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Mike Kincaide

Mike Kincaide

Tuesday, 15 May 2012 03:02

Is May too soon for Bears talk? Nope!

With both the Bulls and the Hawks both sitting out the next few months, and the Cubs and Sox both twirling in mid-card hell, its time to start giving our attention to the rightful champions of the city, The Bears. Is May too early to be excited about football? Nah...

So here's the good: You should be excited about the offensive depth this team has. Jay Cutler has had time to heal, get his mind and personal life in order, and has a weapon and a quarterback's coach he's familiar with. Plus there's an actual veteran NFL quarterback right Cutler on the depth chart (Jason Campbell), with a veteran and a rookie not so far in the background. Running back-wise the Bears added Michael Bush, who is a huge upgrade from the disaster that was....well, let's not speak his name. Let's just put that whole Denver/Tebow fiasco behind us, shall we? Bush is a 6'2 bruising 1st string runningback. Khalil Bell also showed promise last season and comes back at 3rd string, which gives the Bears some good depth.

Oh right, anyone seen Matt Forte? I think he still wants a new contract, asap.

The really good news comes at the wide reciever position. First off, let's forget about Johnny Knox. I love Johnny, he's a staple on my fantasy teams, however he's gonna need a lot of time to recover from that injury. If he comes back, tremendous, but for now let's move with what we got. The Bears have hit the media blitz hard in the different ways they can use Devin Hester on offense. I think we've heard this for the past four years and you know what, great. He's fast...he's really fast, but is he a number one reciever? No. But he is a weapon. Having the solid Earl Bennett to put along side gamebreaker Brandon Marshall is a huge bonus. Marshall and Cutler should vibe well together, much like Cutler and Bennett do. Their success in Denver wasn't a fluke, plus Marshall is a huge target with cougar speed. Marshall played well on bad teams with bad quarterbacks, so imagine how he could do with someone he's already hyad success with.Throw in reliable "Waddle-like" Dane Sanzenbacher and surprising rookie Alshon Jeffrey and things look promising. The Bears also signed veteran reciever Devin Thomas who has always shown potential. There's a new offensive coordinator in Mike Tice, who's schemes and plans are more conservative than the fly or die method of the former Mike Martz. This means less time on the ground for Cutler!!

Tyler Clutts is a block-first runningback, while tight end Kellen Davis seems to get better each year - hopefully this is a breakout year for him. It doesnt't hurt he's huge (6'7 300lbs), which plays along well with the also 6'7 Matt Spaeth. Big, blocking ends to add more protection and become big weapons in the red zone...another plus.

Need another big plus? Well how about on defense, where 1st round pick Shea McClellin seems to be the real deal. McClellin will be opposite Julius Peppers, moving Israel Idonije to the inside where he can be more effective. McClellin having any kind of impact creates problems for opposing offenses, as Idonije is big enough to cause a double-team, while Peppers automatically causes mis-matches. Corey Wootten will also be fighting for a spot, and if he shows any of the potential he did early on last seaons, then McClellin's assertion to starter won't come easy. Henry Melton and Stephen Paea both should tremendous upsides last season, and both have potential to make big strides inside next to Idonije. Plus McClellin can also play at linebacker, and a solid 3rd next to Urlacher and Briggs is a necessity. The Bears would love it if Nick Roach finally asserted himself and became that stud 3rd backer, however it's yet to happen. Bringing in Dom DiCicco and Geno Hayes only adds depth, yet McClellin is an actual threat to the position.

The Bears also upgraded on special teams. Despite losing Corey Graham, the Bears picked up solid former pro-bowler Eric Weems, and the consistant specialist Blake Costanzo. Plus in the 3rd round the Bears drafted Brandon Hardin, who was a gunner in college (first one down on punts and kick-offs making tackles). Hardin also fills a need at safety, which is still looking for a standout player betweent Major Wright, Craig Steltz, and Chris Conte. The Bears safety position is as frightening as the 1st row of a Joss Whedon signing, could the 6'3 Hardin be the answer? It didnt hurt that the Bears signed corner Kelvyn Hayden. Hayden, a solid veteran who spent many years in Indy, is not the dwarf 5'8 starting corner Tim Jennings is. Infact, all the cornerbacks the Bears brought in this year are all 5'10 and taller.

And here comes the bad, are you ready for this...did I ask you where Matt Forte was? Oh yeah...contract issues.

So there's that whole Forte issue. Plus realize the Bears have a brand new offensive coordinator (again), a new starting wide reciever (again), and there biggest name players (Urlacher, Cutler, Forte) are all returning from season-ending injuries. And let's just put it out there, the best chance the Bears have for a formidable offensive line features the names Spencer, Garza, Carimi, Williams, and Louis. That's a good, solid line...it becomes a grerat line if Ja'Marcus Webb gets his sh*t together.

Webb led the league in "oh crap the guy I was just guarding has just thrown my quarterback into the stands" moments, along with more false start calls than a high school boy at his prom after-party. Webb has the athletic ability and size to dominate at his position. However, he's led to the downfall of many offensive drives, and led to Cutler spending more time on the ground than Roger Baird (yup an inside Cubs reference, eat it up, folks!) It's almost safe to say that it all falls on Webb how well the offense does, as the Bears have to start him, talent-wise and potential-wise you just can't leave him on the side. But he's a drive killer. This is your time, Webb. Step up.

My main issue with the Bears comes with the new addition of quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates. Did you know Bates was once a top candidate for the offensive coordinator position? He decided to go to Seattle, which to put it nicely "didn't work out". Bates spent the last year out of football (wtf is up with the Bears hiring guys just sitting at home...Mike Martz anyone?) after being fired by Pete Carroll as his offensive coordinator. It's funny, because Carroll also had Bates as his OC at USC the year before. Bates is being brought in for the success he had with Cutler and Marshall when they were in Denver together. Ironically enough before that success gets mentions its the disagreements and shouting matches between the three that gets talked about. Plus when a nice guy like Pete Carroll doesn't like you, doesnt speak well of your character. The Seattle offense sucked under Bates, as players noticed he had the potential for short passes and mis-handling the running game. Plus Carroll never thought of Bates as long-term potential, and in this Lovie era, stability somewhere on offense would be great. Bates, who has the tendency to rub people the wrong way, was reportedly let go because he didnt see eye to eye with Carroll or the offensive line coach, plus I'm sure having an offense ranked 31st in the league and not producing a 100 yard game by a running back all season long didnt help his cause, either.

Oh well, you take the good with the bad sometimes... 

 

Tuesday, 24 April 2012 18:25

Bulls looking to to run past Philly.

There's nothing like the NBA play-offs. it seperates the boys from men, rats from mice, cats from kittens....I could go on, but I won't. The Chicago Bulls are entering the 2012 play-offs with a 50-16 record, having home-court throughout the East. They have been arguably the best team in basketball for the past two years, and this year is no different. The Bulls find themselves in a great position, with their team fairly healthy (except for Luo Deng's wrist), and their best player getting back into stride after resting a nagging injury. The numerous injuries has caused many of their bench to step up, and step up they have. Because of the injury to Derrick Rose and shooting guard Rip Hamilton, the Bulls have also gotten more scoring out of their post players, which includes big games from Carlos Boozer. Boozer has steeped it up alot, even if the numbers don't show it sometimes. His impact and energy on the court makes a huge difference to his teammates. The same can be said for Taj Gibson, who plays a very similar game to Boozer, yet is more explosive and possesses more energy. He also plays a more defensive game than Boozer, but it matches up well for both. The trio of Ronnie Brewer, Jimmy Butler, and Kyle Korver has also produced when called upon, and with Deng still a bit banged-up you can expect the same. The real surprise has come with the way both CJ Watson and John Lucas III have stepped up big time when called upon.  Both have played with confidence and delivered in in DRose's abscence.

But now its time for the talking to stop, and unfortunately Philadelphia is the team doing all the talking.

The Bulls will face Doug Collins' Philadelphia 76er's. For some reason Philly gives the Bulls fits, and it has more to do with just inuries. Elton Brand when motivated and healthy is a dominant low post scoring machine. He's a beast down low, which makes the attacking tweeners that the 76'ers feature very dangerous. Thaddeus Young, while 6'9, isnt a big down low. He's a small forward...a 6'9 small forward. He'll dunk on you and grab a rebound or 3 because he's 6'9, however he's not going to be throwing anyone out of the paint anytime soon. Everyone of their guards is looking to score, which is why no one is scoring over 15ppg, and they turn the ball over like a mofo. The 76er's move the ball well, and have tremendous guard depth. but thats it. Size wise, only center Spencer Hawes and Brand provide any length in the post, which means rebounds coming the 76'ers way comes out of luck. The Bulls are long and big, and should be able to dominate the 76'ers inside.

But its the guards that make this tricky. With DRose not playing up to his usual self, that could be trouble, as Iguogana and Williams both can light it up. Plus Evan Turner has played DRose well since their high school days. it doesn't fair well that Philly doesn't seem to respect the Bulls, so if they get hot they could get very cocky. They love to run and will shoot without warning, but outside of coach Collins, really have no heart. The Bulls should be able to push them around with or without Rose at 100%.

There's a good chance Phil Brooks is going to ride the Blue Line train to the All-State arena, beat up Cubs hat on head, headphones on, and giant gold and diamond WWE title belt right beside him. This isn't what is normally done. Super Bowl champs don't wear their rings and get on the Roosevelt bus to go to games. Derrick Rose isn't hoping on the Ashland 9 to get to the madhouse with his shoes in a backback. Even legendary wrestler Ric Flair took a limo everywhere he went, wether he was champion or not. Then again if you haven't heard Phil Brooks is not your normal wrestler/entertainer.

Brooks, or CM Punk returns home to defend his WWE title this Sunday at the All-State Arena on the WWE's Extreme Rules PPV. Punk will be defending against rockstar and entertainment god Chris Jericho in a rematch of their match from Wrestlemania, only this time things have been amped up a bit, with a heavy storyline and an amped up "No Disqualification" stipulation. For those who don't follow wrestling, you may know Jericho as a best selling author, or from "Dancing with the Stars", or maybe from his work in the music world with the band "Fozzy". He's also been a gameshow host and seems to have some sarcastic wit to share on any if not all of those VH1 top 100 thingy's. Those in the know of the wrestling world know him to be a tremendous wrestler, a high-flier, and someone who can wrestle at about any pace, any style, and tell a story like no other. Jericho is simply one of the best wrestlers in the world, who just so happens to be wrestling the man who is currently known as "the best in the world". He even has the shirt to prove it!!!

Currently Punk is carrying the ball for professional wrestling  as a whole, as he's not only the champion, but the choice of most fans across the globe. He was the "king of the indies", before making it to the WWE, and despite being buried and cartooned(hey Phil, can you be in John Cena's Wrestlemania entrance, dressed as John Dillenger?), and de-pushed so many times (he lost his first world title not in an actual match but from a kick to the head in a backstage promo, never actually 'losing" the title), he fought and climbed his way not only to the top of the wrestling food chain, but became it's hottest star. And what won the fans respect is he did it on his terms. Then again, when you're loud and proud about living the Straight Edge lifestyle in a world that's synonumous with heavy drinking, painkillers, and numerous other devices, you really are doing it on your own terms.

The Extreme Rules PPV also features a huge match-up between John Cena and returning phenom Brock Lesner. Lesner is no longer in UFC and has returned to the sport which made him famous, taking on the star that took his place when he decided to leave for greener (or not so greener depending on who you talk to) pastures. There is no bigger wrestler in the world than John Cena. There isn't a bigger name in wrestling or MMA than Brock Lenser. It's a main event match anywhere in the world - unless CM Punk is wrestling in Chicago.

There is no better crowd in wrestling than at the one at All-State, and if the crowd is as hot as it was when Punk last headlined a PPV here (last year's Money in the Bank) then Jerich will be at a huge huge disadvantage. Then again, chicago has been very good to Y2J, and Chicago fans appreciate a great wrestling match.

Punk is scheduled to sing the 7th inning stretch at Wrigley Field on May 8th, but will he do it with WWE title in hand will be determined this sunday!

Sunday, 18 March 2012 19:58

Lucas saves the day

It's not hard to figure out why the Bulls are the best team in the NBA. They lead the league in rebounds, assists to turnover numbers, and defense. Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau has each player on his roster gowing for broke everytime they hit the court, and expects nothing less than 110% from each player when their name is called during a game or in practice. Injuries have made position battles more competitive than games against opponents it seems. Why was there no trade made at the deadline even though CJ Watson, Derrick Rose, Luo Deng, and Rip Hamilton have all missed games with various injuries? Because guys like Jimmy Butler, Kyle Korver, and and the signed & released twice Mike James have stepedp up when they are needed. Guys like John Lucas III....     

Born in DC to former NBA player and coach John Lucas,  Lucas III has played all over the world in his seven years in pro basketball. His time with the Bulls has been a strange trip at times, as he spent the 2010 preseason with the club, Only to get waived right before the start of the season. The Bulls re-signed Lucas a month later, but unfortunately his debut turned into a misery, as he missed two big free throws in the final seconds in Denver. The free throws would have put the game out of reach, instead he missed and former Nuggett Carmelo anthony game down court and hit a game winning shot at the buzzer. Ouch. Lucas was again cut January, but re-signed with the Bulls in March. He started his 1st game ever in january 2012 with a win over Washington, setting a career-high 25 points, and in minutes (45), assists (8), and rebounds (8) .

Yet none of this seemed to matter until the Bulls played the Miami heat without their star point guard.

Lucas was the star of  game, scoring 22 points which included a 4th quarter duel with former teammate LeBron James. He carried the team on his back as starting point guard Watson (slowed by injuries) sat much of the 4th quarter. While Deng and Boozer lacked offense during the game, their energy and leadership helped push the non-starters, labeled "The Bench Mob", into contributing tremendously, one player to the next. It didnt hurt that the crowd was super-hot in Chicago, and was ready to go from the tip. Lucas, who hasnt gotten a bunch of playing time this year because of Watson being the back-up, seemed to feed off the crowd 's energy and hit big shot after big shot in the 2nd and 4th quarter. The Heat had no answer for Lucas, which is ironic since they had Lucas on the Heat roster in 2009.

After the game I asked Lucas despite the night's big performance, what he thought he could have done better: "That last turnover," he said. "just being too loose with the ball, but I told myself I was gonna make up for it!"

Lucas spent the 2009 preseason with the Heat, playing in four games, and averaged 7.0 points, 2.3 assists and 1.3 rebounds in 12.5 minutes per game. Then on October 23, 2009, he got the word: he had been waived right before the team bus was leaving the hotel to go to that night's game.. 

“I had a great training camp for them,” Lucas said. “Spo (Heat coach Erik Spoelstra) and them came to me and said they needed a little more of a veteran, so they brought Carlos Arroyo in. I just took it on the chin. It’s a business. It’s part of the game.” 

Playing all over the word and getting sparatic playing time would kill some guys' spirt, but not Lucas.

“I love the game of basketball. I love it with all my heart,” he said. “I would never stop. This is the highest level, so I’m always going to shoot for the highest level.” 

With Watson and Deng banged up, and Hamilton being MIA mosted of the season, another big scorer is a necessaity, and if Lucas can becom e that spark off the bench that this team needs the Bulls can go a long way.

‘‘Everybody’s here for a reason. Like Thibs said, ‘It’s not an accident you’re on this team. You’re a professional.’ And if you want to play professionally, you’ve got to step up!"

 

 

 

Could the bears end up with Peyton Manning? Is Randy Moss the big receiver the bears have been looking for? What about Tebow, and how does he fit into all of this? Oh NFL free agency, help bring our team back to the promised land!!

The Chicago Bears are looking for position upgrades that would help them tremendously get back to being truly competitive in NFC. They need depth, but they also have their eyes set on two of the big names on the free agent list list, DE Mario Williams and WR Vincent Jackson. They have over 22 million to spend, so where should it go?

Well, Williams is a monster at the end spot, and the only reason he's a free agent is because Houston didn't want to spend 22 million just to franchise him. Well he did miss 11 games with a torn pectoral, but not resigning him is a huge mistake. Williams is a game changer, the top prize of the 2012 market, and can play end or linebacker.  Paired up with Julius Peppers on the other end, this gives the Bears a huge advantage on the line.

Jackson has been wanting to get out of San Diego for a while now....so much that he didnt play the first half of the season in 2011. At 6'5, he's one of the biggest receivers in football, and has the speed of a track star. ask your fantasy football buddies just how good Jackson was last year, even after only playing a partial season. The addition of Jacko makes the Bears average receiving corp a very dangerous one. The Bears made a major upgrade at the position by trading for Brandon marshall, who was Jay Cutler's favorite target in Denver. Marshall has reacjed the 1,000 mark in receiving yards for 5 consecutive seasons, and Cutler's best seasons come with Marshall as his top target. Another perk: Marshall is 2 years younger than Jackson.

So what else do the Bears need? Well here we go:

Back up quarterback - The Caleb Hanie is officially over, and there will be an honest attempt at bringing in a veteran quarterback who can complete multiple passes to receivers on his team. Sorry, there will be no tebowing here. Rex Grossman is available, as is Kyle Orton, Chad Henne, Brady Quinn, and Vince Young. The Bears should show some attention to Jason campbell, the former raiders starter. He  was 4-2 before losing his job via injury, and while sitting at home recovering oakland signed Carson Palmer. Ouch.

Offensive lineman - Carl Nicks is the odd man out in New Orleans, as the Saints can't pay Drew Brees and lineman Jahri Evans and still have money for Nicks...which is unfortunate because he is one of the league's best.

Linebacker - The tandem of Briggs and Urlacher have been missing that something extra ever since Hunter Hillenmeyer retired. Finding a steady, consistant 3rd outside linebacker would be a huge boost. Jeremy mincey, much like Williams, can play end and linebacker is a great way to go, as is Dan Connor. Mike Peterson, and Bobby carpenter are amongst the best of the best on the market.

Defensive backs/Safety - Ugh...ugly. The Bears can do all true bears fans justice and bring Tom Zibikowski home. Also on the market are Sean Considine, Jon McGraw, and LaRon Landry. Re-signing Craig Steltz couldn't hurt. Either way, there's no way the Bears can't upgrade with the number of names out there at this position. At DB Cortland Finnegan and Domonique Foxworth are two of the biggest names on the market and could really improve play at the nickle. They are shutdown corners, with Finnegan being the best, that could change the secondary.

The ball's in your court, Bears....the names are there, so let's make it happen!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012 05:46

Welcome to spring training, Theo Epstein!

And let the Epstein Era officially begin!

            Spring training has officially kicked off for the 2012 edition of the Chicago Cubs, and you can’t help but have a feeling of optimism, considering what last year’s season turned into, meaning there’s only one way to go: UP. Giant holes left in the St. Louis and Milwaukee line-ups by the departures of Albert Pujols (gone to the Angels), and Prince Fielder (gone to the Tigers), the world of the NL Central division seems a bit brighter doesn’t it? (it doesn’t hurt that 2011 NL MVP Ryan Braun could miss the first 50 games, either). So realistically the Central is up for grabs (well not for you, Houston…sorry to get your hopes up), and in the Era of Epstein why shouldn’t the Cubs believe this could be a big year???

 

Well here’s why…the Cubs lost their rbi leader (Aramis Ramirez gone to Milwaukee), their best reliever (Sean marshall gone to Cincinatti), their best pitching prospect (Andrew Cashner gone to San Diego), and their homerun leader (Carlos Pena gone to Tampa Bay) yet somehow they are suppose to be better. Ok. Here’s how spring training looks:

 

The infield – The Cubs let Pena go back to Tampa Bay and have decided to give Bryan LaHair the job at 1st base for now. LaHair came up at the end of last season, played in 20 games and batted .288, thus fans started asking why he didn’t get more at-bats in a season that was all but lost. Well this year there’s no one standing in his way, albeit a step behind in the minors is the organization’s top prospect, Anthony Rizzo. Rizzo was high on Epstein’s list in Boston, and in turn grabbed him from San Diego as soon as he got to town. Rizzo isn’t ready yet…that is unless he tears up spring training. But for now it’s LaHair’s job. If the Cubs are looking for a safety in numbers, fan favorite and former Cub Derrek Lee is still on the market and could probably be brought in for cheap. Lee was a leader in the clubhouse and easily one of the more popular Cubs in recent years, but that’s just an option.

 

            Who is Adrian Cardenas you ask? Well, picked up from the A’s this off-season, Cardenas hit over .300 in Triple A and played all infield positions, besides catcher and 1st. He is expected to challenge Darwin Barney, who had a good year starting at 2nd most of the season. Edgar Gonzalez could also get a look at 2nd base as well. Ian Stewart was picked up from Colorado over the off-season to play 3rd. Stewart needs to rebound from a sub-par 2011, but the Cubs have faith he will do just that playing everyday in Wrigley Field. Blake DeWitt and Jeff baker are also expected to compete for back-up roles, while be on the look-out for prospects Josh Vitters and Junior Lake. Geovany Soto returns to camp in tremendous shape, hoping to rebound form an ugly 2011. Soto will have a new back-up this year as Wellington Castillo and Jason Jaramillo battle it out in camp. NL hits leader Starlin Castro is looked upon to be the future of the Cubs, and will return at shortstop. A kid with unlimited potential, the true question will be is he ready to carry the ballclub with MVP-type numbers???

 

The outfield – Theres more questions here than answers, so let’s do this: Alfonso Soriano is still a Cub and will be playing left field. Despite the drop in batting average he still played in over 130 games and hit 26 homeruns and drove in 88 rbi’s. Marlon Byrd looks like a completely different person. He’s in tremendous shape and will be in centerfield. The Cubs also brought back fan favorite and hustle king Reed Johnson. Playing rightfield will be the newly acquired David Dejesus. DeJesus had an ok year in 2011, but could put up big numbers playing in a much smaller ballpark and a new league (last season DeJesus played for the A’s). The Cubs also signed Dave Sappelt, which means there’s a numbers game in play. Fan favorite Tony Campana will have to fight and claw his way on the team again this year, but if the scrappy speedster wants to play in the big leagues he’s gonna have to show he belongs. The influx of outfielders also means that unless he tears up spring training like his counter-part Rizzo, then Cubs minor league phenom Brett Jackson will have to wait his turn in the minors. The Cubs were very good at mix and matching outfielders, but from who and where they get their production from is a big concern. For me, I’m hoping prospect Matt Szczur surpises a lot of people this spring.

 

Relief pitching – Carlos Marmol needs a great spring, because there’s little doubt that new manager Dale Sveum and his staff will have little patience in pulling the trigger on finding a new closer. With the way James Russell and Jeff Samardzija pitched last season in relief, they are starved for a bigger role. Plus the return of one-time closer and team leader Kerry Wood is a huge plus, on the field and off. I am a big believer in the young arms of Casey Coleman and Chris Carpenter, plus bringing in Chris Volstad adds depth to the staff. Add Trevor Miller and Rodrigo Lopez to the mix as veteran stopgates…the weak and short-armed pitching staff the Cubs once had in 2011 looks a lot better. Look for sleepers Scott Maine, John Gaub, Casey Weathers, and Trey McNutt this spring as well. In any event, the success of this season and this staff falls on Marmol. If he has a great year, this team could win a lot more close ballgames and might just be in the hunt til the end.

 

            Most importantly here is the Cubs have finally got some left-handed bats (DeJesus, LaHair, Cardenas, Stewart, Rizzo,etc..) in the line-up.

 

Starting pitching – Randy Wells needs to get more consistant. The same for Ryan Dempster. Both had shakey seasons in 2011, but have shown that they can be great pitchers at times. Dempster is the workhorse, but Wells either gives you 8 innings or 3 really ugly ones. Paul Maholm and Travis Wood are new additions to the rotation and add left-handed pitching to the mix. Both are young and have a tremendous upside. The Cubs are looking to Matt Garza to be the ace of the staff this season, and he has the potential to do just that. Garza gets flustered easily, but when he’s on his game he is one of the most dominant pitchers in the league. Waiting in the wings to get a starting job is Samardzija, Coleman, and Lopez, along with Volstad and Carpenter. Depth is the key word here, and was the same when Epstein was in Boston.

 

And the rest – New manager Dale Sveum comes in with the intent to make sure this team competes hard everyday. A no-nonsense guy, he’s determined to make sure the Cubs are much better defensively, which would do wonders for the pitching staff. New pitching coach Chris Bosio has already said that hitters will get knocked down if they look too comfortable at the plate, as the days of the lovable losers are over. Let’s hope so. The depth in pitching and the addition of a few left-handers really helps this team, plus an improvement in defense will keep them in contention. But it all comes down to runs. Who will have a break-out season for this team? And will the Jackson/Rizzo era start sooner rather than later on the northside? For Cubs fans’ sake lets hope it happens later.

This article really should consist of two sentences: The main thing I learned from the Cubs Convention is that Ernie Banks owes me $11. That is all.

Actually I learned a little more than that, but that's probably the most important one, but we'll get to that story later. The 27th annual Cubs Convention may have lacked the star-power of years past but you'd have never noticed with all the excitment Theo and his team brought to the Hilton. So for those who may have sat this one out I'll give you a recap of what a convention veteran like myself learned as the new regime made their first convention appearance.

1. I now know how to pronounce new Cubs manager Dave Sveum's name. (It's like swim...only not).

2. Kerry Wood is going to be buried in a Cubs uniform. (He's never leaving....ever. So if you're stealing his internet connection you can look forward to a few more years of free usage).

3.The Cubs are trying to set a world record for player in the organization with mullets. Seriously, not everyone needs to look like Sawyer from LOST.

4. Brad Zibung of The Heckler: taller in person. Julie DiCaro of the Red Eye: cuter in person. Barry Rosner: cooler in person. Paul Sullivan: shorter in person. Kenny McReynolds: creepier in person.

5. Shawon Dunston has a son in the Cubs organization that could be in the bigs sooner rather than later. Get your Shawn -o-meter's ready.

6. The food at the media social was much better in year's past.

7. Alfonzo Soriano is still a Cub. Carlos pena is not here, yet LaHarr and Rizzo are. Guess we know who's on first.

8. David DeJesus will make all those that miss Todd Walker and Mark DeRosa feel all warm and fuzzy again.

9. There's a new band for the Cubs Saturday Night dance party. Yeah, I'll miss Gypsee Lee too! (fyi she was a dancer at past dance parties)

10. If you don't have a baseball signed by Brett Jackson or Anthony Rizzo you just aren't cool. That Dave Otto autograph will get you no  cool points in the lobby.

11. Concerts? What concerts? There's only one concert planned for the summer (oh yeah, and then there's Brad Paisley, and that whole Springsteen thing...)

12. You are insane if you are already in line at 4am waiting for a 11am autograph session for James Russell. Seriously people....seriously.

13. The Cubs trolley has video games on it! It also plays the same songs you hear Mike and Joe play at Cubby Bear. is that exciting?

14. The 2011 highlight video is amazingly missing one thing: higlights of the 2011 season. Ouch. There's a couple in there...but don't blink or you'll miss them.

15. Mike Hill, the Cubs former event operations chief is not around. Mike passed away a few eeeks before, but the notoriously all-business/jokester who would spend much of Saturday being the only guy besides the players wearing dark sunglasses was sorely missed. Many of the staff wore pins in his honor.

16. Rollie Fingers still owns a weird moustache. Why is Rollie Fingers here...good f'n question!!!

17. Ran into Dutchie Caray...literally ran into. Yes she's ok...Seconds later ran into Tom Ricketts. Yes, my job is still ok.

18.The silent auction offerred autographed items from many 7th inning stretch singers. After further review (and witnessing several items not bidded on) i have determined that we need an upgrade on 7th inning stretch singers.

19. The brunch/lunch for the players/staff in the mornings...sucks. Come one, eggs, bacon...something!!! Man cannot live off cinnamon rolls and Sierra Mist all day.

20.Ernie Banks owes me $11. Now let me explain, Mr. Cub isn like other players, he knows everyone. He knows everyone because he talks to EVERYONE! His 1 hour session turned into a 2 hour yap fest with every fan that walked by. Now thats fine....did you not say more personal attention? Did you not tell my wife more personal attention! (Jerry Maguire). Now i'm making sure the session goes smoothly, no biggie, talk that talk, Mr. Cub. I made the mistake of saying that I would get Ernie "whatever he needs". His eyes light up! "Really", he says...pulls me close and asks for a glass of Merlot. Ok fine, no biggie. I was thinking more of the free Sierra Mist but hey, he's Ernie Banks! So I send one of my guys to find a glass from one of the hotel bars, and even give him money to get it...not thinking this half of cup of grape juice would cost $11 dollars.

What else did I learn? Well Marlon Byrd looks in the best shape I've ever seen him in, we have an abundance of young pitchers, Brian LaHarr has weird hair, and Len Kasper just may be the nicest guy around.

So after another crazed weekend amongst Cubs fans my level of optimism is pretty high.  How they'll do next season is anyone's guess, but at least we'll have a goal to shoot for: actual baseball highlights on the 2012 higlight video.

Thursday, 05 January 2012 01:41

Where do the Bears go from here?

Remember that awful WB Tv show Unhappily Ever After? Of course you don't, it was awful, it was worse than awful, and even more it knew it was bad, kept getting worse, and never seemed to end. It just fell off network television. You only had reason to watch because well you were A. male and Nikki Cox was at her all-time hottest moment in life, or you were B. male and liked the comic stylings of Bobcat Goldthwait and a puppet bunny. You probably also lived in your parents basement and collected X-men comic books. I only bring up this pathetic display of a show because for the past 10 years that's how Bears fans have been living, unhappily ever after, thanks to general manager Jerry Angelo...or should I say former general manager. Yes people, someone has finally cancelled this show!

It went on entirely too long if you ask me. A barrage of bad choices and horrible drafting, added with bad roster management and what you got yourself is a recipe for disaster. Actually what you have is the San Diego Chargers, a mediocre team going nowhere with high expectations of themselves that only they believe...and generally fall flat on their faces without ever changing their god-awful team management. Yet year in and year out we put our faith behind Angelo, head coach Lovie Smith, and money man Ted Philips, and almost every season they brought us weeks upon weeks of confusion. Outside of a Super Bowl victory there was no way Angelo was surviving another season as GM. Remember his confidence in the offensive line this summer, and not wanting to get another experienced lineman? That worked out well, didnt it? Remember him drafting another broken offensive lineman from college with more injury problems? Did you not get the memo on Chris Williams? Did you really think this offensive line, the same offensive line that watched Jay Culter get tossed all around the field the previous season resulting in leading the NFL in an embarassing stats of giving up the most sacks, would be better be better somehow and would remain healthy all year long? As for picking up a back-up veteran quarterback...totally overrated. Sure everyone loved Caleb Hanie after that play-off game against Green Bay, but we didnt love him after a very awkward pre-seaon. You couldn't find one veteran quarterback? We'd have taken McNabb, Kerry Collins, maybe even Fav...maybe not. But hell, Bubby Brister is available. Check the Score 670 am, they seem to have a ton of ex Bears there, a few qb's to spare.

The end also came for offensive coordinator Mike Martz, which is two years too late. Martz' system works...well it did for the Rams in the early 2000's. Unfortunately we are a decade late with nothing close to the same level of recievers. Sure I love Johnny Knox (not as a fantasy football coach I don't) but if he's your fastest reciever (sorry Devin Hester is not a reciever) then you've got issues, because he got benched for Roy Williams. Let that tell you something about putting together a roster. In pre-season before he was even in shape and making any type of impact on the practice field, the bears annouced Roy Williams as the starting wide reciever over knox. Hmmm. Now look at the stats...go ahead, I'll wait. Now did you see the part where Knox has 200 more yards in one less game than Williams? Did you also see the part where rookie Dane Sanezbacher from the bench led all wide recievers in touchdowns? It's at this point you're remembering that Earl Bennett is Cutler's favorite target, just like last seson when Greg Olsen (540 yds with 5 touchdowns this season) was his favorite. What happened to Olsen you ask? Oh yeah, Mike Martz didnt like him, and Angelo probably traded him for a pack of black bic pens.

Martz' offense was oh so confusing for a team that works best with simplicities. Martz was determined to make lemonade with oranges, all the while having one of the best oranges in the league (Matt Forte) at his disposal. Eventually Lovie Smith realized the error of Martz's ways, and his own in handing over the reigns to a 90's madman. In turn Lovie showed Martz who Forte was since they seemingly needed an introduction, (its not good when you have one the leagues best runningbacks and you never run the ball) and then showed him the door afterwards.

Oh do we even need to go into more players formerly of the Dallas Cowboys we picked up?

So now the entire mess falls back on Lovie. Its his damn team, his mess, his offensive coordinator. Somehow he gained more power out of all of this! Most expect offensive line coach Mike Tice to get the gig. Um...sure. I understand that he wasnt really given the right horses to run with, however he was the coach of the offensive line, the same offensive line that nearly broke Jay Cutler in half on several occassions each season. Lets just get a second opinion, that's all I'm saying...A much better option would be current Jets offensive coordinator Brian Shottenheimer.

The Bears also did something that most "insiders" consider a no-no in not firing Lovie Smith, which means whatever GM that gets hired is stuck with Lovie and his offensive coordinator for the year. Its an interesting corner to put the man running your football program in, since they usually like to have their own people, right Theo Epstein??? Some of the more talked about options for the GM job are Ed DeCosta from Baltimore, Les Snead from the Falcolns, both directors of personel, John Dorsey, a scouting guru from Green bay, and Bill Polian. Polian ran Indianapolis' team until being fired recently, and considering the Colts went to two SuperBowls in the Lovie/Angelo era, thats a good place to start. Polian has a tremendous track record with the Colts, Buffalo, and Carolina, and definitely knows talent (yes he did draft Peyton Manning, which is like drafting Jordan in his prime I suppose..a no brainer) which should make him the Bears' first option. However here what one Colt insider said about Polian:

"Bill Polian is a fine football architect. He’s a smart man, who knows he’s a smart man and who tends to talk down to people he doesn’t respect or doesn't believe are as smart. Those qualities could make him somewhat of a tyrant -- especially to some branches of the media, but not to them exclusively -- which is hardly the worst thing you can say about a football executive."

And you thought talking to Mike Martz was fun. what will n ot be fun is keeping up with Green Bay and the up and coming Detroit Lions. Plus can you guess the number of offensive coordinators Jay Cutler has had in Chicago since becoming a Bear? This will be number 4 in 5 seasons....that could be a record, folks.

Next season will definitely be interesting. Who's going to play wide reciever for this team? Will there be anymore ex Cowboys on the roster? Will Lance Briggs still be in a Bears uniform? Will Brian Urlacher be healthy? Who's going to be on the line? Will Matt Forte have a contract by then? Will the defense still suck to high heaven some games? What will become of Brock Lesner? Who's going to be on Dancing with the Stars? Will Snooki and The Situation finally hook up? Will Jay Cutler be married or break off another proposal before the seaon start??

Either way addition by subtraction is sometimes the best possible answer, right Theo Epstein (Goodbye Carlos)! No matter what happens from this point on we know the Bears are headed in a new direction, and hopefully a much better direction..

Sunday, 25 December 2011 20:50

Why you should be watching the NBA

This must be what a 16 year-old girl feels like when Breaking Dawn part one finally hit the big screens....happiness, relief, excitment. Why am I gushing? Why am I making this silly reference to 16 year-olds and pale yet beautiful-looking vampires that have never seemed to age despite being hundred of years of age? Well its because of three simple letters: NFL.

You see, the NFL has been the vain of my existance since...oh, August. I had such high hopes for the Bears to do well. I believed in Mike Martz and Jay Cutler coming together for a terrific season. I believed Matt Forte was going to dominate the NFC conference. I couldnt wait for our big showdowns with Green Bay, and watching Brian Urlacher toss Rodgers and Jennings like rag dolls. More importantly, my fantasy football teams relieved heavily on the producition of said players, as well as my secret weapon, Johnny Knox.

Well everyone of those guys with the exception of Urlacher is now injured. Infact, all of my running backs, even the subs, are no longer playing football today. My quarterback situation is about as shotty as my dating situation, and did I mention I lost my 1st kicker on the first damn day of the season. I'm on kicker number 4 btw...and I dont even care about having a kicker but the "league" says we need one...ugh. How comes there's no black kickers? Just sayin....The NFL has just done me wrong this year. Ive stopped updating my rosters for weeks now...who cares anymore. Facebook had to remind me that the "biggest game of the season" was still occurring, the Bears versus Packers in Green Bay. Thanks for nothing, facebook.

So needless to say I am frickin' happy as pie that the NBA season is finally in full gear. While I dont like bad basketball, it at least gives me something credible to watch for the rest of winter. The idea of seeing Kobe bryant's relationship drama play out for an entire season has me pumped. Plus that means another season of VH1 Basketball wives, I'm sure that will make for some interesting tweets. I'll finally know what Spike Lee is doing with his life...you'd think he'd spend more time talking to Woody Allen, wouldn't you? Weird. Shaq is joing the TNT studio crew, which makes tv's best sports gre-game/post game show even better. Plus, i'll admit, I actually like Kris Humphries. I do. I even know what team he plays for...do you?

Im guessing you proabaly arent as excited as I am about the league returning, but let me give you just a few reasons why you should watch:

Miami's holy trinity of evil is back. The team everyone hates is back and are the favorites to win this yhear's NBA championship. Talent-wise alone, Wade and LBJ are incredible enough to beat every team in basketball, unfortunately you have to play with five. The Heat took a major step in the right direction by signing Shane battier. Who you may ask? Well besides being my favorite current NBA player (yes it's true), Battier is the one player in the NBA who is willing to do anything and everything for a team while still playing at a high level. The 6'8 guard/forward plays defense like a monster while also being able to shot the 3 ball very well. Unfortunately it's two steps forward, one step back as the heat also signed Eddy Curry for some odd reason. Curry is collecting over 10 mil for eating Big Macs the last 3 years. He's probably played in A game (yes, 1 game) and might as well be wearing a ski mask over his head while cashing checks. I hope he has direct deposit. The Heat also decided not to upgrade their point guard position, relying on Mario Chambers to develop. Thats great and all, but putting your faith in Chambers to turn into a starting point guard is just about the same as putting your faith in Kevin Smith not making another movie that doesn't suck. (sorry Kev, it's true. Step your game up, bud.) While I fully expect the heat to compete if not win it all this year, watching them fail and get beat is always a highlight for any basketball fan.

I would like to see if Kim and Kris can work things out, plus how is Khloe going to adapt to living in Dallas? Speaking of Dallas, why are people still signing Vince carter to any type of contract. He's not even good on NBA2K12 anymore. You know you're starved for basketball when you can't wait to see the Clippers play. Yikes! let's not forget the trials of GSW. Who's that, you ask" Well GSW, or the Golden State Warriors, are a team from Oakland or San Francisco...who even knows anymore, who...well lets just say they have issues with 'winning". They have no issues scoring, yet they seem to be allergic to defense. Like your friend's kid is allergic to peanuts and needs a shot if he eats one, yeah the Warriors need a shot nightly. New head coach Mark Jackson has high hopes and big dreams of bringing a defensive mentality to Golden State. Jackson also had big dreams of beating the Bulls when he was with the Knicks and the Pacers. some dreams just don't come true, mark. At least you'll have some coaching experience, even if it was with GSW.

And since we are talking about Chicago, let me tell you there is not alot of good that comes out of Englewood. There's like....me, and Derrick rose. We'll give Derrick the headlines here as he did just sign a 90 million dollar contract after being named league MVP last season. To come so far from so little is impressive, and shows kids that it is possible. it's also possible that the Bulls could go to the finals this year. They are bringing back basically the same team,  with key additions being the rookie Jimmy Butler and veteran shooting guard Rip Hamilton. Butler will help ease the pressure of guarding LBJ and Wade as he has the size and speed to keep up with them for a few minutes, so that neither will be able to torture Kyle Korver for minutes at a time He tries so hard, doesn't he? Kyle, we get it, you shoot 3's...you're not suppose to be guarding 6'9 300lb "small" forwards. Hamilton steps in as starting guard along size Rose and fits like a glove. A 100% upgrade from last year's starter Keith Bogans, Hamilton can shoot the lights out and play defense, and will punish defenders trying to double or help on Rose, Deng, or Boozer. If they stay healthy, the Bulls have more than a legitimate shot at not only repeating as the NBA's best team, but as this year's newest NBA champions.

It wasn't that long ago where I gushed and gollied over what an incredible album Jay-Z and Kanye West's "Watch the Throne" collaboration turned out to be. While so called experts and critics felt it was 'under-whelming" and 'self-absorbed", I knew better. And quite frankly the streets don't lie. You know what else doesn't lie...numbers. And by the shear amount of sell-out crowds and acclaim garnered from previous stops on their 'throne" tour, you just knew the touchdown in Chicago was going to be epic. Not only is Chicago the hometown of Mr. West, its also one of Jay-Z's favorite spots to perform.

kanye_jayz

I've had the pleasure of seeing Kanye West at Summerfest in June, and while he was very theatrical, he also was extremely emotional and energetic. So I knew what to expect from the hometown kid who was bout to live his dream of playing a packed house in his hometown next to his hero. As for Jay-Z, well he's gotten better and better each time I've seen him, so with their last two shows in my head I came in expecting nothing less than a total euphoric hip hop experience.

No opening act needed for these two, as the sounds of "HAM" came reigning through the speakers (yes I know how I spelled reigned...I like that description!). With both performers on dual rising cubes across from each other, they tore into a "Throne" favorite "Who gon stop me", in which Jay-Z just tears through his verse like Jason through the first hundred Friday the 13th movies. Why Kanye thinks wearing a kilt cool is anyone's guess, but hey, he's Kanye., he does what he wants...clearly.

Both artists took turns on stage seperate and together ripping through crowd favorites back to back to back...there was no time to rests as the crowd spent the concert on their feet the entire night. I once pointed out the differences in stage approaches in both Jay and Kanye, and it was the same here: Kanye, emotional, eccentric, not sure what he's going to do or say, while Hov is like the world's best poker player on stage, never letting his guard down, never giving you too much, always making sure each gesture and lyric is well planned, well thought out...none more evident that the encore where as Kanye would put on any hat thrown on stage by the crowd , as Jay stayed focus...Yankess hat tilted over his eyes, only removed for purpose and to get his point across.

The duo hit an entire catalog of hits, and the visual aspects on the background screen helped give some of the "throne" songs more of an emotional connection. But this show wasnt about selling an album, it was the two kings of hip hop and music worldwide showing just why they are in a league of their own. A setlist like no other hip hop or rock show before it, its clear why they have gotten rave reviews in every city. Its a can't miss show filled with 3 hours of nonstop hits. From die-hard to casual fans of eaither artist, this is the show you'd want to see.

My favorite moment of the show..one that was repeated from last year's Jay-Z show is when the lights go out upon the crowd as Hov finishes up his monstorous crowd pleaser "U don't know", and they show the entire crowd, hands in the air in the diamond position rocking back in unison to Jay-Z like an army...its a breath-taking thing to witness as its amazing when music connects so well with its biggest listeners.

I didnt sit down until the encore...well, midway through the encore, which was the duo ripping through their hit "Niggas in Paris" a record 8 consecutive times! This song is currently the hottest record on radio and even in high school gyms (almost every high school basketball team has this song in their warm-up, which means it must be hot, right? The kids are even listening to it!!) Hearing a song 8 times in a row is just way too much for me, no matter how hot the song is at the moment, but it was clear that the duo was actually having alot of fun on stage together, and enjoying the chemistry and crowd reaction. You could tell they were having too much fun as even the poker-faced king of rap let down his guard with a smile and tip of his hat, as he ripped through his "Paris" verse a 6th and 7th time. And despite it all the crowd ate it up.

There's currently a lil' Wayne/Eminem tour oversees that may make its way to the states before the year is out, but it will be hard-pressed to come close to the energy and emotion given by Jay-Z and Kanye on this night.

SETLIST:

1.Intro: HAM

2. Who gon stop me?

3. Otis

4. Welcome to the jungle

5. Gotta have it

6. Where I'm from

7. Jigga what, Jigga who?

8. Can't tell me nothin'

9. Flashing lights

10. Jesus Walks

11. All falls down

12. Diamonds...

13. PSA

14. U don't know

15. Run this town

16. Monster

17. Power

18. Made in America

19. New day

20. Hard Knocks Life

21. Izzo

22. Empire state of mind

23. Runaway

24. Heartless

25. Stronger

26. On to the next

27. Dirt off your shoulder

28. I just wanna love you

29. Thats mu bitch

30. Good life

31. Touch the sky

32. All of the lights

33. Big Pimpin

34. Gold digger

35. 99 problems

36. No Church in the wild

37. Lift off

38. Niggas in Paris

39. Niggas in Paris

ENCORE:

6 more renditions of Niggas in Paris (tour record).

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