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

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’?

The NFL Preseason: Why so serious?

Football preseason is in full swing. HALLELUJAH we have all survived the purgatory known as the NFL offseason. But before you get too excited- don’t. I want to talk about the fact that people can and will absolutely take the preseason entirely too seriously.

Preseason football has little to no implications on how the team will do in the regular season. I repeat: preseason football has LITTLE TO NO implications on how the team will do in the regular season. Notice I said team.

People, the preseason is an individual affair. Preseason games are for rookies clawing at each other like crabs in a bucket for a spot on the roster. Preseason games are a time to preview newly acquired players and see how they mesh with their units. Preseason games are a time to feel out how ‘in shape’ the players have stayed during the offseason. Preseason games are a time of evaluation. Period. It does a great job gauging the successes of individuals ON the team. However, for the team as a whole, not so much.

Yes, my Bears got blown out last week by the Denver Broncos who started Peyton Manning. The Bears, didn’t. They didn’t even start Veal Cutlet (otherwise known as Jay Cutler). So as far as I’m concerned the game, and point for that matter, is moot. Yet, the amount of flack I caught after that game was ridiculous. Scared of big, bad Peyton? Hell yeah we were. If you were a rookie corner trying to keep a receiver from catching a Peyton Manning pass you would be too. But so what? It was the first game of the preseason. Relax.

Last year the New York Giants went 2-2 in the preseason, losing to the Carolina Panthers and the New York Jets. In fact, they had a rather unimpressive regular season as well going 9-7 and just squeezing into the playoffs. You all know the rest of the story.

So before you get all caught up in the preseason games and results, save that sh*t talking for the regular season. Until then, I’m not going to waste my breath arguing with you. I’m nothing if not efficient, you know.

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.

America’s Favorite… Nap time?

This will probably be one of very few, if not the only editorial post I do about baseball because of my miserable apathy towards the sport, despite having not one, but two teams I could potentially root for in this city. The sad part is, I’m not alone in my lethargy. Granted it may be because my Twitter is inevitably biased but all I hear are cries of “IS IT FOOTBALL SEASON YET?!” all over my timeline. Why is that?

I recently read an article by Mr. Rick Reilly (I seriously think I love that man) on ESPN.com about baseball’s pace of play problem. It takes EONS to get through a game- no wonder no one watches it. It’s seriously on par with golf, acting as my non-narcotic sleep aid on a lazy Sunday afternoon. In the article Reilly pointed out that there actually is a ‘Pace of Play Procedure’ list which dictates time restraints on certain aspects of the game. Whaaat? You mean I don’t need to watch the batter step out of the box, adjust his glove 51,381 times before the first pitch, only to stand there motionless and then wait another 30 seconds while the pitcher delivers the next ball? The answer is no, I don’t, because it’s in fact AGAINST THE RULES which state as follows, according to the article:

“Umpires will not grant time for batters to step out of the box if to do so would unnecessarily delay the game.”

WHAT A CONCEPT.

But say the umps do wise up, start picking up the pace and shave off a few milliseconds of the game. Would that change how I feel? Better yet, would it make me feel something– ANYTHING- for such a historically rich and traditional sport?

The answer is probably not.  If I think back on alllll my 23 years (ha) do I ever remember a time when I cared? I don’t know- wait, maybe, almost… YES, got it! The only time I ever cared about baseball was when Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire were duking it out for the home run record. This epic battle would later be tarnished by the Steroid Papers, both Sosa and McGwire were on the juice. Sigh.

Still, baseball was exciting back then. Things happened. Sure, all the guys were juiced up on stashes of roids that would make Ronnie from Jersey Shore spontaneously combust on the spot. But people cared. People were excited. The MLB’s revenues were through the roof. The bottom line is that these guys were choosing to take these drugs. What if… and I know I may be chastised for saying this… but what if, we just let them?

Now hear me out. I’m not talking about the heavy duty illegal stuff, but what if we just allowed the guys to get a little more ‘creative’ shall we say in their supplements? If the players want to do it and it means producing more action and higher revenues, could it really be so bad?

Or forget the supplements, what about the uses of more technologically advanced equipment? Like bats? More home runs sounds all good to me. Bottom line is there needs to be something done about the state of the MLB. Probably starting with a commissioner other than Bud Selig.

The Steroid Scandal era was the Dark Age of baseball… isn’t it time for a renaissance?

19-Year-Old Draft Picks and Bulging D*cks

David Stern’s NBA. You never disappoint. I couldn’t have made that up if I tried. For those of you who haven’t heard, during last night’s NBA Draft, Andy Katz was trying to refer to Jared Sullinger’s ‘bulging disks’ in his back but instead comes up with an epic Freudian slip. If you haven’t watched it on YouTube I suggest you do it. Now.

But that is really not here nor there. Not surprisingly, with the first pick of the 2012 draft the New Orleans Hornets selected Unibrow Davis.. er.. Anthony Davis out of Kentucky. Chicago kid HEYYY.

I wanted to analyze this a bit. Does this automatically make the Hornets a championship contender? Does one guy really make a difference? Sure, he averaged 10.4 rebounds and 14.2 points a game. Sure, his FG percentage is .623. Sure, he’s a 6’10 19-year old big man with a unibrow that rivals the marketing capabilities of The Harden Beard. But will he have an immediate impact? Can a boy born in 1993 have an immediate impact? Yes, that stat was intended to make you feel old.

Even my Bulls took 19-year old Marquis Teague with the 29th overall pick, also from Kentucky. This boy played one year in college. He was high school class of 2011. Now he’s supposedly ready for the big show?

Why is it that in the NBA only one year of college is required? I get that not too long ago, no college was required (see: Kobe Bryant, LeBron James) but shouldn’t we push the envelope a little more? With the amount of money that is being thrown at these kids is it really a responsible thing to allow them to declare just one year after they said goodbye to mommy and daddy’s house? As Jay-Z puts it “Younger get younger every year.”

I don’t really know the answer and I’m not sure how to arrive at one. There’s no consistency with players that entered the NBA with minimal or no years of college development. You have legends like Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson who developed their skills in college during an age where it wasn’t required. And you have players like Kobe, LeBron, Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitski, Dwight Howard and Amar’e Stoudemaire who opted out of the college experience and went straight to the league. But then you have players like Chris Washburn, Mateen Cleeves and Adam Morrison. I know you’re all going jigga who? Exactly. These are guys that had stellar college careers only to flop majorly on the NBA stage.

So how can you tell? My answer is I can’t. I will tell you though that I think Anthony Davis will be successful. *Prediction Alert*. Although he still needs more development, the kid has been through just about every experience a college player needs to go through from a purely basketball perspective. He led the Kentucky Wildcats to a championship title. You can handle that kind of pressure at 19 years old, you can handle just about anything the NBA throws at you. It’s life in general that’ll get ya.

I think I am going to start a mailbag-like feature via Twitter and Facebook. I’d love to hear more of your comments as well as questions or concerns you’d want me to tackle. Also! Sorry, sorry and sorry again this post is coming to you so delayed. I have been traveling the East Coast all week and finding time between video poker in Atlantic City and screaming at cab drivers in New York traffic is taxing. Back on my game now though. Thanks for reading.

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.