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.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Today's High 5

1. What do you suppose Jay Mariotti would have written had Ozzie Guillen been tossed in the pokey for allegedly roughing up a woman?

Well, you know it would start something like: "The White Sox have to fire The Blizzard of Oz, whose act has gone from vulgar and stupid to assault and battery. And if the gutless White Sox won't fire him, it's up to the Blizzard to do the honorable thing and resign."

OK, ESPN and AOL Fanhouse ... it's your move. Because one thing we know for sure: Mariotti won't do the honorable thing. There are decent people who do bad things, and then there simply are bad people. We're pretty sure on which side of the line Mariotti falls.

The thing about being Mr. High N. Mighty is that you don't get a lot of sympathy when you get accused of felonies.

Hmmm ... a felony? Hey, maybe it's all part of Jay's plan to be the next governor of Illinois.

Now wouldn't that be bleeping golden?

2. And speaking of wretched human beings ... Rod Blagojevich is so pathetic and delusional, I almost feel sorry for him.


The man actually thinks being found guilty of a felony and facing re-trial on 23 other counts - for which he likely will be found guilty next time - is proof of his innocence.

3. Were my ears deceiving me, or was Hawk Harrelson really blaming the umpires for the White Sox losing 2 of 3 to the Royals?

Turns out, the White Sox were neither as bad as the team that showed up the first third of the season nor as good as the team that was playing .800 ball in the second third.

In the third third, we're seeing the truth: They're just another mediocre ballclub. One that apparently can't get enough separation from the K.C. Laughingstocks to make the umpires non-factors.

Just curious: Did the umpires also cost the Sox that series against the Twins? How about the series against the Orioles? Or the other series against the Twins? Or ...

4. Bravo to Lou Piniella for doing what he should have done last month when he announced he was retiring after the season. There was no reason for him to stay on for two more months of wretched baseball.

Tom Ricketts and Jim Hendry should have asked him to step aside back then. I'm glad Lou saw the light now, even if it was as much about his ailing mother as it was about his failing ballclub.

People often ask me, "Is so-and-so a good guy?" Or "Is so-and-so as big a jerk as he seems?" My answer usually is: "Well, I really only get to know so-and-so a little bit, so it's hard to say."

But I do feel I know Lou pretty well, and I do feel he is one of the good guys.

Lou's final postgame press conference was both poignant and classy. When I think back on it, I'll remember the tears streaming down his cheeks - not the fact that his last game was a 16-5 loss and the last play he oversaw as a big-league skipper was a double-play grounder off the bat of a guy who should be in Triple-A.

Enjoy your golden years, Lou. You deserve it.

5. I actually said my goodbye to Lou on Friday after he finished his pregame chat with us media mopes and did his radio show with Ron Santo. As he stepped onto the field to watch batting practice, I pulled him aside and told him it was my last game. (Little did I know, it was the start of his last series.)

I told him I was moving to North Carolina in a few days. I also told him I very much enjoyed writing about him and getting to know him these last four years. He told me he liked working with me, too. We exchanged a few pleasantries, had a nice handshake, wished each other good health and that was that. (I had a similar get-together with Ozzie at Sox Park the previous week.)

Later that day, Derrek Lee made his debut with the Braves and I had to write an extra story about that. Then, one strike away from a rare Cubbie win, Carlos Marmol blew the game in the ninth inning when, after walking the bases loaded, he served up a triple to Rick Ankiel. Which meant I had to rewrite my entire story, top to bottom, in about 5 minutes. I have a couple of minor projects to finish up, but that's how my final game-day went. Pretty wild.

About an hour later, I walked out of Wrigley Field, quite possibly for the last time in my life. Who knows? It might have been the last big-league ballgame ever for me. Really.

And if so, that's cool. I've had a hell of a ride ... and there's still plenty of tread on the tires for new adventures.

I'm extremely excited about whatever awaits me in Charlotte. It might include sports, but it might not. It might include writing, but it might not.

There's a whole wide world out there, folks, and I plan to experience it.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Wound, meet salt

"That's probably the most fun I've ever had playing baseball, that series. That series was even better than the World Series. I know the fans here don't like to hear that, but it was fun for us on that side of the field."

That was the just-traded Derrek Lee talking about the Marlins coming back to beat the Cubs in the 2003 NLCS.

Which, by the way, goes down as the single most memorable sporting event I covered during my 16 years in Chicago.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Thome to Ozzie: This bomb's for you!

The List

Three reasons why Minnesotans are happy they aren't Illinoisians these days:

3. While You Know Who is coming back to QB the Vikings, Jay Cutler is only a wannabe until he proves otherwise.

2. The Twins have Jim Thome. And, thanks to Ozzie Guillen's preference for bunters over bombers, the White Sox don't.

1. Minnesota's governor often is mentioned as the possible 2012 Republican nominee for the U.S. presidency. Illinois' last three governors: one jailed felon, one freshly convicted felon and one guy who is in so far over his head that his business card should have a picture of a shovel on it.

The Bald Truth

Well, at least Ozzie isn't stuck with that one-dimensional, lumbering lug Thome clogging up the basepaths and keeping Mark Kotsay from playing DH.

The Balder Truth

Jon Garland is still making Cubbie fans cringe. But hey, he's no Matt Karchner.


As most of you know, I'm moving to North Carolina. I've been warned by a few locals there that some of their politicians are corrupt.

After nearly 16 years in Illinois, I could offer only this response:

"Some? Only some? Jeesh, what a bunch of lightweights!"

Monday, August 16, 2010

Know where the bunkers are, and don't ground that club!

The Bald Truth

You have to be a heartless scoundrel who eats little children and drowns puppies to not feel at least a little sorry for what Dustin Johnson went through at the PGA Championship. Then again ...

The rule exists. So does the bunker - as according to the rulebook, anyway.

It sucks to lose a chance at a championship because of a seemingly foolish rule. It's kind of like being penalized because of the silly, outdated regulations pertaining to signing one's scorecard ... but if the rule is there, one has to abide by it.

That, or find a sport without such goofy rules.

The Balder Truth

As for Whistling Straits ... sure, I'd take a free round there if somebody offered. (Nobody has.) But it doesn't look like a very fun course for any high- to mid-handicapper.

A links course masquerading as a target course. Or vice versa. I'd be much happier playing one or the other. (Not that anybody asked.)


Did the White Sox really battle all the way back from a seemingly insurmountable deficit this season only to piss it all away with one bad August stretch?

They'll get a good chance to answer that question, one way or another, this week at Target Field.

The good news for them (and bad news for the Twins) is that at least Freddy Garcia won't pitch in the series.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Tiger's new math is a tad too average

Tiger Woods just wanted to break par. The TNT yakkers at the PGA Championship spent most of Thursday afternoon praising him for playing smart and accepting the occasional bogey. The media generally gave him high marks for his 1-under 71.

The consensus, including from the man himself: Tiger's not anywhere near back to being The Greatest Ever, but at least he isn't that impostor who had been showing up and playing as if he were John Daly on a bender.

That's all well and good, but if Tiger isn't Tiger, why should we all be so obsessed with Tiger?

Because he's Tiger, that's why!

But enough of this 1-under stuff, you know? Either go wild, get on a record pace and make the rest of the field cower in your presence ... or get wild, lose every other shot in the deep hay, throw a few clubs (preferably at Jim Gray), and make last week's performance seem like the good ol' days.

I don't want to have to get used to Tiger Woods just showing up and playing like any of about 100 other golfers.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Littlest Lovable Loser gains stature

Sad day for my wife: The Cubbies traded her favorite player.

Roberta's been a big fan of Mike Fontenot because he's so little. Yep ... he's just about the only major leaguer my 5-foot-3-ish wife can look in the eye.

Fitting, then, that "Little Lord" - as my wife calls him (Little Lord Fauntleroy, get it?) - got dealt to none other than the Giants.

Come to think of it, maybe Little Lord asked for the trade when he heard that his only fan soon would be moving away from Chicago!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Not the best way to earn respect

Brandon Phillips acts a fool. A brawl ensues between his Reds and the Cardinals. Then the guy Phillips instigated, Yadier Molina, hits a homer ... and the Cards are rolling to another decisive win over Dusty's yet-to-prove-they're-real dudes from Cinci.

Meanwhile, on the South Side, Ozzie whines about his White Sox not getting enough respect. And then, after losing 3 of 4 in Baltimore, they go out and get waxed by the Twins to fall out of first place.

Who knew Tuesday was Just Desserts Day at the Red Lobster?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

They call him Mr. NL Central

Nicely done, Jim Edmonds.

Now who's next, Houston or Pittsburgh?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Today's High 5

1. Since taking over the Orioles, Buck Showalter is 5-1 with a lineup that includes Corey Patterson and Felix Pie.

Talk about already staking a claim for Manager of the Year!

2. I covered Saturday's Cubs-Reds game and watched some of the other two games this weekend, and I couldn't believe how completely Dusty Baker outmanaged Lou Piniella. Really.

Here's hoping nobody wakes up Lou and tells him.

3. The Cubs lost 7 straight, beat Milwaukee 15-3 and followed up by scoring in 3 out of 27 innings against the Reds.

Can you say, "Mailing it in?" I knew you could.

4. It would be poetic if Jim Thome turned out to be the difference in the AL Central race.

5. "Shooting 18-over par is not fun," Tiger Woods says.

I don't know what he's talking about. I shot 18 over just the other day and had a great time.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Approaching life sans Chicago sports

I already can tell that once I make the move down south, one of the strangest things for me will be not caring a lick about the Chicago teams.

Those who know me know that I never have "cared" in the same sense fans do. Whether the Cubs, Bears, White Sox, Bulls or Blackhawks win or lose never has mattered to me and never will. It wasn't my job to cheer them on or to wish them ill. When they did well, I tended to make nice. When they sucked, I was less kind.

Three decades plus in this business, and I've never understood how journalists could get close to the teams they cover. That's always seemed wrong to me.

Having said that, I have followed those Chicago teams - as well as the Illini and, to some degree, Notre Dame and Northwestern - very closely. They have been a big part of my life.

Even after the fine folks at GateHouse liberated me from full-time employment and helped me learn 100 new ways to prepare Little Friskies - I suggest a splash of white wine and a dash of coriander - I kept following the teams because, well, because I was in Chicago and I was still covering games and it was the right thing to do.

But when I'm 800 miles away and there's nary a Paulie nor Kaner in sight, how will I react? Will I still check out the Cubs-Cards box scores online? Will I be especially interested when the Bulls are on ESPN? Will I wake up in a cold sweat still hearing Bruce Weber's unmistakable screech?

Or will those teams I followed for so many years quickly fade from my realm of thought? (Literally, out of sight, out of mind?) Sixteen years of memories becoming just that: a mere memory?

As Vinny Del Zzzzzz used to say - repeatedly - it will be a process. It will take until Thanksgiving or New Year's Day or maybe even Purim ... but soon enough, I'm pretty sure I'll be forever cleansed of A.J. and Kenny and Oz (oh my).

Does that make me feel happy or sad or something in between?

Well, I'll let you know when it happens.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Carolina in my mind

In a few weeks, I'll be an ex-Chicagoan.

My wife has accepted a job in Charlotte. And since she's my Sugar Mama, I'll be joining her in the land of BBQ, NASCAR and Tyrus Thomas.

We've had 16 fun years in Chicago, where we raised a great family and made too many friends to count. And now, we're very excited to start a new life adventure.

After covering Tuesday's Cubs-Brewers game for AP - read what I wrote HERE - I have six more Cubs games and two more White Sox games left before I go.

Then ... well ... I have absolutely no idea what I'll be doing. It probably won't involve newspaper journalism because of the paucity of jobs in that field. Then again, maybe it will. Who knows? That's one of the cool things about the entire endeavor: Anything can happen, and the slate is beautifully blank.

I do know that I hope to do some work with non-profit organizations I admire - be it professionally, as a volunteer or some combination of both. That's right: As if I haven't messed up my own kids enough, maybe I can shape the lives of some others out there.

As for The Baldest Truth, I think I'll still do some blogging after I land in North Carolina ... but I sure won't be writing much about Cra-Z or Ozzie or The Zooker. There's a whole world out there that has nothing to do with sports, and I plan to both inhabit it and revel in it.

Of course, I'll still be around for most of August, so expect to read about some of my favorite Chicago moments, sports and otherwise, in the coming weeks.