02 October, 2011


My sister-in-law of 30+ years used to say in breathless tones, with sparkles in her eyes –

“It’s all about Serge….It’s ALWAYS about Serge…Isn’t he wonderful???”

I was glad that my older brother had such hero worship from his pretty wife, but DAMN, for years he TORMENTED ME! He was always the better athlete, always got the pretty girls, and always got the attention, either good or bad. He was everything I wanted to be, athletic, good looking, witty, cool, you name it. And for most of my young years he bullied me and had me do his bidding, because, well, he could always kick my ass, and I was a defenseless little twerp. When I took a shine to Janis Rosen back in the summer of ’72, I had almost zero experience with girls, and Serge, right in front of me on the steps of that humble row home on Elbridge Street, cavalierly pulled Janis to his lips to show me how it was done.

I’ll never forget Janis’ response –

It was as if Fonzie himself gave her a smooch.

I tried to duplicate Serge’s suave labial exercise, but didn’t come close. For the next two years, I continued to look up to my older brother, and to his credit, taught me a lot of cool things, mischievous things, and let me play sports with him and his friends, but still, he was my commander until one afternoon in ’74 when he finally pissed me off so bad, I got him on the ground after a scuffle. By that time, I was “Little Joey” no more. I had finally reached my adult height, and thanks to a job that required me to sling heavy supplies around, became quite strong for my age. After ’74, I never lost a fight in school again.

Serge bothered me no more after that day, and we became road warriors, often competing with each other for the same girls, and having a blast doing it. He regarded me an equal from then on.

I thought of this today, as I watched the “Little Kitties” keep pace with the Bears as the offense went effortlessly up and down Soldier Field. I watched with delight as Jeff Otah, play after play, stood up Julius Peppers, who, for not a hand on a field goal attempt, was pretty non-existent. I’m unsure if he even made a tackle! Yes, Cam made a mistake or two, most glaringly, a pick-six from a ball thrown too high, too close to the end zone. We’re expecting this. The defense was POROUS against the run. Again, we expected this. What many in the Illinois expected, was an ass-kickin’ supplied by the Monsters of the Midway.

What actually happened was a game that was dominated statistically by the Panthers, who AMASSED OVER 550 YARDS OF OFFENSE! I don’t think Cam Newton’s jersey was even soiled! Hell, I don’t think the Bear’s defense even got close to him! At one point in the first half we were down a whopping 14 points. In the past, even in the John Fox years, that usually meant an ass kicking. But today, I NEVER thought for a moment that we couldn't come back from that, and sure enough, in the third quarter we cut that lead all the way to ONE STINKIN' POINT!!! Yet, for the ease in which “little brother” Panthers moved the ball, the “big brother” Serge, uh, Bears, had something they did infinitely better than we did. One, they ran the ball down our throats. We absolutely COULD NOT STOP Matt Forte. Two, they had electrifying special teams that we could not stop. We simply couldn’t kiss Janis Rosen as well as the Bears could.

But back in 73’, one year and four girlfriends after Janis, I got the same breathless response from pretty little Lisa Robinson, and it took off from there. It sucked to see Serge show me how much better he was, and it sucked to see the Bears beat us in those phases of the game. We are THE YOUNGEST TEAM IN THE NFL, y’all. We are just now getting our legs. The mistakes we’re making, the things Cam and Coach Ronnie and his staff are learning, all add up to growing pains for this young, exciting team. When you get tired of getting a bloody nose, you learn to hit hard enough to make the bullies leave you alone, at least respect you. And I think these Panthers are on the way. This collection of youngsters and some veterans is going to start jelling, and jelling well after the Week 9 bye. We’re going to start kissing WAY prettier girls than Janis Rosen…

Now, I’m not the kind of whiner who blames a loss on referees. I’m sure there are going to be legions of fans that are going to bitch, whine and moan about the call Jeremy Shockey received early in the fourth quarter, taking the winning touchdown off the board. Was it ticky-tack? You damn right it was. But you have to “keep swinging your sword” as Foxy used to say. You have to STOP somebody. Even if you’ve amassed 500+ yards, your receivers other than Steve Smith have to CATCH THE DAMN BALL –

Do that, and it doesn’t matter what the refs call, to a large degree.

They will learn. It’s part of the growing experience. It’s a rookie head coach, a rookie QB, and new players learning each other. And instead of stumbling, we will run like cheetahs. And it will start materializing THIS year. SOMEBODY, SOME TEAM, is going to get whooped by us when they are so certain it’s THEM that administer the gluteal discomfort. And after our next draft, we will be start becoming FORMIDABLE. I see it.

I feel it with everything in my body.

Here’s the ONE thing that I REALLY like after today’s game. Bus Master James, attending the viewing at BLu’s house, starts checking his Twitter account, to hear reports of an angry, surly, majorly disappointed locker room. GOOD! Let them resolve to make this the LAST bloody nose they get! We ALL were disappointed with the outcome, but DAMN, we were actually FUN to watch today! The outcome of the game was in doubt right up to the final minute, and I’m sure every game we play this year will be the same. I guarantee you, there’s not a team on our schedule that thinks the Panthers are an automatic “W” anymore. And I guarantee you, there’s not a team on our schedule that are we are not capable of beating. Not anymore.

Who knows, perhaps the Saints are the “big boy” team that gets put on the ground by “Little Joey” next week.

But for now, we live with the fact that Serge once again bested us. But we are sooooooooooo kicking his ass one day, and soon….

(for the record, let it be known that in 1996, for the opener against the HATED DUCKIES, Serge and I invented ------

You got it -------

THE CLAW..............................................)

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