Media and fans to blame in Urlacher-Sayers spat

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It’s being billed as a rift between the “old school” and the “new school.” Those who support and agree with former Bear Gale Sayers’ comments about the current Bears team, and those who defend and side with Brian Urlacher’s rebuttal and discrediting of Sayers’ comments.

Those Bears fans who are bitter and cynical about Lovie Smith and Jerry Angelo and resent the fact that the Bears haven’t made the playoffs in three straight seasons since their Super Bowl XLI appearance are more likely to agree with Sayers.

Other Bears fans who refuse to live in the past and cling to former glory and who remain open and optimistic about the Bears’ off-season additions and chances at making the postseason this year are more likely to side with Urlacher.

I’m standing pat and not taking sides on this issue. Here’s a novel concept: how about neither one of these guys is at fault and it’s actually the media and the fans who are to blame for letting simple comments become bulletin board material in a proverbial matchup between old and new?

Sayers never sought the media to vent his frustrations about the current regime. He didn’t call up the Chicago Tribune and say, “Hey, do you want to know what I think about these losers?” Sayers was asked a simple question about how he felt the 2010 Bears would do and he gave his honest opinion. Whether or not he’s correct is irrelevant. He could have beat around the bush and said nice things, but if he doesn’t believe it, why should he say it? I appreciate honesty and candor.

As for Urlacher, he took offense to Sayers’ comments and defended his coach and teammates — as well as himself — just like any great leader and face of the organization should do. He protected his family. Whether or not he should have taken offense to Sayers’ comments is also irrelevant.

And I agree with Urlacher that when the national media or anyone outside the organization has something negative to say about the Bears, all those inside the organization shouldn’t care and just let the comments roll off their backs. But when one of your own, a former great for your organization, makes snide remarks about your team, it hurts more.

Neither Sayers nor Urlacher is to blame here. Both guys expressed their opinions and they just happen to disagree with each other.

The media and fans, though? Not as innocent. I blame the media for stirring the pot in the first place. They’re just doing their jobs, of course. I happen to work in the media and I know full well that breaking news and regular updates are everything. Getting the scoop, covering a hot topic, and presenting must-read material to its readers is what the business is all about. Without eyes on your product, you have no product.

But just because I know it’s the media’s job to ask Sayers what he thinks about the current Bears, that doesn’t mean I have to like that they did it. Nor do I like the fact that they brought Sayers’ teammate, Dick Butkus, into the fold.

For the media to call up Butkus in Southern California to ask him for his opinions about Urlacher’s comments about Sayers is just plain childish. It’s like when a little kid tattles to his parents about a curse word that his brother just used. “Hey mommy, guess what Joey just said?” The kid just wants to see his parents get mad at little Joey and punish him, just like the Chicago media wants to see Butkus get angry at Urlacher and see what he says about him.

The whole thing is one sad and pathetic spectacle. I realize it’s not football season and the beat reporters are looking for something to write about, but here’s an idea: why not concentrate on the minicamp this weekend?

As for the fans’ role in this drama, my feeling is that they just need to stay out of it. Don’t take sides. By taking sides, you’re enabling the media to waste time on petty issues that detract from more important things. Make them do their jobs better and not settle on a pointless argument between a former and current Bear.

Anyone who takes sides in this argument and thinks that what either of these two players have done on the football field has any weight on the validity of their comments off of the field is just a fool. Leave their football achievements out of this. If you want to take someone’s side, make up your own mind based on the facts of their interviews, not how they’ve played the game.

It’s silly that this story has drawn out long enough for me to write about it. When I first read Sayers’ comments, I thought nothing of them. Then, the media interviewed Urlacher and just had to ask him what he thought about Sayers’ comments. That was to be expected, but again I thought nothing of Urlacher’s staunch rebuttal. When Butkus was brought into the mix, it became a stinking soap opera.

Hopefully this issue can be put to rest when the Bears take the field this weekend, and the media can finally concentrate on important matters.

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