Friday, April 2, 2010

32 Reasons to Hate the NCAA

Expanding the near-perfect 64 team NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament is truly "Madness." Nothing but pure greed is driving this inevitable change, and it will kill a beloved national sports happening. An expansion to 96 teams will further dilute an already diluted college talent pool and allow more unqualified teams, teams with 5-11 conference records a shot at advancement. It will make the regular season and conference tournaments meaningless. I can't believe that the NCAA would even consider placing it's incompetent finger on the best thing it has left. Yet, here they are doing just that, and the consensus is that it is going to pass. If this expansion happens, then I am going to take a pass.

This is not an unprecedented move for me. In 1994, baseball went on on strike, losing the last part of the season as well as the World Series. That year, my White Sox had a very good team with Frank Thomas having an MVP year and a superb pitching staff. I wanted to see that club in the playoffs as much as anything that I ever wanted as a fan. Baseball has never been the same for me. I was happy for the Sox 2005 World Series win, for the fans, but I really felt dead inside about the victory.

As I mentioned before, if the NFL locks out players in 2011, it will have the same effect. I will emotionally walk away. As I have gotten older, the entertainment view toward sports has drained much of my sports energy and fanaticism. I don't think kids hold the same passions for sports as my generation did. The reason for that is the money. When money drives your decision making, the passion and emotion always falls victim.

Money. That is all tournament expansion is all about. This change will place critical and exciting early-round games on Tuesday and Wednesday. This is too much for the fan to take. You can justify a couple early Thursdays and Fridays for hoops, but you can't blow off a whole week. Give me one good reason why the 64 team tourney is not perfect, and I will take it all back. At 96 teams, nobody is arguing on Selection Sunday that the 15-16 Northern Illinois Huskies should be taken over the 12-18 DePaul Blue Demons. Who cares? The issue of the bubble teams goes out the window, and that argument makes Selection Sunday worth following. So, in my opinion, the only so-called negative, the "Bubble Teams" is truly a positive. You have to earn it. At 96 teams, you have to just be breathing.

Friday, March 19, 2010

I'm Back

It was quite a year. I don't recall if the Bears actually played the 2009 season. I have blocked it out of my memory. If you could picture my facial expression right now, it would be the "Lovie staring at the Jumbotron look while fondling the red challenge flag in his pocket during the game" face. What? We signed Jay Cutler? Who wrote that last blog entry in April of 2009?

I was mercifully on trial for the majority of the football season. I would rather remember a death penalty hearing Marathon than that ugly display of my favorite obsession. It reminds me of John McKay's answer to the question posed to him regarding his woeful 1970's Tampa Bay Buccaneers. McKay was asked,"How do you feel about your team's execution?" McKay's response was "I'm in favor of it." Classic.

So, we are stuck with another season of Loving our staff. We coughed up some profit for several free agents. I am holding off on any predictions of greatness. Let's see what happens after they start cashing the checks. I am supporting the removal of Greg Olsen from this roster. He still hasn't hit anyone. He should be perfect as a Blackhawk defenseman. The downside of Olsen's departure...Cutler will have to find someone else's wife to hit on.

I am not a Blackhawk goalie-hater. Could they be better? Sure. But you cannot blame the goaltending for the lack of character by the skaters in front of him. Since the Olympic break, this team cannot finish against the good teams. You got to get mentally tough for the NHL playoffs. So, let's get to gettin'.

Lots to look forward to. The Brian Kelly era at ND. The NCAA tournament-"Sure the teams are shitty-But who doesn't love 15 overtime games in the first round!" "ON CBS!!!" Ozzie Guillen. The NHL playoffs. The Lovie Farewell Tour. 9-7 and no playoffs. Then a lockout; Killing the Golden Goose. Then I write off the NFL for life. 2010. Tremendously Tremendous.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Riding With the King.

On April 1st, 2009, I clicked a "Send Payment" prompt on my computer and shot another $1000-plus into the shitter. At least, that's how I felt at the time. The Bears would take my money and bury it in the ground along with my Super Bowl dreams for the next decade.

A day later, I was celebrating my wise and thoughtful waste of money. The Bears landed a potential franchise quarterback and gave up alot of frustration and heartache to get him. This is a glorious new day for the Bear Nation. There is no downside to this deal at all. First and foremost, it has excited me in a wholly immature and pointless way. For that, I love Jerry Angelo. An adult man should get such joy from his children or accomplishing something truly significant, like funding a scholarship for a truly needy person. Not me. I am on cloud nine over a 25 year-old man with a cannon for an arm, a stupid sneer-smirk provided by his "Frank Burns" lipless mouth and a losing record as a starter. I am a pathetic human being.

Self-flaggelation aside, let me tell you how to enjoy this ride. Jay Cutler is first-round QB with three seasons of NFL experience under his belt. He has started for two of those years. His third and most important year of development, he was selected to the Pro Bowl. HOW COULD THIS BE CONSIDERED ANYTHING BUT AWESOME? Who cares if it doesn't work out in the end? I can't wait to see what happens. Any football man would call this a very good situation. If they don't, they are lying, jealous or both. As a Bear fan, I never thought I would see the day.

As for what they gave up, good riddance. Of course, I will miss overpaying for another medicore/awful first-round college rookie. I get two years sabbatical. I really like Kyle Orton, I do. But he would just represent the frustration of watching another impotent offensive season. It was never Orton's fault, but the QB position has been the bane of every Bear fans existence. No longer settling for above-average, we are taking a shot at the title. It is a gamble for sure, but gambling is fun. Once and a while. For a Bear fan, it had been "never."

This doesn't solve the pile of problems that this team has. I am not calling this guy our savior. It is something new, shiny and smells good. No time to be cynical. Like the pyramids, I just get to see something I have never seen before. Cross it off the list.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Heat is ON! Matt Likes It.

Thanks for nothing, boss.
Lovie Smith would never say so, but you had to wonder if that's what he thought over the weekend after hearing general manager Jerry Angelo's plans to tweak rather than transform the Bears' roster. Knowingly or not, Angelo turned up the heat a notch on Smith by identifying coaching and attitude as the biggest reasons for optimism heading into 2009.

Don't expect any quick-fix, big-ticket free agent signings, Angelo said. Don't count on the NFL draft for an instant cure. Don't hold your breath waiting for that blockbuster trade either.

But by all means, do trust the Bears' coaches to improve the attitude—and thus the record.

Dave Haugh-Chicago Tribune

This is an excerpt from Haugh's article on Jerry Angelo's State of the Bears address at the 2009 Scouting Combine. Ultimately, Haugh concludes that "coaching up what we got" is not enough; the Bears need better players. I agree. However, what Angelo says here is something that has needed to be said for years. I have been screaming it for years. These guys can't coach, and when we find one that can coach (Ron Rivera), Lovie gets rid of them. The Bears have to develop the players on their roster. It cannot solely fall on the general manager alone, picking talent. We are not getting enough production on first through third down from the bottom of the roster. Depth is key to championship teams, and somehow the Bears cannot get quality snaps out of their reserve players. Lovie is on the spot this year. The team must improve, or he is gone. I feel a new head coach is in our future. Nice.

However, Angelo is not off the hook. Although free agency is drying up, this year's draft is key. We have to get four starters out of this pool. It can be done, and Angelo should feel the same pressure to perform that he has put on Lovie.

I will blame Angelo for this. Headlines read: "The re-signing of John St.Clair has become the number one priority in free agency." Come again? If you saw the recent picture in the Trib of St.Clair in t-shirt and shorts, you would understand why I am jamming a sharpened pencil into my thigh. (Thankfully, he is clothed in the above photo. That's about to be a sack, by the way. The photographer caught his subject in his natural position--smoked off the edge). John Tait's retirement was not anticipated and caught Angelo off-guard. Now, the weakness in the O-line is completely exposed, even to a five-year-old. The Bears have neglected to inject some youth into this position for years, notwithstanding the first round pick then lost rookie season of OT Chris Williams. Now, they have to give this load, St.Clair, a big raise, switch him to right tackle so we can watch defenders run over our QB from the front side instead of the blind side. Nice work. I find a revolving door to be a more efficient blocker than St."E"Clair.

I am watching the Combine, and I have to tell you, if the Bears didn't have such gaping holes elsewhere, I would love to get one of these linebackers in the blue and orange. What a group. Three of these bastards are from USC. How is it possible that they lost to Oregon State, blowing their shot at a national title? The experts always talk about "bend" "hip turn" and "sinking into your weight." I had no idea what in the hell they were talking about. Then I watched Aaron Curry, Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews work out. Now I get it. They are something to see without pads, and they are even better with pads. You can see the explosiveness in their movements. Alas, we instead need to help out John St.Clair and the gang of "receivers-who-can't-get-open."

Monday, January 12, 2009

All You Really Need is Heart.

"We had a great team when I was in Chicago," he said. "I loved, loved, loved my teammates in Chicago, but something was missing. Maybe we were just a little too cool in Chicago. Or we just didn't give it our hearts and soul. Whereas here with Ray Lewis being that emotional leader and as spiritual as he is takes us over the top with that emotional advantage we have over the other team on Sundays. "-Brendan Ayanbadejo

I have said repeatedly that the Bears have major issues with their scheme and talent evaluation. These are still major problems. However, the above cited quote from this Pro Bowl ex-Bear confirms my suspicions regarding the biggest problem on this team- their heart. I never get the feeling that this group of Bears actually loves playing football. I don't see the inspired play. I don't mean that you need to see them jumping up and down, yelling and screaming. You can see the joy and inspiration in every play, every snap. The Bears have no player that inspires, no player that sets the bar high and no player to hold the others accountable on every play. Not just every game, but every play.

A player like Ray Lewis. Lewis dances, yells, jumps around before the game. One may think that such antics are unnecessary in the pro game. Think again. Great football is not played for the money. Great football is played for wins and championships. Lewis, despite the antics, plays every play with all of his heart and soul. You can see it on Sundays. Lewis's antics may invoke chuckles and disdain. It is who he is. More importantly are his actions on the field, when the ball is snapped. Ray Lewis inspires his team to greatness. He demands the same level of effort and commitment that he displays. He will never be forgotten when the history of the game is written. This is a fact, and it cannot be disputed.

The Bears have no such player. My attorney, Bill Stanton, pointed out that the last time he has seen true inspired leadership in a Bear jersey was Brian Urlacher's greatest game, the come-from-behind win at Arizona in 2005. He's right. That was a Ray Lewis-like performance. Urlacher decided to take over the game and willed his team to victory. Great football is like the definition of pornography, "You know it when you see it." Name me another similar performance by a Bear player in the past two seasons. You can't. The Ravens get one every week.

The Bear players probably feel that it is too "college" to act all rah-rah. As Brendan says, "we were too cool." They probably laugh at Ray Lewis' dance moves or blow off the phenomenon that is Tim Tebow. They act funny. Similarly, I didn't want to like Tebow at first. All Christian and fist-pumps, he was made out to be a football God before putting on a Florida Gator helmet. Now, I am one who believes that Tebow has a chance to be the "Greatest College Football Player in History." He has won me over. From putting his team on his back after an early season-"bad loss" to Ole Miss, to his bloody pep talks to his teammates, to being the grand marshal of the Gator parade to the national championship, Tebow motivates those talented yet cynical young men to greater heights. Tebow is a Geek God of football. I have played with guys like that and would love to have played with Tebow. When players like Lewis and Tebow are on your team, it seems like you win more games than you lose. Now that's the funny thing.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

"Decision 2009-Mediocrity"

At least Lovie Smith and Jerry Angelo are men of their word. They told us that we didn't need many changes and, by God, they ain't changin'. Their actions or lack thereof, demonstrate their convictions. Let's fire the position coaches to properly place the blame on those responsible for our jello-like defense. That's the kind of accountability strong organizations display, like a group of 10 year-olds standing around Mom's broken Waterford vase. Thankfully, we have not seen this type of leadership from the White House, yet. Only from Halas Hall and Springfield.

There are real teams playing this weekend. I will be watching the tough and physical Ravens, Titans, Steelers and Panthers, trying not to sob uncontrollably. I love playoff football, and many of this year's contenders have all the trappings of a Matt McQuaid team. Run hard and hit hard, solid fundamentals, you know, the stuff I don't see in orange and blue.

Lots of opportunuty to get better "right now" in this year's draft. I will be going over my draft board and make my picks soon. Underclassmen have to decide by the 15th of January. My reader needs to stay posted.

I am putting my name into the hopper to be chosen as the Special Prosecutor in the Blago impeachment hearings. It would be like shooting a fish in a barrell. The Illinois Senate is a "hanging jury."

Monday, December 29, 2008

I'm in Wonderland.

"When you're 9-7, you're close," Smith said. "You don't need an overhaul. You just need to add a few pieces to the puzzle."-Lovie Smith

There is this scene in "Saving Private Ryan" that so disturbed me that I promised never to watch the movie again. Toward the climactic ending, Pvt. Mellish, played by Adam Goldberg, was in a tower. He was tackled by a large Nazi, who took a knife and plunged it into Mellish's abdomen. As he killed Mellish, he held him close and softly "shushed" him like one would do to a baby. It makes me ill just recounting this scene. A stabbing is such an up close and personal method of killing. Add to that the Nazi's complete ease in destroying a human life, well, it doesn't get more real than that. Too real.

When I read the above quote, Pvt. Mellish came to mind. This is the only way I can express the onslaught of emotion that hit me. I want to cradle my coach in my arms and end it. How else to deal with this infuriating man? Can he truly be serious? Even the casual fan who knows nothing about pro football knows that Smith is dead wrong in this analysis. I should have been better prepared; I did predict this. Just didn't think he would say it so soon.

The Bears are closer to 3-13 than 13-3. Close? Does he watch film or only the Jumbotron during games? I have watched the Jumbotron at the games and I can tell you, the Bears don't look better on replay. This is a nightmare. I love the Bears with a passion that crosses the line of sensible, adult behavior. I don't know what to do. I need more time. I feel despair. My team has been taken over by aliens.

Somebody has to do something. This town loves the Bears. All we want is to win. Why don't the owners, management and coaches want the same thing? This question is always on my mind. Sure, they talk winning. As they say, talk is cheap. Their actions don't back it up. I hate them all for making me feel this way. They have got to be stopped. Lovie's "puzzle" is like the outdoor maze in The Shining , and I'm Jack. I have got his look on my face right now. Right now.