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ALL THE KIDS WITH THEIR PUMPED UP KICKS

While watching the championship game between Kentucky and Kansas the other night, I had several revelations. Kentucky was sporting 4 or 5 future Lottery Picks. Kansas probably 1. Kentucky won the game before halftime started. Bill Self is annoying. Coach Cal knows what he’s doing, and he’s doing it well.

Another revelation: with all four teams in the Final Four being from our neck of the woods, the Midwest truly is the place to be for basketball. All four teams in this year’s Final Four were from the Midwest. I know I probably won’t get much push back from most folks reading this, considering our location and our love for our hometown, not to mention the Midwest as a whole. Seriously though, Louisville, Ohio State, Kansas, and the net-cutting, champion Kentucky Wildcats and South Side Perspectives product Anthony Davis represented the Mighty Midwest to the fullest. Coach Cal finally got his title, and he’s catapulted dozens of one and dones to NBA stardom. Good for him. Good for his kids.  
 
When it comes to the Midwest basketball-wise, Indiana alone is sort of a roundball Mecca for Youth hoopers. New York’s Rucker Park for street ball yes, but the state of Indiana for true hoop dreams. The Hick From French Lick says enough for the Hoosier State. Larry Bird may have become Larry Legend in Boston, but his roots are firmly planted in the Midwest. Michigan is not short on talent either starring Magic Johnson, George Gervin, Chet Walker, The Fab Five, Michigan State, The Bad Boys, and Dave Debusschere. Chicago has also produced some of the best basketball talent the world has ever known. Starting with reigning MVP Derrick Rose (HE’S FROM CHICAGO, in best Stacey King voice), the list grows and grows with the likes of George Mikan, Isiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade, Maurice Cheeks, Michael Finley, Jerry Sloan, Doc Rivers, and Mark Aguirre all hailing from Chicago(land area). The Bulls’ ridiculous run in the ’90s solidified Chicago as one of the greatest basketball cities, and we’ve become synonymous with the game’s greatest player ever, one Michael Jeffrey Jordan.

So what does mean more in the great debate over what is the best sports town? Is it how many legends hail from the area or does it depend on professional success? Seriously, I’m asking you. We take a certain sense of pride in our pros in every sport who hail from here, but we certainly don’t root for them when they face off against our teams. If our seasons are over and we have nothing left but local products to cheer on, we’ll take it. But seriously, Midwest is Best.

Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan. What other region of the country can boast that type of pedigree? 
KIDS IN THE HALL
As Chicagoans, we’ll always have our rivalry with New York. If they had the opportunity to burn down the city and start over the way we did, maybe they’d have installed alleys in every borough to store their fucking garbage instead of piling it up on the streets for all to enjoy. We suffer from the Second City Syndrome, but why? We think our food is better than theirs. We have two baseball teams just like them, albeit 25 championships less. Our neighborhoods are cool. Our art scene is emerging. We love our Bulls. We hate the Knicks. This is one of the few things we shared with Reggie Miller over the course of his career. Now he’s a Hall of Famer representing the Midwest on the professional level. Love him or hate him, he’s arguably one of the best three point shooters to ever hit the hardwood. That 30 for 30 on him is classic as hell. I’m surprised Spike Lee hasn’t hit the Twitterverse to express his opinion on Reggie’s upcoming induction. He obviously thinks it’s fine and dandy to do so to advertise what he thought was George Zimmerman’s address. Twitter, Facebook, all the social networking sites are for just that, networking and being social. Not to call a fucking lynch mob to some 70something couple’s house by mistake. A Chicagoan would never to that (through Twitter, that is). We’re gangsters here in The Chi. We handle our biz the old fashioned way. Seriously though, how did that old couple not go completely ape shit over the ordeal Mr. Lee caused them? Who does he think he is?! Besides being a sub-par film director, what has he really done other than provoke visiting superstars while patrolling courtside of Madison Square Garden? 
And who do we Midwesterners think we are? Well, politely of course, I think we’re the best pool of basketball talent in the country. Alright, New York. We’re ready to hear your argument…

The tournament’s just not that into you. It’s not you, it’s it. The tournament does not care about your crazy Cinderella stories and upset specials. Early on, yes, it was exciting. That’s when unsuspecting top seeds are supposed to get upended by upstarts trying, no dying, to make a splash and instantly put a new program on the map. Lehigh became only the fifth #15 seed to beat a #2 when they beat Duke this year. When that happened, you guys were still in that “can’t keep your hands off of each other, hot and heavy” phase. The tournament was expectedly exhilarating. It had you tuning in to games on three or four channels. You were bending over backwards to make sure you didn’t miss any of the action.

But you guys settled into sort of an annual, predictable rut. Turns out that the exciting tournament you fell in love with for its craziness and spontaneity was just a regular, boring ole tournamental showcase for the NCAA’s elite programs again. These elite programs continue to trump all the initial madness, triumphing over all the smaller conferences, mid-majors, and majorly unequipped programs to claim championship after championship. Once you get past the Sweet 16, the shocks dissipate, and what we’re left with is another notch on the belt for a top ranked program.

The most recent surprise to win it all? That would be Villanova as a #8 seed back in 1985. Since then, there have been 26 champions-16 of them were #1 seeds in their respective region. 4 were #2 seeds. 4 were #3 seeds. One was a #4 seed: Mike Bibby and Miles Simon’s (yes, THEE Miles Simon) Arizona Wildcats from 1997. The other was Danny Manning and Larry Brown’s Kansas Jayhawks from 1988, who won it all under the moniker Danny and The Miracles as a #6 seed.

For anyone who thinks the gap is anywhere near being bridged between major powerhouse programs and the wannabe up and comers, look around. Hi, I’m reality. Have we met? Baylor had a nice little regular season, but Brittney Griner and the Lady Bears might give them a run if it ever came down to it. Butler almost beat Duke a couple years ago in the Final, but come on. It’s Duke. They’re always susceptible to a loss in March. VCU made the Final Four last year, but they lost to Indiana in the second round this year. The aforementioned Butler actually had consecutive Final Four appearances leading up to this year, and this year ended up in the College Basketball Invitational. These two budding programs (Butler and VCU) are actually getting more attention this time of year for their coaches, baby faced Brad Stephens and frenetic Shaka Smart, deciding not to fill the head coaching vacancy at Illinois. The lack of a sustained effort over the course of time for these, and I use the term loosely, underprivileged schools makes for nice symbolism for their inability to break through the rigamaro of the tourney to win a national title. It’s a lot like the real life scenario when trying to get a job in your chosen industry: “Well, your resume looks good, but you don’t have any experience.” Bitch, how am I supposed to get any experience in the industry if you won’t give me the experience? How are these schools supposed to recruit without any credibility as national champions? They’re fighting a losing battle. Some high school graduates choose Purdue for engineering, Harvard to become President, West Point to take over the military, or Oxford to hone their scholarly crafts. Other high school graduates go to Kansas, North Carolina, Kentucky, or UCLA to play basketball (Disclaimer: the author is well-aware of every mentioned university’s academic achievements in addition to their sports accolades; this is a sports site though, after all).

The real madness lies in the fact that these student athletes are not allowed to reap any of the financial benefits until after leaving school and turning pro. Enter John Calipari. Those aforementioned high school seniors deciding where to attend college? If they desire to cash checks signed by David Stern and the NBA, they go wherever John Calipari is strolling the sidelines. He’s done it at UMass, Memphis, and now Kentucky. Rick Pitino has done it in four different decades. Bill Self has done it at Illinois and Kansas, and Thad Matta has done it twice now with Ohio State. Getting to the Final Four is one thing. Being the Final One is what it’s all about, but once again it’s going to be a well-known, already reputable school who will be the beat the bracket

This year, the teams that were supposed to be here are here. It’s not quite a 2008 situation when all four #1 seeds advanced to the Final Four, but Kentucky at #1, Ohio State and Kansas at #2, and Louisville at #4 is relatively…sane. These four powerhouse programs have a combined 20 Final Four appearances. Insane.

Looking back on your relationship with the NCAA Tournament though, it never was all that mad. The initial rounds provide some spark, but the top seeds who inevitably fizzle out are somewhat usual suspects to begin with (ahem, Duke, ahem). The Final Four is, and should be, reserved for the upper-echelon basketball programs who were ranked in the top ten all year for a reason. The SaniTERRYum is reserved for some semblance of madness, but March’s spark is fizzling fast.

That’s the beauty of March Madness: anything can happen. Only when reality sinks in do people realize that it usually doesn’t.

As I write this, the 2 AM breeze hits me with ease (yes, the windows are open in March. Yes, it is glorious), and I continue my mini Woody Allen binge with another half-hearted attempt to take in Manhattan. It’s a good enough movie, but Woody himself even said it was his least favorite of those he’s made. In other news, the Bulls set a franchise regular season record earlier tonight for points allowed by holding D’s Nuts (my new, failed(?) nickname for Dwight Howard) and the Orlando Magic to an embarrassing 59 points. That’s what happens when you have every member of your team ready to play every night. Thanks Thibs.

You're welcome.

All Bulls euphoria, Woody Allen rambling, and summer in March hysteria aside, the sands of the NFL hourglass have shifted. Time has caught up with the city of Denver. It has bitten the asses of San Francisco and Tennessee. Yes, Peyton Manning will take snaps for the Denver Broncos next year, and the time-challenged task of replacing legendary #7 has ended. No matter how nice the Bay Area weather may be at times, real deal free agents don’t base their decisions on such things. The players who matter go where they think they have the BEST CHANCE TO WIN. Look at Mario Williams. He could’ve signed with Da Bears, won a few ball games, maybe contended for a title or two. Nope, he took an extra ten million or so to sign with the Buffalo fucking Bills. Not a player who matters. Good riddance. As you may sense from this somewhat bitter sages tone, we good sports fans of Chicago have been burned by high profile free agents in seemingly every major professional sport since free agency became a thing. I won’t bore you with the list of free agents who chose to sign elsewhere over the years, but it’s long and odd that none of them would have liked to live here in Chicago. I like to think we have a great culture here, not only sports culture, but culture in general. Why wouldn’t someone want to sign here? Is it really the shitty, unpredictable weather? If you’re not used to it, maybe it’s a little overbearing. But if you’re from here, the weather shifts are a thing of beauty to be appreciated and celebrated. The extreme cold builds character and toughness, and the hot summers (and springs now, apparently) are our reward for bundling up the rest of the year. No reward in the sports free agent signing world though.

Are the expectations different here the way they’ve been for Denver quarterbacks since the turn of the century?
The timing for the departures of legends like Jordan and Elway lend themselves to a comparison of sorts. Denver hasn’t had a legitimite quarterback since then, and we’ve had so many unGodly horrible shooting guards grace us with their absence since the premature dismantling of our beloved dynasty. The difference seems to be that we have the good sense not to expect anone to ever even come close to accomplishing what Jordan accomplished…ever. It’s an exercise in futility. But for whatever reason, Denver quarterbacks and their fans have been repeating the third grade for the better part of fifteen years. Now they have one of the greatest to ever throw the ball leading their team. His reads are unbelievable. His command of the offense is unparalleled. His football IQ is a mile high. His name is Peyton Manning, and he is a Denver Bronco. Appreciate it, football fans of Denver.
Here in Chicago, we know a thing or two about filling the shoes of a legend. Chicago shooting guard will never ever…ever (ever) be as it once was when #23 graced the hardwood, not even close. We know this. The quarterback position holds a similar standard in Denver since Sir Elway left town (only to return in full decision making mode in their front office). Jay Cutler came to Chicago partly because he couldn’t fulfill the snap-taking expectations in the Mile High City. Tim Tebow (yes, he does have a first name) never had the backing of the Broncos brass. Jake Plummer had a couple above-average seasons, but since Elway won back to back titles and saluted his way out of the NFL, Denver had yearned for an MVP under center. They got him. 

Peyton Manning is an MVP in every imaginable sense: on the field, off the field, in the film room, on TV, whatever the challenge may be, #18 will beat it. He made Marvin Harrison Marvin Harrison. Same goes for Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark and every Peyton-made Pro Bowler who played for the Colts. He’ll more than likely do the same for the young core of receivers in Denver. Just go ahead and pencil them in for an AFC West title and a trip to New England for the AFC Championship where the Brady vs. Manning rivalry will resume.
Tebowmania will rightfully relocate to the Arena League next year. 

“The only difference between myself and a madman is that I AM NOT MAD!” -Salvador Dali

That magical time of year is upon us once again, hoop heads: the most wonderful time of the sports year when everyone becomes a college basketball “fan,” and the bracket racket gets un-drownoutably loud.

This is the best time of year to visit Cad T. Wasp’s The SaniTERRYum. Madness comes into full bloom by the end of March, and sports’ true unpredictable nature is on full display. You go to New England in the fall for the foliage. You leave Chicago in winter for the beaches of California and Florida. You come to The SaniTERRYum in March for the madness. And you stay for the…wait, why are you still here?

Oh of course, The Madness of March! By the time you read this, your bracket could very well be abundantly busted to smithereens. Or you could be on pace for a handsome payout. Here lies the heartbreaking beauty of March’s madness. How many brackets are you filling out? Who’s going to upset who? Yadda, yadda, yadda. Just enjoy the fact that we get a tournament at the end of the basketball season and not some ridiculous math equation that is the bullshit BCS. This is why  they should always play the games. Anything can happen, and you can’t put anything past anyone. I may submit brackets to several sources, but it is usually the same bracket. None of this, “I’ve got so and so in this bracket and so and so in that bracket.” One bracket. One prediction. Why would you get to make multiple predictions? Kind of takes away from the integrity of your selections, no?

I probably get my good sports gambling acumen from my dad. Growing up, he and I would rip out our brackets from the Sun-Times’ sports section and take our picks on every game, down to the NCAA Champion. I have picked North Carolina to win it all every year for as long as I can remember, and the nice thing about that is I end up being right every six to twelve years. Anyway, we’d fill out our brackets, and then we’d determine the stakes. No matter how well you predicted the Sweet 16, the Elite 8 or the Final 4, the only way you won was if your pick as champion withstood the test of the tournament of tournaments to be crowned champ. My prize was always something along the lines of a pullover Starter jacket or a new pair of shoes or a Georgetown Hoyas hat. He’d always end up getting me what I desired as winner of our bet regardless of win or lose, but it was always so much more rewarding when I actually won the whole thing on my own accord.

That’s how March Madness began for me. Father/son bonding over light sports gambling. I was probably eight or nine years old, already a full-blown basketball nerd. I don’t know if my dad ever beat me in those pools, because I definitely don’t recollect him collecting any winnings from me-his only son. To this day though, I still recall fondly visiting on weekends with Dad, catching the Tar Heels with Dick “Yea Bay-Bee” Vitale. They’ll always be my team, and I’m picking Harrison, Roy and The Tar Heels this year to cut down the nets in New Orleans.

And the tournament has its teams, its usual suspects year after year. There’s a reason for that, and it’s called recruiting. There’s a reason Freshman/Player of the Year Anthony Davis spurned hometown Chicago and Illinois schools for Calipari and Kentucky. Same goes for Derrick Rose and all other Chicago prep phenoms. Recruiting is the reason the top seeds go to the Kentuckys, North Carolinas, Syracuses and Michigan States of the college basketball world. There’s a reason Tom Izzo, Roy Williams, Jim Boeheim, and Coach K perennially attract the top recruiting classes and remain the elite programs of the NCAA

The recruiting process only gets you so far though. Just ask Bill (and his choking) Self. You can practically pencil Kansas in for an early exit every year, no matter how good their regular seasons look. The beauty of a tournament at the end of the season lies in the opportunity for schools like VCU, George Mason, and Butler. The opportunity for the upper echelon schools to prove themselves is a beautiful thing, too. It’s still very survival of the fittest, very only the strong survive.

In The SaniTERRYum, anything is possible and interpretation is open for business. Just like the rigors and excitement of the NCAA Tournament.

Let the madness begin…

First things first: Happy Birthday, Shaq. We’re gonna talk about point guards today. You and Penny should’ve stayed together, man.

Point Guards run the offense, but right now the best ones are running the NBA and dominating debate on who’s number one. While East Coasters praise Deron Williams and Rajon Rondo as the league’s best, and everyone else claims Chris Paul as numero uno, I’m here to point out something that has somehow slipped under the radar of basketball talking heads this year: DERRICK ROSE IS THE REIGNING MVP! Oh, and the Bulls have the best record in the NBA. He put the team on his back again Sunday, but he was still overshadowed by other point guard performances around the league.

Deron Williams put up 57 Sunday (!), but keep in mind that it was against the lowly Charlotte Bobcats. And, Rondo needed overtime against the Knicks to assemble that monstrous triple double. Is Danny Ainge serious about trading him? That would be about as dumb as the time he got up in MJ’s face during the ’92 Finals…

The Big O revolutionized the position, but it used to be that you had to have a dominant center to win championships. Magic, still the undisputed best point guard of all-time, had Kareem. It wasn’t until Isiah won twice with his misfit centers and Jordan and the Bulls won six with the likes of Bill Cartwright, Will Perdue, Luc Longley and Big Bill Wennington that teams started to restructure the way they looked at the draft and the way they handled free agency to accommodate this shift in roster power. Teams started to build around game-changing point guards. The 76ers put all their eggs in the Iverson basket (and then subsequently turned him into an off guard). Steve Nash won two MVPs with the Suns (and burned out in the playoffs every year), shoot-first Chauncey Billups led the 2004 rag tag Pistons to a title. Frenchman Tony Parker was 2007’s Finals MVP.

Now we’re in an age where the debate rages on as to who is the NBA’s best point guard. Don’t get it twisted: an argument can be made for any of the clear-cut top five. The order in which they are arranged is the topic of discussion. Right now, D-Rose is on pace to become the greatest point guard, not of his era, but of all-time. He was the youngest MVP ever last year. He’s only 23 and in only his fourth season. His potential and unrelenting will to win put him in a class by himself. Some of the shots and layups he has the audacity to not only attempt but then hit are nothing short of spectacular on a regular basis. He hasn’t won a championship (yet), something only Rondo has done out of the group of point guards I’m bringing up in this column. Just to clarify, here’s how my current list of Top 5 NBA Point Guards looks:

5. Chris Paul: Honestly, I can’t stand this guy. The first time I ever saw him play in a game at Wake Forest, he cheap shot punched some kid in the nuts. Not cool, man. Not cool. That turn of events sort of stuck with me as he ascended to the NBA’s upper echelon of point guards. I only have him on this list because I have to. Fuck Lob City. 19.7 PPG, 8.3 APG, 3.5 RPG, 2.2 SPG Clippers are 22-14.

4. Russell Westbrook: With Kevin Durant on his side, these two have an opportunity to make Oklahoma City a legitimate contender for years to come. Westbrook’s play is a bit sporadic at times, but there’s no denying his explosiveness. A rare breed and lots of potential to stay on this list for years to come. 23.7 PPG, 5.5 APG, 4.9 RPG, 1.7 SPG Thunder are 30-8.

3. Rajon Rondo: He has the heart of a champion, and that’s something I infinitely respect. Arguably, the best defender on this list, his creativity on the offensive side of the ball has allowed him to spread touches amongst The Big Three and keep them happy since their arrival in Boston. The lone NBA Champion on this list. 14.3 PPG, 10.2 APG, 5.4 RPG, 1.7 SPG Celtics are 19-17

2. Deron Williams: It’s too bad things turned out the way they did for him in Utah. Jerry Sloan could have shown him a thing or two. He seems stuck on a crappy New Jersey team now, but that sort of gives him the unparalleled opportunity to prove himself as a leader and a winner. However, since he left Illinois, I haven’t really seen either of those characteristics from him. His combination of strength, court vision, scoring ability, speed, passing prowess and ability to take over any given game make him number two though. 22.6 PPG, 8.2 APG, 3.5 RPG, 1.1 SPG Nets are 12-26. Ouch.

1. Derrick Rose: Stacey King exclamations and Chicago bias aside, Derrick Rose is the youngest MVP in league history. None of the other members on this list have been MVP. Derrick Rose not only tops this list, but he defines the criteria of what a point guard, a leader should be. Who do you want on your team leading the way? The will to win, loyalty to team and the ability to takeover when need be (as he did Sunday in Philly and in the 2nd half last night against those annoying Pacers). Derrick has stated time and time again that he is about one thing, and that’s winning games and eventually a championship here in Chicago. 22.4 PPG, 7.7 APG, 3.3 RPG, 0.9 SPG Bulls are NBA best 32-8.

Who’s with me?

Ed’s note.
I am. 

The 61st Annual NBA ALL-Star game came and went over the weekend. Amidst all the Oscar buzz and red carpet glitz and glamor, did anyone even notice?

Seriously, who is scheduling these events nowadays? The NBA is fighting to regain its fan base and attract new ones simultaneously, and The Commish can’t even get his timing right? Good luck with that whole rebuilding process, Señor Stern. The schedule making powers that be failed to notice that Hollywood’s biggest night took place the same night? Really?

 

So many issues I have with today’s NBA. Lucky for me, the pros always outweigh the cons, and I continue to con myself into believing in basketball.


I heard they’re using this year’s game as a tutorial for young ballers to show them exactly what not to do when they step on the hardwood. Even Luol Deng, a premiere defender in my book, practically sprinted out of the way for Blake Griffin to obtain a perfectly clear dunking lane. C’mon, Lu! It’s your first ASG. Swat that shit to the first row! Seriously, the defense is absolutely atrocious. But you knew that before tuning in to watch. What I don’t know is how they got Thibs to patrol the East sideline with the game’s reputation being what it is. I was taking over/under bets on not if, but how many times Coach T would stroke out due to lack of defense. The West scored 88 points…by halftime (yes, that is a record). The Bulls have held opponents to less than that (in entire games) 18 times this  year! 


The West won the “game” 152-149 if anyone gives a shit. And Kevin Durant was the game’s MVP. He’s so slick.


There was a moment in the 3rd quarter when Kobe took it to the rim, and DWade fouled him. Hard. It was a shot to the nose- a playoff foul. I smiled a little. Actual defense. It was in apparent retaliation to a good defensive stop by Kobe against Wade on the other end of the floor. And then a little bit later, Kobe broke Mike’s all-time All Star scoring record. Damn. I guess I have to come to terms with Kobe being this generation’s version of the one we call His Airness. I suppose it’s better him than LeBron, he of the ringless, opportune turnover variety. A part of my basketball self dies with every MJ record that gets broken. 


Yes, the game actually came down to the final possession(s) and a little bit of my favorite elements of the game: defense and coaching. This reminded everyone watching why Tom Thibodeau is a master of both-reigning Coach of the Year-by ironically exposing LeBron, yet again, for what he truly is: an oligophrenic, overhyped failure when it matters. Why don’t him and overhyped, one dimensional forward  Blake Griffin just duke it out in the sky where they belong, making for a Dunk Contest someone would actually want to watch? That’d be one for the ages. Have Vince Carter, Mike, Dominique and Dr. J judge that shit. I’d watch. 

 

I’ve seen LeBron do things no other player is capable of, and I’ve seen him not do things a superstar of his caliber should be able to accomplish. Maybe he’s just not a professional winner.


And maybe The Flash is turning out to be more of a flash in the pan, after all. I like DWade because he’s a hometown guy, but for us to overthrow the Eastern Conference champions here in The Chi, we need his and LeBron’s weaknesses revealed in May. Too bad Thibs can’t be there to sabotage them again. Or can he? (Insert evil genius laugh here) 

 

When travelling, I often state that no matter how much I love a place that I happen to visit, I always, ALWAYS love returning home to my city of Chicago. I’ve been many places, many cool ass places, but Chicago is where I’ll stay, probably forever. I’ve got the flag tattooed on my arm and the lakeshore wind tattooed on my soul. I felt a similar sensation after watching the ASG on Sunday. I love watching the entertainment value of the game’s biggest stars. Despite all the hate toward it, the dunk contest is still cool to watch. The three point contest is timeless (still bitter about Hot Sauce’s snub). But no matter what (excluding Shaq and Penny in the mid ’90s), I’m never swayed to another team or out of town players. I’ll always bleed Chicago red and black. That’s why Luol’s limited run in his first appearance didn’t bother me. That’s why Derrick’s ridiculously massive shoe deal getting no talk from mainstream media all weekend didn’t affect me (you know if LeBron or Kobe signed that same deal, it would’ve been top news; difference being Derrick deserves every zero in that contract). Humility sort of comes with the territory ’round here, so when Chris Paul, Deron Williams, even Rajon Rondo and Russell Westbrook get mentioned as the L’s top point guards ahead of Chi Town’s Finest, we remember that it’s all about one thing: winning. That’s what we’re about in The WINdy City.

 

That’s why this is my kind of town.




 

Undrafted Precedents and Prejudices

Oh, wow. Big shock here: racism, bigotry, and elitism in sports. Sports? No way! It’s these morons who give us intelligent sports fans a bad name. And THE WORLDWIDE LEADER IN SPORTS, no less. ESPN, you have a monopoly on sports. We get it. But you don’t get it. 

ESPN fired their online columnist who had the audacity and shortsightedness to use the word that rhymes with pink in his headline that lasted on the site for about 35 minutes the other day. But what about the editor(s) who green lit the piece to go live in the first place? I mean, not only did the headline writer use the word, but after being fired he claimed that it was an honest mistake which makes him and his staff a bunch of fucking idiots. Just because it’s your online publication doesn’t mean you should sacrifice any bit of your integrity delivering a story about Lin’s poor performance against the lowly New Orleans Hornets, ESPN. Like any professional athlete, he deserves as much praise for success as criticism for failure, but no one, regardless if you’re Asian, Black, White, Latino or Martian, deserves racial slurs thrown their way. We may be the youngest country in the world, but we’re all grown ups. Let’s start acting like it, America.

Most people have no idea when they’re being racist or acting like a racist. In true ignorant form, they are completely oblivious to how they are coming across or what ideals they embody, but I can’t quite bring myself to letting them off the hook based on, for lack of a better word, ignorance. It’s ridiculous. It is NOT bliss, and frankly my dear, I DO give a damn. So should you. Not just as an intelligent sports fan, but as a human being with (not so) common (anymore) sense.

Let’s forget about his staggering statistics through his first 8 NBA games. Let’s ignore the fact that his numbers through 8 NBA games are better than Magic, Isiah, and Stockton. Instead, let’s make jokes about dude’s dick size. Really, Jason Whitlock? If you haven’t seen it yet, this is what Mr. Whitlock, a professional journalist and really just an overall boring commentator from Kansas City tweeted after Lin’s coming out party (38 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals) concluded against the Lakers:
“Some lucky lady in NYC is gonna feel a couple inches of pain tonight.”

Yep, they sure are.

All these attempts by media minds to make jokes about Jeremy Lin’s race are pathetic. Jason Whitlock, ESPN.com, (I’m sure) a bunch of no-name sites and publications have all tried to pun their way to their readers’ sense of humor, all the while overlooking the beautiful simplicity of what’s unfolding before our basketball-loving eyes: Jeremy Lin is legit. As much as I hate the Knicks and will always hate the Knicks, there’s just something inside me rooting for the kid. But make no mistake, if and when he faces off against DRose and Da Bulls, he’s going to get handled. Handled. Derrick has a certain way about putting young, touted point guards in their place in head to head matchups.

Leave the commentary to the ones who have reserved the right to do so. You know, stand up comedians, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, Seth Macfarlane, Saturday Night Live. These are the platforms for performing such acts of stereotypical tomfoolery. Sports commentators think they’re funny. They’re not. Unless you’re Tripping Olney.

The hype and the resulting ridicule would not exist outside of a big market like New York. ESPN loves these stories to happen on the East Coast. If Lin were still struggling to make the Golden State Warriors or Houston Rockets, there’s no story. The media needs a guy like Jeremy Lin to breathe life and excitement into this lockout shortened season. It helps immensely when he’s putting up numbers and winning games. By the way, what’s the over/under on days it takes Lin and Carmelo to fist fight? Or Kung Fu? Wait, is that racist? Oh, I’m so confused, America!
Why are accomplishments overshadowed by ethnicity and stereotypes? This is definitely not specific to sports. This is a nationwide epidemic of narrow-mindedness. Sports’ racism is a byproduct of America’s deep-seeded racist history. It is up to us, intelligent sports fans and Generation Y-ers, to take that leap into the unknown that we have come to know so well. Music, entertainment, pickup games on the playground, neighborhood gentrification, health, politics. They all center around this notion that race determines destiny, but who decides when and where what happens, and why has it taken so long for us to take hold of the reins? I know we can do better. It’s only a matter of time.
On the subject of time: three weeks ago, Jeremy Lin didn’t even know if he’d be in the NBA or not. He might’ve been contemplating utilizing that fancy Harvard degree to become a doctor, lawyer, or business executive. Everything happens for a reason. Or does it? Many circumstances had to come to manifest for him to even dress in the #17 for New York.
Maybe a similar set of circumstances has to unfold for us as a country to address the underlying issues that exist in our great nation.
We may be the youngest country in the world, but we’re all grown ups now. Let’s start acting like it, America.
The world is watching.

Rivalries are one of the greatest things about sports. Well, they used to be. Nowadays, the friendliness and fist bumping tends to override the competitive spirit that fuels a classic rivalry. Super teams are being formed by friends. Free agents are signing with teams that should forever hate each other. Sadly, it comes down to loyalty and pride being thrown out the window. This will ultimately be the downfall of sports, and I’ll be forced to explain all this to my grand kids someday. I can hear my future self now: “…Kids, back in my day there was this fellow named Michael Jordan…”

We, as fans, pledge allegiance to our teams’ flags, but the problem seems to be that the players don’t feel the same hometown connection to the cities and its inhabitants that root them on day in and night out.

Ever since the anticlimactic conclusion of Super Bowl XLVI between the Patriots and Giants, there has been some speculation swirling as to who are the greatest sports rivalries of the here and now. There are, of course, certain prerequisites for a matchup of two teams to be allowed to consider itself an actual rivalry. Both teams must establish a certain level of success. They must have regularly scheduled matchups as well as postseason series spliced in to spice it up a bit, because rivalries become such in the playoffs. There must be some level of legitimate hatred in their somewhere, too. At the collegiate level, the rivalry is somewhat easier to establish, but in the professional realm with ever-prevalent free agency always just lingering there and friends plotting fucking super teams with each other, rivalries come and go, no real chance for lasting effect and historical significance.

Since we just exited the midst of rivalry week in college hoops, let’s talk Duke/North Carolina. No matchup in NCAA Basketball has the tradition and folklore of the Duke Blue Devils versus the North Carolina Tar Heels. The Tobacco Road geographical proximity adds to the intrigue. The NBA has seen more impactful alumni from these two schools than any other. First and foremost, the G.O.A.T, the best player in the history of the game, the one and only, Mr. Michael Jordan. Then you’ve got two of the greatest coaches ever to assemble Xs and Os, Dean Smith and Coach K Mike Krzyzewski. James Worthy. Grant Hill. Larry Brown. Luol Deng. Rasheed Wallace. Elton Brand. Sam Perkins. Carlos Boozer. Vince Carter. Shane Battier. Antawn Jamison. Johnny Dawkins. Tyler Hansbrough. Kenny “The Jet” Smith. Mitch Kupchak. Jerry Stackhouse. Kyrie Irving. Ty Lawson. Stuart Scott, even. “Holla at a playa when you see him in the street!” What? You thought this all started with a buzzer beater from freshman sensation, diaper dandy, Doc’s kid, Austin Rivers?

Without a solid understanding of rivalries from the past and those which have withstood the test of time, we can’t speculate on our teams’ current and future nemeses. With that in mind, let’s look at our city’s teams and the foes they’ll face in significant situations over the next few seasons.

Bulls/Heat and Bulls/Pacers: Outside of my man, Jeremy Lin, the Knicks suck really bad, so that’s why they failed to make this list. The Pacers truly believe they could’ve and should’ve beaten the Bulls in last year’s playoff series. Bulls fans definitely believe we should’ve represented the Eastern Conference in last year’s NBA Finals. The Bulls might have to beat both of these teams come April to make The Finals for the next decade or so. The Pacers are sort of built the same way as us: reliant on team defense, not a lot of flash on offense outside of their leading scorer, a free agent power forward in the twilight of his career, and knowledgeable Midwestern basketball fans filling the seats. The Heat are sort of the anti-Bulls team. They play hard D…when they feel compelled to kick it into high gear. So, so, so much flash on offense…for crying out loud, DWade’s nickname is Flash. As much as I hate the guy and hate to admit it (because I actually preferred Booze to Bosh when this South Beach Superteam nonsense went down), Chris Bosh is a better power forward than Booze right now. As for the fans: I’m not sure most of them even knew Miami had a basketball team before LeBron came to town. Chi Town stand up!

White Sox/Twins: I was raised a Chicago sports fan, so you’re not going to hear any Cubs/Sox-as-an-actual-rivalry-gobbledygook from me. Instead, the South Siders’ main rival resides in their own division. You know them as The Twinkies, and they’ve been a thorn in our side with their little farm system, which is a respectable way to build a team, if you ask me. The Minnesota Twins are the closest thing we’ve got to a true rivalry. C’mon, Sox. Not much to lose this year. Go start some shit with a club, and get a real rival.

Cubs/Cardinals: The Cubs have just sucked for the better part of the last century with glimpses of greatness peppered in once every ten to twelve years, so why would the pattern stop now? With the departure of the best player in baseball to DisneyLand and the American League, the Cardinals don’t look to defend their World Series with much confidence this year, either. With Prince Fielder also swapping Centrals, the Cubs’ division actually seems wide open in 2012. I mean, when the Pirates have a chance, anyone’s got just as good a shot. This one could be on the list of all-timers with the two teams separated by Illinois/Missouri state lines, the rights to Harry Caray’s immortality and Central Illinois at stake, and inspiration to spawn books about their intense rivalry whenever they take the field.

Bears/Packers: This one doesn’t even need a description. Only thing I’m going to say is this: if you hated Brett Favre growing up for beating up on the Bears, prepare your suicide notes from what Aaron Rodgers will inflict on your football psyche.

Blackhawks/Canucks: These guys have legitimate hatred for each other, reducing the rest of these rivalries to mere matchups of friends who play the games as a matter of happenstance. Shit talking. Goalie mind games (LOLuongo). Fights. Like, real fights. I’ll put it this way. Actually, I’ll let Hawks Center Dave Bolland, who referred to Canucks stars Henrik and Daniel Sedin as “sisters” he wouldn’t want on his team and saying there are “weirdos” in the city of Vancouver, put it his way. Let’s have a chant, shall we: USA! USA!

These rivalries have become embedded into the national psyche, but on a world stage, shit gets waaaaaaaay out of control with soccer riots, national pride-filled cricket matches, sports with not only in-game rivalries but religious implications as well. Let’s realize that we live in a country where sports do not dictate what happens politically, socially or religiously. We live in a country where freedom of choice still exists, and that’s a beautiful thing.

I, for one, cling to the old school rivalries of yesteryear, the ones with real history, so here are my Top 5 American Sports Rivalries of All-Time.

Honorable Mention: Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier, Michael Jordan vs. The Bad Boys, Hulk Hogan vs. Macho Man Randy Savage, Michigan Wolverines vs. Ohio State Buckeyes Football

5. Duke Blue Devils vs. North Carolina Tar Heels Basketball

4. New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox

3. Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers

2. Los Angeles Lakers vs. Boston Celtics

1. Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers vs. New York/San Francisco Giants

Sportsmanship, yes. But, seriously, leave the peace loving, hand shaking, friend making and hugging for the real world. Lord knows it needs it.

Dictum Meum Pactum…

Beer and Clothing in America

Welcome to The SaniTERRYum, the new Tuesday sanctuary for all you crazed sports fans and alcohol aficionados seeking refuge from this mixed up world. Think of this as a platform for blending sports talk with real talk, intellect with idiosyncrasies, rough-around-the-edges delicacies for a rough and tumble world.

Alright folks, your Super Bowl party hangovers have subsided, you’ve digested both whatever the hell you ate and the uneventful happenings that took place during the most overhyped game in all of professional sports, and you’re ready for the Bulls and Hawks to take over their respected leagues as well as your TV viewing schedule…not to mention pitchers and catchers reporting in less than two weeks (!) to bring us back to reality from the nightmarish, roller coaster season that was the 2012 NFL campaign. But let us not forget this oh-so-American tradition that has become known as Super Bowl Sunday. They might as well just declare the sumbitch a national holiday.

The Game

For some reason, Tom Brady and his New England Patriots just can not beat the New York football Giants in the Super Bowl. The Pats’ve been there five times in the last ten years, beating St. Louis, Carolina, and Philly but losing to Eli(te) and New York twice. Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw will remain the only quarterbacks with four rings for at least another year, Tommy Boy (yea, he’s cool with me calling him that).

If not for key drops late in the game by usually sure handed Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez, we’re looking at a different outcome. The injured and uninvolved oaf, Rob Gronkowski also DNP’d a huge part in the loss. The Patriots started XLVI uncharacteristically out of sorts, complete with a game starting, 60-1 odds, opening play, intentional grounding in the end zone safety that started the scoring, simultaneously bringing hope to all the gridiron grid holding, square watching fans in possession of  “5 and 8” or “9 and 2.” We have liftoff, and we have a chance, baby.

The Halftime Show

One word: Madonna. Oh, and Cee-Lo accompanying her on Like a Prayer. And LMFAO doing whatever the hell it is that people find entertaining. And Nicki Minaj saying, like, six words. And MIA spewing the shit word and flicking off the camera. BFD. Anyone with a musical pulse knows how much of an influence Madonna has had on pop music over the years. If Michael Jackson is The King of Pop, Madonna reigns as the genre’s Queen. But, like Brett Favre and MJ in their respected fields, she mastered her craft, aged, then stayed in the game just a bit too long, causing some new brand of embarrassment for hard core fans. There, I said it. It’s out there. Big whoop. Wanna fight about it?

The Commercials

You can’t really talk about the Super Bowl anymore without bringing up the damn commercials at some point or another. The fact that a thirty second spot costs $3.5 million is, quite frankly, beyond me. That Skechers Dog commercial was pretty badass though. Our party determined that they’ve mastered the lost formula for a perfect Super Bowl commercial. Either they don’t make ’em like they used to or our desensitized internet culture has superseded all things attempting to entertain us, because we were not swayed to buy any of the products paraded in front of us like we’re a bunch of material-hungry consumers chomping at the bit to spend our hard earned money on new and useless products. We’re too smart to fall for that one, corporate America. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to put on my H&M underwear, lace up my new Skechers shoes, hop in my brand new Chrysler, eat a bag of Doritos in the car on the way to the liquor store, because I’m all out of Bud Light Platinum.

Drinks of Choice

This being A Drinking Town with a Sports Problem, I feel compelled to share with you the beverages we enjoyed on this the holiest of sports/beer holidays. “Good people drink good beer.” Hunter S. Thompson (a personal hero of this lowly sage) said that at some point during his illustrious life. Our Sunday partners in crime were a couple of good Scottish style brews: Scotty Karate (Shortest beer review ever: strong flavor yet smooth finish) and Brooklyn Winter Ale (great flavor, very drinkable to say the least. Good lookin’ out on the recommendations Scottie Too Hottie!). All this indulgence and partying talk segues me into one of my favorite current Major Leaguers, at a time he’s found himself in the spotlight for controversial reasons:

Josh Hamilton

Addiction is a very serious part of our society today. As our name points out, we’re all about alcohol culture around here. However, for some, there comes a time when the line needs to be drawn. In the case of former MVP Josh Hamilton, he decided when and where that line got drawn by sobering up and turning his life around. Not you, not me, not his family, not Rangers, Reds or Rays fans, not God, not Satan, not anybody. Him. It’s his life. Let him live it the way he wants to, and leave the judging for the birds. If he wants to have a drink every now and then, he’s probably earned that right. Have you?

Think about that. Word is bond…

Coach Thibs is Inspector Gadget, and Joakim Noah is his not so secret commodity, somewhat of an oddity in today’s NBA, his (as much as I don’t like the term) X-Factor, his man in the middle who makes it all go.

Joakim Noah is our engine. Without his constant energy, the Bulls do not go. Period. For us to continue to compete for a ‘Chip, he needs to provide that spark, that extra oomph, that intangible, unmatchable, contagious bounce that feeds the rest of Chicago a proverbial full plate and seconds. In this ridiculous shortened season, we need all the food we can get, and Noah, infamous for his slow starts in regular regular seasons, got off to a slow start in the 2011-12 campaign, leading some to question his conditioning once again. But believe me, Joakim is hungry, and that hunger for a title is the common denominator in the Bulls’ locker room.
Joakim reported for training camp in shape. By NBA center standards, he was 100%. The issue here has become that we expect 110+% from a guy who brings as much energy as we’ve become accustomed to seeing from him. He expects even more from himself. We know he’s capable of 20+ rebounds a night. We know he can spark our team with timely blocks and charges taken on any given possession. Sometimes that spark takes awhile to light. Over the last 5 games though, Noah has averaged a healthy double-double: 13.2 points, 12.6 rebounds while shooting 64.1% from the floor. This is the Joakim Noah we’ll need to thrive deep into the playoffs and to push past the “Hollywood as hell” Heat into the NBA Finals (I’m assuming, along with everyone else, barring any major injuries/freak accidents/breakdowns that we’ll have a rematch from last year’s Eastern Conference Finals).

Joakim Noah is a character, but high character. Opinionated quotes and funky draft day suits aside, he is a defensive machine, capable of guarding any five positions any time he’s called upon to do so. His offensive rebounding is unparalleled in today’s game. I’m okay with slow starts, as long as strong finishes are looming in our April, May and June future, which recent efforts have indicated they will.

This NBA season is obviously not your typical one. Guys are getting hurt at an alarming rate, coaches are openly criticizing the way the season lends itself to injury, not to mention training camps were shortened and accelerated, causing conditioning to take a back seat to, well, just getting on the damn floor.

Still, Joakim’s ability to stay conditioned and bring his intensity night in, night out is crucial if we are to contend for real. The Joakim switch needs to always be turned to “high energy.”

“I think his conditioning and timing are coming around,” Coach Thibs said. “He’s putting in a lot of extra work.”

That’s what we like to hear. That extra work could land our big man a spot as a reserve to D12 in this year’s All Star Game in Orlando. As I write this, Joakim leads former Bull Tyson Chandler by 30,000+ votes after second ballots returned. However, not too much stock can be put into how fans vote considering DeAndre Jordan is in second place out west behind Andrew Bynum. What the fuck has happened to the center position?!? If I’m building a franchise (which I’m not) and I need a center, a well-conditioned Joakim is a top  2 pick at his position.

He is sort of a hybrid between a throwback center and a modern day Dennis Rodman. If his energy stays at a high level, the wins will keep piling up. If he can master the art of the mind game and neutralize LeBron during the ECF this year (he’s attempted with fail), something no amount of hard core Luol Deng defense can physically overcome, the Bulls are in business. The moment Jo’s energy dips, the rest of the team sometimes succumbs as well. In a shortened season like this, the margin for error is even smaller than usual. You’ve got to bring it every single night, while still keeping just enough and more in the reserve tank for that playoff push. Joakim’s energy is exciting, and the level he brings this team up to when that energy is at its highest is something very few teams can deal with, especially in a seven game series.

We, as Chicagoans, have chips on our broad shoulders, and we identify with a guy like Joakim accentuating those chips with his intensity on the hardwood every night, long ass strides, 4th grade “jumper” and all.

Dude just needs to clean the glass and keep it half full until it overflows with championship rings…

…Go go gadget Noah!