Tom Musick: On Thursday nights, NFL puts on its clown shoes
CHICAGO – It was a weird night.
Brandon Marshall wore lime-green shoes and returned to greatness.
Charles Tillman wore plain sneakers and became a bystander for the first time since 2009.
Major Wright wore standard white cleats and waited for his Southwest Airlines endorsement offer.
Wanna get away?
Major, you’re a friendly guy, so let me speak for all of us here.
Yes. Get us away.
Get us away from these Thursday Night Follies. Get us away from this overhyped, underprepared nonsense that makes the NFL richer while making the quality of the game poorer. Get us away from this made-for-TV blunderfest that smells like the end of a trash chute.
Sure, the Bears’ 27-21 win against the New York Giants featured a handful of exciting moments. But Soldier Field’s sellout crowd lacked its typical volume and intensity, perhaps realizing that it was digesting a lukewarm appetizer in a league known for fine entrees.
“We won the game,” Bears quarterback Jay Cutler said. “But we leave here a little unsatisfied.”
You and 62,374 paying customers.
Care to guess how many times the Bears practiced in pads this week?
Here’s a clue: It’s more than minus-one but less than one.
That’s what happens when an NFL team is forced to play two games in five days. This isn’t the NBA, where you can dip your feet in a bucket of ice and be ready to go in another night or two. This isn’t baseball, where you can refresh your bucket of Double Bubble and enjoy a pleasant stroll on to the field.
This is a game that requires rest, recovery and preparation to scheme for upcoming opponents.
But the NFL is a cash cow, and nationally televised games say moo. So this week it was the Bears’ and Giants’ turn to rush through a mini-week of practice, which included nothing more than glorified walk-through sessions at Halas Hall with Bears players leaving their gear in their lockers.
No wonder the Bears looked like they had forgotten how to tackle.
Asked about his teammates on the defensive line, Julius Peppers shrugged his shoulders.
“They played well enough to win,” Peppers said. “That’s all I know right now.”
Either that, or the Giants played badly enough to lose.
If you wanted a favorite moment, Marshall provided that with his first of two touchdowns in a bounce-back game. He lined up in the slot and leaped for a 10-yard reception, landing in his lime-green cleats that called attention to Mental Health Awareness Week and hopefully helped to remind a person or two (or 10 million) that they have no reason to be ashamed of mental illness.
If you wanted a disconcerting moment, Tillman provided that when he walked on to the field in tennis shoes rather than cleats a couple of hours before game time. Tillman jogged lightly with teammate Lance Briggs and played a light game of catch before the Bears ruled him out for the game because of a knee injury, prompting a scary glimpse into Life After Peanut.
If you wanted a palm-to-forehead moment, Wright provided that in the hours before kickoff. The Bears’ fourth-year safety made headlines on the gossip website TMZ for allegedly failing to repay money that he borrowed for a side business that deals in, you know, raw South African diamonds.
Um, Major? Minor question. What in the world were you thinking?
“NFL star Major Wright just got into serious heat over his side hustle – AFRICAN DIAMONDS – and now he’s being chased down by a couple of scary loan sharks,” dished TMZ’s tell-all article.
Side note: I should start writing columns as if I worked for TMZ.
“Pretty boy QB Jay Cutler just morphed into Captain Crankypants on the set of Soldier Field after work pal Kyle Long, aka Baldy McBalderson, totally goofed on a block. Hut, hut, hot mess!”
On second thought, maybe I’ll stick to writing newspaper columns.
And maybe the Bears should get back to normal.
At least, as normal as possible. After playing two games in five days, the Bears will play one game in the next 24 days.
Make that a weird season.
• Northwest Herald sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @tcmusick.