KICK IN THE PANTS

No mat­ter how Bears spin it, Parkey’s dou­ble doink will be what sticks with us

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - RICK MOR­RIS­SEY LEAD­ING OFF rmor­ris­[email protected] | @Mor­ris­seyCST

Bears gen­eral man­ager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy will have their end-of-sea­son news con­fer­ence Mon­day, and they’ll surely want us to know that an End Times-herald­ing missed kick can’t take away from all the good the team ac­com­plished in 2018.

But over the week­end, as I sat watch­ing the play­offs go on with­out a par­tic­u­lar fun, tal­ented team, I wasn’t think­ing warm thoughts about a 12-4 record and an NFC North ti­tle.

I thought about Cody Parkey’s clanger off the left up­right and the cross­bar. About that missed field-goal at­tempt in the clos­ing sec­onds against the Ea­gles. About a sea­son gone in an in­stant.

That’s what I was think­ing about, still.

As it ever shall be, I imag­ine.

I don’t be­lieve I’ll be alone in that dark room 20 years from now. I don’t en­vi­sion a lot of peo­ple say­ing, “That 2018 de­fense was in­cred­i­ble,’’ with­out the knee-jerk ut­ter­ance, “but that missed kick,’’ fol­lowed by spasms of nau­sea. You think I’m ex­ag­ger­at­ing about Chicago’s prodi­gious mem­ory and ac­com­pa­ny­ing gloomi­ness? Men­tion the Bears’ much-cel­e­brated 1985 Su­per Bowl ti­tle to a group of fans, and one or more un­doubt­edly will lament that an­other cham­pi­onship or two didn’t fol­low, given how tal­ented the team was.

Parkey’s miss was a cat­a­clysmic event. One that can’t be moved on from, ra­tio­nally, spir­i­tu­ally, meta­phys­i­cally, how­ever you want to put it. At a min­i­mum, one that can’t eas­ily be moved on from.

The Bears should have played the Rams on Satur­day. They should have played a sec­ond-round game in Los An­ge­les, against a team they had beaten ear­lier in the sea­son. In­stead, the Rams took on the Cow­boys. I was left to won­der if the Bears’ de­fense would have been able to re­duce Jared Goff to a qua­ver­ing quar­ter­back again and whether Mitch Tru­bisky would have been able to re­deem him­self after his three-in­ter­cep­tion night against the Rams in the first meet­ing.

No one will ever know.

If the Bears had lost the firstround game to the Ea­gles be­cause Tru­bisky fum­bled while be­ing sacked or be­cause the Bears couldn’t get a first down, that would have been eas­ier to swal­low. But they lost be­cause a man who makes his liv­ing with his toes hit an up­right, an un­for­tu­nate de­vel­op­ment that had oc­curred five other times to Parkey dur­ing the sea­son. Change “an un­for­tu­nate de­vel­op­ment’’ to “not at all un­ex­pected in­ci­dent.’’ If it makes you feel bet­ter to say that his kick against the Ea­gles was tipped, have at it.

Let’s turn our at­ten­tion to two sub­jects that un­doubt­edly will come up Mon­day in the news con­fer­ence.

Have the Bears built some­thing last­ing?

Can they over­come Parkey’s miss?

Those are very real ques­tions. They’re also very sep­a­rate ques­tions. With the de­fense the Bears have built around Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks, they fig­ure to have con­tin­ued suc­cess as a team. That’s pro­vided they have good health, which was a huge fac­tor in their 12-4 record.

The sec­ond ques­tion, whether they can get past the shock of Parkey’s miss, is trick­ier. Some events carry a bru­tal weight. It took the Cubs years to re­cover from their Game 6 de­ba­cle in the 2003 Na­tional League Cham­pi­onship Se­ries, when short­stop Alex Gon­za­lez botched a ground ball and un­leashed forces nor­mally re­served for the Apoc­a­lypse.

No one as­so­ci­ated with the Bears wants the for­mer fu­til­ity of the Cubs in­toned here. And it might seem cruel to bring it up now. Pace and Nagy would much pre­fer that their sit­u­a­tion be com­pared to that of Cubs pres­i­dent Theo Ep­stein and man­ager Joe Mad­don in 2015, the sea­son be­fore they broke 108 years of fu­til­ity and won a World Se­ries.

We’ll see.

What hap­pened to the Bears on Jan. 6 at Soldier Field harked back to all the rot­ten-luck things that used to hap­pen to the Cubs, pre-Theo. A “Cubbie oc­cur­rence” is what for­mer Cubs man­ager Lou Piniella called strange hap­pen­ings, such as the time oft-in­jured pitcher Kerry Wood hurt him­self by slip­ping while get­ting out of a hot tub.

With that missed field goal hang­ing over his head, Pace will talk about the “sus­tained suc­cess” blue­print he bor­rowed from Ep­stein. I imag­ine the lis­ten­ing au­di­ence will have a hard time fo­cus­ing.

Whether Parkey’s miss be­comes an event that de­fines a fran­chise is up to the play­ers and coaches in the next year or two. But it’s go­ing to be around, like an al­ba­tross as neck­wear.

I’m guess­ing the Bears will rid them­selves of Parkey be­fore next sea­son. Whether they can rid them­selves of what he wrought will be a much big­ger un­der­tak­ing.

The Rams beat the Cow­boys 30-22 on Satur­day. If I know one thing in life, it’s that there’s no way that the Rams would have been able to score 30 points against the Bears. I’m less sure of what Tru­bisky would have done.

The thing I’ll re­mem­ber 20 years from now is that I never got the chance to find out.

GETTY IMAGES

The Bears’ bench mir­rored the dis­be­lief of the team’s fan base when Cody Parkey bounced a po­ten­tial win­ning field goal off the up­right and the cross­bar in the wild-card loss to the Ea­gles.

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