Even though I have no personal connection or draw to either of the teams competing for the NFL title, I still feel compelled to pick a side to root for. I do this for every sporting event I watch that doesn't involve a Chicago team - it makes me feel more involved or something.
Therefore, I've decided to root for the Carolina Panthers tonight. While I do love Peyton Manning, my reason for cheering for the the Cam Newton-lead world beaters is two-fold:
- One of my closest friends hails from the Carolinas and is a die-hard Panthers fan and I'm pretty sure the only thing he wants more than a SB win is oxygen. He is to the Panthers as I am to the Cubs.
- The Panthers roster is littered with former Chicago Bears.
Seriously, while the Broncos roster contains no Bears connections that I have noticed (please correct me if I'm wrong), the Panther's have 6 former Monsters of the Midway currently under their employ. I'm just so used to rooting for these guys that I might as well just continue to do so, right?
The most notable Panthers-Bears connection is Head Coach Ron Rivera. Ronnie was a linebacker for the Bears from 1984-92, making him one of the beloved '85 Super Bowl Champions. Seriously, being a part of that team is the only credential you need to make a career in this town.
Meanwhile, being that I was at the tender young age of negative four when that team marched to glory, I am more familiar with Rivera for his stint as the Windy City's Defensive Coordinator from 2004-06. That 2006 team lost to Peyton Manning in the Superbowl - here's hoping Ron doesn't have to relive that.
On the active player side, Greg Olsen was infamously traded to Carolina in a shortsighted move that was essentially mandated by Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz. Martz stubbornly refused to work the tight end into his offensive schemes and demanded a player who would slot more naturally into his "proven" plans. A good coach takes the resources he has around him, a lesson the out-dated Martz never learned.
Therefore, the Bears got Brock-for-Broglio'ed and traded him to the Panthers for third round pick, where he became one of the top offensive weapons in the entire league. The Bears drafted Brandon Hardin with that pick, who never played a down in the NFL. Oopsy daisy.
Jared Allen was brought to Chicago by the ill-fated Phil Emery/Mark Trestman brain trust in a move that was meant to strengthen a playoff bound team. We all know how 2015 went for the Bears and Allen's production was nowhere near the levels it was in Minnesota or Kansas City. Not that it really would've helped the tire-fire that season was.
When Ryan Pace and John Fox took over, it was pretty much a matter of time before Jared was shipped out of town; he must have felt like he won the lottery when he got the news that he was traded to Carolina! Allen will be playing through a foot fracture tonight, an injury he suffered in the team's divisional-round bout with Seattle, because football.
One guy who won't be playing through pain tonight is Charles "Peanut" Tillman. The veteran cornerback tore his ACL in the last regular-season game of the campaign and that is one injury that you can't play through, no matter how stubborn you are. I have to wonder if this will mark the end of Peanut's career, seeing as his last three seasons have been marred by injuries.
Tillman became a fan-favorite here in Chicago, not just because of his excellent on the field work, but also for his immense (and often unpublished) contributions to the community and his extremely personable nature. I think every card-carrying Bears fan would like to see "Peanut" wrap up his career with a Superbowl ring.
Furthermore, there are two other dudes on the active Panthers roster who have donned a Bears jersey in NFL play:
I must admit, I have no recollection of these guys whatsoever. However, a Bear is a Bear, no matter how obscure. Even if they're so obscure that neither play has ever had a card produced with their likenesses. These stand-ins were created with the Rookies App.
Furthermore, besides the fact that all of these men played for the Bears before they moved down south, I suppose I'm also rooting for Carolina because I like Cam Newton. He's brash, loud, flashy and wildly entertaining on the field - some people may not like that and to that I say football is a game, it's supposed to be fun for cryin' out loud! It should also be noted that Newton seems to have been a class-act off of the field in recent years.
Thus concludes my obligatory Super Bowl post. I'll be cheering for the Panthers tonight; that said, I'll hardly get bent out of shape if they lose. I just need to have a dog in the fight in order to keep myself engaged. To be completely honest, I'm actually more intrigued by the quality of the commercials; as a communications major in college, this is really my field of expertise.
Go commercials!!... I mean... Panthers!
(Here's my favorite Super Bowl spot in recent years)