Archive for the ‘NFL’ Category

The SaniTERRYum X: A Call to Chicagoan Arms

Drinking Bell’s Oberon, munching on El Ranchero chips with salsa, and watching Kyle Korver and my Bulls outhustle and beat up on the annoying New York Knickerbockers, it’s difficult for me to be mad at much. But I’m mad at New York. I always have been. I’m not totally sure why. I have a great time when I’m there. It has a ton to offer. The faithful hatred probably has everything to do with my sense of pride for my hometown of Chicago, and us getting the shaft in comparison to The Big Apple. That being said, nothing is more gratifying, sports wise, than a victory over New York and the Knicks. 

There was something redeeming in not only beating the Knicks last night but the way we beat them in every facet of the game that showed how difficult it will be for whoever we face in the playoffs to beat us in a seven game series. 25-5 advantage on second chance points. 51-33 on the boards. Kyle Korver and Company diving for loose balls. Rip Hamilton is not only playing, but he’s balling and dipping into the fountain of youth a bit. DRose or no DRose, we’ll need sustained efforts similar to last night’s W to advance deeply in this year’s playoffs. The Knicks will barely sneak in and be promptly eliminated. 

Carmelo Anthony does not deserve the calls he gets from the refs. His skill level is high, but since coming into the league, he has done more whining than winning. He doesn’t strike me as someone who respects the game. He’s an individual scorer who ends up being a detriment to team goals. Tyson Chandler is still the same player he was when he wore number 3 for us just with a bigger bank account now. Amar’e Stoudemire is a seven footer who doesn’t play defense or rebound (?), and his health is a big question mark. I really hope we square off at The Garden and the United Center in the first round, so the Bulls can expose them for what they really are: a bunch of overpaid, underachieving assholes. What’s the over/under on time it takes for benches to clear and punches to land in that series? Beyond an impending sweep of the Knicks later this month though, I want to know who the better sports town truly is. 

Excluding the Yankees (who I’ve always actually been a huge fan of) and taking the high road on expletive usage, the time has come to run a full-on analysis of Chicago vs. New York sports successes…and failures. I have always been somewhat of an antagonist when it comes to first and second city relations, but I’m setting my Napoleon Complex aside to determine if we here in Chicago even deserve to be in the discussion, let alone take over all you New Yorkers. 

For me as a fan, championships are all that matter. Playoff appearances are nice, but no one remembers anyone but the ultimate champion. As I said before, we’re going to take the Yanks out of the equation here, because that’s really not fair. They’re the most storied franchise in all of sports. Here we go though, let’s count the championship banners: 

New York Mets: 2
New York Baseball Giants: 5
Brooklyn Dodgers: 1
New York Football Giants: 8
New York Jets: 1
New York Rangers: 4
New York Knicks: 2
New York Islanders: 4

As you can see, New York’s numerical population gives them a slight advantage having 3 (4 counting the Yankees) baseball teams, 2 hockey teams, and 2 football teams. Even though they have had almost double the sports teams as us, New York’s output is a total of 27 championships…exactly as many as the Yankee Empire has accumulated over the years. This isn’t coincidence. There’s no such thing. 

And now, The Chi:

Chicago Bulls: 6
Chicago Blackhawks: 4
Chicago Bears: 8
Chicago Staleys: 1
Chicago Cardinals: 2
Chicago Cubs: 2
Chicago White Sox: 3

26 total championships for us here in Chicago. Always coming up one short to The City That Never Sleeps. So it’s agreed then, we shall stop sleeping, Chicagoans. Take a cue from Kyle Korver’s performance last night, and hustle 24/7. We’ve got some catching up to do, Chicago. 

Ah, fuck it. Nevermind. This is a battle I’ll never win…

I can’t remember the specific game, I never thought I would have to commit it to memory, but I was watching a Bears game with two of my brothers last season. It was before Cutler went down but that’s all I remember about the game. All except one thing. Every time Forte was given the ball, no matter how well he did, one of my brothers would jump up from his seat and yell, “PAY THAT MAN!” I didn’t realize at the time that the phrase would become the DE-facto mantra of uninformed Bears fans.

Speaking of stupid custom jerseys...

I don’t like thinking about football when the baseball season has just begun. I’m also not a big fan of long, dragged out, over dramatic crap. It should then come as no surprise that talking about Matt Forte and his continued cry-ass-ery with the Chicago Bears wasn’t on my list of shit-that-needs-a-doin. But the fact that I can’t go a day without hearing some Cro Magnon spouting off, “pay that man,” has forced my hand. It’s easy to see how he has contributed to the team since he was drafted in 2008. He is clearly one of the top ten running backs in the NFL right now. Forte has consistently produced, season after season, and proven he is a valuable asset that is well worth a dramatic increase from his rookie pay. He’s also a selfish dolt that doesn’t know when to shut his mouth and be a professional. In any other career, the chances of him getting a raise acting the way he does would be well within the zero range, but since he happens to be good at football people think he deserves more money.

There’s a problem with that idea. Football may be a sport, (That is a fact. You can look it up. I did!) but the NFL is a business. It’s a big business. It’s a fucking colossal business. Why does that matter? It makes Matt Forte an employee. Matt Forte doesn’t play for the Chicago Bears, he works for them. He has a supervisor and coworkers. He gets a regular paycheck and benefits. He gets vacation time. (Tons of it!) His job is to show up and play fucking football a few months out of the year. Somewhere along the way Forte, and many Bears fans, lost sight of this.

I know that professional football is still pretty damn far removed from your run of the mill career. There is a definite skill set needed to compete. The players don’t last as long. In fact, they get the shit kicked right out of them so they get compensated accordingly. Since most rookies don’t make much money when it comes to sports salaries, and many players don’t have anything to fall back on if their football career doesn’t pan out, they are anxious to grab that guaranteed contract money as soon as they’re eligible. I understand and I would more than likely have the same mindset if I was in their shoes. The problem is, Matt Forte turned down that money last season. Most reports estimated the contract extension he was offered in 2011 to include at least $14 million in guaranteed pay. I’m no genius, but Forte, wasn’t that the contract you were supposed to sign? Especially knowing that the Bears had the option to franchise tag you FOR LESS MONEY if you turned it down? C’mon! Who’s really getting screwed here? Forte or the Bears’ PR department? The Bears gave Forte an offer that, while not generous, was pretty fair considering the market value of a running back in a sport that is fast moving away from the running game. Forte turned it down. End of story?

Unfortunately no.

Forte went into the off-season thinking that his performance would earn him a better contract. I’ll be the first to admit he had a great season, but if it was up to me, I’d have slapped him with the franchise tag too. Especially after he turned down a decent deal. I don’t know if it’s Forte’s overblown sense of pride or his agent’s overblown sense of greed but one of them needs to have the shit slapped out of them. Everyone else saw the franchise tag coming. Forte just refused to look. So now he’s all disappointed with the organization and feels betrayed because they signed a back up running back. Face it Matt, you play a position that is decreasing in value as we speak, for a team that is trying to build a passing game that doesn’t include much of you, in a league that has a salary cap. How much are you really worth?

The chances of this happening again are pretty high.

None of that is even mentioning the lifespan of a running back in the current NFL. How many seasons does he really have to be an impact player? Five, six, maybe seven? This upcoming season will be his fifth year in the league and he’s already sprained his MCL. Would you offer a five year contract to a player who might only last one more year? Would you then guarantee that player $14 million? I very much doubt it. I hear you union guys in the back yelling, “But that’s wrong! He’s already earned the money by playing so good!” Well he’s also been a grade “A” ass-hat about the whole thing. Nobody wants to work next to, let alone pay, somebody who bitches about everything. The fact that he has played well during his four years with the team means nothing when you get down to the business of it. There’s a whole team to support and fans to appease. If paying Forte less money was better for the team, which is definitely the case, shouldn’t fans be happy that the Bears are trying to get a good deal? If the money they saved by slapping the franchise tag on him got used to fix that Swiss cheese of an offensive line, shouldn’t the fans be ecstatic? Oh yeah, that’s happening. If that money got used to bring in a high caliber wide receiver for Cutler, shouldn’t fans be praising the man-gods that decided to franchise tag Matt Forte? Oh wait, that happened too. So why are fans so quick to defend Forte and down the team that made a proper business decision in the interest of building a better franchise? I forgot. This is Chicago. An emotional attachment to our players is more important than having a winning team. By the way, Forte got paid a bit under $700,000 for the 2011 season. Should he choose to play with the franchise tag, he will be guaranteed around $8 million. For a single season. That’s almost twelve times what he was being paid last season. It’s a raise of over 1000%. Think about that the next time you see your extra 2.3% yearly increase.

Recently, Forte went to the twitter-verse with this. “There’s only so many times a man that has done everything he’s been asked to do can be disrespected!” There’s one thing he hasn’t done that many fans, sports media types, and I’m sure the Bears have asked him to do. Matt Forte needs to grow up and learn to play ball in the NFL.

Email: virtualsportsman@gmail.com

Twitter @virtuallymatt

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In this episode we briefly look at the Brandon Marshall trade, then we go to our true love, baseball. We check in on Jamie Moyer, look at the AL and NL Central, list off our top 10 baseball memories and sit back, relax and strap it down. Enjoy kids, all love and no hate here.

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. 

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…

Video games and sports have been close partners since their inception. Throughout the turbulent 80′s and the death of the arcade, the grand times and great triumphs of the game industry, sports games have been there. They entertain the wishes of would be NBA stars who can’t play at a professional level. They fill the void for baseball fans during the off-season who itch for the first pitch thrown in April. Most importantly, they offer hours of entertainment for gamers and casual players alike, and every so often change the nature of the industry. There has not been one single home video game console released that did not have at least one sports title in it’s library of games, if not in it’s launch lineup. Sports games have proven time after time that they can both sell systems and destroy them, introduce new heroes to gamers and bring new markets to the gaming industry, and if not for one specific sports title and the man who created it, video games as we know them may never have existed at all.

These are the next five in my list of ten sports games that have made a huge impact on the video game world.

# 6 Madden NFL ’94 

From it’s roots, Madden NFL was created to be a realistic sports simulation. Since most sports titles at the time of its first release were of the arcade variety, Madden made an impact for being a true simulation. Once gamers got a taste of that level of detail, every company making sports games had to take notice and compete. Yeah NBA Jam was a break out hit, and NFL Blitz made a splash a few years later, but who plays those games now? Sports gamers want realism these days and there’s no room for an arcade football game in the eyes of the industry thanks to Madden NFL Football.

I know. Madden NFL ’94 is a simple little child’s toy compared to the complexity of current entries in the series but ’94 was the first in the series to bear its current nomenclature as well as several other features that made it stand out from other arcade style football games of the day (I’m talking about you Tecmo Super Bowl!). It was the first in the series to have the NFL teams license. ’94 was the first in the series to include Flip Plays, which let you to mirror your selected play to throw off your opponent, making multi-player games more fun, and the first entry to allow full season play, albeit, through means of a password system. Upwards of 80 teams (including all NFL teams that existed at the time, 30 years of Super Bowl teams, and several all star versions of various teams) gave the title great replay value and even though the players on those teams weren’t included in the game, their stats were accurately recreated. Even with the accidental switching of the entire Jets and Giants rosters (Hey! They’re both New York teams so who cares right?) it shined as a modern example of what a great sports simulation could be. We all know the rest of this story and are more than likely playing Madden NFL 12 right now, but this was the one that paved the way for the extensive simulation we now know and love. Oh yeah, this was also the first EA sports game to have the, now iconic, “It’s in the game” voice at the beginning. Neat huh?

# 5 Gran Turismo

I’m a huge fan of arcade racing games. I would give my nuts and future life savings for a Rad Mobile arcade machine, but there is a place in my heart for games like Gran Turismo. It took a lot of guts for Sony to release this title. At the time, people like me were either drifting through whole tracks in Ridge Racer or pretending that Cruisin’ USA was a good game. There was no place in video games for a true racing simulation. License tests? Who do they think they are? Braking, gear ratios, and proper cornering? What the hell are they talking about? Who are they to tell me how to play my racing game? Fortunately the visual presentation hooked a lot of early adopters and many more fell into the groove of actually driving well in a video game not to mention racking up wins and cash to upgrade their 92 Mitsubishi GTO Twin Turbo. This is another case of one title changing the industry. Before Gran Tourismo, the racing simulation was the oddity. Now, it’s pretty difficult to find a true arcade racing game that isn’t some Mario Kart clone or doesn’t include crashing to score points. Every developer that wanted to get into the video game racing business suddenly had to compete with a deep, engrossing, visual powerhouse that presented a challenge and feeling of victory no other racing title could provide. Without the original Gran Turismo, there would be no Project Gotham Racing, no Need for Speed in it’s current iterations, and probably no Drag Racing on your iPhone. Respect.

#4 NHL ’94

Damn 1993 was a good year for EA sports! (Both Madden NFL ’94 and NHL ’94 were actually released in 1993.) While this entry in the series has been made famous for basically allowing its players to kill Wayne Gretzky (and who wouldn’t have wanted to back then?)there is another reason the ’94 iteration was the one that made hockey games popular. What could EA have added to such a great series to make it better and take it head and shoulders above every other hockey game that existed at that point? The answer is devastatingly simple.

One Timers.

NHL ’94 was the first hockey title to include one timers. Sure, it didn’t have fights, but now you could actually execute plays in a hockey game! Sure, the sprites skated around like crap but now you could actually execute plays in a hockey game! 1993 was, and will remain the year that the simulated hockey experience got real and it never looked back. EA was the first company to take hockey seriously and try to make their game as realistic as possible and  NHL ’94 was their first real success as far as I’m concerned. Hockey fans, be grateful.

Oh Chelios...

#3 MLB ’09: The Show

The Show franchise has been top notch since its early days in ought-6 but 2009 was the year they really got it right. The series’ “Road to the Show” mode is still the best career mode in all of video game history in the eyes of this writer and much of what the past 3 years’ entries have built upon first took shape in ’09. It introduced “Road to the Show 2.0” to the series which included better base running and stealing mechanics as well as more in-depth coach and management interaction with your created star. Fielding mechanics were improved, catcher AI was beefed up to react to each pitcher and hitter’s strengths, and so many other tweaks were implemented that strengthened overall game play that it felt like a new game over 2008’s entry.

I’ve heard people say that year over year improvement in the series since is too minimal for their tastes, and I tend to agree, but the lack of change begs a question. Is there a need to improve such a fine system?

If it ain’t broke…

Seriously, The Show has been the best baseball game available for 7 years running and it shows no sign of breaking that streak. If you haven’t played any of the entries in the series, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend grabbing the ’09 entry simply for the fact that the rosters are old old old and, as far as I know, you can no longer update them. It is, however, important to know where the greatness began and 2009 was the year baseball video games finally got the champion they deserved.

#2 NFL 2K1

This is going to seem like the “game nerd/fanboy” entry on the list but trust me, NFL 2K1 is number 2 for a reason. Allow me to give some detail.

Madden NFL 2001 did not appear on the Dreamcast. This was due to EA’s decision to not support the system, for better or worse. This move ended up being great for EA but absolutely devastating to SEGA as many developers followed suit, siting the Playstation 2 as the better option for monetary gain. So what do you do when one of the largest game publishers in existence pulls support of your console, thus depriving your user base of some of the most robust sports franchises that tend to sell systems? You hire the guys who made Madden NFL ’94 to make some completely new games, that’s what! With its superb football mechanics and a polished presentation, NFL 2K1 was the first real competition the Madden franchise had seen since NFL Gameday ’98. 2K1 took a great step forward from the previous year’s version by tweaking the gameplay and really stuck it to EA. Check out this video comparison of NFL 2K1 and Madden NFL 2001 if you want proof of how close they were in quality.

That’s all fine and good, but the icing on the cake was the inclusion of a feature that changed the nature of console sports forever.

Online Multi-player

That’s right NFL 2K1 was the first console sports game to feature online multi-player capabilities. Can you imagine playing Madden today without the option to school some jerk from New England and hate on Tom Brady while sitting on your couch in Pilsen? Be honest. No! You can’t! It’s become such a huge part of sports games, and so many people have never even played the game that started it all. The wildly successful NBA 2K series being the exception, all of the meaningful 2K Sports titles are either gone or on their way to their respective graves.  At least this one will live on in spirit, even if it’s just because of a brave new feature implemented by a desperate company that was on its way out of the console market.

That wraps up part 2. You know you want to check back next week to see which game is number one. It’s going to be a huge surprise!

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…

College football has never been my sport of choice (I mean, one foot in bounds for a catch? C’mon), but the defensive battles between Alabama and LSU got me excited for the defensive renaissance that took place in their matchups. Shouldn’t they just have played another game, a rubber match, to determine the BCS champ? Yet I digress, and this weekend is all about the NFL, a reward for us diehard fans who want to see the game played the right way, defenses winning games, a return to football in its pure form and superstars being born on both sides of the ball.

As I write this, NFL Championship Sunday is tomorrow. Four teams remain in the quest to be crowned Super Bowl Champion. Beyond the intrigue of a potential Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh showdown in Indianapolis, there lies a possible matchup of one of the NFL’s greatest defenses of the last decade+ vs. the San Francisco 49ers whose defense belongs in its own category.

San Francisco hasn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher in its past 36 games, a streak that dates to Nov. 22, 2009, and eclipses the league’s second-longest streak (Miami, 12). That, along with the feat that the 49ers hadn’t allowed a rushing touchdown in 15 straight games, matching the 1985-86 Bears for the longest streak since 1970. It took until very late this season for that TD streak to end, but it will be vital if the Niners are to move past Eli and the Giants. A dominant performance in the NFC Championship will put them in a class with the ’01 Ravens, a number of the Steel Curtain defenses from the ’70s and yes, our ’85 Bears.

That’s right, Bears fans, the current Niners defense is drawing comparisons to our beloved ’85 Bears. They’re that good. I was two years old in 1985, so all I have to go on is word of mouth and highlights, but hot damn if San Francisco isn’t the best group of run-stoppers I’ve ever seen.

They’ll need every ounce of defense if they are to overcome the suddenly hot New York Giants. That’s the story in professional sports though. Get hot at the right time, and the sky’s the limit.

Over in the AFC, Baltimore has a formidable foe to overcome in the still dominant New England Patriots. Tom Brady continues to tear shit up, shredding so-called top defenses, spreading the ball and cementing his legacy as one of the greatest QBs to ever play the game.

New England’s defense has been their Achilles heel all year, but the offense more than makes up for its deficiencies, something of which few teams have the luxury. Even with Ed Reed (and his motivational tactics to fire up goofball QB Joe Flacco) and Ray Lewis anchoring The D and performing at a high level, The Pats are too good to lose this late in the season.

Any sports fan has heard the phrase, “Defense wins championships” or some variation of the phrase. If that is an absolute truth, then wouldn’t the Bears have won at least a few more in between 1985 and now? Our current, yet aging defensive core has definitely had some championship-caliber seasons, but we’ve only managed to appear in one Super Bowl since our illustrious victory in SBXX. If defense wins championships, wouldn’t the Ravens have been back to at least another Super Bowl since their victory in SBXXXV?

San Francisco was able to match Drew Brees and New Orleans’ high-octane offense, a rare offensive shootout by a team known for its stifling D. I still have yet to hear a fitting name for Vernon Davis’ game-winning TD catch. Anyone?

New England beat the shit out of a very good Denver defense last week, and showed anyone watching that they can and shall impose their championship will on any given opponent on any given Sunday.

That being said, I’m splitting the difference between defense and offense, so to speak: San Francisco will torch New York 30-10, and New England will beat Baltimore 31-17.  The Harbaugh sibling rivalry will have to wait at least one more year. But, hey! At least we can root for a Chicago QB in the Super Bowl, right?

We three, Andy, Moe, and Raul, ring in the new year by looking ahead at what Bears, Bulls, Hawks, Sox and Cubs fans have to look forward to in 2012. Andy has Scotch like a man and likes it.We review Red Stripe beer. Andy and Moe talk about their fantasy basketball team that no one cares about. The boys look back at their most memorable moments of 2011, and Raul has an interesting take on sports villains.

[audio http://awmr01.podbean.com/mf/web/w2wbsv/Episode005.mp3]

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In this episode we take on Sam Hurd and his legal issues, review Cabin Fever beer, we take a look at the NHL and the Blackhawks, talk basketball and redraft the NBA Hall of Fame.