Standing in the rain outside Soldier Field late Thursday afternoon was a fan with a dream and a cause.
Hours before the first preseason game — according to one season-ticket holder — a young man held a sign that read, “Need 2 … Super Bowl Tickets.’’
And that is all the Bears were facing prior to the first snap of the first exhibition game.
The good news is no one has yet demanded a Super Bowl victory in New Orleans — only an appearance.
The bad news is anything short of a Super Bowl entry will be a disappointment.
Of course, the Bears will tell you it is only good news that so much is anticipated, as there have been too many seasons in the last decade when expectations were more along the lines of hoping the quarterback could survive a series, let alone a game or a season.
It speaks to the off-season for GM Phil Emery — and mostly the acquisition of Brandon Marshall — that the Bears are thought by many Chicagoans to be as good as any team in the NFC.
Ultimately, they may prove right, but between now and then will be three more exhibitions, 16 regular-season games and — Bears fans hope — a couple of playoff contests.
Thursday night’s preseason opener against the Denver Broncos was evidence, of course, of absolutely nothing — except that Bears fans had to again pay full price for a meaningless exhibition game.
The new CBA may have altered many things for players and owners, but the fans still get those four preseason games, paying dearly for two exciting challenges at home.
The one at Soldier Field on Thursday night had the added benefit of delivering a pouring rain on a field known for its terrible playing conditions, so that meant the scratch of some players and fewer plays than expected for others.
Lovie Smith told WBBM radio just minutes before the game that he never intended to play Jay Cutler on Thursday. Smith insisted he made his decision even before Cutler’s son was born Wednesday, information likely relevant to those making the long commute into the city in a storm.
Nevertheless, there was no Cutler, Matt Forte, Julius Peppers or Brian Urlacher, with Smith saying he excused Urlacher — who hasn’t practiced in six days — for personal reasons.
Mike Tice was hoping to get past the installation of the offense and see more cohesion Thursday, if even for only a few plays, while Cutler, Marshall and Jeremy Bates were prepped for the first game action together since their final season in Denver in 2008.
That didn’t happen in the first preseason game, and watching the Pats’ Tom Brady get buried from behind by the Saints’ Will Smith on New England’s first possession, and seeing Philly’s Mike Vick injure his hand, offered excellent reminders of why Cutler was better off on the sideline than on the field Thursday.
If there was a positive for the Bears it was that Cutler didn’t get hurt, but beyond that you can’t make any real judgments from an exhibition game.
Despite the Hall of Fame pronouncements you’ll hear from Smith about Shea McClellin — not to mention undrafted free agents and third-string players — following one exhibition, there’s little to be gained and even less to be learned.
Besides, some players are already in midseason form.
Observing Denver backup Caleb Hanie overthrow his receivers, witnessing J’Marcus Webb false start and having Major Wright leave in the first quarter with a hamstring injury, was proof enough of that.
ŸListen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score’s “Hit and Run” show at WSCR 670-AM, and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.