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by: Tony Leva
email: tonytrucker1969@gmail.com

As most of us know, there are different types of sports fans. We have serious and casual fans. There are fair-weather and die-hard fans. There are fans who are able to look at all angles of a team’s moves and see the big picture after evaluating all aspects of said moves. Then, we have the lowest form of fan……the meatball.

The meatball is a vile thing. The meatball takes what may be true passion for his or her team and lets it rule them without actually using the ol’ grey matter. The meatball is probably incapable of rational thought anyway, but it doesn’t stop them from yelling uninformed crap at the top of their lungs. The meatball is also incapable of listening to anyone who can think about the issue in question and try to weigh the pros and cons of the situation. The meatball acts on instinct the way a moth flies into one of these…


ZZZAAAAAAPPP!!!

Recently, I’ve seen meatballs on both sides of town go batshit crazy for different reasons. The northside meatballs, easily identified by the backwards hats, Abercrombie sweatshirts, cargo shorts and flip-flops, lost their shit during the Cubs’ 12 game losing streak. The southside faction, identifiable by the alarming body odor and neck tattoos (those are the women!!), went ballistic over their team sweeping a last-place Cubs squad. Let’s analyze both sides and how stupid both of them truly are.

North Side

Flash back to when the Cubs hired Theo Epstein in October of 2011. During his introductory press conference, he laid out his plans for what amounts to a massive rebuilding project. He stressed that patience was required from Cubs fans. He was seen as a visionary and cheered by legions of Cubs fans. We all envisioned the day when we’d finally be able to cheer for a world champion baseball team called the Cubs. It all seemed so possible. There was much rejoicing…

Flash forward to early this season. After a 3-11 start, the Cubs went 12-9 to boost their record to a somewhat respectable 15-20. They were playing decent baseball and even took 2 of 3 from the defending champion Cardinals. Then, the bottom fell out as they embarked on that 12 game skid. And almost on cue, the meatballs lost their fucking minds. These are actual quotes from actual Cubs blogs and fan sites. The caps are mine to enhance their stupidity.

“FIRE THEO!! HE FORGOT HOW TO HIRE GOOD PLAYERS!!”

“OBVIOUSLY, WE NEED TO FIRE THE HITTING COACH AND HIRE MARK GRACE!! HE HAD THE MOST HITS IN THE 90s!!”

“WHY ARE THE RICKETTS TOO CHEAP TO SPEND MONEY ON GOOD PLAYERS? SHOULD OF (they are never smart enough to realize it’s “have”, not “of”) NEVER TRADED SEAN MARSHALL!! DUMMIES!!”

“SVEUM DOESN’T KNOW WHAT HE’S DOING!! FIRE THEM ALL!!”

“SAME OLD CUBS!!! I GUESS I’LL GO CHEER FOR THE SOX!!!”

“THANKS FOR NOTHING, THEO!!!”

It went on and on from there, but my point is made. The truly stupid have forgotten what Theo said in his presser….patience is required. The meatball mindset kicked into hyperdrive like the Millennium Falcon did when Han Solo was outrunning those dicks from the Empire. There was no end to the outrage until the skid was broken on Memorial Day. Their fury spent, they now lay in wait until their storehouses of idiocy are replenished and they find a reason to explode again. I can hardly wait.

South Side

As the Cubs were 3 games deep into that 12 game skid, they welcomed their supposed bitter rivals into Wrigley and got swept. At stake was the prestigious BP Cup, a laughably stupid trophy sponsored by the company responsible for the worst oil spill of all time. 5 million barrels of oil, yada yada yada…. Anyway, these clowns sponsored a trophy for some reason, thinking fans would treasure winning it like it were the Stanley Cup. Since the Sox won it last season, the sweep this season ensured the trophy remaining on the south side for another year. But I digress. Not because I’m going off on a tangent, but because the BP Cup is so amazingly stupid.

So after sweeping a last-place club starting a major rebuilding project, Sox fans acted like they actually won something. Again, the caps are mine to accentuate the stupidity.

“YEAAAAHHHH!!! SWEEEEEEEPPPP!!”

“GET BEHIND A WINNER, CHICAGO!!! CUBS SUCK!!!”

“HAHAHA!! STILL LOSERS!!”

“THE BP CUP IS STILL WHERE IT BELONGS!!!”



Like anyone gives a flying fuck about this.

I can’t recall much else, since I was just so entirely devastated by not being able to pleasure myself to pics of my team hoisting that prestigious trophy for at least one more season. Since Sox meatballs are so completely obsessed with all things Cubs, there was plenty of anti-Wrigley sentiment mixed in, my favorite of which were the claims that “nothing historical has ever happened there besides Babe Ruth’s called shot.” Yeah, let’s pop that balloon of Sox meatballery with some facts. The following have taken place at Wrigley….

5 NFL title games, including the first one ever in 1933….Gale Sayers scoring an NFL record 6 TDs…..the only remaining park used in the Federal League….the famous double no-hitter in 1917….The Homer in the Gloamin….the Harlem Globetrotters once played a game there….Stan Musial’s 3000th hit….3 All-Star games….5 World Series….Pete Rose ties Ty Cobb’s career hit record….Kerry Wood fans 20 Astros…the 2009 NHL Winter Classic

That’s a select list of some serious history right there, but the south side meatballs didn’t want to hear about it. No matter what was listed, it’s of no consequence and doesn’t count. They then parrot the familiar, “BUT THE CUBS STILL SUCK AND ALWAYS HAVE!!! WE’RE WINNERS!!!” Really? Winners? Let’s break out some more of those things I like to call, the facts, and see how much of a winning franchise they have over there. I’ll start with the number of World Series appearances the Sox have made since the first was played in 1903.

Five. Yep, that’s it. FIVE. A whopping five times, the Sox were the best team in the American League. There have been 106 World Series played (it wasn’t played in either 1904 or 1994) and the Sox have been there five times. Want to take a guess at how many times the Cubs have been to the Series? You know, the team the Sox deem inferior?

Ten. Ten times. For those of you who suck at math, that’s twice as many as the current BP Cup champs have been to. Hell, we haven’t even been there in 66 years and we still have doubled them up!! I hate when facts fuck up a perfectly good hatefest. Surely, the Sox must be dominating in total World Series titles, you say. I mean, the meatballs must have some sort of basis for this superiority complex, right?

Think again. They’ve won three titles to our two. We have a combined 5 titles. Consider this….from 1949 to 1953, the New York Yankees won five titles in a row. They matched our total title output by themselves in the minimum number of seasons. THAT is a team whose fans can rub it in and boast about superiority. Sox meatballs have no room to brag about shit unless they’re in Toledo or Pawtucket or some backwater like that. When they call us losers, they are ignoring the 400 lb elephant in the room. No, not a female Packer fan (fuck you assholes, you’ll get yours in the fall), but the spectre of failure that haunts both our teams. Get a clue about what success entails and you’ll see neither of our teams measures up.

Ed. Note – One of the things that pissed me off the most about the Cardinals lucking into winning the most recent World Series was that St. Louis now has doubled up Chicago when it comes to WS titles. Damn bitches.

Sadly, I’m not sure if you can ever recover from being a meatball. The idiocy and ignorance are usually too deeply ingrained to ever be rooted out and exorcised.


Exorcism worked for her, but the Devil is less powerful that the meatball gene.

But if you have a loved one who you’d love to be able to have an intelligent and rational conversation about baseball with, no matter what team you root for, please try liberal applications of facts and statistics. Discourage them from shouting half-truths and shit that’s totally steeped in bullshit. Talk things through with them, don’t let them close their minds to the big picture.

If that fails, you may try the Ludovico Technique for Meatballs. Ask this guy if it works.

They may never eat Italian food again, but it’s a small price to pay for the good health of a loved one.

by: Tony Leva
email: tonytrucker1969@gmail.com

Bear Down, bitches!!

This week, the Bears are ensconced in their first Organized Team Activity (just a fancy term for practice) with plenty of new personnel and coaches. Mike Tice has taken over for the tyrant known as Mike Martz as offensive coordinator and Jeremy Bates has been installed as the passing game coordinator. Bates is a good friend of Bears QB Jay Cutler and has always worked well with him. That’s a far cry from the adversarial relationship Cutler has with Martz. Listen closely at the 0:24 mark. This says it all about their relationship…

Martz’s system was never a good fit for Cutler’s strengths, which include being mobile and being smart enough to read a defense and change the play at the line. Martz’s offense did not include audibles and frowned upon the QB moving out of the pocket. Tice and Bates have said they will allow Cutler to have plenty of input into the playcalling, which is a great thing. When your QB hates the system and the coach who stubbornly insists on running it, even when the franchise QB is getting mauled while running it, replacing the coach is a no-brainer. Cutler took more sacks and hits than any QB in the NFL the past two seasons. Check my math, but that sucks.

As for the new personnel, we haven’t added the offensive linemen we needed, but if Gabe Carimi comes back healthy, the line will improve by his addition. But the big additions are to one of the worst WR corps we’ve seen in forever, which is saying a bunch considering the Bears have never had much of a top-flight corps to begin with. All-Pro WR and legit asswipe Brandon Marshall has a great history with Cutler from their Denver days and have already expressed their joy at being reunited. 2nd round draft pick Alshon Jeffery is another big-bodied WR who should pair nicely with Marshall. This bumps Devin Hester down to play in the slot and Earl Bennett, Cutler’s recent favorite target, to play as the 4th WR. An actual, legit NFL WR corps. I may wet myself.

The defense was bolstered in the draft and the core guys, Urlacher, Briggs, Tillman and Peppers, should have enough left to give us a chance to have a top-10 defensive unit. Well, with good health we have a shot. The window is closing on the effectiveness of these guys so we need to take advantage.

Football season can’t get here fast enough, since the Cubs blow ass right now.

Perfecting the Art of Suck

As things went from piss-ass shitty to fucking unbearably craptastic for the Cubs, the buzz has been about bringing The Riz up to fix the offense, cure cancer and convince Kate Upton to do a sex tape and upload it for free. Or something along those lines. As much as I can’t wait for The Riz era to start, he won’t do any of the aforementioned stuff all by himself. He’ll help when he gets here, but the service time issue is the greater concern. They’re going to wait until June sometime to bring him up and delay his free agency eligibility. Fine with me.

There is so much wrong with this team that I don’t know where to begin, so let’s focus on a few positives for now.

Starting Pitching

The starting pitching has been really good for the most part. Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster and Jeff Samardzija have all been about as good as could be expected, with Samardzija exceeding any expectations anyone could have had for a converted reliever who has been as inconsistent as a depression case using homemade Prozac. Paul Malholm has been pretty good as well and Travis Wood has contributed as well. It’s nice that the Sean Marshall screamers have been silenced for now with Wood pitching well. Those clueless fools never fail to give me a chuckle.

Starlin Castro

The lone Cubs All-Star last year, Castro has picked up where he left off after becoming the youngest player in NL history to lead the league in hits. He’s still a work-in-progress in many areas, but he’s brimming with talent. As evinced here…

Gotta love this type of stupidly good talent.

Dale Sveum and the coaches

The Cubs have been playing aggressive baseball. From baserunning to defensive positioning to going right after hitters, the coaches have put their stamp on this team in the way they want them to go about their business. Even with the recent stuff about Garza and Marmol not throwing the pitches the staff wants, this has been a positive so far. I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do with some more legitimate ML talent.

The Show that Won’t Fucking Die.

Over 13 million votes for the final vote on Wednesday. (No, I don’t watch this show. My wife and girls do and I caught the last 5 minutes the other night when the winner was crowned.) Apparently, some guy named Phillip Phillips won, beating some 16-year-old girl. I haven’t heard him sing yet, but I’m sure he’ll be coming to a low-rent dinner theatre near me sometime soon. There have been some very talented winners, of course, but chances are they would have been discovered anyway. Jennifer Hudson and Carrie Underwood come to mind. Some of the shit that has won…Taylor Hicks, David Cook, Fantasia….really are pushing it as to being considered stars.

While the world certainly would manage to not explode if this show went off the air, the thirst the American public exhibits for this show never fails to amaze me. The early shows are pretty funny, when the truly talentless come in and get their metaphorical nuts squashed, but when they whittle the “talent” pool down to whatever they take to Hollywood, it gets silly. Shoving some of these clowns down America’s throats…anyone remember that hack Sanjaya they tried to hype as an uber-talent?….is just crap. I’m no great judge of vocal talent, but I know what I hear and some of those people have no business doing nothing more than singing in church choirs or in the shower. Don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s Elvis pissing on my leg.

Unfortunately, this show is a phenomenon and isn’t going away any time soon. I’ll stick to Laverne and Shirley reruns, thanks.

by: Tony Leva
email: tonytrucker1969@gmail.com

Patrick Kane needs to learn how to drink

Over the Cinco de Mayo weekend, Deadspin cover boy Patrick Kane visited the University of Wisconsin at Madison campus and proceeded to get so liquored up that pics of him and accompanying stories of debauchery swept this glorious thing we call the internet. What, you missed them? Well, here’s a sample of KANER’s weekend fun…

So what’s the big deal, you ask? Surely there’s nothing wrong with a 23 year old multi-millionaire superstar athlete having a good time cruising the co-ed population and drinking enough to kill a large yak, right? Well, yes and no.

Here’s what’s no big deal….Kane is of legal drinking age and his team is out of the playoffs. He didn’t do anything wrong aside from acting like a drunken buffoon. (As of today, Madison police said no charges will be filed against Kane and they are unaware of any complaints filed by anyone against him. Kane was rumored to have choked a co-ed at some point during his weekend.) Even with his appalling fashion sense, I’m sure he got a little somethinsomethin as long as the whiskey dick wasn’t overwhelming. Hell, I wish I had gone with him.

Here’s what is a big deal….Kane represents a first-class hockey organization and this isn’t the first time he’s acted like a wank. He has been a Deadspin favorite for years now and is always good for some drunken hijinks. The Vancouver limo pics are a personal favorite of mine.

He’s guilty not only of hogging here, but also of being a pattern dickhole. The incidents like this have been piling up over the past few years. Remember the parade on June 11, 2010? I was there when Kane was crocked out of his mind and slurred his way through his turn at the mic. Not a big deal as the first championship for anyone, especially the guy who scored the Cup-winning goal, is bound to be an occasion where you totally overserve yourself. Pattern behavior like this isn’t good.



CHUG-A-LUG!!

When you are a superstar like Kane is, you need to make smarter choices, especially in this day and age when EVERYONE has a cameraphone and is all too happy to snap away when a guy like Kane acts like this. You simply can’t continue to give the masses who want to tear you down ammo to blast you with. Until he starts making smarter choices and either tones this WAY down or opens his own private bar and drinks alone like the George Thorogood song suggests, I’m sure Kaner will be social media’s favorite drunken clown.

As for his future, the TRADE KANE!! faction is up-in-arms again, imploring the team to get rid of him ASAP for any return he can bring. Those people should not only be beaten with a rubber hose, they are hypocrites of the highest order.

First off, trading Kane right now would be stupid for a couple of reasons. One, you will not get anywhere near full value for him. When you have a 23-year-old who is an elite playmaker and possesses a resume like Kane does, you don’t deal him when his value is compromised. We went through this last season when Kane was slumping. Giving away an asset like this, only to watch him find his game again for the next decade or so would be grossly incompetent.

Secondly, you are hurting your team on the ice in a huge way. We need another top 6 forward as it is and with Hossa’s return uncertain, we may need two. Dealing Kane would leave a hole as big as the hangover I’m sure he had after the weekend in Cheeseland. For a team with its championship window still wide open, this would be a catastrophic blow and isn’t in the best interests of the team or the fans.

As for the hypocrite part of my statement, the fans screaming to trade Kane are the same fans who cheer Bobby Hull unreservedly. Hull, in his day, was the biggest lush ever seen on Rush Street. He was a carouser of the highest order and would make Kane look like a Boy Scout on a mild sugar high in comparison. Add in the numerous domestic abuse charges Hull encountered and the little incident where he said, “Hitler had some good ideas. He just went a little bit too far” (kinda makes Ozzie Guillen’s comment about Fidel Castro look like a love song, doesn’t it?) and Kane again looks like a pussy cat. You can’t ignore what Hull did and condemn Kane for far less. He’s not the “bad guy” some idiots in the media claim him to be, either.

While Kane is still young and immature, it’s far too early to give up on him. He has a vast amount of skill that is still untapped and is readily apparent. The guy who scored a goal-scorers goal to win the Stanley Cup is not to be whisked out of the organization. We need him here to do this again….

by: Tony Leva
email: tonytrucker1969@gmail.com

Ruining a Dynamic Young Arm, by the White Sox

In the 2010 draft, the White Sox selected Chris Sale with the 13th overall pick, even though he came from someplace called Florida Gulf Coast University, not exactly a noted baseball factory. He was thought of so highly that the Sox are thought to have stolen him there at 13. When you draft a pitcher that highly, it’s obvious you consider that pitcher to be HIGHLY valuable and a big part of your future. Accordingly, you take every precaution with an arm that prized. You do everything in your power to make sure he’s taken care of to the maximum of your organization’s abilities. So why the hell are the White Sox doing their best to piss away such a dynamic young asset?

After drafting him, the Sox rushed Sale to the majors 2 months later in August. Yeah, they were fighting for the divisional title, something they ultimately fell short of. They used him exclusively in relief 21 times, not too tough a workload even for a kid fresh to the bigs. He excelled in the bullpen. In 2011, he was also used exclusively as a reliever and excelled once again. The Sox had always pictured him as a starting pitcher like he was at FGCU. They were commended for taking their time with him and slowly breaking him in. They let fan favorite Mark Buerhle leave via free agency so a rotation spot could open up for Sale. Buerhle is a God to Sox fans for some reason. The fact the team viewed Sale as his immediate successor spoke volumes about their opinion of what Sale meant to their future.

Flash forward to a week ago. Chris Sale had made 5 starts for the Sox to start the season and again was excellent. All systems seemed to be a go. Then, his elbow started to ache. Not just any elbow, but the elbow of the guy who the Sox had hoped would become a legitimate Ace. Now, when such a young and promising pitcher has any sort of distress or pain in his pitching wing, the generally accepted way of handling this is to shut the guy down for a period of time until the pain either stops or it doesn’t, which necessitates medical attention. I coached both baseball and softball for about 14 years and ANY time a kid who pitched complained of any type of soreness, we stopped them from pitching. Immediately. Even if the parents bitched about it (which none of ours ever did, but I’ve seen it happen) the decision was made as it was our responsibility to that child to keep his best interests in mind. Since a kid of 10 or 11 is obviously not as baseball valuable as Chris Sale is, it stands to reason that he also would be shut down, right?

Wrong. The Sox, for some reason, decided that instead of being shut down, a move to the bullpen was the right course of action. No immediate MRI, no ceasing of any and all pitching, no restriction on self-pleasuring himself. Nope, they decided not only to keep pitching him, they decided to take him off a regular, set schedule of pitching every five days to a far more erratic schedule of pitching. He might have been called upon to pitch two or three days in a row. Is that any way to take care of such a valuable and precious young asset? Of course it wasn’t. To make matters worse, they denied anything was wrong with him….he was just “a little sore”. Yeah, my ballsack was just “a little sore” after my vasectomy. They told me to stay off it while I healed, too. I did.

So on Thursday, it was revealed that the team was sending Sale for an MRI after one relief appearance where he was ineffective and obviously not right. What changed? His elbow didn’t suddenly take on a new degree of soreness after the shift to the bullpen, did it? If it didn’t the team is negligent in caring for Sale’s arm. If it did, the team is just as negligent in caring for Sale’s arm. Either way, the second they decided NOT to shut him down and IMMEDIATELY send him to the doctor for the MRI, they committed a grossly negligent act towards Sale, his future and the team’s fan base. I hope Sale is okay, but the Sox really dropped the ball on this one.

Kerry Wood, Official Cubs Mascot

This past off-season, the Cubs gloriously hired Theo Epstein as President of Baseball Operations and gave him the keys to the franchise in hopes of reaching baseball glory. Tom Ricketts told Theo to do things his way and promised to stay out of the operations side of the team, which he has done so far with one glaring exception….the re-signing of team mascot Kerry Wood. While Theo has promised to run the team like a big league franchise free from drippy sentiment, he catered to Rickett’s wish and brought back the guy who has been dead to me since game 7, 2003 NLCS. Not only did the team bring back a rapidly declining relief pitcher, they did it at the Cubs Convention. You know, they place that’s so filled with cloying sheep that the “BAAAAAHHHHH BAAAAAAAHHHHH” sound can be heard from a mile away. Don’t get me wrong, the place has some serious and critically thinking Cubs fans in attendance, but they’re the minority. I’ve been there and have seen it for myself.

Anyway, they rolled Wood out at the end of player intros on opening night to the delight of the meatheads who screamed shit like, “WE LOVE YOU KERRY!!! YAAAAAAAAAYYYYYY!!! WELCOME BACK!!!!”. I saw clowns post on message boards that they were moved to tears by this blatant publicity grab by a team that needed a feel-good story in the middle of January. Seriously? Moved to tears by a guy that choked away a chance to go to the World Series in glorious and spectacular fashion? A guy that has never reached his vast potential? True, it’s not totally his fault on that last point as he was abused in high school, memorably pitching both ends of a playoff doubleheader days after the Cubs drafted him. He never became more than a thrower…he never became a pitcher. But I’ll never forgive him for game 7. Anyway…..

Wood’s signing was the high point of his current contract as he’s really not a part of our future. His presence on this team was supposed to be about feel-goodery and not about being a competent major league pitcher. Apparently, the feel-goodery is lagging as well. Tuesday night, Wood came into a tie game against Atlanta at Wrigley Field and promptly sucked as hard as a Hoover set on “$100 Whore” and blew the game with a symphony of suck. He gave up 2 walks, 2 hits and whatever shred of dignity he had left when he launched his glove and hat into the stands after the inning was over. At least he hit his mark with his glove, which is a far cry from what he did with a fucking baseball that inning. With an ERA approaching 15 and a surly attitude (after the game, he copped a shitty attitude to a scribe, calling his question about the glove toss “irrelevant” and mixing in a nice cuss word to boot) what the hell is this guy still doing here and why the Christ does he still get cheers from the lemmings?

He gave the ownership what they wanted…a big reaction at the Cubs Convention. It would be nice if Wood could go out like something more than the petulant asswipe he played on TV Tuesday night and retire immediately. Hey Kerry, do the noble thing and give a young kid with a chance to help us win in the future a shot at refining his game at the major league level. Bow out of a failure of a last dance season. Tell the ones who still profess their love for you that the feeling will always be mutual and you’ll always be a Cub and blah blah blah. Take whatever gig the Ricketts family has promised you in your retirement and start building that 401k fund. Go on a world cruise. Impregnate your wife a few more times. Pretend you’re an NBA player and knock up a bunch of ho’s looking for a baby daddy. Do whatever you wish.

Bottom line….just go away. For all our sakes.

NFLer Jacob Bell Call it Quits

Eight year NFL veteran offensive lineman Jacob Bell retired this week in the wake of the Junior Seau suicide last week. Bell cited numerous reasons for this abrupt decision, his health and long-term future the chief concerns. To quote Bell himself…

“One of my biggest concerns when it comes to the game in general is my personal health. One thing that’s obviously on the minds of a lot of people lately is brain research and all the stuff that’s going on with that. One of the big things that I thought about when I was considering this is how much do I love the game? How much can they pay me to take away my health and my future and being able to be with my family and just have a healthy lifestyle?”

Bell signed a one-year deal with the Cincinnati Bengals last month that was worth nearly $1 million, which is what he walked away from. I applaud Mr. Bell for taking a step back from his life in the present and seeing his life in the future, weighing it against the money he was due this season along with likely future earnings, then making a decision that at least 95% of the rest of the NFL players out there wouldn’t dare make. He may not have been a star player, but his family thinks he is and will be blessed with a happy and healthy Jacob for years to come. Good for him.

Shit, I hate being all sensitive and semi-mushy. Since I can’t close like that, here’s a quick funny for you…

Q: Why can’t Jesus play hockey? A: He keeps getting nailed to the boards.

Marvel’s The Avengers Review

I went to see this highly anticipated summer blockbuster movie on opening weekend with incredibly high expectations. I’m no comic book geek, but I’ve always favored the cast of Marvel characters (Captain America, Iron Man, Spiderman, The Fantastic Four, the Hulk) over the DC brand (Batman, Aquaman and Superman). To prequel this movie, Marvel made numerous others as a lead-in over a period of a few years. They all led into The Avengers and usually, when something is this hyped and anticipated, disappointment is inevitable. Believe me, this movie actually exceeded expectations and was in no way, shape or form a let-down.

The movie opens with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), head of S.H.I.E.L.D. arriving at a secret facility that houses the Tesseract, the mysterious energy source last seen being lost at sea in “Captain America, the First Avenger”. The facility is in full evacuation mode as the Tesseract has somehow activated itself and is causing some serious concerns on-site. As it happens, demigod Loki (Tom Hiddelston in an amazing performance) opens a space portal and enters the facility, kills a shitload of people, steals the Tesseract and uses his awesomely badass scepter to put Agent Clint Barton a.k.a Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and top scientist Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) under a mind-control spell. They make a dramatic escape and leave the facility in ruins, with Fury desperate to recover the Tesseract and righteously uber-pissed.

The super-secret and defunct Avengers Initiative is dusted off and re-instated. Black Widow (the deliciously black leather-clad Scarlett Johansson) is contacted first and extracts herself from a situation that is right out of a James Bond scenario. It’s badass as all hell and very intense. It’s also a preview of the next two hours’ worth of intensity. She is sent to Calcutta to enlist the in-hiding Dr. Bruce Banner a.k.a. The Incredible Hulk (played with incredibly under-stated sarcasm and intelligence by Mark Ruffalo). Banner has not had a Hulking-out incident in over a year and seems to be able to control himself. Don’t get used to the un-Hulked Banner because he’s got some serious face time coming.

Genius billionaire playboy Tony Stark a.k.a Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr in a tour-de-force performance) and his lady squeeze Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) are in Stark Tower, located in lovely downtown Manhattan, quibbling good-naturedly like a couple of kids and are interrupted by Agent Phil Coulson who fills them in on the situation and gives Stark Selvig’s research in hopes of getting him to join up. Stark rebuffs the advance as he was initially rejected for the Avengers Initiative as his psychological profile doesn’t fit the mold. Stark realizes the seriousness of the situation and quickly agrees to help out with a push from Potts. What kind of Avengers initiative would it be without Iron Man anyway?

Fury himself recruits Captain America (Chris Evans) for the team. Cap is at loose ends after being thawed out after 70 years of being frozen in the Arctic or wherever it was. Bottom line on that….it was fucking cold. Anyway, Cap is still adjusting to life in the present and is an outsider for the most part, looking for his niche in today’s world. He quickly agrees to join The Avengers as he’s a true patriot. Captain America has always been my favorite superhero and Evans plays him exactly like I envisioned. He’s who I want to be when I grow up.

Loki has a plan to rule the Earth and needs the Tesseract to aid his cause. The Other, a super badguy from another race in outer space (hey, that rhymes!!) promises Loki an army of space assholes called the Chitauri to help him conquer the human race in exchange for the Tesseract. Talk about a dick move. Can’t do his own dirty work so he enlists a batshit crazy demigod to do it for him.

Loki is located by some sweet facial recognition software in Stuttgart, Germany by S.H.I.E.L.D. He’s simply there to cause a distraction so Barton can steal iridium, which is needed to stabilize the Tesseract’s powers. Quickly captured by Cap, Iron Man and Black Widow, Loki is abducted by his half-brother Thor (the side of beef named Chris Hemsworth). Thor attempts to figure out Loki’s plan and is quickly engaged in battle by both Cap and Iron Man. As they beat the ever-loving shit out of each other and lay waste to what was probably a protected forest area, they settle down after the testosterone levels go down and take Loki to S.H.I.E.L.D.’s awesome flying aircraft carrier and imprison him in a cage-thing made to hold the Hulk.

As The Avengers bicker and talk shit to each other for a while (the interplay amongst The Avengers is often hilarious), they realize the Tesseract was being used as the basis for some superweapons by S.H.I.E.L.D. (I’m getting sick of typing that) and they disagree about what to do about their situation. As this is going on, the still-controlled Hawkeye and others controlled by Loki invade the carrier and blow up a big part of it, and manage to piss Banner off enough that he Hulks out and rips apart even more of the ship. Then a bunch of fun shit happens….Loki escapes but tricks Thor into the prison cell and ejects it from the ship in hopes of killing him, Hulk falls out of the ship and crashes to Earth, Black Widow knocks Hawkeye out and breaks the mind-control mastery, and Iron Man and Cap realize that Loki has a grander plan in mind.

Loki’s plan is to use the Tesseract in a device that Selvig has built on top of Stark Tower to open a giant portal in the sky (protected by the energy from the Tesseract) and unleash that army of space assholes to begin the conquering of Earth. As the Chitauri flow in, (some foot soldiers, some riding alien sleds with sweet laser weapons and these bigass monster-things that fly/glide like nothing you can believe encased in armor) the Avengers reassemble in Manhattan to engage in an epic battle for supremacy of both Earth and who can make the biggest swath of destruction while battling the invasion. I gotta think Hulk won that honor. For the record, this is where the Hulk absolutely STEALS the movie with two laugh-out-loud scenes. The Hulk subdues Loki in one of them. If I had a DVR button at the movie, I would have rewound that scene 5 or 6 times. It was that great.

As the battle rages, the jerkoffs who run S.H.I.E.L.D. ignore Fury’s confidence in The Avengers to win the battle (they have figured out a way to close the portal using Loki’s phallic scepter) and unleash a fighter jet who blasts a nuke at Manhattan to end the battle their way. This was even a bigger dick move than when The Other got Loki to grab the Tesseract for him. At least The Other is just a space alien asshole….these are humans who have to live on Earth. Iron Man leaves the battle to intercept the nuke and using the last bit of his suit’s energy, guides it through the portal where it explodes all over the alien mothership and renders the invading aliens as useless as mint-flavored suppositories. The depleted Iron Man falls back through the portal, plummeting to a certain future as scrap metal, but is saved by the Hulk. Finally, all is well. Well, except for Manhattan, what with all the dead aliens of various sizes littering the streets and the damage to all the buildings that are going to keep building contractors in NYC busy for decades. Thor takes Loki and the Tesseract back to Asgard for Loki to be held accountable for his actions. Sucks for him.

The Avengers go their separate ways. Opinion is divided amongst the people of Earth as to the good The Avengers have done. The clueless jerkoff faction whine and bitch about the damage done in saving their worthless asses from being ruled by an Asgardian demigod who has a real attitude problem. Some gratitude. The other faction revel in the success of The Avengers and feel safe that they are protected by them from the inevitable problems on the horizon. These people have a damned clue about what happened.

There are two post-credit scenes to stick around for as well. These are a staple of Marvel movies these days and are worth the wait. Besides, the lines for the bathrooms thin out a bit if you wait for the lights to come up. At around 2 hours and 20 minutes, you’ll need to take a whiz when it’s done, believe me, especially if you down a 32 oz Dt. Mt. Dew on the way to see it.

Four stars aren’t enough for this flick. I give it eleventy billion stars and a cherry on top. I’m going to see it again and quite possibly will squeeze in a 3-D viewing as well. I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a movie this much. Even if you’re not a huge fan of the superhero genre, the performances and computer-generated stuff (THE HULK!!) are worth the price of admission. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

by: Tony Leva
email: tonytrucker1969@gmail.com

Junior Seau, CTE and where this all may lead

On Monday, future NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau put a gun to his chest and pulled the trigger, ending his own life at age 43. This is eerily similar to how former Bears defensive back Dave Duerson took his own life in February of 2011. Duerson left a note saying he intentionally left his brain intact so it could be studied for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, commonly known as CTE. It’s a degenerative brain disease that has been linked to violent contact sports like football and hockey. Repeated blows to the head in these, and other, sports are suspected to directly lead to CTE, which in turn causes the victim to suffer from memory loss, depression, confusion and aggressive behavior. Obviously, suicidal tendencies are also a symptom and unfortunately, sometimes the last symptom.

With the recent deaths of hockey players considered “enforcers”, Rick Rypien, a CTE victim who committed suicide, the possible suicide of Wade Belak, a depression sufferer, and the overdose of Derek Boogaard, also a depression sufferer and CTE victim, the hockey community has been seriously questioning the role of enforcers in the game as its becoming apparent the constant punches to the head may be directly linked to CTE. Considering the relative youth of these 3 players…Rypien was 27, Boogaard was 28 and Belak was 35…the crippling effects of CTE manifesting itself in such young men is truly frightening. If getting into fights on the ice is linked to CTE, what the hell is the game of football doing to others?

Virtually every play in football ends with a high-speed collision between at least two people…at least one of which is moving at full speed. From the first time a youngster puts on the pads and taps into that neanderthal gene that says “RRRAAAAAHHHHHRRRRRR!!!! HULK SMASH!!!!” they are subjecting themselves to the very real possibility of injuring their brain on a constant basis until the day they stop playing the game, be it one play later or when they retire from pro football. The damage done to a brain from a violent concussion can never be trusted to fully heal and the medical data supporting that conclusion gets bigger with every study done on the brain.

When do parents around the world finally say, “Not my child” and refuse to allow them to participate in sports where the risk for brain injury is so great? I’m not advocating one side over the other here, just asking that very important question….”When”? I’m certain that many parents out there won’t give a shit about anything that’s come to light and will keep enrolling their kids in these sports and will continue to scream encouragement from the stands when little Johnny plants a crushing hit on the son of another set of parents. They’ll yell “SHAKE IT OFF, RUB SOME DIRT ON IT AND GET BACK OUT THERE” even when it’s their kid on the sideline, woozy and nauseous from receiving a similar hit, even when their coaches insist they watch from the sideline until they’re cleared by a doctor to return to game action. I’m not sure where this is leading for the future of these sports, but I’m sure controversy will abound.

The Cubs and the Farm System

On a lighter note….Yeah, the Cubs suck hard this season and probably will in 2013 as well. While this is nothing new for us Cubs fans, what is new is there’s an actual plan to improve via the farm system. Let’s take a look at my top 5 prospects…

1. Anthony Rizzo, 1B The prize of the Adrian Gonzalez to Boston deal, the Cubs somehow heisted The Riz (That’s MINE and I expect royalties when he wins his first MVP and everyone calls him that) from the Padres for Andrew Cashner. Only 22 years old, he’s tearing it up at AAA to the tune of a .372/.422/.638 slash line and is only being held back by the issue of service time (free agency eligibility begins after 6 major league seasons and teams sometimes try to delay the eligibility clock by bringing young players up in June or July) and the fact that Bryan LaHair is playing well at the major league level. He’s a Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor, so you know the kid is a fighter, too. I think he’s the most big league-ready of our youngsters and will give the Cubs a big run producer for a decade or so. ETA…June 2012

2. Brett Jackson, OF Jackson is a big, left-handed hitting OFer with superb defensive skills, is faster than rent in the ghetto and actually has the ability to draw a walk, something the Cubs haven’t stressed in the past. He’s prone to the strikeout, but so were plenty of other difference-makers with a similar tool set. I’m hoping he can be Jim Edmonds with more speed and less power. I don’t expect 40 homers from him, but 40 steals per season are in his sights. He’s excelled at every level he’s been at and at 23 is ready to hone his craft in Wrigley. There’s an available OF spot for him, but he’s in the same service time boat as The Riz. This kid is going to get every chance to be the dynamic leadoff hitter we have lusted after like we’ve lusted after a video of Kate Upton doing the Cat Daddy.

God help the rest of baseball if Jackson exceeds that level of awesomeness. ETA….June 2012

3. Javy Baez, 3B The last 1st round pick of the Jim Hendry reign of terror, he’s from the last MLB draft where overslotting and overpaying those players was possible. Drafted 9th overall in 2011, he’s 6′ 1″, 205ish, and still filling out since he’s only 19 years old. Scouts raved about how the ball jumps off his bat to all areas of the field. Defensively, he’s already a plus player and has the ability to play SS as well as 3B. Attitude may be an issue, though. He was recently scolded for admiring a home run and responded, “I can do whatever the fuck I want!” He’d better hit about 35 homers with a .300+ average in Wrigley if he’s going to be a cockbite. Hey, they can’t all be saints. ETA….2015

4. Matt Szczur, OF
Pronounced “Caesar”, Szczur is a super athlete who played both baseball and football at Villanova before choosing baseball after being drafted in the 5th round of the 2010 draft. He probably would have chosen baseball anyway, but the Cubs gave him $100K to sign and another $500K to skip the NFL scouting combine. For $600K, I shudder to think what I’d do. He’s struggling a bit at High-A Daytona, but he was a project with a high ceiling when we drafted him and we can afford to let him learn his craft at his own pace. He’s athletic and was very durable in college while playing two sports. He’s gone from 5th round future to fast-track prospect making a name for himself in the organization. ETA….2014, maybe 2015

5. Trey McNutt, P The top pitching prospect in the system, McNutt, only 22, has two outstanding plus pitches…an overwhelming fastball and a big ol’ power curve that are almost major-league caliber as it is. Refining a 3rd pitch and sharpening his control a bit will be the keys for McNutt (yeah, you love that name) to make it as a starting pitcher in The Show. He is thought so highly of that the Cubs refused to include him in the Matt Garza trade and laughed in Boston’s collective faces when they wanted McNutt (don’t act like you’re not giggling) in compensation for Theo. Standing 6′ 4″, he’s an imposing figure on the mound and may even put a few more pounds on his 205 pound frame. We need more home-grown arms to compete, but McNutt is a good start. ETA…2013

Rocky Horror Live Cast Showing

Ok, off sports for a second. This past Friday night, I took my girls and two of their friends to the Arcada Theatre’s live cast showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. If you’ve never seen this, it’s a Bucket List thing, especially if you like rude, vulgar, offensive and colorfully dressed people who worship a movie that bombed like it was dropped on Nagasaki in 1945. These goofs (said lovingly, of course) dress up in costume and act along with the movie in it’s entirety. But that’s not the fun part!! The fun part is the audience callbacks. During the whole movie, the dialogue in the movie is “answered” by the in-the-know members of the audience. Here’s a decent example of this. Gotta listen kind of close, but you can make out the callbacks.

The enjoyment level for virgins (Oh yeah, first-timers are called “virgins” and are marked with a lipsticked “V” on each cheek and some offensive words or artwork on foreheads or bald heads. Then, the cast tries to offend them pre-show. The guy who tried to offend me had the tables turned on him. Silly cross-dresser!!) depends on how good the audience is. It’s much more fun to hear everything crisp and in-time (My name is Janet. “SLUT!!”) rather than a bunch of people who aren’t into the flick. It’s very audience participatory-dependent for fun, because the movie itself pretty much sucks, which is why it bombed years ago. After the show, the cast is more than happy to pose for pics and shoot the proverbial shit with you. This is me and my boy, Frank. I think it’s a boy. I didn’t have the sack to look under it’s panties…

Bring your kids if you don’t mind taking a chance on scarring them for life. How can you, really, when it’s just a bunch of grown-ups prancing around in drag?

 

Well, the Hawks bowed out quite meekly in the first round of the playoffs this week. With Mike Smith stealing the two wins that Corey Crawford didn’t gift-wrap coupled with some key players (Patrick Sharp, I’m looking at you) last being seen on a milk carton and losing one of the game’s best two-way players in Marian Hossa, it all added up to a big wet fart that smelled worse than it felt. As disappointing as things turned out, it’s a damn sight better than what we saw before the resurgence of 5 years ago. To paraphrase some old Roman dude, “I’ve come to bury the Hawks, not to praise them.” Here’s my end-of-season/playoff report card. No punches pulled, no gilding the lily, no tarting it up.

FORWARDS

Jonathan Toews…Until a concussion cost Captain Serious 23 games, he was showing the hockey world again what a special player he continues to be. Averaging basically a point-per-game (for you hockey noobs, that’s a great rate of scoring), winning over 60% of his faceoffs (this is a FANTASTIC percentage), continuing to be a dynamic defensive player and cementing his place as an elite player and leader, Johnny was in the conversation for the Hart Trophy, awarded to the league’s MVP. Even though he likely wasn’t 100% upon his return, he was a factor in the series vs. Phoenix. Hopefully, his noggin is okay and his career isn’t affected by the concussion. GRADE….A

Patrick Kane
…Coming off wrist surgery in the off-season, there was some question about his being ready for the season. All he did was play all 82 games, one of only two Hawks to suit up every night. Shuttling between wing and center all year, he had a down year, points-wise, but if his wingers could have buried half the chances he served them, his point total would be much higher. He’s a work-in-progress defensively, but did show lots of improvement in that area and stepped up in Toews’s absence into a leadership role. Only 23, he’s a key player in our future. GRADE….B

Marian Hossa…Big Hoss led the Hawks in scoring with 77 points this year and played his usual excellent two-way game. One of the game’s best defensive forwards (he only had 20 penalty minutes this year, remarkable for such an active player in his defensive end), he did have some stretches where he wasn’t very visible, but over the 81 games he played, he was a serious plus. We can only hope he’s fully recovered from Raffi Torres’s dirty playoff hit. A true core player, we need him to come back healthy. GRADE….A

Patrick Sharp….Until a playoff vanishing act that would make Houdini ask “How did you do that?” Sharpie led the team in goals with 33 and was his usual dynamic sniping self. I wish I had an answer for his playoff no-show, but I don’t. Chalk it up to being a new dad and not getting any sleep. That’s what I’m going with. GRADE…B-

Viktor Stalberg
…Quite possibly the handsomest guy on the Hawks, the incredibly skilled Swede had a career season with 22 goals and 43 points and did it for under a million bucks. He looked better as the season wore on and he gained confidence. At times, he was the best player on the ice on either team. His elite speed created numerous scoring chances all season and we can only hope he continues to trend upward in 2012-13. He could be a real difference maker for us. GRADE…C+

Dave Bolland…Why is it that we all expect more from this guy? Only 25, it seems like he’s been a Hawk forever. He played 76 games and scored 19 goals, but after the job he did in the 2010 playoffs, I think anything he ever does might be a disappointment. It may not be fair, but I don’t make the rules. If we can deal him and his $3M+ cap hit, so be it. We can replace a guy who probably will never be that 2nd line center we desire. GRADE…C-

Andrew Brunette…Brought in to provide a big body in front of the net and leadership presence, he did one admirably and failed at the other. He proved too slow to keep up with the speedy Hawk forwards and never really found a place to call his own on any line. We all had hoped to squeeze whatever last drops of hockey goodness he had out of him, but that well proved to be dry. He shan’t return. GRADE…D-

Marcus Kruger….While he may never gain enough size to be a great player, he showed he can be pretty damned good on the 4th line as a defensive center. Smart, quick and always in the right spot, he has proved to be pretty durable and has a nice head for the game. We certainly can do worse than him and at only 22 years old, his future is with the Hawks. GRADE….C

Bryan Bickell….Easily the most frustrating Hawks player this season. Big, tough, fast with a great wrist shot, he pulled a Claude Rains for most of the season before coming to life against Phoenix. Every Hawks fan wanted this guy gone before the trade deadline and if they say they didn’t, they’re lying to you. He has too much talent to give up on so quickly and will be back next year, hopefully finally seeing what hard work all year can do. GRADE…D

Andrew Shaw….Easily the best story of the year. Signed to an entry-level deal during the season after being a 5th round draft choice after being undrafted in THREE previous drafts, Shaw blasted into Chicago like a breath of fresh air with an attitude and instantly became a fan favorite. His hustle won fans. His grit won fans. His determination won fans. Everything this kid did won us over more and more. Andrew Shaw proved that there is more to playing the game than measurable talent. Heart and desire, while cliché, matter. Pluswhise, #shawfacts ruled Twitter for a time, which speaks volumes about his impact. GRADE…A+

Michael Frolik….Works his ass off, battles in the corner, fills lanes with an active stick, couldn’t buy a goal if he had a bag of gold dust for a nutsack. All that is well and good, but for $3M per year, we need him to find his 20 goal-a-year form he showed early in his career. GRADE….D++

Jamal Mayers
….One of the “grit guys” Bowman brought in for a one-year deal, he provided what he was signed for. His character and work ethic were solid all season. Not sure if he’ll be back, but he was a solid player for us. GRADE….C+

Daniel Carcillo
….Carbomb, brought in as another “grit guy”, but one with actual hockey skills showed he can really play the game well. Of course, the fact that he’s a tremendous turd, a reckless player and a target for refs every time he’s on the ice proved costly and ended up costing him the season with a wrecked knee he did to himself with a dirty hit on another player. Re-signed for 2 years while in rehab, I’m not sure where he’s going to fit next season. GRADE…Incomplete

Jimmy Hayes….Did fairly well in limited time, he’s another youngster with a nice future here. You can’t teach size and Big Jimmy has it in spades. I look forward to his big ass in front of the net for a long time. GRADE….C

DEFENSEMEN

Duncan Keith….Brilliant at times, pedestrian at others, looked like a clueless fuck at others. If Bickell is the most frustrating Hawk player, Duncs is easily #2, simply because we KNOW how good he can be. Remember when he was the best defenseman in the world? Of course you do, because it was only two years ago when he won Olympic gold and was a stalwart for Team Canada, won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman and had his name engraved on the Stanley Cup. There isn’t anything he can’t do on the ice, but he has struggled with consistency. He needs to become at least 85% of that player again. GRADE….B-

Brent Seabrook….This season, Seabs became the undisputed best d-man on the team. Big, fast and a bruising hitter, he blossomed into the player we hoped he’d become. He finally started to unleash that bomb of a shot of his more often and piled up the ice time without any significant reduction in effectiveness. A true blueline stalwart, Seabs would thrive in any era. GRADE…A

Nick Leddy….At an age where his peers are still playing college hockey (Leddy turned 21 late in the season), he was thrust into a role that was too big for him. Even so, he played in all 82 games and scored 37 points, a solid season in those respects. What he needs is about 15 lbs of muscle and plenty of ice time and experience to become the player he can be. Fans really shit on him all season, deservedly so at times, but those same people will be cheering wildly for him once he improves on those rough areas. GRADE….C

Niklas Hjalmarsson
….He’s regressed since his first two seasons, when he looked every bit the next mainstay on the blueline. When we matched San Jose’s offer sheet, it was seen by most as a necessary move to keep a building block. Since then, he’s done nothing to warrant the move, giving the second-guessers plenty of ammo. For the money he makes…over $3M per year….we need more than ONE goal and a buttload of shotblocks. Simply put, if he’s moved this off-season, it won’t make many Hawks fans sad unless he blossoms elsewhere. Then, the third-guessers will go hog wild. GRADE….D-

Sean O’Donnell….Brought in to be a depth defenseman, he only played 51 games and looked to have almost nothing left. He did have some solid games, but simply couldn’t sustain any sort of solid play. He won’t return. GRADE….F

Johnny Oduya…..A fantastic addition at the trade deadline, he was a disaster in the playoffs and it’s up in the air as to whether he’ll return. I like the guy, but we have other d-men that have a similar skill-set….fast, agile, not very big or physical. If he stays, someone else has to go and vice-versa. At least he was sort of cheap in that trade. GRADE….C

Steve Montador….A concussion wrecked his season and he never looked comfortable before that. Hopefully, he’s healthy and can find a groove with us because we need him to be the player we signed him to be. He was actually more effective as a forward on the power play. That’s as surprising as the fact that one of my daughters puts ketchup on her hot dogs. *throws up in my own mouth* GRADE….D-

Dylan Olsen
….Another young guy who didn’t get a whole lot of consistent playing time, he should get a long look in camp to take one of the bottom pairing spots. He’s gotta be better than O’Donnell, right? GRADE….Incomplete, but with promise

Sami Lepisto
….Spent much of the season in Q’s doghouse. Not sure why, since he was better than O’Donnell who got into 51 games. He must have made fun of Q’s coachstache. GRADE….D-

GOALTENDING

Corey Crawford….I’m not sure where to start with this guy. When he’s on, he’s dynamite and impregnable. Like he was in games 3 and 4, he kept us in the games and looked as confident as a cow a vegan convention. Of course, he could turn on a dime and shit the bed like he did in those same two games. For a team to win the Cup, the goalie needs to be able to steal a game here and there. Antti Niemi did it in 2010….game 1 against San Jose comes to mind….and Crawford needs to be able to do the same. A summer of busting his ass with a goalie coach should help greatly, but how dedicated he is remains to be seen. GRADE….C+

Ray Emery….His return from a possible career-ending hip injury was rewarded by a roster spot with the Hawks and was our team’s nominee for the Masterson Trophy, given to the NHL player that “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey.” Having a guy that respected on the roster is always a good thing and when he stepped in during a Crawford slump that lasted forever, he played well enough to steal a game or two for us when we were desperate for some wins. His overall numbers weren’t outstanding, but he did his job as a backup…be a pro, be ready to play, don’t bitch about not playing, and mentor the kid who you’re backing up. He is a credit to the game of hockey. GRADE…B

I’m not sure what the off-season will bring, but in the meantime, I’ll be enjoying another 6 weeks or so of the NHL playoffs. All we can hope for is a solid off-season for Bowman and the regained health of out walking wounded. Things are never as bad as they seem when you’re at your lowest and the playoff loss certainly applies here. Getting 101 points in the beastly-tough Western conference isn’t like we were terrible all over the ice and up and down the roster. A few key additions and subtractions will help our chances this time next season. Onward!!

First off, I’ve come up with a cool hockey-themed name for my column. For you hockey novices, let me explain…a bag skate is a hockey practice where the coaches keep the pucks in the bag. All they do is skate, skate and then they skate some more. It’s a punitive measure that usually follows a terribly shitty effort in a game the night before. You can usually tell somewhere in the 3rd period when a team will be going through the dreaded bag skate the next day. Busting your ass is a sure way of avoiding a bag skate. There’s no smartass parallel I’m trying to make here…I just like how it sounds, so The Bag Skate it is.

Pre-Game

Tonight, the Hawks face their biggest game of the year in game 4 against the suddenly “We think we’re good” Phoenix Coyotes. Well, most of the Coyotes. Grade A cocklunch and assphlange Raffi Torres is obviously not playing for a while, due to his being suspended for that dirty hit on Hossa in game 3. I don’t really need to go over what happened again. Suffice to say, the bad blood between these two teams has grown exponentially since game 1. The Hawks don’t need to go out and “get even”. That’s what stupid fans would want us to do, and I’ve seen plenty of that shit on plenty of boards. Fans of other teams blathering, “That wouldn’t happen with my team.” Good for your team. Chances are, they haven’t won the Cup ever or for a very long time. I’d prefer the Hawks to retaliate with a series win.

Puck drop, 20:00 left in the first Anyone else nervous? BTW, rookie/junior superstar Brandon Saad starts on the Toews line. Nothing like playing with an elite player to boost a kid’s confidence.

18:30…The Bolland line with a great shift! We need a big night from the secondary guys tonight with Hossa out. The big guys need help with the heavy lifting.

17:48…Hawks to the power play. God help the Coyotes if we actually can score here. God help us, period.

16:20…Near miss by the Hawks. Damn, that would have been sweet.

16:02…Refs fuck the Hawks yet again. Blatant high-stick in Sharp’s face right in front of all 4 officials goes uncalled. Someone give Q another $10K for another fine when he calls the officiating a disgrace again.

14:36…Brandon Bollig and Paul Bissonnette tangle here. Yet another talentless hack employed by Phoenix for the express purpose of being a pile of crap. Get some talent and then talk to me. What a punk. Both get 5 for fighting. Bitchonnette should get 2 more for that haircut he has.

11:55
…Toews with an awesome chance. Not a great angle from in tight and he tried to go short side rather than his customary 5 hole. Would have been a tough shot to make for sure.

11:40
….Foley railing on Torres, saying the league needs to tell him that if he pulls this shit again, his future is in doubt. Yeah, sounds good, but we all know the NHLPA would never allow that to happen.

10:43….First good save by Crawford, as Phoenix can’t get much going in the early part of the game. Good thing to see!!

9:15
…Hawks are controlling the game big-time so far. We need this effort all night and the rest of the playoffs.

6:14…Even Kane taking the body!! Attaboy!!

5:27
….Frantic pace with not many whistles so far. This style benefits the Hawks as we’re by far the faster team. Phoenix can’t stay with us so far and seem to be back on their heels. Speed kills!!

5:07
…Another great flurry for the Hawks. Stalberg looks like he has a bounty on the first goal scored. #Saints

4:03
….Kane nearly beats gutless faker Mike Smith to a loose puck. That would have brought some serious catcalls down on that play-acting punk.

3:13
…Goalpost for Phoenix. Why does it go this way…a team is getting utterly dominated and they get a great chance like that? Thank you for that PING!!

1:15
….Phoenix has another stiff, this one named Kyle Chipchurra….is he some sort of chocolate-chipped Mexican doughy treat? I loves me some chipchurra after my burrito and horchata.

End of the first period
…Hawks dominate the first period and outshoot the Coyotes 11-5. Trying to do this column and tweet the game at the same time is almost beyond me. I may have to apply for hazardous duty pay for my typing fingers. Blocked shot tally….Phoenix 9, Hawks 0. Can’t block what aint there. That’s a great sign. Flipping over to the Bos/Wash game for a quick looksee….tied at 1 and, of course, the pricks run a commercial as soon as I flip to them…bastards are spying on me again.

Second Period

18:58…GREAT SAVE BY CRAWFORD!!!

17:52….Phoenix has come out strong in the 2nd. Push-back is a big part of what we need to do here until we get control of things again.

14:48….Bickell steps on a stick and dumps himself. Actually a good no-call there by the four blind mice.

13:54…Crowd seems a bit underwhelming so far. You know what would get them going? A goal.

12:23….Great save by Smith on snake-bitten Michael Frolik. The puck trickled in a bit late and the whistle blew. Would have been nice for that to have counted, but it was pretty close and the whistle is the end of the play. At least it got the crowd into it.

12:04…Another Hawks power play. Excuse me while I shit myself with joy!!

11:13….This makes my balls hurt watching them get nothing going.

9:22…Hawks currently outshooting Phoenix 16-8. The trend is your friend, but sometimes friends stab you in the back.

8:00.
..This game is flying by so far. Good thing, I’m tired and want to hit the sack.

6:14…Brendan Morrison wins a board battle. THE SEVENTH SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE!!

5:30….Another great save by Smith, this one on Bickell. Hawks are going to break thru soon.

1:56…Coyotes head to their first power play after Mikkel Boedker falls down. Nice dive there.

End of the second period….Hawks continue to dominate everywhere but the scoreboard, outshooting them 23-10 so far. This isn’t even close, save for the acting candyass keeping the game scoreless. I gotta figure Phoenix is going to come out even stronger in the 3rd than they did in the 2nd, so we’d better be ready for it and match the intensity. I don’t want to go to bed all pissed off like I did Tuesday night. I hate swearing in my sleep. The cocky doucher doing the shoot the puck promo missed all 3 of his tries badly….LOL. This chick just joined the list of “Top 5 Whorishly Dressed Women” to ever do this promo….well done, you tramp!!

Third Period

19:56….Hawks kill off the penalty. That was much appreciated, boys!!

18:57…..Someone tell the Hawks the 3rd has started. Phoenix kept the puck in our zone for over a minute. Did they set tee times and not tell anyone?

17:45….The longer we don’t score, the less I like our chances. These are the types of games goalies steal for inferior teams.

16:43…Foley needs to stop calling Ray Whitney “The Wizard”. Unless he’s in OZ or playing SS for the Cardinals, he’s nothing of the sort. STFU, Pat.

12:57….Yep. The Coyotes score and lead a game they have no business being in, 1-0. Out-played, out-shot, out-everythinged and they’re up 1-0. I hate this sport.

12:13….2-0 Coyotes. No effort at all in the crucial 3rd period and we’ve been dominated thus far. Keith and Seabrook get caught standing in the crease like they had tickets to watch the game. Good bye, playoffs. This series is over. Saturday night will be academic unless something drastic happens.

10:40….Way to pick up your fallen comrade, Marian Hossa, by the way. Nice heart you guys are showing in response to Torres and his blatant thuggery. Ought to be ashamed of yourselves.

9:35….Brendan Morrison of the Hawks scores on a deflection to make it 2-1. Forgive me if I don’t get fully engorged, but that was a weak goal Smith should have had. I’ll get excited if we can tie it up. As it is, I see Phoenix scoring again within 2 minutes. Sorry to piss down your leg and tell you I pissed down your leg.

7:53…..To the Hawks credit, they’ve picked it up since rolling over and playing dead to start the 3rd. Too little too late?

7:23….Hawks head to the power play. I think this may be the most crucial power play of the season.

5:23…What a popcorn fart of a power play at a crucial time. I think I’ll go pick my nose with a rusted butter knife….

5:13
….Another Hawks penalty, this one by Sharp for a trip. This is the most crucial penalty kill of the season. I love when things even out.

3:18
…Toews with a solid short-handed chance there. We can always count on him to play his ass off. OH CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN!!

2:25…Getting beaten by nobodies. I hate this sport.

1:26…HOLY FUCKING SHIT THE HAWKS TIE IT UP AT 2 APIECE ON THE DELAYED PENALTY!!! And it was the snake-bitten one again…Michael Frolik!!! I love this sport!!!

End of regulation.
Headed to overtime for the 4th straight time in the series. I don’t know if this is good in the long run for whoever advances, but it sure is fun to watch. Well, it’s fun when I’m not swearing at the TV or shaking with nerves.

Overtime

19:40….Hawks fans chanting for Hossa. That’s a nice thing to do. #WinItForhossa, indeed.

17:45…Hawks lose quickly on another goal by a real slug, Mikkel Boedker. What a fucking joke, going down 3 games to 1 to a team we have no business losing even once to. And it was all set up by Nick Leddy taking a horrible angle on the rush by the slug. This one, just like game 3, was given away to a team that can’t hold our jocks. Have I mentioned I hate this sport?

So, the season is basically over. With Marian Hossa playing the part of the Gipper, the Hawks couldn’t summon up the courage to win even one of the two games at home for him. Way to be good teammates. You let a talentless thug like Raffi Torres change the series and couldn’t respond. You let a team with NINETEEN SHOTS ON GOAL beat you tonight. A team that can’t skate with us beat us. A team that can’t score goals beat us. To top it off, we lost on two awfully horribly weak goals. Unacceptable on all counts. I, and all Hawks fans, expected more out of this team. In short, this is how I feel about this team as I go to bed tonight…

EVEN JESUS IS PISSED AT YOU ASSHOLES TONIGHT!!

Tonight, the Blackhawks begin their quest for their second Stanley Cup championship in three years. For the team that wins it all sometime in June, they will complete a two-month grind that tests the limits of endurance, the quality of the team’s character and the sheer incompetence of NBC analysts Pierre McGuire and Mike Milbury. These guys are so bad they make Ken Harrelson seem almost listenable and anyone who has ever heard that douchenozzle knows what a feat that is. Seriously, how anyone can listen to that whining, cloying homer is beyond me. I guess some people enjoy having their ears raped by a talentless hack.


Please, kill me before he speaks again.

Speaking of talentless hacks, let me kick off my 1st round preview of the Hawks/Coyotes series.

Offense

On paper, the Hawks are the dominant offensive team in the series. Led by Patrick Sharp’s 33 goals, the Hawks boast 4 other players with 20+ goals and Dave Bolland came close with 19. In contrast, the Coyotes have only 3 players with 20 or more goals, led by Radim Vrbata’s career high of 35. However, they spread their scoring around a bit better than the Hawks do, with 6 players between 11 and 17 goals. But for sheer firepower, the Coyotes can’t match the top two lines the Hawks can roll out there, especially if Toews returns (we’ll cover that later in the preview). The Hawks high-powered offense scored 248 goals as opposed to only 216 for Phoenix. At nearly half a goal more per game, the Hawks filled the net better all year than the Coyotes did. Good luck to the Coyotes in shutting down all that offense the Hawks have. The Hawks don’t need to worry about much more than the top line of the Coyotes.


Sharpie is a key offensive player and a helluva handsome dude. Guys like us are rarities!!

EDGE…Blackhawks

Defense

Since the Johnny Oduya trade, the Hawks overall defense improved greatly. Oduya was a stabilizing influence on the blue line and was the slick puck-moving defenseman we hope Nick Leddy can become. His presence allowed Leddy and others to play less minutes, including Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, which will help greatly in the long run. The addition of youngster Dylan Olson and the return of Sami Lepisto give the Hawks tremendous depth on the back end, which is incredibly important during a long playoff run. (As an aside, the 21 year old Leddy finished 2nd among Hawks d-men in scoring with 37 points, behind only Duncan Keith’s 40 points, a lofty accomplishment for someone who became a whipping boy for the short-sighted idiot faction out there. You know, the same jerkoffs who screamed for Kane to be traded at less-than-peak value). We have a solid 8-man rotation going right now. The Coyotes may not be as deep here, but any team with Keith Yandle and youngster Oliver Ekman-Larsson has a top pair that is as good as anyone’s. The rest of their defense is fair at best, with former Hawks suckwad Adrian Aucoin heading up the less-than-fantastic Coyote defense. They better get some seriously effective minutes from Yandle/Ekman-Larsson if they want to take this series. EDGE….Blackhawks

Goaltending

The old adage says a hot goalie can win a playoff series all by himself. While that may be a slight exaggeration, the way Mike Smith has been playing for Phoenix, it may hold about as true as it gets. He had a breakout year at age 29, not a huge surprise for a goalie. He set career bests in every category and has looked very bit the type of guy who can carry a team for stretches all by himself. On the flipside, Corey Crawford has been up and down like a $10 crack whore in the hood on the day public aid checks arrive.


Yes, Crawford has been about this scary at times. Not pretty, I know….

Even with his second consecutive 30 win season, his problems are pretty evident. When he’s confident, he’s amazing. When he lets a bad goal in, you can almost see him shrink in size and his confidence evaporate. Smith has been on his game far more often this season, but he will have to step it up yet another level for Phoenix to beat the Hawks.

EDGE….Coyotes

Coaching

Dave Tippett has been fantastic at guiding the broke-ass Coyotes to their first-ever division title and the 3 seed in the Western Conference. Somehow, he guided them to 97 points with extremely limited resources. In his 8 seasons as a head coach, he’s made 7 playoff appearances but has never won the Cup, but did get to the Western finals in 2008 with Dallas. Joel Quenneville has been the right guy for the Hawks job since his hiring early in the 2008-09 season, making the playoffs each season and winning the 2010 Stanley Cup. Both are head coaches any team would be fortunate to have in their employ. Whichever teams loses the series won’t do so because the coach is at fault. EDGE….Even

Special Teams

When it comes to the phrase “Power play”, both team are full of shit on that count. The Hawks ranked 26th and the Coyotes ranked even worse at 29th out of 30 NHL teams. These respective units are about as scary as the Charlie Brown Halloween special.


Even a rock is more than what these power plays have provided.

Neither one should make much of an impact in the series. As for the penalty kill units, Phoenix ranked a solid 8th overall while the Hawks were 27th. The Hawks were pretty solid for some long stretches at times, but they really shit the bed for other periods. This could be a strength for Phoenix, but overall it looks like a wash. EDGE….Even

Intangibles

The single biggest intangible in the series, and possibly the entire NHL playoffs, is the health of Hawks team captain Jonathan Toews. An elite player like Toews can make a difference in any series, as evidenced by the Conn Smythe trophy residing in his trophy case alongside his World Junior championship, Olympic gold medal and Stanley Cup title. He excels in every facet of the game and is even better as a leader. If he’s back at full strength, Phoenix doesn’t stand much of a chance. The whole of the NHL should be wary of us if Toews is 100%. If he can’t play, then this series just became a dogfight. The biggest intangible Phoenix may have is the home-ice advantage, but one road win by the Hawks will erase that.


This is very tangible. And with Johnny, it’s attainable.

EDGE….Blackhawks

Prediction

In my column last week, I predicted the Hawks to win this possible series in 5 games. (I didn’t sacrifice a live chicken like I said I would last week, but I did demolish a bigass steak on Easter, so I’m hoping that’s close enough) I honestly didn’t think Phoenix would win the Pacific as they needed two huge wins and some help from other teams to do so, but they pulled it off with some very solid clutch hockey. Now that it’s come down to it, I’m going to stick with my prediction, especially since it’s looking like Toews is going to return to the lineup. I just can’t see Phoenix winning 4 of 7 with the Hawks at full-strength.


VICTORY STEAK FOR EVERYONE!!!

THE PICK….Hawks in five games.

by: Tony Leva
email: tonytrucker1969@gmail.com

After back-to-back shootout losses against the laughably awful Minnesota Wild (their name is as awful as their quality of hockey), the Hawks have recently accomplished the following…1) clinching a playoff spot without having Captain Serious in the lineup for 20 games 2) showing they can beat anyone with the lineup they have if they play smart, tough and fast hockey 3) knocking AWPDS out with an elbow, courtesy of Duncan Keith (I don’t condone what he did, but since it was in retaliation for basically years of cheap shots by those punkass bitches, so be it) 4) giving me plenty of ammo for my columns and 5) raising ticket prices for next season already. All that’s left to settle is who they’ll meet in the first round. Let’s look at the possible match-ups and how desirable they are.

Nashville

This is the ONE team no sane Hawks fan wants to face in the first, second or any round. The only way we get these guys is with a win in regulation against Detroit in the season finale. Anything else, we’ll finish 6th in the conference and draw the Pacific champ, which we’ll get to in a minute. Why don’t we want these guys? Besides the fact they beat us like they paid a nickel for us, they have possibly the best goaltender in the West in Pekka Rinne. Gotta love hockey names, eh? Anyhoo, Rinne and Nashville have taken 4 of the 6 regular season games from us and even though we beat them 5-4 in the last meeting, they stormed back from a 4-0 deficit and looked damn-near unstoppable while doing so.

Their offense is good enough to compete with anyone, a radical switch from their usual M.O. In years past, if you got up a goal or two on them, they were as good as beaten. But with the addition of former KHL (the elite Russian pro league) MVP Alexander Radulov, they’re as deadly as a box of rabid cats with straight razors tied to their tails. He’s a real difference maker and has a terrible haircut. That’s a bad mix.

It’s best if we let Detroit face them in the first round and watch as one knocks out the other. Hopefully, we get past our own first round series at the same time. In short, this team scares the ever-loving piss out of me. They’ll be quite the confident bunch if we meet up with them at any time in the playoffs. Nashville is led by one of the best coaches in the game, Barry Trotz. He always has his teams ready to play and well-prepared. Not to mention he is the happiest-looking guy in hockey…

You can almost see the sunshine beaming out of his ass, right?

Prediction…If we get these guys in the first round, I think they take us in 5 games. Yeah, they scare me that much.

Los Angeles

As of this writing on Friday night, this is who we’d get in the opening round.
They took 3 of 4 from us and looked pretty damned good while doing it. If Pekka Rinne is the best goalie out there, the Kings’ Jonathan Quick is in the top 5. Appearing in a staggering 68 games so far, Quick has posted 35 wins, a whopping TEN shutouts and a sub-2.00 GAA. YIKES!! He hasn’t been easy for anyone to beat and he already has two of those ten shutouts against us. I love him as an American hockey player, but I don’t want to be chanting U-S-A! while watching him stonewall us out of the playoffs.

Let’s hope Quick doesn’t get fatally wounded by his own troops like this Stonewall did.

Their offense isn’t as stout as other teams, but they sure have a few skill players to watch out for. Mike Richards and Jeff Carter have had a nice reuniting out on the Left Coast and I’m sure the bars and nightclubs have seen their business go up as well. Drinkee, drinkee!! Add in Hawks-killer Dustin Brown, Dustin Penner and Drew Doughty, they aren’t exactly barren. They’re coached by one of my first favorite Hawks players, Darryl Sutter, one of the 6 Sutter brothers who played in the NHL. He’s never won the Cup, but he knows the game and won’t lose a series because he’s not prepared.

Prediction…This may not be the best match-up either for us, but hockey teams from L.A. don’t exactly have a record of success in the playoffs. As good as Quick is, we have a great playoff defensive center in Dave Bolland who should be able to shut down the Kings’ top line. Hawks take this series in 6 games.

San Jose

GM Doug Wilson (still one of my all-time favorite Hawks) nearly tweaked this perennial playoff team right out of the post-season this year, but they’ve been hotter than a junkie’s spoon lately and have roared back into contention. They are essentially tied with L.A. and will decide the division winner in tonight’s game, the finale for each. Offensively, they’re led by a guy who is 6′ 4″, 230 and is a real under-achieving bitch. Joe Thornton has a well-earned rep as a playoff choker…who else recalls how he pissed the bed against us when we swept them in the 2010 playoffs? For such a big guy, he’s severely lacking in balls. I’m not worried about any team that will lean on this guy in a short series.

Defensively, Dan Boyle, a very good player, leads an unexceptional corps of average d-men. Aside from Marc-Edouard Vlasic, hereafter referred to as PickleBitch, and the ugliest man in hockey, Douglas Murray,

Ugly is not a good look for a wanna-be pretty boy.

I couldn’t pick a Sharks d-man out from a lineup of car salesmen, though the trail of slime would tip me off as to who the car salesmen are. Hawks playoff hero Antti Niemi is a quality goalie for sure, but he can have his moments where you know you can beat him. I’ll love him forever for those 16 wins he gave us on the way to Lord Stanley, but the team now in front of him can’t hold a candle to what we had in front of him. They’re coached by Todd McLellan and that’s not exactly going to make an opponent shit themselves in fear now, is it? He’s about as intimidating as that spider my daughter crushed with a shoe last week.

Prediction
….This may be the most favorable match-up for us. I simply can’t believe a team led by Thornton, PickleBitch and McLellan can beat us in a short series. It’s always great fun to watch Thornton crash and burn under pressure. I’m going with the Hawks in 5 games here.


Phoenix

The current 8th seed, they have an outside chance of winning the Pacific. The mere fact that this incredibly broke team, owned by the NHL until a buyer can be found, is actually in the playoffs is astounding. They’re so broke, they make the state of Illinois look like we have $100 bills growing on trees in our solid gold backyards. Seriously, they’re so broke…HOW BROKE ARE THEY??…that they literally have to have the coaches pay for pre-game meals and drinks. That’s broke. That’s like ghetto broke. Can we send them some coupons for 2 for 1 meal deals at their local Denny’s or something?

This collection of no-names are led by a solid captain in Shane Doan and a dynamic young defenseman in Keith Yandle. They have in their employ players named Lauri, Oliver and Raffi….sounds like a deranged TV puppet show for kids or something.

“That’s right, King Friday, we’re going to have to get medieval on these bitches.”

On the blueline, they’re solid, though unspectacular besides Yandle. But the real story on this team is the play of goalie Mike Smith. He had his string of 234:25 consecutive scoreless minutes snapped earlier this evening (I’m writing on Friday night this week due to my daughter being in her high school musical, West Side Story, the past two nights. I GOT A SOCIAL DISEASE!!). That’s pretty impressive for a guy who’s on his 3rd NHL team in 6 years. The guy charged with keeping this motley crew together is Dave Tippett, who has done a magnificent job with the most limited resources in pro sports today. This guy doesn’t even have an office at the team’s practice rink…he uses a TV tray and a folding chair in the rink’s party room. Well, he does unless little Johnny has a birthday bash going that afternoon. I didn’t make that shit up, either. Like I said earlier…broke.

Prediction….As great a story as they’ve been, even Cinderella had her midnight. Just getting into the playoffs was a great accomplishment in the tough Western conference, but if they meet us, I don’t see us losing to a team where the coach is taking them out for Slurpees after a win like some pee wee team. Hawks in 5 games.

Of course, things all hinge on the health of Jonathan Toews. All us Hawks fans are hoping and praying for his return in the first round. I am taking a page from the movie Major League and looking to sacrifice a live chicken. Hey, every little bit helps and it can’t hurt. Well, except for the chicken. It’s going to suck for the chicken.



“DON’T JUST SIT THERE, STOP THIS ASSHOLE!!!”