If you liked sports, perhaps at some point you hoped to have a career in sports. It’s every kid’s dream. Playing. Coaching. Broadcasting. Anything, because we love sports.
Perhaps as years pass by and the dreams fade off into reality, you still may hold out a flicker of hope that maybe, someday, there’s still a chance. Perhaps you imitated some of the great iconic voices such Harry Caray or Howard Cosell? Or maybe you hoped just to be known for a memorable phrase, like Formula 1 racer-turned-announcer Jackie Stewart, heralding “What a spectacular crash!”
Time continues to march past. But does the dream ever die?
The Chicago Bears organization was kind enough to extend a unique invitation to me. To join the traditional media, shoulder to shoulder along the sideline of one of the Bears’ practices. I accepted the offer and attended camp in Bourbonnais, Illinois on August 1.
As if my adrenalin needed any kind of boost, imagine the feeling of having the privilege just to enter the reserved media parking area. As I walked through the secure area to register for the day’s event, Bear’s players are driving past me on golf carts. Kicker Robbie Gould in particular had his entire family loaded into one of the carts.
For a brief moment I felt like astronaut Neil Armstrong. Or at minimum, like the fictitious Captain James T. Kirk – going where no average man had gone before.
I read the media waiver (which applies to all media personnel) and then received my media credential. It may seem like a simple, insignificant formality; an adhesive 1-day media credential. But the power soon became evident.
Imposing yellow ropes separated the general public from the practice field. Yet the media credential had the power to move me, not only past the yellow ropes, but also past staff, security, and local police, on to the practice field sideline. And let me just add seriously, that the staff and security at Bears camp could not have been more hospitable and friendly.
I was early. There were only a few media personnel on the sidelines. A few players were on the field stretching. Or jogging. DB Tracy Porter was catching passes from the JUGS football (throwing) machine. And then more players started walking past me onto the field. Dozens of them.
I nearly had to pinch myself. Was I really experiencing this? At such a privileged distance?
Once most of the 80 plus players and coaches made their way onto the field, things began to move quickly.
Offensive players divided up into groups. One group practiced rushing plays with the running backs. Another group practiced passing plays with the tight ends and wide receivers. Special teams players were practicing goal line drills. Players were continually alternating groups. It was a lot to absorb watching so much happening simultaneously.
Then there were 7-on-7 drills. Then full 11-on-11 drills. Punting drills. Blocking drills. Then back to 7-on-7 drills. It was a symphony being orchestrated by all 80 plus players. And if the idea entered your head that this was in some way routine for these players, a shoving match would ensue. Or punches were thrown, reminding anyone watching that this was serious work being done.
As much as I tried to make as many mental notes as possible, this whole experience, as well as the 2-hour scheduled practice, was moving incredibly fast toward its ultimate conclusion.
As a fantasy writer, one thing that stood out to me foremost was just a simple few moments during practice.
Many times in fantasy football columns and forums we discuss the RB position. It’s a key position for a fantasy roster. And in today’s pass-happy NFL, the tenure and value of the running back may be losing some of it’s luster. Even so, a fantasy owner needs a RB. It’s always been the bread and butter of fantasy football to discuss the RB position in-depth.
With that in mind, there I was, standing on the sideline. And about 20 feet in front of me taking a brief breather in the hot, Midwest August sun, was all 5 of the Chicago Bears’ running backs:
#33 Jeremy Langford, #35 Jacquizz Rodgers, #32 Senorice Perry, #25 Ka’Deem Carey, and #24 rookie Jordan Howard.
I may not be the best writer, and sometimes my view of things is drastically different from my fantasy associates, so maybe I can’t articulate my emotions and my experience any better than what has been presented here? But seeing those five running backs in front of me, not only as a fan of the Bears, but as a fan of the NFL, I felt like for that brief moment, I was living a dream.
Or perhaps more appropriately as Al Michaels historically once asked, “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!”
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