Wisconsin tradition older than the Brandy Old-Fashioned, and cherished by families throughout the Badger State.

The hunt, as should be abundantly clear, involves the use of guns. Unlike many of his predecessors, the governor isn’t what you would call a gun guy. He’s definitely not a deer-hunting guy.

The Madison Democrat is more at home playing pickle ball at the Governor’s Mansion and pushing gun-control policies than he is in a tree stand or tracking whitetail tracks through a snow-covered woods. You’ll find plenty of photos of former Govs. Scott Walker, Scott McCallum, and Tommy Thompson, as well as former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch decked out in blaze orange or camo on the hunt. Evers is more of a tweed sport coat fellow with an eye for regulatory code.

Evers wants the Legislature to move legislation on universal background checks and a so-called “red flag” bill that would give judges and relatives of individuals perceived to be threats increased power to take away guns.

Last month, Evers told reporters he would consider mandatory government “buybacks” of assault weapons, a la the proposal called for by failed Democrat presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke. A government “buyback” is a strange characterization of a what it really is: government seizures.

That kind of legislation feels like an assault on the Second Amendment and gun rights to a lot of hunters, some of whom use semi-automatic weapons on the hunt. Restrictionists have attempted to apply the moniker of “assault weapon” on just about anything that fires. While liberals like Evers insist that weapons bans and background checks aren’t designed to go after the average hunter’s guns, guns-rights activists have good reason to be concerned about the slippery slope of expanded government control.

Evers may not be into tracking deer, but he and his liberal advisers are political animals. The governor wants the political show a gun-control floor debate would create. Republican leadership isn’t biting.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) have said they are not interested in taking up legislation that restricts gun rights of law-abiding citizens.

“Wisconsin’s sporting heritage should be celebrated – and has been by leaders in our state for years. Sadly this year, I’m hearing from hunters all over southeastern Wisconsin that they’re afraid of what Tony Evers is up to just two weeks ahead of deer season. We weren’t elected to take away Second Amendment rights and I don’t plan on starting now,” Fitzgerald told Empower Wisconsin in an email statement.

Fitzgerald on Tuesday said Republicans expect to gavel in and gavel out without taking up any of the Democrats’ proposals. Dems worry the GOP majority won’t give them the show they’re looking for.

First, as a non-hunter and as someone who drives throughout this state at night (I had to swerve around a dead deer last weekend), including during the deer rut and deer hunting seasons, I fully support deer hunting because every deer a hunter shoots is one I won’t hit with my car. Evers’ party, on the other hand, is infested with animal rights activists who not only avoid hunting, but believe no one should be able to hunt or fish. (Or eat meat, or wear leather or fur.) Add to that the usual anti-gun types, and that’s the toxic mixture Milwaukee and Madison voted into office in November.

 

50 years ago, holy cow

Actually we’re starting 51 years ago with a long Sports Illustrated story written by Myron Cope:

Even before the World Series got under way Wednesday, it was shudderingly clear that one result was as predictable as bunting on the commissioner’s box: Millions of television and radio listeners, whose eardrums may have healed in the year since the Cardinals-Red Sox Series, are once again going to be exposed to a feverish clamor coming from a Cardinals delegate to the NBC broadcasting team. It was equally certain that across America the baseball public would then divide into two camps—those who exclaimed that by God! Harry Caray was almost as exciting as being at the park, and those who prayed he would be silenced by an immediate attack of laryngitis. Caray, should you be among the few who still have not heard him, is an announcer who can be heard shrieking above the roar of the crowd when a hitter puts the ultimate in wood to the ball: “There she goes…! Line drive…! It might be…it could be…it is! Home run…! Ho-lee cow!” You may not know that with a second home run his more dignified colleagues have preferred to flee the broadcasting booth before the ball has cleared the fence.

In the past decade the trend of play-by-play broadcasting has been decidedly in the direction of mellow, impassive reporting, a technique that strikes Harry Caray as being about as appropriate as having Walter Cronkite broadcast a heavyweight championship fight. “This blasé era of broadcasting!” Caray grumbles. “‘Strike one. Ball one. Strike two.’ It probably hurts the game more than anything, and this at a time when baseball is being so roundly criticized.” Never one to burden himself with restraint, Caray more or less began hoisting the 1968 pennant over Busch Stadium clear back in early July when, following a Cardinals victory, he bellowed, “The magic number is 92!”

The fact is that Harry Caray’s 24 years of broadcasting St. Louis baseball have been one long crusade for pennants, a stance that might be expected to have endeared him to all Cardinals past and present, but which, on the contrary, has left a scattered trail of athletes who would have enjoyed seeing him transferred to Ping-Pong broadcasts in Yokohama.

“What’s Caray got against you anyway, Meat?” asks Mrs. Jim Brosnan in a passage from The Long Season, a reminiscence her pitcher-husband wrote in 1960.

“To hell with Tomato-Face,” answers Brosnan. “He’s one of those emotional radio guys. All from the heart, y’know? I guess he thinks I’m letting the Cardinals down, and he’s taking it as a personal insult.”

“Well, you ought to spit tobacco juice on his shoe, or something. It’s awful the way he blames you for everything.”

Caray remembers Brosnan’s peevish prose with equanimity now that Brosnan is out of baseball. “I’ve seen him many times since,” he says, “and we get along splendidly. Of course,” Caray adds, repaying Brosnan with a needle straight to the ego, “he doesn’t throw the home run ball anymore.”

In the prudent little world of sports announcers, most men stand ready to go to the North Pole, if necessary, to avoid any conflict. The announcer is hired and fired by the ball club or sponsor, or by the two in concert; he is, in short, an organization man, whose paycheck is a writ of mandamus that says, “Be positive.” Inasmuch as the Cardinals are owned by a brewery, Anheuser-Busch, Inc., and in a sense are a continuous promotional campaign for its various beers, their announcer figures to be positive through hell, six percent, and 10-game losing streaks. But the trouble with Harry Caray—born, orphaned at 10 and raised in St. Louis—is that he has never got it through his head that he is not still sitting in the bleachers, still endowed with the right to issue a loud raspberry.

“Harry is a fan,” says Cardinals Manager Red Schoendienst. “Hell, he dies with the Cardinals.” Their acts of heroism move him to deafening cheers, but their failures make his teeth grind. And because his exasperation leaks from his lips into his microphone, he has been despised by more than one Cardinals manager, denounced in print by a clutch of Cardinals players, and called onto the carpet so often that it is almost threadbare. Pinching his forefinger and thumb together, Caray says, “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been this close to getting fired.”

A fairly typical example of Caray’s attraction to turbulence involves Eddie “The Brat” Stanky. As he lunches at Busch’s Grove, a posh suburban St. Louis restaurant not owned by Cardinals President Gussie Busch, Caray traces Stanky’s antipathy toward him. Caray’s face is, as Brosnan suggested, right off a tomato counter, but at 51, a thickset man measuring a fraction of an inch under six feet, he is a picture of sophisticated leisure. Fresh from a $15 tonsorial treatment by Walter of the Colony Salon, his wavy hair is graying gracefully. He wears a black blazer, white turtleneck, tattersall slacks, white loafers and, of course, large sunglasses. He orders another Scotch sour—”Have Otis make it,” he specifies to the waiter—and then delves to the bottom of the Stanky-Caray Seventeen Years War.

It seems that one day in 1951, when Stanky was on his last legs as a New York Giant second baseman and Caray was at the mic during a Giants-Cardinals game, an umpire gave Stanky the heave-ho. His replacement then made a sensational play to snuff out a Cardinals rally. “Great stop!” Caray cried into his mic. “There’s a case where the Giants get a big break. If Stanky’s not out of the game, it’s a base hit!”

The next year Stanky—a clean-living, churchgoing family man but equipped with a blowtorch temper—became the Cardinals’ manager. “You’re the guy,” he groused at Caray, “who said I couldn’t get off a dime.”

“I did not,” Caray fired back. “I didn’t say anything about a dime. I didn’t mention the word.” Much preferring offense to defense, Caray then drove Stanky to the wall, so to speak, by railing, “When you deliberately twist someone’s words, doesn’t it hurt your conscience, you being such a devout man?” In the ensuing years the dialogue between manager and broadcaster lacked flavor only in that the two antagonists did not wear spurs on their heels, but somehow Stanky never got around to taking a punch at Caray. “Oh, no,” says Caray over his Scotch sour at Busch’s Grove. “Nor I at him.”

As the Cardinals sank toward seventh place in Stanky’s fourth season as manager, Gussie Busch’s Anheuser-Busch lieutenants took a hard look not only at Stanky but at Caray as well. “Stanky was very unpopular with the fans,” Caray recalls, adding with heavy sarcasm, “and the reason he was unpopular was me.” Caray fingers Busch’s top public-relations adviser, one Al Fleishman, as the man who advanced this theory in high councils, although Fleishman maintains he did nothing of the sort. “Fleishman’s approach was that I should be more sympathetic to Stanky,” Caray insists. “I can’t recall ever criticizing his managing tactics. I got enough headaches as a broadcaster without worrying about Stanky’s image. He’d step onto the field and there would be a loud boo. The thinking was that there was something I could do to keep that boo from being so audible over the mic.”

In the end it was Stanky who was fired, but the two continued to search out one another’s jugular vein from a distance. The Cardinals, bewildered by a slump last May, could cure themselves by consulting Harry Caray’s keen baseball mind, Stanky acidly suggested in a radio appearance. “KEEP UP THE WONDERFUL WORK,” Caray wired Stanky as the White Sox, with Stanky as manager, staggered through a torrent of defeats that led to Stanky’s resignation.

One reason that Caray has been able to survive the acrimony of field managers and high-echelon counselors in the Anheuser-Busch palace is that for two decades he has possessed the most fanatical following of any broadcaster in baseball. Through a network of 124 stations in 14 Midwestern, Southern and Southwest states, his unabashed trumpeting of Cardinals rallies brings genuine excitement to small towns and villages. Moreover, untold numbers of Cardinals fans, long since transplanted to the distant East or Northwest, sit glued to car radios to pick up the extremely powerful nighttime signal of Caray’s St. Louis station, KMOX, which under the right conditions can be heard in 45 states. “Cardinals win! Cardinals win! Cardinals win! Cardinals win!” the faithful hear Caray scream as if he were on closed circuit to the Home for the Deaf. When he appears at smokers and Elks Club gatherings in the provinces, grown men beg him to describe an imaginary home run. He does, and as the imaginary ball clears the imaginary wall the grown men bolt to their feet cheering.

No sir, Caray is having none of that drawing-room dignity affected by the boys with pear-shaped tones. Nor, as he settles into his Busch Stadium chair for a series with the Giants, is he having any of that kid-glove technique the ballplayers love so well.

“Here’s Ty Cline, who’s modeled a few uniforms,” Caray announces in the first inning. “His name reminds you of Ty Cobb.” Then the withering appendage: “And he’s batting .185.” From the enemy Caray soon turns to the home team. “Here’s slumping Orlando Cepeda, with two strikes on him and two runners waiting to be driven in. Struck him out, on a bad ball!” Back to the Giants. At bat is Willie Mays, of whom broadcasters speak encomiums. Steve Carlton fires. “Hooo! What a cut he took!” Carlton fires again. “Hooo! What a cut! Man, I’ve never seen Mays take a more vicious cut in his life. Looked like he left both his feet!” Carlton fires a third time, and Mays lands among the mortals. “Struck him out—on a bad fastball over his head!”

Although one might interpret these outcries as nothing more than blunt reportage, legions of ballplayers categorize such technique as the work of a “ripper.” In the peculiar accountancy of many baseball players all criticisms and harsh truths are entered upon the memory with indelible ink, while compliments are apt to fade away like dandelion chaff in a spring breeze. (“And the funny thing is,” points out a San Francisco Giants official, “that ballplayers take it for granted that every nice word said about them is absolutely accurate.”) Sensitivities being what they are, it was not surprising that Tracy Stallard, pitching for the Cardinals three years ago, rose to a boil when Caray said of him over the air, “I’m surprised more clubs don’t bunt on him. He’s slow fielding bunts and slow covering first base.” To St. Louis Globe-Democrat baseball writer Jack Herman, Stallard issued a furious denunciation of Caray, who was deeply wounded when he read Herman’s story. Caray hints he’d done Stallard personal kindnesses. “He’s a real nice kid, he really is,” Caray adds. “He’s a big, good-looking guy, a night person, my kind of guy.” One night, shortly after Stallard had leveled his blast, Caray was standing at the bar of a St. Louis club. Stallard, seated at a table with a young lady, arose and strode to the bar. “This girl I’m with would like to meet you, Harry,” he said. “Would you sit down with us for a minute?”

To the real nice kid Caray answered, “Drop dead.”

Caray’s detractors insist that he can damn a ballplayer in his broadcasts without misstating a single fact, but merely by employing the inflection of disgust. It is said, for example, that simply by repeating time and again the number of base runners ex-Cardinal Ken Boyer left stranded, Caray planted St. Louis fans squarely on Boyer’s back. Around the National League, ballplayers do takeoffs on Caray’s narration of a Boyer turn at bat. “It’s the last of the ninth,” goes one version. “The Cardinals have the tying run on second. Two out. Boyer’s the hitter. We’ll be back in one minute with the wrap-up.”

“Listen,” says Caray in defense of himself, “I don’t believe any ballplayer ever put on a Cardinals uniform who shouldn’t have known that I wanted his success as much as he did. But I refuse to fool the audience. These ball club-controlled announcers think they can, but they’re crazy.”

Put in perspective, Caray’s skirmishes with players and managers are infrequent happenings spaced over a broadcasting career of more than two decades; yet, because he works in a world of play-by-play pacifists, he emerges as a sort of Roland daring the Saracen jockos to take him on 50 at a time. Still, a great many ballplayers like him. A fun-loving man who talks the earthy language of the ball field, he hears raucous, good-natured greetings as he approaches enemy dugouts. “Harry is my friend,” says Cepeda with evident sincerity. Caray seldom passes a ballplayer’s restaurant table without sending over a round of drinks, and when players find themselves short of cash on the road, they know he always will come up fast with $100.

Up in Caray’s booth, the athletes are not always getting the short end of his critical stick—not by a long shot. “I have never seen a better play!” he bellows orgiastically as Mike Shannon makes a rather pretty play along the third-base line. Second Baseman Julian Javier charges a slow roller and goes into the Hall of Fame alongside Napoleon Lajoie and Frankie Frisch. “Beautiful! Ho-lee cow, he got him! There’s no play he can’t make, that Javier!” A batter pops a foul back toward Caray’s booth, whereupon Caray, who may have stripped to his shorts in St. Louis’ hot, humid climate, seizes a long pole, a fishing net attached to its end. He crashes over an empty chair to his right, lunges halfway out of his booth in an unrewarded attempt to snare the foul, and then returns to his chair grimacing, having given his elbow a terrific crack on the railing.

To Caray’s left in the booth sits a mountain of unopened fan mail, and beside that rises a growing hill of messages scrawled on crumpled pieces of paper and bits of cardboard. The messages, constantly being delivered by an usher, come from fans who have traveled to Busch Stadium from outlying points. (Surveys have shown that 40 percent of the Cardinals’ summertime crowds come from Caray’s out-of-town strongholds.) “My favorite town!” he crows as he glances at a note and reports the name of a fan in attendance from Monkeys Eyebrow, Ky. or Number Nine, Ark., at which the high-powered public-relations firm of Fleishman, Hillard, Wilson & Ferguson, the P.R. men representing Anheuser-Busch, scowl, calculating that for every fan Caray mentions he offends 20 others.

“Fleishman said this bit isn’t class,” Caray snorts. “I said, ‘You’re talking about people who come to the ball park. If I got a guy here from Timbuktu, I’ll help him to be proud of Timbuktu.’ I told Fleishman, ‘Class, my ass!’ “

An analysis of Caray’s audience impact—one that is repeated so often it is almost a refrain—is that Cardinals fans either love Caray or hate him, there being no middle ground. The haters, most of whom seem to be concentrated in St. Louis, where big-city sophisticates doubt his melodramatic word pictures, worry Fleishman, the Philistine in Caray’s nightmares. “Anheuser-Busch’s motto is ‘Making Friends Is Our Business,’ ” Fleishman points out. A tanned, slightly paunchy man with white hair and a cigar clenched in a curled forefinger, Fleishman recalls that Caray, in reply to a critical letter from a woman listener, exploded on the air, denouncing the woman in terms that judges save for those who molest old ladies. Top-level conferences had to be called. Indeed, when Caray’s eye lights on a harsh fan letter, he is apt to dictate a reply that is doubly nasty. His secretary, Mrs. Bea Higgins, surreptitiously throws the dictation into the nearest wastebasket and sends out a gentle thank-you-for-your-interest note instead.

Fleishman, meanwhile, denies that he has ever tried to have Caray fired (“Never, never—that’s not my role!”) and, in fact, relates that when Anheuser-Busch purchased the Cardinals in 1953, it was he who convinced Gussie Busch to keep Caray at the mic. Of course, he did not foresee the fun to follow. “About six years ago,” Fleishman says, “Harry called me a liar in a dispute over a contractual matter. I said, ‘The fact that you call me a liar doesn’t make me one. Only the facts can do that.’ This was in Mr. Busch’s presence.” Busch wearily ordered them to knock it off and shake hands. “But we’ve really gotten along—amazingly enough,” Fleishman says.

Caray agrees this is so. “But I never walk with my back to him,” he says.

Unable to purge himself of his unruly bleacherite ways, Caray goes on inviting little enemy fires around his existence which, on an annual income somewhat in excess of $100,000, is cushy indeed. Besides broadcasting Cardinal baseball, he does a daily 10-minute sports show on KMOX and broadcasts University of Missouri football. “When he hollers ‘Touchdown!’ ” says one Caray critic, “your ears can fall off.” The father of five children, two by his present wife, Marian, and three by an earlier marriage, Caray lives in an exclusive suburb called Ladue, in a 10-room colonial-style house with heated swimming pool, three French poodles, a black Labrador retriever, and a shaggy Sicilian donkey named Buzzy. The donkey is a result of a conversation Gussie Busch and Caray had at the side of the Caray pool.

“You don’t have a Sicilian donkey,” Busch suddenly observed, as if no home is complete without one.

“Of course I don’t have a Sicilian donkey,” Caray replied.

“You ought to have one,” snapped Busch.

At 7:30 the next morning a Sicilian donkey stood at the Carays’ doorstep. Somewhat grimly, Caray points out that it cost him $1,380 for a corral and shed as well as a harness and rig for the amusement of his children. The feed bill runs from $45 to $55 a month, Marian Caray points out, and the donkey keeps kicking the shed apart. Gussie Busch, fretting not long ago that Caray’s donkey needed a companion, had one of his employees phone the Caray residence to say that a second Sicilian ass would be sent over in the morning. “Forget it!” screamed Caray. The fact is, however, that he could afford a herd of elephants, for in addition to his broadcasting income, he has invested shrewdly in securities, principally Anheuser-Busch stock. Even his St. Louis friends who know him as an irrepressible check-grabber are unaware that Harry Caray, ex-orphan, is a millionaire.

Born Harry Carabina of French-Italian-Rumanian parentage, he spent his early years in a tough neighborhood a few blocks from downtown St. Louis. When he was an infant his father died, and when he was 10 his mother died of cancer. Passed around through foster homes, he was the only child in his grammar school class who did not own a pair of white duck trousers for commencement. “It was a mortifying feeling I’ll never forget,” he says. In his teens he landed with an aunt, Mrs. Doxie Argint, and moved to Webster Groves, a tony suburban address at the time. But soon after, Mrs. Argint’s husband moved out, leaving her to raise Harry and two children of her own. Among Webster Groves’ affluent youth, Harry was a pauper child.

“I was always a nut about baseball,” he says today, describing himself as having been a weak hitter but a dazzling fielder. “Well,” says a St. Louis advertising executive named Frank Fuchs Jr., once a high school classmate of Caray, “in his mind, he was damned good. He was a wiry little guy, but a competitor. Even if you benched him he’d be throwing every pitch, swinging every bat.” Following graduation from high school, Caray hoped to fatten up his 130-pound physique and become a big-league hitting prospect. He spent two years working as a flunky in a fight camp but then took a $17-a-week office job in St. Louis, married a home-town girl and finally, at 23, when it was too late, began to put on weight. Casting around, he hit upon an idea.

Seated in the bleachers at old Sportsman’s Park, Caray found that baseball made him quiver with excitement, and he felt that what St. Louis baseball needed was an announcer who could breathe that excitement into a broadcast. One day he wrote a brash letter to Merle Jones, then general manager of KMOX, informing him that he, Harry Caray, who had never spoken into a microphone, was that announcer. Jones auditioned him and, Caray likes to recall, immediately declared, “You have the same exciting timbre as Ted Husing and Graham McNamee!” Nevertheless, the best that Jones could do was recommend him to a station in the industrial town of Joliet, Ill. There, in the summer of 1940, Caray scored his first success. As a man-in-the-street interviewer he accosted immigrant housewives lugging shopping bags and dirty-faced children and demanded of them, “Did you marry your first love? Have you ever caught your daughter necking?” The housewives fought for the privilege of telling him their intimate secrets.

Inching upwards, Caray moved on to Kalamazoo, Mich. and finally, in 1944, what with big-city stations losing personnel to the wartime draft, landed back in St. Louis as a staff announcer and then sportscaster. (The army had rejected him because of myopia, a development that his critics of today may view with a knowing nod.) Late that sameyear Caray got his big break. Griesedieck Brothers, a St. Louis brewery, decided to sponsor Cardinals and Browns broadcasts. The company’s ad agency formed a completely new team of broadcasters and hired Caray to be No. 3 man. “I was to read commercials, that’s all,” he says. Then the ad men set out to find a big-name, play-by-play broadcaster who could hold his own against a competing station. But as the winter dragged on, the search yielded no star. So Caray barged into the office of Ed Griesedieck, the brewery president, and said, “Why not me?”

Griesedieck frowned at his uninvited visitor. Look, he said, the job demands a man of experience and craft. “When a real pro is at work,” Griesedieck went on, “I can have a cup of coffee and read a newspaper without having my concentration interrupted.”

“That’s why you want to hire me,” Caray cried. “You’re spending big money to put your message across. Shouldn’t you have a broadcaster who makes people put down their newspaper?”

For a full minute Griesedieck stared at Caray. Finally he said, “Dammit, you’re right.”

Off and running, Caray battled the competition—play-by-play man Johnny O’Hara and his famous sidekick, folksy Dizzy Dean—with his breathless excitement. It is said that Dean, seated in a booth adjacent to Caray’s, one day overheard Caray describe a routine infield play in terms suited to a miracle of acrobatics, whereupon Diz leaned into Caray’s booth and slowly shook his head, as if to say, “Are we broadcasting the same game?”

The next year, 1946, Caray made his big breakthrough. That season the Cardinals forged into the thick of the pennant race, whipping public interest to a fever pitch. Accordingly, the radio stations decided that on days when the Cardinals were playing on the road and the Browns were idle or rained out, the Cardinals game would be broadcast in “recreated” form—that is, the announcers would broadcast from their St. Louis studios, giving the play-by-play as it came in on a Western Union ticker. The chief flaw in this arrangement was that the ticker frequently broke down, sometimes for as long as five minutes, leaving the listening audience with deadly stretches of silence or meaningless helpings of trivia from the announcers. Caray, however, put his wits to work.

“I developed a helluva flair,” he says. “When the ticker slowed up or broke down, I’d create an argument on the ball field. Or I’d have a sandstorm blowing up and the ballplayers calling time to wipe their eyes. Hell, all the ticker tape carried was the bare essentials—B1, S1, B2, B3. So I used the license of imagination, without destroying the basic facts, you understand. A foul ball was a high foul back to the rail, the catcher is racing back, he can’t get it—a pretty blonde in a red dress, amply endowed, has herself a souvenir!’ ” It sold Griesedieck beer.

Also, it sold Caray to Cardinal club owner Sam Breadon the next year when Breadon assigned exclusive radio rights to a single station. Choosing Caray’s Griesedieck beer over O’Hara’s and Dean’s Falstaff, Breadon told Caray, “You put people in my ball park.” In the years since, Caray has proceeded on a course that somehow has continued through four Cardinal presidents—Breadon, Bob Hannegan, Fred Saigh Jr. and Busch—and enough strife to reduce the ordinary play-by-play man to quivering jelly. Regarded, for example, as a second-guessing so-and-so by onetime Cardinal Manager Eddie Dyer, Caray reported to club headquarters one day in 1950 for a press conference at which Dyer was scheduled to announce his resignation. “Stay out of the room,” Saigh told Caray, blocking the entrance. Dyer had warned Saigh that if he laid eyes on Caray he would punctuate his swan song by belting him in the teeth.

“Baloney,” said Caray. “He saw me yesterday. He had a chance to punch me yesterday.”

“Do me a favor,” Saigh said wearily. “Just stay away, will you?”

The St. Louis press devoted generous space, possibly with relish, to Saigh’s quarantining of Caray in an anteroom. Understandably, the newspapermen bore him little love, for on his increasingly popular afternoon sportscast, Sports Digest, he had adopted a tired, but nevertheless effective, artifice: “You won’t read this in the papers, but”—as if to convey that only he shared his information with the public.

Though his radio fans multiplied, Caray’s pugnacity inevitably carried him to a precipice overlooking oblivion, where he teetered on an evening in 1957. That year Cardinal General Manager Frank Lane resigned, embittered by interference from Busch’s brewery lieutenants. Soon after, Busch held a formal dinner party at his home, Grant’s Farm. The guest list consisted of the Carays and a dozen important St. Louis men and their wives. During cocktails, Busch hovered about Caray, repeatedly asking him, “What do you think about Lane? Don’t you think we’re better off?”

Caray sidestepped Busch’s questions, but Busch persisted into dinner. “All right,” said Caray finally, “if you’re forcing me to, I think Frank Lane would have been great, just perfect, if there weren’t so many stumbling blocks thrown into his path. Hell, are you kidding?” he roared at Busch. “Who the hell do you have who can carry Frank Lane’s briefcase?”

A whisper could be heard as clearly as a cannon in the horrified silence that followed. Then, far down at the foot of the table, a slender matron in a sequined gown leaned into the ear of her neighbor, Mrs. Gussie Busch, and whispered.

“If I were Gussie,” she hissed, “I’d fire the son of a bitch.”

Marian Caray, a black-haired woman seated to Gussie’s left at the head of the table, came up from her chair with fists clenched and dark eyes flashing. “Did I hear you call my husband a son of a bitch?” she demanded.

“No, no,” came the reply. “I was talking about the stableboy.”

“You are not telling the truth,” snapped Marian.

“Shall we have after-dinner drinks in the living room?” Mrs. Busch interrupted sweetly.

As the guests filed into the living room a member of the Cardinals board of directors, Mark D. Eagleton, drew alongside Caray and said, “I admire your guts, Harry, but I don’t know about your judgment. I hope things work out all right.” Next, Robert Baskowitz Sr., a glass manufacturer who sold bottles to Anheuser-Busch, sidled up and said, “Harry, it took a lotta guts. Good luck.”

“Well,” said Caray to himself, “there’s gotta be some good jobs around somewhere.” To his wife he sighed, “Come on, Marian. Let’s get out of here.” Then, suddenly, he heard Busch’s rasping voice bellow at him.

“Where the hell do you think you’re going?”

“I’m going home. I got indigestion.”

“You’re staying right here,” Busch commanded. With that, he threw his arm around Caray and growled, “You son of a bitch. Are you afraid I’m going to fire you? Hell, if you’d have given me any other answer to that question about Lane, you would have been fired.”

In retrospect Caray suspects—and Busch confirms the suspicion—that Busch knew of his admiration for Lane and deliberately had been putting his veracity to a test. “You see,” says Caray, “everybody’s got the idea that you gotta be a yes-man to Gussie Busch. Hell, he’s the most democratic bastard in the world.”

Certainly Caray stood in need of the democratic tycoon’s goodwill when, four years later, the brewery hierarchy sat down to what one of them—a man named Curt Lohr—has described as the Court Martial of Harry Caray. The prelude to this crisis sounded when Caray popped up before his Sports Digest mic and read an editorial from a Lexington, Ky. newspaper condemning the St. Louis Hawks basketball club and the Boston Celtics for a lackluster exhibition they had played in Lexington. “The gist of it was that you saw more action in a University of Kentucky practice session than in an NBA game,” Caray says. In almost less time than it takes to say “I’ll have a Bud,” the long tentacles of the advertising industry had Caray by the throat.

Gardner Advertising of St. Louis, you see, had just come off a hard sell to Hawks club owner Ben Kerner, persuading him to switch Hawks broadcasts from Falstaff to Busch beer. Caray’s Sports Digest also was sponsored by Busch. So Kerner bearded the Gardner boys in their lair and said in effect, “First you tell me how much you love me, and in the next breath you’re letting that guy blast my property.” Gardner raced into conference with Anheuser-Busch executives, then fired off a telegram to Caray informing him that he was suspended indefinitely from the air.

Caray at once suspected a plot to rid the airwaves of him once and for all. “I think it was a squeeze play,” he says. Kerner, he believes, was trying to pave the way for his friend Buddy Blattner to seize Caray’s chair in the Cardinal broadcasting booth. “And the agency felt that I’m hard to control.” For four months Caray remained suspended while broadcasting people, a species that by instinct can spot a vulture 20 yards and beat it to a dying body, buzzed excitedly that Caray was a goner.

Finally, the Gardner ad men called for a meeting to settle his fate. Busch presided, surrounded by his big guns in advertising, P.R., and beer sales. Through the room ran the sentiment that life would be simpler if Caray’s contract were terminated. But then, as Busch patiently heard each man in turn, he at last got to Curt Lohr. Lohr, a stocky, fair-skinned man who at the time headed the brewery’s sales in the St. Louis area, spoke his piece bluntly.

“All Caray did,” he said, “was read an editorial that was printed in a newspaper that already had been read wherever it was circulated. What this boils down to is a personality clash. A good company does not deal in personalities.”

Now Busch himself spoke. “Has everybody had his say?” he asked. “Okay, then pack up your briefcases and get the hell out of here. You’ve taken up enough of my time. If you think I’m gonna fire the greatest broadcaster in baseball just because you people can’t get along with him, you’re crazy.”

Actually, with each passing crisis, Caray has seemed to grow stronger. He wound up, ironically, doing telecasts of Ben Kerner’s Hawks games, while his eldest son, Skip Caray, did the Hawks’ radio broadcasts. Busch gives Caray absolute freedom of speech, although Busch points out that “I can go crazy when he gives it that ‘Ho-lee cow, it’s going out of here!’ and then it’s a foul ball.” In recent years, both insiders and the general public have come to suspect that Caray is a power behind the Cardinals throne—a voice in Busch’s ear telling him which Cardinals to value and which to get rid of. Cardinals Public Relations Director Bob Harlan recalls that when he spoke at a smoker in a southern Illinois town, a fan in the audience asked him if it was Caray who persuaded the club to trade Ray Sadecki to San Francisco for Orlando Cepeda. “Nobody laughed, either,” says Harlan.

“Caray plays cards with Gussie, doesn’t he?” notes a St. Louis sportswriter pointedly. Caray not only does, Busch agrees with a wry smile, but vehemently accuses him of cheating.

During the 1964 season, when Busch was thinking of replacing Manager Johnny Keane with Leo Durocher, it was Caray whom he ordered to make contact with Durocher, then a Dodger coach, and speed him quietly from a St. Louis hotel to Grant’s Farm at an early morning hour. And before Busch eventually gave the job to Red Schoendienst, it was Harry Caray whose opinion he sought. But Caray disclaims the role of court sage.

“I’m positive Gussie already had made up his mind about Schoendienst before he talked to me,” he protests. “He asked me about Red at a party. Listen, I’d like to believe I’ve had something to do with some of these things but, honest to God, I haven’t.” Busch himself pinpoints exactly how much influence Caray has. “Not a damn bit,” he specifies. If he were to consult Caray on a trade in the works, Busch adds, “Harry probably would blab the trade all over town.”

At any rate, Caray contends that he has his hands full just trying to survive. “What play-by-play announcer do you know who criticizes players, who criticizes a trade?” he demands. “I like to think that if I’ve accomplished anything, well, I’ve tried to develop the feeling in the little man, the man we call the fan, that I have his interest at heart. In the baseball business I’m the last of the nonconformists. I feel that eventually, in this day and age, my kind of guy’s gotta get fired.”

Or perhaps confined to a padded cell. In Caray’s scrapbook rest four lines of doggerel clipped from an unidentified newspaper, that say: “If you lack the tickets to see the Cards, you can listen in your own backyards, and the greatest show, no ifs or buts, is to hear Harry Caray going nuts.”

Cope (more on him presently) wrote this in 1968, when Caray was about to announce his third World Series in the days when NBC’s TV and radio World Series announcers included one from each team:

So Caray was at the top of his career to that point.

And then, one year later, 50 years ago today, the St. Louis Post–Dispatch reported:

Harry Caray, after 25 years of broadcasting Cardinal baseball games, was job hunting today.

His employer since 1954, Anheuser-Busch, Inc., dismissed him yesterday. Caray said he was told at 3:25 p.m. by Anheuser-Busch advertising director Donald Hamel that his contract would not be renewed for 1970 and that he would be replaced by Jack Buck as head of the Cardinal broadcasting team.

Caray said he expected to talk to representatives of other major league teams, when he attends the World Series next week, about joining another broadcasting operation. He said, “I love the Cardinals but I love baseball too much not to broadcast it.”

A statement issued by company president August A. Busch Jr. said the decision was based on a recommendation from the company’s marketing division. Busch said, “We have been very glad to have had Harry Caray as a member of our broadcasting team since 1954, and we can assure our fans that we will do everything possible to make the Cardinal broadcasts of the future both interesting and enjoyable.”

In an interview after the announcement, Caray said, “I’m bruised. I’m hurt, and I feel badly about it.”

He disputed the marketing reason given for his dismissal, saying that Busch beer sales had risen from 200,000 cases to 3,000,000 barrels annually since he began advertising it.

Caray said, “I want to know why I was fired, I’ve heard a lot of rumors involving personal things.”

Referring to Busch, Caray said, “I think the world of Mr. Busch. I’d cut off my arms for him. But you’d think that after 25 years, they would at least call me in and talk to me face to face about this.”

The brewery said the decision was made “in conjunction with the entire advertising, promotional, and merchandising plans for next year. This has been the practice for many, many years and has not been deviated from this year.”

George W. Couch Jr. of Anheuser-Busch’s advertising department would say only, “We felt Caray would not fit into our 1970 program. I think the announcement speaks for itself.”

Robert Hyland, general manager of KMOX radio, the principal station on the Cardinal radio network, said that Buck would continue to be sports director for KMOX.

Who will assist Buck in broadcasting the games has not been determined, Hyland said.

Cardinal broadcasts are carried over a network of more than 100 stations in 14 states. Rumors that Caray would be dismissed had been circulating in the last half of the baseball season. Caray said a report in August that he would be replaced by Pittsburgh Pirates broadcaster Bob Prince might have been a trial balloon.

Monday, Caray was given about six hours’ notice that he had been dropped as announcer of a 10-minute evening sports show on KMOX.

Hyland said that he called Caray at Shea Stadium in New York about noon when he received word of the cancellation from the brewery’s advertising agency.

Hyland said he expected Caray to continue his broadcasts of the University of Missouri football games trough the fall season.

A group calling itself the Harry Caray Fan Club has called a protest rally at 10 a.m tomorrow at the Musial statue at Busch Stadium. Jerome Collins and Robert Brown, spokesmen, expressed hope that baseball fans who enjoy the Caray broadcasts turn out in an effort to have Caray rehired. Petitions will be circulated. Meanwhile, a movement to gather petitions asking Anheuser-Busch to reverse its decision began in Jefferson City.

The petitions began as a joke Thursday, but John Harm, executive director for the Missouri Oil Jobbers, has started circulating them seriously. The petition says in part “Out here in the boondocks, Harry Caray IS the Cardinals to many of us. He makes the names in the line-up dance with reality, and the quivering faith or haunting doubt that goes into the outcome of every game, every play, gives new reality and lasting emotion to all of us who love the Cardinals.”

Caray, born Harry Carabina in St. Louis 52 years ago, attended Webster Groves High School. He was originally hired by Ed Griesedieck, president of a brewery that decided to sponsor Cardinal and Brown broadcasts in 1944.

He was selected by the Sporting News as the outstanding play-by-play announcer of the National League for 1946, 1948. 1949 and 1951. Caray brought great enthusiasm to his reporting and acquired a large and loyal following.

He had critics, however, who believed that his enthusiasm for the Cardinals detracted from the objectivity of his description.

He was the subject of a long feature story in Sports Illustrated magazine a year ago, in which writer Myron Cope said that “Cardinal fans either love Caray or hate him, there being no middle ground.”

His cry, “Ho-lee cow,” and his preparation of listeners for home runs “It might be, it could be, it is! ” became famous.

Caray was injured seriously when struck by an automobile Nov. 4, 1968, near the Chase-Park Plaza Hotel. He recovered in time to resume his broadcasts when the season opened last spring.

Buck said he had been offered the job yesterday and that details of his contract remained to be forked out. He said that he and Caray were on good terms.

“We always were and still are,” he said, “I always wanted to be No. 1 but not at the expense of Harry or anyone else.”

Caray, when interviewed last night in a suburban St. Louis restaurant, noted that about all could do in protest was to scrap Busch products and pick up another beer, which he did – a Schlitz.

He said that he considered the separation from the brewery final.

As for the aforementioned “rumors about personal things,” one widely reported rumor is that while Caray was convalescing from his accident he was also having an affair with the wife of August Busch III, son of Cardinals owner August “Gussie” Busch. Caray was quoted in a 1991 book, Under the Influence, that “You couldn’t say I did and I wouldn’t say I didn’t.” I was then told by someone who knew Caray that Caray wasn’t having an affair with Gussie Busch’s daughter-in-law; he was having an affair with Gussie Busch’s girlfriend.

Whichever rumor was true (and I suppose it’s not an either–or thing), Caray’s alleged violations of the adultery commandment angered at least one of his broadcast partners, who was quoted not by name as being disgusted when Caray said on the air one day that he mailed alimony checks to his ex-wives that day.

This did not harm Caray’s career, however. He announced for the 1970 Oakland A’s, then went to Chicago to announce the White Sox one year later. Caray was an institution, along with someone who had been institutionalized, Jimmy Piersall, at Comiskey Park …

… until the White Sox got new owners who had pay-TV plans. Caray then jumped ship for the Cubs and a nationwide contingent of fans thanks to WGN-TV.

One more thing about Cope: The year he wrote the Caray story he started doing radio sports commentaries in Pittsburgh. Two years later, Cope was hired to do color commentary on Steelers games, and he covered the Steelers for 35 years. He was rarely accused of being “one to burden himself with restraint.”

The 1964 Cardinals, by the way, had three players who became announcers — outfielder (later third baseman) Mike Shannon, with the Cardinals; catcher Tim McCarver, with ABC and Fox, and backup catcher Bob Uecker …

… from whose World Series check was deducted the cost of repairing the dents from balls that hit the tuba Uke used to catch fly balls.

 

Postgame schadenfreude, Da Bears Still Suck edition

Another NFL season gives us the opportunity to return to the Presteblog tradition of examining big sports wins from the perspective of the losing side.

This tradition started with the Chicago Bears because no sports media eviscerates the home teams quite like Chicago does, as proven by the Chicago Tribune’s Brad Biggs:

Be careful. Don’t blame Matt Nagy for sitting his frontline players throughout nearly all of the preseason for the pitiful performance by his offense.

I’m positive that is what some folks are already doing, rationalizing a terrible showing by the offense on a little rust that wasn’t knocked off in preseason. The Bears were so bad on offense that it’s not something 40 or 50 snaps in preseason games would have cured.

It’s a best-case scenario that the reason the offense was disjointed and terribly ineffective on third down and suffered from communication breakdowns because the starters were observers throughout the preseason. But it’s really difficult to imagine how the Bears — who had since April to prepare for the rival Packers — could come out and look simply awful.

Nagy was the NFL’s Coach of the Year last season, an award he deserved. He didn’t forget what he was doing since then. But there’s no other way to describe it other than to say he was completely outclassed in this game. Never before had the Bears been held to three points or less in the season opener at home and this was in front of a national television audience with a huge crowd in Grant Park watching an offensive implosion.

Credit is due to the Packers, who reshaped their defense in the offseason with some bold moves in free agency, including a $36 million, four-year contract for former Bears safety Adrian Amos. Green Bay also made moves to bolster the front seven, signing outside linebackers Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith. But the Packers don’t have the 1985 Bears defense. Heck, they don’t have the 2019 Bears defense.

Quarterback Mitch Trubisky was as bad as he was in the playoff loss to the Eagles last January. He completed 26 of 45 passes for 228 yards and was sacked five times, a couple of them avoidable losses. Amos picked him off in the end zone with 1:58 remaining to just about end the game. A good chunk of his 228 yards came on check-down throws.

Wide receiver Allen Robinson, the intended target on the interception, had a nice game with seven catches for 102 yards. But that’s about it if you’re searching for offensive highlights. I told Robinson folks will be wondering if a preseason without any action would be an explanation for a poor showing.

“They can keep wondering that,” he said. “We can’t change that. I felt very prepared to go out here and make plays and I think everyone else did the same. But we just got behind the sticks, whether it was a penalty, no matter what it was. In a crucial situation, for whatever reason, we end up getting — what — first-and-40? You know what I am saying? We were down four points at that time. First-and-40? It’s hard like that. We’ve gotta do a better job on first and second down to give ourselves a shot on third down. And we also have to do a better job on first and second down to stay out of some third downs too.”

Said Trubisky: “I know you guys are going to try to draw comparisons like that, but really it had — I wish I could have said this before, the snaps in the preseason has nothing to do with the way we execute or the sloppiness of tonight because we weren’t doing that in practice. We were smooth in practice, it was crisp getting in and out of the huddle, getting calls in and just everyone doing their job and executing our plays. So it just seemed a little scattered tonight with all our personnel (groups) and just trying to find a rhythm and trying to find our identity on offense, and we just put ourselves in bad situations and shot ourselves in the foot.

“You could maybe attribute it to that, but I think it’s kind of a stretch. It’s just we were uncharacteristic of usually who we were tonight as an offense, and I think we just need to do our job. But we just couldn’t find a rhythm, and I don’t think it’s because we didn’t play in the preseason, because we were rolling in practice, and it just didn’t translate the week of practice we had to the game. We’re going to look at the film and try to find out why and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

None of the other wide receivers distinguished themselves. Taylor Gabriel has only been over 52 yards once in the last 13 games, including the playoff loss. Cordarrelle Patterson caught one pass for three yards and Anthony Miller and Javon Wims were held without catches.

Robinson is right — the Bears were abysmal on third down, converting only 3 of 15. They failed on third-and-1 on two occasions. On one of them, Patterson lined up as the only running back and took the handoff on what was essentially a dive play. That didn’t work and it might not be the best use for Patterson. Yes, he carried the ball some for the Patriots last season, but if New England’s coaches, who are genuinely regarded as pretty sharp, can’t get a ton out of him, maybe the Bears can’t. On another failed third-and-1, the Bears ran an RPO that turned into a sack.

“Just trying to do too much with the pull,” Trubisky said. “It should have just been an easy hand and ride the wave and convert on the one I pulled. It kind of looked like I was going to have a throw with the RPO, so I know that one was on me.”

One thing the Bears wanted to improve this summer was huddle efficiency. They wanted to get in the huddle and get out of it quickly, giving Trubisky more time at the line of scrimmage to survey the defense in order to get an edge in the pre-snap process. The Bears had two delay of game penalties; that’s not managing the huddle.

What’s done is done in terms of the preseason. The Bears have a healthy roster, so maybe Nagy tweaks his approach next summer. But this was so bad in so many ways that I refuse to believe preseason is the explanation.

“It was terrible, absolutely terrible,” Nagy said. “It’s unacceptable. There’s no excuses. Every fan that showed up from Chicago today, that was a Chicago Bears fan, they should be upset, because that’s not who we are. We’re better than that. And like I said, it starts with me. Again, I told the guys that. “We didn’t have that all year last year. So, is it a preseason thing? No, it’s not a preseason thing. Our defense, they played pretty well today not playing in the preseason. But what it comes down to is just us needing to be better. If there’s one thing that I feel like is one of my strengths, it’s being able to accept this kind of stuff and then try to do everything you can to fix it. You man up, you talk to your players, you get input, you talk to your coaches, and you demand better, and that’s what we need to do.”

I wrote last season and in the offseason that Matt Nagy has appeared bored with the running game at times.

That sure seemed to be the case once again as the Bears handed the ball off five times on the first two possessions and then just seven times the rest of the game when they never trailed by more than seven points. It was a four-point game most of the way, but Mitch Trubisky dropped back to pass 53 times and there were a total of 12 handoffs.

“I think it was the flow of the game,” Nagy said. “We just couldn’t get in a rhythm. It’s as simple as that. And then you have a big play — I think we had that play to (David) Montgomery down the seam and then it happened, and then we have the miscommunication, the personnel, and then it’s just like, here we go again. We had a third-and-40 at one point. I don’t have a play call for third-and-40. You know, now you’re just trying to flip the field and do whatever you can.”

It’s hard to see what they have in the rookie Montgomery when he gets a total of six carries and only one in the second half. His 27-yard reception on a seam route was nice, but he didn’t get the ball enough, especially when the passing game was backfiring. This has to be a point of emphasis for Nagy and his coaching staff over the weekend and into next week because Trubisky isn’t good enough for the Bears to win this way consistently and the defense is good enough to carry the team to victories if they are more balanced.

“When (Montgomery) had his touches, which I think there was six of them, he did well,” Nagy said. “He had that nice catch down the sideline. It’s hard for me because I want to watch the tape and truly see, again, all three of those (running backs). That part is new to us a little bit, so we’ve got to make sure that, again, we figure out how to get that thing right. And luckily it is the first game of the year.”

Perhaps in Nagy’s evaluation he will determine that the running game needs to be a bigger factor, even if the flow of the game is choppy or worse.

“We’ve got to get the run game going a lot more,” Trubisky said. “I think when this offense is at its best, it’s a balanced attack with the run game and the pass game, and we just didn’t do a good enough job to get in a rhythm, and we had to lean more on the pass, which made it easier on the defense because they know it’s coming. When this offense is at its best, it’s balanced, it’s running, it’s passing, and we’re definitely getting the run game going.

“So I think that’s something we’ll look at. I’ve still got to watch the film and see exactly what happened. But we’ve got three great running backs. We definitely need to get them going and get the ball in their hands, and we’ve just got a bunch of playmakers, and it’s frustrating when we have all these playmakers and you just feel like you left a lot of plays out there with not getting the ball in these guys’ hands.”

Adrian Amos had a pregame lunch with outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith, another free-agent signing for Green Bay— and Smith told him he was going to make a big play to help the Packers win.

Amos did just that and the irony is that if there was a consistent knock on Amos’ game during four seasons with the Bears, it’s that he didn’t make enough plays on the ball. This wasn’t a particularly difficult play. Trailing by seven, the Bears were facing third-and-10 from the Packers’ 16-yard line just before the two-minute warning. Allen Robinson ran a corner route and was fronted by cornerback Tramon Williams. Amos bracketed him on the back side and it was an easy catch for what turned into a game-sealing interception.

“I had a real feeling that play was coming and I felt right,” Amos said. “I wanted to make a big play to help us win.”

Amos figured Robinson, lined up in the slot to the left, would try a corner route as he had earlier in the possession.

“He called it,” Williams said. “He came to the sideline and said it. He came up with the play. Big play for Amos, especially here in Chicago.

”We wanted to make Mitch play quarterback. We knew they had a lot of weapons. We knew they were dangerous. We knew all of those things. We knew if we could make Mitch play quarterback, we would have a chance. Plus we got some new toys up front. They did their thing today.”

The Packers did get good pressure on Trubisky and I think what Williams means is they wanted to keep the quarterback in the pocket and make him beat them that way. They brought only four rushers on a zone pressure on the interception.

“That was a frustrating one,” Trubisky said. “I wish I would have had that one back. It felt really good when it left my hand and I thought I put it in a good spot for A-Rob. Didn’t keep my eyes on the safety (Amos) long enough, and it looked like there was a little contact there, that maybe I should have went in a different spot.

“But we kind of were in our stuff rolling there, and that’s one where I’ve just got to protect the ball and try to find the completion, to allow us to stay on the field. That’s one of the tough ones that I’m just going to have to look at on film, see what actually what happened, and then see if it was what I saw on the field at the time and just make a better decision next time and come back and can’t put my team in a position like that. It’s very frustrating. You don’t want that stuff to happen.” …

The last time the Bears were held to three points in a season opener was in 2007, a 14-3 loss at San Diego.

This one ranks worse, in my opinion, for the simple reason that the Bears performed so poorly at home. They scuffled in San Diego that day and Rex Grossman was hammered by outside linebacker Shaun Phillips on one of the hardest hits I’ve ever seen a quarterback take.

There are some similarities, though, as that Bears team was coming off a Super Bowl appearance and expectations were sky high. Expectations for this Bears team are massive, but there’s a difference between laying an egg on the road and doing it at home. That Chargers team had Ron Rivera as an inside linebackers coach and he had a good idea what the Bears were doing on offense. In that regard, you better believe Broncos coach Vic Fangio has an idea of what to expect next week when the Bears travel to Denver.

“There’s humility there just for the fact that I know that our guys — we feel really good, we felt good going into it,” Matt Nagy said. “I don’t know what the exact word is for it other than that what you can’t do and what you can’t fall into the trap of is all of a sudden making this seem like it was the Super Bowl and we just lost the Super Bowl. We didn’t lose the Super Bowl, we lost the first game of the regular season. We just need to make sure that we pull back and understand, okay, we’re 0-1, we were 0-1 last year, let’s go ahead and figure out how we rally together.” …

The Packers were a runner-up in the Khalil Mack sweepstakes last September, making a strong bid to acquire him from the Raiders. The thinking is one of the reasons Oakland dealt with the Bears instead is that the Raiders figured draft picks they acquired in return would be better than those they’d potentially receive from Green Bay. Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst was asked earlier this week about missing out on Mack.

“We kind of talk about, there’s deals every week, over the last week every day, that you’re talking about,” Gutekunst told Green Bay media. “I’ve always looked at it, you just keep moving forward. The one thing whether it was (former Packers GMs) Ron (Wolf) or Ted (Thompson) that I learned, there’s always opportunities coming your way so you don’t know what the next one is going to be. You can’t really worry about the ones that were behind you, you just worry about the ones that were coming.

“And so, whether it be the guys we acquired this offseason or this year’s draft or next year’s draft, you just keep moving forward looking at your team and seeing how you can make it better. For every kind of door that’s shut, there’s a window that’s open, you know what I mean? That’s kind of how I look at it. Where we are today, if we would have made a move, we might not be where we are today. And I kind of like where we are today.”

The Chicago Sun–Times:

It’s not good when the operative word of an enormously hyped football game is “boo.’’ It’s not good when the object of a crowd’s disgust is the quarterback of a team with Super Bowl aspirations and the head coach whose offensive creativity is supposed to make a team rise above.

It’s not good when boos are raining down on the Bears during and after a 10-3 loss to the hated Packers at home in the opening game of the NFL’s 100th season, which happens to be the Bears’ 100th season, too.

It’s not good when, afterward, coach Matt Nagy is talking about his “high character players’’ and the great week of practice the Bears had leading up to Thursday night’s opener.

It’s not good when the burning question of a year ago is still raging: Is Mitch Trubisky any good?

From beginning to end Thursday night, the quarterback was not good. Very not good.

“I definitely feel like I let my teammates down and the fans down with the way I played,’’ said Trubisky, who finished with 228 passing yards and a 62.1 passer rating.

If it’s hard to believe we’re still having this discussion about Mitch, you either haven’t been paying attention or you’re in denial.

“We knew if we could get Mitchell Trubisky to play quarterback, we could win,’’ Packers cornerback Tramon Williams told reporters after the game.

Very, very not good.

Nagy came up with a lot of wimpy play-calling against the Packers, but Trubisky didn’t ever look like he was capable of carrying the Bears to victory. That’s a massive red flag, even if it was the first game of the season.

“Three points is ridiculous,’’ Nagy said.

The start and the end of the game tell the story.

Before the Bears were forced to punt on their first series, Trubisky had a pass batted down, overthrew a receiver, had a run stuffed rudely by former teammate Adrian Amos and was sacked for a six-yard loss.

His last two series of the game ended in an interception in the end zone by Amos and a sack at his own 5-yard line. The interception was thrown into double coverage.

In between those ugly bookends was a lot of nothingness from the quarterback and a bizarre lack of energy from Nagy. It looked like a case of a coach trying to protect a quarterback in over his head. But that can’t be because Nagy has told us over and over again that Trubisky is on the verge of making big progress.

“I think he saw (the field) OK,’’ Nagy said after Thursday’s loss. “But I didn’t help him at all. I didn’t help him. I’ve got to help him.’’

Trubisky’s struggles in training camp were chalked up to the excellence of the Bears’ defense. The rationale for his unevenness in Bourbonnais was shouted from the rooftops by the team and by various analysts: You try being a good quarterback going against Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks and Eddie Jackson every day!

Thursday’s opener against the Packers was supposed to be a chance for Trubisky to finally breathe without concerning himself with the loss of any more self-esteem. Even though he didn’t throw a pass in a preseason game, the Packers defense, though improved from last season, wasn’t nearly the Bears’ defense. That was the thinking, anyway.

By the first drive of the third quarter, Bears fans were booing the offense. They booed a Trubisky pass on third-and-10 that went for a two-yard gain. If you were a veteran boo reader, you sensed a good deal of frustration was with Trubisky, who, to that point, had almost been picked off twice.

If Trubisky had been overly amped, it would have been understandable. Just before kickoff, members of the ’85 Bears, waving white towels, walked out of one of the Soldier Field tunnels. You know, in case the crowd wasn’t at full froth already.

Maybe that’s why Nagy, having seen the ugly first “drive,’’ had Trubisky hand off four straight times to start the Bears’ second drive. Trubisky then completed his first pass of the night, for one yard to Tarik Cohen, but it fell short of a first down. That was OK because it allowed rookie Eddy Pineiro to make a 38-yard field goal and Chicago to forget about Cody Parkey for a moment.

You figured 3-0 would hold up for the victory. The Bears’ defense was that good.

When Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers hit Marquez Valdes-Scantling with a 47-yard completion in the second quarter, there were shrieks of disbelief from the Soldier Field crowd, as if it had never occurred to fans that the Bears’ defense could be breached. And when Rodgers hit Jimmy Graham with an 8-yard touchdown pass on the drive, the crowd went into mourning. Black shawls. Keening. The works. It was 7-3 Packers.

Trubisky’s halftime stats – 11-for-16 for 73 yards – didn’t inspire music or literature. It wouldn’t get much better.

Rust could have been an issue. But some of his problems against the Packers looked suspiciously like some of his problems in the first two years of his Bears career. It was disconcerting.

So was the play of the offense, which managed just 46 rushing yards.

Boo.

Sean Wagner-McGough:

We spent so much time worrying about the Bears‘ kicker situation that we forgot they might have an even bigger problem at quarterback. It turns out the question isn’t, can Carli Lloyd be the unconventional solution to fix the Bears’ kicker problem? It really might be, can the U.S. women’s national soccer team legend play quarterback?

Against a revamped, hyped and young Packers defense, Trubisky went 26 for 45 (57.8 percent) for 228 yards (an ugly 5.1 yards per attempt), no touchdowns, a game-losing interception and a fitting 62.1 passer rating. It was as awful a performance as the numbers suggest.

Bears coach Matt Nagy deserves blame for his play-calling (a third-and-1 running play up the gut with Cordarrelle Patterson, to name one example), decision making (his decision to go for a fourth-and-10 instead of trying a long field goal, to name one example), and his eagerness to abandon the running game (the Bears ran the ball 12 times, not including Trubisky’s keepers). And the offensive line was overrun by the Packers’ defensive front. However, most coaches and O-lines wouldn’t have been able to win a game with that version of Trubisky.

There were missed openings that Trubisky didn’t see — just ask Allen Robinson, who was wide open on more than occasion, but didn’t always get the target his openness demanded. Below, in videos courtesy of NFL Game Pass (start your free trial today to rewatch Thursday’s game), Trubisky missed an uncovered Robinson and instead fired a late pass into traffic that very easily could’ve been picked.

There were wildly thrown passes sailing over the heads of his receivers — just like the missed passes that sailed over the heads of his receivers last year.

There were carelessly thrown passes that should’ve been intercepted. He was fortunate to finish with only one interception instead of three or four.

And there was a game-losing interception on a pass that never should’ve been thrown — into double coverage.

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NFL Game Pass

The angle from behind the play is particularly damning. You can see Trubisky lock in on his target, which allowed former Bears and current Packers safety Adrian Amos to follow his eyes, which created the double coverage. And you can see exactly how Trubisky struggles against the blitz, lofting up a softball without stepping into the throw. It was a lazy pass that deservedly resulted in an interception.

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NFL Game Pass

In fairness to Trubisky, he made a couple nice throws — mainly to Robinson, who was the lone bright spot on offense with seven catches for 102 yards. But it’s those moments of brilliance that make his inconsistencies that much more frustrating.

It felt a lot like last year, when Trubisky posted decent enough numbers, but lacked consistency on a play-to-play, game-to-game basis. Over the course of a 14-game regular season, Trubisky completed 66.6 percent of his passes, averaged 7.4 yards per attempt, threw 24 touchdowns and 12 interceptions and generated a 95.4 passer rating. Those numbers are fine — good even for a second-year quarterback in a brand new system. It’s how he posted those numbers that was concerning. In six starts, he posted a passer rating below 80.0. In six starts, he posted a passer rating above 100. Consistency was lacking.

The problems that plagued him a year ago were the exact same problems that plagued him Thursday night. Missing open targets with both his eyes and arm. Forcing passes into interceptable coverages. Not handling pressure with poise and composure. Making unforced errors.

Last year’s Bears managed to capture the NFC North crown with a 12-win season and would’ve been onto the divisional round of the playoffs if not for Cody Parkey‘s double-doink, which is why the Bears (and all of us) spent the offseason obsessing over their problem at kicker. But the Bears’ problem at kicker feels rather trivial after witnessing their problem at quarterback.

The problem is, if the Bears are going to take the next step, they’re going to need Trubisky to take the next step in his development and emerge as a consistently good quarterback, and based on what we saw Thursday night, Trubisky isn’t at that point — at least not yet.

Jeff Dickerson piles on:

Whatever growth the Chicago Bears expected from quarterback Mitchell Trubisky in Year 2 under coach Matt Nagy never materialized in Thursday night’s season opener against the Green Bay Packers.

Chicago’s offense, captained by Trubisky, ruined a stellar effort by the defense, losing 10-3 to Green Bay in front of a capacity Soldier Field crowd that just before kickoff believed the home team had legitimate Super Bowl aspirations. Now, not so much. It’s early, but the offense — lowlighted by Trubisky — looked worse than last year when Nagy first took over. It’s not a good sign, either, that, according to ESPN Stats & Information research, no team has reached the Super Bowl after failing to score a touchdown in its season opener.

QB breakdown: Bad, bad, bad, bad. Outside of a couple of nice throws to Allen Robinson, Trubisky looked out of sync the entire game. A third-year quarterback can’t let the offense be called for two delay of game penalties on the same drive, as Trubisky allowed in the third quarter when Chicago appeared on the verge of scoring. The Bears praised Trubisky’s during preseason at every turn, but all the 25-year-old quarterback did in Week 1 was provide fodder to those who criticized the Bears’ refusal to play starters in preseason games and brought up familiar criticisms about Trubisky’s viability as a franchise quarterback. Trubisky capped off the evening by throwing an interception in the end zone into double coverage. It was a fitting end to such a lackluster game by Chicago’s starting quarterback.

Readers of this blog are familiar with Keith Olbermann (formerly of more media outlets than you can list) and his identification of “one of the NFL’s great unrecognized traditions” back in 2008 when Da Bears were about to change quarterbacks … again. “With brief interruptions of stability from the likes of Jim McMahon and Billy Wade, this job has been unsettled since Sid Luckman retired. There has always been a Rex Grossman, he has always underperformed, and they have always been about to replace him.”

I last quoted Olbermann when Trubisky was a rookie and about to replace Mike Glennon, for whom Da Bears ridiculously overpaid. Sure enough, out went Glennon and in came Trubisky. Two years later, there is not an apparent heir apparent, but when your home crowd boos you, that’s not a good harbinger of things to come.

Meanwhile, the Packers haven’t played defense like that since the 2010 season. That may be irrational exuberance, but starting 1–0 is better than starting 0–1 regardless of what kind of game it was. Offensive slow starts under new coaching staffs are not uncommon. (Recall that Mike Holmgren, Mike Sherman and Mike McCarthy lost their first two games each, and McCarthy got shut out in his first game by Da Bears.)