CHICAGO -- "Miami!"
I started hearing that word leave people's mouths the minute the game was over. Outside of Soldier Field, on cameras with "WMAQ" on the side and microphones with "The Score." Sound bites from a city that's lost its mind. Over one game.
"All the way!" "Undefeated!" "Unbeatable!" "Won't lose a game!"
I heard, "Call Kanye West, he needs to get in the studio to start working on the remix of the Super Bowl Shuffle." I heard, "Tell Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick, Mercury Morris, Paul Warfield and [Bears backup QB] Brian Griese's daddy [Bob] that they won't be poppin' any champagne at the end of this year as the only team to have a perfect season." I heard, "This is just like 1985, only better."
So I'm stuck in a city reacting like it's Jan. 21, 2007. Not Oct. 2, 2006. Week 20, not Week 4.
But these things can happen after a 37-6 win, on "Football Night in America," with Madden and Michaels in the building for the first time in three years; it can happen when you beat the defending NFC champs, the team that went where your team is trying go; it can happen when your record is 4-0 and the next four teams you face have a combined record of 5-11 -- and you're playing in the NFC North.
Getting gassed like BP is inevitable -- it was bound to happen, just like Dusty getting fired.
But those of us in the city that Ditka built shouldn't ignore history. Recent history. Like when Carolina came to town in Week 11 last season, when the Bears and the Panthers (the team picked by many to win the Super Bowl) were the two hottest teams in the league (besides the Colts), when one was on a five-game winning streak and the other was on a six-gamer, when the winner was going to vault to the NFL Power Rankings elite.
The Bears won that game, 13-3. And the city went noodles. Started talking about Detroit. About playing there in February.
But just like the Seahawks Sunday night, the Panthers were not at full strength.
See, Carolina middle linebacker Dan Morgan sprained his ankle five minutes into the game and never returned. And even though Steve Smith torched the Bears for 169 yards on 14 catches in that game, the fact that he didn't get into the end zone is what put the city's -- and the Bears coaching staff's -- confidence in sensory underload.
The next time they faced Carolina, the story was as different as "Control" and "20 Y.O." It was in the divisional playoffs. Week 19. The Panthers were full tilt. Everyone in uniform. Script flipped. An "ass whoopin'" might be an understatement for what they handed the Bears.
(And yes, I understand that had all-world safety Mike Brown not gotten injured in that playoff game, Smith might not have put a Jerry Rice on the Bears.)
And yet, people are roaming the streets of the Chi not shy. Not even close to humble. Grown men who drive CTA buses and campaign for governors, grown women who work for CPS and agree with Oprah that Barack Obama should run for president, U of C kids at Jimmy's, UIC kids at Sweet Maple's, anyone at Starbucks and Target -- all acting like there aren't 12 more games to play. Acting like last year never happened.
Talking about Miami Super Bowl XLI.
How soon we forget.
And it's not that Shaun Alexander would have made so much of a difference that Seattle would have left Chicago with a victory. But Bears jockeys need to wrap themselves around the fact that the reigning NFL MVP missed the game. (As did Joey Porter's favorite player, tight end Jerramy Stevens. Plus add in the fact that the Seahawks still haven't adjusted to losing Steve Hutchinson on the offensive line.) Which, in the scheme of things, makes the victory sorta hollow. Ichabod Crane, yo.
So the city can continue to overreact like Kim Etheredge. Or suicide is what it's setting itself up for. As of right now, right here, standing on the west side of Lake Michigan, it seems as if the cause is lost inside the emotions. We caught up. Beginning to believe that Rex Grossman is the difference between this season and last. And the only thing that will get 7 million minds right will be consecutive losses to the Giants (Nov. 12), Jets (Nov. 19) and Patriots (Nov. 26). That would make Lovie Smith's crew 8-3, if everything plays out in Bears' fans worst nightmares.
That may get them to remember last year.
Me? I can't forget. But I still say "we" when I speak. Still have memories of an entire city walking around on a January morning nine months ago with its collective head down. Tears dripping. Mouths shut. Speechless as Arrested Development. Which is why I'm walking around said collective city trying to remind folks -- remind them what happens when regular-season victories get taken too seriously, get taken out of context, when MVPs don't play.
But I fear I'm maybe too late. As Sun-Times sports columnist Elliott Harris made clear to me, "Is it too early for fans to start thinking about the Super Bowl? Of course. And, of course not. It's never too early to start thinking Miami."
Because yesterday, after a conversation with a gentleman who was at the game Sunday night, nothing I said seemed to sink in.
"I hear you," the man said, outfitted in a blue 1985 Bears Champs sweat suit with the matching cap, after I heard him talking to someone about Super Bowl tickets. "And I agree. We do need to remember what happened to us last year. That's a good point.
And this sums up how everyone in the city is basically feeling. Collectively.
"I think realistically the Bears are going to go 12-4 during the regular season and they'll go further than they did last year in the playoffs," the man said, speaking for "we." "But you remember one thing, when they do go undefeated and win the Super Bowl in Miami, you remember where you heard it first."
Scoop Jackson is a national columnist for Page 2 and a contributor to ESPN The Magazine. He appears regularly on "Quite Frankly" and other ESPN shows. He resides in Chicago. Sound off to Scoop and Page 2 here.