The sorry Bears? The inert Bulls? Thank God for Connor Bedard.

Chicago
By Chicago 6 Min Read

There wasn’t an NBA team last season with a bigger gap between what it was supposed to be and what it ended up being than the Bulls. There wasn’t a team with a bigger gap between the idea of a Big Three — in this case Zach LaVine, Nikola Vucevic and DeMar DeRozan — and the reality of three guys who couldn’t win together.

Believing that this season will be different for a roster that’s basically the same as the season before involves a faith that’s difficult to scare up.

The Bears are interesting right now for no other reason than they have a curiosity at quarterback. Tyson Bagent is intriguing because he’s an undrafted rookie out of Division II Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. He’s also intriguing because he’s not Justin Fields, whose struggles have been a frustration to those seeking the holy grail, a franchise quarterback for the Bears. 

Who knows? Maybe Bagent will stay on a roll that started last week in a victory over the Raiders. He calmly ran the plain-yogurt plays called for him, completing 21 of 29 passes for 162 yards and a touchdown. But if you take him out of the equation, which is what the Chargers will be trying to do Sunday night, the Bears are as fun as being on hold with the bank.

If it were not for Connor Bedard, the Blackhawks’ 18-year-old phenom, Chicago would be looking at a very bleak fall and winter. Now, I’ve warned in a previous column about the oversized expectations that have been heaped upon the kid. It will be hard for him to score goals and solve world hunger, but the hype asks only that he give it a shot.

Try as we might to lessen the load on him, we can’t ignore the obvious: Whatever he does will be a lot more exciting this season than whatever the Bears and the Bulls offer.

Think about it: The Hawks won’t be good, but the promise of one player, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 draft, figures to overshadow whatever the Bulls and the Bears do this season. And if you’ve watched the 2-5 Bears, you’re begging for a shadow to cover them up. If you’ve watched the Bulls, you’ve experienced the exasperation of seeing three talented players who have very little idea of how to play together. Nothing about the situation says, “Let’s run this back,’’ but the franchise is sticking with the formula nonetheless. 

Bedard has had trouble scoring so far, with two goals in seven games for the 2-5 Hawks. But he always puts himself in the best place to accept a pass or a goalie’s deflection, and with his wicked shot, it’s only a matter of time before the numbers start rising.

In terms of ability, potential and entertainment value, he’s a given.

The Bears and the Bulls don’t have one of those.

The best either can do is Bagent, or at least the allure of Bagent. What if he turns into something good? That’s the draw, the attraction. Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but what’s the alternative? Rooting against the underdog story because you’ve put all your emotional currency behind the up-and-mostly-down Fields? Sounds more than a bit small.

While Bears fans wait for signs that Bagent might be for real while trying to shake their ever-present companion, doom, there’s Bedard. Not every Bears fan is a Hawks fan. I have a suggestion for those of you who aren’t: Become one. Bet on the sure thing, a talented teenager. Don’t put all your eggs in the basket of eternal disappointment that is the Bears. Following the beginning of Bedard’s career might level out some of your depression. 

I admit to feelings of guilt. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are barely gone, and here I am throwing myself at someone new. They helped bring the city three Stanley Cup titles. Yet along comes a kid, and it’s as if the two Hawks legends are ancient history. Kaner, Taser and life in Mesopotamia.

What can I say? People naturally move in the direction of hope. Bedard is all anyone has around here right now. Kids are begging their parents to buy them a No. 98 jersey, the sweater of their new favorite player.

If the Bulls surprise with a good season, everyone can adjust. If Bagent shows he’s much, much more than anyone was willing to give him credit for, we can start writing stories about how Tom Brady was overlooked, too. We have no shame. 

Until then, it’s Bedard.

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