Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Brain-dead Carlson bites Vick ... and other silliness

The Bald Truth

When a person goes to jail, that should be it for him or her. No rehabilitation. No job. No loved ones. No home. No chance at a life once the sentence is served. No nothing.

At least that, apparently, is what Fox yahoo Tucker Carlson believes.

Angry that Barack Obama told Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie that ex-cons deserve the right to contribute to society, Carlson barked: "Michael Vick killed dogs, and he did (it) in a heartless and cruel way. I think personally he should have been executed for that."

Simply executed? Why not stoned to death in the village square?

For trying to imitate an insightful human being, Tucker Carlson should be sentenced to 20 years of having to watch Keith Olbermann on a continuous loop.

Indeed, a fate much worse than death.

The Balder Truth

Now that he has changed Sox, Bobby Jenks is saying Ozzie Guillen doesn't know how to manage a bullpen.

Hmmm. I seem to recall Ozzie running the White Sox bullpen quite well during the 2005 ALCS romp by letting his starters pitch four straight complete games.

Now shaddup, Bobby, and go eat another dozen doughnuts.


Once again, Rafael Palmeiro is saying he never took steroids. He is lobbying to get into the Hall of Fame. He has only a slightly better chance than fellow juicer Felix Heredia.

It's pretty sad when we're left having to believe Jose Canseco over everybody else in the whole juicing mess. Canseco insists he introduced both Palmeiro and Mark McGwire to steroids long ago - but not long before Palmeiro went from being slap-hitter to slugger.

Canseco is a scumbag, to be sure, but his 'roid-related accusations have been proven true over and over again.

McGwire spent most of two decades denying Canseco's claims -- and Big Mac had an army of apologists, led by Gen. Tony La Genius, marching right along with him into an ambush of humiliation.

I'm putting the over-under on Palmeiro's tearful confession at 12 years.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Merry Bleepin' Crash-mas

My wife and I spent Christmas Eve in the hospital. And you?

First of all, we're OK. Our bodies were shaken and stirred in a car crash, and our little red Prius needs some major repairs, but we are alive and have no broken bones (that we know of).

We had gone to see Black Swan at a mall theater in northern Charlotte and were then going to dinner at P.F. Chang's. I was driving very slowly, because the mall grounds were crowded with last-minute shoppers. We were less than a football field away from Chang's when Roberta screamed: "Oh my God!" A split-second later, we were nailed on the passenger side by a Chevy pickup.

My wife's side-curtain airbag deployed and the contents of the car were sent flying. But we were wearing our seatbelts ... and we realized we were breathing and weren't bleeding. After shaking off some cobwebs for a few minutes, I opened my door and staggered unsteadily out of the car. As I tried to gather my thoughts, Roberta, who has had some surgeries to her neck and other regions, sat as still as possible.

Another person, who had witnessed the entire event, said he was a doctor. He checked on Roberta and helped me find my phone, which I used to call 9-1-1. Amazingly quickly, a police car and an ambulance were on the scene.

While paramedics tended to me -- I was feeling tingling from the left side of my neck down to my fingers -- I overheard the other driver claiming he wasn't going fast. The witness, however, disagreed, telling the driver he was "going like a bat out of hell."

Paramedics immobilized my neck and secured me to a board. Meanwhile, the police were using some kind of tool to pop open the passenger door. Soon enough, they had Roberta out and were strapping her to a board, too. The police asked me a few questions and then Roberta and I were loaded into the ambulance for our his-and-her ride. Shortly thereafter, we were at the hospital and were taken into separate rooms.

I got a CT scan to make sure I had no nerve damage. Roberta, who had pain up and down her right side, had several X-rays taken. Results of all tests, thankfully, were negative. Roberta had bruises, most notably one near her right hip, where the armrest probably made impact.

Less than three hours after we arrived at the hospital, we were cleared to go but we had to wait for a transport service to take us home. We finally made it home around 9:30 and I then called to find out where the car was towed.

It's now 48 hours later. My body is sore but I'll survive. Roberta is more sore, but she'll make it, too. We have hugged and kissed many times, realizing how lucky we were. The fact that we don't celebrate Christmas means that we at least didn't have a holiday to ruin -- yet another benefit of being Jewish!

I'll be spending the next week or more tending to this mess: dealing with insurance companies, police reports, auto-body shops, car rental agencies, etc. Though it will be a big pain in the keister, we know it could have been a lot worse.

By the way, Black Swan is highly recommended.

Oh, and we hear Mrs. Lincoln enjoyed the play, too.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

NCAA laughs off Pryor offense

The NCAA was at its classic, convoluted, cuckoo best in suspending five Ohio State players - including star QB Terrelle Pryor and leading rusher Boom Herron - for next season's first five games but ruling that the guys can play in next month's Sugar Bowl.

Despite claims to the contrary - laughable claims, indeed - NCAA honchos obviously didn't want to ruin the big-money game against Arkansas. Period.

Pryor, Herron and the others sold various championship rings and awards for cash. They also received improper benefits from - what else? - a tattoo parlor.

The NCAA thought the infractions were serious enough to add a fifth game to what historically is a four-game penalty. Playing in two weeks, however, will be just fine because, the NCAA says, Pryor & Co. “did not receive adequate rules education during the time period the violations occurred."


Next thing you know, some player - say, an Auburn QB - not only won't be punished but will receive the Heisman Trophy after his father gets caught trying to sell the QB's services to the highest bidder.

Not that anything so crazy could ever happen in the wonderful world of NCAA sports.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

New Bobcats coach will need aspirin in bulk

Like me, Paul Silas loves shopping at Costco. I just saw him filling his cart at our Charlotte store a couple of days ago.

Now we have something else in common: We're both coaches.

Silas is the new interim coach of the Bobcats after Michael Jordan decided that Larry Brown was no longer the man for the job.

If the Bobcats tune him out, at least Silas knows he can go to Costco and buy a 12-pack of new players.

As for my mighty Lady Bucs of Charlotte Country Day, we're 4-2 with 3 straight wins heading into our winter break. If we have a good second half of the season, I figure Michael will be calling to offer me the Bobcats job.

And in an unrelated story ...

It's somehow fitting that the Bears might have been the team to end Brett Favre's career. After all, over the years he ended the careers of many a Bear - head coaches, defensive coordinators, cornerbacks, safeties, quarterbacks ...

UConn't deny that 89 wins is amazing

When I was at Marquette, one of my fellow students was a female basketball star named Kathy Andrykowski. She was a prolific scorer whose feats were touted by the P.R. department every time she surpassed one of the men's stars on the Warriors' all-time points list. At the time, I considered every such mention to be beyond ridiculous.

Men were men and women were women and to compare the two was dopey. One of the starting guards on our women's team was a good friend of mine and I beat her several times 1-on-1. And I pretty much sucked. So, in my immature mind, that proved a female's athletic accomplishments shouldn't be mentioned in the same breath as those of a male jock.

So here we are, some three decades later, and UConn's women's hoops team just won its 89th straight game. Which, of course, is one more victory than John Wooden's early-70s UCLA team's storied record of 88.

And while I still think it's kind of an apples-and-oranges deal, I truly do appreciate the amazing accomplishment of Geno Auriemma's Huskies.

I don't care if it's men, women or hermaphrodites. Eighty-nine wins in a row is 89 wins in a row. The Huskies deserve to be celebrated ... and if it all engenders some discussion of gender roles in sport and society, all the better.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Reliving Cubbieland's glory daze

Now that Cubbies have brought back Kerry Wood, can Mark Prior, Matt Clement and Greg Maddux be far behind?

Just think: Those four can hook back up with Carlos Zambrano to re-form the rotation that made the Cubs a lock for the 2004 World Series!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Today's High 5

5. NFL commish Roger Goodell loves to crack down big-time on players, even those who have paid their debts to society after acts that have nothing to do with football. Then, when he had the chance to lay down the law against that Jets strength coach who intentionally tripped a defenseless Dolphins player during a game, Goodell barely delivered a slap on the wrist. Instead of getting fired and barred from working in the NFL again - a punishment that would have fit a heinous football crime - the guy got suspended for a few games. Talk about a pathetic double-standard.

4. Thanks to the popped pimple that is the Metrodome, the Bears and Vikings will play next Monday at the University of Minnesota's new field. Beautiful. Two bad cold-weather teams forced to play in miserable conditions just a mile or so away from the domed stadium that turned the Viqueens into wimps in poor weather. Somehow poetic, no?

3. Is anybody with even half a brain still wondering why the Vikings didn't bench Brett Favre to play Tarvaris Jackson?

2. No matter what one thinks of Favre, his consecutive-games streak truly was one of the great accomplishments in sports history. Even if he needed performance-enhancing drugs (illegally obtained painkillers) to keep it going over the years.

1. Even Philly fans will have trouble booing Cliff Lee after he accepted significantly less - in both money and security - from their team while rejecting the Yankees and Rangers. Lee is a hero in Philly ... and he's still filthy, stinkin' rich. Makes you wonder why more athletes don't do this kind of thing.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Of Bear Weather and a bearish wait for the next Dexter

The Bald Truth

"Bear Weather."

Is there a bigger myth in all of sport?

About once every three years or so, the Bears play a late-season game at Soldier Field against an inferior, warm-weather team ... and when that team pisses down its collective leg, all we hear about is "Bear Weather."

But how many times does what happened Sunday against the Patriots happen? How often are the Bears overwhelmed at Soldier Field in conditions supposedly made for the home squad? More often than I can count.

In this case, Tom Brady and the Patriots were coming off an emotional victory over a division rival only six days earlier. They had every reason to suffer a letdown against a Bears team that supposedly was ready to prove doubters wrong. And to top it off, it was snowy and windy and very, well, Bear Weatherish out there.

Then the game started. And pretty much ended by midway through the second quarter. Bear fans couldn't even muster the energy to boo the home team.

Hey, that the Bears aren't as good as the Patriots isn't exactly a stop-the-press declaration. Once again, the Patriots are football's best team ... and it really isn't close.

Still ...

Being humiliated on your home field in "your" weather? Well, that has to be almost too much for Lovie's lads to bear.

The Balder Truth

Here in Charlotte, CBS turned off the Patriots-Bears game in the third quarter and switched to Dolphins-Jets.

If only my friends back in Chicago could have been treated to such mercy.


On a much sadder note ...

With Sunday night's finale, another season of Showtime's Dexter has come and gone. And now we must go months and months without TV's most complex character - portrayed brilliantly, as always, by the spectacular Michael Hall - and his incredible supporting cast.


Dexter truly is one of the great shows in television history, so every season is great. With sensational guest-star turns by Julia Stiles and Peter Weller and with more twists and turns than the Blue Ridge Parkway, this season was especially thrilling.

Which, of course, makes the wait for Season 6 all the more excrutiating!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

This must mean Pujols is worth $80 million a year

Ten million bucks for Carlos Pena?

Just think how much the Cubbies would have paid him if he had batted above the Mendoza line last season!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Today's High 5 - Wanny Edition

5. The folks at Pitt should have known they were in trouble when Dave Wannstedt brought in Rick Mirer to play QB and declared that all the pieces were in place.

4. Hard to believe Wanny would fail at Pitt after all his previous success as a head coach.

3. I know a lot of Bears fans don't like Lovie, but the guy is Vince Lombardi, George Halas and Paul Brown all rolled into one compared to this guy.

2. Wanny says he would have won big at Pitt if only Erik Kramer hadn't broken his neck.

1. Give Dave Wannstedt credit for one thing: He's done an excellent job of making a sub-mediocre coach very rich.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Nadel-a-thon in sunny Fla

Chilling with my wife and two grown kids for a few days in Orlando.

SeaWorld on Sunday, Magic game on Monday, more fun to come.

It's the first time Roberta and I have seen Katie and Ben since before we moved to Charlotte, so it's been great to spend time with them again.

Whoever said "family is everything" was dead-on. (Oh wait ... that was me just saying it right now!)

We could use a little warmer weather - sunny and mid-50s Monday after a very nice Sunday - but I know nobody in the Midwest is feeling sorry for us! Ben, who still lives in Chicago, keeps telling us how warm it is!!

Back with more later in the week ...

Friday, December 3, 2010

Goodbye, Ron Santo

Ron Santo was my favorite Chicago sports figure, a personal hero and a friend. I am greatly saddened that he has died at the too-young age of 70.

Everybody who took the time to know Ron even a little couldn't help but be inspired by his upbeat attitude in the face of tremendous adversity. He suffered from so many physical ailments - including the loss of both legs due to complications from diabetes - that sometimes I wondered how he convinced himself to get out of bed each morning.

Not only did Ron rise, however, he shined. He helped raise millions of dollars in the fight against juvenile diabetes. He seemed genuinely happy to see every fan who would shake his hand or ask for his autograph. He laughed easily and often.

Indeed, during my 16 years as a Chicago sportswriter, one of the best things about going to Wrigley Field was seeing Ron Santo in his favorite place on earth.

I often would stand to the side while he'd conduct his dugout interview of the "fine Cubs manager" before every game. Whether the Cubs were in first place or last or whether they won big the day before or suffered a crushing defeat, Ron would be so full of optimism and passion as he'd talk to Lou Piniella or Dusty Baker or Don Baylor or Jim Riggleman (or even Mike Quade or Bruce Kimm).

After the interview, I'd listen to Ron and the manager du jour as they would chat off-the-record about all that was going on in Cubbieland. Such sessions became a big part of my education as a columnist.

My wife Roberta wasn't a huge Cubs fan but she used to love listening to Ron and Pat Hughes calling games on WGN. Like most listeners, she got a kick out of the way Ron would mangle the English language and the way Pat and Ron would needle each other.

While covering spring training in 2007, Roberta visited me in Arizona for a long weekend and we ended up going out to dinner one night with Ron and his wife, Vicki. It was a fun and relaxing evening, and I'm glad Roberta (and I) got to experience it.

Ron, of course, did have his down moments. The first time the veteran's committee didn't vote him to the Hall of Fame, he was all but inconsolable. I hurt for him. A day or two later, however, he was back at the Cubs' spring training complex with a smile and a good word for everybody.

Then there were his many, many, many anguished wails on WGN when his beloved Cubbies would mess up royally. Most famous was his "Nooooo! Oh nooooo!" when Brant Brown dropped a routine fly in a crucial late-1998 game in Milwaukee, but that was just one of thousands.

Nobody loved the Cubs more than Ron Santo did. Nobody! Long ago, he supplanted Ernie Banks as the true Mr. Cub. I'm no Cubbie fan, but just once it would have been cool to see the look on Ron's face in a champagne-soaked, post-championship clubhouse.

Ron was ill and wasn't able to broadcast the 2003 postseason run. When the Cubs beat the Braves in Game 5 of the 2003 playoffs for their first postseason-series victory in 95 years, the team called Ron from the clubhouse so he could be part of it. His giddy speakerphone conversation with Kerry Wood, who almost singlehandedly won that series, is something I'll never forget.

I know I'm leaving out so many wonderful memories, so I'll just conclude by saying this:

Ron Santo was a Chicago icon, a great baseball ambassador, a heroic do-gooder, one of the toughest men on the planet and a testimony to the power of positive thinking. I am proud to have been able to call him my friend.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

God to Steve Johnson: You're such a twit!

A few years (or maybe weeks) from now, when Twitter is but a distant memory from a bygone error, we will fondly recall the greatest tweet ever twitted -- the beleaguered God-baiting wail of Steve Johnson, whose dropped TD pass in OT cost the Bills a victory against the Steelers:


This is beautiful on so many levels.

+++ Johnson believing God cares about the Bills, given Scott Norwood's wayward leg, Thurman Thomas' missing helmet and all that.

+++ Johnson actually thinking calling the Lord out publicly was a good idea.

+++ Johnson apparently threatening God (I'll never forget this!) before thinking better of it and thanking Him/Her.

+++ Johnson not being a hypocrite. For all the jocks who credit God for all things good, it's nice to see at least one rip the Lord when things go bad.

+++ Johnson using proper punctuation (more or less) in 5 of his 7 sentences.

And this just in: God's response ...


Note the correct punctuation and spelling. Even when twittering, the Almighty is infallable!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Even Sarah Palin hates the BCS (mostly, of course, because she can't spell it)

So now the major conferences are using BCS standings to determine their regular-season champions? Can college football get any more ridiculous?

I'd rather listen to a Sarah Palin lecture on the superiority of abstinence-based sex education than support the sham that sport perpetrates each December and January.

That's why, for the fifth straight year, I won't watch one second of any of the 549 bowl games.

This year, in fact, I'll celebrate my anniversary by not watching the Chick-fil-A Bowl twice!

Ah, don't you just love the fun benefits of a DVR?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

How 'bout a Big Mac for Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving is all about tradition, so I'm back with my 13th edition of Turkey of the Year.

This tradition dates back to 1998, when Michael McCaskey had so mismanaged the Bears that his mommy took the team presidency away from him and sent him to his room without supper.

Since then, a veritable Who's Who of losers, lunkheads, dopers, dorks, bullies and boors have earned Top Turkey honors: Jerry Krause (1999); Bobby Knight (2000); David Wells & Frank Thomas (2001); Dick Jauron (2002); Sammy Sosa (2003 and 2004); Andy MacPhail, Jim Hendry & Dusty Baker (2005); Aramis Ramirez (2006); Charlie Weis (2007); Choking Cubbies (2008); Milton Bradley (2009).

You'll notice that most of those fine folks had Chicago connections. Even Knight (Big Ten) and Weis (Notre Dame) were in the region. That's because I columnized and blogged mostly about Chicago sports during those years.

Now that I'm a man of the world (North Carolina is part of the world, right?), the 2010 Turkey Countdown has a much different look.

As always, I dedicate this tradition to my absent friend, Gene Seymour, my Copley columnist predecessor and one of the great guys I ever encountered in journalism.

So let's get to it ...

10. OMAR MINAYA. Architect of the most expensive losers in baseball. Hey, at least the Mets were champs of something during Minaya's run as General Mismanager!

9. BOBBY KNIGHT. Mr. I Hate The Media is now part of the media. And on this Thanksgiving, I'm thankful that most members of the sports media are better at their jobs than Bobby is at his. The man is so awful as an ESPN analyst that I find myself wishing Dickie V were on the telecast instead. Really.

8. BRETT FAVRE. Seems the only thing he can make up his mind about is being a sleazebag.

7. MLB UMPS. I get that they have a tough job and that it's almost unfair to judge them based upon super-slo-mo replays. But these guys are so routinely bad that it's almost surprising when they get big calls right. And unlike Jim Joyce, most umps take no responsibility for their incompetence.

6. PETE CARROLL and REGGIE BUSH. They teamed up to do what no opponent could: bring USC football to its knees. They didn't even stick around to deal with the carnage they wrought, having bolted for the big bucks of the NFL. Makes you want to tell Reggie what he can do with that trophy.

5. BEN ROETHLISBERGER. Big Ben ... Good QB ... Bad Guy.

4. BRUCE PEARL. Years after he ratted out a dirty Illinois program, we learn that he's been running an even dirtier program at Tennessee. Wearing ugly orange blazers isn't punishment enough for this phony jerk.

3. LeBRON JAMES. Put on one of the most unnecessary, self-serving productions in the history of the world. But at least his talents have helped the Heat to an 8-7 start.

2. TIGER WOODS. Marriage? Over. PGA Tour victories? Zip. Ryder Cup? Back in Europe. New endorsement deals? Nada. No. 1 ranking? Now belongs to Lee Westwood. Talk about a rough year for the guy who had been the world's dominant athlete for more than a decade. I guess only bad things happen when a guy can't control his Eldrick.

And now ... drumstick roll, please ... the 2010 Turkey of the Year:


Big Mac finally admitted he spent years juicing - and spent years lying about it. But even his admission was full of misleading statements.

He claimed he only juiced so he could stay healthy enough to play but then said his juicing had nothing to do with his home-run totals. Uh ... hello? How do you get the HRs without staying on the field? It's hard to believe McGwire was too stupid to make the connection, so we'll just assume he was being his deceitful self.

He obviously came clean for only two reasons: One, to clear his conscience. And two, to get the job as Cardinals hitting coach for his Chief Enabler, Tony La Russa. McGwire then worked wonders with St. Louis batters, who finished in the middle of the pack in most categories. Remember: This is a group that includes the best hitter in baseball.

Redbird bats really slumbered down the stretch. And as McGwire's charges faded, the Cardinals handed Cincinnati the division title.

Sadly, Cardinals fans - who like to call themselves baseball's best - took every opportunity to cheer their beloved cheater, liar and fraud.

Turns out, they got exactly what they deserved in 2010.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Still houseless in Heel country

My wife and I made our first offer on a Charlotte-area home today. It was for 96 percent of the asking price. After keeping us waiting for 10 hours, the owner countered by barely moving off her price. So the search continues.

In Charlotte, as most is the case the most locales, it is a buyer's market. There is a lot of inventory, and prices have been depressed by the multitude of foreclosures. Charlotte is one of the nation's banking hubs, and when the banks went bust, so did a good chunk of the area's economy.

Many potential buyers are lowballing when they make offers. But we thought this was a relatively reasonably priced home in outstanding shape in a nice neighborhood. So we gave it our best shot with as fair an offer as we could.

When our realtor called to say the owner wouldn't sell to us, Roberta, who really liked the house, barely shrugged her shoulders. She thought all along that the owner wasn't very motivated and didn't think we'd get the house. I thought we had a chance, though, so I was a little sad.

Should we have ponied up a little more dough to buy this home? If we had, it wouldn't necessarily have been the "wrong" move. Sticking to our budget, however, definitely was the right move. In any kind of negotiation, one must draw the line somewhere.

After the holiday, we'll reassess where we are in our search and start looking at houses again. It's a slow and sometimes trying process. Yet I'm sure we'll find another place we'll like - maybe even a better one in a better location at a better price.

In this Thanksgiving season, I'm grateful for everything we've got - including a roof over our heads in our little apartment, and the financial means to at least be considering a home purchase.

Here's hoping you all have many reasons to give thanks, too.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

When winning equals losing

Wondering if the recent success of their favorite teams has the fine denizens of Bear Country and Illini Land happy or sad about the long-term implications.

After all, another win or two, and it's contract extension time for Lovie and The Zooker!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

At this rate, I'll be succeeding Coach K in 2024

Big win!

I am, of course, talking about ...

The Mighty Bucs of Charlotte Country Day trouncing Covenant Day 22-7 in the 7th-grade girls basketball season opener - and my debut as assistant coach.

I can say now what I wouldn't have admitted an hour before the game: I was so nervous, it was as if I had swallowed a box of pogo sticks!

Having seen the opponent play once, I knew we were the better team. And having covered sports at every level for three decades, I also knew the better team doesn't always win.

Sure enough, we led only 6-5 at halftime and two of our starters were in foul trouble. But the girls played superbly from then on, the final buzzer sounded ... and a feeling of happiness - and, yes, relief - washed over me.

This is 7th-grade basketball. For some of these girls, this is their first experience with an organized team. (Country Day doesn't have interscholastic sports at lower levels.) It's supposed to be about learning to be a good teammate and improving one's skills and having fun.

All of that is undeniably true.

But they do keep score, so you might as well be the team with the 22 instead of 7, right?

Hey, Evan Longoria: Eva's available!

I was going to write something terrific today but I'm too broken up over the Longoria-Parker breakup.

Oh, boo-hoo. Please forgive me.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Trying to stay sane ... one MLS listing at a time

My tummy is jumpy. My head and neck ache from the stress. I'm not sleeping very well. My attention wanes. The cause of these maladies?

Househunting Madness.

Mrs. N and I have ramped up our search for our next home - and our first in the Carolinas. It's been more than six years since we last shopped for a home, and things have changed dramatically.

The good part is that it really is a buyer's market out there. Inventory is huge. Prices are down. The Internet provides an avenue for endless research.

Which all adds up to the bad part: Too many houses out there, too many nice areas from which to choose, too much information.

I now find myself obsessing about finding the perfect house in the perfect location for the perfect price. The practical side of me knows that doesn't exist, but it's very difficult to be practical.

We are in the fortunate position of not having a house to sell. We have some cash to invest. And we have sellers begging for our business. It should be all good. And yet ...

I worry all the time about blowing my one chance to buy the right place at the right time. I mean, who knows what the market's going to be like the next time we're in this position? If we're ever in this position again, that is.

It's madness. Madness, I tell you!

Guess I just have to take two (more) Aleve and call my realtor in the morning.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Impossible that my little baby is 24!

Yes, you're a rising star with Starbucks, but everyone knows you're already Seattle's best!!

Happy 24th Birthday to our pride and joy! Mom and I love you, Katie!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Well, that didn't take long

After watching his Cubbies go into the tank in his first season as owner and then raising ticket prices for 2011 to astronomical levels, Tom Ricketts is asking Illinois - a state that is flat-broke, by the way - to give up tax revenue so he can make Wrigley Field more profitable for him and his siblings.

Even though Ricketts has more money in his sofa cushions than most of us have in our bank accounts, I can't say I blame him for trying.

That's the way the game is played these days: billionaires asking for public handouts to fund their sports toys.

Besides, he's riding a winning streak after successfully squeezing every last dime from the equally broke folks of Mesa to keep Cubbie spring-training in Arizona.

When it comes time to actually vote on Ricketts' request for $300 million in state bonds, it will be interesting to see how the politicians respond. After all, many of them balked every time Tribune Co. even wanted to spend its own money to improve Wrigley.

If all else fails, Ricketts can raise bleacher-seat prices to $150 for 2012 and let the lemmings/suckers/fans foot the bill.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Rex over D-Mac? D.C. soap opera keeps on giving

Political pundits haven't had all the fun in Washington. It's been a great two weeks to be a sports pundit in old D.C.

When the Redskins last played, Oct. 30 against Detroit, Mike Shanahan benched Donovan McNabb in favor of Rex Grossman in the final two minutes of a 6-point game. Why? Well, only Shanahan really knows ... or maybe he doesn't.

Shanahan has been flip-flopping like a Washington politician out of water, at first claiming that Rex has a better grasp of the 2-minute drill than Donovan does. The coach then called an audible, saying he actually was concerned about McNabb's sore hamstrings. Apparently realizing how ridiculous that sounded, Shanny cited D-Mac's lack of "cardiovascular endurance."

Shanahan and his minions also said they told McNabb during the week that just such a benching might happen. McNabb said that wasn't true.

That Rex fumbled on his very first snap - you miss him, Chicago, don't you? - made the whole thing even better.

Because the Redskins had a bye last Sunday, this silliness was the gift that kept on giving in Washington. Every day offered new nuggets of nincompoopness.

On his weekly radio show Tuesday, McNabb called it "hilarious" and "funny" for Shanahan to suggest he was either mentally or physically unprepared for the type of 2-minute drill he has been running since he started playing football.

I don't often get columnist envy any more, but I admit I'm a little jealous of my Washington colleagues these days.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Plain and simple: Favre is fun

A flick of the wrist, a perfect delivery, another impossible victory delivered by the greatest gunslinger football ever will know.

And that, my friends, is merely the latest example of why sport is a better thing with Brett Favre than without him.

Whether you love him or hate him, whether you are thrilled by his on-field exploits or dumbfounded by his off-the-field foibles, whether you're a Vikings fan or a Packers fan or simply a fan of good soap opera ... you shouldn't wish he'd fade away.

The man is many things, but boring is not one of them.

Personally, I hope Brett Favre plays until he's 50.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Sparky knew how to treat special jocks specially

The players would each remember Sparky Anderson's spring training speech a little bit differently in later years, but everyone recalled his main point. He announced that the Machine was made up of two kinds of players. First, there were the superstars. To be more specific, Sparky said, there were four superstars -- Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Tony Perez. Those four made their own rules. Those four had no curfew. Those four had special privileges. If Johnny wanted to go golfing every so often during spring training, he could go. If Pete wanted to blow off some steam at the dog track, well, Sparky might give him a few extra bucks. If Joe needed to come in late so he could attend college classes, that was all right by Sparky. If Tony needed a little rest, then Sparky would fluff the pillow. Those four were royalty. "The rest of you," Sparky said, "are turds."

That excerpt from Joe Posnanski's book about the 1975 Cincinnati Reds -The Machine: A Hot Team, a Legendary Season, and a Heart-stopping World Series - highlights one of my favorite things about Sparky Anderson, who died Thursday.

Many fans get their undies in a bundle because the likes of Alex Rodriguez, Brett Favre, Alex Ovechkin and Steve Nash get "special treatment."

Hello! Wake up, people. Special athletes get special treatment. Always have, always will. Sparky, like every intelligent manager or coach in the history of sports, knew the score.

Bill Russell and Babe Ruth and Mario Lemieux and Terry Bradshaw got special treatment because their status merited it. If any teammate didn't like the Astros letting Roger Clemens skip certain road trips when he wasn't scheduled to pitch, all they had to do was say: "I'll tell you what; as soon as you win 350 games, you can skip road trips, too."

Phil Jackson treated Michael differently than he treated every other Bull. Then, he did the same for Shaq in L.A. Now, it's Kobe's turn. Phil Jackson wins championships.

The system works. In fact, it's probably the only system that can work.

And were Sparky still alive, he'd tell all of us turds the exact same thing.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Repudiate this! And other election silliness

Love the idea of the Tea Party. Really. As one of America's few TMs - True Moderates - I embrace anything that shakes up the business-as-usual partisan politics of the donkeys and elephants.

The notion of smaller government is a good one. I just wish more Tea Partiers had told me how they were going to make government smaller and cut my taxes while still funding everything that needs to be funded. They - like most of the politicians - were big on rhetoric, attack ads and scare tactics but small on legitimate ideas.

The easiest thing to do during campaigns is attack the incumbents. Offering actual solutions? There wasn't a whole lot of that. Now that a few Tea Partiers have gained positions of power, I will be very interested to watch how they proceed.

Will they spend most of their terms trying to get reelected? Will they pursue pricey (and ridiculous) earmarks for their constituents? Will they shake up the establishment or just become part of it?

Oh, and one more thing ...

Most conservatives, some right-leaning Dems and many pundits are saying the results of this election are a "repudiation" of Barack Obama and the first two years of his presidency. And they appear to be correct in many ways.

But that's not the only repudiation that took place Tuesday. It was a repudiation of dopey candidates, too.

The Dems can't nominate Alvin "The Chipmunk" Greene and expect to be anything but laughingstocks. And who knows what would have happened had conservatives not pushed Tea Party yahoos Witchstine O'Donnell in Delaware and Sharron Angle in Nevada? With legitimate candidates, the GOP probably would have gained control of the Senate, too.

(That's good news for us True Moderates. We like a balance of power.)

Finally, a note to O'Donnell and other dopes like her: God gets really ticked off when incompetent wannabes constantly invoke His name as part of their cause - especially when those wannabes sound like imbeciles.

Holy repudiation, Batman ... Witchstine done got smited at the polls.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Today's High 5

5. Donovan McNabb ... benched by Redskins genius Mike Shanahan ... and replaced by Rex Grossman ... with the game on the line. Hell hasn't merely frozen over; it has entered the cryogenics lab, right next to Ted Williams' head.

4. A ripple in the Journalism Force: The Charlotte Observer, now my hometown paper, didn't send its Bobcats beat reporter to Milwaukee for the third game of the season. A short AP story on the game appeared on Page 4 of the sports section. Again: This was only the third game of the season and the newspaper of record for one of the city's only two major professional sports franchises is pinching pennies instead of covering the story. That ticking you hear is the Newspaper Doomsday Clock.

3. Given Mike Fontenot's star power, it's stunning that so few people are watching the World Series.

2. While demonstrating a passing drill during my first practice as an assistant basketball coach, I tripped myself and went sprawling to the floor. The only thing with a bigger bruise than my right hip is my ego. This just in: Chevy Chase aside, it is impossible to look cool while falling.

1. Once upon a time, the Cowboys' biggest concern was that, before a playoff game, the quarterback was distracted by his pop-diva girlfriend. Now, the Cowboys are 1-6, the playoffs are an impossible dream and the QB is hurt. Yes, the Cowboys are a bigger disaster than Jessica Simpson's acting career.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Empathizing with Rangers' wild thing

Watching young Derek Holland implode - walking three straight batters on 13 pitches and singlehandedly turning a 2-0 Rangers deficit into a 9-0 Giants rout in Game 2 of the World Series - it reminded me of the only thing that made me a nervous wreck as the parent of child athletes.

I watched Ben and Katie play football, basketball, baseball, soccer and softball. I watched them participate in track and field, learn to ride bikes, dive into pools and clown around with their friends. I pretty much never worried about anything, even when they were shooting free throws with the game on the line.

Except when Ben pitched as a wee lad.

If you've ever been a parent of a Little Leaguer, or if you played youth baseball yourself, you know that the pitcher's ability (or inability) to throw strikes is about 90 percent of the game.

If the kid throws the ball over the plate, even if his or her "stuff" consists almost entirely of batting-practice-quality slowballs, the team will have a chance to win. If the kid walks too many batters, the team is doomed.

Unlike the center fielder or the second baseman or whoever is batting at any given time, the pitcher is watched closely by every pair of eyes in the park from the moment the ump says "play ball" until another pitcher enters the game.

When Ben was at the plate, I wasn't the least bit nervous. Either he'd get a hit or he wouldn't. If he struck out, so what? Lots of kids did. It was a quick and noble death.

If things weren't clicking when he pitched, however, it was slow torture.

If it got bad enough, I couldn't watch. I would get up and walk to a place I was sure he couldn't see me, helping him resist the urge to look my way and helping me hide my anxiety. But I still could hear exactly what was going on, and I still felt for the little guy with every fiber of my being.

It wasn't that I was embarrassed as a parent or even concerned that Ben would fail. It was the IMPORTANCE of it all, especially to the other parents in the stands and the coaches in the dugout who were watching every move Ben made.

If Ben walked a batter and then fell behind 2-0 to the next, the "encouragement" was inevitable. And unbearable.

"C'mon, Ben, you can do it!"

"C'mon, Ben, just throw a strike!"

"Here we go, Ben, just lay it in there!"

The more they'd "encourage" him, the more he'd press, trying to steer the ball instead of throwing it.

And then he'd miss the strike zone again.

It was painful ... until mercifully, another kid would take the mound and Ben could go to the relative anonymity of shortstop or left field.

Thankfully, Ben actually was an OK pitcher with pretty decent control. Discounting the time he plunked three straight batters - arm, hip, head, plink, plank, plunk, saved for posterity in a now-hilarious video - he rarely was as wild as Holland was last night for the Rangers.

He certainly was no Rick Ankiel.

And yet I was relieved when, the following season, he did what Ankiel had to do and switched positions.

As a catcher, the pressure was off - and both he and I actually could enjoy the games.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Management regrets the error

Under the subject line "Old habits die hard, I guess," my former GateHouse editor, Casey Laughman (who later met a similar fate at the hands of that fine company), couldn't resist needling me a little by e-mail:
D'oh! Despite me blogging that Ryan, now the Rangers' GM, had never sniffed a World Series as a player, he was, in fact, a wild-throwing bit player on the Mets' first title team. Another nice catch by Casey!

Man, I'd better clean up my act. If I keep making mistakes like that, I could get fired from this lucrative gig!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Ryan and Dubya will have Series to remember

Just as I predicted before the season, it's Giants vs. Rangers for baseball supremacy.

Think of it as the Former Juicer Bowl, with Barry's Boyz taking on the club that gave us A-Roid, RaFail Palmeiro, Juan Gone and a cast of dozens.

Or think of it as the matchup of clubs named for New York teams in other sports.

Or think of it as Fox TV's nightmare. No Yankees, no Red Sox, no Dodgers ... and, of course, because it is the World Series, no Cubbies.

So who wins?

With Cliff Lee heading the rotation for a short series, the Rangers have almost as much pitching as the Giants do. And the Rangers have a far better offensive attack.

Then again, the Giants do have Juan Uribe - and I'm not even saying that just to be funny. The man is clutch in the postseason. (They also have Mike Fontenot, my wife's favorite ballplayer because he's the only major leaguer she can post up.)

So ... I'm going with Ron Washington. Just a few months after being disgraced as a cokehead, it would be quite a story if he manages the Rangers to the championship. Their best player, Josh Hamilton, is a recovering druggie, too. One of the things I love about sports is its redemptive nature.

In addition, a Texas triumph would give Nolan Ryan, who never even sniffed a title in his eight or so decades as a player, a championship in his first season as owner.

And it would signal that maybe all the U.S.A. needs to fully recover from the mess we're in is more distance from George W. Bush.

After all, it took the Rangers 16 years to overcome Dubya, their managing partner from 1989-94.

Add it all up and ... Rangers in 6.

Friday, October 22, 2010

David $tern = Hypocrite

Elimination of teams. Thirty-three percent salary reductions for players. Hard salary cap.

Little David Stern is making big threats as he glooms and dooms his way toward the next round of negotiations between the NBA's billionaire owners and millionaire players.

He says owners are losing money hand over fist, so he's merely mentioning possible ways for those poor lugs to make ends meet in 2011 and beyond.

By the by, here's one money-saving idea he didn't mention:

The highest-paid commissioner in sports (estimated as much as $20 million per year) taking a sizable salary cut and eliminating about half of his bloated administration.

Say what you want about NBA players (and all athletes) being overpaid. At least they can do things very few humans can.

What can David Stern do that most Average Joes can't ... besides convince a bunch of billionaires to pay him more money in two weeks than most Average Joes will see in their lifetimes?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cubs get (or keep) their man

Mike Quade? Cool! The Cubs are long overdue for an intelligent, handsome, bald manager.

Put me down for 100 of those $72 bleacher seats!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Coach Nadel, reporting for duty

It took me more than a year to figure out how I wanted to live my life as an ex-newspaper hack, but now I'm on a roll.

Today was my first day as the new assistant 7th grade girls basketball coach at Charlotte Country Day, one of this region's most acclaimed prep schools. We had our first coaches' meeting and it was exhilarating to be part of such a positive, energetic atmosphere. I lack the the day-to-day coaching experience of many others in my position, so I am looking forward to learning from my colleagues at all of the grade levels here. Everybody I've met has been extremely nice and welcoming. I am so psyched for practice to start next week and the season to begin in mid-November.

My buddy Rob Judson, who was one of my references, told me: "Welcome to the insanity." Obviously, he remembered me writing often that pretty much everybody in his chosen profession (and now mine) must be at least a little insane.

Rob also gave me this excellent piece of advice: "Treat the kids as you wanted your kids treated, and you will be a great coach."

This is something I always wanted to try, and believe me when I say I'm looking at it as more than a lark. This could be the start of the Next Stage I've been looking for. Who knows?

It will nicely complement my work at the golf course - another thing I had always wanted to do but couldn't when I was covering games, traveling around the country and trying to help my wife raise our kids.

OK, so put these two jobs together and I'll make slightly less than Elin Nordegren Woods will in the divorce settlement. Doesn't matter.

Life is supposed to be about having rewarding experiences and meeting interesting people. I was lucky enough to do that during nearly three decades as a journalist. And I'm feeling pretty darned lucky again right now.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Roger Clyne - now THAT'S rock 'n roll!

Sometimes I wonder what makes a rock group or performer take off to become a superstar, platinum-selling sensation and what relegates others to mere mortal status.

Roger Clyne (that's him between my wife Roberta and I after Friday night's show in Charlotte) is talented enough to be part of the former but instead must be content with the latter.

For some 15 years, I have been watching Roger do his thing - first as front man for The Refreshments and, the last dozen or so years, as leader of Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers.

Their sound is classic Americana - supercharged rock 'n roll with an occasional country-rock twang. It's reminiscent of Tom Petty, though Clyne arguably has a better voice and more vocal range. He comes from the same Phoenix music scene that spawned the Gin Blossoms, Jimmy Eat World and Meat Puppets, but Clyne has been far more enduring.

In the mid-90s, The Refreshments had a couple of mini-hits that received significant play on FM radio nationally. Not long before I was headed off to Phoenix for a spring training trip in 1996, I heard "Banditos" on the car radio in Chicago. When I got to Phoenix, the same song was playing on the radio there and when it was finished, the DJ said the Refreshments were playing that night at a local bar. I finished that day's work, went to the establishment, plunked down my 5 bucks and enjoyed a night of great music.

When I got home, I went out and bought "Fizzy, Fuzzy, Big & Buzzy," The Refreshments' debut album. Roberta and my kids, Katie and Ben, became huge fans, too. I took Roberta to see them when they came to Chicago on their promo tour and it was a great experience.

Over these last 15 years, I have introduced dozens of people to Roger's sound. Many of those people now make sure to go hear RCPM whenever the group comes to their area. Katie, now grown and living in Seattle, already has recruited a bunch of friends to join her when Roger & Co. play there next month.

Roberta and I went to see RCPM last night in Charlotte, along with two friends who never had seen Roger before. Two more converts! As usual, a wonderful time was had by all, as we reveled in the crowd's enthusiasm and Roger's talent, personality and showmanship. We paid $12 apiece - a fraction of the price of any big-arena show in which the sound is terrible and you have to watch the artists on big screens because you are sitting so far away from the stage.

While big-time commercial success has eluded Clyne, he did write the King of the Hill theme song, the title track for the 1997 film An American Werewolf in Paris and the Arizona Diamondbacks' anthem ("D-Backs Swing"). He and the Peacemakers have made waves on the Web; each time they debut an album, it ranks high in the most-downloaded category. Once when I saw him in Phoenix, he was introduced by Alice Cooper as the "embodiment of Arizona rock."

For newcomers, the CDs (or downloads) I'd recommend are "Americano," "Honky Tonk Union," "Bottle and Fresh Horses," and, of course, "Fizzy, Fuzzy, Big & Buzzy." Amazon has them, but you usually can find them pretty cheap on eBay.

Roger Clyne has so much talent, both as a writer and a performer, that I'm amazed more commercial success hasn't come his way - especially when you compare him to some hacks who, for whatever reason, have hit the big time.

I'm just grateful that he has soldiered on, touring tirelessly so fans like me and thousands of others can see true rock 'n roll in fantastic settings at bargain prices.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Starting Year 51 in style

At 6:41 a.m., the alarm on my wife's clock-radio - which she had forgotten to turn off before she went in to take a shower - blared loud enough to wake the dead.

Or at least the bald.

And so began Mike's Fiftieth Birthday Extravaganza.

Before the day ended, I:

-- Got a telephone call from a prospective employer giving me hope that they might yet be a future employer.

-- Marked my official eligibility for the Senior Tour (or Champions Tour or Fogies Tour or AARP Tour whatever they're calling it now) by parring my first two holes but still managing to shoot another effin' 95.

-- Drove around a couple of suburban Charlotte neighborhoods my wife and I are considering for our future residence. There are so many nice homes on the market for so little money (compared to similar homes in Chicago, anyway), that it's one of those pleasant problems that won't be easily solved.

-- Learned that yet another car was broken into at the condo complex where we currently rent. If my scoreboard is correct, that's 5 in 2 weeks. Our car has not yet been victimized, but we very well might be on deck.

-- Got birthday-wish calls from my loving son, my loving daughter and my loving brother.

-- Received an e-mail from the brother of a longtime friend telling me that my friend, who suffers from cystic fibrosis, is in the hospital in critical condition.

-- Got a birthday e-mail from my Chicago buddy, SouthtownStar sports editor Phil Arvia, who also was born on Oct. 13. He's exactly two years younger than I am. And one year younger than my fellow Marquette alum Doc Rivers. And three years younger than Marie Osmond. And five years older than Trevor Hoffman. And the exact same age as Jerry Rice. Seems Oct. 13 was a fine day to be born. A good day to hit home runs, too. Bill Mazeroski's famous shot against the Yankees in the 1960 World Series came just a few hours after I entered the world.

-- Received a desperately needed gray Marquette sweatshirt from my wife to replace the old one that is now destined for the rag bin. She then took me out to a great restaurant, where I had some delicious pan-fried chicken, cornbread, red peas, biscuits and collared greens. These ol' southern boys know how to whip up great grub.

-- Enjoyed my wife's famous family-recipe cheesecake for dessert. That old Chicago girl knows how to whip up great grub.

-- Watched last Sunday's Mad Men, which we had recorded. We didn't start watching, however, until we had discussed our housing situation for, oh, the 803rd time.

So, as you can see, my birthday included a little of everything. Some interesting, some routine. Some surprising, some expected. Some not so great, but most pretty damn good.

Sounds kind of like life. For lucky ones like me, anyway.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Honkie Heaven on TBS baseball coverage

Ernie Johnson, Ron Darling, John Smoltz. White guy, white guy, white guy.

Don Orsillo, Buck Martinez. White guy, white guy.

Brian Anderson, Joe Simpson. White guy, white guy.

Dick Stockton, Bob Brenly. White guy, white guy.

Matt Winer, David Wells, Cal Ripken Jr., Dennis Eckersley. White guy, white guy, white guy, white guy.

Major League Baseball's playing rosters are about 27 percent Latino, 9 percent black and 3 percent Asian. Yet the only color to be found among the primary TBS broadcasters for the first round of the postseason is whatever color Dick Stockton's hair is on a given day.

And before you say Martinez must be Hispanic, well, the California-born-and-raised former catcher and manager is about as Latino as I am Israeli.

Then again, maybe you know a lot of Hispanics nicknamed Buck.

If you count the four sideline reporters - and really, given what they contribute to a telecast, why would you? - at least TBS did employ David Aldridge for the Phillies-Reds series.

That's 16 white dudes and one black guy ... with the one being on-air a total of about 2 minutes per 3-hour telecast. Talk about a small token.

Really, it's 2010 and we still have to have this conversation? With all the talented, intelligent black and Latino ballplayers and ex-players out there, TBS couldn't even have scrounged up a black or Latino to the studio team?

And this is because ... why? Boomer, Eck and Cal are too damn good?

This is especially interesting and/or disturbing and/or surprising because the Turner networks historically have had great success with diversity in their sportscasting teams.

I mean, isn't Charles Barkley - outspoken, outlandish, outrageous and outstanding - their best hire ever?

And yet amazingly, come baseball postseason, TBS feeds its audience nothing but white bread.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Umps blow it; Mariano Rivera doesn't

As usual, the umpiring has been terrible this postseason, and it's evident that baseball needs to go to some kind of replay system. Still ...

The worst call of all so far was the catch that was ruled a non-catch in Game 1 of the Yankees-Twins series. Greg Golson's grab should have ended the game. It didn't because the umps blew the call. So what does the great Mariano Rivera do? He retires Jim Thome on a pop-up on the very next pitch, turning what should have been a four-out save into a five-out save. Classic Rivera, the best reliever ever.

See, there's no law that says just because an ump screws up, the players have to follow with a screw-up of their own.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Bears 4, Panthers 2, anybody?

If you thought that Giants-Bears game was ugly ...

The Bears-Panthers game - with 50-year-old never-was Todd Collins filling in for concussed Jay Cutler and having to operate behind Chicago's Swiss-cheese line and with Jimmy Clausen being force-fed a bad Charlotte offense - well, let's just say there might be higher-scoring baseball games over the weekend.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Today's High 5 - Postseason Baseball Edition

5. Gotta admit I'm pulling for the Twins - and not just because their manager, Ron Gardenhire, is an actual human being. (Unlike Tom Kelly, the royal rectum I had to cover during my years at AP in Minneapolis.)

No, I'd like the Twins to still be playing in November just so I can see Bud Selig shivering in a box seat as he dodges snowflakes and pretends to enjoy himself at Target Field. I know ... I'm a little warped.

Now, reality: It's hard to envision the Twins getting past the Yankees. For all of their talent, these Yankees are not invincible, mostly because of suspect starting pitching. If the Twins were healthy - if Justin Morneau were available to launch a couple of HRs at Yankee Stadium - I might go with the Twins. But he's not, so he won't.

Yankees in 4.

4. It's Rays vs. Rangers in the Who Cares Series. Not even Tampa/St. Pete fans really care, though I suspect they'll pretend they do and show up just because it's the postseason.

Although the Rangers can flat-out mash and Cliff Lee gives them a legitimate horse, the Rays simply are better. Better rotation, better bullpen, better direction, better fundamentals, better speed, better defense.

Rays in 4.

3. The Reds are a pretty cool story and I really enjoyed covering Dusty Baker during his time in Cubbieland. Still, for everything Cinci has, the Phillies have more.

Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels? That's almost unfair. Not to mention all of that recent postseason experience - and history of postseason success - to carry them if things get a little dicey. (Though I'm saying it won't.)

Phillies in 3.

2. The Phillies don't even have the most feared arms in the playoffs. The Giants do.

Healthy, maybe the Braves steal a couple of games. Banged-up as they are, it's hard to envision them giving Bobby Cox a very satisfying sendoff.

Giants in 4.

1. As for the World Series ...

I'm saying Rays over Phils in a flip-flop of '08.

Yep, it'll be really something when tens of fans show up for the ticker-tape parade through downtown St. Pete.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Smokeless Bears, meet smoking Reds

The Bald Truth

Funny thing about smoke & mirrors ...

Smoke eventually gets blown away and mirrors are proven to distort reality.

The Bears painfully learned this lesson Sunday night, when a team nowhere near as good as its 3-0 record was folded, spindled and mutilated by a mediocre Giants squad.

In sports, as in real life, reality often is no stinkin' fun at all.

The Balder Truth

Jay Cutler's concussion was caused by none other than ... Jay Cutler.

As NBC's Cris Collinsworth pointed out, Cutler repeatedly held onto the football too long and repeatedly failed to locate the "hot" receiver every time the Giants blitzed. So Cutler repeatedly got clobbered by the Giants, who by halftime knocked him out of the game.

All of which underscores why Collinsworth is the most astute football analyst on TV and why Cutler hasn't even been close to a .500 QB during his overrated, overpaid career.


It will be impossible to top the Great Cincinnati Smoke-Out as the Most Stupiderest Sports Story of 2010.

Seems a few Cincinnatians with Skyline Chili for brains actually complained to the state of Ohio because Reds players lit up victory cigars in the clubhouse after the team clinched its first division title in 15 years.

And now the state will use taxpayer money to investigate the situation.

Hey, nobody loves anti-smoking bans more than I do. It's wonderful to go to a restaurant or to attend a concert at a club without coming home smelling like an ashtray.

But really? A few victory cigars in a champagne-soaked, celebratory clubhouse? This is the fight these yahoos want to wage?

Warning to Reds players: Don't fist-bump any young fans, lest you be charged with child abuse.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Look who's cashing a paycheck

Just received my first "real" paycheck since the marvels at GateHouse decided my $2.2 million salary was keeping them from becoming the world's No. 1 media empire.

That's right: Mike's working again.

Before you get too excited for me, a few facts: I'm making only a little more than minimum wage doing mostly grunt work at a Charlotte-area country club - cleaning carts, filling water coolers, driving the range-ball picker, etc.

The job is part-time, has no health benefits and has no 401k plan. And I'm making less money in a typical day than I used to when I covered Chicago baseball, basketball and hockey as a freelance writer.

Still, I like being at River Hills Country Club. I like being outdoors. I love being involved with golf. I like my co-workers. The club members are very unpretentious.

Throw in the fact that I occasionally get to play a very nice course for free, and it's a really happy situation.

The nation's economic woes dealt many of us a bad hand. With a wife who works and a little money in the bank, I have it far better than most - and, believe me, I continue to be grateful for what I have.

Why complain? My life rocks.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Scary fall leads to scary call

Got the kind of phone call last night that, for a few moments anyway, makes a parent sick in the pit of his or her stomach:

"Hi, Dad. Unfortunately, this isn't a good call. I was in an accident."

The caller was my 22-year-old son, Ben, who immediately followed up with: "But don't worry ... I'm OK."

Ben manages a small restaurant in the Lincoln Park area of Chicago. Every so often, he needs to do a bike delivery, which he usually doesn't mind because it gets him some fresh air. He was on such an assignment early last night when a car cut him off. Ben swerved, hit his brakes and went flying. He instinctively put out his left hand to brace his fall.

He said one of his knuckles had swollen to "five times" its normal size. Even allowing for a little exaggeration, that didn't sound good. He also had pain elsewhere on his hand as well as his wrist (which he had broken twice as a kid).

It's an hour later here in Charlotte, so it was about 10:30 p.m. when Ben called. My wife, who has to be up early to go to work, was sleeping. But I decided to wake her because she's a nurse and has a better feel for which questions to ask in medical situations. She listened to Ben's description of injuries and told him to go to a certain hospital close to where he lives.

Ben did just that, and X-rays determined that he had a fracture. They put him in a cast and referred him to a specialist.

All will be well, I'm sure. Ben writes and eats left-handed but he is pretty close to ambidextrous, so he'll get by. He should be able to work. And he'll come out of this as good as new, just as he did the last two times.

Still, I like it a lot better when he calls to complain about the Cubbies.


Ben never used to wear a helmet because "it's not cool," but earlier this year he started wearing one. Maybe he was influenced by the couple of bike accidents and several close calls experienced by my wife on those crazy Chicago streets. Or maybe he's just growing up.

"All I know is that I'm glad I was wearing a helmet," Ben said.

Me, too.


The first time Ben had to be in a cast was when he broke his left wrist as a 9-year-old. It was harrowing at the time but it now makes for one of my favorite family stories.

My father always hated when I played football way back in the leather-helmet era, so he was none too pleased to hear that Ben was getting ready to play the kiddie version of tackle football. A couple of weeks after practice had begun but before the games had started, Ben was fooling around at a nearby playground, fell, and suffered his very painful injury.

The next day, I called my dad to tell him and he immediately said: "Damn it! I hate that stupid football!"

To which I responded: "Well, he broke his wrist when he fell off the monkey bars at the playground, if that makes you feel any better."

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Some Big Ten fleecers play like sheep

Loved this from J.P. Giglio of the Raleigh News & Observer heading into the weekend:

"Every conference schedules its share of fan-fleecing games, but the Big Ten has outdone itself ...

"It's the unofficial Big Ten-MAC challenge, with eight games between the two conferences. Those are gems compared to Wisconsin's home game with Austin Peay and Michigan State's date with Northern Colorado.

"Keep in mind, we don't have a playoff because that would devalue the regular season. The Big Ten has already done that."

By the way, Purdue and Minnesota lost to their MAC opponents, Toledo and Northern Illinois ... proving that the Bad Eleven can't even get a fan-fleecing weekend right.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

An ex-hack's MVPs

Over the years, I voted for every baseball postseason award controlled by the BBWAA ... except one: MVP. Never got to choose for either league. And now that I'm out of the biz, I guess I never will.

You can stop crying for me now. I'll get over it.

And I'll start by pretend-voting for this year's MVP in each league. I'll choose 10 in the AL and 10 in the NL, just like the grown-up sportswriters do!


10. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays. Team was never in it, but 50 HR earns this much.

9. Carl Crawford, Rays. Catalyst for dynamic club.

8. Paul Konerko, White Sox. On fire when Sox got back in race; wasn't his fault they faded.

7. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers. Probably would get vote for Player of the Year, but my definition of "value" requires MVP to at least be on contender.

6. Evan Longoria, Rays. Best hitter on excellent team.

5. Rafael Soriano, Rays. Emerged as true stopper.

4. Vlad Guerrero, Rangers. Little hype even though he had one of his best years.

3. Delmon Young, Twins. Everybody talks about Mauer and Morneau, but check the stats.

2. Josh Hamilton, Rangers. MLB OPS leader main reason team led wire-to-wire. But he has sat out September and he faced little division competition all year.

1. Robinson Cano, Yankees. While Hamilton got to switch to cruise control in July, Cano was the main man in battle for best record in baseball. The best player on a team filled with great ones.


10. Ryan Howard, Phillies. 30 HR ... 100 RBI ... first place ... (and 149 K). What else is new?

9. Martin Prado, Braves. Unsung offensive leader for Bobby Cox's crew.

8. Brian Wilson, Giants. Made 9th innings exciting sometimes, but nailed down win after win.

7. Scott Rolen, Reds. Wherever this guy goes, winning seems to follow. Brilliant acquisition by Walt Jocketty ... and both ex-Cards stuck it to their former club.

6. Roy Halladay, Phillies. Did exactly what he was supposed to do - and more.

5. Albert Pujols, Cardinals. Another great season, of course, but slumped when the Reds were leaving his boys in the dust.

4. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies. Swaying voters with crazy-good finish, but if he had been there all season, the Rox might not have had to scramble at the end.

3. Adrian Gonzalez, Padres. The lone cannon on a team full of BB shooters.

2. Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies. Very good first half followed by awesome second half. If his home/road numbers weren't so skewed to the Coors Field bandbox, he'd be the choice.

1. Joey Votto, Reds. Game after game, week after week, month after month, Mr. Steady produced for surprising NL Central winners. Actually has higher OPS than Albert. And unlike Cargo, he did as much damage on road as at home.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Brilliant ... and lucky, too

Everybody has only great things to say about Mark Dantonio, and not just because they feel sorry that the Michigan State coach suffered a heart attack shortly after his Spartans beat Notre Dame.

Dantonio has "guts" and "courage" because he called for a fake field goal in overtime. And the TD pass that resulted from his gutsy, courageous call gave Michigan State the win.

The following day, Redskins kicker Graham Gano apparently booted a winning 52-yard field goal in OT. But Texans coach Gary Kubiak had called time out just before the snap and Gano had to try again. The next time, he missed badly, and the Texans ended up winning.

And let's go back to the Super Bowl, when Sean Payton had his Saints attempt an onside kick to start the second half. They recovered, captured momentum and went on to stun the Colts.

So, Payton, Kubiak and Dantonio are brave and brilliant and ballsy.

That's cool. But what would they have been had the Colts recovered the onside kick ... Gano missed the first kick but made the second ... and Sparty's fake field goal failed?

Stupid and silly and sucked in by the lure of gimmick plays, that's what.

Ah, the line between genius and goofball. It's finer than ever, isn't it?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Bearish in Chicago, winless in Charlotte

As a resident for all of 3 weeks now, I'm no Carolina Panthers fan. And I probably never will be; my three-decade stint in journalism has rendered me incapable of rooting for a pro team. I didn't even watch Sunday's Panthers game and didn't know the Bucs beat them until some 3 hours after the final horn.

Still, I wish the Panthers were 2-0 (or at least 1-1) instead of 0-2.

This time of year, a city with NFL football gets a lot of energy from its team. When the team is winning, the energy is positive. When it loses, negativity reigns supreme.

Back in Chicago right now, I'll bet folks are darn giddy - and it isn't because Quade's Qubbies have become baseball's Garbage Time Darlings.

Even most diehard Bears fans probably expected doomsday in Dallas. Lo and behold, Lovie's lads prevailed and are 2-0.

Yet more proof that sport - and sport alone - is great reality TV. Nobody really knows what real-life twists and turns the plot will take. And, thank God, neither Bristol nor Blago are anywhere in sight.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A lady? Maybe. But she's no journalist

ESPN's Jemele Hill has written a thought-provoking piece on the whole flap regarding Ines Sainz, the TV "journalist" who was treated like crap by the New York Jets.


Jemele's column reminded me of the one I wrote about Erin Andrews back in 2008, the piece that temporarily caused a storm of biblical proportions.

Sainz did not deserve to be treated so shabbily, obviously. But when a model (who regularly does publicity stunts for a living) tries to pass herself off as a legitimate journalist, it's a recipe for trouble.

Sainz's act makes it difficult for the hundreds of outstanding female sports journalists - those in TV, radio and print - to do their jobs. And I echo Jemele Hill in wondering why some of those people immediately rushed to Sainz's defense.

Switching topics, here's for the commenter who asked for my take on the Bruce Pearl situation ...

This is the classic case of reaping what one sows. As longtime Illinois basketball followers know, it was Pearl, then an Iowa assistant, who ratted out the Illini for alleged recruiting crimes involving Deon Thomas some two decades ago, leading to NCAA sanctions against Illinois.

Now here comes Pearl, it hot water with the NCAA over his own lying and cheating. Beautiful.

As is the case with many holier-than-thou people - Jay Mariotti fits this category, too - the fall is hard when the "thou's" prove to be most unholy.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Nadel ... Nadal ... let's not quibble!

An uncle can't be much prouder than I am of my nephew Rafa. The boy doesn't know how to spell the family name, but he's one hell of a tennis player!

My only complaint about Rafa is that he needs to go on a diet or something. I mean, his body-fat content must be all the way up to 4 percent these days.

And speaking of guys in bad shape, the Cardinals can't even beat the Cubbies. When MVP voters cast their ballots in a couple of weeks, here's hoping they realize Albert Pujols has barely stayed above the Mendoza line in September as his team has lost game after game to NL dregs. Coffee, my friends, is for closers.

Finally, a word about that fine arbiter of good and evil, Jay Mariotti.

Seven counts are about to be filed against him in connection with last month's alleged beatdown of his girlfriend, including domestic violence, false imprisonment and grand theft.

Each count carries a maximum sentence of a year in jail, and I'm probably thinking the same thing Ozzie Guillen is thinking:

Jay would be quite popular among his fellow inmates.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Guard your wallets, folks

I started to write something about some of the football action over the weekend. Then I changed my mind. I saw precious little football, pro or college. And I had trouble caring about any of it.

So instead, I'll write about something that actually matters:

Your money.

When you get a bill from the cable or telephone company, look it over closely. When you get a check from the server at the restaurant, don't just hand over your credit card assuming the tab was correctly figured. When you get your paycheck, make sure you were paid for all the work you did.

In the past week, my wife and I found errors in all of the above. I'd estimate that in the last 10 years, I have "made" at least $1,000 by spotting similar errors.

And even to a multimillionaire such as myself, a thou is a decent chunk of change.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Pujols will get chance to let deeds match words

Got a kick out of Albert Pujols scolding Colby Rasmus after the kid outfielder said he wanted out of St. Louis. Guess that means Prince Albert will be loyal to St. Louis even if the Cardinals ultimately decide against committing 25 percent of their payroll to him.

Glad to hear that the Heisman folks are going to take Reggie Bush's trophy away. Meanwhile, O.J. Simpson will remain a proud Heismanite. Seems it's much worse to take payola from an agent than to kill two people in cold blood. (Allegedly, of course.)

Just heard that Richie Daley isn't running for reelection. Jeesh. If I knew that was coming, I would have stayed in Chicago and run for mayor.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Snoozing with Clooney .... and thumbs down to Eastbound

Just saw The American. I can't remember spending more time at a movie watching less happen.

We all know George Clooney can act. I just wish he had chosen a script that gave him the chance to do it.

For most of this tedious bore, the director even managed to make the Italian countryside look drab and unimpressive.

I want my money back. Even more, I want those 2 hours back.

And speaking of time-wasters ...

On the recommendations of some friends, I decided to give HBO's Eastbound and Down a second chance before the second season starts.

The show, about an ex-ballplayer gone bad, is supposed to be a comedy. I forced myself to re-watch the first two episodes and then to watch the next two for the first time. I am glad to say my original instincts were right - and that I will not be watching the final two episodes of Season 1. Nor will I be watching any of Season 2.

I love to laugh. I can't wait for Curb Your Enthusiasm and Dexter to return to TV. But I did precious little laughing while watching those first 4 episodes of Eastbound. Maybe one chortle and half a guffaw. Total.

I even like to laugh at stupidity as long as the stupidity is funny. Eastbound's stupidity is just stupid.

I'm a pretty darn loyal HBO watcher who will give just about any of their shows a chance. I watched all of Season 1 of Hung and was shocked to learn there would be a Season 2. (I've passed on it and have heard it's as bad as ever) Hell, I even watched John From Cincinnati in its entirety (and wasn't the least bit surprised there was no Season 2).

If you want to laugh while watching a baseball-themed show, rent Bull Durham or Naked Gun or Major League. Or just watch the Cubs.

Just skip Eastbound and Down.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Moved to not want to move again soon

You know how you forget how good or bad something is until you have to do it again? Well, that's how I am with moving ... and it's never good.

But hey, Roberta and I made it to Charlotte - even if all of our stuff didn't. We couldn't quite fit everything into the 24-foot truck we rented, so we had to make some executive decisions about some of our less desirable junk. Not until after we were hundreds of miles from Chicago did I realize that one of the items we left behind - an old TV stand - had all of our remote controls and some other valuable stuff taped into one of the drawers. My son had to go retrieve the remotes for us and ship them at a cost of nearly 50 bucks. What fun! A bargain at any price.

Otherwise, I survived my turn as truck driver, we got everything moved into either the apartment or a nearby storage facility and we're starting to get to know our new hometown. It's all good for this Connecticut Yankee in Krispy Kreme Land.

I even finally got my high-speed internet connected ... but only after spending 8 hours on the phone over a 3-day span with about 2 dozen different AT&T employees. The thieves then tried to charge me more than double what they had promised for the service. And at the end of it all, the supervisor actually asked me if I'd give them a "completely satisfied" grade when I get their online survey.

She might as well have asked if I would sprout a new head of hair.

Things have been so hectic that I've barely followed what's going on in the world, sports or otherwise. I haven't even picked up a golf club, believe it or not.

I did see that the White Sox got Manny, the Cardinals swiftly turned a 1-game lead over the Reds to a 7-game deficit and the Cubs won a series against the Pirates to all but clinch 5th place. Strike up the band.

Meanwhile, regarding things that actually matter, there was another oil catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico, which no doubt somehow was Obama's fault. Or Milton Bradley's.

Anyway, I hope to get up to speed before the next time I post. Until then, here's hoping everybody has a great Labor Day weekend. I sure plan to ... even without the labor.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Net-less in Carolina

i have arrived in charlotte. my modem has not. sorry for the ridiculous look of this post. i know i am not ee cummings. i am still waiting for full internet access so i will not be doing anything resembling a real post till then. stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

So long, Chicago

Well, folks, this is my last post as a Chicagoan. By the time I get around to my next edition of TBT (whenever that may be), I will be a Southerner.


As Roberta and I frantically finish our packing - and I get wrapped up in some heavy-duty worrying about my ability to handle the 24-foot truck I'll be driving to Charlotte - so many thoughts about my 16 years in Chicago are running through my mind ...

For example, I know I'll miss the views from my 17th-floor apartment.

From my living room to the south, I've got my favorite skyline in America. It's a beautiful day, and there's the Hancock. And there's the Sears (sorry, but the only Willis I ever cared about was Reed).

From my master bedroom to the east, I've got Lake Michigan. All that deep blue water, dotted with sailboats. I love this view when I need some tranquility.

From my dining room to the west, there's Wrigley Field, its light towers seeming so much a part of its very essence that it's hard to imagine they weren't even there less than a quarter-century ago.

Then there are the many people who have made my experience here so unique.

Characters such as Ozzie Guillen, Dennis Rodman, Jay Mariotti, Marty DeMerritt, Curtis Enis, Tony La Russa, Sammy Sosa, Cade McNown, Dusty Baker, Terry Bevington, Lovie Smith, Michael Barrett, Lou Piniella, Jerry Krause, Jeremy Roenick, Skip Bayless, Carlos Zambrano, Michael Jordan, Ron Artest, Frank Thomas, Chris Chelios, Bruce Weber, Eddy Curry, Joe Cain, Dave Wannstedt, David Terrell and so many more - I know I'm leaving dozens out.

That list of characters includes people I liked very much (Ozzie, Dusty, Barrett, Lou, Roenick, Weber), people who weren't exactly role models (Worm, Mariotti, Enis, Sammy, McNown, Cra-Z, M.J., Artest, Curry) and people representing every race, creed and color.

Chicago is a great sports town - certainly the best in which I've lived and/or worked - and I probably will miss that even more than I think I will.

As for my media colleagues ...

What can I say about the beat writers? I doubt newspaper and Web-site readers realize how hard these talented folks work. The Internet simply piles on additional duties to the work they already were doing. I have so much respect for people such as Paul Sullivan and Gordon Wittenmyer and Bruce Miles and Tim Sassone and K.C. Johnson and Brad Biggs and Joe Cowley and Mark Gonzalez and Scott Gregor and Chris Kuc and Brian Hamilton and Herb Gould and John Supinie and Paul Klee and Vaughn McClure and, well, I hope I didn't forget anybody I worked alongside these years. As I think about them, I really am in awe of the volume and quality of their work.

A special shoutout to the media mavens to whom I've grown especially close: Phil Arvia, Rick Gano, Gene Chamberlain, Rick Morrissey, Teddy Greenstein, Nick Hut, Seth Gruen, Mike Ramsey, Rick Telander, Mike Imrem, Mike Downey, Casey Laughman, Andy Seligman.

And of course, the late, great Gene Seymour; I'm always thinking of you, big guy.

Away from sports, I will miss all the close friends from so many different walks of life: Linda and Gary Mark; Darcia and Mike Brundidge; Laura and Tony Pellikan; Laura and Tony Garza; Kristi and Jim Johnson; Barb and Jeff Grunewald; and so on and so on.

Not to mention our son, Ben, who will continue to represent the Nadels here. He'll give Roberta and I a major reason to visit as often as schedules allow.

I also will miss being able to walk to work, but I won't miss the traffic when I have to drive. Will miss Millennium Park, won't miss the politics of Chicago (and Cook County and Illinois). Will miss all the great restaurants, won't miss the overpriced burger joints popping up on practically every corner. Will miss the farmer's market, won't miss trying to park the car in my crowded neighborhood. Will miss Bobtail ice cream, won't miss the sirens we hear, oh, every 10 minutes or so. Will miss taking long walks at the lakefront, won't miss the bumper-banging boneheads who "park by feel." Will miss taking advantage of the best downtown in all of the U.S.A., won't miss having to drive so darn far every time I want to play 18.

While my kids were born in Minneapolis, they were raised in Chicago. They spent their formative years in our little 3-bedroom, 1 1/2-bath house on Bell Ave. The backyard was so small that we gave up trying to have a real yard and just paved most of it to make a basketball court. There, Katie and Ben learned to become pretty darn good ballers, and the times I spent watching them play basketball in rec leagues, grade school and high school were among my favorite times as a parent. As I said, Ben is staying but Katie already has moved to Seattle. Still, if you ask her where she's from, she'll say Chicago. Both got great educations at public grade and high schools and both learned a lot about people in the melting pot that is the city.

While I was born in Connecticut, went to college in Milwaukee and became a full-time sportswriter in Minneapolis, it was in Chicago that I lived my journalism dream of being a major-metro sports columnist. I honestly believe that from 1998, when I joined the Copley newspaper family, until mid-2007, when the yahoos at GateHouse bought (and promptly started ruining) the Copley properties, I had the single best newspaper job in Chicago. I covered the Jordan Bulls, the champion Sox, the Bartman Cubs, the '06 Bears, the Deron-Dee Illini run to the Final Four, Sosa and McGwire, Tiger vs. Sergio and so many other amazing events, I have nothing but the very fondest memories.

Roberta ran in the Chicago Marathon, went back to school at a Chicago city college and got a job taking care of sick kids at Children's Memorial Hospital. We renewed our vows in Chicago on our 20th anniversary in front of family and friends.

Yes, the politics and the taxes and the parking tickets and the traffic started getting to me, especially the last couple of years. But for most of these last 16 years, I would tell anyone willing to listen how much I loved Chicago. And still do.

I could go on, but I've got to stop somewhere.

Thanks, Chicago. It's been a blast.