Sunday, December 1, 2013

Bears' Playoff Hopes Dwindling with Loss to Woeful Vikings

Forget the tiebreakers, the remaining teams on the schedule, the players returning from injury in the coming weeks, and the way the offense has played - this Bears team isn't making the playoffs, and doesn't deserve it either. After today's embarrassing, crippling, and reaching-rock-bottom-status loss to the Minnesota Vikings, not only is the fact that the Bears have even overachieved to this point obvious, but it's clear that the Bears just aren't a good football team.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Bulls Lose Rose to Another Season Ending Knee Injury

11 games. That’s all we got to see before another earth-shattering, devastating, franchise-changing injury to Derrick Rose stopped this season before it even got started. In what initially appeared to be a minor tweak in yet another non-contact play, Derrick Rose’s career – and the hopes of a franchise completely bought in on him – may never be the same. All of the hard work he put in after missing 18 months with a torn ACL in his other knee, all of the angst and criticism he heard from fans and the media – none of that matters now as he has the same long path ahead. The future of Derrick Rose, the near future of the Bulls franchise, and even the future of some of the players on the team are all now huge question marks. It really couldn’t get any worse. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Time for Beckman to Go

The fact that I'm writing this as halftime comes in Illinois' game against Ohio State tells you everything you need to know about the current status of this program. It's reached new depths of ineptitude. The funny thing is, though, that this isn't the wakeup call for Illinois fans, alumni, and administration that Tim Beckman isn't the right guy to lead this program out of the abyss. Strangely enough, anyone who watched this team last year saw the same thing. The missed tackles, the poor planning, the poor construction of a staff, the blaming on the previous coaching staff, and the inability to do even the slightest things right are obvious to even the most casual of fans.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Trestman Sticks with Ailing Cutler, and Bears Stuck with Loss

Marc Trestman's honeymoon with the Chicago media and Bears fans lasted 8 games. 8 games, up and down the Bears roller coaster this season, where Trestman emerged relatively unscathed and still the darling genius behind the Bears offensive genesis. That is, until yesterday's game against Detroit, where his mind boggling decision making is the direct reason the Bears lost a winnable game that would have given them control of the division and thus their own destiny towards the playoffs. I was fine with the Trestman's gamble on fourth down in the first half, instead of kicking a field goal, but his management of the quarterback situation in the second half and his abysmal play call for the attempted two point conversion at the end of the game were horrible.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Cubs All in on Young Talent with Renteria Hire

It seems that the growing trend in Chicago sports coaching searches these days is to hire the slightly under the radar, outside the box type with no previous head coaching experience. The Bears got theirs in Marc Trestman, who was only a head coach in the CFL and is off to a good start this season. The Bulls got theirs a few years ago with Tom Thibodeau, who has had resounding success thus far in his tenure. Illinois basketball got theirs last year in John Groce, who has done more with the program in his 18 months on the job than anyone thought possible. Now, the Cubs hope they are getting their own great hire today in announcing that San Diego Padres bench coach Rick Renteria will be their new manager, replacing Dale Sveum. Although the hire goes against what most thought the Cubs were looking for in terms of major league managerial experience, the hire could turn out to be just as important and valuable as those listed above.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Return of Rose has Bulls on the Rise

550 days. That's how long we've waited for this moment, the moment where Derrick Rose returns to play in a game that counts. All of the drama, hearsay, and sports media buffoonery can now, finally, be put to rest. Sure, there will be the questions about how his knee is holding up, and whether missing a game here and there is really that important (or for the PTI talking head morons of the world - "what does this mean big picture-wise?"). But for the most part, he's back. We have the pleasure of getting to watch Derrick Rose play basketball for OUR team again, and as this preseason has attested, just how amazing he is at that particular thing. Because when you think about it, his supposed lack of public relations skills, his overreliance on his family for their bad advice, and his to-a-default humility don't matter at all. He's a basketball player, and one of the best in the world at it.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Cutler and Briggs Done for the Season. Are the Bears?

Henry Melton, Nate Collins, D.J. Williams, and Kelvin Hayden, lost for the year. Charles Tillman, Stephen Paea, Martellus Bennett, and Alshon Jeffery battling nagging injuries nearly all season long. And now, in a bad loss to a bad Redskins team yesterday, the Bears lose Jay Cutler for a minimum of four weeks and Lance Briggs for at least six. The bye week couldn't come at a more perfect time for this Bears team, not merely to rest the players they actually do have still in uniform but to desperately try to figure out to patch up the holes in the sinking ship that is the Bears defense. At this point, though, it is hard to see which direction the Bears go to fix the plaguing issues on that side of the ball, and might have to resign themselves to the fact that the Bears defense as we know it is done.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Bears' Offense Now the Strength of the Team

What a strange year for football 2013 is turning out to be. The Giants are a woeful shell of their two-time Super Bowl winning selves. The Falcons, considered a favorite in the NFC this year, are terrible and lost to the Jets (yes, the Jets) at home last week. The Steelers, a team that contends nearly every year, are in last place in a division that the Browns call home. The Chiefs, with the first pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, are tied with the Broncos for first in the AFC West and remain undefeated. The Texans are a blazing dumpster fire, with Philadelphia-esque cheers for Matt Schaub's injury resonating throughout Reliant Stadium in the shellacking they took from St. Louis yesterday. But in our local, micro-sports world, perhaps the most alarming surprise has been with the Chicago Bears defense.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Firing Sveum the Tough, But Right, Choice

From the moment Theo Epstein was hired two years ago, the two operative words on Clark and Addison were "process" and "development." It was stressed to Chicago media members and Cubs fans everywhere that this process of developing a championship caliber - scratch that, even just contending - club would take time and effort. The same was said by Epstein when he hired Dale Sveum to be the Cubs manager. It was made clear that Sveum would not be judged solely by wins and losses, as it was expected that the Cubs would struggle mightily in the coming years. Instead, the Cubs had their own in-house criteria on which to judge the coaching staff and players. Essentially, it was Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer's responsibility to acquire top young talent, and Sveum and his coaching staff's job to develop it. Based on today's decision to fire Sveum after two seasons, it's clear that Epstein feels Sveum isn't the man to develop his talent.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Exploring the 2013 Chicago Bears

We've had two weeks to soak it in. I didn't write a 2013 Chicago Bears preview because I wanted to see a little regular season product. And what have we seen? An offense that when clicking can be methodical, efficient, and - dare I say - explosive. There are receiving options in Brandon Marshall, Martellus Bennett, and Alshon Jeffery that I don't believe the Bears have ever had, with their ability to put pressure on defenses with their athleticism, size, and physicality. There's a running back perfect for the hybrid West Coast offense Marc Trestman is running, with a multifaceted approach that is seen in both the rushing and passing game. And leading the charge on offense? Jay Cutler, still throwing some bad balls like he always might, but confidently running a scheme suited to his talents with a coolness and clutchness not seen around these parts in some time. With the protection up front, the weapons in front of him, and a coach who allows him freedom and instills confidence, Cutler has the opportunity to have a career year.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

2013 Notre Dame Football Preview: Maintaining Excellence

It's that time of year again. The start of any sports season is a time of new beginnings and fresh starts, but nowhere is this more true than college football. The return of college football sparks that memory for all of us whose glorious college years have come and gone of the feeling a new year of college brings. The possibilities are endless, and the sense of excitement and hope permeates throughout. This is especially true for Fighting Irish football fans, who've just been through an offseason none will soon forget.

Kicking off the offseason with a pummeling by Alabama in the National Championship game - and forgive me if I leave anything out - there was Brian Kelly's flirtation with the NFL, the loss of 5 star recruit Alex Anzalone to Florida on the eve of his early enrollment, the Manti Te'o ordeal, the transfer of 5 star freshman QB Gunner Kiel followed quickly by the transfers of Davonte Neal and Justin Ferguson, the loss of incumbent starting QB Everett Golson to academic suspension for the season, the loss of incoming 5 star recruit Eddie Vanderdoes as he reneged on his signed letter of intent to enroll at UCLA, and finally, the injury to Tony Springmann (expected to play serious minutes on the defensive line) and the retirement of starting DOG linebacker Danny Spond. And yet, even with all that drama, the compass is still pointing north for this program and I expect 2013 to be a great season.

2013 Illinois Football Preview: Nowhere to Go But Up?

I'd just as soon as forget last year. The winless Big Ten season, the coaching debacles, the weird obsession with lasagna, and the mindless sideline dipping. The awful product on the field, where it seemed like crossing the 50 yard line was worth a gold star. Sure, you could chalk it up to a vastly undermanned roster that was decimated towards the end of Ron Zook's tenure, but the inability of the coaching staff to work together and put a cohesive effort on the field, and the apparent incompetence of Tim Beckman in nearly every game, means that questions remain heading into a brand new season as to whether this program will improve. Given that it's pretty much bottomed out at this point, the hope is that the answer is yes.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Keeping Matt Garza

Heading into the 2013 MLB Draft, many felt the Cubs would utilize the second pick in the draft to grab an elite pitcher. The Cubs, an organization who has spent much of the Epstein era stockpiling elite young position talent, were a perfect match for top pitching prospects Mark Appel or Jonathan Gray, whomever fell to them at number 2. Yet, when the Cubs took Kris Bryant, the ultra-talented slugging third baseman from the University of San Diego, the reaction was a pleasant surprise, even for an organization with a lot of positional talent. Why? Because, as the adage has always been and is now, special power hitting right handers don't grow on trees, and they're almost always expensive to acquire.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Hawks Bring the Cup Back Home in Epic Finish

Knowing these Blackhawks, we should have figured that the season would end with drama. But I don't know if anyone could have predicted what we all witnessed last night in Boston. Raise your hand if you thought the Hawks, down a goal with just over a minute left, were headed to a Game 7 tomorrow in Chicago. It's ok, I'm sure the majority of us were. That is, of course, until a furious, nearly simultaneous 2 goal onslaught gave the Hawks the lead within 17 seconds of each other. Less than a minute later, the Hawks were the Stanley Cup Champions and a celebration for the ages began in Chicago.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Dramatic Blackhawks Advance to Original Six Clash with Bruins

Call them the cardiac kids, a team with a flair for the dramatic and a penchant for scoring clutch goals. The Blackhawks, with a tense, epic double-overtime victory over the Los Angeles Kings, advance to face the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final in a game surpassed in electrifying moments perhaps only by their own Game 7 victory over Detroit in the previous series. Unlike the Detroit series, however, here the Hawks clinched the series in Game 5. And yet, with the desire to advance to their second Stanley Cup Final in the last four seasons combined with their ability to close out the defending champs, the victory in this game added yet another spectacular moment to an already memorable season.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Blackhawks Advance After a Game 7 For the Ages

There are certain times in sports when you realize why you care so much. Why you're such a big fan. Why it matters so much to you. There are certain times that transcend reality, that transcend sports, where you feel almost bonded with a team, or maybe a player, or maybe an overall sport. It doesn't happen often, but those fleeting moments are the reason why you care for each and every shift, each and every period, each and every game, each and every series, and each and every season. Wednesday night was one of those instances.

The way the Hawks played, the way the game went, the way that the series had gone - it was simply unbelievable. I haven't experienced much like it in my sports life. I felt personally wronged when the Niklas Hjarmalsson goal was taken out, like someone had just hurt a family member or friend or cheated them in some way. I don't know if I've ever lived shift to shift, minute to minute, or shot to shot in any other sport in quite the same way. Of course, there's Michael's Bulls teams, the Super Bowl Bears, the 2010 Hawks Cup team, the 2005 Illini basketball team and a few others scattered in my years watching Chicago sports. But this Hawks team has bonded and intertwined its identity with this city so well that I don't know if I've ever seen anything quite like it in my lifetime. The crowd last night had their blood running and a frenzy about them that created an atmosphere that was awe-inspiring even on TV. It's something that I can't really even properly explain in words, but I do know it's something I'll never forget.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Blackhawks Advance to Face Off with Detroit

What a way to mark the end of the Western Conference rivalry between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings. Much has been made about the moronic decision by the NHL to take the Red Wings out of the Western Conference beginning next year; one of the best rivalries in the sport will be relegated to a few games here and there every season, greatly diminishing the intra-division matchups we've come to expect from the two marquee, Original Six clubs. So this playoff matchup, one that would already be rife with excitement, is magnified by the fact that if the Red Wings and Hawks ever meet in the playoffs again after this year, it will only be in the Stanley Cup Finals. What a series this could be.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Bulls Show Heart in Advancing Over Brooklyn

Chicago Bulls fans have been saying it for three years now. This team is special. We've seen the way that this team competes; the heart, hustle, and muscle that serve as the core of the team's identity no matter who is playing. We've seen this team endure adversity to the tune of injuries and/or illness to nearly every key player on the team. Derrick Rose (the former MVP, if you can remember) has missed all of this season and chunks of last year. Joakim Noah has labored through a viscious plantar fasciitis injury for the past few years and has spent time sitting out as well. Players like Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich, Carlos Boozer, Taj Gibson, and Rip Hamilton have all missed serious stretches of time. And yet, here we are, advancing to the second round of the playoffs in what many thought was a "lost" season coming after two straight years atop the NBA standings.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Chicago Bears 2013 Draft Review: Boom or Bust

After a long, built up, free agency filled with highs (the signings of Martellus Bennett and Jermon Bushrod), lows (cutting ties with Brian Urlacher in a cold, disrespectful way) and everything in between, the Bears finally had the opportunity to address any remaining needs through the draft. This was Phil Emery's second opportunity to distance himself from the woeful draft day selections of his predecessor, Jerry Angelo, and prove that his reputation as a top scout could show up on draft day. After mixed reviews and on-field results from his 2012 draft, he had a lot to establish. Now obviously, deciding whether a draft is successful or not could take years to really evaluate, but from where we stand right now the Bears and Emery finished with an average draft, due in large part to a bad first round pick.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Full Strength Blackhawks Surge Towards Playoffs

Last night was the first game in over a month that the Blackhawks played a game at full strength. Last night was also the first game they've played after they became the first NHL team this year to clinch a playoff spot. So what better timing then for the best team in the NHL to start positioning itself for a deep run into the postseason? Getting Marian Hossa back, who actually returned before last night's game, as well as Patrick Sharp, gives the Hawks their full depth chart. Yes, the same depth chart that went over half the season before losing in regulation. A roster with a healthy Sharp and Hossa together hasn't lost in regulation all season. Barring any drastic injuries, this bodes well for the team moving forward.

I guess it'd be a misnomer to say that the Hawks are full strength as Dave Bolland has been out. But as the second line center is not expected to be out long, the Hawks look primed to get the team ready for a deep run into the playoffs. Since Hossa and Sharp went down, the Hawks have struggled (or maybe their version of struggling). Their remarkable depth took a hit as two of their best two way forwards were missing from the lineup. You can see the impact in a weak effort on the power play as of late and the team's struggles in the third period as well. Players like Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews were logging minutes usually reserved for defensemen like Duncan Keith. Now, though, the team can flatten out, sort out where to fit everyone on each line, and finish the season strong.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Chicago Cubs 2013 Preview: One Step Closer to Relevancy

In case you hadn't noticed amidst the Bulls/Derrick Rose storyline, the Bears moving on from Brian Urlacher, the Blackhawks getting past the halfway point in the NHL season without a regulation loss, and a thrilling NCAA Tournament, the Chicago Cubs begin the 2013 MLB season tomorrow. This is Year 2 in the Theo Epstein era, one where the Cubs supposedly take that leap forward closer to relevancy. After all, we were told from the beginning that 2014 is the year, the season that the Cubs can actually plan for and head into the season planning to compete. If that storyline holds, that would make 2013 really the final full-on rebuilding season before we can be a real MLB contender. I don't know how much of that is actually true, but the Cubs do have an opportunity to climb out of the MLB cellar this season and start moving, ever so slightly, towards being a consistently good franchise.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Streak Stops Here

When the Bulls jumped out to a big first quarter lead, I knew last night's game was actually going to be a battle. I had questioned coming into the game how the Bulls would compete with a Miami Heat team on a 27 game winning streak without Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Rip Hamilton, or even Marco Belinelli. We had seen this Bulls team go through some struggles without those guys, falling into lulls where they couldn't score and the shortened bench became too much for them to overcome. But last night, we saw the Bulls as we remember them so well from the past few years, even without the star players. It was a total team effort, getting contributions from all over the roster, combined with the mentality that Tom Thibodeau has instilled in this team, that led to the incredible, heart-pounding win over Miami to end their streak.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Illini Pride is Back

I set off trying to write about the game against Miami, when I stumbled upon the absolutely perfect piece over at A Lion Eye. It's linked both here and below, and encapsulates everything I was going to say in a truly outstanding way. I do have a few thoughts though. First, it's heartbreaking to watch a loss like that. I feel terrible for the team to watch a game like that slip away, especially with controversial officiating at the end. But at the same time, I couldn't be prouder of how they established themselves in the biggest game of their careers. This team, a team that most had written off prior to the season, had the program on the brink of its first Sweet Sixteen appearance since the magical run of 2005. Last night we saw the culmination of an entire season of working together, effort, and player development. I wanted that win bad, so bad that I'm still reeling today as I write this, but I can rest easy knowing that this group laid everything they had on the line last night. What a proud, program-building moment for the group; this is the memory that they all get to go out on.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Illinois 2013 Tournament Preview

It's been a crazy season for the Illini. They started strong, racing out of the gates to a 12-0 start that no one saw coming, including an epic win at Gonzaga and a championship in the Maui Invitational. Then there were the struggles during Big Ten season, where the team started to fall into the old precipices that were hallmarks of the Bruce Weber era. Finally, there was the nice rebound to the season, where Illinois pulled off some key victories, including a monstrous win against number 1 Indiana on an epic buzzer beater from Tyler Griffey. Now, on the verge of an NCAA Tournament appearance that few predicted before the season, the legacies of a few and the beginning of a new coach's era hangs in the balance.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Move From Wrigley? Not a Chance.

The Chicago Cubs are a team of tradition. A mostly losing tradition, to be sure, but one that has been passed down from generation to generation to the point that it really is something special. Grandfathers can take their grandchildren to games, getting off the CTA or taking some other form of public transit, and land smack dab in the same Chicago neighborhood where they first saw the Cubs play when they were kids. These wise elders can sit in the famed bleachers and spin yarns to their progeny about the days of Tinker to Evers to Chance, or the heel clicking, let's-play-two 1960's era Cubs teams. They can recount years and years of horrendous teams and mounting losses, but the experience, the camaraderie, and atmosphere, and the location has all been the same. It's created a community amidst the Friendly Confines that brings together Cubs fans of all ages and locations. At this point, it's become a point - a practical pilgrimage - for every type of fan, from the diehards to those looking to soak up the Chicago sun and have a good time, to make at least one trip to Wrigley.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Bears Making Right Moves as NFL Offseason Begins

The frenzy surrounding the first week of NFL free agency shows just how powerful and popular that league is. It is clear from the dedication from sports talk radio, the attention on national sports TV, the hysteria of the modern sports twitter mafia to be the first to drop a story ("sources say") as well as the numerous articles surrounding the first real week of the league year prove that the NFL is King. The Bears kick started the league year in exciting fashion for the second year in a row. This time last year it was inking Michael Bush and Jason Campbell to deals (smart moves at the time even if they were barely used or underperformed when they were used, respectively) to go along with the mega trade for Brandon Marshall.

This year, the Bears addressed massive needs at tight end and left tackle by acquiring two of the marquee free agents at both positions. The acquisitions of Martellus Bennett and Jermon Bushrod instantly make the Bears a better football team and shore up major weaknesses from last year. I applaud the apparent secrecy under which Phil Emery made the moves, and certainly appreciate the fresh sense of driven moves from Halas Hall that he's brought in his short time on the job. The reason I waited a week to write about it, however, is because of the skepticism that continues to surround the Brian Urlacher issue. Even after landing two marquee free agents, Emery's success or failure this free agency could very well hinge on how he deals with the Bears legend.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Doubting Rose the Wrong Move at This Point

Is this the point it has gotten to? Really? Now, after all we've been through, we're going to question Derrick Rose's toughness? I find it ridiculous that after it leaked that he was medically cleared to play by doctors, we not only instantly expected him to be able to play, but then started to murmur - after he mentioned that he would play when he was comfortable dunking off his left foot (translation - mentally ready) - that maybe he was milking this whole affair. Derrick had fallen into the trap of playing to his endorsement companies, listening to his handlers, etc, and didn't feel that it was in his best interests to come back. It's all garbage.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Hawks Rolling as Unprecedented Streak Continues

When was the last time sports were this much fun? I mean, I'm obsessed with sports so I think they're fun on a regular basis, but this is getting ridiculous. This Blackhawks team has turned not only the Chicago sports world upside down, but the sports world in general. A hockey team - that's right America, HOCKEY, the sport that shall not be named - is being compared to the Miami Heat during primetime ESPN Sportscenter broadcasts. A league fresh off of a debilitating lockout has a team that is bringing the sport back to prominence in a way that wouldn't have happened even if there was a normal NHL season without a lockout. They're doing it because they're winning, of course, but they're also succeeding because they're just damn fun to watch.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Happy Birthday, Michael

After spending most of my childhood obsessing over Michael Jordan and the Bulls, it really hits home that MJ turns 50 today. It seems like just yesterday he was winning championships, draining memorable shots, dominating the NBA, and formulating my own love for sports in his own way. I'll forever tie every moment I see of his to a memory in my own childhood, and for that reason alone he's my favorite athlete of all time. Even more than that though, Michael turning 50 has given the media the dual opportunity to both reflect on his amazing career and examine and compare it to other greats, especially LeBron James. It says a lot about MJ that his 50th birthday has drawn such an enormous celebration not only from local media, but national outlets like ESPN. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Look Into the Derrick Rose Situation

Much of this Bulls' season has been spent in limbo, waiting for the (supposed) arrival of Derrick Rose. The fallen leader of the Bulls, injured last April 28th, was expected by many to miss 8-12 months after sustaining the torn knee ligaments. For Bulls fans, though, we've thought all along, whether it be from intuition, media hints, Bulls front office hints, or the simple fact that we've watched Derrick Rose perform superhuman feats in his career and thus assumed he'd heal in the same fashion, that he'd be back sometime close to or after the All Star break. No one knew for sure when, or how, he'd return, but most figured it would be around that time. Then, the theory went, he'd pick up and lead an overachieving Bulls team deep into the playoffs. We made these assumptions because we knew all along the mentality that Rose has had his entire career, how he was so much different than the typical modern athlete. That was, of course, until his USA Today interview and subsequent comments to the media about not being able to dunk yet and being fine with perhaps sitting out the season that could bring out the doubters.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Power Play is Hawks' Only Weakness

The Hawks are 10-0-3. They're flying all over the ice, possessing the puck nearly at will and imposing their offensive skill on their opponents. Their depth has been prevalent, as all four lines are contributing on both ends of the ice. Their defense - just as deep - has limited turnovers and is spearheading superior puck possession like they did in the 2010 Stanley Cup season. The goaltending is vastly improved. Even the penalty kill, arguably the achilles heel of the Hawks last season, is one of the best in the league. Right now, the Hawks are rolling over some of the best opponents in the deep Western Conference, and they're doing it within the frenzied pace of a condensed season.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Thibodeau Pushes Bulls to High Level

In any rational basketball universe, the Chicago Bulls shouldn't be anywhere near first place. They've been without their superstar, Derrick Rose, the entire year. While that alone would be enough to sink a team that's normally heavily reliant on him for scoring, they've also sustained injuries to their two All-Stars, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng, as well as two other impact players, Carlos Boozer and Kirk Hinrich. When you consider that Rip Hamilton missed significant time earlier this season, each of the Bulls 2012-2013 starters, in addition to Rose, have missed stretches of games due to injury. And yet, there the Bulls are at 29-19, tied for first in the Central Division and tied for fourth in the Eastern Conference. They've done it by adhering to a mantra of toughness, resilience, and effort. They've done it because of Tom Thibodeau.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Hawks Come Out Firing

Some people thought that the Blackhawks would come out strong, but no one could imagine the way they've stormed out of the gates. Starting the season 6-0, the Hawks look like the 2010 Cup team in more ways than one. They're killing penalties, they're scoring on the power play, they're getting good goaltending, and the entire team seems to be getting in on it. They've done it in style, beating up on a large chunk of the upper echelon of the Western Conference. In the first 6 games alone, the Hawks have beaten the Kings, the Coyotes, the Blues, and most recently, the Red Wings. Most importantly, though, the way the Hawks are winning shows that they can continue that success throughout the season.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

2012-2013 Blackhawks Preview: Striving for Consistency in an Unpredictable Season

All we wanted was some hockey back, and all would be forgiven. The months and months of turmoil, bickering like school children, back stabbing, and mostly just rendering the sport irrelevant to casual fans is finally over. Us fans are ready to welcome the NHL and the Blackhawks back, but what league are we coming back to? In this 48 game season, with no preseason, what will the NHL, and most importantly, the Hawks, look like? The Hawks are a team capable of high offensive output, albeit with some questions on the backend. Is this going to be a season where defense struggles, and thus the best offensive team wins the cup? Or the opposite - will defense reign supreme over rusty offense? I think in either fashion, the Hawks can come out on top.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Relapse of Illinois Basketball

As we see it right now, after a drubbing at the hands of a woeful Northwestern team at home, after a beating of epic proportions at Wisconsin, which followed a terrible loss to Minnesota, it is clear that the "new era" many (including myself) thought had arrived for Illinois basketball has not. It turns out, after all, that the Bruce Weber era of basketball, that of the slow, dull, uninspired, weak, and underachieving sort, was simply in remission. Sure, John Groce may yet succeed at Illinois. Hell, he made this group start the season 12-0. But it is obvious to anyone watching now that the downtrodden Weber years have not, in some recognizable fashion, left Champaign.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Emery and Bears Turn to the Offensive-Minded Trestman

Phil Emery finally has his man. After weeks of searching, canvassing seemingly every corner of the football universe, and interviewing a wide range of candidates far and wide, the Bears GM has hired Montreal Alouette's (them of the Canadian Football League) head coach Marc Trestman to replace Lovie Smith. Trestman brings a highly respected offensive pedigree, having served in various capacities aroudn the NFL for years. When Emery began this search, he explained in his long, brilliant press conference that his new coach had to be someone who he worked well with, but more importantly, could take the Chicago Bears' stagnant offense and make it one that can succeed at the upper levels of the NFL. From all accounts, he nails this with Trestman, a man who has respect from all corners of the NFL universe and has a resume that suggests he can be the one to turn around the Bears offensive woes. But all of that notwithstanding, this is still an out of the box hire for the Bears, one that still leaves us with some questions and will probably ruffle some Bears fans' feathers. No matter what, though, the uncharacteristic hire from the Bears suggests that George McCaskey and Phil Emery are leading this franchise into a new era.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Checking in with the Bulls

Thibs gets the most out of his team
After last night's trouncing of the Atlanta Hawks, a win the likes of which I haven't seen from the Bulls since they pummeled the Jazz in the 1998 NBA Finals, the Derrick Rose-less Bulls find themselves only 1 game back in the Central Division and only 3 games back in the Eastern Conference. It's crazy to think that this team, which many expected to barely keep their head above water while Derrick Rose was out injured, is only games away from the number 1 seed in the conference. When you consider how poorly they've played at home, and how truly bipolar these Bulls are, it's a testament to the leadership on the team, the coaching of Tom Thibodeau, and the ability of the Bulls (even with their new players) to work together on both ends of the court to play well enough to position themselves for a great sprint to the finish once Rose returns.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Kelly's Decision to Stay Ends Tumultuous Week for Irish

What a week, perhaps the biggest in recent Notre Dame history. On one hand, you had the BCS National Championship game, a game in which Notre Dame had not appeared since 1988. On the other, you had a crazy couple days where the Notre Dame faithful sputtered in limbo as the man who brought the Irish back from the depths decided both his future and the future of the program. In the end, losing one (the National Championship game) was not nearly as important as coming out on top of the other (retaining Kelly).