Lincicome: Bears blur the line between sympathy and sarcasm against Buccaneers

The line between sympathy and sarcasm is flexible and the Bears take turns on each side of it. They fall behind by three touchdowns to Tampa Bay causing an impartial outsider to observe, "They're better than this."

That would be Tony Romo, once a substantial quarterback and now an even better TV sidekick, reaching into the bag of doubt for some benefit. Not that he is correct, of course. The Bears are what their record says they are, maybe worse, 3-4, with a rookie quarterback who gets treated like a pool toy, and prospects for more of the same.

Sympathy can easily be mistaken for pity, and the Bears deserve a sizable share of that as well. As for sarcasm, even crueler than pity, here the ball is at the 1, the Bucs leading 35-3, deciding to go for it on fourth down.

"This is huge," snarked Romo.

"This will probably determine the game," chimed in his booth mate, Jim Nantz.

Not an easy thing, I suppose, staying neutral at a mugging. When you run out of superlatives for Tom Brady, explaining why he is who he is, you must feel an obligation to explain why the Bears are who they are. If I may borrow one more time from the guys in the booth, "The nightmare continues."

That may have been after the third interception of Justin Fields, or the third fumble (two lost) or the fourth sack. Hard to keep track. Fields is building mistakes faster than successes, his greatest success being that he is able to get up, lounge on the bench and then go back for more.

The point is that on another glorious day in the unending career of the GOAT and the Bucs showing the Bears what a real football team looks like, the gap between where the Bears are and where they want to be widens.

A man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's heaven for? This is sympathy again, but from another time and from a poet who would not know a linebacker from a linen chest.

"Let's make this count as one loss, not four losses," said Matt Nagy, the present Bears' puppeteer, and a kind of poet himself.

OK. That's easy enough. The NFL keeps those statistics, and should the Bears go from here to 3-7, someone will let Nagy know.

As for other stats, surely Fields has retained his place at the very bottom of the pile, allowing plenty of room for his eventual reach to exceed his present puny grasp, not all his fault everyone reminds, he being a rookie and all that.

"Nice slide by Justin Fields," said Nantz, meaning it as a compliment. Sympathy can be cruel.

It could have been worse, not a sympathetic thing to say, but Brady took almost all the fourth quarter off. He had thrown his record 600th touchdown pass, as well as his 599th, 601st and 602nd. As the numbers grow, the Bears' contribution will fade.

"We left a lot of points out there," Brady told a sideline reporter, before waving and saying hello to his family. Another day at the office, dad, mom, wife, kids. See you soon.

For a team as bad as the Bears, there ought to be some benefit to losing, getting a higher position in the draft, for instance. Sympathy again.

However, the Bears do not have a No. 1 choice. Fields is it. Both last draft and the next one. One egg in two baskets.

Also, it is very unlikely that either Nagy or Ryan Pace will be around (a consummation devoutly to be wished - you start quoting poets and that's the road to madness) to repair the harm they have already inflicted on Fields.

He's getting better, they say. He's growing, they say. He's tough and smart, they say. What they don't say is he is going to cost both of them their jobs. And they may cost him his health, physical and mental, not an even swap.

"I'm going to keep going, keep learning," Fields said, believing it to be true.

Somewhere in the ragged ending for the afternoon, Brady visiting with fans, Fields trying to squeeze one more futile play out of the clock, a final voice summed things up.

"Mercifully, the game is over," said Nantz.

Sympathy or sarcasm? Hard to tell. Doesn't matter.

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