Thursday, January 31, 2008

Remembering Super Bowls of the past

With the next Super Bowl coming up this Sunday, it brings to mind memories of Super Bowls past.

For instance, there was the first Super Bowl I truly cared about, the first season I truly cared about football and the first team I really got into. That was, of course, the 1985 Chicago Bears. A fun bunch, it featured a team so brash, so confident, that they recorded the ultimate team-based song that's ever been put down in a studio. That was the Super Bowl Shuffle:

As for Super Bowl XX itself (played on Jan. 26, 1986), I remember exactly where I was. I had just turned 10, and my dad and I wound up at this bar and grill called Cruisers in Beach Park, Ill. (Coincidently, we wound up moving into the house not even half a block away two years later). With a couple of Dad's friends from work, we grabbed our booth and watched the big game on the big screen. I sipped 7-Up the entire time, and I remember eating this rib dinner that was pretty good.

Besides the game itself, won by the Bears 46-10 over the hapless (at least that day) New England Patriots, I remember the game getting out of hand when somebody accidently changed the channel, and all of a sudden we were watching the Spanish-language soap opera. The entire restaurant howled, and the game was back on in no time.

I remember it was cold the next day, so cold in fact that Mom kept my brother Eric and me home from school. I remember watching the Bears' victory down Michigan Avenue in Chicago on TV that afternoon, a throng of people lining the streets and cheering their hearts out despite the cold. It was a fun year.

Last year and Super Bowl XLI was another memory. Since it was the Bears' first time in the Super Bowl in 21 years, I decided to be with the ones I had developed my fanhood with, my family. While the weather outside my parents' house in Zion, Ill., was -4 degrees, we were plenty warmed up with good food, Eric, his wife Dina, and their then 5-month-old daughter, Ashley, along with my parents and a friend of Eric's and mine from high school, Erick. With the Dos Equis beer readily available, we watched the Bears kick things off right with this play:

The memorable part of this was the aftermath. As Devin Hester finished his run, all of us were screaming and going nuts. Meanwhile, poor little Ashley, lying on a blanket on the floor, is going nuts, too - in a different way. She is scared to death, and her mother quickly rushed to comfort her.

We all decided then to try and behave ourselves and keep the screaming to a low roar the next time the Bears did something good. Fortunately for little Ashley, and unfortunately for the rest of us, that kickoff return was the highlight of the game, and Peyton Manning and the Colts picked the Bears apart and won the game, 29-17.

Unfortunately, I proved to be right when I predicted a downfall after the Bears traded running back Thomas Jones. Combined with a series of injuries to key players, and the inconsistency (to be kind) of quarterback Rex Grossman, da Bears ended the year 7-9, with only wins over the Packers and the Saints in the last two weeks enough to remember the season by.

Tis a shame.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Thanks, Sports Illustrated!

Yesterday, I posted about the best and worst performances of the Star-Spangled Banner. However, I lamented that I couldn't find video of what was probably the worst rendition ever, Carl Lewis before a Bulls-Nets at the Meadowlands in 1993.

However, two good things have happened since then. One, this site got a mention in's Hot Clicks (though they didn't link to this site). Second, they found the video of the Fast One, butchering our national anthem.

Thanks, SI!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Honoring our nation

This Sunday, American Idol winner Jordin Sparks will sing the national anthem at Super Bowl XLII.

The Star-Spangled Banner can be a difficult song to pull off, though, and should be attempted on the high stage by only the best.

Otherwise, we get moments like these:

Roseanne Barr before a San Diego Padres game on July 26, 1990:

Current Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton got into the act last year, when she made his first appearance as a candidate in Iowa on Jan. 27, 2007. MSNBC's microphone picked her up singing along:

(On a side note, I know this isn't sports-related, but when I googled "bad national anthem singing," Hillary was at the top of the list. I kid you not.)

By the way, for the two or three readers of this site, I know you're wondering why I didn't include Carl Lewis' rendition before a Bulls-Nets game in 1993, but I couldn't find any video of it. I think he must have got ESPN to burn all copies of that tape.

The best renditions, though, depend on the time and place.

There was that stretch in January 1991, that produced not one but two memorable performances. The Persian Gulf War was on to oust Saddam Hussein and Iraq from Kuwait. The United States sent over hundreds of thousands of troops to do the job right. With the military response came a wave of support from Americans, including chill-inducing performances of the Star-Spangled Banner.

The first came on my 15th birthday, Jan. 21, 1991, at the NHL All-Star Game, played at perhaps the best hockey arena that was ever built, Chicago Stadium. In perhaps the greatest rendition of the national anthem ever, fan favorite Wayne Messmer sang his heart out, and the fans nearly drowned him out.

A week later, at Super Bowl XXV between the Giants and Bills at the Big Sombrero, Tampa Stadium in Tampa, Fla., Whitney Houston stepped out and belted out this number:

Granted, we found out later the song was pre-recorded, and she lip-synced the whole thing, but it did its job. A single of her version of the song actually became a minor hit for a couple of months after that.

But then there was Marvin Gaye at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles. Taking a funky, soulful approach, he turned Francis Scott Key's words into something more spiritual:

So go U.S.A.!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Media pokes, dumb team names, etc.

With a slow time as we await the Super Bowl and the start of spring training, with a little bit of basketball and other sports thrown in, it's time for some links.

-- The WNBA announced today that its newest franchise will be the Atlanta Dream. According to a story on the new Dream Web site, the nickname was chosen because "Atlanta is a city of dreamers and this week we have had time to reflect on what it means to dream and what can happen when you do," according to owner Ron Terwilliger.

All this does is continue to make a mockery of a league that despite the deep-pocketed support of the obviously more successful NBA, still continues to struggle for respect as it enters its 12th season. After all, we're talking about a league that already has team names like the Chicago Sky (Motto: Stand tall), Detroit Shock (which goes for the double dumb title with a "HERstory" section on its Web site) and Connecticut Sun (named for the casino the team plays at).

Then again, we are talking about the NBA here, with its own, um, interesting names like the Utah Jazz (granted, the end result of the move of a team from New Orleans, but it doesn't make sense now), the Miami Heat (old joke on this is what's the singular of "Heat?" Hot?) and and its D-League teams like the Iowa Energy (it could've been worse - Corncobs was a finalist) and Bakersfield Jam (it sounds like a bad video game name).

I guess all of the cool animal names have been taken (Hold that thought - The Chicago Wolves' parent team is the Atlanta Thrashers, a rather non-threatening bird that I believe was chosen by founder and environmentalist Ted Turner because it is a threatened species).

-- Another poke at the New York-Boston regional network otherwise known as ESPN and other like-minded networks, from Pray for Mojo.

-- I watched much of last night's Bulls-Pacers game while checking out the NBA League Pass free preview on DirectTV. The game, won by the Bulls 108-95, came courtesy of 38 points from Kirk Hinrich and with two of their better players, Luol Deng and Ben Gordon, out with injuries.

This has been what can be kindly called an inconsistent season from a team considered to be a favorite to go the NBA Finals this year. In January alone, they've had great wins over Miami (126-96 on Jan. 16) and Detroit (97-81 on Jan. 19)., but losses to freakin' Atlanta and a pathetic home loss on Jan. 18 to Golden State.

But maybe a turnaround is possible. The team nearly disintegrated earlier this month when rookie Joakim Noah was suspended for one game for fighting with interim coach Jim Boylan, then had the sentenced lengthened to two games by a vote of the veteran players. Noah then apparently had a blowup with veteran Ben Wallace following a 102-88 loss to Orlando on Jan. 16.

The more I think of this chain of events, the more I get to thinking about last year, when Cubs pitchers Carlos Zambrano and catcher Michael Barrett fought in the dugout and clubhouse on June 1 and manager Lou Pinella was tossed from the game the next day. The Cubs, mired in a 6-15 slide at the time, turned things around and managed to win the NL Central title in the last weekend of the season.

Granted, the Cubs completely shut down in the playoffs, getting swept in a quick three games by Arizona (and denying me a chance to watch some Cubs playoff baseball with my newborn son at home). Hopefully, we won't see that with the Bulls.

Then again, they could just prove me wrong and we'll be paying so much attention to the Cubs and the Bears' draft in April that we won't care about the Bulls by then.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Brrrrr Green Bay!

Super Bowl XLII's lineup is finally set, and ESPN and much of the east coast-based national media (this means you, ESPN) got its wish with the Giants and Patriots set to play in the Arizona desert on Feb. 3.

It was a fun ride Sunday as both games were pretty good, especially the NFC Conference Championship on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field. Since the Patriots were pretty much a foregone conclusion to make it to the big game, let's focus instead on what we could the upset of the month:

It was a crazy week in Green Bay leading up to Sunday's game. Maybe that snow storm that the Pack and the Seahawks played through on Jan. 12 was an indication of things to come, but it started getting a little weird up there in Cheeseheadland.

-- There was that little incident during that playoff game against the Seahawks where a man was arrested for taping a Packers jersey on his son after the boy apparently refused to wear it. According to WTMJ radio out of Milwaukee, the incident might have been the end result of something domestic brewing for some time.

Now I've joked about disowning my son if he ever becomes a Packer fan or begins to root for the University of Iowa, but there are limits. And needless to say, football is just a game.

-- But it was becoming more than a game for WLUK-TV, the Fox affiliate in Green Bay. After learning that "Seinfeld" is Giants QB Eli Manning's favorite show, station management decided to preempt its regular 5:30 p.m. showing of a "Seinfeld" rerun with something of the fan's choosing (my understanding is they opted to air a special on Packers coaching legend Vince Lombardi instead), all to disrupt Manning's preparation (since he would likely be relaxing in his hotel room before a team meeting) for the NFC title game the next day.

"We don't want to give any comfort to the enemy whatsoever when they come into town," WLUK general manager Jay Zollar said to Newsday. "We know laughter is good medicine, and we decided we're not going to give that to him."

It didn't work, as Eli was "master of his domain" (sorry, couldn't resist the joke) in beating the Packers the next day.

-- Some of that insanity must have seeped down from Cheeseland into Chicago, as Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn wrote on Thursday "Five Reasons for Bears fans to root for the Packers." Zorn, a product of the University of Michigan and native of the Detroit area, according to his Wikipedia entry, cited division pride, tradition, "Favre fancy" and "transitive triumphalism." as reasons.

He was widely scorned for the thought, with some of the more creative comments as:

Eric, Sometimes it's so obvious that you didn't grow up in this area.

Posted by: Tom | Jan 17, 2008 12:44:20 PM

Where is the "Who cares" option?

I live in WI, and I'm already sick of hearing about the Packers. Every time Brett Favre has so much as scratched himself this week, we have 45 minutes of news coverage about it. What was he scratching? Did the itch go away? What do his teammates think? What do the fans think? Oh look, it's some lady who has a dress made out of Packer logo toilet paper. And so forth.

I'm glad people are excited, but there's such a think as overkill.

Posted by: Spike | Jan 17, 2008 12:54:11 PM

There are 0 reasons to root for the Packers. Favre? Please, is is a receord setting QB - most interceptions in the history of the NFL. I became a Giants fan after the Cowboys lost last weekend. I am a Bears fan through and through, so this weekend I am rooting for the red and blue. Maybe Favre will cry like a sissy after the game like he did after the Bears game last year.

Posted by: DJG | Jan 17, 2008 12:54:25 PM

The thing is, I'm not sure which is more disturbing: the column itself and the poll that ran with the column had 64.1 percent of the respondents saying, yes, Bears fans should pull for the Packers.

Personally, I think a bunch of Wisconsinites filled the ballot box on the poll, and as far as rooting for a division rival since it reflects good on the Bears, I can't do it. As far as the NFC North is concerned, I can't stand the Packers (I can respect their attempts to uphold tradition in a small town in an increasingly corporate league and world, but it doesn't mind I have to like them), and I can't stand the Vikings. I'd say the same for the Lions, but they've stunk for so long, you just can't hate them.

Besides, how can you root for a team that's dressed in colors that, as my dad puts it, are like moldy cheese.

So thank you to the Giants for making it an easy decision on who to root for on Super Bowl Sunday.

To end, for your entertainment and amazement, here is Eddie Murphy's take on the NFC Championship game...20 years early:

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Welcome to Wait Til Next Century!

Welcome to Wait Til Next Century!

This site is the latest in sports commentary and news on the Web.

Named in honor of the Chicago Cubs' centennial anniversary of its last World Series championship in 1908, this is kind of my answer to Bill Simmons' "The Sports Guy" column at ESPN's Page 2. This mean that while the Sports Guy tends to focus his writing on following Boston teams to an almost sickening point (though I still count myself a fan of his work), Wait Til Next Century! will focus on primarily the Midwest, especially Chicago teams and the schools in the great state of Iowa.

At the same time, I am a fan of just about every sport out there, ranging from the big four here in the U.S.A. to world soccer and even rugby and cricket as I learn more about them.

So sit back, take in the news and views and feel free to contribute your own in the comments section.