Friday, September 28, 2012

Save a couch

Over the years, it has become a bit of a tradition for West Virginia University football fans to burn a couch after a big win or a particularly tough loss. According to the college football blog Crystal Ball Run, the punishment for such an act has jumped from a $1,000 fine and a misdemeanor conviction to a felony punishable by up to three years in prison. With that in mind, the student government at West Virginia has come out with this public service announcement reminding all of us to not burn our couches.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What if other professions had replacements?

For those not in the know, the Packers, simply put, got robbed last night.

While NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's experiment (what else can we call it?) in using replacement officials while he locks out the regular ones over a dispute of $3 million in pension pay, the replacement refs continue to go from bad to worse. While this site, being the Chicago sports site that it is, is no fan of that team from up north in Wisconsin (and the loss helped put the Bears back into first place in the NFC North), the Packers were hosed by the refs on that last second "touchdown" by WR Golden Tate from QB Russell Wilson, giving the Seahawks an improbable 14-12 win, with the NFL upholding the call in a statement issued this morning.

To show they at least have a sense of humor about it, WGBA-TV, NBC 26 in Green Bay brought out their "replacement weather guy" to do the weather forecast this morning.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Bears win, but work needs to be done

Source: AP/Pantagraph
Yep, the Bears managed to pull out the 23-6 win over the Rams Sunday at Soldier Field. Obvious to anyone who watched the game, it was ugly in spots, pretty good in others. Let's examine:

The good: That defense, left for dead after the debacle in Green Bay last week, came out in style, holding Sam Bradford, Steven Jackson and the rest of that St. Louis offense to two field goals and only 160 total yards on offense. There was also that brilliant pick-six in the fourth quarter by safety Major Wright off the deflection by teammate Tim Jennings that pretty much sealed the game, and Bradford spent much of the game running for his life, getting sacked four times. Yes, it had what in any other circumstance could be deemed a stupid personal foul penalty on Julius Peppers, but it could be deemed a questionable call by the replacement refs who seem to be getting worse every week (more on them in a moment).

We also had RB Michael Bush, who picked up 55 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries as he filled in for Matt Forte, who sat out with an ankle sprain. No, he's not Forte, but he did the job much more admirably than last year's backup, Marion Barber, whose performance against Denver in December stills haunts this writer. He's a keeper, to say the least.

The bad: That offense. Yes, QB Jay Cutler put up a decent performance, putting up 183 yards passing with only one INT. And yes, he was sacked only twice. But, as Comcast Chicago Kip Lewis put it, it appears that Mike Martz is back coaching the offense. WR Brandon Marshall, who was so dangerous in Week One against the Colts, had five catches, but it looked like he was hardly an option for Cutler most of the game.

The ugly: The officiating by the replacement refs seems to be getting worse every week. The worst example was, outside of that personal foul penalty on Peppers, which hardly looked like anything (despite Fox announcers Jim Nantz's and John Lynch's agreement with them), was after Cutler threw what turned into his lone INT to Rams CB Cortland Finnegan in the first quarter. With some question as to whether Finnegan fumbled at the end of his return, the Bears could have snapped the ball and let play resume. But the refs dawdled on making any call whatsoever before finally allowing Rams coach Jeff Fisher to throw the challenge flag. Granted, the replay allowed the refs to make the correct call, but it took way too much time. We can't get the regular officials back soon enough.

The Bears get an extra day before they travel to Arlington to take on the Cowboys on Monday Night Football. That offensive line will have to be at the top of its game against a Dallas defense that held Josh Freeman and the Buccaneers to only 166 yards of offense Sunday.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Cutler attacks hypocritical

The attacks on Bears QB Jay Cutler during the last week have been interesting at best and hypocritical at worst.

For those not in the know, Cutler stunk it up last Thursday as he threw four interceptions and had a quarterback rating lower than Congress' approval rating as the Bears lost 23-10 in Green Bay. He also was sacked seven times and had a well-publicized altercation with his left tackle, J'Marcus Webb, shouting at him before pushing him aside as they returned to the sideline.

It was that altercation with Webb that got much of the attention, with pundits on both sides of the issue weighing in. Greg Couch at Fox Sports was perhaps the worst of the bunch, saying it was time to consider Cutler the latest of the bad QBs the Bears have had since Sid Luckman, adding that Cutler will never be the superstar he thinks he is.

Really? Just a few days before that mess in Green Bay, seemingly everyone was praising Cutler and the Bears' offense for being explosive as they led the way to a 41-21 win over the Colts in the season opener. Cutler threw for 333 yards and two touchdowns, including one to new/old teammate Brandon Marshall, who had his own breakout game with 119 yards receiving and a touchdown.

Now, we see the latest in the "what have you done for me lately" mentality in this country as he has a bad game. Wasn't we just saying he was a great QB, the best the Bears have had since Luckman? What happened to that?

Yes, we have his performance against the Packers, a game that he could have truly made a statement in with a good performance. And yes, we are wondering about him after he said on his radio show that he was "proud of his performance" last week. However, let's look at that a little more closely.

We have those seven sacks. That's the main problem with that offensive line that the Bears have that can at times be truly offensive. Anytime we see a quarterback sacked seven times, including 3.5 by Packers LB Clay Matthews in a performance that had the NFL Network guys joking that they hoped he wouldn't sack them on the sidelines, it's never a good thing. So for Cutler to yell at his tackle for not protecting him, at the guy that was charged with keeping Matthews off of him, it was justifiable. In addition, Cutler rarely threw to his big money man, Brandon Marshall, who had only two catches for 24 yards.

Plus, Colin Cowherd of ESPN had a good take on this on both his radio show and "SportsNation" in that it's mainly an image issue with Cutler. Despite his radio show (and maybe his radio show is an attempt to fix this), Cutler hasn't been the most personable guy around. Cowherd compared Cutler with Tim Tebow, who despite lackluster performances in wins and his now backup status to Mark Sanchez in New York has a great public image. Cutler, on the other hand, has been seen as standoff-ish and not a personable guy. Should that matter? Of course not.

Not does that make Cutler an elite quarterback? Considering he has yet to win anything of significance, let's play the wait and see game on this.

Now this Sunday he has a chance to redeem himself in front of a friendly Soldier Field crowd against the Rams, the NFL's equivalent of the cupcake team major college teams feast on early in the season. If he can come back with a great performance, you can be certain we'll all be singing Cutler's praises again all of next week, until the next game.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Jay Cutler apathetic?

Somebody out there has a twisted sense of humor, playing off Bears QB Jay Cutler's yelling and shoving of teammate and J'Marcus Webb last week against the Packers. We bring you "Smokin' Jay Cutler," showing Cutler in his, um, Photoshopped finest.

We'll have more on Cutler and the rest of the Bears soon.

Thank God it's almost over...

Source: NBC Sports
It's been a miserable year, at least if you're a Cubs fan.

Going in, we all knew it would be bad. Many of the stars from the last 10 years such as Aramis Ramirez, Derrek Lee, Carlos Zambrano, Sammy Sosa are long gone, either retired or shipped off to other destinations. The division winning years  of 2007 and 2008, not to mention the 2003 season where where the Cubs were an Alex Gonzalez error and five outs away from their first World Series since 1945, are distant memories.

No, with the new regime of Theo Epstein and company, it was going to be a rebuilding year, and no promises were made. Sure, we still have Alfonso Soriano roaming left field at Wrigley Field, but he never lived up to the promises of the 8-year, $126 million contract he signed before the 2007 season that has him making $18 million a year now through 2014. That fact alone scared off any trade prospects unwilling to take on even part of that salary, even with him having 29 HR and 101 RBIs following Tuesday's 3-1 loss to the Reds.

That has led to the Cubs not being able to draw 3 million fans to Wrigley Field for the first time since 2003, according to the Chicago Tribune. Besides a dreadful 58-90 mark with 13 games left (nine of them at home) that in a normal year would have left them in last place (see the Houston Astros, who won't even be around to beat up on as they move to the AL West), the Cubs kept the third highest average ticket price in the majors at $46.30, behind the Red Sox ($53.38) and the Yankees ($51.55).

Will things improve in 2013? The Cubs' youth movement showed some signs of life. 1B Anthony Rizzo, called up mid-season from AAA Iowa, has hit nearly for a nearly .300 average and 14 HR in just 73 games. SS Starlin Castro kept up his hot career, hitting about .280 after leading the NL in hits (207) last year. The rise earned him his big contract last month as he signed a 7-year, $60 million extension. And his double play partner, 2B Darwin Barney, has been consistent as well.

Is Epstein the genius everyone says he is? It's a game of wait and see as year 104 since the 1908 World Series champs ends without another title.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Remembering Steve Sabol (1942-2012)

As somebody who grew up on NFL Films and still likes watching them today, it was sad news when it was announced that its president Steve Sabol had died this morning of brain cancer. He was 69 years old.

The work of Sabol, who took over as president of NFL Films in 1985, included greatly helping to expand the game of football to a new generation after starting out at the company as a camera operator. He continued the tradition of the Football Follies, including several starring comedian Jonathan Winters. Over the course of 50 years, he kept the film and video record of the league as it grew into the behemoth it is today.

Simply put, Steve Sabol will be missed.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Another 'This is SportsCenter' winner

For however many years they've been doing the spots (at least since the days of Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann), ESPN's "This is SportsCenter" spots have consistently been among the funniest commercials on television (with the Y2K parody featuring Charley Steiner the leading contender for the best one of the bunch).

Recently, they scored another winner, this time with football analyst John Clayton.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Iowa fans party in Chicago

Iowa football fans have a reputation for being hard partiers, and they brought that rep with them to Chicago this past weekend for the Hawkeyes' game against Northern Illinois at Soldier Field. A grandmother-type woman partied hard against the Hawks squeaked out an 18-17 win over the Huskies, taking a 24-ounce beer bong in her fan before being driven off. (Thanks to's Hot Clicks for the link.)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Is Brian Urlacher ready?

Source: Sports Grind Entertainment
"It's nobody's business."

That was the response of Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher to a question on ESPN Radio 1000 's Waddle and Silvy this morning in response to whether he had secret surgery on his knee in Germany during the offseason. The knee has been a source of constant problems for the 12-year veteran during this training camp, even causing speculation that he is washed up and the Bears need to replace him.

Let's start with that speculation: Despite the argument of the Sun-Times' Rick Telander that the Bears could have cut him before Sunday's season opener against the Colts, he needs to hang around, even if he isn't the same guy he was five years ago. He still plays hard. He is still the leader of a highly ranked defense, and he still contributes in much of the same way he has in the same tradition of great Bears middle linebackers going from Bill George to Dick Butkus to Mike Singletary.

He has been cleared to play by the Bears' medical staff. Even if he was blowing smoke on Waddle and Silvy by saying the sunburn he got the other day while out boating hurts more than his knee, he still knows his body better than anyone out there. There is a certain amount of trust one has to give a player to know when to say to when.

Plus, despite the good play of Nick Roach in his absence and the coverage of Lance Briggs, Urlacher still provides that spark that powers the Bears' defense. No Urlacher, and the Bears start falling even more than they did at the end of last season.

That said, the Bears' brain trust should perhaps bring Urlacher along a little slowly to start the season. If the Bears wind up blowing out the hapless Colts Sunday at Soldier Field, then he should be the first player to leave the game early. This will keep him fresh and ready for the big games, including the Thursday nighter in Green Bay on September 13.