CHICAGO -- If you're a Chicago Bears fan, the time has come. With the regular season days and hours away, you're frothing at the mouth guard.
This is the year. Finally. Maybe. It has to be, right?
Your mind is full of Mike Tice quotes with visions of Brandon Marshall dancing in the end zone of your imagination. For once, you can watch the offense without four fingers in front of your eyes and earmuffs on your youngest child.
You don't need to be reminded that Jay Cutler has more weapons than he's ever had, because you want to name your next-born Alshon and/or Jeffery. And you're even talking yourself into registering to vote in #JWebbNation this fall.
Some may find the preseason too long, but maybe you like the build-up, the road to the regular season unfurling, story by story, tweet by tweet. Given the avalanche of media, you, the Bears fan, are nothing if not well-informed.
And guess what, I'm here to absolve you of your soaring optimism. Around this time of year, people like me tell you, the fan, to be wary of your own dreams, not to get too excited because it's a long season and blah blah blah. But guess what? Don't listen to them.
Listen to me instead. Or better yet, listen to Lance Briggs.
"It's Super Bowl or bust, man," Briggs said to reporters Thursday.
He's right. So book that room in New Orleans for February, well, as long as it's refundable. Be optimistic, after all, not foolish.
Bears fans have every reason to be fanatics. This has the makings of a very good team. It has flaws, but the highest of expectations are justified. Give me a veteran, confident defense and a high-powered offense, a cocky quarterback, a steady coach and a talented staff.
This collection of talent doesn't happen every year. Not in Chicago. Soldier Field is the house of broken dreams set to the music of the one "Jock Jams" CD they play every game.
This is a franchise where a quarterback from the Greatest Generation still holds records. If you can't be sanguine now, when can you be sanguine?
Super Bowl or bust, man.
For the Bears, this is a crucial season. The Lovie Smith era is at a crossroads. Either the Bears return to the Super Bowl or maybe it's time to start renovating This Old Defense. New general managers often want their own coaches.
Smith's well-earned popularity with everyone at Halas Hall, aside from the media, can't save him forever. Phil Emery, the workaholic-scout-turned general manager, has given Smith almost everything he needs to get over the hump of the post-Super Bowl malaise.
And if the Bears play like we think they're capable, like they think they're capable, Smith should get a fat new extension, Cutler should get a fat new extension and, knee willing, Urlacher should get a respectable extension.
"You get an extension! You get an extension!"
It'll be like Oprah had a kid with former Cubs general manager Jim Hendry.
It's tough to get a good read on the Bears from practices under an oppressive Bourbonnais sun or a few meaningful quarters of the preseason. The players have been uniformly positive, but that's nothing new. I'm sure there are guys in Cleveland and Jacksonville who think they're going to the playoffs, too.
OK, maybe not.
I enjoy talking to Bears players, even though the access is middling and usually dominated by group gatherings. NFL players, I've found, are pretty honest. They know who can play and who can't, and as they say, game respects game. And while I never just buy the rehearsed pablum of a professional athlete, you can feel the sincere confidence of this Bears team. These guys know they have the chance of a career this season.
Yes, the offensive line could still wreck everything, and Urlacher's knee is a bigger question mark than the Soldier Field turf. Those are serious issues that will be tested as the season goes along.
No team is perfect. There will certainly be obstacles this season, and there's a good chance the road to the Super Bowl, or even the playoffs, drops off a cliff. After all, that's why we follow sports, because it's unscripted.
But every so often, even Bears fans deserve to be blindly, stupidly optimistic. This is one of those times.
I'm Jon Greenberg and I approve your fanaticism.