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We've gotten to that time of the season where all television networks are obliged to display a graphic detailing which teams would be playoff-bound if the season were to end during Week 13, and which teams are "in the hunt."
This digital display usually appears near the beginning of the broadcast; right after Fox analyst Moose Johnston's "Keys To The Game" segment.
Fox then displays it again in the third quarter. And as though you had forgotten during the last 20 minutes, once more during the fourth.
Aaaaaand lastly, at the game's conclusion the graphic is paraded out there again with updated standings coupled with hard hitting audio commentary like "at a record of 3-9, the G-Men are going have a difficult time making the playoffs in 2014."
Throughout the holiday weekend, we've seen the 5-7 Bears appear on said graphic because I assume the computer wiz that designed it could not imagine a world in which there would only be eight teams in a conference with winning records.
Or for that manner, that teams flirting with a negative number of wins could be 1 1/2 games out of a playoff spot.
Depending on who you ask, this world could be a magical place where underdog dreams come true, or a hellscape in which the living envy the dead.
For the believers in the former scenario, it's like I always tell my kid:
Atlanta, you definitely weren't supposed to happen. Frankly, I was as surprised as anyone that 13 weeks into this thing you still have a chance to make it to term . . . but we're so glad you're here!
Though not statistically eliminated from playoff contention, the outlook is bleak for our Bears. Here's a frighteningly real stat:
At 2-10, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a higher likelihood of making it to the dance than our underwhelming but favorite team.
Why? Because there are only three teams the Bucs have to hurdle in the standings and they all suck balls.
You know I'm getting depressed when I start working "facts" into this thing.
The Bears are up against long odds, and worse yet, we know the odds are even longer that the team will be able to hold the interest of its fan base.
Without the hope of a legitimate playoff run, competition for the time of the Bear fan is fierce. The options presented by the outside world are robust to say the least.
We could be taking a nap or developing a strange interest in the Texans based largely on a man crush for J.J. Watt.
Hey, why not get a head start on Photoshopping our True Detective themed holiday cards.
Keys To The Game
In order to hold your attention, the next section of this column is best read with inspiring football music.
Now, trust me when I say that I tried to clear the score that comprises the music bed underneath classic NFL Films vignettes with the Sabol family.
Marching band orchestrations of "What Shall We Do With A Drunken Sailor" and whatnot.
Unfortunately, I used up most of my $47,000 annual budget on cosmetic surgery*, so I was unable to get the express written consent of the NFL and with only $11 remaining in the coffers, concessions became necessary.
That said, I gotta tell you, I couldn't be happier with the outcome.
Turns out that an old running buddy from my Berkeley days [Editor's Note: Carl briefly lived in as a homeless person outside of Berkeley, California] goes way back with famed composer Shuki Levy, and thanks to my longstanding relationship with his crack dealer, Mr. Levy was willing to lend me the use of one of his most epic and well-known compositions for the price of lunch.
So without further preamble, here are steps the Bears franchise can take to hold the interest of its fan base:
(Cue the music)
- Swingers party at Soldier Field. With more than 30,000 couples in attendance, there's bound to be a match for you and your spouse's erotic tastes.
- Monday, December 15th is Disco Night . . . for the players. I have a feeling Jay Cutler will start running more bootlegs and getting rid of the ball more quickly when his helmet is replaced with one of Phil Spector's wigs.
- Invite Dave Wannstedt back to coach the Bears in Week 17 just to see if he still knows how to do football stuff**.
- Send out an e-mail to all season-ticket holders committing to publicly freeze Marc Trestman in carbonite and send him back Montreal Alouettes owner and famed cartel sloth Jaques D'Hutte if the Bears lose to the Cowboys.
Seriously, play the He-Man theme song at the same time as a muted Franco Harris highlight reel. It f-ing works.
Rounding out the second half of the highly unusual back-to-back Thursday game schedule, the Bears face another of the aforementioned teams "in the hunt," the Dallas Cow-Joneses.
Except the opposition is four games above .500 and has a legitimate shot at losing in the first round of the playoffs to Green Bay - as opposed to the Bears who have already lost their season to the Packers.
You could learn a thing or two about efficiency from our squad, Dallas.
The Cowboys are a lot like the Bears in several respects, except they keep their demoralizing blowouts to within 24 points and plan to ride their All-Pro running back into the ground until his legs are worn down to eraser-like nubs such as those you'd find on the characters you create for yourself on the Wii.
As a writer (or whatever it is you call what I'm doing), the best part of editorializing about Dallas is that the work has been done for you by several earlier iterations of Tony Romo-led teams.
A quick scan of the Internet for news articles about the Cowboys reveals that you could apply headlines from any of the last four Decembers, and they're all still valid.
"Playoff Push Crumbles As Romo Stumbles On The Road"
"Despite Early Season Expectations, Dallas Finishes With Mediocre Record"
"Overused Cowboys Running Back Injured"
"Dez Bryant Screams 'I Can't Do Your Job For You F&@$HEADS' At Dallas Defense, Is Later Punched Anonymously By Teammate"
"Should Jerry Jones Be The GM Of A Chik-fil-A?"
[Wipes Hands And Walks Away From Keyboard]
Kool-Aid (3 of 5 - Green Line Pale Ale)
A tasty Goose Island offering worthy of a pairing with any fried dish.
In terms of math (if that's your thing), the Bears can still finish with the first winning record of the Marc Trestman era.
Now if you're a realist like our friend Rustin Cohle (see above), you'd say that time is a flat circle and that anyone who watches one Marc Trestman-coached Bears teams is doomed to view the same 8-8 outcome each year from inside a locked room again and again until we finally realize that we're all just sharing a false dream, the dream of being a person.
Seriously, if you haven't watched True Detective yet, steal HBO Go from a friend or something. McConaughey and Harrelson are awesome, It's full of nihilistic one liners and there's tits.
When I said I was a writer earlier, it's sentences like that which prove my point.
Accomplishing that lofty goal of winning two more games than you've lost and breaking the endless cycle of the flat rotating limbo starts with a turnaround that begins tonight.
Sure, it likely should have begun against the Bills (who thinks I'm an idiot for calling the first game of the season a "must-win" now?), but it's never too late for now.
The Cowboys got on a roll early in the season, but they don't look like a team that has its act together.
Hey, remember that time when the Bears beat a "far superior" 49ers team on the road and then everyone found out later that San Francisco isn't that good this year?
I think we've got another one of those situations a-brewin' here!
Bears 31, Cowboys 28
* I know $46,989 sounds like a lot of money for a permanent testicle glossing, but I no longer need to use a flashlight during a power outage or while camping, so the procedure will pay for itself in the cost of Double-A batteries alone.
** True story: I Googled "did Dave Wannstedt have a stroke" after seeing this picture of Wanny to make sure that the joke wasn't a shot below the belt.
Carl Mohrbacher is our man on the Kool-Aid. He welcomes your comments.