Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Bulls Fall to Heat in First Test of Rivalry this Season

Sorry, it took me a couple days to recover from the Bulls loss to the ESPN, I mean, Miami Heat on Sunday. As you would expect, a rivalry as intense as Bulls-Heat went down to the wire, with D Rose and LeBron James exchanging missed free throws, some weird officiating moves, and finally the D Rose miss that would have tied the game. This was the first of four games the teams will play, and I have a feeling that each one will match the intensity of this one - a gritty, all-out battle that has the same feeling as those epic playoff matches had last year. Here's hoping that the Bulls use this game as a lesson for the rest of them.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Loss to Pacers Illustrates Difficulties for Injury-Ridden Bulls

Last night's loss against Indiana was a tough one. First, we played a tough playoff series against them last year that catapulted the Pacers to the top of the Bulls rivalry list. That series was rough, dirty, and words were exchanged between the teams numerous times. Players like Jeff Foster and Tyler Hansbrough in turn catapulted themselves to the top of Bulls fans' hate list. So losing to that team last night stunk. Secondly, the loss gave a legitimate intra-division rival momentum and confidence going forward, knowing that they could take down the best team in the NBA. Third, the way the Pacers celebrated last night after the REGULAR SEASON win was as if they had all won the lottery, personally won the War on Terror, cured cancer, fixed the US and global economic depression, AND won multiple NBA titles. All in one night. I'm just glad that someone else noticed. The Pacers are like that annoying kid on the playground that steps up to challenge the big guy, gives him a fight, and talks trash and plays dirty the entire time. There's nothing technically wrong about the kid, but if you're on the side of the big guy (the Bulls), man does it royally piss you off. And most importantly, the loss illustrated the difficulties the Bulls are going to have going forward with the injuries they have.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Bulls Should Sit Rose Until He's Healthy

By the time the Bulls suit up tomorrow night against Cleveland, Derrick Rose will have sat for nearly a week without playing a game. Rose, nursing a nagging turf toe injury, looks to miss the next couple of games for the Bulls this weekend as well. The Bulls are handling this perfectly, and if I'm Tom Thibodeau, Gar Forman, or John Paxson, I make benching D Rose a permanent thing until he's 100% healthy and ready to play.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Just When You Thought the Irish Were Out, Kelly Pulls Them Back In

It's official. Gunner Kiel, consensus number 1 quarterback in the 2012 class, has decommitted from LSU and is enrolled in classes at Notre Dame. This is an extraordinary recruiting coup for Brian Kelly - it's not every day in the modern college football world that a top notch quarterback drops his commitment to an SEC team that was in the National Championship game to attend Notre Dame. This is different than the Taylor Decker/Urban Meyer situation, where Meyer poached a recruit from ND. Here, Kiel made the decision himself with his family. Moreover, it speaks volumes to the preparation, hard work, and true appeal of the current Notre Dame coaching staff under Kelly, and could open the floodgates down the homestretch to National Signing Day.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Urban Meyer Poaching the Irish as National Signing Day Approaches

Sure, every coach and college football program recruits players committed to other teams. After all, a verbal commitment is merely that - verbal - until National Signing Day on February 1st, when recruits in the Class of 2012 can begin signing letters of intent to play college football for their chosen programs. As a Fighting Irish fan, I had been ecstatic about the incoming class, which is excellent by any measure. Any excitement I had has now been destroyed by the new resident douchebag in Columbus, Urban Liar. Er, Urban Meyer. Regardless, Meyer has caused destruction to Notre Dame recruiting in his usual sleazy ways, stealing two coaches and one recruit already.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

What's Wrong with the Hawks?

After a blistering start, the Hawks have started to cool off a little bit, sliding from the number one seed in the Western Conference to the fourth in a matter of days. Dropping game after game doesn't help, but is this more an indication of a slump that every elite team goes through, or is it indicative of deep flaws that could disrupt a great season? I think it's a little bit of both.

To be sure, the Hawks beat up on a miserable Columbus Blue Jackets last night to stay in the 4th spot in the conference. They did this even with immeasurable loss of Patrick Sharp for a month (and really, if there was ever a bad month to lose Sharp, isn't it right now??!?!). But the problems for the Hawks have been masked by great play by the stars all year. Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp - all elite players - have hidden the fact that the Hawks lack of depth nearly everywhere, combined with a terrible back end to the defense, need to be addressed or the playoff success of the Hawks could well be moot.

Theo Instituting the "Cubs Way"

We're Cubs fans. We're used to hotshots stepping into the offices at Clark and Addison and promising the world to Cubs fans. Yet, here we are, in Year 104 of the Cubs' rebuilding project, witnessing a new leader promise the world to us. But something is different here. Changes are actually coming. Theo Epstein, the newest hotshot kid on the block, announced with a firm resolve that he was instituting a new culture in Chicago, dubbing it the "Cubs Way." This was more than just words. In the few months since Theo took over, the representative symbols of the old Cubs are on their way out, with a new foundation for success taking its place. While all these moves signal the Cubs already giving up on the 2012 season, really, who cares? Did we expect them to be good anyways? Let's build for the future, something that the moves of Theo and GM Jed Hoyer seem to be doing.

Theo and Hoyer have made some signings, bringing in random young utility players who fit his statistical mold, like David DeJesus and Ian Stewart. Those kind of moves only pique the interest of fans who waste all their time like me. No - the big moves made by Theo thus far indicate a desire to improve the ball club and refuse to tolerate childish nonsense that was the name of the game throughout the past.

Illinois Plays the Giant-Killer

With the way Illinois has been playing, I had almost zero hope that they would come into last night's game against Ohio State and be competitive, let alone win the matchup. Ohio State was everything that Illinois had thus far proven themselves unable to be, a basketball program that recruits very well, but at the same time develops players and consistently wins basketball games. I've gone on here to talk about how Bruce Weber and the Illini have loads of talent, but just need to play within a system, develop that talent, and translate it into wins on the court. Much of the time, I focus on G/F Brandon Paul within this context, noting that although he is a Junior and has untold potential and talent, that he is far too inconsistent. Well, hopefully we can take all that talk and shove it, for I think we just witnessed Paul and the Illini's coming out party.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Era of Accountability Begins?

Wasn't Christmas a week ago? Well Bears fans are getting either a late or very early Christmas present, as Jerry Angelo was fired today, a huge and startling move from the Bears. I feel like Ralphie from A Christmas Story, thinking that I'd gotten everything I wanted until finding that last one gift tucked away, waiting to come out and dwarf the rest of them. Now, if George McCaskey and Ted Phillips can go out and nail the new GM hire, could this possibly mean that a new era of accountability has begun at Halas Hall? It's possible, and the ramifications for this fire could be big starting immediately.

To be sure, the Bears have had a sustained period of success under Angelo that is much more reminiscent of Bears traditional success than his predecessors in the 1990s. The Bears won the division several times, made the NFC Championship game last year, and went to the Super Bowl in the 2006 season. He picked out the likes of Devin Hester, Lance Briggs, and Matt Forte. But in all reality, the writing was on the wall this year after he left the Bears woefully unprepared to survive a season with a few injuries, as I've talked about numerous times. For the Bears, it's also important that Angelo didn't simply retire. By announcing that he's been fired, it illustrates to Bears fans that from the top, Angelo's performance isn't acceptable. It's tantamount to announcing a culture change under the new McCaskey.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Years Weekend Recap; Hawks, Illini, Bulls, and Bears

It's New Years, so I figured that in lieu of posting some lengthy entry on one of our teams, I'd save us all the time and post one lengthy entry on all of them. This was a big sports weekend, with Hawks/Red Wings, Illinois' bowl game, an Illinois Big Ten conference basketball game, Bulls/Clippers (more like D Rose/CP3), and Mr. Irrelevant, Bears/Vikings in the last weekend of the Bears season.

Toews MVP?
I had the good fortune of making it to the Hawks/Red Wings game on Friday, and the crowd's atmosphere was appropriate considering the magnitude of the game. Granted, Hawks/Red Wings always carries an elevated sense of importance, but this year, with the two teams at the top of the Western Conference standings, the game was even more important. With the crowd fired up, both teams played a back and forth game, trading goals (including a sick Jonathan Toews penalty shot) for much of the game before the Hawks took the lead for good off a blast from Brent Seabrook. It was a great game that really illustrated what the Hawks can do when they get serviceable goaltending and defense. Toews continues continues to play at an MVP level at both ends of the ice, and every night the Hawks are able to put more playmakers on the ice than the team playing them. Like I say everytime though, the Hawks will have trouble going deep into the playoffs if they do not address the shortcomings on defense. There are plenty of teams that have dominated offensively in the regular season only to see their season flame out in the playoffs, where the ice shrinks and physical, defensively tough teams often come out on top. After Duncan Keith, Seabrook, and Nick Leddy, the depth at the blue line is horrible. Niklas Hjarmalsson is a bust, and the other guys back there aren't even worth mentioning. But really, I have faith that Hawks management will make a move, given the available cap to maneuver with at the trade deadline, and that one key piece may be all the Hawks need to bring the Cup back to Chicago.