Good times return to Soldier Field
The Chicago Bears are back.
Not back to winning -- not yet, anyway -- but back to being fun. Back to being likable.
Sunday's season-opening game at Soldier Field felt different from recent seasons. Brighter, like a cloud had lifted.
That cloud's name is Jay Cutler.
I know the departed quarterback had some fans here -- there were seven of them at last count -- but I found him immeasurably loathsome. He appealed mainly to scowling enthusiasts and recreational mopers, and while his physical potential was obvious, his inability to capitalize on those gifts made him exhausting to watch and, in turn, made the Bears un-fun.
Cutler spent most of his time on the field looking like he would rather be earning millions of dollars elsewhere. He tossed interceptions at decidedly inopportune moments with a frequency that suggested he held a lifelong grudge against Chicago and was out for revenge.
But Sunday's game against the Atlanta Falcons was gloriously Cutler-free. The Bears lost 23-17, yet it felt like Chicago fans once again had reason to cheer.
Consider the final moments of the game. The Bears had the ball close to the end zone with four downs to go, needing only a touchdown and an extra point to win against the heavily favored Falcons.
At quarterback was a guy who isn't Jay Cutler. It was Mike something-or-other. The name is irrelevant. Let's just call him Mike NotJayCutler.
The beautiful thing about those four attempts at a touchdown was that fans had reason to believe the Bears might score. Or, to put it another way, they didn't have reason to believe the Bears would absolutely not score.