Monday, November 1, 2010

Patience and Incompetence - this was no Bye Week

I love baseball, period.  So watching Juan Uribe playing in October is a treat, even if its for another team.  He still feels like "one of us."  Who can ever forget the spectacular 2 outs he made in the 9th inning of game 4 v. the Astros?   I called this series for the SF Giants in 6 games, but it would give me no greater pleasure than to see the Giants celebrating a win over the Rangers,  in front of the Bush league family tonight in Game 5.  Another "Blue State"  carrying home their World Series rings, over the "Reddest" of all states.  But patience is something I'm still working on. 

I guess I learned this from my father, Zozzy:  We can growl and groan with dropped passes, fumbles, leaving the bases loaded, missing free throws, or wondering how our general managers allow our star players to head off to other teams.  Yet, he once told me that, in the end,  Chicago Sports fans need to be patient. Enjoy the moment, as he did with my younger brother in Wrigley Field, watching Sayers rush for 6 TDs.  A White Sox 2005 World Series flag was planted in his Westlawn grave by my sons, as were hundreds of others. Patience won out, and he was smiling with the rest of us.

Chicago  Sports fans have no choice, really, and we've learned to "get it while we can."  But when we win, we celebrate like no other city. Rallies in Grant Park.   Parades that go on for miles, attended by millions.  No matter how hot, humid, cold or wet, we're there on State Street, as the confetti flies from buildings and people hang out from every window, with a city's collective "high" that  is far and away much better than what Josh Hamilton reported "smelling"  out in Center Field at San Francisco's AT&T ballpark this last week.   

And so,  our patience is challenged once again, after watching our teams lacking defense:  the Bulls' breakdown in the 4th quarter v. Oklahoma, or the Blackhawks giving up 4 goals in the first period v. the Oilers.  Losing ugly is worse than some costumes I've seen this week.  Even worse is accepting the injuries which have plagued Hossa, Campbell, Bolland, and Boozer, or the reality of salary caps which sadly have Andrew Ladd and Big Buff scoring for the Thrashers.

Yet I'm losing patience, quickly,  due to incompetence and lack of taking responsibility.    Has Lovie and Company gone into hibernation already?  Too fearful of being upstaged in Chicago news media by the election tomorrow?  When you hit the Canadian border for next Sunday's game, I'd say you need to remind your organization to bring their passports, along with a decent  passing game and offensive line.  And by the way:  don't forget to pack the  running game. it must be stuck in the side compartment of Martz's suitcase.  Just leave that turnover game  at Halas Hall, across the border where the immigration officials can't see it. By the time the Bears return next Sunday night, I question whether the U.S. Border officials will even allow them back in to the U.S.  What?  this is a real football team, they ask?  Maybe we'll just keep them here in Canada for a while and have them play in our CFL.  Could do them good. 

Ultimately,  the worst incompetence of our regional sports teams is now in full view at Notre Dame.  Declan Sullivan's tragic death is front and center, and yes, I have no patience ever, for a young life lost in this manner.  His last tweets to friends and family said it all, characterizing a young man reportedly scared for his life, rightly so,  with 50 MPH winds on a scissors lift, taking videos/ pictures of the team practice, just doing his job.  Where were the adults who are, in legal terms, loco parentis?  Concerned about their football players and the big game on Saturday, instead of caring for one of their own, on a hydraulic lift, allegedly violating the standard safety policy of using a scissors life beyond a wind speed of 25 MPH.

As a mother, I'm infuriated at the incompetence.  Where was the leadership by Notre Dame coaches, the athletic director, the president, the board of directors?  Why was there no Red Cross Critical Incident Stress Debriefing protocols offered for all the witnesses and survivors who were most likely in shock, and continue to be?   Are there no staff psychologists with whom to consult with in South Bend?   You wouldn't consider canceling the game, right?  Too much money lost in TV revenues? 

And David Schuster, on Chicago Tribune Live, was right on, when he said, "This is not a sports issue, it's a human issue."  We're asked to be patient in an exhaustive investigation, which the Indiana Occupational  Safety & Health Administration will carry out.  But for this southsidesportschick, this is not just another workplace fatality.  We all know the university will ask for a settlement before this case can ever go to court.  Mark my words.  In these times, we'll just put a price tag on a wonderful life lost.   Incompetence at the highest level needs to be examined and re-examined.

We're asking our local, state, and national politicians to be held accountable for their actions, or inaction, when we vote tomorrow.  Will we expect the same from those in command at Notre Dame? 

The Long Grove Carmel High School community is grieving.  The family is grieving.  Declan Sullivan's colleagues and fellow athletes are grieving.  We offer our prayers, condolences, and  courage to his parents, his family, and friends.  We somehow try to make sense of this senseless act.  I only know that this was no Bye Week, for any sports fan in Chicago.  We collectively said goodbye to a wonderful soul. 

Why am I going over all this history?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Anxiety Disorders, 101.

The Chicago Bears' game today, in its 17 - 14 loss to the Redskins, most definitely represents a variety of anxiety disorders, for the entire organization:  from the players and coaches to the pinheads up in the booths.  My profession, by day, expects me to know what these terms describe:   "panic attack"," phobia", "obsessive-compulsive", "acute stress", "post-traumatic stress", and finally "generalized anxiety." While one can make a case for all of them in this week's blog, we'll keep it basic (something the Bears have somehow forgotten).

What, you ask, is basic here?  I recall my 8th grade boyfriend, Philip, playing football in the park on 87th and Jeffrey.  He was the QB in pick up games, and just shouted to his teammates, "it's easy, guys, just catch the ball and hold on to it."  

And that's why we fans could be having our own panic attacks right now:  a feeling often associated with impending doom.  6 turnovers with 2 in the red zone.   Still scoreless in the 3rd quarter for the entire season.   (What IS going on in the locker room during half-time?) Only two 3rd down conversions.  Unable to win against the Redskin's 2nd worst passing defense in the NFL.   With a national election nearing,  Obama now has  more reasons than the Bears' season, to feel ones heart racing, with Karl Rove's fund-raising. 

A phobia produces significant anxiety provoked by exposure to a feared situation, often leading to avoidance behavior.  Wow!  I could write my 2nd dissertation on this one, as could any of you.  How many sacks can a QB take in one season without protection?  How many concussions?  Cutler continuing to throwing off his back foot, and as Jiggetts said "stepping in the bucket," where he can't be accurate with the pass. Receivers not cutting back up the field when Cutler is scrambling from the pocket, desperate to find anyone open. Go ahead, try it. Nothing to fear, really.  At least the NFL helmets don't  stoop to the low standards of  youth helmet safety, set in 1980, by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (whose board members also produce & sell the helmets to cash-strapped schools). So Jay, you're protected well enough.  Sleep tight.  Nothing to fear.  Don't need that Klonopin, Xanax, or Ativan any time soon. 

We'll close out this chapter with Generalized Anxiety:  persistent, excessive anxiety, difficulty concentrating,  and worry.  What, me worry?  (My sister, Marcia, and I would save our baby-sitting money for our Mad Magazines every month.)  If we can't ever convert for one yard, if we have any doubt as to whether or not it's time to throw the red challenge flag, if we can't trust our guys to play "Football 101" (thanks, Jim), if we can't expect our coaching staff to stay with the plays that get us down the field successfully, (quick slants with 2 -step drops, rushing off-tackle), if we can't even sign a decent 2nd string QB when the CFL probably has a few good pickings, if we can't even take advantage of the stupendous effort by our defense, then yeah:  I'd say we left our rational pre-frontal cortex on the steps of Halas Hall, blitzed by our emotional responses. 

However:  with all that we Bears fans have to look foward to, on our precious Sunday afternoons, can any of us really tear ourselves away from, at a minimum, setting our games to record with our HD TV's with TIVO at hand?  NO - not this southsidesportschick.  Never. Ever.  It's football on Sundays, period.  Mike Singletary, where are you? 

So, back to Philip in 8th grade. Our guys from Warren grammar school at 91st and Jeffrey kept it simple, and held on to the football when we played Luella grammar school, from the Manor. Frankly, I was so envious, of  not being out there with the boys, getting muddy and dirty, just because "boys" weren't supposed to "tackle" girls back then.  But honestly, Philip and I figured out how to tackle each other at Rainbow Beach on Saturday night.  Much better, really, with the waves from Lake Michigan and WLS providing all the music we needed.  

Before I sign off for a long work week ahead,  this baseball fan can't be kept quiet. 

The Yankees are done!  The Phillies are done! (My husband, from Allentown, still has Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton in his mind.) It's fabulous that an east coast team is not represented in the oldest post - season classic sporting event.  (Too bad for Fox ratings. Rupert Murdoch can afford a few million less $, wouldn't you say?)  And the best moment was seeing Swisher batting .091 in last series.  Pitching and defense win championships, right?  

I can only hope (or pray, as the Texas fan base does) that the Giants win their first-ever World Championship.  They have the White Sox to thank, in part,  for that:  letting Juan Uribe & Aaron Rowand go, and finally:  Matt Thornton's loss in the All -Star game this year.  While at the time, I was bummed out (Buehrle did us proud in 2005), all things come to a good end:  The Giants have home field advantage.  Cliff Lee v. Tim Lincecum.  Benjie Molina v. Buster Posie.  The baseball Gods must love this match up - he only did it for us.  I've been to San Francisco for Halloween, & I'll just say here, that it's something the Supreme Court  would not care to know about.  But you'll see it in this year's fall classic in SF:  Orange and Black on every fan for every home game. It will, at a minimum, keep us distracted during this Bears' Bye week - before this football season goes bye bye.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Get Rid of Those Bums!

This is what my father, Zozzy, would have yelled,  after the Bears were thoroughly out-coached, out-played, out-rushed, and outted as the NFL worst, on 3rd down conversions, yesterday.  Unfortunately, my Dad left us way too young, but enough memories remain.

From his way of  working and living:  if you're hired for a job, and don't perform, then it's up to the boss to get rid of those bums. Period.

Angelo. Lovie. Martz. Tice. Marinelli.  They were taken down by Pete Carroll, who fled 1200 miles north from USC, faster than Reggie Bush could return his Heisman, to the city which could not even keep its NBA franchise.

Are there any ex-FBI agents knocking on Pete's door, as the NFL is doing with Favre and the Jets?  No?  So college football coaches can rack up recruiting and NCAA violations, not be held accountable, and allowed to head up an NFL team?  Nice work, Mr. Goodell.  Not your problem, huh.

Well, we got problems right here in Chicago.  No, I'm not talking about Randy Michaels, CEO, or Lee Abrams, of the Chicago Tribune.  I'm' not talking about where Joey Cora might interview next, or how long Ryan Sandberg will be satisfied with a minor league team, or how the Bulls could be so embarrassed the other night. 

I'm talking about the tradition of the Chicago Bears being ground up in a meat slicer, instead of pounding the rock on the ground.  I'm talking about Gale Sayers and Walter Payton.  I'm talking about Brad Muster getting you 2 yards every time you were 3rd and 1.  I'm talking about sitting Thomas Jones in the 4th quarter of the Super Bowl while the rain was coming down in Miami, after he had rushed in 2005, for over 1400 yards,  to take us to the Super Bowl.  Am I missing something here?

Chester Taylor:  did Angelo sign him just to decrease the number of play action passes for Favre? Or did Angelo sign him to rush for 4 plays in an entire game? I'm sure Chester loves warming the bench and watching the birds go by over Lake Michigan - along with the Seahawks blitzing around the O-line and sacking Jay to his multiple concussion season.  Is this what the NFL owners have in mind for an 18 game season? Certainly, as long its not their own minds, just those of their players. 

Lovie says  "it's just not as simple" when asked about the running game.  Oh yeah?  How can a head football coach justify running the ball only 12 times in an NFL game, in college, or even in  Pee Wee League?    Martz was impressive when making mid-game adjustments v. the Cowboys.  So, what happened yesterday, especially when we had to take 2 time outs after first down plays? No adjustments, but rather "coaching arrogance," as described so well today by David Haugh. 

It all starts at the top - and the top of this organization does not look like it's ready for Donovan McNabb and his head coach. This South Side Sports Chick was hoping for a reunion of Shanahan with Cutler in June,  2010, but instead the reunion will take place next Sunday, October 24, on opposite sides of Soldier Field. It's possible that with any more sacks, Cutler may be walking off to the wrong side of the field, but in his mind, walking towards the coach who took care of him. 

No time to sit on our 4-2 Division lead.  "We'll get it fixed though,"  responds Lovie. Okay, then.  To all the Bears' coaches, Angelo, and yes, even the McCaskeys:  Show me Hester making the NFL  record for returns this week.  Show me some 2 step - slants.  Show me some play action.  Show me some holes for Chester and Matt.  Show me some rushing TD's.  Show me some third down conversions.  Show me a win.  Then maybe, I won't hear Zozzy  growling from his grave at Westlawn, to throw the bums out.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Favre - The Blitz He Never Expected

It gives this Chicago sports fan no greater pleasure than to watch Brett Favre lose, period. In the Monday night game he threw for his 500th career TD. He continued to set the NFL record for QB interceptions, as the Jets intercepted him on the final drive.  Game - Set- Match.

While I can barely stand to watch any New York Sports team win, this one was, well, satisfying.  Whether Favre is playing for the Pack or the Vikes, anything or anyone to blow through his sense of entitlement is fine by me.  This week our Bears had lady luck (Cutler out with a concussion) on their side,  playing the hapless Panthers.   Favre, meanwhile,  had bad luck, with his lady-on-the-side "distractions."

Serves him right.  Serves the NFL right. Serves the NY Jets right.  You accept the good with the bad.  And in this case, it's only getting worse for all three.  Sports media can't ignore this now.

I know there are far greater stories to cover  on Chicago Sports:

1.  Bears win big vs. Panthers:  23 - 6 (but just wait till we're really challenged again).
2.  Peppers' block and INT. is a testament to Chicago-style grit and character
2.  Bears' O line shows up to give Forte and Taylor a chance to show who "they really are."
3.  Collins' 4 interceptions is just a repeat performance of Bears' QBs' (Kyle, where are you?)
4. Why was Matt Leinart not signed as a back-up QB? Wake up Angelo.  Can Caleb really be our back-up?
5.  Packers once again fail to close out a game, outscored 42-14 this season in 4th quarter.  No complaints here.  
6.  Hjalmarsson's 2 game suspension.  Boy, do I miss Ladd, Versteeg, Big Buff, etc.  It's gonna take me some time to adjust.
7.  For all the ice time Duncan Keith is having, one wonders how many teeth will be left by January.
8.  Noah to Rose - these guys are beginning to resemble previous Bulls teams, where passing the ball meant scoring points.  Can't wait for more.  

But the real story this week is Favre and his alleged sexual harassment, a civil rights violation,  while QB for the NY Jets in 2008.  How is it that our self-absorbed  athletes just don't get it?  Are they not living in the 21st century, with every word and move flashed over cyberspace?  How is it that one can send voice-mails, emails, text messages, and even "sexting", without believing these messages won't be locked in a vault 6 feet under?   Does making over $700 million/ year lead Tiger to believe he is untouchable?  Really?  Yeah - they don't get it.

Farve's response to reporters' questions on these alleged activities towards Jenn Sterger, hired by the Jets in 2008 as a Game Day Reporter:  "I'm not getting into that..I've got my hands full with the Jets..." Well Mr. Wrangler, you got that one right, only not on the game, buddy.   It's the Jets' organization which is as culpable as you, Brett dear.

So today, I thank Bob Ley and  Outside the Lines ESPN for doing the right story at the right time - much appreciation to all of them:  Bomani Jones, Page 2 ("... The new media stumbled across an old media story, and......inadvertently it came across as a sexual harassment issue"), and then Robert Thompson, Syracuse Professor of Television ("...what amazes me most that, as late as 2008 somebody was still sending these kinds of pictures over the that time everybody should  know that if they are a public figure...anything they send over their cell phones...are potentially going to be placed on TMZ...").

 Also, we thank Jane McManus, ESPN New ( "I've never had, really....the issue ((of harassment)) covering the Jets"...."but...Jenn Sterger was hired ....partly because of her looks. I mean, it's just a fact. THAT should not have any effect on whether or not... harassing her is a problem. It's a problem no matter why she was hired"....."The media has difficulty addressing this....The 'distraction' has  become such a euphemism"...."Favre, instead of being asked whether or not .....about what he has done, .....what he has been accused of..., it's always a question about whether or not this has become a distraction,"  and Sal Paolantonio, ESPN reporter, while discussing  his experience in the Vikings' locker room after the game reported "...clearly there was a lot of tension in the room... I talked to a lot of players... (after a meeting with Favre)"...."you can see on their faces....basically saying...'I didn't sign up for this...being 1-3,.... half the NY media in the locker room.... with questions that happened on another team 2 years ago...'."

Bob Ley also hosted Lester Munson, ESPN Legal Analyst.  (" It would absolutely still constitute harassment.... the law is very clear. Her claim would first be against the Jets for condoning and developing a hostile work environment"...."she has ....'standing' to make that claim and collect damages.")  and finally Chris Mortensen (..."The NFL doesn't want this hanging over them all season, but guess what, it's going to hang over them this month"...."Breast Cancer Awareness Month....there are so many aspects of this story that are so awkward,....Deanna Favre.... has had this personal cancer battle..").

Ultimately, Tommy Jackson said it all on Monday Night Countdown, " we haven't heard a denial's strange....we sit up here and we talk about issues that we never  thought we'd have to discuss when we cover the NFL..."  But as Colin said this morning on his ESPN radio show, this activity remains "alleged," and so I'll keep that in mind. But let me tell you where my own mind takes me now:  to a not-to-distant sports news story regarding inaction and ineptitude on the part of the Jets Organization, of how they treat women, and what ultimately brings in the bucks.

November 20, 2007:  In the infamous "Gate D" incident, when Jets fans hooted, hollered and groped at the few women in the area,  the Jets response was not one of holding those responsible, nor apologizing to women and the families who purposely kept their kids away from the area. Instead, the security detail did nothing, other than threaten a reporter who was covering the incident with arrest, while taking away his recorded interview of 2 security men. 

August 2008:  Jets hire Favre as QB and  Jenn Sterger as their Game Day Host for the 2008 season.  Game. Set. Match.  Whatever the current investigation turns up, why would Jets GM, Mike Tannenbaum, be in the locker room with Favre after Monday night's game, embracing each other?  If you're going to deliver your defense on a silver platter to the prosecution, this type of interaction truly represents more "head-in-the-sand" ignorance.  This behavior between the 2 men, in legal terms, can be seen as prejudicial information AGAINST their case.  Nice work guys.  Dumb and dumber.  Are your eyes seeing dollar signs, although not the kind you're both used to? 

Ultimately, Sal reported that "the league is very image conscious...and there is wide latitude in the personal conduct policy..." of Commissioner Roger Godell, who sees his role as one of protecting the image of the NFL, a la Roethlisberger (Godell has suspended 19 players under his term).  I'd say, Roger,  you may need more than just sanctions and suspensions, even beyond the ex-FBI agents working on your current nightmare.  How ARE you evading all the foot traffic and media blitz at 280 Park Ave. these days? 

Well, historically the public court of opinion will try and convict Ms. Sterger as the "aggressor."   Women, in whatever role they may have, especially in male-dominated sports, rarely have a chance.  Can you recall how Lisa Olson, Boston Herald Sports reporter in 1990, was mugged and harassed by New England Patriot Football players, by merely doing her job?  Publicly scorned and humiliated.   And the response by the Patriots' ownership?  Her fault, she asked for it, by being in the locker room, sports is no place for a woman.

We cannot forget Paola Boivin, 1985, in the St. Louis Cardinals locker room after a game with the Dodgers.  Jock-strap thrown at her, bullied, cornered, and her falling to the floor.  Her fault, they said,  baseball is no place for a woman.  What about Katelyn Faber, the 19 yr. old young woman, entangled with Kobe Bryant, leaving her with physical injury and vaginal trauma in Colorado?  While Kobe issued an apology, and admitted to a "sexual encounter,"  her statements and actions were legally considered "inconsistent."  (In my field of trauma/ PTSD treatment, these types of "inconsistencies" can be the brain's normal response to an abnormal experience.)  So, Kobe buys his wife, Vanessa,  a $4 Million diamond ring.  Game. Set. Match.

Have you noticed how Sports' norms and behaviors are represented in the political culture also?  Power, money, and influence.  That's all one needs.  Newt tells his first wife, Marianne Ginther, that he had drawn up papers for divorce, while she was lying in a hospital bed recovering from cancer surgery.  Nice work Newt.  Great Contract for America.  Senator John Edwards stepping out on his wife, Elizabeth, no less, a cancer survivor also.  Damn these women who get sick and rack up the hospital bills. 

Senator Jim Gibbons from Nevada,  Attorney General Elliot Spitzer (caught by his own zealous wire-tapping charade), President Bill Clinton, Governor Mark Sanford (how was that hike in the woods, Mark?), and lest we never forget Anita Hill v. Clarence Thomas?  Arlen Specter, you owe her an apology, but we know it will never come. And here I thought the Pennsylvania electorate cared about their family values - but oh yeah, Big Ben is back, so all is forgotten and forgiven.  He's just a guy, you know.  Boys will be boys.

And that's what it is about:  Grown men whose brains are like boys, under-development of their consequential thinking, and inability to manage impulses.  In my field, we call that "lacking impulse control."  I doubt that using motivational interviewing techniques, for what may be considered as an addictive behavior (alcohol, vicodin, sex, gambling) would even come close to addressing their narcissist personalities.

 Now let me be very clear:  Kudos to all the women  associated with the men written about above.  No one should judge the decisions women make for their lives or their childrens' lives. What works for one may not work for the other.  It's not up to us to judge their actions or responses.We call that choice (so long as there is no present danger to self or others). And finally, kudos to all women fighting cancer. This is your month, and you deserve all the recognition and support we can provide. Always. 

Robin Roberts, Sarah Kustok, Gail Fischer, Melissa Isaacson (my sister's friend), Bonnie Bernstein, Linda Cohn, and all the other women in sports journalism:  you are my role models (Charles, sports figures are role models).  You can blitz Favre, and guys like him, every moment you want.    Go after the true story of why he's taking the next 2 weeks off.  Elbow injuries?  Right.  The court of public opinion has a few more women around these days.  Blitz we will, along with every defensive line that the Vikes will face for the remainder of the season.  Now, Brett, you should know what to expect.  Every day, and not just on Sundays.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Chemistry: Konerko's and A.J.'s Value you'll never see on the Score Card

The first definitions of "Chemistry" in  Webster's dictionary refer to the 3rd period class I had to take at Bowen High School in my junior year.  Thank God Suzy Fox and I were lab partners for every science class since 9th grade.  I loved getting my hands sticky and wet while dissecting frogs or worms in biology, or spilling chemicals and making a mess on the long, black desks under hot lamps.  Suzy, on the other hand, did the pencil and paper work, recording every move we made, & every hypothesis or theory we proved.  We both took time to flirt with which ever guys had the best- greased  hair that day.  Now THAT was about the 2nd definition: "A strong mutual attraction, attachment......"   I'm not certain if it was "mutual", but teenage girls can still fantasize. 

"Chemistry"  in reference to sports teams, however,  is relegated to the final definition: # 3b:  "interaction between people working together, specifically:  such interaction when harmonious or effective (a team lacking chemistry)."

Which brings us to Paulie.  Is there any White Sox fan out there who has not witnessed the  11 years of his chemistry with teammates?  How many times has he automatically reacted to hustling to first base as soon as a ground ball was hit anywhere in the infield? Or to every throw over his head or in the dirt (yes:  hundreds of recorded outs made by errant throws)?  Imagine Konerko knowing how close the thousands of runners have run towards him, feeling them pound 1st base, just inches from his left foot.

Paulie is THE target for  every White Sox infielder throwing a ball to his outstretched arm - for 11 years.  Let's list just a few of them here:  Uribe, Crede, Iguchi, Ozuna, Getz, Vizquel, Beckham, Teahen, Morel, Lillibridge, Viciedo,  and of course Alexi - who would have set the record for most throwing errors by a SS for the last 2 years in the league, if not for Paulie making "ridiculous"  plays to save his throw at least 5 feet from his glove.  Now THAT will not show up in any box score - ever. 

The two defensive plays which are neurologically encoded in my brain are 1)  Uribe's throw to Paulie off the bat of Orlando Palmeiro to bring us our first World Championship in 88 years and 2) Buehrle's under-his-leg toss to Paulie to start the 2010 season - the gold standard of  "ESPN's" Play of the Day" with their Buehrle-meter. That's chemistry. But the offensive play was Paulie's Grand Slam in Game 2 of the World Series.  My youngest son and I watched "a missile of a baseball" come shooting over our heads in left field, giving the Sox a 6 - 4 lead.  What a moment - and what chemistry, among all the fans at U.S. Cellular.

Which brings us to pitchers and their catchers.  Webster had some inkling in his 2nd definition about the "mutual attraction" and attachment which A.J. has developed with Buehrle, Garcia, Freddy, Sale, Thornton, Danks, Floyd, Edwin, J.J., Pena, and Peavy;  and even Garland, Marte, Polite, and Hernandez.  The pitcher- catcher "reading" of each other's movements, ever so slight, of details how a fastball, curve, slider, or knuckleball will go 60' 6", is something one cannot measure in any box score.  

  How can anyone forget A.J. making multiple trips to the mound with El Duque in the 6th inning of Game 3 v. the Red Sox, the reigning World Champions at the time?  Damon at bat, hair blowing in the wind, bases loaded, 2 outs, a 3-2 count, and Chris Berman saying that this was "the best moment in baseball, when everybody's moving, .....start your engines roaring."  Then more telecast booth conversation about how "A.J. took over the staff from the first day in spring training," and the outstanding job he had done "with this pitching staff." Who can forget Damon swinging, ever so slightly on a ball down and in,  just enough for strike 3, A.J. tagging him out, and punching his mitt in the air as the inning comes to an end?

Chemistry:  the eye contact, the body language, the ever-so-slight movement of one person, mirroring the other's "way of knowing." It takes time - a LOT of time (and sometimes years), to form these bonds, of working harmoniously to win the game, to high-five each other after the last out, in tune with the rhythm each pitcher and catcher have come to know with the other, to walk back to the dugout and into the dressing room, smiling and laughing, wiping the sweat and holding your mitt - all part of the "dance" that gets recorded in another "win" for the team.  A.J., you done us good, period. 

Sunday, October 3, 2010:  I know Chicago sports fans have moved on at this point in the year.  Bears v. Giants tonight, which has the most sports coverage in town, as it should.  But for this fan, no post-season baseball.  The buzz now is about who will be here next year, contracts, questions, hopes, dreams, saying goodbyes till next year, or saying goodbye to the park, its fans, its "feel," and accepting the loss of another season in the books.

William Rhoden, a New York Times Sports writer, wrote this week about Derek Jeter's value to the Yankees as "a spectacular...relationship," ready to expire.  He asks, "Now what?...young fans will look at his statistics. Numbers speak for themselves; intangibles seldom do."

So, what have been these intangibles which our Captain has brought to the White Sox?  What are the intangibles which A.J., day in and day out, have brought to all the pitchers, especially rookies just trying to stay on the mound with 2 men on and nobody out? How can one forget Paulie giving Jerry the baseball which he caught for the last out in 2005, at the parade?  And A.J. coaxing Buehrle to pitch his perfect game, even if Ramon was catching that day? And possibly, the play of the series which gets forgotten:  A.J. being called out on strikes but running to first base v. the Angels.  Even Joe Buck couldn't stop talking about it (though negatively) through the World Series games. 

To Kenny and Jerry:  don't let them go. Their words, their leadership, their numbers and stats, and the chemistry that won't be felt in the clubhouse, if neither is in uniform for that first day in Glendale.  This will be lost, and most likely,  may foretell of a  2011 season this southsidesportschick is just not ready to watch.

It took several years for this little girl to even be interested in the White Sox, after Aparicio and Fox were no longer turning double plays.   So this brings us to the first definition of chemistry, which Webster defines as " a  science that deals with the composition, structure, and properties of substances and with the transformations that they undergo."  This little girl's mind became composed, structured, and transformed to the love of baseball,  while sitting shotgun in her father's cab, and listening to games on the radio. This little girl watched Sunday double-headers next to her father, eating our corned beef on rye. This little girl was mesmerized and transformed, period. 

So, what about all those kids you see at the park, Kenny?  What will you tell them if someone other than Konerko,  is fielding balls from Gordon?  Where will you find a first baseman, whose numbers are  MVP-like?  What will you say, Jerry, when we don't see this blond -spiked up hair under the catcher's mitt, coaxing a 3rd strike from Danks, Floyd, Buehrle, Peavy or Sale? 

Chemistry:  The fans grow an attachment and connection to their team and their players.  the rhythm of a long season is composed and shared, between fans and their players - especially their stars.  The fans cheer for wins and high fives, and see the mutual smiles on the faces of the players after every majestic out performed with ease, between 2 ball players who have come to know each other through time.   It's made of the same stuff Suzie Fox and I had throughout our science classes at Bowen High.  And yeah, we did develop chemistry with those guys and their greased up hair.  We just didn't tell our moms about it.  But I'm telling you, 45 years later. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Morning After (Packers - Bears) in Chico, CA.

A Mutual Groan by the Cheese heads encompassed the Graduate, a Sports Bar here in Chico, CA. after  Gould's 3 point winner.  You could see them shaking, some disgustingly getting up and pushing their chairs against the tables, knocking down glasses, grabbing purses, and thumping to the door.  Aaron Rodgers' hometown loyalists have nothing to celebrate.  Those of us with our Bears jerseys, were leaping in the air, high fives for anyone with the orange and blue regalia, even singing "Bear Down" in unison with beer mugs flying in the air (along with my diet coke).  It was awesome, period.

BEARS' FOOTBALL- Peppers' million $ plays,  take the rock out of the Packer's hands, and get it done with Robbie. Just as I said, period.  

Rewind 12 hours earlier:  9:00 am  All day long I  walked around with my Urlacher jersey.  At my work-out club, Kami,  at the front counter, said that she and her son were Bear fans, saying "Wow Janice, I love that shirt.  I want one.  My son and I love the Bears!" After my spin class, I'm walking out and saying hi to Jeff Stover (owner of the club) while he stands in front of his SF 49ers showcase of his uniform and pictures with Montana and Rice.  We've talked before about a game in 1986 with Richard Dent holding the 49ers on 4th and 1, as the  Bears win 10-9..  He smiles and and I wave.

12:00 Noon: at home, the guy who came to fix the bulls-eye break on my windshield, saw my  Orange and Blue jersey, smiled, and told me his wife would love me. She grew up in Chicago and can't get enough of the Bears. We Bear fans must be in all the nooks and crannies here in Aaron Rodgers' hometown.  Wow - gotta get this message out somewhere, and have a huge tailgate BBQ at MY house with our 32 " screen TV - for those of us who remember Walter,  Brad Muster, Sayers - and all great Bears' tight ends and running backs we're not seeing right now. 

1:00 pm:  I try to work and grade my graduate students' papers, but know I'm not sane enough at this point to ethically determine if  these students  have correctly diagnosed their clients with Reactive Attachment Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress,  or pure ADHD.  Anyone watching me before this game would definitely see how Hyper and Distracted I am - period!

Fast Forward to post game celebrations - nothing like it.  I drive home and watch every Bears' post-game analysis on ESPN, NFL Network, and our own Chicago Comcast.  No wonder Buehrle lost v. Red Sox:  he too was distracted by Chicago Sports fans' intensity just 5 miles to the south.  And for just a few days, I'm loving the Cubbies doing well v. the Padres.  Living in Northern California has me going for the Giants to win the NL West.  I have just one recommendation for Pat Boyle's final comment:  he said "no one at the table here thought the Bears would win"  Well Pat - this southsidesportschick predicted this win 24 hrs. earlier in  Sunday's Blog # 2.  Peppers and Gould - just read it, please.

The morning after:  I talk on 670 The Score with Mully and Hanley.  I educate them on the importance of being a Bears fan in Chico, CA.  Love it.  Love Chicago Sports.  Every morning after.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Second City Blues

Monday night:  Bears  over the Packers by 3:  Robbie Gould will be Gold.  Sounds good, huh?

So why is this south side chick so blue?  Because I live in Aaron Rodgers home town:  Chico, California. It's the Green Bay Packers' Second City.    It sucks - really bad. Awful.  Depressing. Disgusting.

Ever since the NFL 2005 draft, when Aaron Rodgers dropped down to be the 24th draft pick (everyone in Chico, including his family/ friends,  had him written in as the SF 49ers new QB), I've had it quite tough as a life-long, die-hard Chicago Bears'-Monsters- of-the-Midway identity, come every September.  Can you imagine this?  Try, just try, for one moment. 

The lawns are filled with yellow and green banners, the sports bars have Rodgers' interviews blazing loudly on their speakers.  I can't go anywhere without cheeseheads sprouting on every corner, beginning every September.   Packs of them, walking the streets, taking over the malls,  jogging in the parks, Packer banners laced all over the schools. Yellow and green, yellow and green - what kind of color combination is that anyway?  I mean, ugly is ugly, no?  Have you EVER gone into a home with yellow and green as the room "motif", unless you're in Green Bay, Wisconsin? 
I still wear my Urlacher jersey, strutting my Bears' colors proudly.  I can handle the nasty stares.  I can handle the cat-calls (not the kind I got as a teenager on 87th & Jeffery in front of C.V.S, the largest vocational school in the country).   I can manage people laughing at me, jabs at Cutler's interceptions in last year's game. I can ignore the drivers rolling  down their windows, throwing me a fist as they pass my car, seeing my bumper stickers and Chicago sports paraphanalia with a Blackhawks 2010 trailer hitch, a WMAQ Sox 670 bumper sticker, a Chicago Bulls reference, and of course, my Chicago Bears' license plate frame. 

I go into Trader Joe's with my Bears cap on my curly haired head.  The check-out guys, who are trained to ask, "So how is your day going, ma'am?,"  stop in mid-sentence as they look at me.  It's as if you're watching a Twilight Zone scene - with the background "freezing," while you, the main character, looks around and wonders,  I'm doing just fine, thank you. Your problem, not mine!"  I smile, bag my groceries, talk some baseball about the SF Giants (always a good conversation right now),  thank them for the free coffee and snacks, and wish my TJ friends a great day. 

Do you get it yet? Any empathy for me?  No?  Not even for a moment?  Every minute, every day, Chicagoans can talk with your co-workers about our 2-0 Bears.  You get to listen to AM 670, AM 680, AM 1000 on your radios.  You get to listen to Mully and Hanley, Doug and Ed, Waddle and Silvy - on your commute to work, shopping at Jewel, & picking up the kids.  You chat excitedly with neighbors watering gardens, mowing lawns, washing your cars, walking your dogs, sitting on your stoops, playing catch in the streets.  Da Bears! We're baaaaaaack!

You can TIVO fast foward over the lead stories on your 10:00 p.m. news Channels 2, 5, 7, and 9, about whether Rahm will run for mayor, or Jesse's alledged corruption charges & personal life decisions.   You can go to 20 minutes after the hour, sit back, listen to your sports, & revel in Martz's & Tice's offensive play adjustments in the middle of a game! Wow! What a concept!

I'm stuck with walking into my work out club, with the buzz every year (since 2005) on "when the hell is Favre gonna stop being so self-absorbed, and so narcissistic, and let our Aaron get his shot?"  I can't believe what I'm hearing.  Really?  Honey, this is Favre.   I hate him as much as you do, but way longer than you have.  And believe me, my reasons are more neurologically encoded than you'll EVER know.  The WORST call was when Favre stepped over the line of scrimmage with no time left on the clock,  and threw for the winning TD at the end of the game in Soldier Field. That's when we all knew the refs were  starry-eyed over this Mississippi- drawl small town kid. And now we have Aaron. Oy. 

Fast foward this Monday, 9/27, at 10:00 am.   Green and yellow cars already swerving from the right lane to left, with Miller Brew well hidden in water bottles under the front seats.  People driving right down Highway 43 from Green Bay through Milwaukee, to Hwy 41.  This roadway becomes I-94 east, even though we're going south (didn't anyone in the Dept. of Defense, circa  1955, know what direction to send those army tanks, should the Russians invade via Alaska?  I guess no one could see Russia from Alaska 55 years ago -we certainly can't blame it on global warming).

At this point, I wouldn't be surprised to see Braylon Edwards in one of those cars.  Only Russ Feingold would insist that he be stopped on their highways.  Ron Johnson would cheer him on.  Really now, New Yorkers don't care how their celebrity sports' figures get to the park.  Or get anywhere.  They will always forgive Jeter's fake-being-hit antics or Alex Rodriguez lying to Katie Couric on their 60 minute interview regarding steroid use.

So, back to the cheese head drivers.  "Hey guys, we're at Soldier Field.  Wait a minute.  What are all these fish doing here?  Wow - they really know how to rebuild the lobby in their new football stadium.   We should go follow the crowds to the game.  Oh, let me drink my water , I'm SO thirsty.  Wow - they have a dinosauer in this next lobby, to greet us before the game.  Is this cool or what?  Hey, what about that tail-gating?  Where did we park anyway?" 

Monday night football.  Vince Lombardi v. George Halas. I expect our Chicago Blue to find some reason, any reason, to pat down those cheesie heads and find something, anything, to keep them out of OUR Soldier Field, for at least the first 5 minutes of the game.  I expect NO one to be wearing Wrangler Jeans anymore - boycott them and go back to wearing your Levi or GAP jeans.  I expect Aaron Rodgers to have the same hair stylist as Tom Brady, or ask Gisele for permission to copy Brady's haircut.  I expect Urlacher and Co. to sack the Green Bay QB, no matter what face is under the helmet (Peppers has to come on board here).

I expect this south side sports chick to saunter into Chico's biggest sports bar, 5pm Monday night, & find her Bear buddies in our designated corner. I expect to be taunted by Aaron Rodger's Second City's fans - the entire game.  I expect my husband to still be working at his computer. I expect my sons to be watching the game with mutual friends in their respective east coast cities.  I expect my entire family and friends in  Chicago to be texting me with every play. I expect the oldest NFL rivalry to make ESPN sponsors very happy.   I expect Sid Luckman to be smiling from his grave.  Why is this night different from all other nights?   Martz instead of Turner, period. So,  I expect to tune out my Second City Blues, even if Chico's Sports bar does not serve 4 cups of wine.

Bears by 3.  Robbie, you're my man.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Joe Buck and Troy Aikman Pre-Game Report on Bears / Cowboys 9-19-10

Joe:  Good afternoon sports fans.  Troy and I thank you for joining us today from Dallas, where the Chicago Bears face the Cowboys in a game that begins with only one surprise:  the record of both clubs beginning week 2 of the 2010 football season.  

Troy:  Yes Joe.  Everyone here, in this billion dollar stadium, with its luxury suites for all the oilmen and tax-evading citizens, expected to be 1 - 0 for their opening game.  Instead, they disappointed even those whose BP stock plummeted over the last 3 months, by a sub-par performance against their division rivals, the Washington Redskins.  Finally, DC sports fans had something to cheer about, especially after the Washington Capitals blew a lead in what shocked most hockey fans, especially Russian ones.

Joe:  I know Troy.  Most around the league picked the young, GQ Tony Romo over the elder statesman, Donovan McNabb, in the season opener.  Instead, even Rush Limbaugh's racist slur could not contain the new Redskins' QB, whose patience and experience throughout the game surprised many, especially those still in Philadelphia who are now pinning their hopes on a football player whose crime was just getting caught.  Doug Williams must be so proud of the way McNabb is playing.

Troy: Well, Joe. I'd watch my words for all those animal-lovers at this point, but let's get back to the basics.  Cowboy fans can only relish putting the ball in the end zone multiple times today, against a defense which could not defend what everyone knew was a touchdown in the closing seconds of last week's Bears game.  Those in Chicago were also quite shocked, really, that between Mike Martz and Lovie Smith, neither one had their head in the game when they single-covered the best player, Calvin Johnson, on the Detroit Lions.  

Joe:  What WERE they thinking up north?  I mean, really, not since letting Mike Brown go, have they had any success in defending the end zone. We won't even go into letting another Brown go - Alex, that is.   And what WAS that call by Lovie, with 4th and 1?  Really, he would call that play anytime?  How dumb was that?  Seems as if Lovie and Obama are drinking from the same kool-aid. Being calm and collected is a trait with those leaders up there in Chicago.

Troy:  Joe, Joe, let's stay focused on the business at hand today - football. Let's give credit to where it's due. Urlacher brought the defense up to par, and their much maligned offensive line did a nice job in protecting Cutler.  Thankfully for Bear fans, they had another day with just 4 turnovers.  Many in Chicago were hoping that Jonathan Toews presence with Lord Stanley would rub off some lady luck - and it certainly did.  And I'm not talking about Ines Sainz either, for any of you who are following this. 

Joe:  Yes Troy.  It seems as if the officials were still star-struck with the 2010 Hockey Champs when they couldn't even call a TD for the Lions at the end of the game.  What is it with being in Chicago?    It reminds me of when I had the boring responsibility of covering the White Sox in 2005.   I mean, really, the White Sox?  How did the Red Sox, World Series 2004 Champions,  get defeated in a 3 game sweep by just pitching and defense?  And AJ?  How ridiculous was that call by the home plate umpire in game 2 v. the Angels.  He struck out, period.  Done. Are all sports refs mesmerized by the fans in Chicago?  And no one even knew who Obama, Rahm, or Axelrod were at the time - and now look:  ruining our country and appointing women to the Supreme Court?  Can we just have that picture of Tony Romo and Jessica Simpson on the screen?  That's what Cowboy fans really want to see. 

Troy:  Joe,  I know you're trying to play to the base here, but if I may:  word has it that you never liked the White Sox, and always seemed to rarely note their great playing and 4 complete games by their outstanding pitching staff.   What about giving a little credit to Mark Buehrle, in one of his finest performances vs. the Angels that night, and Joe Crede hitting the game winning RBI in the 9th?  As I recall, you continued to come back to AJ's strike out during the entire World Series games against the Houston Astros at Enron Field, oh, I mean, Minute Maid Park.   Are we showing a little southern cooking here? 

Joe:  Troy, of all people, I'd think you would be more appreciative to Texas and its fans, who gave you your career.  But in any case, I'd say the Cowboys are aiming to prove that the Southern football teams will beat the Northern ones on any given Sunday.  Look at the Super Bowl of last year.  I mean, New Orleans certainly made us proud.  

Troy:  But Joe, as I see it, Texans can spend one billion dollars on a new football stadium, but when it came to helping their neighbors in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, where were they then?  No wonder their state government meets every 2 years, instead of yearly.  They're too drunk on all their money and beer to even care about anyone but themselves.  Mollie Ivens is rolling over in her grave at this point.  Gratitude?  I guess I'd have to say that I can take you down as a football analyst any day of the week. Rupert Murdoch and his FOX Sports Network are just into their money making, period.  He, and Rush, and Beck, are probably sitting in one of these luxury suites as we speak, with the Bush family, of course, laughing all the way to every bank they own  - and oil well, whether by land or by sea.  

Joe:  Troy, it's my turn to bring you back into the game here.  So,  before we go to our sponsors, I would like to add that the analysts all look to DeMarcus Ware to cut the Bears offensive line in half today.  Chicago simply has no answer to the best defensive lineman in the league. 

Troy:  While I happen to agree with you,  I can't help notice how all these years Chicago's sports teams have dominated their Texan counterparts:  The Bulls, The White Sox, and the Blackhawks.  While I know that the Cowboy fans were happy to see Cutler leave Denver, I assume they're itchin' to take him and the Bears down today.  Well, as Chris Berman says:  That's why they play the games!

Joe:  Thank you Troy for that comment.  But one last question:  why haven't you mentioned the Chicago Cubs here?

Troy:  Honestly Joe, what would you have me say about an organization that chooses to put a yellow plastic noodle statue in front of their stadium?

Joe:  You've got a point there, at least something we can agree upon. And now to our game day sponsors:  BP and Toyota.