Should They Care?
At least act like you care
I don't need Brian Urlacher to like me or respect me. Neither do you. But it doesn't hurt to fake it.
Even if he was frustrated and angry and cognizant of his football mortality, it's insulting to say on TV, "Two of the people I don't care about: fans or media." I understood his larger point, and what he expounded on, but those are his words and they set the tone for what could be an ugly end to this season and his Hall of Fame career.
It's perfectly fine for him to believe that reporters are fake "smart guys" and fans don't know what they're talking about when they're whining about his coach, Lovie Smith. Urlacher defended Smith after the Bears were booed at home during Sunday's loss to the Packers. The linebacker has served this city and its football fans well over his long, storied career.
But for the remaining few weeks of this season, which perhaps will be the end of his time here as a professional football player, Urlacher should remind himself that despite what they tell themselves in the locker room, the Bears don't play for themselves. It's the fans who buy tickets, cable packages and jerseys. It's the media who hype the product to sell.
Urlacher knows this. But it should be a lesson to other athletes. Don't forget who you're serving and try not to insult them. Athletes should care what the media and fans say, or at least they should act like it.
Let's be clear: Urlacher dislikes most of the media, but he doesn't hate Bears fans. He just hates when they boo -- welcome to professional sports, Brian -- and doesn't think they know what they're talking about when they're talking about Smith, the Bears or anything involving football. He has a point, to be sure. And we all simplify things when it comes to criticism of a coach or a quarterback.
Urlacher, though, is a funny one to talk about the media and the fans' ignorance considering he often answers questions with a dispassionate succinctness.
If he thinks reporters and fans are so dumb, maybe in his post-football career, he could do some community service and educate us. Teach us, Brian.
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.
Winners find a way to tune it out
Being a professional athlete has its drawbacks.
While most of us look at the fame-and-fortune aspect of playing professional sports for a living, there is also a downside.
For most, the downside is the constant scrutiny from media and fans, who can sometimes cross the line, especially in this day and age when people can sit behind the wall of anonymity of social media and take the kind of cheap and personal shots they would never dare say to the player's face.
But that's the world we live in, and athletes better get used to it.
When you start worrying about what fans or media are saying or writing about, positive or negative, you tend to lose focus and take your eye off the ultimate prize: winning.
Losing teams bicker with the fans. Losing teams bicker with the media.
Winners find a way to tune it all out and keep their priorities straight.
Picking fights with the fan base is a no-win proposition. Even when the fans are dead wrong or misinformed, they are still the paying customer. Just like when a waiter is forced to wait on a table full of obnoxious and rude patrons. As much as he or she would prefer to dump a glass of water over their heads, the job is to service the customer.
The way NFL players or NBA players can service their customers is by winning games. That's it. End of story.
Winning is hard enough. It becomes even tougher when the locker room or clubhouse is worried about when fans are booing, or when they're cheering, or what the local columnist is writing about their head coach.
I realize it's sometimes hard to turn the other cheek. But winners generally find a way to do that.
Losers, not so much.
Jeff Dickerson covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com.