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SportsMonday: Bears Scratch Out Ugly Win Over Third- And Fourth-String Quarterbacks Of Minor League Team At Online University Stadium In Desert Suburb; Still Alive For Playoffs

Bears fans deserve better than what they've received from their team of late. But it isn't as though they ever really demand even the tiniest of improvements.

That was the thing that struck me as I walked among my fellow fanatics in and around University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, on Sunday.

In the past week there was the predictable response to Brian Urlacher saying he didn't care what the fans think with commentators slamming the linebacker for biting the hand that feeds him. Then there was the backlash as other commentators argued that fans were fools if they didn't think that every pro athlete feels the same way to a certain extent.

Now I don't think fans are fools but I must profess I don't begin to understand how many of my brethren behave. And that goes back to the whole "never demanding that you be treated better" thing.

One local team showed at least a bit of appreciation last week. But the Cubs' moves to overpay a few free agent pitchers (Edwin Jackson and Carlos Villanueva) to try to ensure they lose less than 95 games next year instead of more than 100 could just as well have been based on economics as on making fans slightly happier.

Maybe just maybe not everyone is accepting the "we have to completely suck the next two years to ever be truly good" bill of goods the Cubs have been selling. And perhaps just perhaps that has been reflected in a slowing of season-ticket buying. In other words, maybe at least a few Cubs fans were on the verge of demanding that the team not be a total embarrassment.

Even if that is the case, plenty of other people are still buying the Cubs' big con. And last week they were saying the free agent signings were a mistake. But it isn't that difficult to see that the team can focus on the future and play for next season to at least be better than last season at the same time . . . if the team is willing to spend the money it surely has.

The Cubs overpaid third-starter-at-best Jackson in particular (his contract guarantees him four years and more than $50 million), and if he is no longer good enough in years three and four of that deal to crack a rotation that is suddenly filled with splendid young prospects, well, the Cubs will have to eat at least a portion of those years. But people! The Ricketts' can pay that off with their pocket change.

Here I am going on about the Cubs when the Bears' season still has at least one thrilling week remaining. Perhaps that's because the grown-up Cubs' 28-13 victory over the Cardinals didn't exactly make spirits soar. It did leave the Bears 9-6 and if they win next Sunday and the Vikings lose, the Bears are in the playoffs

My first thought as I surveyed what seemed like tens of thousands of midnight-blue clad partisans who filled up the stadium in suburban Phoenix was that the ingrate Bears don't deserve this kind of support. My second thought was that if the fans are still going to show up and spend, spend, spend, why would the Bears ever change?

Many of us paid at least something close to triple digits per ticket (we were five rows from the top of the place and our tickets had a face value of $75 per) to take in a game against a terrible team. For a long time this season there wasn't a worse team in the NFL than the Cardinals, before they finally found a way to knock off the Lions last week to break a nine-game losing streak.

At least the money wasn't going to the Bears, right? And the homestanding Cardinals made a few allowances. They provided us with nice little free programs (with rosters and everything!), the sorts of little programs that I feel like we used to get at a variety of sports venues in Chicago that we definitely don't get anymore.

And there were literally scores of team employees out along the concourses and at the top and bottom of escalators wishing us happy holidays as we exited. But given the price of beers and the long, slow lines at the concessions stand and everything else, it was a terrible deal for the paying customer.

And the beat goes on across major professional sports. The whole experience gets more and more expensive year after year and fans get less and less. They certainly get less and less respect. I'll never completely walk away from it all, but I have scaled back the number of games I go to in a given year.

Bears fans may deserve better from the Bears, but more importantly, they deserve better from themselves.

He Said It

The final home game was a gallery of grotesque. Gargling with kerosene will leave a better taste in your mouth.

- Arizona Republic columnist Dan Bickley

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Comments welcome.

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