Super Bowl 50 & My Chicago Bears

This year is the first year that features a Super Bowl matchup between two former first-overall draft pick QBs in Peyton Manning (1998) and Cam Newton (2011). Seems fitting for a milestone event such as Super Bowl 50. This is Peyton’s last shot at proving he can win the ultimate prize without the help of the losing team *coughRexGrossmancough*. On the other side of the field, Cam Newton and his flamboyant ‘dab’ celebrations are being compared to Donald Trump. The short of it is there’s no shortage of high profile stories to go around. Even Michael Oher of ‘The Blind Side’ fame is in on the press tour, with reporters hounding not only him, but the entire Tuohy family about what it means to see him in the Super Bowl.

That’s all well and good but I’m not exactly one to follow tradition (ever). I do like the Broncos, and will wholeheartedly root for them come February 7th, but I can’t shake my love for my hometown team: the Chicago Bears. So with that in mind, I present to you this list of five Chicago connections to Super Bowl 50:

  1. Ron Rivera is known for his defensive-mind. He honed those skills as a DC with who? The Chicago Bears.
  2. Ron Rivera won his last Super Bowl as a player with who? The Chicago Bears. And his last Super Bowl appearance as a coach was with who? The Chicago Bears.
  3. Both Ron Rivera and Gary Kubiak ousted Head Coach John Fox to take over their respective teams. Who does John Fox coach now? The Chicago Bears.
  4. Carolina went 15-1 in the postseason. Who was the last Super Bowl winner to notch at least 15 regular season victories and clinch the title? The Chicago Bears.
  5. The last and *only* time Peyton Manning has won a Super Bowl? February 4, 2007 against who? The Chicago Bears.

So basically, my Bears are in the Super Bowl.

Hey, a girl can dream, right?

chicagobears

An Open Letter to All You Young Blackhawks Fans Out There

An Open Letter to All You Young Blackhawks Fans Out There

Yes, I used an Eddie Olczyk catch phrase for the title of this letter: don’t let that deter you. The Eddie O you know now is very different from the Eddie O I first knew. The now-redundant color commentator was just an aging veteran making his triumphant return to his hometown back in the late 90’s as I, myself, was solidifying my appreciation for the red-headed stepchild of sports franchises here in Chicago.

That’s right, your superstar Blackhawks were the team everyone in this hockey-loving town forgot about. This is no secret. Anyone that labels him or herself a ‘true Blackhawks fan’ is the first to point to this period of time as proof of their undying loyalty.

“Back when I was your age the Blackhawks sucked and weren’t even on television. We went to Wolves games to see real hockey.”

I admit, that sentiment has come out of my mouth on more than a few occasions- because it was true. While I loved the Blackhawks as a child, my main motivation for attending games was solely to scam my father into buying me some cotton candy and watch grown men fight (legally) on the ice like my schoolyard friends at recess. My dad loved it because he could see an NHL game for less than $10 a ticket. I would then go home to my desktop PC and waste away hours playing Eric Daze on my first line on NHL 2003. Yes, Eric Daze was my Patrick Kane and you’ve probably never heard of him. He did win the All-Star Game MVP in 2002, just so you know.

This letter was sparked by a conversation I had where a coworker of mine said following the Blackhawks has lost its luster because they just always win. They are predictable. I gaped at him. How could someone be bored with these Blackhawks? If I could find ways to be entertained in the late 90s with THOSE teams, surely you can find things to get excited about with THESE teams. It got me thinking more, however, about the young fans that are growing up and viewing the Hawks in their present state. What must that be like? Oh yeah…

There was something else going on in the mid to late 90’s that took up the majority of this town’s attention, in the same building, in fact: the Chicago Bulls and the Jordan Era. I grew up and developed my sports acumen during the prime of the greatest athlete to ever play the game of basketball. When I was really little, maybe about five or six, I actually thought the ‘B’ in NBA stood for Bulls. I thought it was their league and the other teams competed to play them in the championship. How was I to know any different? They were in it almost every season. The one season they didn’t win, I was living in California that year and actually thought it was my fault for moving away. I always had a great sense of responsibility when it came to sports, I guess.

I’ll admit, I took these years with MJ for granted. I didn’t understand half of what I was witnessing. But one thing I never was: bored. I begged my dad for every championship t-shirt, watched every game right alongside him and whoever happened to be over doing the same. I drew the Bulls logo in my art class over and over and over. I once won a pair of Bulls tickets at a church raffle and gave them to my dad for Father’s Day. He took my uncle. That remains one of the single most devastating things to happen to me in my childhood.

The point of this is: I understand. I understand you may not comprehend this ‘Golden Age’ of the Blackhawks right now. I understand you have no concept of how hard it is to win year after year in the Salary Cap Era of the NHL. I know you don’t get the fact that Coach Quenneville is now sitting as the 2nd All-Time Winningest Coach in NHL history and how big of a deal that is.

But even if you don’t understand I hope you get excited watching every Seabrook slap shot from the blue line; every impossible dangle by Kane and every laser snipe by Panarin. I hope that if you happen to get the chance to go to a game you don’t sit in your $220 lower bowl seat playing Candy Crush on your iPhone. I hope you get a set of Blackhawks shinny hockey sticks for Christmas and play until you have rugburns on your knees in the basement or better yet: build your own mini ice hockey rink in your backyard.

And I hope you never, ever get bored.

Signed,

GWASP

Sibling Rivalry: What the Clippers Success Means for the Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers share a city, share a population and share a building. They aren’t cross-town rivals: they’re brothers. The Lakers are the older, more established big brother to the up and coming Clippers. They hold the records, they hold the championships, and they hold the majority fan base.

But what happens when little brother grows up?

Since the team’s move to LA in 1984 the Clippers haven’t finished above 5th in the Western Conference. They have made the playoffs exactly five times, with only two trips that resulted in advancing past the first round. The Lakers have never had to deal with a good Clippers team. The Clippers have never been seen as a threat. But behind Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and the much-improved DeAndre Jordan who has finally figured out how to hit free throws now and again, the threat level is at an all-time high. Though the same can’t be said for the number of three’s BG32 is going to attempt in the future.

This sibling rivalry is about to get real. Forget the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets. Nothing shines brighter than the lights in LA. The stage is set for these two teams to really go head to head this season.

The Clippers couldn’t have picked a better time to start getting good. With the Lakers in a transitional period the Clippers have a little more room to breathe in the Pacific Division. Of course, they have taken that room and ran with it. Even with losing their past two, they remain neck and neck with the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder for the top spot in the Western Conference. Plus the whole 17-game win streak thing. On the other side of the arena you have Kobe calling the Lakers “old as $@!%” as well as using analogies such as ‘stuck in the mud’ and ‘sluggish’ when referring to the Lakers’ level of play. One might just think there is a new big dog in LA. But one would be wrong.

Let’s face it. The Clippers fan base started off as people who didn’t want to like the Lakers. It has now grown because of Blake Griffin’s dunks, Chris Paul and the deepest bench in the league. But only one team has Kobe Bryant.

No matter their current record, the Lakers are regarded as a dynasty. They have some of the most high profile championship titles as well as the most high profile players- past and present. They are a global brand. You could even go so far as to say they are the face of the NBA in many other countries. Kids in China sport #24 on their jerseys. Kobe does Turkish Airlines commercials with Lionel Messi that make Blake Griffin’s Kia flashback commercials look like late night infomercials. Though I have to admit I chuckle every time I see future Blake tell little Blake to stop wearing jean shorts. The point is, the Lakers are more marketable, more well-known and will never take a back seat to anyone, especially with the worldwide appeal of the Black Mamba.

Even in this ‘transitional’ period the Lakers have captured more of the limelight than most teams that are doing extraordinarily well *cough*Spurs*cough*. The Lakers struggles are constantly front page news on the ESPN home page. The vast expanse of the Lakers fan base can be found sounding off all over cyber space in support of their purple and gold to anyone who will listen. Whispers of patience and determination are still there. No one has given up on the Lakers, and the Lakers haven’t given up on themselves. Yes, they are still flirting with the .500 mark but what better way to get back to half and half than against little brother himself? The Lakers tip off against the Clippers in ‘their’ building Friday at 7:30 PM P.T.

My Miserable Apathy Towards the NHL Lockout

ScreenShot2012-09-16at12.28.27AM_crop_650x440I’m tired. Not just tired; no, I’m apathetic. Even as I write this I had to will myself to start pressing keys on my keyboard. I am just so sick and tired of being sick and tired over this NHL lockout. The only motivation for writing this article was more of an ‘I told you so’ angle.

Back when the lockout started I chronicled my thoughts and ever growing despair about this lockout for weeks. I made it until Halloween. That’s when I gave up hope. I believe it came right after the NHL canceled the Winter Classic: the biggest revenue producing single event the NHL has. But then I remember- I just don’t care that much.

Well now it seems I’m not the only one who has given up hope. The NHLPA itself may have just done the same. The latest rumors are that the NHLPA is going to disband itself, abandoning talks and any hope of rationalizing with the league. Players would then have the opportunity- individually- to bring their own litigation against the NHL. The league itself went forward with a motion to bring lockout negotiations into the New York City Court System. None of these things, simply put, are good. But then I remember- I just don’t care that much.

I want to laugh at anyone who thinks we are going to have a season, albeit a shortened one. Hell, I want to laugh at anyone that even cares anymore. But then I remember- I just don’t care that much.

I want to rant and rave on and on about Bettman, Fehr and Daly. About the sheer incompetence these men and their ‘mediators’ possess. I want to shake all three of them, demanding to know where they get off keeping us puckheads away from our favorite sports release. I want to smack each and every NHL owner that hasn’t been involved in negotiations because of their arrogance. I want to right hook every player that hasn’t been involved in negotiations because they are playing overseas. I want to slap shot a puck at Alexander Ovechkin’s face because… well, just because. But then I remember- I just don’t care that much.

My Blackhawks 2010 Stanley Cup jersey is hanging, collecting dust, in the back of my closet. No need to bring it out- my dad and I won’t be going to a single game this season, which has been a tradition since before the last lockout. All I’m wondering now is what the NHL doesn’t understand about its ability, or rather lack thereof, to withstand its second lockout within the course of a decade? But then I remember- I just don’t care that much.

The NHL isn’t the NFL or the NBA. It’s not even NASCAR. The NFL boasts $9 billion in total revenue per year. NASCAR- $3.3 billion. The NHL projected revenue they are about to lose on this season? $2.7 billion. Nothing to snuff at, to be sure, but it’s still less than NASCAR. The NHL is acting like the biggest diva of them all, when in reality they aren’t even close. In keeping up this attitude they are going to lose fans. A lot of them. But then I remember- I just don’t care that much.

I want to encourage fans to stay the course. I want them to create an uproar- give Bettman and the NHLPA no choice but to figure this thing out fast. I still can’t comprehend why the rowdiest fans in professional sports have been silent these past few months, standing idly by watching as the season slips out from between their gloved fingertips. I want to tell them to care. I want everyone to care.

But then I remember- I just don’t care that much.

I Love My… Devils

Image courtesy of bleacherreport.com

This is a bit of a departure for me. Not because I’m not used to writing about ASU. I’m just not used to not writing for ASU. Rubs hands together here goes nothing!

Alright, if any of you saw last night, the Arizona State Sun Devils got straight up embarrassed in their most hyped up home game of the season against the 3rd ranked Oregon Ducks. Neither team had been especially tested up until that point and the number one offense in the Pac-12 was going up against the number one defense in the Pac-12. Yes, that was actually true, ASU had the best defense in the conference, get over it. It was sure to be a good show.

That is, until the second snap of the game. Devils defensive leader Will Sutton forced a fumble from Oregon QB Marcus Mariota but subsequently went down with a knee injury and would not return the rest of the game. An MRI is scheduled for today. The ensuing ball game was more like walking through a haunted house for ASU. You didn’t actually want to continue, but you didn’t want your buddies thinking you were a pansy so you did. The final score was a deceiving 43-21. It wasn’t that close.

Alas, I’m actually not even pissed we lost to the Ducks. First off- I don’t care who you are, their uniforms are sick. You can’t hate them. I do hate that duck though. Put some damn pants on there are children present! I did like Chip Kelly a lot, until after the first Oregon touchdown of the game (a 72-yard run by, surprise, Kenyon Barner) Kelly decided to go for a two point conversion to get the lead. That was straight disrespectful Chips and Dip. Seriously. How rude! (In my best Michelle Tanner voice). But like I said, I’m not pissed.

Here’s the good news. This isn’t the end of the road for ASU. They could potentially meet the Ducks again for the Pac-12 championship if they get it back together. The Pac-12 South is ripe for the taking. ASU has UCLA at home next for homecoming. Confidence booster perhaps? If they can beat either USC or Oregon State their chances look really good. And maybe, just MAYBE they would be a little more prepared for Oregon the second time around.

Even if THAT doesn’t happen guess what? I’m still not suicidal. Listen, if anyone in the Pac-12 has a shot at getting to the National Championship this year it’s the Oregon Ducks. Had ASU won last night’s game that would have gone out the window. If Bama had a fluke loss would that be the case? Roll No. Of course not. The BCS loves the SEC way too much. But with Oregon manhandling their first road challenge, they now have a shot at proving to the BCS and the nation that the Pac-12 is not to be f*&%ed with after all. They are the only team in the country who I could see going toe to toe with Bama. And by God, I think they’d win it.

So all in all, I still love my Devils. I always will. But I’ve found the silver lining in these scenarios. That is, a carbon fiber silver lining that subtly reflects metallic green when the gridiron lights shine on it.

Why the Replacement Ref Situation is More Ridiculous Than You Think

The Denver Broncos vs. Atlanta Falcons Monday Night Football game was the absolute last straw. With the real NFL referees still in a lockout, the replacement officials are just simply not cutting it and the league is to blame.

I was one of those people in the beginning of this whole thing saying, these guys aren’t doing that bad for the situation they are in; they only had a few weeks to learn all the rules, cut them a break, blah blah blah. What do I say to that now? “Rule #76: No Excuses, Play Like a Champion.”

Oh yeah, I went there.

Except, I’m not saying that to the refs, I’m saying that to the league. Indulge me in the following analogy:

Remember the NFL lockout last year? Ok, what if instead of creating a work stoppage, the NFL decided to put AFL players in there and still call it the NFL? Guess what? A weed by any other name is still not a rose people. It wouldn’t be the NFL- it would be the AFL, with NFL rules and venues. How can the league think that bringing in Division III collegiate referees can serve as a legitimate substitute for the real thing? Not only do I not call that fair- I call that ridiculous.

What I’m getting at is that the integrity of the game is at stake. Just ask Baltimore Ravens’ head coach John Harbaugh, who called Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles ‘chaotic’ because of the officiating. Joe Flacco flat out said the replacement refs are affecting the integrity of the game. While Harbaugh isn’t by any means known for his mild manner, Joe Flacco is. When you have one of the least controversial and well-respected quarterbacks in the NFL calling these guys out how can you not acknowledge this is a real problem?

Monday Night’s game was just embarrassing. Not only were they blowing basic calls that my grandmother could have called right (she’s 83 and barely speaks English), they did things like give the Broncos an extra six yards on their touchdown drive that ended the first half. Oh by the way, the first half? It lasted almost two hours. The first quarter alone took AN HOUR. I watched the entire two hours of The Voice and still was able to catch most of the second quarter. Could it be because the Geneva Convention followed every flag thrown, which happened to be every other play?

If these refs can’t call the basics and get spots right, what chance do they have against the ever-problematic pass interference? The answer is none. Too many times in these first two weeks of the regular season I’ve seen great plays by corners negated by bogus 15-yard penalties. Those are game-changing penalties. They are penalties that have changed these games.

These refs have zero control over the game. I heard someone say the players are treating these guys like substitute teachers, which is absolutely accurate. These guys are fighting and jawing at will. What do the refs do? Call off-setting penalties so neither team actually gets penalized. Is it coincidental that one of the most topsy-turvy starts to the NFL season in decades comes when the NFL referees are on strike? Doubtful.

Steve Young said last night that despite all this, the desire for the game hasn’t changed so in the end, the NFL doesn’t care. That might be the truest thing anyone has said about this debacle. It is just sad.

With no new talks scheduled between the NFLRA and the NFL was the Monday Night game still not enough to nudge the commish? Wise up, Goodell. Can I get a ‘Roger, that’?

Your Dislike of Tim Tebow is Misguided

No, that wasn’t a question. It is. Period. Unless of course you don’t have a soul.

Before I get into the infinite reasons there are to like Tim Tebow, which I can’t even believe I have to argue, I am going to start by shooting down the main BS reasons why people don’t.

BS Reason #1 He starts every speech with thanking God: And? If you were the offspring of two Christian missionaries in the position he is in, I’ll bet you would too. Does he go around condemning everyone that isn’t Christian? No. Does he go out and campaign that everyone should join his church and believe in God? No. He just expresses his gratitude for his talent and good fortune the only way he knows how. If there was ever a definition of ‘blessed’, pretty sure Tebow is the poster child. Good for him that he recognizes that.

BS Reason #2 He is ‘too perfect’: This is just stupid. When has Tim Tebow EVER said he was perfect? In fact, I can recall quite a number of times where he’s said he’s not perfect. Sure, the media portrays him as the Second Coming, but how is that his fault? At the risk of sounding too much like Gretchen Wieners from Mean Girls I’m just gonna go ahead and quote it, “I don’t want to be punished for being well-liked.” While having a father that invented toaster strudel is certainly a concrete reason for being well liked, isn’t a quarterback who is genuinely a good person and works his ass off also justified? Why are we punishing him for being a role model, and a fantastic one at that?

Which brings me to another point.

BS Reason #3 He’s overrated: Ok I’ll concede a bit on this one. Sure, his delivery is unconventional at best. Sure, he isn’t the most consistent. Sure, he doesn’t have the mechanics of Peyton Manning. Hey, no one expected him to make the transition to NFL quarterback well. However,  I’m pretty sure he’s made a habit of proving everyone wrong, and no one likes to be wrong. Last season he was the only reason the Broncos made it into the playoffs with those ridiculous fourth quarter comebacks. Did I mention he did that as the backup QB in his SECOND season in the NFL? How could you expect him to be Peyton Manning? If you step back and realize he was a BACKUP maybe you could cut him a little more slack, not that he’d take it.

Enough with the reasons to not like him. This man is a good person. He gives everything he’s got in every situation. I know you all remember Florida’s 2008 loss to Ole Miss and the press conference following:

You will never see any player in the entire country play as hard as I will play the rest of the season, and you will never see someone push the rest of the team as hard as I will push everybody the rest of the season, and you will never see a team play harder than we will the rest of the season.”

And ya know what? We didn’t. How can you hate a man who follows through on his promises? Motivates his teammates? Teaches football (and English) to impoverished orphans in the Philippines every summer?

When you have NFL owners and analysts supporting and making excuses for athletes like Dez Bryant who allegedly beat his own mother a few weeks ago, how can you justify hating Tim Tebow? This man has never been in trouble with the law, never been plastered all over the tabloids with different women each time and no one who has met him has ever had anything but wonderful things to say about him. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s easy on the eyes. Sorry, had to.

So for all of you that claim to hate Timmy, I challenge you to give me one GOOD reason for that disdain. Don’t worry I’ll wait.