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.

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.

Are You Not Entertained?

Patience is a virtue I will readily admit I do not have. When I get something in my head, I want it done. Like, right now. You can bet that if my neck and millions of dollars are on the line, I’m jumping in faster than LeBron’s hairline is receding. For this reason (among others), I wouldn’t be a very good franchise player.

However, this same ‘patience’ got quarterback Drew Brees a record-breaking $100 million dollar contract with his beloved NOLA Saints. It got Matt Forte a deal right before the deadline of his franchise tender expired with the Chicago Bears. It got the hungry Ray Rice the compensation he is worth.

Maybe I should get some of this patience stuff after all.

I have to wonder though, is this all necessary? As I have mentioned before, professional contracts have gotten out of control, see What Happened to the Nice Guys? Allow me to venture the idea that maybe, the teams, leagues and even we as fans, are actually responsible for all of this.

I mean, didn’t Drew Brees know that the Saints would do whatever it took to keep him? Didn’t the Bears know they didn’t have a fighting chance without Forte, even with Chicken Cutlet healthy? You gotta think the Raven’s knew that Rice’s contributions allowed Flacco the flexibility of a 9-year-old Chinese gymnast offensively.

In situations like Brees, Forte and Rice, these players made it blatantly clear they wanted to stay. When you as a team, know you are gonna give the players what they want anyway, why all the hoop-lah?

I have an answer for you: because it keeps people interested. At the most basic level, sports are just entertainment. Sorry to say it, but it’s true. While you men may think women are crazy for being so consumed with 50 Shades, is your constant monitoring of ESPN and NFL Network really any different? Three words guys: Dwight Howard Trade. Hashtag: #thingsmorecomplicatedthanwomen… can I get a trending topic??

Yeah, it’s patience alright, if patience is spelled D-R-A-M-A.

Maybe if we stopped and smelled the Old Spice we’d all realize that sports would exist without all the twisting plot lines and insane amount of money because of the simple fact sports are a love affair. But they build bonds, they forge new friendships and subsequently break relationships (if only on Sundays). The athletes themselves love to play and we as fans, love to watch. So in the end, that little bit of drama makes it all worth it, God help us all.

Just next time your girlfriend is on the phone catching up with her friend about the latest happenings of The Bachelorette instead of rolling your eyes, think about you and your buddies convos at the bar. You might just be surprised that with a few name changes and metaphors, the nature of the conversation isn’t so different after all.

What Happened to the Nice Guys?

After my latest post about the Miami Heat winning the NBA Championship I was having a conversation with my father and we honed in on one particular subject: dynasties. His argument was that dynasties are a thing of the past, they don’t exist anymore for one simple yet powerful reason: money.

I have to say I see his point. Players these days go where the money takes them. As if the contracts themselves aren’t big enough, some of them have even been smart enough to realize while they can sign big time deals to play the sport they love, they can sign even bigger deals in endorsements. Endorsement deals are where the big money hides. A player could make $15 million/year playing but conceivably make $150 million in endorsement/advertising deals

That is just plain insane.

This realization prompted me to ask my father what Jordan made as far as his NBA salary went. His response? Enough. Huh? You mean Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest player to ever play the game, made… enough?

His Airness was the original one to be smart enough to realize opportunities outside of his playing career. He was a pioneer who paved the way for modern day player endorsements and he is still reaping the benefits. But it’s gotten out of hand- because major professional sports contracts have gotten outta hand, especially in the NBA and NFL.

Where did this ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ (not Kardashians) mentality within the professional community come from? Well John Wall is making this much and Kobe is making this much, so I should be making this much. Or I’m the franchise quarterback- pay me and kick that no name dude off the team #Kanyeshrug.

Shouldn’t the fact that these players CAN make up so much money in endorsements afford them the opportunity to stay where they are for lesser pay and betterment of the overall team? Therefore, making dynasties more prominent and likely? Have these players become so greedy that the game really is all about the benjamins for them?

From a PR standpoint- taking a pay cut to remain with your team is solid gold. It would go SO far with regards to loyalty, reputation and overall likeability. So much so that endorsement deals would come flooding in. Everyone wants the nice guy because in theory, the nice guy doesn’t exist. I don’t gotta tell my lady readers twice.

I’ll give you an example: Peyton Manning. Who doesn’t like Peyton Manning? He’s taken on this nice guy persona quite well. Here’s a guy who once offered to cut his own salary in order to better the overall team. A guy who still writes handwritten notes to the legends of the game thanking them for their contributions to the sport he loves so dearly. Now think of Peyton Manning’s endorsements… See my point?

But Manning is rare. Too rare. What happened to the nice guys? Are they all weeded out by the combine? Or does it start earlier than that? In college, perhaps?

Want my advice athletes? You get the opportunity to stay with the team who has molded you, who’s fans adore you, who has given you the support you need and paid you all they can afford- you take it. Make up the money with the hoards of endorsements thrown your way, and trust me there will be hoards. Be the nice guy. The game needs it.

Rootin for Rose

Inspired by this ESPN Chicago article on Derrick Rose and his ACL rehab I decided to be ambitious and write another post. Especially with Chicago sports season at its ‘slimmest’ time of year, here’s something to celebrate about our beloved Derrick Rose. According to the article he’s ‘ahead of schedule’ regarding his recovery time.

When he- and subsequently the entire Chicago Bulls 2011-2012 season- went down,  I was disappointed and saddened, but I was not panicked. If anyone is coming back from a torn ACL, it’s him. He’s Derrick Rose and those my friends, are the rules.

I want to take this opportunity to examine some other notable players who have come back to some of the best years of their playing careers after suffering torn ACL’s. Here are my Top 5 (in no particular order):

1. Jerry Rice– We all know Jerry. Tore his ACL in 1997, returned the following season in 1998 to record 82 receptions for a total of 1157 yards and 9 touchdowns. He also returned to the Pro-Bowl that year. Did I mention he was 34 at the time? He would have two more 1100+ yard seasons before his eventual retirement. He’s now sittin pretty in the HOF. Yup, he good.

2. Tom Brady– While it pains me to put him on this list as I’m not his biggest fan, he serves as a great example of an athlete who has come back just fine. Lord knows those UGGs aren’t providing any support. Brady suffered his injury in 2008. Week 1 against the Kansas City Chiefs, no less. Not only did he suffer a torn ACL, but also a torn MCL, complicating the surgery. While Cassel held down the fort and avoided a complete meltdown by the Patriots, much to my chagrin, Brady recovered, returned in 2009 and has been going strong ever since. Dammit.

3. Andrew Brunette, Chicago Blackhawks– Now he may not be on your well-known list but this Hawk sure makes mine. While playing for the Minnesota Wild in 2008, Brunette suffered what was later diagnosed as a torn ACL. I say later because the dude KEPT PLAYING. Not only the rest of the game… but the rest of 2008-2009 season before he had surgery on it. He then went on to tally 25 goals and 36 assists for the Wild the very next season. All at the age of 37 years old. If that isn’t resilience people, I don’t know what is.

4. Tiger, Tiger Woods y’all– You knew this was coming. While it can be argued his best years of golf were pre-2008, it remains to be seen. But he didn’t take a ‘leave of absence’ from golf due to his physical indiscretions- I mean injuries… oops 😉

5. Derrick Rose– I’m putting him on here because I have absolute and total faith he will come back, strong as ever. Bring on the 2012-2013 season. The Bulls, and Rose, are comin for that title.