Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Olympics that would make Capone proud

Friday is the big day, when Chicago finds out that it has been chosen to host the 2016 Olympics. And when Chicagoans like me find out that our taxes will go up from their current low, low rates to somewhere between the stratosphere and the atmosphere.

Hey, for a worthy cause such as rhythmic gymnastics, no price is too steep!

For my take on my fair city's pursuit of the Games, check out my latest exclusive post at SportsFanLive.com by clicking HERE.

Dexter is motherlovin' great TV

Mrs. N and I just finished watching Season 1 of Dexter. Showtime and Comcast offered it for free On Demand to try to get viewers hooked, regularly scrawling ads during the episodes hoping to get people to order the network.

We won't order it, of course - our cable bills already are ridiculously high - but we will grab the next couple seasons of Dexter on DVD because it was an extremely enjoyable show. If you haven't seen it yet - and if you don't have a squeamish tummy - I highly recommend it.

For those who don't know, Dexter Morgan, brilliantly played by Michael C. Hall (formerly fantastic on HBO's Six Feet Under), is a Miami Police forensics expert ... who also happens to be a serial killer. His adoptive father was a cop, as is his adoptive sister, and there were many well-written flashback scenes.

Season 1 offered so many unique and unpredictable plot twists that Mrs. N and I couldn't stop watching ... we watched all 12 hour-long episodes in just over 2 days!

We even came out of it with a new favorite word:


For some reason, the shows On Demand were edited to remove the f-word in all of its forms. So "Bleep you!" - a term cops (and, yes, sportswriters) tend to use often - became "Forget you!" And, "motherbleeper" became "motherlover."

Cracked me up. Violence and blood ... they couldn't possibly have shown more of that to whatever virgin eyes might have been watching. But God forbid the f-word gets heard. How typically hypocritical of the TV overlords, right?

Man, when we do get around to watching the uncensored version of Dexter on DVD, our ears are in for a real motherlovin' shock!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Favre, Lions, Bears win; Tiger only kinda does

The Bald Truth

Oh, so that's what all the Favre fuss was about.

Break Up ...

The Lions!

The Balder Truth

The one thing I don't want to hear is this team "shoulda won" a game or that team "shoulda lost." It's stupid.

One thing I've learned over the years is that, regardless of the sport, teams usually win the games they shoulda won over the course of a season.

Take the Bears. If you're not a fan, you just might claim that the Bears shoulda lost to Pittsburgh and Seattle. OK, but then do you allow that they shoulda won their opener at Green Bay? Can't have it both ways.

Same with Notre Dame. A relatively weak 3-1 team? Sure. But the Irish no more shoulda lost to Michigan State and Purdue than they shoulda won against Michigan.

At the end of the year, the shouldas balance out quite nicely.

But don't get me started about the postseason. I mean, everybody knows Marquette shoulda made it to the Final Four!

Look Who's All Grown Up ...

Heck of a game for Devin Hester, who reached down to make catches, jumped high to grab the football, ranged right, dove left, scored the winning TD and did everything within his power to make Jay Cutler look good all day.

Hester ... he's not just for punt returns any more.


Really, how satisfying was the 2009 season for Tiger Woods?

He proved he could return from knee surgery and still be great ... and he won six tournaments ... and he finished in the top 2 in more than half of the 17 events he entered ... and he won the FedEx Cup, the pseudo-playoff championship that might mean more if it weren't completely overshadowed by pro and college football.

Yep, it's been one heck of a year for The Greatest Ever. Still ...

He repeatedly has said he measures success only by number of majors won, and he won as many as you and I did (unless your name is Y.E. Yang, Stewart Cink, Lucas Glover or Angel Cabrera) ... and he missed the cut in the British Open ... and he had the PGA Championship in his grasp until he - gulp! - choked it away ... and he captured the FedEx Cup for the second time in three years despite not winning its premier event, finishing second to archrival Phil Mickelson in the Tour Championship.

"It feels certainly not like it did a couple of years ago when I won the tournament," said Woods, who had to work very hard this time to force a smile when accepting the FedEx trophy.

Hey, the rest of us should have only those kinds of disappointments in our lives, right?

Well, yeah. But then again, the rest of us aren't Tiger Woods.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

I never did get that "new math"

The Bald Truth

With Braves skipper-for-life Bobby Cox finally planning to retire after next season, Ozzie Guillen hopes he can manage the White Sox for two decades or more. Ozzie, of course, didn't stop there, adding (as only Ozzie could have):

"Wish I be like three guys ... Tony, Torrez, Lou Piniella and Bobby Cox."

OK, first, he was referring to Tony La Russa and Joe Torre, in case you didn't get it.

Second, unless my abacus is on the fritz, I believe Ozzie might have miscounted just a little.

It's like Robert De Niro's Jack Walsh told Charles Grodin's Jonathan Mardukas in Midnight Run:

"Here come two words for you: Shut the f--- up!"

Again, is there any wonder why I ranked Guillen so high in yesterday's post about my 15 most memorable Chicago sports figures?

You knew I ranked him that high because you read every word of that long blog, right? I mean, it's not like you had anything better to do!

Oh wait, I'm the one who has nothing better to do. I always get us confused.

The Balder Truth

Not exactly sure what this means, but Jim Thome's name is still above his former locker in the corner of the White Sox clubhouse.

He's a great guy, one of the best, but come on! He didn't die.

Move on, boys.


Ozzie said "nothing positive" has come out of the White Sox season - not Gordon Beckham's meteoric rise, not Scott Podsednik's surprise comeback, nothing.

"If you don't make the playoffs, it's a wasted year."

By extension, that means Sox fans wasted every cent they spent on tickets. So naturally, Guillen and his players will rebate their salaries so Jerry Reinsdorf can give every ticket-buyer a full refund.

Friday, September 25, 2009

15 years, 15 characters

It's been 15 years since I jumped on my '82 Yamaha Seca 650 and rode in a cold, steady late-September rain from Minneapolis to Chicago, eager to begin my new life writing about Bears and Cubs and Bulls and White Sox and Blackhawks.

I haven't ridden a motorcycle for more than a decade now and I no longer am an everyday newspaper hack. But I do still live in Chicago, I do still cover some events and I do still have memories in abundance - of great games, great athletes, great individual performances, great plays, great series and, mostly, the hundreds of great characters I've covered.

In celebration of my 15 years in a city where the sports news never sleeps, here are my 15 most memorable Chicago sports characters:

15. KEVIN O'NEILL ... I didn't know the f-word could be used in so many creative ways until I attended one of his Northwestern basketball practices. He had the Wildcats going in the right direction until his players mutineed and the team had an 0-16 Big Ten season in 2000. He then left to be an NBA assistant, once telling me he preferred the pros to the colleges because the recruiting process was borderline criminal: "I hated always having to lie to some teenager's mother." Well, look who's back recruiting kids again: O'Neill is now at USC, where he replaced another ex-Chicago "coaching legend," Tim Floyd.

14. A.J. PIERZYNSKI ... As Ozzie Guillen has said of the White Sox irritant: "If you play against him, you hate him. If you play with him, you hate him a little less." The catcher is an arrogant agitator. He also happens to be one of the smartest ballplayers I've ever covered - no wonder bizarre-but-big plays seem to follow him wherever he goes.

13. DUSTY BAKER ... After he was introduced as Cubs manager in 2003, Baker had separate sessions with beat writers, broadcast media and newspaper columnists. I participated in the latter. When one of my colleagues asked Baker about his reputation for being a strong motivator who was strategically weak, Dusty responded: "Hey, I'm the strategizingest dude around." Well, he wasn't, part of the reason he lasted only four years in Cubbieland. But the managing job he did in 2003 was among the best I've seen. Taking over a flat-lined franchise, Baker quickly got players to believe in themselves and each other ... and he became the only Chicago manager in 86 years to win a postseason series. Yes, it all started falling apart the following year, when he became an enabler and excuse-maker for his players. But I fondly remember the many conversations I had with Dusty, a sensitive, intelligent man who loves winning ballgames but knows that other things in life matter more.

12. CURTIS ENIS ... The only time in my career I ever was a victim of an anti-Semetic slur, it came from this putz, who in three years went from No. 1 Pick to Big Zero.

11. JEREMY ROENICK ... Not long after I came to Chicago in September 1994, the NHL locked out its players in a labor dispute. As AP's lead hockey writer at the time, I covered the mess. Roenick, then the Blackhawks' player representative (as well as their star forward), became one of my best sources for news. Sometimes, he'd call me to see what I was hearing from the owners' side. We weren't friends because that would have been walking an ethical tightrope, but we respected each other professionally. As a player, J.R. always gave an honest effort and I enjoyed watching him play. The Blackhawks went into the toilet after trading him for career underachiever Alex Zhamnov, and they're just now pulling themselves out of the bowl.

10. DAVE WANNSTEDT ... The most imitated man in Chicago during the 1990s. Even as I write this, I can hear him talking about an injured Bear: "Aaaap ... he has a knee ... he'll be foyne." Amputation was as likely to follow as a return to health. In 1996, he declared that "all the pieces are in place." Within days, the Bears were in pieces; by '98, Wanny was gone (but not forgotten).

9. SCOTT SKILES ... Probably the most honest coach I've encountered - yes, even more than Ozzie Guillen. Skiles, who helped lead the Bulls back to prominence in the post-Jordan era, was more direct than Ozzie and not as self-important. Asked what 7-footer Eddy Curry needed to do to be a better rebounder, Skiles simply said: "Jump." You can't get better economy of words than that.

8. MIKE BROWN ... It's a shame that injuries curtailed his career, because he was a great safety for the Bears. As he was one of the most intelligent athletes I've covered, I'm not surprised he was always around the football. He ended consecutive victories in 2001 - the Smoke & Mirrors Season - with overtime interception touchdowns. I'll also remember Brown's many candid pronouncements about his team's shortcomings. Just last year, he said everybody needed to stop thinking the defense was as good as its reputation. He was right about that - and most other things.

7. MICHAEL BARRETT ... He began the 2004 season having to replace catcher Damian Miller, who was very popular with the pitching staff, and ended it by going hitless in his last 20 at-bats as the Cubs choked away a playoff spot. In 2005, his pitching staff was decimated by injuries to Mark Prior, Kerry Wood and others. In 2006, Barrett sucker-punched Pierzynski, launching a brawl and getting suspended. In 2007, he was cold-cocked by Carlos Zambrano and sent packing shortly thereafter. A real unique guy. About 363 days a year, Barrett was the most reasonable fellow around; those other two days ... watch out! His temper would take over and he'd go ballistic. For some reason I never discovered, Barrett always liked me, calling me by name and engaging me in conversations that had nothing to do with sports. Truly, a character I'll never forget.

6. CADE McNOWN ... The first-round QB who didn't last long around these parts was one of the biggest jerks ever to don a Chicago sports uniform. At least some others I've covered - the Albert Belles, Ted Washingtons and Ben Wallaces - accomplished a few things. McNown was a lazy, do-nothing yahoo with a sense of entitlement. He was despised by his teammates and was too stupid to figure out why. A fitting symbol of the post-McMahon, pre-Cutler years in which the Bears stumbled pathetically through the Quarterback Wilderness.

5. ROD BECK ... His arm was shot. His body was ravaged by years of hard living. (I was in on the postgame interview when he uttered his immortal line: "My weight isn't a problem; I've never seen anyone on the disabled list with pulled fat.") Somehow, The Shooter compiled 51 saves for the slightly-better-than-mediocre 1998 Cubs, who needed an extra game to capture the NL wild-card spot. Sammy Sosa carried the Cubs statistically and Kerry Wood was a revelation, but it was Beck's heart and will - and the duct tape holding it all together - that made the playoffs possible. Years later, I caught up with Beck in Des Moines, where he was living in a trailer behind the ballpark and throwing 80 mph fastballs for the Cubs' Triple-A team while trying to make a comeback. Fans would swing by after games and he'd share a brewski and some baseball talk with them. When I heard that he died in the summer of 2007, I held my own personal moment of silence.

4. SAMMY SOSA ... Probably the most insecure egomaniac I've covered. This wasn't Michael Jordan motivating himself at perceived slights; Sosa was a guy who truly felt slighted whenever anybody refused to kiss his ring. When I first arrived in Chicago, Sammy could beat opponents by stealing bases, hitting home runs and throwing out baserunners. In 1998, when he started consuming "Flintstone Vitamins," he became a bulked-up slugger. His legacy will be tarnished forever, but the man did put together one of the great five-year stretches of run-production ever from 1998-2002. As great as his longball race with Mark McGwire was in '98, Sosa had the finest single season I've seen three years later, when his 160 RBIs were nearly 100 more than any teammate. He singlehandedly kept that bad team in the race into September. Though he tried to come across as a macho guy, at his core he was desperate for attention and acceptance. He corked his bat, he ingested God-knows-what, he helped get four managers fired and he had few friends in the clubhouse - all part of his fall from Cubbieland sports hero to tragic pariah. If there's been a harder, faster fall in Chicago sports history, I sure didn't witness it. One more thing I'll never forget about him: He gave one of the best answers to any question I've ever asked at a press conference. In spring training 2001, when I asked if he thought his desire for a new contract might alienate average fans, Sammy said: "You cannot compare an average person with a professional athlete. It's a big, big, big difference. A lot of people want to complain, but if they really had my shoe, they probably would be doing the same thing that I do, maybe worse."

3. JOHN SHOOP ... As Bears offensive coordinator under Dick Jauron, Shoop was in so far over his head, he had to stand on his tippy-toes to see the ground. His offenses were simple and ill-conceived and his attempts to explain himself were painful. After every 13-3 or 20-9 loss, he'd stand in the middle of the locker room holding a yellow legal pad. He'd stare down at his scribblings, reading word-for-word everything he thought went wrong. When a reporter would ask a question, he'd search the legal pad for the answer. If he couldn't find it - and he usually couldn't - he'd stammer through a few nonsensical comments. When the TV cameras came on, Shoop was the very definition of a deer in headlight. Absolutely hated by the fans, Shoop was the single most vilified assistant coach I've covered in three decades in this business. Though I often poked fun at him in my columns - "Shoop happens" was a favorite phrase - I actually felt sorry for the man. It wasn't fair of the Bears to put an unprepared 32-year-old in charge of an NFL offense.

2. DENNIS RODMAN ... The classic example of a guy who turned himself into a cartoon character - Hey Everybody, I'm The Worm! - partly because he was a nut, partly because he was a self-marketing genius. Do Jordan, Scottie Pippen and the Bulls win their last three NBA titles without Rodman pulling down every rebound and defending the opponent's best post player? We'll never know. What I do know is that Tex Winter and Phil Jackson used to rave about Rodman's basketball smarts. On the court, he usually was a great teammate, doing the dirty work so M.J. and Pip didn't have to. Off the court, Worm was all about drama and shock value. He'd show up late to games, say outrageous things, hang with Madonna, gamble millions in Vegas, you name it. I used to joke that he'd really shock the world if he washed the dye out of his hair, wore a tailored three-piece suit, ditched the jewelry and acted "normal." Early in the 1996-97 season, I had a long one-on-one interview with Rodman, who was trying to promote his vapid MTV reality show. When we sat down, he reached out and shook my hand, enveloping it in both of his massive mitts. He then removed the sunglasses he had worn for the TV interviews he had just conducted. He was completely at ease during our half-hour chat, making eye-contact, calling me "bro" and "dude," giggling as he talked about his own wackiness. At one point, he said: "People would like to see Michael doing something crazy, not always having to be Mr. Perfect, Mr. All-American. People would like to see me and Michael Jordan walking down a nude beach together." I laughed and asked: "Hand-in-hand?" Without missing a beat, Worm had the perfect response: "Nah, Michael would never go for that."

1. OZZIE GUILLEN ... Every reporter digs athletes, coaches and managers who will say absolutely anything about any subject at any time. I've never covered anybody else quite like Ozzie. I rarely wrote about the White Sox during my first few years in Chicago; as one of two AP sportswriters in town, I was assigned to the Cubs. So I didn't get to know Guillen when he was the South Side shortstop. From the moment he was hired as Sox skipper after the 2003 season, however, I realized things would be quite different from the way they were under low-key Jerry Manuel. Sure enough, while Guillen protects his ballplayers like a pitbull if he thinks they're being unfairly attacked, Ozzie rips them with great gusto when he thinks they deserve it. "Ozzie's throwing us under the bus again" quickly became one of the most-uttered phrases in the White Sox clubhouse. No matter what he does or says, though, Guillen always seems to win the fight. He took some heat after calling sportswriting nemesis Jay Mariotti a "faggot," but hundreds of gays promptly stuck up for Ozzie and said they weren't offended at all. When he grew tired of a player's attitude, he'd arrange to have that player shipped elsewhere; far more times than not, the White Sox ended up being better for it. Late in the 2005 season, I sensed that Ozzie was feeling unloved by the fans. I pulled him aside and asked him one question and he went on a 15-minute, emotional, arm-waving, expletive-filled diatribe; he threatened to quit - but only after the White Sox won the World Series. That probably is the most-referenced interview of my career, having been mentioned in several books, magazines and newspapers. Just a little while back, a national TV announcer brought up Ozzie's threat of four years ago.

All I know is that I sure am glad he decided to stick around. The day Guillen leaves (or, more likely, gets fired for something he'll have said), the Chicago sports landscape will be a lot more boring.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Leaping to celebrations

The Lambeau Leap is A-OK, but shouldn't be any more legal a celebration in the NFL's eyes than any of a number of things against which the No Fun League has legislated. For this and other football musings, check out my latest exclusive SportsFanLive post HERE.

Fun with stats

The Bald Truth

After pitching his no-hitter against the Rangers on April 18, 2007, Mark Buehrle won only one of his next eight starts and had a 4.61 ERA through June 9 as the White Sox tumbled helplessly out of the race.

After throwing his no-no against the Astros in that hurricane-displaced game at Milwaukee on Sept. 14, 2008, Carlos Zambrano was 14-5 with a 3.41 ERA in 28 starts. Cra-Z then allowed 13 runs in his final two regular-season outings, was lousy (and received lousy defensive support) in losing his only playoff start and has followed in 2009 with his worst season as the Cubs have been baseball's biggest busts. Total stats since the no-hitter: 8-8 with a 4.32 ERA over 29 games for the $91.5 Million Man.

After pitching his perfect game against the Rays this past July 23, Buehrle was 11-3 with a 3.28 ERA. Batters were hitting .247 against him, with a .286 OBP and .411 slugging average. Since then, he is 1-6 with a 4.91 ERA in 11 starts and batters are at .322/.366/.496 against him. No wonder the Sox have spiraled to oblivion.

So here's a little tip for all future Chicago pitching aces: Whatever you do, avoid throwing no-hitters!

The Balder Truth

Say this much about Milton Bradley: He made the Cubs interesting to follow this season.

Yep, they weren't nearly as boring as in 2008, when they were stuck with Mark DeRosa and the rest of a 97-win team.

Oh, and by the way, DeRo on Monday hit two more homers for the victorious Cardinals.

Jeesh ... talk about rubbing it in.


Projecting the results backward from the moment the Cubs banished Bradley to baseball's Nowhere Land, here is an irrefutable fact:

Had they never signed him, they'd be 149-0.

Take that, Cardinals!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Don't blame Milton Bradley for being Milton Bradley

The Bald Truth

Milton Bradley has some serious emotional problems. He needs help ... and he has the means to afford it.

Strangely, I feel a little sorry for the man. I mean, he can't help it if he's Milton Bradley. That's all he knows how to be. He didn't hold a gun to Cubbie boss Jim Hendry's head to make Hendry sign him (though, admit it, you wouldn't be surprised if he had).

Hendry on Sunday suspended Bradley for the rest of the season, officially admitting he made the kind of mistake that can ruin a season and set a franchise back several years.

Or, in the case of this franchise, several decades.

Several more decades.

The Balder Truth

Full disclosure: While I preferred Adam Dunn or Bobby Abreu to Bradley, I said at the time of the signing that Bradley made some sense because the laid-back Cubbie clubhouse needed a little pizzazz. In fact, I said that if I were a Cubs fan, I'd have been more concerned about Bradley's history of injuries than about his history of mental instability.

Well, I was wrong. Unlike Jim Hendry, however, I am not paid by Chicago National League Ball Club Inc. to be right. That $30 million mistake won't help Hendry - who had a terrible 2008-09 offseason - in the eyes of the team's new ownership. (Hendry's own long-term contract might help him survive at least another season, though.)

In typical Cubbie fashion, Hendry didn't suspend Bradley for being either a bad teammate or a bad ballplayer.

No, the GM suspended Bradley for being himself.

Hendry made the move after Bradley told Daily Herald beat writer Bruce Miles this when asked if he had enjoyed his first season in Cubbieland:

"Not really. It's just not a positive environment. I need a stable, healthy, enjoyable environment. There's too many people everywhere in your face with a microphone asking the same questions repeatedly. Everything is just bashing you. You got out there and you play harder than anybody on the field and never get credit for it. It's just negativity. And you understand why they haven't won in 100 years here, because it's negative."

100 ... 101 ... who am I to quibble about a year here or a century there?

Bradley never got it. He never got that if you're the $30 million newcomer who was supposed to be the final piece of a championship puzzle and you instead drive in fewer runs than Mike Fontenot, you are going to be criticized. Then, when you blame everybody but yourself - over and over and over again - you are going to be disliked.

Obviously, Chicago was a terrible fit for Bradley, who needs to go somewhere fans don't care and where us annoying media types are few and far between.

Then again, they already had him in San Diego, right?

But hey, don't be too hard on the man. Asking Milton Bradley to be somebody other than Milton Bradley is like asking a nun to stop crossing herself or a gerbil to stop nibbling on wood shavings.

Good thing for Milton: Thirty million bucks buys a lot of psychoanalysis.

Really. I'm not kidding.

If he isn't already seeing a shrink, he needs to start. If he is, he needs to find a new one.


Nice job by Robbie Gould to come through in the clutch for the Bears after:

A. His Steelers counterpart, Jeff Reed, blew two big field-goal attempts and ...

2. His coach, Lovie Smith, risked freezing his own kicker by calling time-out before Gould's winning kick.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Notre Dame rises, Washington surprises, Glenn Beck surmises

The Bald Truth

With its big win over Michigan State, Notre Dame proved it just might be every bit as good as Central Michigan.

Backhanded Compliment of the Year Nominee

"Washington wasn’t the better team. They just outplayed us. Clearly, we have superior athletes. But hard work beats athleticism any day." - USC's Joe McKnight after his Trojans were stunned by the Huskies.

Yes, and Washington's players have great personalities, too.


ABC's Terry Moran let slip an off-the-record comment made by Barack Obama, who supposedly called Kanye West a "jackass" for the jackass singer's jackassian outburst when Taylor Swift was being presented an award that Beyonce didn't win.

Whaddayaknow ... Glenn Beck was right!

With such obvious, deep-seated hatred for black people, the president really is a racist.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

If only they had Jay Cutler, too

Losing 11-0 to the worst team in the league with your ace on the mound ... and getting three hits against a dude with a 6.23 ERA.

Thank goodness Jake Peavy is ready to save the day for the White Sox!

Friday, September 18, 2009

As Marv would say: Yesssss!

Five Stumpers

(Hint: The answer is the opposite of no.)

5. With the Miami Hurricanes once again bad (the good bad, as opposed to the bad bad of recent years), is it time to hide the women and children?

4. When even Jody Gerut becomes a Cubbie-killer, isn't it really time to pull the plug on Lou's Losers?

3. Isn't Michael Crabtree the only one fooled by Crabtree's bluff that he'll re-enter the draft?

2. If the NBA and its refs don't avoid a contract dispute, won't Sir Charles have to find some other old coot to race?

1. Is Jerry Jones' ego the only thing on the planet larger than the Cowboys' new digs?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Mark Reynolds: King of Swing (& Miss)

I'm a big fan of baseball's fantastic fanner.

For years, whenever a ballplayer would get near a dubious record - most strikeouts, most losses, most cork in the bat - either he, his manager or both would decide the player had developed a severe case of Wuss-itis and he would take a seat on the bench for the rest of the season.

Mustn't set a negative record that would scar the poor baby for life, right?

Well, Mark Reynolds has realized what most intelligent observers have known for years: a strikeout is just another out.

Reynolds, the Diamondbacks'sensational slugger, actually seems to embrace the notion that he is today's King of Swing (& Miss).

Reynolds fanned four more times Wednesday, giving him 200 for the second straight year. In 2008, he became the first ever to reach that mark, finishing with 204. He'll leave that number in the dust in 2009.

And you know what? Every manager in baseball would love to have a third baseman who just turned 26 and hits for power (42 HR), gets on base (.363 OBP), drives in runs (97 RBI), gets extra-base hits (.571 SLG), steals bases (24) and has a decent batting average (.272).

Reynolds even is a good enough athlete that he could play another position if a team had somebody else to play third.

Were Arizona a contender, Reynolds would be one of the favorites to finish second in the MVP race to Albert Pujols, who has had the award locked up since mid-April.

Yes, the kid fans a lot. As did Mickey Mantle, Reggie Jackson, Sammy Sosa, Jim Thome, Willie Stargell, Bobby Bonds, Mike Schmidt and numerous other all-time greats.

Striking out is better than hitting into a double play. And Mark Reynolds is better than most power hitters (and most third baseman) out there.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Losers du jour

Today's post - about Charlie Weis, Jay Cutler, the Cubbies and other losers du jour - can be seen exclusively at SportsFanLive.com. Check it out HERE.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Lacking Urlacher info

I got to the ballpark at about 3:30 Monday for the Cubs-Brewers game, which I was to cover for AP. About an hour later, I was sitting on the bench in the Cubs' dugout waiting for Lou Piniella to address us media mopes when GM Jim Hendry happened by and asked if the Bears had picked up another linebacker to replace Brian Urlacher.

"What?" I asked, "Urlacher's done for the year?"

That resulted in much tittering, with Hendry asking if I had heard about the Lindbergh baby yet.

Actually, I'm kind of proud of myself for not knowing.

I'm not a Bears fan and I no longer cover the team. I wasn't checking every 15 minutes for updates on Urlacher's wrecked wrist. I don't wish ill upon Urlacher or anybody else, and I feel bad for my Bear fan buddies ... but, frankly, I have better things to do than watch ESPN and listen to sports talk radio.

I spent Monday morning reading a book. I then ate lunch as I watched the Entourage and Real Time with Bill Maher shows I had DVRed, showered, shaved, got dressed, walked 1.4 miles to Wrigley Field, climbed the zillion or so stairs to the press box and did my Cubs-Brewers research do get ready for my assignment before heading down to the clubhouse and dugout.

So I never even thought about Brian Urlacher, Lovie Smith, Jay Cutler, Da Coach, Fridge Perry or Dick Butkus until Hendry asked.

I know: I am quite the blasphemer.

By the way, the Bears did pick up another linebacker - a guy named Tim Shaw, who had failed to stick with the Panthers and Jaguars since coming out of Penn State in 2007.

The fine denizens of Bear Country might want to hold off on buying those Super Bowl tickets ... though after the opener in Green Bay, they have to feel pretty good about Cutler carrying their heroes to greatness.

What would J.C. do? Throw 4 picks!

The Bald Truth

Believe me, I'd be saying this even if Bears Savior J.C. had thrown four TD passes to beat the Packers by 20:

It's too early to judge Jay Cutler.

Yes, Bears Savior J.C. threw four interceptions, would have thrown four more if Green Bay DBs weren't wearing oven mitts, couldn't rally his new team to victory at the end and spent most of the game looking as if he hadn't taken part in a single preseason practice.

Yes, he contributed to the Bears having to waste all three second-half timeouts.

Yes, he was bad. Not quite Jonathan Quinn bad, but certainly Cade McNown bad.


It was J.C.'s first game with a new team, new coaches and new receivers. Not to mention new expectations that are stupidly high.

If he's still playing like this in October, though ... well, do the Bears still have Moses Moreno on speed-dial?

The Quote I

"How funny is it that you see Kyle Orton in Denver chillin' right now at 1-0?" - Rodney Harrison, NBC studio analyst.

Indeed, K.O. leads J.C., 1 miracle to none.

The List

Ten observations from the Bears-Packers game:

1. Just a few minutes after he was called for a phantom penalty that kept Chicago's go-ahead drive alive, Al Harris picked off Bears Savior J.C. to launch Green Bay's all-the-cheese-you-can-eat celebration. This is what's called poetic justice.

2. Give Bears Savior J.C. credit for his sticktoitiveness. Two times he tried to throw passes right to Tramon Williams. Two times the Packers' DB dropped passes that hit him in his hands. But doggone it if J.C. didn't finally hit Williams in stride late in the first half.

3. How nice of Adewale Ogunleye to emerge from his two-year hibernation now that he's in a contract season.

4. I'm a big fan of NBC's Cris Collinsworth ... but if he pointed out one more time that the Packers looked much sharper in preseason than they did Sunday, I was going to climb aboard Air Nadel, fly to Green Bay and go all Serena Williams on him. The preseason means zilch because opposing defenses show nothing, and Collinsworth is smart enough to know it. C'mon, dude!

5. Remember Nate Vasher?

6. How wild that Bears long snapper Patrick Mannelly thought he was Peyton Manning and called an audible, with the bungled fake punt handing the Packers a gift field goal. How crazy that the Bears give their long snapper such autonomy. And how desperate of Lovie Smith to give away a precious time-out by challenging the number of players the Packers had on the field. I mean, if the Bears wanted to go 0-for-3, they would have acquired Milton Bradley, not Jay Cutler.

7. Whether he's overrated, underrated or just plain rated, Brian Urlacher is important to the Bears, and if his dislocated wrist isn't located real soon, they have little chance of contending in a very tough division. Hunter Hillenmeyer? What, it isn't incredible enough that 3/11ths of the Bears' starting offense played at Vanderbilt?

8. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers wasn't very good, either, but he came through when it counted and didn't throw any interceptions. That he twice missed long TD passes to receivers who had beaten Bears DBs by several yards should make any honest Bears fan plenty worried about the D.

9. On the decisive snap - Rodgers' winning 50-yard heave to wide-open Greg Jennings on a third-and-1 play-action pass with 1:11 to go - Lovie's defense was bamboozled by Mike McCarthy's offense. And now that he's calling the defensive plays, Lovie has no scapegoat except himself.

10. If Collinsworth, a former star receiver, was right about inept Chicago wideouts costing Cutler dearly because they couldn't make proper adjustments on the fly, then GM Jerry Angelo was wrong about Bears Savior J.C. being able to turn a chickenspit receiving corps into chicken salad.

The Quote II

"It was a tough night for Jay. And when you're gonna be the franchise quarterback, how do you respond in tough situations? First play interception in the two-minute drill. That's not what Chicago gave up two number-one draft choices for." - Tony Dungy, NBC studio analyst.

Welcome to The Bears Savior J.C. Bandwagon, folks. Easy-on, easy-off.


When calling for a fake punt on fourth-and-11 from your own 26 in the fourth quarter of a two-point game on the road, Mannelly can't just think the opponent has too many men on the field. He must be absolutely, positively, 100 percent certain.

See, NFL teams don't hire long snappers because they're deep thinkers.

Of course, if the play had worked, Mannelly would have been Snappy McGenius to all the fanatics who reside in Bear Country.

But it didn't. So he isn't.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Serena's effin' bedtime tales

Just a quick bedtime story, kids.

Once upon a time, there was a great tennis player named Serena. She didn't like a call that the line judge made in her U.S. Open semifinal match against another great player named Kim, so Serena huffed and she puffed and she screamed:

"If I could, I would take this (effin') ball and shove it down your (effin') throat ... "

Serena then was penalized a point, which ended the match.

And Kim lived happily ever after.

The End.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Erin Andrews, Derek Jeter and pigskin picks

The Bald Truth

I couldn't have been more impressed with Erin Andrews than I was during her interview with Oprah that aired Friday.

She showed toughness and intelligence and sincerity and professionalism, all in the face of an excruciating violation of privacy. She teared up just a little when talking about having to tell her parents about that unspeakably horrific video on the Internet ... but she quickly said she wasn't going to let the voyeurs, paparazzi and other assorted scumbags stop her from being the best ESPN sideline reporter she can be.

Nice, Erin. Very nice.

Believe me, this is not an attempt to get in Erin's good graces. That ship sailed long ago - and I'm not going to revisit my column of July 2008 except to say I still stand behind what I wrote. They are two totally separate subjects.

Let's all root for the authorities to catch those peephole creeps and for those losers to go to jail - where they deserve to have their own "privacy" violated, if you get my drift.

The Balder Truth

I'm not one of those guys who dislikes Derek Jeter just because he's a Yankee. And I truly do appreciate everything he has accomplished. He is more than just a talented ballplayer; he is a gamer, a winner and probably the most fundamentally sound major-leaguer today.

Still, I do hope everybody keeps the fact that Jeter passed Lou Gehrig as the team's all-time hits leader in perspective. Knowing what I do about Jeter, I'm sure he's keeping it in perspective.

He no doubt realizes that he doesn't even compare with the Iron Horse, whose statistics dwarf those of Jeter in almost every meaningful category - including championships.

Jeter is a no-brainer Hall of Famer. But if we save the word legend only for the very best of the best, I think any intelligent baseball follower knows it applies to only one of these Yankee captains.


Well, now that the season is officially underway, I guess it's time for my NFL predictions.

A word of caution before we start: Try not to trample each other on your way to Vegas to bet on these picks!

AFC EAST - Patriots. By Dec. 1 if Tom Brady stays healthy. Chad Pennington's Dolphins were one-hit wonders.

AFC NORTH - Steelers. Can't go against the defending champs, whose personnel is even better this year.

AFC SOUTH - Colts. They've still got talent - and Peyton - so we'll see how much they miss Tony Dungy's leadership.

AFC WEST - Chargers. Even without major-league jerk Shawne Merriman, if necessary. What? You thought I was gonna go with Kyle Orton's team?

AFC WILD CARDS - Ravens and Titans.

AFC SURPRISE - The Jaguars self-destructed last year but it says here they'll play more like their fine team of 2007.

NFC EAST - Giants. Was going to pick the Eagles, but they'll miss defensive coordinator Jim Johnson too much.

NFC NORTH - Vikings. This has gone from being a blah division to a fun one, with strong QBs triggering explosive offenses. I admit it: I'm a sucker for Brett Favre, for better or worse.

NFC SOUTH - Saints. Just a hunch. This division always seems to be a little crazy, and I think the Falcons and Panthers are due for a backward step.

NFC WEST - Cardinals. Every team is seriously flawed, so let's go with the one that knows how to win it.

NFC WILD CARDS - Bears and Eagles. Hard not to pick the Packers, though.

NFC SURPRISE - The Lions will win! (A game.)

And now, on to Super Bowl XLIV ...

Steelers 24, Giants 20.

Oh, go ahead. A little bit of trampling is OK.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Mike's Michael Memories

The Bald Truth

Sources say Michael Jordan is getting inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Jeesh. They'll let anybody in, won't they?

The List

My top five Michael Moments:

5. The Shrug. After hitting his sixth trey of the first half against the Trail Blazers in Game 1 of the '92 Finals, Jordan, not known for his 3-point shooting, turned both palms toward the Chicago Stadium rafters as if to apologize for being too damn great. This was the first Finals game involving Jordan I ever covered, so it has a special place in my memory banks. (Also memorable: Later in that series, during a between-games interview session, Jordan was told he had made the NBA media's All-Interview Team. His classic response: "All-Interview? No comment.")

4. Father's Day. Shortly after Jordan retired the first time, his father was murdered. Jordan came out of retirement and led the Bulls to the 1996 championship, with the decisive victory over Seattle coming on Father's Day. When the game ended, Jordan fell to the court, cradled the basketball in his arms and wept as he thought of his dad. Not long before then, my father had been diagnosed with terminal bone cancer, and I shed a couple of tears even as I worked on my story that day for AP.

3. That's Just Sick. Playing through a wicked bout of food poisoning, Jordan nonetheless carried the Bulls to a Game 5 victory over the Jazz in the 1997 Finals. The shot of a drained Michael leaning on Scottie Pippen after making the winning 3-pointer is one of the iconic sports photos of recent times. This actually was the only playoff game during the Bulls' second threepeat that I didn't see in person. My mother had died three days earlier and we buried her in Philadelphia the morning of Game 5. I watched the game on TV that night with my family.

2. The Steal & The Pose. Jordan's last play as a member of the Bulls: He stole the basketball from Mailman Malone on one end, went up court, gave Bryon Russell a little shove, hit the winning jumper and then kept his shooting arm extended, wrist flexed, for what seemed an eternity as the usually-eardrum-busting Delta Center crowd fell silent. The absolutely perfect ending to his otherworldly Chicago career.

1. Double Nickels. I was at Madison Square Garden on March 28, 1995, when Jordan told the world he really was back by putting up 55 points on the Knicks. The atmosphere was absolutely electric, with Jordan having returned only 10 days earlier. No, this game wasn't as important as many of Michael's big games, but it will always be special to me because it provided perhaps my all-time favorite keepsake. There on the front sports page of the next day's New York Times was a huge photograph of Jordan taking a jumper over John Starks. To Michael's left, at about ankle height, a certain balding (but not yet completely bald) sportswriter was looking on from press row.

One More Michael Moment

Late in a blowout victory at the United Center during the Bulls' 72-win season of 1995-96, I was having trouble sending my story over the landline on press row. Yes, that's right: We had landlines back then in the Dark Ages, with cords and everything.

Anyway, I was with AP then and our seats were adjacent to the end of the Bulls' bench. I was whining loudly to the scribe sitting next to me about my plight when a towel hit me in the face. I looked up and Jordan, who had been out of the game while the subs played in garbage time, was laughing hysterically.

Eventually, I was able to file the story. And, by the way, I still have that towel.

(For my take on what Jordan meant to Chicago, CLICK HERE to check out the column I wrote for Friday's Northwest Herald.)


A lot of people conveniently forget that, for the first six years of his career, Jordan never won a title. More than that: The common belief back then was that he couldn't win a title.

He was too selfish, too focused on statistical accomplishments, too worried about his next Nike commercial.

"Sure, he's great," the thinking went, "but can he elevate those around him to excel for the overall good, the way Magic Johnson and Larry Bird do? The answer is no."

Of course, he went on to prove that the answer was yes.

And yes and yes and yes and yes and yes a sixth time.

We have come to learn over the years that Michael Jordan is an imperfect man, with enough vices and indiscretions to last several lifetimes. Take him away from the basketball court, and he's a false god. He certainly isn't much of a role model.

Still, when those lights came on, there was nobody better. Ever.

So all in all, I guess the Hall voters made an acceptable selection.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Lofa Tatupu and then Jay Cutler? Please!

Wow. Not a single Chicago Bear is ranked in the top 56 on Sporting News' 2009 list of the NFL's 100 greatest players. And get this: Jay Cutler is No. 68, right between Lofa Tatupu and Kris Jenkins.


This is all the information anybody needs to realize that the list is a complete sham, my friends.

Peyton Manning No. 1? Just wait 'til he has to go head-to-head in the Super Bowl against a team not quarterbacked by Rex! Bears 40, Colts 1.

Tom Brady No. 2? Let's see if he even makes it to Week 2 this year.

Adrian Peterson No. 3? Clearly, this selection was influenced by the superior Bears tailback of the same name.

I mean, who did these rankings? Packer fans, cloistered monks and Josh McDaniels' Cutler-hating staff?

Obviously, this should have been the NFL's top 10:

1. Jay Cutler. Nuff said.

2. More Jay Cutler. He throws so nice, he gets ranked twice.

3. Devin Hester. That speed ... Jay's arm ... pure magic!

4. Earl Bennett. You know that age-old football saying: There's no passer-catcher combo like one from Vanderbilt.

5. Greg Olsen. Was a great tight end even with Orton throwing to him.

6. Dez Clark. Ditto.

7. Matt Forte. Delightfully nuanced with a delicate bouquet ... nobody hands off like Cutler.

8. Olin Kreutz. The only center lucky enough to have Jay's hands you-know-where.

9. Orlando Pace. Knowing he must protect Cutler's blind side is all the motivation any left tackle needs.

10. Brian Urlacher. Just for being Jay's pal.

There. Glad that's settled. Now let's do the list of NFL teams that will go undefeated, untied and unscored-upon in 2009:

1. Bears.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Who's not No. 1?

Today's post is at SportsFanLive, so check it out.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Signs, shouts and Krusty II

The Bald Truth

Sign in the window of Amigos & Us, a funky store on Clark about four blocks south of Wrigley:

20% OFF

40% OFF

Though there wasn't another sign, I'm pretty sure they would have paid me to take their Bradley stuff.

The Balder Truth

Words screamed by an irate fan at The Cell yesterday:

"Hey Ozzie! Typical Sunday afternoon White Sox, huh?"

Maybe the dude was drunk. And maybe he was a loud jerk with the social skills of a goat. Still, his point had merit.

The Sox have lost their last 6 Sunday games, are 6-16 on Sundays this season and are 2-9 in Sunday home games.

If not for Sundays, Ozzie's lads would had a comfortable division lead. Damn schedule-maker.


The missus and I walked downtown the other day to grab a bite to eat and catch a movie. As we walked on a side street from the theater to the restaurant, a Good Humor truck pulled up and parked fairly close to us.

The driver got out, but not without a great struggle. He grunted and groaned and, to us, sounded kind of like Krusty the Clown. So, of course, we chuckled.

Seeing our reaction, he yelled (again as Krusty might have):

"You think being an ice cream vendor is easy? (pause) Try it!!"

He was not laughing, but we were. Quite hyterically, in fact. However, just in case he was packing an AK-47 and was about to scream: "I GOT YOUR GOOD HUMOR RIGHT HERE!" ... we picked up the pace and high-tailed it out of there.

Can't beat fun in the big city.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Bad Eleven strikes again

I went into this college football season determined not to ridicule the Big Ten by calling it the Bad Eleven, as I've had to do in recent years.

Then the Bad Eleven had to ruin everything by playing games. Sorry.

Illinois got crushed by Missouri, and you know what that means: Time to extend Ron Zook's contract again!

Ohio State needed an intercepted 2-point conversion pass in the waning moments to beat Navy.

Iowa had to block two late field goals to pull out a one-point win over Northern Iowa.

Wisconsin almost blew a huge lead against Northern Illinois.

Minnesota, needing OT to overcome Syracuse, was nearly done in by a mediocre ex-Dookie.

Indiana, alas, still looked every bit like Indiana always does in barely getting past Eastern Kentucky.

But hey, big victories for Michigan State (over Montana State), Michigan (over Western Michigan), Northwestern (over Towson State), Penn State (over Akron) and Purdue (over Toledo).

And the Mountain West can't get an automatic bid to the big bowls because ... ?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

3 cheers for ...

1. Oregon coach Chip Kelly and AD Mike Bellotti, for suspending LeGarrette Blount for the rest of the season (and, as a result, the rest of the fifth-year senior's career) for punching Boise State's Byron Hout after Thursday's Oregon loss. It would have been nice if Boise State coach Chris Petersen had suspended Hout at least a game or two for taunting Blount to the point of violence.

2. NFL commish Roger Goodell, for only suspending Michael Vick for the first two games of the upcoming season. Vick spent nearly two years in jail for his crimes against caninekind, so I would have preferred no NFL suspension at all. Still, two games seems reasonable given that some people think Vick should have gotten a 100-year sentence.

3. Braves manager Bobby Cox, for his MLB-record 150th ejection. Hey, if you're gonna go down, go down fighting.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Analyzing the Cubs-Sox analysts

The Bald Truth

Having covered just about all of the previous 71 White Sox-Cubs games over the years, I decided to chill out Thursday and watch the game at home on my big-screen HDTV. And thanks to the wonders of the DVR - the greatest technological innovation since Al Gore's Internet - I got to hear Hawk Harrelson, Len Kasper, Steve Stone and Bob Brenly all afternoon on WGN and Comcast Sports Net.

They brought their A-games, making for a fun day in the La-Z-Boy. (A fun day for me; less fun for the Cubbies, who merely played as if they were sitting in recliners.)

Here was each announcer's take on Alfonso Soriano's cover-your-eyes gaffe that led to two eighth-inning runs and a 3-0 Sox advantage:

Hawk: "Soriano slips and misses the ball! Sox lead it 2-to-nothing!"

Steve: "That's what happens when you play a designated hitter in left field, and it's been happening all year. ... Then, after missing it, Soriano, who just plain misses it, goes after it with less than a lot of enthusiasm. In fact, he looks back (toward the infield). What does he think the runners are gonna do? Stand there?"

Len: "Soriano slipped and he couldn't make the catch."

Bob: "Nothing I see out there surprises me any more. You just wonder at what point they're gonna pull the plug on Fonzie this season. He's obviously nowhere near 100 percent with that left knee. You could live with some of the foibles in left field when he was driving the ball out of the ball park ... but offensively he's been a nonfactor for a long time, and that defense in left field is gonna end up costing a lot of ballgames."

Nicely done, guys, though I do wish Brenly hadn't made the sore-knee excuse for Soriano - who repeatedly has said the injury doesn't bother him at all at the plate.

Meanwhile, Stone's comment about having a DH in left field was the best line all day. And the Cubs had another DH, Jake Fox, at first base in place of Derrek Lee, who was with his wife as she gave birth to their second child. Oh, and Milton Bradley's basically a DH, too.

Of course, Sox LF Carlos Quentin is little more than a DH. And one could make the argument that when the South Side outfield has Quentin, Scott Podsednik and Jermaine Dye, it's like having DHs all the way across.

Chicago Baseball: We Lead the World in Designated Hitters!

A catchy slogan that helps explain why the disappointing, underachieving, overpaid, fundamentally inept Windy City ballclubs are a combined 133-134 instead of the contenders they were supposed to be.

Them's The Breaks

Unfortunately for the Cubs, Jake Peavy wasn't available to pitch for the White Sox.

It's hard to imagine the impotent Cubbies doing any worse against him than they did against rookie Carlos Torres, who was making only his third career start.

As Brenly said: "This is not at all the Carlos Torres we were led to believe was gonna be starting this game for the Chicago White Sox. We were told he had all kinds of command issues, got jumpy out there on the mound, really couldn't command anything other than his fastball. He's pitched a great game."

The Balder Truth

Here's more from Hawk, Len, Steve and Bob on Dewayne Wise's seventh-inning throw to the plate to nail Fox, who tried to score from second base on Jeff Baker's single after a whiffing Soriano failed to advance Fox to third in what was then a 1-0 game:

Len: "That's an aggressive send by (third base coach) Mike Quade, but why not take a shot with the way it's been going offensively?"

Bob: "That's where a productive out by Soriano would have been a huge benefit to the Cubs."

Hawk: "Dewayne with the throw ... he gone! Beautiful peg by Dewayne Wise! Yes! Yes!"

Steve: "And the gamble was not pinch-running for Fox."

Interesting, huh? While the obvious thing to do was second-guess Quade for sending Fox (which I did from my La-Z-Boy), Stone second-guessed Lou Piniella for leaving the plodding Fox in the game.

I happen to disagree with Steve here, because it was only the seventh, Lee wasn't available and the Cubs might have needed Fox's bat in the ninth. But I respect Stone's ability to immediately make a strong statement. It's why, despite his occasional smugness and his obvious zeal in taking shots at the North Side franchise that once employed him, he's the best analyst in Chicago sports.

And Brenly's not exactly chopped liver, either.

If Only Cubs Hit This Hard

Right behind Stone's DH comment was this from Brenly after Ozzie Guillen playfully threatened to use Dye as a pinch-hitter for Wise if Lou switched to a lefty on the mound:

"The way Dye's been swinging the bat lately, I'm not sure I wouldn't take Ozzie up on that."

Ouch. But hey, J.D. hasn't gotten a big hit in so long, it's almost hard to remember that he was MVP of the '05 Series.

Dye's a class act in every way and he has played an important role in revitalizing a franchise, but it's time for the White Sox to thank him for the memories and let him limp through his late-30s somewhere else.


Hawk is the ultimate unabashed homer. And as a guy who doesn't root for the White Sox (or any other team), sometimes that drives me nuts. But the man earns points for being more than willing to get on one of "his" guys for screwing up.

Here's what he had to say after shortstop Alexei Ramirez failed to finish off the Cubs in the ninth on what should have been a routine, game-ending DP:

"And this should be ... can't get him, as Alexei once again out of position on a double-play situation, a perfect double-play ball."

While Gordon Beckham has settled in nicely at third base, it's hard to believe he wouldn't be a major upgrade at shortstop from Ramirez - who has lousy footwork, makes mental errors and is prone to wild throws.

Guillen likes Chris Getz at second, and putting Ramirez in the outfield probably would be no better than the Soriano-in-left experiment. So Kenny Williams should trade Ramirez, right?

Really? Trade a dynamic, young hitter who is four years away from free agency and who is one of the few White Sox to consistently deliver in the clutch?

It's just one example of how difficult the offseason is going to be for Williams. For his Cubbie counterpart, Jim Hendry, too.

Clearly, both teams need more players who care as much and perform as well as their announcers do.

Final Word

White Sox fans can crow about their heroes winning the season series, but the sloppy South Siders had to work awfully hard to have an even worse record at this point than the cruddy Cubs do.

There's a month of baseball left, and both teams are done. A pox on them both. Chicago fans deserve better.

Empty nest & full hearts

Not fond of the term "empty nest." Too many negative connotations.

Roberta and I are glad our kids are finding their own way ... and not just because Ben leaves a minor mess wherever he last stepped or Katie goes through toilet paper at an impossible rate.

We're glad because this is a sign that Katie and Ben have matured enough to be on their own, that many of the life lessons we've tried to teach have sunk in. Did I say many? How 'bout a few? Or even one? I'd settle for one ... as long as it's "Honor Thy Father and Mother."

Commandment ... life lesson ... same difference, right?

Anyway, our Katie pretty much checked out for good when she left in the fall of '08 for her senior year of college. After graduating from Lawrence this past spring, she remained in Appleton (where her boyfriend and most of her buddies reside), got a job, rented an apartment and started experiencing all the wonders of being responsible for oneself.

From our frequent phone calls and texts, I know she's truly enjoying paying bills, dealing with insurance companies, getting her car repaired, begging her landlord to fix things ... you know, all those glamorous, non-stop fun things grown-ups do.

After one year at Illinois, Ben decided he wasn't a college boy (the fine folks in Urbana-Champaign helped nudge along that decision) and he returned to the nest. He quickly got sick of being under our thumb, so he moved in with a friend his age. Neither Ben nor his friend had the maturity or money to make it work, though, so Ben came back home after a few short months. We had a (mostly) peaceful coexistence for well over a year, with Ben getting a full-time job as a restaurant manager and growing into a (mostly) responsible young man.

Now three months shy of his 22nd birthday, he just moved out again. And this time, I think it just might take. He has some money in the bank, his roommate seems like a decent dude and their Lincoln Park digs are quite nice.

(His roomie's 50-inch plasma and Ben's Xbox 360 certainly remind me of the 19-inch B&W and Pong game I had in my first apartment.)

So while we are - OK, I am - a little concerned that Ben still isn't the best at managing his personal fortune, and we are - OK, Roberta is - a little worried about his eating habits, cleanliness and all those other touchy-feely things moms tend to worry about, we are reasonably confident in Ben's ability to start building a life of his own.

So what's it like without little chicks in our nest?

Well, Katie's laugh fills a room and Ben always wants to talk about sports, so it's definitely quieter. And if I want a handful of Sweet Spicy Chili Doritos, I have nobody but myself to blame if there aren't any. And the only crap on the DVR is the crap we plan to watch (sorry, Ben; that Kanye concert and that Family Guy episode already have been eliminated).

The downside? There is none, because our nest isn't really empty at all.

Ben lives 2 miles away. Katie is 3 1/2 hours up the road, but we talk often and see each other when we can. And more than their proximity, there's this:

We think about Katie and Ben constantly, and most of those thoughts are happy ones that fill our hearts with love and hope and joy and memories and pride.

And really, if our hearts are that full, how empty can our nest be?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Heisman "race" isn't much of one

Are you ready for some college football silliness? Check out my latest exclusive post HERE at SportsFanLive.com.

Good team for good guy Thome

Jim Thome, one of the good guys in all of sports, is going to get one more shot at a championship ring after the Dodgers acquired him Monday in a deal that just beat the midnight deadline. Good for Thome, because he sure as heck wasn't going to get that ring with the White Sox.

Good for the Sox, too, because now they won't have to face the unenviable burden of telling Thome they don't want him next season.

And bravo to the Sox GM Kenny Williams for finding a taker for Jose Contreras - the Rockies.

It'll be interesting to see how a 57-year-old batting-practice pitcher fares at Coors Field.

For more on the Sox (and Cubs and Favre), read the following post, which I filed just a little earlier than this one.

Jeesh. Two in one day. At this rate - and the rate of pay I get for writing these - I'll be rich by the turn of the century. The 24th century.

Butter for that toast, Ozzie?

The Bald Truth

One day after Ozzie Guillen said his White Sox would be toast unless they win the three-game series at Minnesota, they were dominated by a pitcher who hadn't won in nearly two months and lost the opener.

I understand motivational tactics, and I consider Ozzie a strong motivator. And I also happen to believe he was telling the truth.

But what does he say to his guys if they go on to lose this series as most of us figured they would?

I mean, as rallying cries go, I've heard better than: "There's still a month to go, but you now officially have my permission to mail it in."

The Balder Truth

You'll hear no similar ultimatums from Lou Piniella to his Cubbies.

Not until somebody wakes up the whole lot of them, anyway.


First, Brett Favre says he might have a cracked rib. Then, he lines up at wide receiver and delivers an illegal block that sidelines Houston's Eugene Wilson with a knee injury. Then, he throws a TD pass as part of a nice three quarters of make-believe football for the Vikings.

Say what you want about his inability to make up his mind, his ego, his lack of loyalty to the Packers and his late arrival to training camp.

The man is a football player. Period. Let's not get so sick of his silliness that we forget it.