Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Me and LeBron: so much in common

Watching LeBron James muddle through despite his dead arm inspired me to tell a true tale about another world-class basketball stud once similarly afflicted.

My junior year at Marquette, I was the power forward on an intramural team made up solely of unathletic stiffs. The night before our playoff game, I was watching a movie with my then-girlfriend, Laura, whose head rested on my right shoulder as we sat on her couch. When I stood up a couple of hours later, my forearm was tingling and my fingers were numb but I didn't really think much of it.

When I woke up the next morning, my entire right arm was as dead as this Bulls season. I had absolutely no feeling from my shoulder to my fingers. My arm was a big, useless noodle. Concerned, I went to the health center. They said it was a pinched nerve and said all I could do was wait for the feeling to come back. Great.

Shortly after returning to my room, I got a call from our point guard, Steve, who said he'd have to miss the game because he needed to study for an upcoming test. Seeing as how I was the only other guy on our six-man roster capable of dribbling three times without kicking the ball out of bounds, this created quite a sad-sack situation.

A few hours later, it was game time. We had five players, including a right-handed point guard whose right arm might as well have been in a sling. I played as well as I could - I even made a couple of layups and a free throw, if I remember correctly - but, like the rest of the team, I was pretty much a disaster. Our big man, Tom, capped the wonderful evening by becoming the first and only guy in the history of Marquette intramural hoops to foul out - meaning we played the last few minutes 4-on-5.

I believe we lost by a zillion points, give or take a few.

Within two days, the feeling was back in my right arm. A couple of months later, Laura graduated and went back home to be with her high school sweetheart. And Steve, who thought studying was more important than an intramural playoff game? He's some hot-shot Chicago lawyer now.

There's a moral to this story somewhere, but, 29 years later, I still haven't figured out what it is.

Godspeed, LeBron.

Three Chicago losers and one rich Cardinal

Cavs 96, Bulls 94 ... Rangers 4, White Sox 2 ... Nationals 3, Cubs 1.

Talk about your terrible twos.

Meanwhile, Bobby Cox says Albert Pujols should get $50 million a year.

Fifty million bucks! That's ridiculous.

I mean, that's almost twice as much as my last employer was paying me!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Windy City Winners (Mostly)

Quite a weekend for Chicago's intrepid sports squads:

Puck Pluck (& Luck)

Try as they might to give away Game 5 (and quite likely the series), the Blackhawks weren't able to get the Predators to accept their generosity. All Preds star Martin Erat had to do was freeze the puck behind the Hawks net for a few more seconds. But he got greedy and made the mistake of the series - and his blind pass actually sent the Blackhawks on their way to the tying goal. At that point, it was a given that the Blackhawks would win in OT, and now it's a given that they'll win the series. Yes, the Hawks were fortunate. But unlike the Predators, they were willing and able to accept a gift - and they deserve credit for that.

Blessed Bears

Every, single player the Bears really wanted was available every time it was their turn to draft. It's an effen miracle!

Cubbie Clubbing

A Cubs team that just got finished losing five of six to the 'Stros and Mets went into Miller Park and outscored the Brewers 25-4. Which tells us all we need to know about Brewers pitching. And reminds us what we already knew about the Pirates.

So Close To Smallball

Ozzie can keep talking all he wants about the style he wants his Mighty Whities to play ... and we all can laugh our asses off. If they hit homers, they win ... as usual. If they don't, they lose ... period. Against the Mariners, they hit homers - dramatic, late homers. I know those aren't quite as exciting as sacrifice bunts, Oz, but you'll have to live with them.

A Cavalier Attitude

Be honest: You were surprised the Bulls won even one.


"Clearly, after this game, he's moved into first place as the best player to come out of Marquette." - Doc Rivers on Dwyane Wade.

Really? Rivers apparently forgot all about my killer moves in intramural action when we were at MU together in the early '80s!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Illini-Wildcats to fill Cub-sized void

Smart move by the Cubs to book a Northwestern-Illinois football game at Clark & Addison for next November.

This way at least somebody will be playing at Wrigley Field after Oct. 1.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Anything - anything! - but the NFL draft!!!!

Well, the worst day in sports just keeps growing. Now, it's the worst extended weekend in sports.

The only five things in sports worse than watching the NFL Draft on ESPN:

5. Paying Carlos Zambrano $91.5 million to be a set-up man. (Not that any team would be stupid enough to do that.)

4. Running one's fingers through Mel Kiper Jr.'s hair.

3. Forking over hard-earned money to watch the White Sox lose 12-0 on a 39-degree night at The Cell.

2. Having to suck up to Jay Cutler, as everybody in the Bears organization has to do.

1. Letting one's daughter hang out with Ben Roethlisberger.

Time to lock up Cubs and throw away the key?

Stephen Colbert, on the fraud charges against Goldman Sachs:

"What's the problem? There's nothing illegal about selling customers a product designed to fail. The Chicago Cubs do it every year. Are they going to jail? No, I do not think that they are."

Yep, step right up and get your $60 bleacher tickets, suckers!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Better for Bulls to look good than to play good

LeBron sure would look good in a Bulls uniform. Too bad it will never happen, even if he begs the Bulls to take him and even if he offers to give them a bargain.

Paxson and Reinsdorf have that no-headband policy, you know, and God knows it's more important to enforce idiotic policies that have nothing to do with anything than field a representative team.

As for Joakim Noah saying all that silly (and mostly accurate) stuff about Cleveland ... who cares? What Noah says is the least of the Bulls' problems. If everybody on the Bulls was as "distracted" as Noah, maybe the team wouldn't be the epitome of mediocrity.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Yes-yes for this no-no

Big-time kudos to the Rockies' Ubaldo Jimenez, the first pitcher with "BALD" in his name ever to throw a no-hitter!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Lou-isms of the Day

On the Cubs' lack of a decent set-up man for Carlos Marmol:

"Look, we gotta solve our eighth-inning solution."

On why he thinks Alfonso Soriano's outfield defense will improve:

"I've gotta feel that way as a manager."

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

End of an era?

It hit me as I was standing among my fellow media mopes before Tuesday night's Bulls-Celtics game: This might be the last time I ever step foot in the United Center.

Even now, many hours later, writing that sentence seems strange.

I covered a couple dozen Bulls and Blackhawks games for AP and other outlets this season. I won't be doing any playoff games, as I'm more needed at Chicago's ballparks. And by the time next season rolls around, I have no idea what I'll be doing or where I'll be doing it.

My wife and I are talking about relocating to another city if the right opportunity presents itself for one or both of us. Even if I still am in Chicago, I might be doing something else with my life by the time next fall rolls around.

I mean, I've already had so many offers to be a male model, I can't keep turning them down, right?

No matter what, I sure won't be buying tickets for events at the U.C. Not only would I have to be employed, I'd need two jobs - two good jobs! - to afford those ticket prices.

So maybe Tuesday night (when I was freelancing for the suburban Northwest Herald) marked the end of a personal era.

If so, it's been a pretty fun ride. This airplane-hangar of a place lacks the charm and intimacy of the old Stadium. It lacks the history, too. Still ...

I covered the Bulls' second threepeat, writing about Michael Jordan so often that his name would appear on the screen of my laptop as soon as I turned it on. (Just kidding - but that would have been a neat trick, huh?) I've also covered more than a few big moments for the Blackhawks since arriving in Chicago in 1994.

Then again, I mostly witnessed godawful basketball and hockey.

I'll never forget Bill Wennington promising the first post-Jordan crowd that the Bulls might not win much but that they'd never stop hustling. He then didn't move an inch as he lost the opening tip - the perfect coming attraction for the joke Bulls basketball would become.

As for the Hawks, they've come back nicely to be contenders again. It only took them a dozen years. Alpo Suhonen, we hardly knew ye! It got so bad that I rarely bothered writing about them for most of that time. My mom (like yours, probably) always said: "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."

OK, I've waxed nostalgic long enough. Here's to new horizons.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Well, at least Milton Bradley is consistent

Our favorite former Chicago athlete, one Milton Obelle Bradley, has started his Mariners career with 1 hit in 22 at-bats - a .045 average. He has 2 RBI in 7 games and a .182 slugging percentage. He has been dropped from fourth to fifth to sixth in the batting order.

Oh, and he has been censured for flipping the bird at fans in Texas.

And you know what that means ...

It's time for M. Obelle to blame Chicago fans, Lou Piniella, the Chicago media, Jim Hendry, the Great Chicago Fire, his ex-teammates and Chicago deep-dish pizza.

Much easier than blaming the one who swings the bat and the one who can't get a grip on one's temper.

Seek help, M. Obelle.

Really. I am not joking.

From Lou's lament to Tiger's favorite number

Today's high-5:

5. Late in spring training, Lou Piniella asked us media mopes what we thought of the squad he'd be taking north. After a few guys answered with mostly encouraging words, Lou looked at me and I said: "We'll see what happens when the lights go on."

I chuckled as I finished my sentence, realizing I was paraphrasing something Lou had said just a few days earlier. Piniella didn't laugh with me, but he didn't seem even the slightest put-off by what I said. He merely nodded his head and moved on to the next writer's opinion.

Later on, a couple of my sportswriter buddies playfully gave me crap for being cynical, sarcastic and negative.

Then the lights went on ... and the Cubs started losing. Their hitters squeezed their bats into sawdust and their their young relief pitchers peed down their pantlegs.

Said Lou: "Remember what I said in spring training? 'Everything was fine when we were in afternoon, single-deck stadiums. Now all of a sudden, it gets a little different, and we'll have to see.' Well, we haven't see what we'd like to see, let's put it that way."

Jeesh. What a cynical, sarcastic, negative guy.

4. In the 11th inning the other night at The Cell, Hawk Harrelson was whining about a strike call White Sox reliever Tony Pena didn't get. The whining got louder after Pena promptly gave up J.J. Hardy's go-ahead hit.

In the bottom of that inning, Twins closer Jon Rauch threw what appeared to be a strike right down the middle to Mark Kotsay but it was called a ball. Rauch fanned Kotsay on the next pitch.

It's an athlete's job to control what he can. Rauch did. Pena didn't. Which is why, Hawk, the game soon was "ova."

3. The Bulls pulled off a big win at Toronto on Sunday, which means only one thing: There's still plenty of time for them to find other ways to humiliate themselves anew.

This team has suffered countless embarrassments on and off the court this year. None was as unique as Joakimgate - with Vinny Del Negro insisting he was under an edict to not play a rehabbing Joakim Noah more than 35 minutes Friday and Not-Quite-GM Gar Forman insisting the mandate had been modified. Vinny kept Noah on the bench and the Bulls managed to lose to the Nets for the second time this year.

I'm still trying to figure out why D-Wade and other marquee free agents would want to come to Chicago when they could get as much or more money playing for franchises that have a clue.

2. Cubbie fans shouldn't get too upset at Alfonso Soriano. I mean, only about 95 percent of beer-league softball players would have caught that ball he dropped in left field Sunday.

1. OK, so Tiger Woods didn't win the Masters. At least he scored another 69.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Lou's "Little Cubbie" almost makes season debut

Did anyone else notice that when Lou Piniella trotted out to first base to argue a close (but correct) call against the Cubs on Friday night, his fly was open?

Seriously. You think I could make that up?

Thankfully, unlike his woeful hitters, his junk didn't pop out.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

From Dusty to Lou, still no relief for Cubs

So one day in spring training, a couple other sportswriters and I are watching Cubbie savior-to-be Starlin Castro take batting practice. Bang! Single. Snap! Double into the gap. Bang! Single. Snap! Double into the gap. It was impressive.

I couldn't see who was pitching, only that it was a lefty, and I asked one of my fellow scribes which minor leaguer was on the mound serving up meatballs to the savior-to-be.

"That's no minor leaguer," one said. "That's John Grabow."

The guy the Cubs just threw $7 million at to be their primary left-handed setup man.


Fast forward to Wednesday night, when Grabow threw a pitch so fat and tasty that Chipper Jones had no choice but to hit it into the bleachers for the homer that won the game and spoiled Ryan Dempster's sterling start. This after most of the rest of the relief corps looked pathetic in the opening loss in Atlanta.

You know, Dusty Baker said lots of things during his time in Cubbieland, many wacky but some quite wise. This notable Dustyism fits into the latter category - and appears to cover the current edition of his former club quite nicely:

"If you ain't got a bullpen, you ain't got nuthin'."

Monday, April 5, 2010

Obviously broken, NCAA tourney needs a fix

A few thoughts from a wild sports Monday:

++ A great championship game caps a great tournament. Yep, the NCAA surely needs to fix this thing by adding dozens more teams and making it every bit as compelling as the BCS.

++ You know what would have been crazy? If Gordon Hayward would have made that desperation heave at the buzzer only to have the refs wave it off for the obvious, nearly injurious moving screen set by Butler teammate Matt Howard.

++ Here's the main difference between the BCS and the NCAA hoops tournament: The first tries to secure a matchup of the "best" teams as determined by voters and computers; the second seeks to crown a worthy champion as determined by actual competition.

++ It's fun to root for the underdog, yes. It's also proper to admit that the Dookies had one hell of a tournament.

++ A few days before the season opener against the Braves, Carlos Zambrano said: "They're a very good team but I think we're better. Let's rock and roll." Well, consider Cra-Z rocked and the Cubbies rolled.

++ I was at the White Sox opener and witnessed what probably will be the best fielding play of the entire season: HERE IT IS. Oh, and by the way ... Mark Buehrle also turned in the day's best pitching performance. Forget all the Cubbie pretenders and give this guy props for being by far Chicago's best pitcher this past decade.

++ It says something about something that, within seconds of each other, White Sox fans booed video highlights of Barack Obama throwing the first pitch for the Nationals and then cheered the Sox debut of has-been Andruw Jones.

++ Were I at the Tiger Woods press conference, I would have asked only one question: "Why is anybody even bothering to ask a confirmed, notorious liar to tell the truth about anything?"

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Hittin' the highway

Starting the long drive back to Chicago on Friday morning.

Spring training was fun and interesting and challenging. But I'm ready to go home.

My last story out of AZ: READ IT!

I hope the wife didn't change the locks.