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.