Archive for the ‘Football’ Category

Andy Staples…Naw

Posted: July 3, 2012 by Mauricio Rubio Jr. in Football, NCAA, Sports
Tags: , , , ,

I’m sure Andy Staples is a nice guy. I hope he is rather. What he decided to write on the Penn State situation is rather…unfortunate. Original version can be found here.

Let’s just get into this thing:

(more…)

by: Tony Leva
email: tonytrucker1969@gmail.com

Bear Down, bitches!!

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

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

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

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

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

Perfecting the Art of Suck

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

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

Starting Pitching

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

Starlin Castro

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

Gotta love this type of stupidly good talent.

Dale Sveum and the coaches

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

The Show that Won’t Fucking Die.

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

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

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

by: Tony Leva
email: tonytrucker1969@gmail.com

Ruining a Dynamic Young Arm, by the White Sox

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

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

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

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

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

Kerry Wood, Official Cubs Mascot

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

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

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

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

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

NFLer Jacob Bell Call it Quits

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

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

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

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

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

by: Tony Leva
email: tonytrucker1969@gmail.com

Junior Seau, CTE and where this all may lead

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

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

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

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

The Cubs and the Farm System

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rocky Horror Live Cast Showing

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

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

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

 

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

[audio http://awmr01.podbean.com/mf/web/qz9pzj/Episode011.mp3]

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!