I'll be taking a little break here. I will be back Nov. 3 and blogging will start again at that time. While I'm on vacation, you can listen to these cokehead chicks from the '80s:
October 2009 Archives
I'm going to be taking a few days off here at the end of the week, so it's imperative we get this week's Illinois football fail train out of the way now.
So, the 1-6 Illini host Michigan this week. Given that Illinois is 22-66-1 all-time against the Wolverines, I think I will select Michigan to win this contest.
At any rate, there was a thread on Illini Board this week where some silly fan "challenged" the student section to stay through the entirety of Saturday's game. His reasoning? There will be recruits in attendance, and it might make a bad impression if fans are seen leaving the game early. WHAT???!!!! Let me get this straight -- if the Illini get the crap beat out of them and the fans leave early, recruits are going to be more concerned about what's going on in the stands than on the field? Right.
Since we're in the business of issuing challenges, here's one to the Illini players and coaches: How about a competitive game on Saturday? Compete for four quarters and give the fans a reason to stay for the whole game. Illinois has lost all of its Big Ten games by 10 points or more. Why stay for that? People want to be entertained at the very least when they attend a football game.
In the meantime, here comes that fail train. ALL ABOARD!!!!
Bears GM Jerry Angelo had some interesting words about Sunday's laughable loss in Cincinnati. Check out this gem found on the Bears Web site today:
"I don't want to take anything away from the Bengals because they are a very good offensive football team with a great receiver, a great quarterback and a running back who's having a Pro Bowl year," Angelo said. "But what really surprised me was that we weren't able to make the needed adjustments in terms of slowing them down or stopping them. We let that go really throughout four quarters.
"We couldn't slow them down and make some stops or even force them to settle for a field goal instead of a touchdown to keep us in the game where we could have some hope. That surprised me. I didn't expect to see that."
Translation: "Hey, Lovie! What the hell were you doing on the sidelines Sunday?!"
A comment like that is only going to fuel speculation that coach Lovie Smith's job could be on the line if the Bears continue to fall short of expectations. Smith has two years and $11 million remaining on his deal. Given the Bears usual way of doing business, it seems extremely unlikely they'd eat that money. But if there are any more crummy efforts like the one on Sunday, it could get interesting at Halas Hall.
The last few months, it seems like we've had a rash of stories about former Chicago athletes who have gone on to "play well" for other teams: Kyle "Ortman," Cedric Benson, Nick Swisher, Javier Vazquez, Mark DeRosa, Jason Marquis, Nikolai Khabibulin, the list goes on and on.
What people have to realize is all these guys were let go for a reason. I'm sick of hearing about ex-Chicago players and their supposed "greatness," so I was pretty happy that Martin Havlat looked like crap last night in his return to the United Center as a member of the Minnesota Wild. Havlat, the Blackhawks leading scorer a year ago, had no points and only one shot on goal and was a minus-2 in the Hawks 3-1 victory over the last-place Wild.
Havlat is off to a slow start this year, with only one goal and four assists in nine games. He's an awful minus-10 and has been battling a groin injury.
Sound familiar, Hawk fans? Havlat struggling with an injury, playing well below his talent level. That's why the Hawks didn't meet his contract demands last offseason. I actually think Havlat is a damn good player. I'll never boo him and I have nothing against him. Most people in Chicago like him. But the Hawks don't miss him.
I don't think it's a coincidence that Havlat had his best season as a Hawk in his contract year. Now that he's got his money, he'll be less interested and less inclined to play through injury. He's on a losing team, just like he was when he first arrived in Chicago. He doesn't have any great offensive players around him. I'd be surprised if he duplicates the 29-goal, 48-assist season he produced for the Hawks last year. Either injury or disinterest will cause him to fall short.
I don't want to harp on how bad the Bears defense was in Sunday's 45-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. The defense was a joke. I know it. You know it. Bob Dole knows it. The American people know it. Sun-Times beat writer Brad Biggs called it the worst loss he's seen in his years on the beat.
Here's my question: What the hell was Bears quarterback Jay Cutler doing still in the game when it was 45-3 in the fourth quarter? What good could possibly come from that? The Bengals knew the Bears were going to pass on every down. Their defensive linemen were pinning their ears back and teeing off on Cutler -- and rightfully so. They were getting hits on him on almost every play.
Whatever chance the Bears (3-3) have of making the postseason this year, it all depends on Cutler's right arm and a developing group of young receivers. The running game isn't going to get the Bears to the playoffs. Neither is the defense. A healthy, effective Cutler is essential moving forward. Leaving him in Sunday's game was a reckless and stupid move by coach Lovie Smith and staff. If there was ever a situation where backup QB Caleb Hanie should have been getting the playing time, this was it.
Of course, as I read the media reports after Sunday's loss, it occurred to me why Smith left Cutler in. Say, hypothetically, that Hanie had thrown a meaningless TD pass in the fourth quarter. If that scenario had unfolded, we'd have a quarterback controversy in Chicago today. You know how things work around here.
Cutler actually did throw a meaningless TD toss to Devin Hester in the fourth quarter Sunday. He gets no credit for that, nor should he. But imagine if Caleb Hanie had thrown that exact same TD pass. The Superfans would be out, calling for the backup quarterback to get his chance.
"Did you see what dat Caleb Hanie did on Sunday? He took da team right down da field and gotta touchdown! He should be da starter!"
Dan Pompei's story on the front page of the Tribune sports section today made for some interesting reading. Pompei attempts to debunk assorted "gripes" that Bears fans have with offensive coordinator Ron Turner's playcalling.
This column is likely to make Pompei the least popular man in Chicago. Turner is hated and despised by most Bears fans, and the denizens of fireronturner.com have already expressed their outrage.
It's pretty clear that the fans are going to want Turner scapegoated if the Bears fail to meet expectations this season. I struggle to form a strong opinion about Turner, because my perception of him is jaded from his days as the head coach at Illinois. There's no doubt Turner did a terrible job during his tenure in Champaign, but being a poor head coach does not necessarily make one a poor offensive coordinator. I have to find a way to put aside my leftover hate from the Illinois days when evaluating Turner's work with the Bears, and that's not always easy.
Sometimes, I think Bears fans blame the offensive coordinator as a kneejerk reaction. It's a Pavlovian response almost. After all, this is the franchise that brought you Gary Crowton, John Shoop and Terry Shea, all of whom were terrible offensive coordinators and all of whom were worse than Turner ever will be. Still, for better or for worse, the perception in Chicago is that all Bears offensive coordinators suck no matter what. I figure people are going to want Turner gone, even if the Bears make the NFC title game.
Looking at the "gripes" that Pompei enumerates, there is only one of his points that I would definitely agree with. The gripe: Turner is too conservative and he won't open up the offense. Pompei disagrees, saying that 22 percent of the Bears completions have gone for 16 yards or more. By way of comparison, the Colts are at 18 percent, the Patriots 15 percent and the Cardinals 14 percent.
Contrary to what critics say, I think Turner has always believed in the vertical passing game. I recall Turner's very first game at Illinois in 1997 against Southern Mississippi. Illinois kicked off and its defense got a stop. USM punted and Illinois took over first-and-10 from its own 25-yard line or whatever. First play from scrimmage of his tenure, Turner calls a bomb. Illinois quarterback Mark Hoekstra cranked it up and threw it as far as he could. The pass fell incomplete. As a matter of fact, I think it was underthrown and out of bounds. But the crowd rose as one and gave a standing ovation. The crowd loved the PLAY CALL so much that they applauded an incomplete pass by the home team. I had never seen that before and I've never seen it since in all the games I've attended.
Turner always believed in taking deep shots at Illinois, especially when he had Kurt Kittner and four future NFL wide receivers on his roster in 2001. This year, I think most Bears fans don't understand that opposing defenses are concerned about quarterback Jay Cutler's big arm, and they're trying to take away the deep ball. Combine that with the Bears shoddy pass protection and you can see why Turner is picking his spots on deep passes these days.
Aside from that point, I'll defend Turner no further. If the Bears fire him at the end of the season, it won't bother me. However, I'm not going to call for his head either, because I don't believe Turner is the guy preventing the Bears from making a Super Bowl run. In fact, the Bears weak offensive line and lack of a running game - along with an aging, injury-prone defense - will prevent the Bears from winning this year. Turner will just be the guy fans target when this is all over.
Rooting against the Yankees is a time-honored tradition in all parts of the country not named New York. People really don't need an excuse to hate the Yankees. They win all the time, and that pisses people off. Further, they have a $208 million payroll and pretty much buy all their moments. Nothing they accomplish seems genuine.
But I have a different reason for rooting against the Yankees this postseason. I can't stand Nick Swisher, former White Sox outfielder and current New York right fielder. The funny thing is I was in favor of the trade when the Sox acquired Swisher prior to the start of the 2008 season. Then, I had to watch Swisher play every day and I started to wonder what I was thinking. I wasn't thinking.
Swisher hit .219 with the Sox and struck out a whopping 135 times in 497 at-bats. Swisher gave himself the nickname of "Dirty 30," as he wore jersey No. 30 with the Sox. I thought "Dirty .230" was more appropriate, given that .230 was more in line with his batting average. Sure, he hit 24 homers with the Sox, but by the end of the season, Swisher was benched in favor of Dewayne Wise.
Yes, that Dewayne Wise. Amazingly enough, Sox fans all pretty much agreed the team was better off in the 2008 playoffs with Wise in the lineup instead of Swisher. That's how bad Swisher was.
I rejoiced when Swisher was traded to the Yankees. But ever since then, Tribune columnist Phil Rogers has been giving me an almost permanent case of nausea with his insistence that the Sox made a horrible mistake by trading Swisher. NO, NO, NO, A THOUSAND TIMES, NO, PHIL. Swisher stunk with the Sox and didn't fit in well. We should all be glad he's gone.
Given my distaste for Swisher, imagine my horror when "Dirty .230" stepped to the plate in the top of the ninth inning with the bases loaded and two outs and the Yankees trailing 7-6 in Thursday night's Game 5 of the ALCS. Immediately, I thought of Rogers and how he'd probably have a joygasm if Swisher somehow delivered the hit to send the Yankees to the World Series.
Thank goodness, Angels closer Brian Fuentes retired Swisher on a popout to shortstop, and Los Angeles won to force a Game 6 Saturday night in New York. I, of course, almost had a joygasm watching Swisher fail in the clutch. My only regret is he doesn't strike out looking on a fastball right down the middle, as he did so many times with the Sox.
Swisher is now batting .103 in the postseason, and there are rumblings that the Yankees need to bench him. Brings a tear to your eye, doesn't it Sox fans? At the very least, it has to bring a knowing smile.
I'm thinking of making this a weekly feature. After all, is there a bigger punching bag out there than the Illinois football program? Even Indiana stomped them, as the lowly Hoosiers rolled to a 27-14 victory last Saturday.
As the Illini fail train prepares to head to West Lafayette, Ind., for a game against Purdue this Saturday, we make note that Illinois is now ranked No. 9 in ESPN's Bottom 10 rankings. That's a move "up" one slot from last week. ESPN says, "When the Clowns Come Home": Has Ron Zook's circus act run its course at Illinois?" As an alum, I can only hope so.
Speaking of Zook, sportsline.com has moved him up to No. 2 on the coaches hot seat. Amazingly, Steve Kragthorpe from Louisville is still doing a crappier job than Zook. That's quite a trick.
It's an annual rite of fall: I turn up the criticism of the Illinois football program, and some posters over on Illini Board accuse me of being a "bandwagon fan." LOL. I've been candid in my assessments of the program and its direction, or lack thereof. If something doesn't change dramatically, I will not be renewing my season tickets for the 2010 season. I expect, ya know, actual value in return for my entertainment dollars.
And guess what? I'm here to tell you there is no Illinois football bandwagon. The program has sucked for nearly two decades. How the hell do you start a bandwagon if the team is never worth a damn? Quite literally, there is no bandwagon to jump on. Sure, the Illini have had a couple bowl bids here and there, but they haven't made back-to-back postseason appearances since I was in high school. That's pathetic, given that they let 6-6 teams into bowls nowadays.
I get sick of these people who lecture me about how "our student-athletes deserve your support." Baloney. Why do they deserve my support? Because they get blown out every game? Illinois hasn't been competitive in any of its five losses. They aren't entertaining to watch. They embarrass their university with inept and stupid play. These games are terrible. Maybe some of these apologists live in a world where intentions are more important than results. In my world, results matter.
I think it's very important that our "student-athletes" learn that there are consequences in the real world when you don't get results. In the case of this football season, the consequences for the lack of results are a loss of support from alumni, students and fans -- and the possibility that the entire coaching staff will be fired.
I don't feel sorry for these "student-athletes." They are being given a great education at a world-class university in exchange for their alleged ability to play football on Saturdays. Given their poor performance on the gridiron, they are basically stealing from the university community. They don't deserve anymore than what they're getting.
There are six games left in the season, and I promise that one of these three outcomes will happen: 1) Zook and the boys will get this turned around and win some games, or 2) Zook will guide this program to last place for the fifth time in seven years and get fired, or 3) JB will cancel his season tickets.
If neither 1 nor 2 happens, option 3 will come to pass. I guarantee it. It's time for some accountability in this Illini football program. If Zook goes 1-11 or 2-10 and somehow keeps his job, I call for ALL Illinois fans to boycott Memorial Stadium in 2010. It's time to send a message. The University of Illinois strives for academic excellence. The athletic department, and specifically the football program, should be striving for excellence as well.
I was talking sports with my dentist today when I happened to mention that the Cubs have inked former Texas Rangers hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo to a three-year contract.
My dentist, who is also a Sox fan, replied, "The Texas guy? Is he bringing his steroids with him?" LOL. That statement would serve as a good counter to any of the Cubbie glee that is being felt in association with this signing.
Jaramillo is highly-regarded in the game, but it is true that a number of his prized pupils have also had their names linked to steroids. Sammy Sosa, Gary Matthews Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro, Juan Gonzalez and Ivan Rodriguez are among the players who have toiled under Jaramillo's tutelage through the years. None of those guys are/were clean.
In any case, I have no idea whether Jaramillo will help the Cubs, who slumped to ninth in the National League in runs scored this year. I do know that Jaramillo will be the third hitting coach the Cubs have employed over the last 12 months.
I also know that Jaramillo's presence will provide an endless parade of idiotic stories from the Cubbie-loving media next spring training. Every time a Cubbie player hits the ball hard, the press will scurry over to that player's locker and ask him how Jaramillo's genius helped him in finding a way to get the ball out of the infield. It will be both hilarious and nauseating.
Don't believe me? Look at all the dumb stories the Bears media have written about Rod Marinelli's influence this season. Every time a Bear defensive lineman uses the potty correctly, Marinelli gets the credit. You can expect the same thing with the Cubs and Jaramillo next baseball season.
As I watched the Philadelphia Phillies rally for two runs in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-4 in Game 4 of the NLCS Monday, it occurred to me that this October has been a real rough ride for closers.
I did some research on the 20 postseason games that have been played so far (including the AL Central play-in game between Detroit and Minnesota), and I determined that there have been 7 blown saves in the ninth inning or later in those 20 games. That seems like a really high number to me.
A few of these implosions have been of the spectacular variety, too. One of the things I learned in reviewing the box scores from these games is it's not a very good idea to put men on base when protecting a lead in the late innings of a playoff game. Walks, hit batsmen and bonehead errors have cost teams dearly during this postseason. Several of these rallies have occurred with two outs. Here's a look at the four most outrageous meltdowns of the 2009 baseball playoffs:
Oct. 8: Dodgers 3, St. Louis 2 -- The Cardinals possessed a 2-1 lead heading into the ninth inning and closer Ryan Franklin retired the first two men he saw. Then, all hell broke lose. St. Louis left fielder Matt Holliday misplayed a fly by James Loney into a two-base error. Franklin lost his cool, walked Casey Blake, surrendered a game-tying single to Ronnie Belliard, walked Russell Martin and gave up a game-winning single to the immortal Mark Loretta.
Oct 11: L.A. Angels 7, Boston 6 -- "Oh, Paps! How could you let us down like this?" cried ESPN and Red Sox Nation (Is that redundant?). Closer Jonathan Papelbon had never allowed a run in the postseason in his career. That is, until he tried to protect a 6-4 lead against the Angels in the ninth inning of this game. Papelbon retired the first two hitters. Then, he completely lost it. Erick Aybar singled. Paps foolishly walked Chone Figgins to bring Bobby Abreu to the plate representing the go-ahead run. Why would you walk Figgins? He's a slap hitter. Throw him a strike and the worst thing that will happen is he'll hit a single. He's not threat to tie the game. Anyway, Abreu doubled in a run. After an intentional walk to Torii Hunter loaded the bases, Vladimir Guerrero came through with a two-run single to give the Angels the lead. You lose, Paps.
Oct 12: Philadelphia 5, Colorado 4 -- Huston Street had a 4-2 lead and he seemed to be doing OK. The Phillies had Shane Victorino on second base, but two were out. As long as Street could keep the ball in the ballpark, you'd figure he'll get the save, right? Well, Street lost all conception of the strike zone and walked Chase Utley. Dumb move, as that brought Ryan Howard, the best RBI man in the National League, to the plate representing the go-ahead run. Howard lashed a game-tying double into the right field corner. Next, Jayson Werth singled to bring in Howard with the eventual game-winning run. Shouldn't have walked Utley....
Oct. 19: Philadelphia 5, Dodgers 4 -- This time, it was Jonathon Broxton's turn to gag. While trying to protect a 4-3 lead, he created his own mess by walking Matt Stairs and beaning Carlos Ruiz (pictured). That put runners on first and second and got the Phillies back to the top of their order. Broxton had two outs, though. Ehh...he blew it. Jimmy Rollins delivered a two-run double and gave the Phillies a 3-1 lead in the series.
A couple lessons learned from watching these playoffs: 1) It's not over until it's over, even with two outs in the ninth, and 2) Don't walk people with a lead, for cryin' out loud.
Coming into the season, I had several question marks about the Bears. Could they generate a pass rush with their front four? Would their inexperienced secondary be able to cover opposing receivers? Would their own wide receivers be able to make enough big plays to help quarterback Jay Cutler out?
Surprisingly enough, the Bears (3-2) are performing reasonably well in those question-mark areas. The Bears did not sack Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan during Sunday's 21-14 loss, but they got enough pressure on him to knock down a couple passes and force him into two interceptions. The Bears have 14 sacks through five games. That's acceptable.
The Bears overall pass defense? Well, it's ranked 14th in the league. They've had some lapses, like the first half of the Detroit game when Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson torched young cornerback Zackary Bowman. But middle-of-the-pack pass defense represents an improvement for the Bears. Cornerback Charles Tillman, the Bears best player in the secondary, has overcome back surgery and is playing well. Again, I think the team's performance in that area has been acceptable.
Looking at the receivers, Bears GM Jerry Angelo assured us that the quarterback makes the wide receivers, not the other way around. Honestly, I can't quarrel with that right now. Johnny Knox has been the breakout star of the season. Devin Hester and Earl Bennett may not be Pro Bowlers, but with Cutler throwing them the ball, they look like NFL receivers -- a description that would not have been accurate last year.
But of all things, the Bears have a weakness that I never would have anticipated. Namely, their run game sucks. Matt Forte had only 23 yards on 15 carries in last night's loss. He fumbled (see picture) on back-to-back plays in the third quarter on a series where the Bears had first-and-goal from inside the 1-yard line and failed to score. The fumbles are on Forte, but it's hard to place the entire blame on the running back. Forte is getting hit behind the line of scrimmage way too often. The offensive line is poor right now.
Apparently, coach Lovie Smith is considering replacing Frank Omiyale with Josh Beekman at left guard. I hope Lovie pulls the trigger on that move. Omiyale is the weakest link on the Bears weakest unit.
It's going to be hard for the Bears to win cold-weather games later in the season if they don't establish a run game. It's hard to pass the ball when the wind is gusting in Chicago in December. Right now, Cutler is being asked to carry the offense. He made a lot of big plays last night. He didn't make enough of them. He also threw a couple interceptions. Chicago fans are whining about that today, but hey, you're gonna throw some picks when you're basically forced to throw on every down.
The Bears pass protection hasn't been the greatest either. Fans are complaining about offensive coordinator Ron Turner's unwillingness to call long passes. True, Cutler's ability to throw the deep ball is being underutilized with all these short drops and quick releases. But the fact is the Bears linemen can't hold their protections long enough for Cutler to drop back seven steps and unleash the long ball. He has to drop back on three steps and get the ball out, or else he's gonna get sacked.
In short, the Bears offensive line leaves a lot to be desired, both in run blocking and in pass blocking. I still think the team can possibly go 10-6 this year, but they're going to have to do a better job up front in order to attain their goals. At the start of the year, I never thought I'd be criticizing the Bears offensive line. However, that unit just isn't good enough right now.
If you're a Blackhawks fan, I have some good news and some more good news. First off, the team is 5-1-1 after last night's 3-1 win in Nashville. That represents the best start the Blackhawks have had since the 1982-83 season.
Next, prized free-agent signee Marian Hossa skated Friday for the first time since his shoulder surgery in July. Hossa is expected to be back in late November, which should only make the Hawks offense more potent. Right now, the team leads the Western Conference with 26 goals scored.
"It feels like I'm on schedule, and the doctor is happy with the results so far," Hossa said.
As I've said, the Hawks have a good team - and they have a chance to become a great team. Adding a proven 40-goal scorer like Hossa to the lineup will be a big step in the right direction.
....but you have to figure the players on the remaining teams in the baseball playoffs prefer sunny California to the alternative. The NLCS and the ALCS are being played in very different weather conditions today. I've got the Phillies-Dodgers game on the office TV right now. The sun is shining in Los Angeles, and the gametime temperature was 93 degrees.
The Yankees and Angels will be facing the polar opposite tonight. (Polar, get it? Sorry, bad joke.) During yesterday's workout at Yankee Stadium, Angels players like Ervin Santana (pictured) looked much like Nanook of the North in the frigid conditions. Looking over the game preview, I see they are expecting drizzle, a 41-degree temperature and a 15-20 mph wind that will make it feel like 25 degrees during the game tonight in New York.
I was reading in the Tribune this morning that MLB executives are terrified either tonight's game or tomorrow's Game 2 will be rained out in New York. If that happens, the Yankees and Angels will have to play a makeup game Sunday, and that creates an interesting scenario for TV. Fox owns exclusive rights to the ALCS, but that network has a full slate of afternoon football planned. That would force the baseball game into the primetime slot, opposite NLCS Game 3 (to be telecast on TBS). That would split the baseball-watching audience and (gasp!) drive down ratings.
This year, Games 4-7 of the World Series are going to be played after the calendar turns to November. Game 7 would be on Nov. 4. Imagine what the weather is going to be like if this turns into a New York-Philadelphia series. After all the rainouts, they might still be playing on Veterans Day. It wouldn't be great for ratings to have a Freeway Series, but you wonder whether the baseball execs wouldn't be content with the Angels playing the Dodgers -- just for the sake of avoiding the weather headaches.
If nothing else, the bad weather during these postseason games should convince baseball NOT to expand the playoffs any further. Thanksgiving and baseball don't seem to go together, especially not in northern cities.
It's been a slow news day, so I thought it would be a great time to point out some of the ridicule being directed toward the Illinois football program, both locally and nationally.
First off, Ron Zook made sportsline.com's no-so-hot list of coaches on the hot seat. Zook is listed as No. 4, behind Colorado's Dan Hawkins, Virginia's Al Groh and Louisville's Steve Kragthorpe. On the surface, it's hard to believe there are three coaches out there doing a worse job than Zook.
But then you have to consider that Hawkins has a quarterback controversy brewing involving his own kid. Never a good sign. Getting back to Illinois, sportsline.com indicates the 1-4 Illini "might be in danger of missing a bowl game." Ya think? Great analysis right there, guys.
Illinois also debuted in ESPN.com's Bottom 10 this week. The Illini check in at No. 10, but you figure they should be No. 10 with a bullet. Namely, the bullet that all of us Illinois alums want to put in our brains while watching this team. ESPN says of the Illini, "You're no fun anymore." True that, unless your idea of fun is being down three scores at halftime.
The Tribune's Rick Morrissey piled on this week, too. His reaction to the quarterback controversy involving Juice Williams and Eddie McGee: "Who really cares?" Further, Morrissey wrote, "Illini fans either want to dump Zook's lifeless body in a cornfield or find something more worthwhile to do with their Saturdays, such as competitive fingernail clipping."
That's true. It really isn't fun to follow Illinois football. Right now, I'm scheduled to attend the Halloween matchup against Michigan in Champaign. That game might be more scary than any haunted house you'll find. I'm not sure I really want to go. Why bother? It's a waste of time and money.
Zook still hasn't picked a quarterback for this week's game at Indiana. (Is it really that hard?) Given the choice between listening to a Ron Zook press conference or listening to Eiffel 65's "I'm Blue" all day, I think I'd go with Eiffel 65. The lyrics are more comprehensible than Zook's coachspeak and other gibberish.
I might "DA BA DE DA BA DIE!" if the Illini lose to Indiana on Saturday.
For quite some time, the NFL has prospered thanks to the idea that any team can win on any given Sunday. It's hard to argue with the notion that parity has been the rule. Look at last year: The Arizona Cardinals went a mediocre 9-7 in the regular season, but they went to the Super Bowl and damn near won it.
Well, this year looks a little different. Parity? Pfftttt. After five weeks, it's become apparent there is a chasm between the haves and have-nots of the league. There are A LOT of bad teams in the NFL. I was looking at the standings today and I realized the bottom quarter of the league has never been weaker.
You have four teams that are 0-5: St. Louis, Kansas City, Tampa Bay and Tennessee. It's a bit surprising to see the Titans sucking like this because they were 13-3 a season ago, but the fact is they are terrible. In addition to those godawful teams, there are four 1-4 teams that I consider to be just dreadful.
Buffalo is 1-4 and its only victory is over winless Tampa Bay. Cleveland is also in the one-win club and its lone win came against the aforementioned brutal Bills. Oakland, for my money, is the worst-run franchise in the NFL year in and year out. How is it possible that the Raiders have one win? Well, they beat winless Kansas City. Then, there's Detroit, 0-16 a year ago. The Lions have already improved on last season's putrid record by winning a game against the Redskins. Still, they are 1-4 and they suck.
There you have it, the not-so-elite eight of the NFL. How would you like to be a pro football fan living in Missouri right now? St. Louis and Kansas City are a combined 0-10. The Chiefs have lost 28 out of their last 30 games dating back to the 2007 season. That's worse than Detroit, which has lost 21 out of 23. The Lions crappiness just gets more press because they managed to go a whole season without winning a game.
Without a doubt, though, the worst team in the league right now is the Rams (pictured). They've been outscored 146-34 in their five losses so far this season. In other words, their average result of game is a 30-7 loss. Only 34 points in five games. Wow! Through the first five weeks of the season there have been 20 games where the winning team posted 34 points or more in one afternoon. It took the Rams five games to come up with that many points. Pathetic.
It isn't every day you see a hockey team erase a five-goal deficit. Heck, you can go almost a whole century without seeing something like that. Just ask the Blackhawks.
When Brent Seabrook (pictured) scored 26 seconds into overtime Monday night, it gave the Hawks an improbable 6-5 victory over the Calgary Flames and completed the biggest comeback in franchise history. That's no small statement, given that the Hawks have been playing hockey since 1926.
By the 11:43 mark of the first period, the Flames had staked themselves to a seemingly insurmountable 5-0 lead. The Hawks looked like they had forgotten there was a game. Their defensive zone coverage was awful. They were handling the puck like it was a hand grenade, giveaways and sloppy passes galore. And their goaltending was downright putrid. Cristobal Huet gave up three goals in 53 seconds and got pulled. Antti Niemi gave up two quick ones when he came into the game in relief. All told, it took the Flames just 5:29 of clock time to score five goals.
After that, the Hawks suddenly remembered they are one of the best teams in the NHL. Chicago totally dominated the final 45 minutes of this game. John Madden (BOOM!) scored late in the first to make it 5-1. Patrick Kane took over in the second period. He scored the Hawks second goal, set up Dustin Byfuglien on a 2-on-1 for the third goal and assisted Dave Bolland on the Hawks fourth goal. After two periods, the Hawks were down 5-4 but you had the feeling they were going to win this one. Win it they did.
Patrick Sharp redirected Duncan Keith's point shot for his team-high fourth goal of the season at the 4:32 mark of the third period. Game tied. It remained as such until Seabrook finished things off quickly in overtime.
What an exciting game to watch. Of course, Hawks coach Joel Quenneville isn't going to be entirely thrilled with the win. Those first 12 minutes were brutal, just terrible hockey by the Blackhawks. No doubt, there are some harsh words being offered in today's practice/video session. It's totally unacceptable for a team of this caliber to fall behind 5-0 on home ice, and Huet remains on my crap list. He still hasn't convinced me he's the right man to backstop the Hawks to the Stanley Cup.
But, last night's game did show just how dominant the Blackhawks can be, even against a likely playoff team such as the Calgary Flames. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this comeback equals the biggest in NHL history. The 20,074 in attendance saw both the best and the worst the Hawks have to offer. Nobody will forget this game anytime soon.
Following a 1-3 start that included lopsided losses to Missouri, Ohio State and Penn State, Illinois coach Ron Zook needed to find some answers before today's homecoming game against Michigan State.
What did he decide to do? Well, he panicked and benched his best player. Nevermind that senior quarterback Juice Wiliams is a four-year starter and the school's all-time leader in total yardage. Zook needed a spark, dammit, and he decided to go with backup quarterback Eddie McGee (pictured). Predictable results ensued.
McGee completed just two of 11 passes for 31 yards. Naturally, he had no TD passes and one interception that Michigan State returned for a score as the Spartans got out of Champaign with a 24-14 victory.
Illinois scored ZERO points with McGee at the helm in the first half. Michigan State held a 17-0 lead at the break, and when McGee tossed his pick on the first Illini possession of the second half, it was 24-0 in favor of Sparty.
At that point, Zook realized the error of his ways and removed McGee from the game. Williams came on in relief and directed two touchdown drives that will make the score look more respectable in the paper, but not much else was accomplished.
What possessed Zook to think McGee was going to make a difference? Sure, the fans wanted Williams benched. But you know what they say about coaches who listen to fans: They'll be joining them in the stands soon. Good coaches realize that backup quarterbacks are second-string for a reason -- namely they aren't as good as the starter.
Williams hasn't been particularly good this season, but he's clearly a better player than McGee. He clearly gives the Illini their best chance to win. When you observe this Illinois team, you see an awful offensive line. You see a team that commits penalty after penalty. You see a team that drops passes. You see a team that can't stop the opponent's rushing attack. You see a defense that can't tackle and can't get off the field on third down (or fourth down, for that matter). The special teams are lousy, too, especially the punter.
Putting those first three losses at the feet of Williams was a joke. The quarterback play is such a small percentage of the problem in the Illinois football program. Benching Juice was the equivalent of placing a band-aid on a fatal chest wound. It's ridiculous, and Zook basically admitted it was ridiculous by taking McGee out and putting Williams back in during that third quarter.
For next week's game at Indiana, I have a suggestion. Bench Zook and let somebody else coach the team. Why not? We're grasping at straws here anyway.
Dewayne Wise says he never felt truly appreciated by White Sox fans. Truly stunning. After all, who doesn't appreciate .225-hitting journeyman outfielders?
Well, we won't have Dewayne to kick around anymore, as he opted for free agency Friday rather than accepting an outright assignment to Class AAA Charlotte. You may never see Wise in Major League Baseball again, but at least he'll always have "The Catch."
I can't believe Sun-Times columnist Neil Hayes is starting this stupid debate. Kyle "Ortman" for Jay Cutler an even trade? I don't think so, dog.
Yes, I am aware the Broncos are 4-0. A few points about that: 1) The Broncos have wins over the lowly Browns and lowly Raiders. 2) The Broncos beat the Bengals only because "Ortman" woefully underthrew Brandon Marshall, and the tipped pass fortunately landed in another Denver receiver's hands for a miracle touchdown. 3) The Denver defense is ranked No. 1 in the NFL, largely because they've played really bad teams (see point one).
The Broncos aren't 4-0 because of Kyle Orton. He's still a mediocre, caretaker quarterback. You can win with him if you have a great defense, which the Bears proved during Orton's rookie year in 2005. But there's no way in hell you take Kyle Orton over Jay Cutler as your quarterback. No way. Cutler makes throws that Orton can't, and unlike good ol' neck beard, he can actually move in the pocket. That's been key the first few games because the Bears offensive line hasn't provided the greatest pass protection so far this year.
The Bears are 3-1. Is anyone prepared to make the case they'd be 3-1 with "Ortman" under center? Not a chance. They'd probably be 1-3 at this point.
Here are the Broncos next four games: New England, at San Diego, at Baltimore, Pittsburgh. Let's see if "Ortman" can win at least two of those games before we starting calling this an even trade.
I rolled my eyes with disgust this afternoon when I saw that former Blackhawks defenseman Chris Chelios is considering signing on to be a player/coach with the Wolves.
Chelios is 47 years old and he'll turn 48 in January. He is an unrestricted free agent after the Detroit Red Wings declined to offer him a contract after last season. Chelios barely played during Detroit's run to the Stanley Cup Finals. The fact that the Wings had no interest in bringing him back is a pretty clear indication that Cheli is done. He needs to retire.
I hate watching formerly great players hang on years after they can no longer play at a high level. Chelios is a Hall of Famer. He has nothing left to prove on the ice. I think it would be cartoonish for him to be out there clowning around with an AHL team.
If he wants to help coach the Wolves, good for him. But if Chelios continues playing, I fear he'd be making a fool out of himself.
It's been a long day. I had some dental work done, and my teeth hurt like hell. Thus, I don't have anything witty or interesting to say about the world of sports. On the bright side, it looks like the company will survive for a little while longer.
Of course, the court could still strike us down with great vengeance tomorrow, but I doubt that will happen. We're still alive. Born to be alive, even.
This video is an example of what happens when you combine way too much crank with disco music.
UPDATE: It hit me this morning: Patrick Hernandez looks an awful lot like Bulls center Joakim Noah.
The White Sox picked up the contract options on pitchers Freddy Garcia and Matt Thornton Tuesday afternoon.
Garcia figures to be the No. 5 starter next season. The option is for $1 million, with a possible $2 million in incentives. Thornton's option is for $2.25 million.
Both of these moves are no-brainers. Both contracts are very reasonable. Thornton, in particular, is a bargain given that he is the Sox best relief pitcher. And Garcia is reasonably priced as a back-of-the-rotation starter.
Now that the easy moves are out of the way, what will the Sox do about Jermaine Dye's $12 million option? Almost certainly, they'll decline it. The question is whether they'll consider bringing Dye back at a reduced rate.
Keep this in mind as your watching today's Game 163 between the Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins: If the Tigers blow this, it is a choke of historic proportions.
The Tigers had a three-game lead with four games to play. Never before in the history of baseball has a team blown such a lead. The Tigers took over first place on May 10. They've been in first place for 149 consecutive days. Never before has a team taken over first place the second week of May, held first place all the way until the end and blown it on the last day of the season. The Tigers had a seven-game lead with 26 games to play.
This would, indeed, be a laughable choke if Minnesota wins today. Collar getting a little tight, Jimmy Leyland?
UPDATE: To quote former Beacon News sports editor and local legend Bill Kindt, "Ehhh....the Tigers blew it. Just put Twins win and let's get the **** outta here!"
Not only did the Tigers blow the division, they blew this one-game playoff multiple times over. They let a 3-0 lead slip away. They had a 5-4 lead in the 10th. Ehh....they blew it. Twins win 6-5 in 12 innings.
The three September starts for Jake Peavy probably could not have gone any better. He'll finish the season 3-0 with a 1.35 ERA in a White Sox uniform. The Detroit Tigers are probably sick of looking at him. Peavy threw seven shutout innings against Murder City last weekend at U.S. Cellular Field, and he backed that up with eight innings of two-hit ball tonight in an 8-0 Sox winner at Comerica Park.
The only negative in all this: The fact that the Sox are helping Minnesota out. As of this writing, the Twins lead Kansas City 10-2 in the sixth. If that holds, Minnesota moves within a game of the Tigers with two games to play in the AL Central race.
But the good news for the Sox is they'll go into the offseason with the 2010 rotation looking great. As we've stated before, Peavy is an ace in any league, in any ballpark, when he's healthy. Pay no attention to that crap about him not being able to pitch in the American League. With Peavy, Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd and John Danks, the Sox are set with their top four. Freddy Garcia has six quality starts in eight late-season outings, and youngster Dan Hudson has shown promise as well.
Sox GM Kenny Williams has some work to do this offseason. The bullpen has stunk the second half of the season. The offense ranks in the bottom half of the league. But you can find hitters and relief pitchers easier than you can find quality starting pitchers. The Sox have at least four of them already on their roster. That's not a bad place to be looking ahead to 2010.
UPDATE: Minnesota beats Kansas City 10-7 Friday night. Detroit leads the AL Central by one game with two to play.
So, Chicago didn't get the 2016 Olympics. I have to admit I don't care at all. I wasn't one of the people "backing the bid." I was indifferent at best. While the Chicago bid had several high-profile people behind it, I think it enjoyed only lukewarm public support.
From my perspective, I didn't feel like the Olympics would be worth the hassle. I don't want to spend an entire summer being subjected to bomb-sniffing dogs every time I go into the city. I don't want the White Sox to have to go on a three-week road trip in 2016. I already know Chicago is a world-class city, and the IOC's vote does not change that. As one caller eloquently stated on the "Boers and Bernstein Show" this afternoon, you could live two lifetimes in Chicago and still not experience all the city has to offer. Chicago doesn't need the Olympics to raise its profile.
My buddy Jim Owczarski stayed up to watch the presentations, and he said Chicago's delegation did a terrible job.
In any case, with Rio getting the bid, this is a terrific time to put some Duran Duran on this blog. "Her name is Rio and she dances on the sand, just like that river twisting through a dusty land!"
When John-Henry Williams decided to freeze his old man's head upon Ted Williams' death in 2002, you knew that story wasn't going to end well. It was a stupid idea, and the bizarre tale just keeps getting worse.
A new book by a former employee of Alcor, the company that froze Williams' remains, alleges that the Hall of Famer's severed head was mistreated by the company.
Apparently, an Alcor official swung a monkey wrench at Williams' frozen head to try to remove a tuna can that had stuck to it. The first swing struck the head dead-on, and the second swing finally knocked the tuna can loose.
The book also alleges that technicians with no medical certification used crude equipment to decapitate Williams and took gruesome photographs of the process.
Here's my question: What the hell is Ted Williams' head doing stuck to a can of tuna? How did that happen? A can of tuna?
As the Blackhawks prepare to open their season Friday in Helsinki, Finland, against the Florida Panthers, I have very few concerns about the team.
You always worry about injuries to key players, but that's just part of the game. Every team will have injuries, and the Blackhawks should have the depth to overcome that as the year moves along. I'm worried about the goaltender -- I've never had much faith in Cristobal Huet. Can he win in the playoffs? We won't be able to answer that question until spring. Even if Huet has a great regular season, there will still be doubts.
Aside from that, the team looks loaded. Sports Illustrated is picking the Hawks to win it all. Almost every article you read makes some reference to the Stanley Cup. Hopefully, the players don't allow any of that crap to go to their heads. Ignore the press clippings. It's imperative that the Hawks focus on the task at hand, which is the regular season. Get to the playoffs first. There's no point in thinking about the Cup until you actually reach the finals. That's a long way off.
As for the fans, it's my hope that people enjoy the journey this season. Expectations are so high. There are probably some folks out there who half expect the Hawks to go undefeated this year. And those will be the people booing the first time these guys lose a home game. It will happen. Here's to hoping the fans don't panic the first time the team drops two in a row. We saw a lot of that from Cubs fans this year, and I hope that same disease doesn't infect the Hawks fan base. It's a long year, and it's important to keep your eye on the big picture.
The Hawks have a good team -- and they have a chance to be a great team. It's going to be an exciting year.