They say that 90% of life is showing up. I’d add that the key to at least half of what’s left is doing it with a positive mental attitude. No matter what we do, if we approach it in the right frame of mind, with the proper motivation and with faith in ourselves and our abilities, the task becomes easier to accomplish.
It used to be that people would comment about “Bear Weather” and I’d have a good laugh. The Bears under Dave Wannstedt and Dick Jauron always seemed like they were absolutely miserable in cold weather. Certainly they were no better than their opponents.
That’s all changed now under Lovie Smith (via Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune):
“The Bears are acting like it’s business as usual. In terms of just the temperature three of the eight coldest games at Soldier Field have been played during the Lovie Smith era.
“‘For us it’s the typical Chicago game in December,’ Smith said. ‘Do we game plan for it? Yes. This is our home-field advantage. Or I shouldn’t say advantage. It’s at least our home field we play on. You prepare for all situations that come up each week. Again, it’s not like we’re going to start doing anything differently than we normally do at this time of the year.'”
The Bears seem to play better in cold weather under Smith for a variety of reasons.
First, the Bears practice outside, particularly when they are preparing for cold weather games like the one on Sunday promises to be. This allows them to get used to the idea and to adapt to the cold. Dick Jauron, in particular, believed in practicing inside in an effort to save his players and keep them healthy. But if you don’t practice under game conditions, you don’t play well under game conditions and that was born out time after time during his tenure.
The other factor that is worth highlighting is the presence of veterans like Olin Kruetz, who leads the way by encouraging players, particularly the linemen, to wear shorts with no sleeves during practice and in the games.
This might seem like useless bravado but it’s not. Kreutz understands that much of success in life comes simply from knowing that obstacles can be overcome. That includes the problem of playing in cold weather where it is at least half mental.
Yes, a player who wears shorts to practice in cold weather or who doesn’t wear sleeves during the game is going to be a little colder. But he’s also going to realize that even with little buffer from it, the cold isn’t that bad – certainly nothing that’s going to keep him from getting through it and playing well in the process. He knows that he can play better without sleeves than his opponent who is bundled up on the other sideline can with whatever protection against the cold such things provide.
All of this gives Bears players a mental edge over both the weather and the opponent. And, as with the rest of us, its that edge which can mean the difference between winning and losing.