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Homing in on Bears Camp as a Bourbonnais Boy

Today’s Wisch List column from the Kankakee Daily Journal

Homing in on Bears Camp as a Bourbonnais Boy

The WISCH LIST

Aug. 9, 2010

Flip open a Rand McNally, and you’ll find it just off Interstate 57 at Exit 315. Drive 60 miles south from Chicago or 80 miles north out of Champaign, and you’ll see the signs. And if you’re into plotting coordinates, its longitude is 41.16ºN and its latitude -87.87ºW.

But, for many residents of Illinois, Bourbonnais wasn’t on the map until 2002 when the Chicago Bears came to town and put it there.

Trust me, I know.

When I was in college at the University of Illinois (1994-1998), most of my classmates had never heard of my hometown – even though many of them drove right past it on their way from suburbia to Campustown.

After graduation, I then spent the next five years traversing the state as a sports writer and learning that some Illinoisans knew of Bourbonnais for one reason or another, but the bulk of them did not. However, since I moved to Chicago in 2005, the vast majority of people I’ve met statewide have been plenty familiar with where I hail from.

“Oh yeah, Bourbonnais,” is the common refrain. “Where the Bears train.”

Since becoming “The Summer Home of the Chicago Bears,” Bourbonnais has swept its way into the collective consciousness of Illinois. And, for a Bourbonnais Boy living in Chicago, that’s a nice source of pride.

It’s no secret that the Bears are examining alternate options for training camp and, as of now, Olivet Nazarene University has no agreement to host the team beyond this summer, although talks continue for a return in 2011.

For locals, I know that Bears Camp doesn’t generate the same kind of excitement as it did eight summers ago when it first rolled into town all shiny and new. But ONU still puts on a first-class experience, which I took in this past Wednesday. And, for Bears boosters throughout the state, the camp’s location and atmosphere remain as fan-friendly as can be.

Tales from training camp also remain the perfect postcards to send back home with fans, helping to promote Bourbonnais and greater Kankakee County statewide.

Whether the Bears stick around Bourbonnais for another eight years, or if they don’t, the town will be fine. But for an NFL training camp, it also is a fine spot.

I hope it remains that way.

In a Show-Me State

I don’t know if I’m necessarily a Jay Cutler critic. But I do know that I’m a Jay Cutler skeptic.

And while new Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz continues to praise his quarterback – he recently called Cutler “everything I hoped he would be” – I’m still waiting for the guy to lead a team to a postseason game (something Cutler hasn’t done since high school).

At training camp on Wednesday, Cutler did look sharp during 7-on-7 drills in the red zone, an area where he struggled mightily last season.

Although, apparently, one shouldn’t ask Lovie Smith about that.

“What happened last year,” the Bears coach said, visibly annoyed, when queried Wednesday by a veteran Chicago sports writer about Cutler’s 2009 red zone habits. “You tend to bring that up quite a bit.”

And the media won’t when it’s no longer an issue. Until then, however …

For the record

ESPN’s popular radio tandem of Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic respectively have the Bears going 6-10 and 5-11 this season. Meanwhile, former Bears wide receiver and current ESPN 1000 personality Tom Waddle predicts 10-6.

I think it’s more likely that the Bears will fall somewhere in between. Let’s say 7-9.

Although, like Brett Favre, I reserve the right to change my mind this summer.