Tuesday, October 31, 2006

How Much Did Kim Jong Il Contribute?

Supposedly the North Korean dictator and his sons are gi-nor-mas fans of the Bulls thanks to MJ and the Dynasty days. (What the Carringtons have to do with it, I have no idea. Maybe Kim Jong Il likes Heather Locklear too. But then again, who doesn't like Heather Locklear?)

But what I wanna know is...

Kirk Hinrich: Smart or Shmuck?

News outta the Berto Center is that prior to the witching hour deadline for 4th year players to resign with the team that drafted them, Kirk Hinrich signed a 5 year extension with the Bulls reportedly worth $47.5 million. Initially it was reported that he wanted Tony Parker of Spurs-like money or roughly $11 million per year, but John Paxson, that crafty Gandalf-like negotiator, personally talked to Kirk on the plane flight home from Minnesota about the merits of signing with an up and coming and competitive (there's that word again) team instead of holding out for free agency and signing with one of the dregs of the NBA (do you hear me Milwaukee?).

As a fan, this makes me happier than a pig in shit.

As an astute observer of the Bulls financial situation in the coming years, overpaying for Ben Wallace made pinching pennies with Kirk Hinrich imperative. Taken together, though, the two contracts equal what Bulls management should be paying for what are now the two backbones of the franchise.

But I'm curious.

Do you think Ben Gordon or Luol Deng or Andres Nocioni will settle for the same lowballing Kirk Hinrich did? All three of the afore-mentioned players will be elligible for the same contract extention next year, and I for one can't see any of them settling for less than market value. So something's gotta give, and depending where the Bulls are in the playoff race at the trade deadline, we may see the first part of the dissolution of our team of hope. Someone -- most likely Deng or Noc -- could get traded. This embarrassment of riches can not last. But I digress...

Kirk recently got engaged, and I wonder if the pressure to plan a crop circle/ field of dreams wedding got to him. I wonder if he had a brain fart called a fiance poking and prodding him for the wedding of her dreams? I wonder if seeing what happened to Jay Williams, he of the flying motorcyle athlete clan, moved him to take the money and run? I wonder if he was worried that all the Bulls' money would dry up next season because of the afore-mentioned players extensions on the upcoming docket?

Well, he's got his security now, and as he says, he'll have more money than he'll ever need in his life cuz of this contract extension.

But the next time TJ Ford of the Raptors (who is reportedly getting the same if not more money than Kirk) tries to drive past him on the court, I hope Kirk doesn't hear smack talk like, "I got more money than you, white boy." If I were Kirk and I heard that, I just might punch Pax in his mouth.

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Foul Balls vs. Fleece & Flog (Kinda)

(Editor's Note: I was waiting for this to go up over at Foul Balls first since it's Fornelli's baby and all, but I'm at a computer now and won't be back until later this afternoon. So here's my take...)

Competition. It's the spirit that drives all sports. It's the motivating force behind any kind of game or contest. It's what pushes athletes and man in general.

You've probably heard the saying a thousand times, "I'm here to compete" or "I love the competition." Those were two of Michael Jordan's favorite lines and he loved competition.

But truly at the base of all athletes is the need to compete, and at the base of all bloggers is the need to do the same. Gamblers call it the rush; I call it the need to whoop ass. And I'm pretty sure Tom Fornelli feels the same way.

Most of you readers who know Fornelli and his Foul Balls (his blog, that is) know that he's had a running bet with his editor, Panger (who writes her own blog called Petulant Times and as I just found out a sports blog called 28 Days although there are no posts as of yet), over the length of the baseball playoffs. Well, Fornelli triumphed over Panger, won the bet and is now so flush with success that he's invited a few other friends (myself and Jeeves of F&F and ChiSox Blog) along with Panger again to take part in similiar contest involving the NBA basketball season.

I too have had a minor success this past baseball season winning the Pick to Click race at ChiSox Blog, but to be fair, a lot of the entrants came late to the game. At any rate success is coursing thru my veins, and I need a new drug to keep the adrenaline running.

The players in this game are Panger, Fornelli, Jeeves and myself. Each day Fornelli will be emailing us with three or less NBA games from which we will pick the winners of each game -- no point spreads involved. There are more specific details concerning the point system per win he's using but you can check out his blog for that if you must.

What I'm here to say is that I'm gonna destroy those other three girlies, and bring the championship on home to Fleece & Flog where it belongs. No word yet on what the winner gets, but we'll keep you updated.

Fornelli, Panger and Jeeves, you will all bow in the wake of my victory. See you at the finish line.

Competition; I love this game.

(Update: Here's Fornelli's post at Foul Balls detailing the contest and picks for tonight. I can't believe Panger took Miami. Women.)

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Fleece & Flogs NFL Top Five for Week 8

Scary things afoot in the NFL this past weekend. We won't go so far as to say the Halloween spirit is the culprit (mostly cuz we don't believe in that kinda thing), but maybe a black cat did cross the path of a team bus or two. Here's some players and coaches whose Sunday wasn't helped by walking under any ladders...

Reggie Bush...maybe he hurt an ankle tripping over a seam in the carpet, maybe one of those feral cats living in the Dome was black and crossed his path. Maybe his R.O.Y. chances got spirited away in the process.

Ben Roethliesberger...selling your soul to the devil for last year's championship sure doesn't look like such a good idea now, does it? Who, not in the bottom 3rd of the league, loses to Oakland?

Carolina Receivers...memo to Keyshawn Johnson and Steve Smith, there will be a ritual exorcism performed tonight to remove any and all demons residing in your hands. And Keyshawn, be sure to bring a rain coat; it could get messy.

Dennis Green...did you accidentally step on the grave of Vince Lombardi while visiting Lambeau? I don't care what your owner and GM say to the press; you are what we thought you are: dead man walking.

Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb...you're about to be stampeded by 40,000 hysterical fans trying to escape the horrors at the Linc.

Cincinnati Defense...at least you performed some kinda magic trick on Sunday. You managed to make Michael Vick resemble a pocket-passing NFL QB.

Onto this week's Top Five----------------------
  1. Da Monsters of the Da Midway (7-0): I guess the Great Pumpkin resides at Soldier Field what with that sea of orange jerseys and shirts. Alex Smith your name is Kurtz and you've seen the horror!
  2. Indianapolis Colts (7-0): Mile High Stadium was a mile low after Peyton and friends left. Under the radar FA signing this off-season...kicker AdamVinatieri to the Colts.
  3. New England Patriots (6-1): Tom Brady laying 31 points on a decent Viking team in Minnesota was scary enough. Doing it with no receiver corps to speak of is down right bone chilling. And NE still gets to face both undefeateds yet this season. Shiver me timbers!
  4. San Diego Chargers (5-2): Look out! Godzilla, I mean, LT is running wild, destroying everything in his path! Shawne Merrian is a chemical experiment gone wrong! Philip Rivers is...um...Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz?
  5. New York Giants (5-2): Dr. Frankenstein called. He wants his freak back. So will someone please get Plaxico Burress on a plane already.

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Monday, October 30, 2006

Hopefully This Doesn't Get Violent

Internet Creatures, the fine fellows who started Fire the Fucktard, has submitted a petition for the masses with the sole appeal of getting Chicago Suntimes sports columnist Jay Mariotti fired.

After contemplating the merits of this petition, I'm of the opinion that maybe getting the fucktard fired isn't a bad thing. Unfortunately for the petitioners, their one million signatures goal is a tad over-confident.

So this brother blogger is here to help. Click the link above to sign the petition. Let your voice be heard. Tell the Suntimes that their insistence on printing his slop will lose them subscriptions, internet hits and readers in general.

I already wrote the Suntimes months ago to lodge my own personal complaint, but you too can be a part of the great democratic process. Or freedom of speech. Or the Bill of Rights. Or whatever process this is a part of.

Please sign the petition. And maybe Chicago eliminates a clump of doggy doo-doo from the soul (pun intended, Double-U) of its sports columns.

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A Bulls Preview Thru the Eyes of a Lord of the Rings Geek

In an effort to expand our readship here at Fleece & Flog, our crack staff decided to do some marketing research to find new and unique ways to increase readship. Well, we came across the intriguing idea of cross-pollinating sports and fantasy fiction fans. We know Lord of the Rings is so 2004, but since we too have been a continuing reader of J.R.R. Tolkien since 1980 (rereading the trilogy on average of once a year), the idea had an unshakable appeal to our inner geekiness. We only wish we had thought of the idea ourselves. That's like, very cool, man.

So without further ado and mostly because the roster is finally set, we compare each of the '06-'07 Bulls players to characters from the Lord of the Rings books. And I emphasize books and not movies; they were weak representations of the original creations. (Now the readers know just how much of a geek the Fleece & Flog crew -- okay, main administrator -- really is.)

Your 2006-2007 Chicago Bulls, starring...

Ben Gordon as Frodo Baggins. Tough start. I think Frodo's character was hardest to compare because he was the closest to becoming evil. Maybe Ben's untimely turnovers rate the main comparison, but at the heart of the story is a character who had to grow up essentially overnight and thru very dire circumstances. Like Frodo, Ben has a golden heart but in the end he just can't get the job done himself and needs help from another character to throw the Ring into the fire. But also like Frodo, Ben'll carry the story for the length of season.

Kirk Hinrich as Sam Gamgee: I know, I know. Kirk and his ears are taylor made for being compared to an elf, but his hair cries out hobbit, and like Sam, he's the unwitting defensive backbone of the team. He strikes fear in no one until they face him in a pinch after which they come away with a very noble opinion of him. Like Sam he's the dogged and rugged little man with a will of steel and a heart of gold. He is the quiet hero and the spirit of resolve. He never quits even if it means carrying Frodo on his back.

Chris Duhon as Peregrin Took (Pippin): One of two supporting, child-like hobbits (the other being Merry) accompanying the main character on his adventure. Pippin was the lesser involved of the two, the more inclined to duty, the one with the least impact on the outcome of the story. Like Pippin, Duhon is a no nonsense and straight forward player, not flashy by any means. His minutes will probably decrease a tad this season, but he will save a game or two with his headiness like Pippin's saving of Faramir from the pyre.

Luol Deng as Merodiac Brandybuck (Merry): The other of the two supporting hobbits. Luol's shot-happy playing style compares nicely with young Merry's happy-go-lucky outlook on life. Merry enjoyed hanging out with the King of Rohan, smoking his pipe, singing his songs, but his slice to the back of the Witch King's knee led to the death of Gondor's biggest foe. Luol will play a major part in slaying the Eastern Conference foes this season.

Ben Wallace as Aragorn the Ranger (Strider): The man on a mission. Like Aragorn, Ben left the comforts of royalty to lead a group of ragtags to the promised land. They both defend like no other, they both have been thru the wars, they both look foul but smell fair. Ben had tough choices to make, and like Aragorn has his faults (poor free throw shooting), but in the end it'll be the 'fro that leads the assault and meets his friends in victory in the middle of the battle field.

P.J. Brown as Tom Bombadil: Tom (a figure not featured in the movies) saved the hobbits from certain failure by rescuing the the wayward boys from the clutches of a Barrow wight. Tom was also called "first" and "old". He was around to see the first trees grow and the first of the children of Illuvatar to awake. P.J. Brown is older than me, and he'll play an essential role in saving the season at some point, but I feel his contribution won't be that great beyond a few a games.

Tyrus Thomas as Legolas the Elf: Legolas could walk on the snow, Tyrus can walk on air. They're both tall and skinny and extremely talented, but each one's contribution will probably be better judged over a longer expanse of time.

Andres Nocioni as Gimli the Dwarf: A smaller man playing in a bigger man's world. Like Gimli, Noc will jump into the fray without reguard for his well being. He'll defend the honor of his team the way Gimli defended Galadriel's honor in the face of steep odds. Also (and this is more of a movie comparison) like Gimli, he'll provide a moment or two of comic relief. Stay out of this dwarf's way or he'll cut you at the knees; stay out of Noc's way or you may find a foot or elbow or knee in your chest. (Sadly, Noc is starting to remind me of Bill Lambeer.)

Malik Allen as Barliman Butterbur: The inn-keeper of the Prancing Pony in Bree, Barliman wasn't that good at much, other than hearing his name yelled at him for days on end. But he meant no harm and on one occasion actually provided relief for the adventuring hobbits. Malik will not rebound or defend well, but he may just shoot well enough to help the Bulls win a game or two.

Thabo Sefalosha as Arwen the wife of Aragorn: Arwen was the hidden gem of the elves; Thabo hopes to be the hidden gem of the 2006 draft. Oh, and he can speak other languages like Arwen can too.

Viktor Khryapa as Faramir, Steward of Gondor: He greatness isn't immediately revealed but in time all will come to know and respect the Krapman just like Faramir, and he'll keep the home fires burning until the King returns.

Michael Sweetney as the hobbit Fredegar "Fatty" Bolger: Yeah, that was too easy.

Adrian Griffin as Old Man Cotton: Cotton defended his fields with the zeal of a patriot, and shows up in the beginning and the end of the story. Griff will be the spot minute defender, showing up when Skiles gives him a chance.

Martynas Andriuskevicious as Treebeard the Ent: The size alone dictates the comparison. Big Marty is 7'3", Treebeard is 12'+. Any questions? Maybe the younger Skinbark the Ent is the better comparison.

Andre Barrett as Bill the Pony: He's a cute little reclimation project who has impressed the coaching staff this preseason enought to take Luke Schenscher's roster spot. Unfortunately, I believe that, much like Bill the Pony, he'll have to be let go later on in the season.

Scott Skiles as Smeagol Gollum: The crotchity coach has changed a little to reflect a softer, warmer coach. But it won't last. The first sign of trouble Scott Smeagol will molt back into Gollum Skiles, but it'll be his constant conflict with his team that will either save the day or push it over the edge or do both in the process just as Gollum did for Frodo after he refused to throw the ring into the fire.

John Paxson as Gandalf the Wizard: He put the team together. He pulls the strings behind the scenes. He travels to countries far and wide to better his situation at home. He know the spells to make the team gel. He is the power behind the story. He is the man with the plan. He has been to the mountain top (3 rings as a player) and has fallen into the abyss (coached and broadcast for some pitiful teams). He rides his horse of power (the Bulls in general are not unlike Shadowfax, Gandalf's horse), and he comes back from the dead. He fleeces the enemy (Isaiah Thomas, the Portland Trailblazers) like Gandalf did to Denethor, and he just plain rocks.

Benny the Bull as Boromir, Steward of Gondor: He acquitted himself of charges that he assaulted an officer just as Boromir acquitted himself of actions with Frodo. Luckily for Benny the Bull he doesn't die in the process like Boromir did.

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The Weekend in Chicago Sports

During the the weekend that was we crowned a new baseball champ (St. Louis Cardinals -- way to make the AL look good Detroit), found out one NFL team wasn't as overrated as reported (Indianapolis Colts, who as of now look to have a slightly better chance of going undefeated than a certain local team), and watched another team fall from the ranks of the unbeaten in college football (Mr. Booty, you are no Carson Palmer or Matt Leinert).

But this is a Chicago sports blog so we don't care so much about those guys.

As for the Chicagoland area teams the Wildcats were surrounded, the Blackhawks pounded, the Bears rebounded, the Irish astounded, and the Fire were dumbfounded. And the Illini still suck as a football team.

So what might you Chicagoans have missed?
  • The Good: Notre Dame. They kept the NCAA's longest winning streak against one team in tact by defeating Navy 38-14 in Baltimore. This first of four straight cupcake games makes for smooth sailing and time to work out the kinks in the offense before that season-ending matchup with the now once defeated USC. Brady Quinn is back on the Heisman radar after his 18-25, 295 yards, 4 TDs (3 pass, 1 run). BCS bowl here we come!
  • The Bad #1: Since injuries to their starting goalie, center and winger, the Blackhawks have been blanked twice in a row. Tuomo Ruutu's return couldn't come at a better time.
  • The Bad #2: The Fire were eliminated from the MLS playoffs after losing to the New England revolution in -- get this -- a two game series. No, they weren't swept in a best of three series. They lost in an ironically named penalty shootout 4-2. The two game series is called an aggregate goal series, and I'm sure glad to know that a team can win a best of two. Or is it really just a 1 game series with a week long halftime?
  • The Bad #3: Northwestern -- although, I'd say they handled the team that shall remain nameless better than the Irish did. In the Big House, the Wildcats lose a relative squeaker, 17-3, to the #2 ranked W--------s. Yes, that team will forever remain nameless on this blog, or at least in MY posts.
  • The Ugly: San Francisco Forty-Niners. Yes, the Bears were dominant. Yes, they scored a team record 24 points in the first quarter and had the second most points scored in NFL history in a half with 41. But this game was more a product of SF's ineptitude than the Bears' prowess. But it was still fun to watch. And they're taking a cue from the Illini with the Orange Swarm thing. Orange Krush sounds soooo much better though.
  • The Utterly Ridiculous: SI's Player Poll listing Brian Urlacher as the second most overrated player in the NFL. Even the claim that T.O. is the most overrated player is laughable. I'm not a T.O. apologist by any stretch of the imagination, but if he were less of a headache, he'd be, hands down, the best WR in the NFL. Back to Urlacher. If you were to see just one play to determine whether or not he's overrated, watch a clip of his interception against the 49ers. (And maybe I'll have that embedded from YouTube shortly.) Brian is talent meets preparation meets football IQ. I am of the very loud opinion that anyone who voted Brian as overrated is just jealous of his success.
  • The Laughable: Illinois Football. Another day, another come from behind loss. Midnight Madness can't get here quick enough. (For the uninitiated, that's the start of the college basketball season.)

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Fleece & Flog's NFL Top Five

I hesitated posting a Top Five this week since I didn't watch much pro football last Sunday, but a man must trudge on even when there's not much sensory stimulation to go on. And I watched most of the second half of the oddity that was the Giants/ Cowboys game, and I feel it worthy a note or two since there isn't much Bears news to report on except a Ron Jaworski molestation of Rex Grossman.

Things we know: TO is a shmuck. Tiki Barber is a fumbler. If you pressure Drew Bledsoe he will throw the ball away.

Things we didn't know: TO is a hack who drops wide open passes on 4th and 2. Tiki Barber will fake a head injury if he fumbles. (Check the tape -- he looks down at the ball as its falling to the turf, looks back toward the sidelines, utters an uh-oh, stays down on the canvass like a fighter after an uppercut. No wonder he's retiring. Much like Jerome Bettis and Curtis Martin, he's as overrated a running back as has ever played in the NFL.) If you pressure Tony Romo he will throw the ball away.

Oh, and this game became the most watched broadcast in cable television history. Who said Monday Night Football is dead?

One more thing and it's even Bears-related: the Giants/ Bears game in three weeks has the distinction of being the first game of the season to fall under the new rescheduling rules the NFL implemented this season as it will move to NBC for the prime time Sunday night time slot. It's also looming as a suddenly huge road test for the Bears.

Onto the Top Five-------------------------------------
  1. Da Bears (6-0): That noise coming from the southern tip of Lake Michigan was the sound of thousands of lawn mowers being started at once on Sunday. At least Chicago looks better after the bye week. I mean, how many people did yard work that day?
  2. Indianapolis Colts (6-0): Peyton nearly got decapitated on Sunday, and three-fourths of America grinned in secret. Who else is tired of seeing his mug on T.V.? (Side Note: doesn't it seem like this has been a banner year for players having their helmets knocked off their heads?)
  3. Denver Broncos (5-1): This team can't possibly be winning with Jake the Snake still at QB, can it? They own the 3 spot by virtue of their win over NE a few weeks ago, which leads to the next spot...
  4. New England Patroits (5-1): Since this is a Bears-centric slant (is that redundant?), back-to-back road games against NYG and NE will tell the story about all three teams. And Tom Brady's doubters can suck it, even if he is a Wolverine.
  5. New Orleans Saints (5-1): Beating Philly went a long way to legitimizing their #5 ranking from last week, and so they hold the spot over the Chargers and Giants.

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Golf Clap, Everyone

From the Department of Two Day Old News comes this little blurb: The Chicago Cubs hire former Detroit Tiger shortstop Alan Trammell to be their big league bench coach.

From the whipsering mouth of Fleece & Flog's main administrator: Good job, Cubs.

From the now speaking plainly keyboard: A few more well-thought-out decisions (or was this a fall-in-their-lap bit of lady luck?) like the hiring of Trammell, and the Cubs may actually resemble a big league ball club again some day.

I am not a Cubs fan, but in my opinion this hiring is better than the Pinella one. Sure, he was at the helm of a Tiger team that lost 300 games in three seasons, but he also taught and managed most of the players on this year's World Series team. And he helped engineer one of the biggest win-loss turn-arounds in recent baseball history as his 2004 Tigers improved an impressive 29 games from the previous season.

And he's the perfect fail-safe for when Lou Pinella's head melts in the August heat at Wrigley Field from one too many Aramis Rameriz errors.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Flashback, 1991, Chicago Stadium, NHL All-Star Game

Just a reminder incase anyone doesn't remember.

Chicago Blackhawks hockey at the Chicago Stadium out-classed any other venue. I'm feeling nostalgic and patriotic all at the same time.

Thank you Wayne Messmer and God Bless.

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Monday, October 23, 2006

It's Gotta Be the Logo, Money

I like Spike Lee from the old days. His movies School Daze and Fight the Power were looked upon as the modern voice of the people in the American Civil Rights movement. His black and white, Marrs Blackmon spots for Nike Air Jordans also represented a tipping point in American sports marketing and advertising, and the "It's gotta be the shoes, money" tagline helped usher in urban-speak as marketing tool. And I ate it all up. God, I loved Air Jordans. I loved the Nike Air Jordan silhouette, and I loved the tagline.

But now, and in an analogy having very little to do with the original reference, I wonder aloud, "It's gotta be the logo, money." What is the logo of which I speak? Well, the Blackhawks' indian head logo of course. How else do you explain the sudden-as-an-explosion demise of the suprisingly hopeful Blackhawks season?

The 4-2 start the Blackhawks skated out to inspired hope for a few of us hockey fans hibernating in Chicago. Whispers were overheard concerning the glorious red sweater, the "fastest game on ice", the NHL scoring leader Martin Havlat. The up-tempo scoring and welcome-to-the-new-NHL style of play garnered a second look from the passing fan. Maybe even a trip to the United Center for something other than a Bulls game was warranted.

But two fateful nights and three critical injuries may have just blown all that hope to hell.

On consecutive nights the Blackhawks lost afore-mentioned Havlat and then C Michal Handzus and G Nikolai Khabibulin -- Handzus for the season with a torn ACL. These players were leading the mini-renaissance the Blackhawks were experiencing, but add to those injuries a stunning 5-4 last minute loss on the road in Dallas and a humiliating 4-3 loss at home to the lowly St. Louis Blues, and we have all the makings of a Greek tragedy.

Our friend over at Ron Karkovice Fan Club blames it on bad Bill Wirtz kharma; I'd like to take his theory one step further. I'd like to postulate that the Blackhawks are in fact the victims of a double set of bad kharma.

The state of Illinois has been in the crosshairs concerning the use of Native American imagery as sports mascots and symbols. The NCAA has banned the University of Illinois at Champaign/ Urbana from hosting any basketball tournament of 64 games as long as they continue to use Chief Illiniwek as their symbol of school spirit even with the support of local Native American groups.

Could the Blackhawks have the Great Spirit doing a raindance against them too? Are the indigenous people's voodoo attempts affecting the pride that once was Chicago hockey? Are there sweat lodge services and peyote war-pipe programs being performed to the demise of a professional sports franchise? Hmmmm. I wonder.

Another question or two should be asked. Has any Native American lamblasted the Blackhawk organization for its taking advantage of the proud Blackhawk name? Has any living relative of Blackhawk himself done so for that matter? Have there been protests outside the UC or the old Chicago Stadium? Hmmmm. I wonder again.

What I do know is that the bad aura that is Wirtz is bad enough without the added religious fervor surrounding the rape and pilaging of the indiginous peoples of Illinois. Or maybe the indiginous people of Illinois just hate Bill Wirtz as much as we do. Maybe they don't want their proud names or symbols being involved with the money-mongering man driving the ship that is the Blackhawks. Maybe a peace-pipe service will be performed once Wicked Wirtz is wompommed from the front office.

Maybe Spike Lee should make a commercial or movie about their plight. He can call it, "It's Gotta Be the Logo, Money." It's gotta be.

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The Sunday Afternoon Drive or...

...Why a Bye Week is a Good Thing During the Football Season.

Dateline: Saturday, October 21, 2006, Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Indiana...

The I-80 crowd streaming in from the metropolitan Chicagoland area choked the highway with crash cart-wielding ambulances and tow-trucks providing battery start ups. Maybe they should just call it the cardiac corridor. In the space of a measly five days health insurance rates skyrocketed, emergency room visits mulitplied, and CPR course enrollment catipulted to all-time highs in the Chicago/ Northwestern Indiana territory.

I'm just happy the Bears had the weekend off. Outside of monitoring my fantasy football teams, I needed a break from football after Saturday.

My favorite college football team, the Notre Dame fighting Irish gave indigestion and heartburn a good name for most of the afternoon on Saturday even though at one point during this game Brady Quinn became the all-time leading passer in Notre Dame football history and in the process became only the 32nd passer in NCAA history to pass for over 10,000 career yards.

But that isn't the story.

With a little over two minutes to play and Notre Dame trailing 17-13, the offense was forced to go for it on fourth down and short after a third down play was stuffed at the line. But for the first time this season, a Brady Quinn sneak attempt over the center and guards was stopped from gaining the first down, and the ball was turned over on downs to that vaunted UCLA offense, better known as that other offense in Los Angeles, the one with a backup quarterback leading it.

But that isn't the story either.

No the story of the game was Notre Dame keeping it's BCS bowl hopes alive with a clutch last minute victory over that most vaunted of football programs, UCLA, better known as that other team from Los Angeles.

With just over a minute to play and no time-outs, Notre Dame received the football on their own 20 yard line and faced an up-hill 80 yard march against that vaunted UCLA defense, better known as the defense that has been pummelling Brady Quinn into submission all afternoon -- you know, that other defense from Los Angeles.

Three plays, 30+ seconds and countless pump-fakes later, Brady Quinn started the mass hysteria to the 911 switch boards when he found Jeff Smardzija cutting across the middle for a 10 yard gain. But the Shark didn't tie Derrick Mayes as the all-time touchdown reception leader in Notre Dame football history by settling for 10 yards. NO, Smardzija turned 30 yards of YAC (yards after catch) into yack (regurgitation) for that vaunted UCLA fan base, better known as Jeeves' own personal hell. (Sorry, bro, I couldn't resist!) Notre Dame preserved the win with a QB sack in the waining seconds of the game.

But the story is Brady Quinn's personal ascention into ND QB lore along side Johnny Lujack, Joe Montana and Tony Rice...

And my lazy Sunday of watching absolutely no football at all.

I don't know how this fits at all but I'm reminded of a lyric or two from the seminal "Paul Revere" by the Beastie Boys:

His voice was hoarse, his throat was dry he asked me for a sip
He said, "Can I get some?"
I said, "You can't get none!"
Yeah, I don't get the correlation either, but riding around on a Sunday afternoon on the heels of the second greatest Bears win ever and then the ND comeback win will make random thoughts of greatness pass thru the mind.

And, again, I'm just thankful for the bye week.

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Saturday, October 21, 2006

An LA View on South Bend

This is officially the 50th post at Fleece the Pig, Flog the Pony!

Anyone who knows me from ChiSoxBlog, knows that I'm quite the optimist; I held onto the belief that the Sox would squeak by and reach the playoffs as long as possible. Although my beloved Bruins are nowhere near as talented, on paper, as my even more beloved Sox were, I still have hope for a win. Not a ton off hope, but I can dream, can't I?

The prevailing thought about our chances aren't that great. LA fans seem to be realists more than dreamers, but I say where there's a will, there's a way. We are after all, playing the team that ended our 88 game winning streak in basketball. (Yes, 88 game winning streak, how ridiculous is that?). If we learned anything from that game it's that no win is guarenteed. Just ask Auburn who slipped up against Arkansas or Arizona who choked against the Bears.

When I say LA fans are realists, I mean in general. I do have friends who are making the pilgrimage to South Bend and are fully expecting a win. I met a Mexican family at a tailgate who said they were going in for the Notre Dame game and to quote the patriarch of the family, "Man, I hope we win, but if not, fuck it, at least we'll get drunk." The full spectrum is represented, but I think most people, if they are brutally honest will tell you they're not expecting great things tomorrow.

I don't know what to expect, to be honest. I've seen this team look alternately great and alternately Duke-ish (we're talking about football, remember), often times in the same game. UCLA kicked off the season as underdogs against Utah, and proceeded to demolish the Utes. They also looked like a damn good team for the first half of the Washington game, but then decided that a half of football was good enough and lost the game. (Washington is a good team; if they had 5 more seconds or any sense of clock management they would have knocked off the Trojans)

Honestly, it'll probably come down to quarterback play. If we can contain Brady Quinn and get a good game from our backup Patrick Cowan, we'll be in good shape. That's a big if though. Quinn is probably the most polished QB in the college game; he may not be the best overall, but he's up there. The D-line needs to get pressure on Brady, which they are fully capable of. Hickmon alone could wreak havoc in the backfield, and if he plays up to his potential, he could make things quite a bit more difficult for the Irish.

The defense is actually our strength this year. We're not the high-scoring machine of last year. We lost Olson (Drew that is), Mercedes Lewis, and Maurice Drew. This year we had Ben Olson, the former top QB recruit, but he hurt his knee so we're down to Patick Cowan. In relief of Olson against Arizona he looked great; he actually looked to be an upgrade, that is until he played against Oregon. He was seriously dismal last week, so it's up in the air as to what we should expect.

If only we could merge last year's offense with this year's defense; it would be NCAA title number 100 for the Bruins, but oh well. If Cowan sucks it up, we gotta hang our hopes on Chris Markey (pronounced like Marquee) who is a solid running back and has some speed to burn. If I'm Notre Dame I'm stacking the line to stop Markey, and forcing Cowan to win the game.

So there are a lot of ifs that need to go our way if the Golden Domers are to go down, but it's not too big of a longshot. The Bruins could pull it out and make my football teams 2-0 against ND. (I was raised a Michigan football fan). But if they lose or if they get stomped on, please Notre Dame, do me the small favor of beating USC, yah, that other team from LA.

(8-Clap Time)
Fight, fight, fight!

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Scott Skiles Is A Moron

From the "I Can't Believe He Admitted That Out Loud" department comes this little blurb from yesterday's Daily Southtown:
Skiles had some simple advice for Lou Piniella, the new Cubs manager.
"Good luck," said Skiles, who admitted to being a Cubs fan. "Hopefully, he can get them squared away."
Someone call up Lovie Smith so we can even this thing out.

Then again Scott Skiles did used to dance with mary jane. This is just another reason to keep your kids off drugs. You don't want them to grow up to be Cubs fans.

At least now I've got a built in excuse if the Bulls fail this season.

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The Great Sports Coaster! Or Link Day!

What a perfect cure for Blogger's Block; find a bunch of links from my favorite stories and friends, and send them out to the masses. So today I'm linking nothing but my fellow bloggers' pieces. No Tribune, ESPN, or corporate websites allowed. Does that discount Deadspin? Nah, Will's still the humble homeboy. (And yes, that is a very white collar wearing Luke Skywalker posing with Gary Gnu.)

  1. You want news about Juan Uribe's ascent to Stephen Jackson territory? Check out Jeeves' take here, here and here. (ChiSox Blog)
  2. This link is not for the faint of heart, only for the soft of balls. Video included. Why, Tom, Why? (Foul Balls)
  3. The Crime Dog gives us his Bulls season preview, which reminds me, I have one to type up soon too. (Ron Karkovice Fan Club)
  4. Will from Deadspin has made the blacklist over at the world wide bleeder. He's officially the Che Guerrera of sports blogs. (Deadspin.com)
  5. Thank you Dennis Green for providing the inspiration for a new slogan at my favorite Bears blog. (Windy City Gridiron)
  6. Matt over at Blog-a-Bull has succumbed to the pressure that is ESPN Insider. It only took John Hollinger's one trick pony to do so. (Blog-a-Bull)
  7. From the commentors at Deadspin to the freaks at Kissing Suzy Kolber to this. A third generation blog. And from what I understand Captain Caveman is getting paid for it. (WithLeather.com)
  8. Frankie's got to feel a little better after the Bear's surreal endevour on Monday night. (Frank the Tank's Slant)
  9. Okay, I got this from Cheat over at SSS but I'll link the chat directly. Poor Juan, poor Jimbo, poor Sox fans. (Progressive Boink)
  10. Rob G., who's currently kicking everyone's asses in the WCG FF league, is a Cubs fan, and he has his take on the Loud Lou hiring. Yes, I linked a Cubs post. (The Cub Reporter)
  11. I'm gonna send along a link to my blogging buddy, DickdaStick, a part-time write at ChiSox Blog. He posted a piece over there about the White Sox 2006 legacy, and I would be remiss if I didn't turn my readers on to it. (ChiSox Blog)
So I started the links with my ChiSox Blog and I ended the links with ChiSox Blog. How's that for symmetry? That does it for today, and remember, "No gnus is good gnus!"

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This Is Still a Mirage, Right?

Quietly, very very quietly, under the din a certain Chicago football team is making, another Chicago team stands in first place. No, the Bulls season hasn't kicked off yet although they are 3-0 in preseason and rookie Tyrus Thomas looks good. No, I don't even know where the Fire stand; so just call me if they reach their league's championship game -- there's no better time to jump on the bandwagon. No, I'm talking about the Chicago Blackhawks.

Yes, I've mentioned that name here before hoping to find a few neophytes to get on the bus early. They currently have a 4-2 record in the Central Division leading Detroit, Nashville, St. Louis and Columbus. And last night they defeated the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 at the United Center. Newcomers Brian Smolinski and NHL points leader Martin Havlat scored the goals for the Hawks and Nikolai Khabibulin stopped 28 of 29 shots.

Of course, unless you have NHL Centre Ice package or live in Quebec or maybe even attended the game you didn't see this game. Yes, I know this is crowded soapbox. Yes, I know Wirtz is going nowhere soon. Yes, maybe I'll stop harping about this in time. But until then, Billy-boy and his draconian law concerning broadcasting home contest will bare the full frontal of my Braveheart fuck you.

And if ticket sales are any indication, I'm not the only one showing Willie Wirtz his willie. Barely 11,000 tickets were sold for last night's game, a far cry from the sellout number. Now, I'd hate to do anything nice for Bill Wirtz but if this team continues it's winning ways, I may end up lining the pockets of the unloved one with a few a my hard earned greenbacks in the form of a ticket purchase.

But I'll give it time. One winning season in the last eight has the Blackhawks not yet having me at hello. This is Chicago, for christ's sake, and we've seen the bandwagon get jumped on by many a White Sox and Cubs fan. Hell, I might have even smiled a little in 2003 when the Cubs were oh, so close. (The extreme lack of a winning baseball team will lead one to curse his blood-oath concerning his allegiance to either side of Madison Ave.)

Funny thing too. Just a month ago I threw away an old Blackhawks shirt. That damn Wirtz. If the Blackhawks keep it up, I just might have to give him even more of my hard earned money and buy a new jersey. Does anyone's mother know how to sew?

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Fleece & Flog's NFL Top Five

Okay, so the Bears comeback was so surreal that I'm still speechless concerning the game. Add to that my mixed emotions on whether to think positively (one of the greatest comebacks ever), negatively (who the heck stole my quarterback and replaced him with the guy from My Left Foot?) or just plain dumbfoundedly (does Dennis Green have a point?), and you've got a guy who has been enveloped into a serious bout of blogger's block.

Everytime I think I've found an angle at which to approach the Bears win, I'm bombarded by antitheses surrounding the good, the bad and the ugly. Yes, they won without the benefit of a serious offensive game, but they also gave up too many points to a team supposedly staffed with a NCAA Division II offensive line. Yes, the defense scored two touchdowns on their own, but they also game up a potential game-winning field goal attempt. Yes, the special teams scored on a punt return, but it wouldn't have needed to if the offense didn't resemble my frosh football team that went 1-8.

Then I figured I could take the destiny angle. What could possibly stand in the way of a team that seems blessed by the holy trio of talent, confidence and luck? Well, I have a word for it: injury. Ask anyone on the Bears defense what the loss of Mike Brown is gonna do to the morale not to mention execution. There's a reason no one has supplanted him as the starting strong safety even after achilles problems, calf problems and knee problems. He's probably the smartest guy on the defense. Watch him shed a blocker to stop a potentially big run. Watch him be the safety valve the Bears rely on to clog holes. Watch him be the guy wide receivers fear getting hit by in the secondary. Destiny takes a back seat when it comes to injury, folks.

So I'm stuck with a mind full of mixed emotions, ones that contradict themselves everytime I sit down to type about the game.

What I do know is that Matt Leinert was the golden boy Rex shoulda been. Devin Hester was a steal in the late second round, and Brian Urlacher may have just cemented his place next to the names George, Butkus and Singletary. Oh, and the bye week couldn't come at a better time; I'll bet there's a certain boy-hoosier doing some sincere soul searching right now.

And maybe now I can stop focusing on the second coming of the Superbowl Shuffle and start focusing on the first place Blackhawks and hockey. Eh, probably not.

Onto the Top Five--------------------------------------

  1. Chicago Bears (6-0): You thought there'd be a change here? Hah! Remember a certain CHI-MIA game in 1985? Monday's game might stay in the minds of football lovers just as long.
  2. Indianapolis Colts (5-0): The bye week didn't hurt, but someone just scored a TD on thast run defense in Tony Dungy's dreams.
  3. San Diego Chargers (4-1): LT had 4 TDs. The team scored 48 points. Any other questions about Marty-ball? Indy should fear this team.
  4. Denver Broncos (4-1): This team reminds me of last year's Bears: all defense, no offense. Is Jay Culter the answer? He's a friggin' rookie. Which is exactly how Jake the Snake plays.
  5. New Orleans Saints (5-1): Who woulda thunk it? Mike Ditka might start drinking again if these guys and the Bears both reach the NFC Championship game.
Make sure to check out Soxually Repressed's Bear Droppings in the two posts below. And remember, the NFL needs the Bears to be good. The stats don't lie.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Random Bear Droppings

As an upfront non-Bears fan, nobody should be surprised by a lack of love for the local QB. However, due most likely to indifference there is also no great hatred. What is odd is, what is thoroughly perplexing is the complete venom with which some Bears fans have for the franchise quarterback. He had one bad game. Granted, it was a really bad game. Oh, and it was on national television. Are these all the same people who drank the Kyle Orton Kool-Aid? The same dopes that still want Dick Jauron (with John Boy for Offensive Coordinator) as head coach? Whoever you are, there is a phone call for you. It is your village. It seems their IDIOT is missing.

Urlacher did not get NFC defensive player of the week honors. It does seem rather absurd. However, there are those who complain that the guy that won the award with three and a half sacks did so against the windmill known as (former Bear) Mike Gandy. The flaw in this logic is that Urlacher's accomplishments came in part because the Bears front line didn't do more against a Cardinals O-line that was maligned all week by everybody from the sports experts to the professional flashlighted baton wavers parking the car before the game. It just appears a little over-protective to an unbiased eye. Urlacher should have received the award, but not because of what the actual winner had to face. Players don't control the schedule anymore than fans control league awards, or tackle totals, for that matter. If some fans panties were any farther bunched up over this they could read Wednesday (today is Monday, ewww) through the red stains.

Finally, what are the chances that Mike Brown is still a Bear next year? After missing more than making the last few years, even if his body can take it, will the Bears still take his body?

That's all for now, watch where you step on the way out. Until next time, be good.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Define Perfection

With every week of continued Bears victory, the question became louder. Could the Chicago Bears really go undefeated? Who could stop them? The schedule seemed to say the Giants, Patriots, Rams, and maybe the Vikings were the only remaining challenges to somebody, anybody, shutting up the classy act that is the 1972 Dolphins. (Really now, how is everyone attached to that circus not embarrassed in public? Are those yo-yos determined to continue until death?) There was only one minor problem. The Arizona Cardinals were on the field Monday night, well before any of those "harder" teams can show up. Nobody told them, or they didn't get the message, that they were supposed to get smoked like a salmon patty. The Bears defense was going to destroy Matt Leinart in his only second NFL start. How could they not, with everyone discarding (no pun intended) their O-line as nothing more than a series of well greased turnstiles? The suddenly vaunted Bears offense was going to have it's way. The Cards were without their possibly best wide receiver, Larry Fitzgerald. The team was off to yet another impressive 1-4 start.

So what happened?
Sexy Rexy became Vexy Rexy as he began chucking the ball all over the field in a haphazard attempt to gain everything back with his next throw. Kids might imagine themselves to be pros as they play two-hand touch on their sidestreet. The real D. Clark should not be told to do a buttonhook at the old red Cutlass. When Grossman was doing fine, everybody was all a dither with the (premature) Favre comparisons. After one bad game, and he has only had a little more than a dozen games all together, how many people have forgotten that Favre wasn't the Favre they know and loathe in the beginning either. As a young quarterback Grossman will learn to stay within the system, work the offense and take the big play if and when it is given to him. It will (probably) be okay. Just breathe Bears fans. Step back from the edge.

It also didn't help that the receiver didn't do much when given something with which to work. Sure that isn't saying much, but on rough nights, every other thing comes into focus that much more. Obviously the defense (re: Urlacher) came up big in the fourth quarter. Did the Cardinals get special dispensation from outgoing Pope Tagliabue to start the game with twenty first half points? Sure the Bears offense seemed confused about whose side's offense they were playing for most of the game but still...

Overall, it could have been worse. Not by much, considering that there are no half points in the NFL, but a win, however hideous, is better than, well, what a fantastic loss? The streak rolls on. No team ever got to seven and oh before getting to six, so be happy the team escaped with the win and the hope that a young quarterback learned a valuable lesson. It is a good guess that if the team should lose and finish maybe 14-2, but win the last game of the season, a good number of folks will consider the ending, well, perfect.

Until the next time, be good.

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Monday, October 16, 2006

In the Line of Fire: Cedric Benson

(Editor's Note: Normally this would be posted on Friday, but I was incapacitated that day and night. And the subject matter is apropos to tonight's MNF game.)

"Cedric Benson takes the hand-off. Threre's a fumble! Fumblina! Fumblerusky!"

And the Buffalo Bills march 42 yards for the game ending score!

Oh, no! How can the Bears give up those 7 points? How can they disgrace themselves and all the fans? How can they leave us so bitterly disappointed?

How can they win the game only 40-7?

Don't they know perfection is a fickle and fleeting thing?

Don't they know that they run the risk of angering the football gods by giving up late game TD's instead of preserving the shutout?

I personally think that karma crapped on the Bears after Cedric Benson fumbled. The #4 overall pick in the 2005 draft by the Bears was having a great day with two TD's and plenty of playing time; he was getting back in the good graces of his teammates, the fans, and the ghosts of Papa Bear, Sweetness and the Galloping Ghost.

And then he fumbles. So let's look at perfection and how the little things can derail the Bears march to immortality.

In the previous 4 weeks the main antagonist for the perfect Bears had been a rookie punt returner who, while not costing the Bears a game yet, was having problems holding onto the pigskin and running north and south.

Fast forward to Soldier Field last Sunday, and who cost the Bears a shot at perfetion? A second string running back who was hurt most of last year, and who didn't even see the field in the one close game the Bears had had this season.

Jesus, Ced, what gives?

Are you trying to piss off your defensive teammates? Do you feel like running gauntlet drills all day during practice? Do you want random people running up to you and trying to slap out of your arms groceries or whatever other things you may be carrying? Do you wanna be booed outta Chicago, a city that loves its football heroes like no other? (Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player ever to put on a uniform and we were lucky enough to have him here in Chicago, and no one will ever confuse me for loving the Bears more than the Bulls. But I dare someone to tell me he is more loved than Walter Payton or Mike Ditka in the city of Chicago. It ain't gonna happen. Da Superfans were "Bears fans" first, and Robert Smigel was onto something when he wrote that sketch.)

This City of Big Shoulders will carry you around like a king if you just hold onto the ball. Just Brian Urlacher about the adoration he receives on a daily basis. Or Tommie Harris. Or Thomas Jones. Or long-snapper Patrick Mannely for that matter.

If you thought Texas was kind to you while you were in college, just wait and see what happens in Chicago if you win it all and are perfect in the process. They'll erect buildings and statues in your name. A new kielbasa will be created in your honor. The SEC's Florida vs. Georgia "World's Biggest Cocktail Party" game will seem like a girl's slumber party in comparison.

You're blowing it, Cedric. Just hold onto the friggin' ball.

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Catching Up On Things

What a weekend. Time off is a great thing; time away is even better. I've watched very little sports since Thursday night as I needed a "refresh my batteries" weekend to get ready for the on-coming cold winter weather. Knowing there was no Notre Dame on Saturday, and no Bears game certainly made it easier to get away from the television set.

So here goes a Quickie-style recap of the news and games I missed for the last three day while adding Fleece & Flog's unique spin on each blurb.
  • Oakland gets swept outta the playoffs by the Whi -- I mean -- the Tiggers, and downtown Detroit survives the night. I suppose the denizens of Detroit are kinda used to championships by now (think recent Red Wings and Pistons triumphs), but are they used to Maggs? Maybe they'll spray all their Ben Wallace 'fros with activator to make Maggs' 'fros.
  • Oakland has gotta be wondering what the hell hit them. Their playoff run ended quicker than a virgin's night in a whorehouse. Frank Thomas won't be leading any resurgent, scrappy team this year. Nope, he'll be collecting one hell of a payday instead. And don't be surprised if it's in the AL East.
  • The NLCS is now tied 2-2. So this is what we were waiting for: some spirited competition. There've been two shutouts, a few comebacks, clutch hitting, clutch pitching, and I basically can't call this series. Tonight's game winner will probably have the edge, and normally I'd recommend watching this game as Glavine and Weaver each pitched a gem in Game 1, but there's a certain football game on tonight.
  • How about some Chicago baseball news, you say? Well, these blurbs came out today, but I can help but throw them out in passing......
  • Maybe Joe Girardi will ask for his deposit back on that house he's having built in the north suburbs, cuz reportedly he won't be managing the Cubs. Hawk Harrelson's best friend, Lou Pinella, has signed a 3 year contract with the Cubs, and I'm hoping we don't see another explosion of retro-60's/ 70's clothing when those two get together. The area golf courses had better get extra collision insurance on their golf carts.
  • Walk softly and carry a big bat, or in the case of Juan Uribe, a gun. The White Sox shortstop is wanted for questioning in the shooting of two men in the Dominican Republic. And in case you're wondering neither men's names are Ozzie Guillen or Greg Walker.
  • FOX baseball analyst Steve Lyons was fired for insensitive comments spoken on the air concerning the bi-lingual speech of Lou Pinella. I don't think Psycho meant any harm by his comments; it sounded more like banter amongst friends. But in this politically correct day and age, we're implored to think before we speak. Of course this is a guy who forgot he was in an MLB stadium being broadcast to thousands of homes when while at first base he tried to cleam the dirt outta his pants by dropping them. I guess he doesn't think that often at all.
  • Ohio State must have a fear factor about them cuz #2 teams are dropping like flies. The #2 ranked Florida Gators are the second team in two weeks to drop outta the #2 ranking. While two incidents do not a conspiracy make, if USC or Michigan lose next week, I'm calling in Woodward and Bernstien to investigate. If they're not available, maybe Geraldo will take the case.
  • Speaking of the Big Ten, the canyon between the haves and the have-nots is far and wide. Iowa falls to Indiana. MSU fell to the Illini earlier in the season. The normally tough Minnesota Golden Gophers are 2-5 this season. Notre Dame got spanked by...wait, ND isn't in the Big Ten. I can't wait for OSU to smash U of M.
  • The Miami/ Florida International game and brawl is just another black eye for college football. Or should I say about 40 black eyes. If Larry Coker survives the season with his job it'll be another conspiracy mystery to ponder. Dan Lebatard can have this story. Bring back Butch Davis.
  • The Chicago Blackhawks fall 4-3 to the St. Louis Blues and yet are finding fans with their energy and fun style of play. One guy that won't be voted as a fan favorite, however, is Nikolai Khabibulin. Patrick Lalime is due back from injury when? Get your organ lessons now!
  • The Chicago Bulls won their second preseason game in Phog Allen Fieldhouse. If a ball goes thru a hoop in the woods and no one is there to hear it, does it really equal 2 points? Oh, and Kirk Hinrich needs to stop making Ganja Garcia his best friend.
  • And finally, I'm praying for rain here in Chicago tonight. Why? So my softball game gets cancelled so I can watch the Bear on MNF. Anyone of American Indian heritage wanna indulge me with a rain dance? Please? I'll pay you!

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

ALCS Game 2 Recap and NLCS Game 1 Preview

Detroit Tiggers defeat the Oakland A's: 8-5
(Tiggers lead the best of 7 series: 2-0)

And once again, a playoff game reeked of White Sox past playoff failures. At least Frank Thomas, the greatest player in White Sox history, didn't strike out. No, he only flew out to deep center. With the bases loaded. With two outs. In the bottom of the 9th inning. Losing by 3 runs. There will be no hero worship today for the Big Hurt, no, today's hero worship will be reserved for southside native Curtis Granderson, and this year's Geoff Blum, Alexis Gomez.

Granderson hit his homer in the top of the 9th inning with the Tiggers already leading by two runs. Sure it was somwhat inconsequential, but anything a former Southsider does will get publicity here at Fleece & Flog.

The true hero, and number 8 hitter, was Alexis Gomez who took an ailing Sean Casey's spot in the lineup. All he did was go for 2-4 with a HR and 4 RBIs. I love it when the little guy stands up and makes a name for himself. Geoff Blum will never have to pay for another meal on the South Side of Chicago after his World Series heroics and same will be true for Gomez if the Tiggers go on to win it all.

One more Athletics note: Milton Bradley hit two homers in the game, one from each side of the plate, and made more than a few people chuckle by going into a full out sprint around the bases after one of his homers.

Okay, one more Athletics note: former White Sox pitcher Esteban Loaiza threw a Kit Keller-like performance, pitching watermelons to the Tiggers for his 6.0 innings. I'm sure glad he wasn't pitching for the White Sox last year.

Jeff Weaver goes for the St. Louis Cardinals


Tom Glavine goes for the New York Mets

NLCS Game 1 @ Shea Stadium, Queens, New York
7:05 PM CST on FOX

The aberration and sadsack that is Jeff Weaver will not make it out of the 4th inning tonight. I wonder if he wishes he had signed with the White Sox when he had the chance.

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Can T.O. Stand For Time Off?

As a Cowboys fan, I am continually torn between rooting for the team, and against the team's highest pained (in the neck) receiver. So even as Dallas lost last week to a division rival, I was less than devastated. It allowed me to cheer on a guy I think is one of the classier acts in the NFL. I speak of Chicago lad Donovan McNabb. I have followed his career since he was in high school through his standout Syracuse years into the NFL were too many shortsighted Philadelphia fans were bitter about McNabb being drafted. I will continue to root for Dallas and against the idiot-bomb that is Terrell Owens. When he was on the Eagles last year, I hoped the team would cut him and he would sign with the Giants or Washington to bring about the ruin of another division rival and leave our hometown guy alone. I realize that everyone who isn't a Cowboys fan is enjoying the clustermuck he has already caused in Dallas, as would I. I can no longer think of any team I would wish him upon.
It would be nice to see him on an Irish club football team, though. If you know the type of game of which I speak, you are probably getting a good chuckle right now.
Until next time, be good.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Promos, Promos and More Promos

Inspired by the nifty little partnership between 7-Eleven and the White Sox, other Chicago sports franchises and athletes jumped into the fray with quaint verbal and optical marketing associations. Here's a look at their unique marketing ploys.

Chicago Bears & Bumble Bee Tuna.

On Novemebr 5th, when Bears face Miami, the first 20,000 ticket holders entering Soldier Field will receive a specially marked can of non-dolphin-safe tuna. As the Bears look to become only the second undefeated team in NFL history, each can will contain bits and pieces of a Bob Griese, Larry Csonka or Mercury Morris and on the field can be found some dead Daunte Culpepper, Ronnie Brown and Chris Chambers. In an unprecedented move, PETA condones the brutal act of violence by the Bears and Bumble Bee Tuna because they too are sick of the '72 Dolphins showing up with their champagne toast after the last undefeated team gets beat each season.

Chicago Bulls & McAfee Computer Security Systems

The ad line goes something like this: "Protect your family and yourself from malware, spyware and NBA players with guns." Steven Schanwald, director of business operations for the Bulls, installs a metal detector sponsored by McAfee in front of the visiting team's locker room, and in a free-tacos/ free-hamburgers inspired bit, hands out little cards with one player's name on it from that night's opposing team. If the player on your card gets caught with a gun entering the locker room, you will receive a free copy of McAfee anti-virus software. Anyone with a Ron Artest card on opening night will win the prize.

Chicago Blackhawks & Big Ben Clocks

In a marketing promotion to recall the glory days of the Blackhawks' last Stanley Cup victory in '60s, Big Ben Clocks sponsors a game promo called "Turn Back the Clock" Night at the United Center. Blackhawk players are asked to skate without helmets and Nikolai Khabibulin is asked to not don a goalie mask as they face the other Original Six team and hated rival Detroit Red Wings. The first 10,000 people entering the UC will receive mini travel clocks embossed with a team logo on the top of the case. After Martin Havlat scores the third goal of his hat trick, there's an hour delay as clean-up crews must pick up the pieces of 10,000 mini-clocks that rained down on the UC ice. Unfortunately they won't get all the debris and the Blackhawks' leading scorer, Rene Borque, will trip over a tiny spring tearing his ACL and breaking a cheek bone in the subsequent collision with the ice. Later Jim Vandermeer will be pummelled in a fight by the Red Wing enforcer after taking a shot to his helmet-less dome and in his delirium will march upstairs to the owner's suite and shove a mini travel clock up Bill Wirtz's ass. Bill Wirtz then sells the team to the Wal-Mart Corporation, and mayor Daley immediately reinstates the "black box" wage law for consideration if the team doesn't televise home games leading to a generous television contract between Channel 26 and the Blackhawks and a resurgent Blackhawks' fan base.

Chicago Cubs & American Family Insurance
A season long promotion. The Cubs and Wrigley Field are called as American as apple pie and Budweiser and American Family Insurance wants to insure that you know the dangers of binge drinking. Where better to advertise than the World's Biggest Beer Garden, Wrigley Field. But the venerable old stadium has other ideas. During "70's Day at the Park", part of the upper deck of Wrigley Field collapses after a ten section long, Soul Train dance line breaks out. American Family Insurance is the main benefactor of most of the injured and goes bankrupt after the Tribune Company refuses to pay any restitution to the injured parties. One good thing comes out of the tragedy: Wrigley Field is finally demolished, and a retractable roof stadium is erected in its place. However it too will have a tragic ending as a fan offers to sacrifice a live goat on an alter in front of the new building only to have the goat kick over the fire pit burning down everything north of Addison for three blocks. When the Cubs finally get back on their feet, they'll move to Rockford, Illinois and finally win a World Series.

Chicago Wolves & Value City Department Stores
Thrift is the name of the game for this promo. Knowing they have more recent championships then their NHL neighbors and believing their product to a better value than their NHL neighbors, the AHL Wolves and Value City sponsor a "Bang for your Buck Puck" Night. The first 10,000 fans entering All-State Arena will receive an officially licensed Chicago Wolves hockey puck. But things will go terribly wrong when lines to get into the arena stagnate like the lines at the check out in the department store, and a woman decides to share her e.coli-tainted spinach dip with other impatient and hungry ticket holders. Thirty-five hundred people will fall sick in the epidemic, and Value City and the Wolves will be sued for a lack of reguard for patrons' safety and insufficient access to public toilets.

Chicago Rush & Stacker 3 Weight Loss Products

After Chicago is called the Fattest City in America, Chicago Rush officials decide to do something about the problem and team up with Stacker 3 in a promo called "Get Your Rush On!" Rush season ticket holders are to be provided with sample packs of Stacker 3 diet pills to stimulate energy and enthusiam for the Arena Football League Champion Chicago Rush. At the Stacker manufacturing and distribution plant, a batch of body cleansing laxative pills will accidentally make its way into the sample packs of Stacker 3 diet pills. And the promo will suddenly take on a new and completely unrelated meaning. In a strange bit of irony, about 400 people will actually experience a miraculous 5 lb. weight loss after missing the entire first quarter in the bathroom.

Chicago Fire & Revlon Makeup Products

Someone has to make Soccer look appealing to Americans, so the Revlon officials hire former runway models to strut their stuff in provocative and revealing Fire-inspired outfits up and down Toyota Field's bleachers. At first the idea is a huge success. Toyota Field is packed for every Fire home game, the team is selling out its apparell in the gift shops, and food and liquor sales have skyrocketed. Eventually and sadly the divorce rate amongst Polish and Hispanic immigrant populations in Chicago will skyrocket as a direct result of the promo, and Toyota Field will become a ghost-town of sorts as no self-respecting wife will allow her husband to attend the tawdry spectacle that is a Fire game. It will be revealed, however, that a prostitution ring was secretly hired by Revlon to do the modelling, and the interest in the Fire wasn't generated by the product on the field but by the blowjobs in the parking lot.

Javy Vaszquez & Pop Rocks
Each kid entering US Cellular Field is given a pack of Pop Rocks, the explode-in-your-mouth candy, at each of Javy's home starts but isn't allowed to eat the volitile candy until the 6th inning simulating Javy's soon-to-come implosion.

Andres Nocioni & Speed Stick

A story was told during the World Basketball Championships about Noc and his odiferous decision to refrain from bathing during the exhibition in China this past offseason. To capitalize on this, the Bulls and Speed Stick will team up to sponsor the Andres Nocioni Speed Stick challenge. Anytime the Bulls go on a winning streak, Andres will not bathe. He will strictly use Speed Stick to hide his offensiveness. For court-side seated patrons, the first person to pass out form the Andres' eminations will win a year's supply of Speed Stick. Each winning streak will bring a new winner. And subsequently the Bulls players will start a new fashion trend by wearing nose plugs during the games after the first Bulls 4 game win streak.

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ALCS Game 1 Recap (and a few links)

Detroit Tiigers beat the Oakland Athletics: 5-1
(Tiggers lead best of 7 series: 1-0)

Last night's Game 1 should be called the deja vu game for White Sox fans for a few reasons . As I watched it I got the feeling I'd seen it all before -- the suddenly dominating Tiggers pitching who only 10 days ago were swept out of an AL Central division title by the lowly KC Royals, the A's inabilitiy to get the clutch hit with runners on base or more specifically the abundance of GIDPs by Oakland. A closer look inside the numbers shows the A's had 24 men LOB and 4 DP's. That's alot of A's shitting their pants when it counts.

The flipside has Detroit pulling out of its ass a 2005 White Sox-like pitching performance minus the complete game from Nate Robertson the Tiggers' Game 1 starter. He pitched a gutty and gritty 5.0 innings of 6 hit, 3BB, no run baseball and induced 3 of the 4 Oakland DPs. The relief core of Fernando Rodney, Joel Zumaya and Todd Jones pitched lights out for 4 innings giving up just one run. And a little guy led theTiggers at the plate. Hitting 9th in the lineup, Brandon Inge was 3 for 3 with 2 Rs and 2 RBIs and started the scoring with his first post-season HR off A's starter Barry Zito.

Speaking of Zito, Mr. "I-want-$50-million-dollars-to-be-your-man" will probably have to chop a few million dollars off his salary demands after his ugly, 3.1 inning, 5 run, 7 hit, 3 BB, 0 K, 2 HR, dare I say, Mark Buehrle-like performance. Personally, I've never liked Zito despite his dominance over the White Sox. (He is 8-2 in 12 career starts against the Palehose with a 3.22 ERA.) Even with his devastating overhand curveball, he gets hit a little too much, always gives up around 25 HRs a season and walks about 90 hitters a season. He throws strikeouts a little more frequently, but Zito reminds me of that most bile-tastic of pitchers, Mark Buehrle, and anyone who has read my Buehrle Bile File over at ChiSoxBlog.com knows how I feel about Mark.

At least the bile didn't affect the broadcast booth as much as it did the field. Assuming he was wearing pants, Steve "Psycho" Lyons provided pretty decent commentary even tweaking his partner and color-guy Lou Pinella, the man who sounds like your drunken uncle in the early stages of Alzheimers disease. Everytime I hear him, Pinella reminds me more and more of an aging Harry Caray in the booth, and I can't understand how someone would offer this guy a managerial position. And in that reguard, please, Cubs, sign him. When I picture him ranting from the podium at Wrigley, I see high comedy -- a Bill Parcells of baseball. And I'd really love to see a guy's head actually explode at a baseball game. The Cubs play would certainly provide that kind of an opportunity.


A Few Links...

Sorry for the lack of a post yesterday. Like a couple of my fellow bloggers including Fornelli (Foul Balls) and Criminal Appeal (Ron Karkovice Fan Club), the flu/cold/viral infection has affected the environs of Fleece & Flog. Unlike my blogging brethren I went the baby route and moaned for someone to take care of me all day. The post above was a trial in perseverence for me as I should be lying down, and until they invent an apparatus that allows you to type while lying on your back, I'll just have to be vertical and type in a state of delirium.

Because of the Chicago flu season, I'm sending you readers to a few of Fleece & Flog's friends for some comprehensive ALCS & NLCS previews.

Check out Jeeves' previews at ChiSoxBlog.com of the Mets and Cards and the Tiggers and Athletics.
Check out Fornelli's previews at FoulBalls.com of the Mets and Cards and the Tiggers and Athletics.

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Monday, October 09, 2006

We Are The Bears, 5-0 Crew, Crushin' On Down, Doin' It For You...

1986. The year of Sony Walkmans, Cosby sweaters and Nintendo.

That's the answer to a trivia question posted by many a media outlet after the Bear's shellacking of the Buffalo Bills yesterday, 40-7.

When was the last time the Bears started a season 5-0?


Fast forward twenty years to the present 2006. In the age of I-Pods, WiFi and Segways, an old stand by is dominating the NFL in ways not seen since, well, a certain Super Bowl Shuffling Crew.

I'm gonna point out two simple stats that should tell you all you need to know about this 2006 Bears team. They have scored 156 points thru 5 games and they have given up only 36 points thru 5 games. Both those stats lead the league. Yes, you read that correctly. After 5 weeks, the Bears are the leaders in offense AND defense.

'Nuff Said.

Unless someone wants to make another shufflin' video; just don't let Steve Fuller anywhere near the set.

Fleece & Flog's Week 5 NFL TOP FIVE:
  1. Da Bears (5-0): Damn it Cedric! You fumbled away an opportunity for the Bears D to shutout the Bills. You scored 2 TD's? Who cares! Don't you know this is Chicago and we're all about the D?
  2. Indianapolis Colts (5-0): Losing to the Titans at home? Oh, you won that game in the final minutes 14-13? Congrats, I think.
  3. Philadelphia Eagles (4-1): People say yesterday's win against Dallas and T.O. was the most exciting game of the season. Have they watched the Bears?
  4. New England (4-1): Beware the sleeping giant that is Tom Brady and the Patriots.
  5. San Diego Chargers (3-1): Yeah, so, Baltimore lost on Monday night, so they got dropped big time. Someone had to fill their place.

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Can We Finally See Some Playoff Baseball?

St. Louis Cardinals knock the San Diego Padres out of the playoffs: 6-2

I said Chris Carpenter was too good to lose to Padres, and I thought I'd be eating those words after Carp gave up 2 runs in the 1st inning. But it was just a awrm up period, as the offense would tie it up in the next half inning and then explode in the 6th for 4 more runs.

If it weren't for the Yankees post season failures of the past few years, St. Louis might be facing some serious scutiny for there own failures. But the east coast bias (and impending Joe Torre/ A-Rod-gate) will keep the spotlight outta the midwest for a little while longer.

Despite recent postseason ugliness, this year's Cards' ALDS offense was balanced, the pitching was clutch and LaRussa's didn't make any glaringly bad decisions.

And we say syonara to the year's NL West failure, the Padres, who are only in the playoffs cuz someone has to represent the the ignored left coast. Not to pile on or accentuate the White Sox misery, but former Sox Mike Cameron was 0-4 with 3 Ks and 3 LOBs yesterday.

And now it's on to the ALCS, where some real baseball might actually get played.

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Sunday, October 08, 2006

Not To Beat A Dead Horse Or Anything, But...

Bill Wirtz Sucks!
The Blackhawks lose their home opener at the United Center: 5-4
I can't comment on the game really, cuz I wasn't at the game.
And we all know I didn't watch it on television!
But if all the games are like the last two, it should be an exciting season.
Too bad I'll only see about half of it.

And I found a pretty cool Blackhawk's site! WirtzSucks.com. Check it out for all your Blackhawk news.

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Obligatory Notre Dame Recap/ CFB Ramblings

(Editor's Note: Recaps are so much easier to write. There's an immediate focus -- the game itself -- and you don't have to mince words so much. If someone sucked, you say they sucked. In the words of Hawk Harrelson, "I love recaps." Also check out Jeeves' commentary below concerning the new time clock rules and how they screwed the U. of Washington out of an upset over USC. Good stuff.)
Notre Dame 31
Stanford 10

Bustin' out the shamrock today cuz we're moving on up!

The Golden Child or Mr. Quarterback McDreamy (yes, I, too, have heard the Patrick Dempsey/ Grey's Anatomy inspired name) may have thrown his name back into the Heisman conversation with his 27 of 37, 232 yd, 3 TD performance against the Cardinal of Stanford. He found 7 different receivers yesterday including 7 completions to the Caucasion Sensation, Jeff Smardjiza.

Darius Walker had a fine day in sun-soaked Notre Dame Stadium running for 153 yards on 25 carries and 1 TD. Yeah, that's a 6.3 yards per carry average! We even got to see a little of the future of the Notre Dame running attack in Aldridge and Prince today.

But back to Darius Walker for a minute.

When Brady Quinn thanks his o-line for protecting his future NFL millions, he'd better throw a nod Darius's way. More than a nod even; he'd better kiss Darius's ass cuz it was Darius who blew up many a blitzing linebacker and defensive back in yesterday's game. (He himself got blown up on a few blocks, but stood in the way long enough for Brady to get the pass off.) Lovie Smith of the Bears intimated recently that the reason Cedric Benson hasn't seen that much of the field is for fear that he might not know his blocking assignments. If that's the case, why don't they just draft Darius walker right now. He chopped every blitzing safety, slobber-knocked a few linebackers and helped out the tackles a few times when the defensive ends would get the corner. Oh, by the way, Darius caught 6 passes yesterday too. I'm not sure if he's big enough for an every-down runner or fast enough for a scat-back to make it in the NFL, but Darius Walker is my player of the game against Stanford.

One more thing about the game, and, more specifically about Stanford. If they are called the Cardinal (not the plural Cardinals by the way), why is their symbol/ mascot a tree? I'm sure I can look it up and find out, but I'd rather hear it from someone out in cyberland. (And once again, I'm dreadfully lazy.)

Other CFB notes from a few of yesterday's games ...

-Arkansas 27 (#2) Auburn 10: I watched a lot of this game and I came away thinking 3 things.
  1. Mitch Mustain is one lucky son of a bitch. But that luck started the ball rolling. Midway thru the first quarter with game still up in the air Mustain, with an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink blitz baring down on him, threw an ill-advised, off-the-backfoot, flightless-as-a-penguin pass that had the Auburn defensive back, unit, coaches and fans thinking interception for 6 points. Too bad for them Marcus Monk had other ideas. He somehow managed to pilfer the ball away from the DB (who fell down more out of embarrassment in my opinion) and took it 50 yards to the house for the TD.
  2. Arkansas can run the friggin' football. 284 yards on the ground against a defense that was considered to be the best in college football.
  3. If ND is overrated as many people say, Auburn shouldn't even be in the rankings. Okay, hyperbole aside, this Arkansas team lost to USC 50-14, so what does that say for Auburn's, and for that matter USC's, rankings? I'm guessing Auburn takes a huge tumble in the standings this week.
-Three other teams ranked ahead of Notre Dame lost on Saturday. #9 LSU lost to #5 Florida (23-10), #10 Georgia lost to #13 Tennessee (51-33), and #11 Oregon last to #16 Cal (45-24). Add to losses the Auburn defeat, and Notre Dame returns to the lower half of the Top Ten rankings, and is on schedule for a ticket to a BCS Bowl.

-USC escapes the University of Washington 26-20, and Jeeves is mad as hell at the NCAA about it. You see he's a UCLA fan, you know, that other university in LA that brought you such stellar athletes as Lew Alcindor, Troy Aikman and my all-time fave, Cade "I stole my best friend's Playmate girlfriend and then got dumped by her anyways" McNown.

-From the it-was-good-while-it-lasted department...the Fighting Illini 32 Indiana 34, and their one game win streak in the Big Ten is over. I imagine my friend Soxually Repressed will have a thing or two to say about this game, but I'd just like to point out that, for the Illini, losing at home to an Indiana team that had previously lost to SIU and UConn wouldn't be considered all that bad -- if they were playing them in basketball! Did I mention the Illini had a 22-7 lead at one point in this game? Did I mention that there was exactly 0:01 left on the time clock when Indiana kicked the GW FG? Did I mention that trying to plant a flag in the middle MSU's field after the upset win last week probably didn't endear the Illini to the football gods, and that in order to restore good karma to the Illini Ron Zook will have to be flogged naked at half time when the #1 team in the nation, the Ohio State Buckeyes, pay Champaign Illinois a visit on November 4th? It must be done; we don't need these mistakes in judgement affecting the whole athletic program at Illinois. I mean, we do have a pretty good basketball program to think about.

-Northwestern 9 Wisconsin 41: Pat Fitzgerald is probably finding coaching a little more difficult than playing was. I had the misfortune of playing against Pat in high school, and his Sandburg teams teams spanked my Reavis teams repeatedly. Oh, for a Notre Dame v. Northwestern game, so I can enjoy a small measure of revenge.

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