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

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’?

Why I Don’t Hate Ohio State… Anymore

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Image courtesy of AnnArbor.com

So I went to a school called Arizona State, far away from Middle America in the land of the Pacific-12. Palm trees, sunshine and hazy mountains were a far cry from the picturesque cornfields of the B1G Ten (is that how you write it now?).  However, I did always have an allegiance, albeit a blindly led one, to the University of Illinois though. This then became concrete when my best friend from high school attended the university.

Now, my very first weekend visiting her came in 2007. It was the weekend Illinois played Ohio State in Columbus when the Buckeyes were ranked #1 in the country. If you claim to be any degree of B1G Ten fan… you know what happened that night. The Illini went in there and buried those Buckeyes. Call it overconfidence on OSU’s part; call it Illinois being underestimated. I called it: glorious.

The years following I learned more of this Buckeye football program. Of Jim Tressel and that wannabe Bill Cosby sweater vest he liked to subject the viewing public to. I hated everything he stood for. I hated the overconfidence of his players. The way the fans acted as if he, and the program, could do no wrong. The way they referred to themselves as The Ohio State (which for the record I still don’t like). Yes, I hated Ohio State.

I quickly learned I was not alone in this attitude. No, no. Ohio State was the USC of the B1G Ten. Everyone hated them. Except Ohio State, of course. My best friend growing up ended up at Michigan State. She also hated that God-awful football program. Fantastic. It was settled.

Yet, today, with another heaven-sent season of college football looming, I find myself at a crossroads. Jim Tressel, and his woolen vest of vomit, is no longer the head coach. The program has paid its debt to the college football society in the sanctions imparted on them by the NCAA.  My two best friends from the B1G Ten are no longer in school. The Buckeyes were on ESPN’s Training Days– the damn white boy manager DID THE DOUGIE… and ya know what? He did it well. So tell me again, why do I hate Ohio State?

Not only is Jim Tressel not the coach anymore, Urban Meyer is. The same Urban Meyer who made me love the University of Florida and is responsible for my irreprehensible-one-of-only-a-couple athlete crushes on Tim Tebow. I feel those eyes of judgment. Just deal with it.

That episode of Training Days, Meyer got those boys fired up. ASU’s practices never looked like that. I didn’t see 250lb linebackers getting rewarded with mid-day naptime on air mattresses in the field house. This was adorable. This was real. This ladies and gentlemen, was college football.

While every fiber in my being is telling me “No! Carmen! Don’t do it! Think of the children!” I am forced to face the reality: I no longer hate Ohio State.

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?

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.