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

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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.

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.

Traded, you are: Is the Dwight Howard Saga finally over?

According to ‘sources’ on ESPN.com a four-team trade deal is in place that will send Dwight Howard to none other than the Los Angeles Lakers.

In the deal, Howard will go to the Lakers, Andre Iguodala will go to the Denver Nuggets, the Philadelphia 76ers will receive Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson and finally the Orlando Magic will acquire Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington,Nikola Vucevic and Moe Harkless along with ‘protected’ first round picks from each of the three other teams. Um. Exqueeze me? The Magic will get 671417 (a.k.a three in addition to their own) first round picks over the next couple of years is what you’re telling me? Is that even legal? Talk about complex. Next time a man gives me flack about women being complicated I’m just gonna pull up the Laker roster and point at Dwight Howard.

Is it me, or was this completely anti-climactic? Anyone else want to see Howard have to stay in Orlando and begrudgingly play out the season before becoming a free agent? I didn’t not want to see that, I can tell you that much.

So the story is over? Ha, if only. Allow me to venture the next chapter in the saga… the debate. You’ve got Kobe, Nash and Howard- the latter two trapped in their own version of Lord of the Rings trying to capture that first ring to no avail so far, making up the new Big Three in LA. Then, you’ve got LBJ, DWade, Bosheraptor and Jesus Shuttlesworth himself becoming the Big Four in Miami. Just resign yourselves to the fact the NBA championship will be the Lakers and the Heat in the Finals this year… and the next… and probably the next after that.

Now Howard has said already that if he were traded to the Lakers he would sign a long-term deal. He is still ultimately a free-agent after this season. He did have an interest in going to the Dallas Mavericks, and according to the article on ESPN the Mavs are waiting on him. But you have to think after playing with Kobe and Nash, nothing else is going to compare. At the end of the day, while Howard wants that money- I think he wants those rings more.

I now have to wonder if this is ultimately good for the league? If this predictability will hurt ratings and revenue? Granted, growing up I thought the B in NBA stood for Bulls because I thought it was their league and the Finals were made up of teams competing to play them. Come to think of it, that wasn’t really that far off base. I loved that era. It’s still talked about today as not only the Bulls’ golden years, but the league’s as well. That’s how I viewed it anyway. But now that the tables are turned and two teams who aren’t my home town team are the new age dynasties, I’m starting to understand how Celtics fans must have felt.

Tale of the Quarterback: Eyes on NFL Training Camp

My nose is acute with the smell of fresh practice field grass, my lips are already fixed for criticism on a cover two versus a man to man, my fingers are (wo)manned on my mouse ready for my impending fantasy draft in a few short weeks. Yes, ladies and gentleman, training camp is upon us, which only means one thing: FOOTBALL IS BACK- CAN I GET AN AARON RODGERS BELT THRUST!? And before you say anything, yes, I’m a die hard Bears fan but you just can’t hate him. Trust me I’ve tried.

This past week NFL players have been reporting to the confines of their cozy college dorms where they will study playbooks and play obscene amounts of NCAA and Madden 12 like the grown up frat boys they are. Throw in some two a days and we have got ourselves some content my friends. I would like to take a look at just which teams will have the most eyes on them this preseason. And so it begins…

Once Upon a Time, there was a quarterback of an NFL football team. His name was (insert really important football sounding name here) and he played for (insert team here), this is their story…

The Denver Broncos: If Peyton Manning doesn’t scream football player name, I don’t know what does. He was literally born to play this role: see related Mannings i.e. Eli and/or Archie. Following (a couple) hush hush neck surgeries and Manning sitting out the entire 2011 season, not only is he back, but he is back with none other than John Elway’s Denver Broncos, despite his already published legacy with the Indianapolis Colts. This Broncos team easily has the biggest target on their back as far as the media sh*tstorm goes. I have to say I have a good feeling about this, and not just because I’m listening to Avicii. The way I see it, Peyton wouldn’t even attempt to come back unless he had complete and total faith that he would return to Peyton Manning form. If Peyton Manning has faith in himself, who the hell are we to say or think otherwise? If Peyton says it, it must be so. End of story. I can’t wait for this next chapter in his career, and have to give a special shout-out to three guys from a certain southwest school I also attended who will be along for the ride. Brock- you learn everything you possibly can from that man, I know I don’t have to tell you twice. O, words can’t describe how excited I am to see you back on that field- and with the Champ! G-Rob, do your thing- and don’t you dare drop a Peyton pass! SD4L 🙂

The New York Jets: Ahh, The Timmy Tebow Saga continues. I can’t wait to see what Rex Ryan version .50 has up his sleeve. Wildcat? Convert Tebow to fullback entirely? Make him the starter entirely? I have to say when they picked Tebow up I totally thought that was it for Sanchez. He’s got the SC quarterback curse, all hope has got to be lost. But maybe Mr. Hard Knocks hasn’t given up just yet. And side note: seriously, can they make Hard Knocks permanently on the Jets? That was by far the most entertaining season. I’m not wrong.

The Washington Redskins and/or The Indianapolis Colts: Picking up the first two picks in the draft, both quarterbacks, mind you, you can bet these teams are on the radar. RGIII was pronounced starter out of the gate. With a definitive ‘guy’ you have to think Shanahan will show at least glimpses of those glorious Denver days. With the Peyton Manning departure, and Andrew Luck of the draw in place, look for the Colts to show up like a Phoenix rising from the ashes. They may not be effective right away, but with the ever accelerated learning curve of Mr. Stanford grad, you gotta think they will get it right by midseason, maybe in time to catch the playoffs? Wildcard at least?

And last but certainly not least, for my own personal benefit, The Chicago Bears: Jay Cutler is healthy. They have signed their workhorse Matt Forte to a sufficient deal. They have gelled their offensive line quite a bit as well as made a key offensive pickup in Brandon Marshall, a familiar target to add to their Cutler-y (ya see what I did there?). The defense, yes, is becoming increasingly more ‘veteran’ but with a more high powered offense hopefully we can preserve those guys a few more years by not having them take the field every 37 seconds.

All I can say is thank God we have the Olympics to hold us over til the real fun begins. Happy training season everyone!