Nov. 14--Despite all the forces pulling down NFL television ratings nationally, local numbers for the Bears remain strong.

Maybe it's because under coach John Fox -- who looked like he was trick-or-treating as an extra from "MASH" in his camouflage sideline outfit Sunday against the Packers -- the Bears simply have to be seen to be believed.

The latest loss to the Packers on FOX-32 averaged a 22.4 household rating in the Chicago area -- meaning almost 740,000 homes, an estimated 22.4 percent of the market's TV households, could not look away.

(It played even better in Packer country. Sunday's game averaged a 39.5 household rating in Milwaukee, with almost two-thirds of the homes in which TVs were on tuned to the game.)

Overall, national overnight numbers showed that NFL ratings were down year to year in Week 10 in every slot Sunday on Fox, CBS and NBC.

But without seeing it for one's self, who in the Chicago area would have believed Fox and company -- the coach and his staff, not the network and its announcers -- challenged that Benny Cunningham pylon play?

It's like describing a well-performed magic trick. As amazing as it sounds, it's even more of a jaw-dropper to actually witness.

The Bears lodged a replay review on Cunningham's failed leap for pay dirt that successfully changed a first-and-goal spot for the Bears at the 2 into a fumble and touchback. Just like that, the Packers had the ball, first-and-10 at their 20.

Ta-daaaa!

Less spectacular but remarkable nonetheless were the false starts, general poor judgment and miscalculations that made Aaron Rodgers' backup, Brett Hundley, seem like a multifaceted threat he isn't.

Yet the local Bears-Packers audience Sunday peaked only when it was clear the Bears were out of surprises in the final half-hour. The result was their second-best Chicago-area ratings this season after the 23.9 the Bears and Vikings drew via ESPN and WGN-9 in prime time on Oct. 9.

The Bears, however, seem to sense their hold on Chicago fans from a pure football standpoint is at risk.

That would be one reason they find it necessary to pepper game telecasts promoting their brand as some sort of lifestyle choice. The subtext is "You're watching, you must care some."

This makes sense. Watching the home team stumble in the vaunted "Bear weather" that makes for such interesting football on TV hardly sells the appeal of giving up the comfort of one's home or favorite watering spot to schlep down to dome-less Soldier Field and be exposed to the elements.

It's a lot easier to enjoy an incredibly stupid, self-defeating replay review the Bears coach insisted upon when you're not wet and cold and out a few hundred bucks for tickets.

Media layoffs: NBC Sports Chicago is reducing staff, the regional sports channel that's co-owned by the Cubs, White Sox, Blackhawks, Bulls and Comcast confirmed Monday.

"We continually look at our businesses to make them efficient and successful," the channel said in a statement. "Unfortunately, we had to make some employee changes at NBC Sports Chicago."

It appears about a dozen employees in a wide variety of slots will be let go, though it's not known if anyone whose primary job is in front of the camera will be fired.

Among those let go, according to sources, was White Sox writer Dan Hayes.

While it's said the moves are in conjunction with similar actions at NBC Sports regional sports channels around the country, the NBC Sports Chicago statement said only that this was part of "resetting our business goals in order to best serve our fans."

Speaking of the green: Notre Dame's Saturday night loss at Miami, which effectively ended hopes for an Irish playoff bid, averaged a 5.6 household rating in the Chicago market on ABC-7.

No surprise that the ratings here were 6.6 in the first half and 4.4 in the second half as Notre Dame fans realized there was no point in having the game on if they were going to have hands over their eyes.

Shanghai surprise: Even those who never thought they would ever watch "Ball in the Family," the Facebook reality series featuring the high-profile sports family -- LaVar and Tina and basketball-playing sons Lonzo (of the Lakers), LiAngelo (of UCLA) and LaMelo -- have to be intrigued by the effects of LiAngelo being detained in Shanghai with two teammates on a shoplifting charge.

For one thing, there's the inherent drama in an international incident while on an overseas road trip and the spectacle of being left behind while college teammates return home. But what then?

Does this lead to a LiAngelo spinoff set in a Chinese prison? Would LiAngelo be recast, the way daughter Becky was recast on "Roseanne"? Might the Balls just forget LiAngelo ever existed, like the Cunninghams forgot Chuck, the basketball-dribbling older brother dropped after Season 1 on "Happy Days"?

Getting social: ESPN is launching a short, twice-daily version of "SportsCenter" on Snapchat. Look for new shows to be made available at 4 a.m. and 4 p.m. Hosts will include newly signed Katie Nolan, Elle Duncan, Cy Amundson, Jason Fritz and Cassidy Hubbarth.

philrosenthal@chicagotribune.com

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