"I am you." Herb Howard talks his journey from Bears fan, to Bears reporter

Herb Howard

The BIGS Media

Chicago, IL

@HerbHoward411


September 9, 2022

Bears Fans

4th Phase

All Over The World


Dear Bears Fans,


I am you. A Bears fan. And I am also a Bears Beat reporter. I know what it’s like to be a Bears fan. And I’d like to offer you some insight on what it’s like to be a Bears Beat reporter, in hopes of us gaining a better understanding of each other, so as to maintain a respectful and mutually beneficial relationship.


For my entire life, I have been a never-say-die Bears fan. Born in April of 1986, I spent the ‘85 Season being prepped for life in Mother’s womb, and arrived just months after the greatest team ever annihilated the Patriots to complete that magical season. I like to think that spending that season inside of my mother, also a huge Bears fan, predestined me to be the ultimate Bears fan that I always have been and continue to be. My earliest photo, and perhaps my favorite, is one of me, as an infant, in an Otis Wilson #55 sweater.

Herb Howard (1986)/ Thank you Mama Howard!

As Bears fans, if we don’t know anything else, we know we’re gonna have outstanding Linebackers and Running Backs. Those two things are as certain as death and taxes. Not only the silky-smooth Gale Sayers, the Sweetness of Walter Payton, and do-it-all Matt Forte. But also Neal Anderson, Raymont Harris, and Thomas Jones, among others, Not only the ferocious Dick Butkus, the eye-poppingly intense Mike Singletary, the freak that was Brian Urlacher, and the play making machine Lance Briggs. But also Wilbur Marshall, Brian Cox, Barry Minter, and Roosevelt Colvin, among others. I’ve also suffered the seemingly endless cycle of quarterbacks (hang on to your lunch: Jonathan Quinn, Craig Krenzel, Henry Burris), while that Cheesy team to the North has seamlessly transitioned from one all-time great to an even better one.


I’ve not only followed the Chicago Bears my whole life, I’ve studied them. Insatiable in my desire to learn more about them, I searched for, read, and watched everything I could about the Bears. They were my favorite team, and football was my first love.


I remember waking up every year, excited to watch the NFL Draft, back when it started on Saturday mornings. I would sit, round after round, with my notepad and pen, writing down each pick as they came in. The player, the team that picked him, the position he played, and the school he went to. I’m sure, if I looked, I still have that notebook somewhere with all those years of drafts in it.


Ahead of the 2006 draft, I bet my brothers that the Bears would go to the Super Bowl that year, if they drafted Devin Hester. They looked at me like I was crazy, and then looked mystified when the Bears actually selected Hester, though they still didn’t believe my Super Bowl declaration. You know where that season ended up, and you certainly know how that Super Bowl started. (I’ll still never forgive Danieal Manning for blowing coverage on Reggie Wayne, nor Chicago-native Kelvin Hayden for his Pick6 to seal the game).


Fast-forward to 2021, my passion became my profession. After teaming up with the Founders of The BIGS Media , Terrence Tomlin and Eugene McIntosh, on an NFL Sunday pregame show called “The Kickoff Kickback” during the pandemic season of 2020, they offered me the job of covering the Chicago Bears!! It seemed unreal. I remember saying to them that if they weren’t serious, don’t play with me like that. It was a dream come true.

 

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I will never forget the feeling I had on my first drive up to Halas Hall. My car must’ve driven itself, because my mind was certainly not on the traffic in front of me. I pulled up to the gate, and gave Security my name. A young Man, who I’ve become quite fond of, (we’ll call him Peter) scanned his list for my name, wrote down my license plate, and said “Welcome, Mr. Howard!”, before giving me parking instructions. I was on the campus of Halas Hall!!


I knew that being around the players wasn’t anything that was gonna move me in any particular way. I’ve been around athletes my whole life, some of whom are absolute superstars. That part I was totally relaxed about. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous the first time I entered the building. I didn’t know where to go or what to expect.


When I walked in the media room, trying not to look nervous and out of place, I began to see all the reporters whose work I’ve appreciated for years. There, standing right before my eyes, was Hub Arkush, Dan Wiederer, Colleen Kane, Mark Potash, Patrick Finley, and Brad Freakin Biggs! “What was I doing here? Did I belong?” Those questions legitimately went through my head, as the reality truly set in that I was actually doing the thing that I’ve always wanted to do. Masking my anxiety, I grabbed an open seat and waited for an indication of what was to come next.


What came next, watching football practice, felt a lot more natural to me. It wasn’t lost on me that I was at Halas Hall, watching the Chicago Bears practice, and being paid for it, but football was the thing that I knew better than anything else. I was comfortable. I was in my element. I took my notes, and re-entered the building prepared to ask my questions at the press conference.


As I sat in the press conference room, awaiting the arrival of Head Coach Matt Nagy, the nerves I thought were gone, suddenly returned. I had watched hundreds of these press conferences over the years, but now I was about to participate in one. My mind was racing. Then the door opened, and Nagy entered. The press conference was underway. It was time to talk ball. Without hesitation, I fired off my first question. It felt like every reporter in the room turned and looked at me, as if to say “Who is that new voice?”. And then there were nonverbal indications that they appreciated my question. Some nodded in approval, before returning their focus to Nagy, eager to hear his response to my question. I’d added value to the press conference. I did belong. From that moment forward, I haven't felt nervousness or questioned my sense of belonging. I show up every day comfortable and confident in my abilities, knowing that I'm an asset to the media room. I have a ton to learn about this profession, and I’m constantly learning from the veteran reporters on this beat. But I know, without question, that I am just as capable as they are of covering this team.


I’m one thousand and forty five words in and I haven’t gotten to what this letter is truly about: my personal fandom and my relationship with the fans. The more I do this job, I’ve found it hard to maintain my same level of enthusiasm as a fan. Daily, I’m required to objectively view, evaluate, and report on the Chicago Bears. As a fan, I didn’t have to be objective. I could be as biased as I wanted to be. I could view everything through rose-colored glasses. And I had a blissful ignorance about so much of the behind-the-scenes things that take place, some of which cause me to be less optimistic and, frankly, less of a fan. Things like their practice habits, which will give you an indication on if a team is ready to go out and win a football game. Things like team morale, which you can feel in the building. Things like the coach’s ability (or lack thereof) to reach, relate to, and motivate players.


As a reporter, it's my job to evaluate with my brain. I’m required to take my heart out of it. While I certainly want to report all good things about the Bears, when that is not the case, I have to be honest. The problem is that most people, not just Bears fans, prefer comfortable lies over uncomfortable truths. When I say that Justin Fields had a rough day of practice, or that this offense isn’t looking good, I’m not saying that to shit on the Bears. I’m saying that because, at this moment, it’s the truth. When I express my opinion that Teven Jenkins is in danger of not being on this roster for the 2022 season, it's not because I have a personal issue with the kid. It’s because, from all of the information I’ve gathered being around this team everyday, he doesn’t appear to be highly favored as one of the top 3 offensive tackles on this roster, leaving him vulnerable.


Naturally, you hear these honest assessments, and you don’t like them. In your heart, you’ve decided that Justin Fields is going to be a first ballot Hall of Famer, and Teven Jenkins is going to be a bookend tackle for the next decade. And therefore, my reports make me an “idiot’ and a “hater”. I absolutely want Justin to enjoy a long successful career here in Chicago. I hope he solves our seemingly franchise-long quest for sustained excellence at the quarterback position. I don’t have the luxury of looking only at the long-term outlook. I have to report daily on what is happening right now! That’s my job. It’s why I’m here. It’s what you’re checking for. Daily, hourly, updates on your favorite team. I only have a job because of you. I serve as conduit to you. I go to Halas Hall every day and gather information to report to you. We do our very best to hold the Bears accountable to their fanbase, to give you the honest answers and information that you deserve. But as soon as the information we’ve gathered doesn’t fit your preferred narrative, you’re back on Twitter and in our emails emotionally expressing your displeasure.


This is a dream job, and I will never complain about having it. But it becomes a bit much when you spend all day seemingly in opposition to the Bears. And then, after you put out your report, you seem to be in opposition to the very people you gathered the information for. I can understand that dynamic with the team. They are professional fact hiders, and we are professional fact finders. That’s just kind of how it goes. But I can’t figure out why that dynamic exists between you and us. Some of our pieces are opinion-based, and you have every human right to disagree with those. But why get upset about the simple fact-based reporting?


I’ve been a Bears fan way longer than I’ve been a Bears Beat reporter. I like to think I will always be a Bears fan. I take that mentality with me to work every day. I ask questions that, as a fan, I would want to know. I report information that, as a fan, I would want to receive. I choose to regularly interact with fans virtually and in person, because, as I said at the start of this letter, I am you.


I look forward to a long, prosperous, and mutually beneficial relationship with you for years to come.


Sincerely,

Herb Howard

Chicago Bears Beat Reporter

The BIGS Media