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Super assignment:Bears in the big one
My favorite storyIt's fashionable for journalists to complain about working Super Bowls, but there are few better gigs than covering one involving your local team. It's one of those moments when you know every single word you write will be read.
Play of the yearAny Devin Hester kick return, with a nod to the two against the Denver Broncos on which his last hurdle was chirpy ex-Bears kicker Todd Sauerbrun.
My story that got the most reader responseAnything Rex Grossman. A simple "Grossman played quarterback Sunday ... " story was good for the remarkable phenomenon of grumpy e-mail from supporters and detractors, one declaring, "You're giving that mope a pass!" and the other demanding, "Stop beating the guy up!"
Best game I coveredNothing matched Southern Illinois at Northern Illinois in September. It looked like nothing special going in, and the Huskies were up 31-14 going into the fourth quarter, a reporter's dream of an apparent early decision for a night game on deadline. Then the Salukis began a comeback with 20 unanswered points in the final 11 minutes, capped by Nick Hill's two touchdown passes in the last 61 seconds. The injuries from the game were a sad foreshadowing of how Northern Illinois' season would go. Southern Illinois coach Jerry Kill finished the season going to the playoffs and eventually getting the job as NIU's coach.
Best interviewBrian Urlacher. All those one-word answers sure saved transcription time.
Most telling off-the-field momentThis is the same every year, and easy: 95 degrees in Bourbonnais and Bears like Alex Brown, Ricky Manning Jr., John Tait, Urlacher and others taking time right after practice, still totally sweaty in full pads, to sign autographs and visit with fans, particularly the kids in wheelchairs and on crutches. No man stands so tall as when he stoops to help a child.
I wish I had seenAppalachian State beating Michigan. If I had seen that coming and violated my never-bet commandment just that once, I could be filing this from the deck of my ocean yacht. (Do yachts have decks? And who cleans them?)
Road trip I won't forgetI won't but I would like to forget Philadelphia for the Bears-Eagles game. An entire day of canceled and overflow flights meant a whole day spent in the Philly airdrome and concluding that the Marquis de Sade designed airport seating.
If I could have been a fly on the wallI probably would have been swatted. But the machinations of coach Lovie Smith and agent Frank Bauer in getting the Bears' contract offer up to market level in conversations with Ted Phillips and Bears management made for superb theater.
To-do listLose the weight I want to so I can mark turning 60 by cycling across America.
Second-guessing myselfThe supreme nachos last Friday (see previous answer). I'll regret them somewhere around New Mexico.
Story line for '08The Bears are at a franchise crossroads, collectively and individually for many. Keep your eye on the following: who re-signs and for how much, who is added on draft day and who is able to pry back open the Super Bowl window, which has typically stayed open for only two to four years anywhere except New England.
Best quote I got"I think I got this job because I have the same hairstyle as Joe."
-- Incoming (and balding) Northern Illinois coach Jerry Kill, on retiring (and balding) coach Joe Novak, who helped with the hiring decision.