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Archive for January, 2007

Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts Do Media Day At The Super Bowl

Posted by sportsmaven on January 31, 2007

Today was Super Bowl XLI Media Day and I found it to be quite an amusing and fun day. The day began with the Chicago Bears taking the interview podiums first (12 podiums lined end zone to end zone on one sideline of the playing field in Dolphins Stadium) for one hour followed by the Indianapolis Colts.

Bears Media Day 1

When the day began, the media mavens rushed down the aisles of the stadium towards the players on the field like shoppers rushing the Wal-Mart at 5am the day after Thanksgiving

Bears Media Day 2

The Indianapolis Colts were 10 minutes late to today’s media session, keeping up a trend which the media finds quite disturbing. The big name players got the podiums (names such as Rex Grossman, Brian Urlacher, Bernard Berrian, and Muhsin Muhammad for the Bears, Peyton Manning, Adam Vinatieri, Marvin Harrison, and Reggie Wayne). The topics were varied.

Bears Media Day 3

Bears Media Day 4

Some of the highlights of today’s media session:

– Bernard Berrian was asked what kind of syrup he liked on his pancakes (he likes maple)
– An unnamed Bears player was asked his preference, Levitra or Viagra.
– Peyton Manning admits he was pulling for the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship Game (obvious, as he is from New Orleans)
– Reggie Wayne being asked what it was like to receive a pass from Peyton Manning.
– Adam Vinatieri asked if he is related to Evel Knievel by Steve Mariucci from the NFL Network (he is) and asked to say hi to NFL fans in Japan.
– Tank Johnson asked about 100 questions on his pending gun charges and murder of his bodyguard.
– American Idol rejects (hired by Jimmy Kimmel) trying to get Bears and Colts players to sing.

All and all, it was a good day. Seemed like the Bears embraced media day while the Colts endured it. Deion Sanders from the NFL Network stated that he thought the Bears were exciting and provacative in their sessions (no mention of what the Colts did for Deion).

Another note on routine and adaptability: Plenty has been made on the Bears showing up to Miami early Sunday and the Colts choosing to come later on Monday. The Colts wanted to maintain as much routine as possible, which is a fine goal, BUT THIS IS THE SUPER BOWL, the biggest stange in the world. There is absolutely NOTHING routine about the Super Bowl, where everything is super sized and done to the max, so sticking to as much routine as possible throughout this circus environment may prove to be an exercise in futility. Routine is good for preparation, but too much stock can be put into routine. My belief is not that the team who sticks closest to their weekly routine has the edge, but rather the team that is most adaptable and adapts to the demands of the bright lights the quickest has the advantage. Right now, I feel the Bears have been that more adaptable team, giving them my edge in the chess match known as the Super Bowl…..

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Chicago Bears Show Up Early, Get Down To Business

Posted by sportsmaven on January 30, 2007

Plenty has been made of the Indianapolis Colts not arriving in Miami until Monday night. At 7:17pm local time, the Colts plane touched down in Miami and begin their whirlwind Super Bowl week in the cover of darkness. Controversy followed the Colts, as sportswriters filed a grievance with the NFL over the Colts late arrival (well later arrival than the Bears.) The Chicago Bears arrived a full day earlier, on Sunday afternoon. Attired in business suits, on what Coach Lovie Smith calls a “business trip” the Bears got the head start on facing the media and circus like onslaught that is characteristic of past Super Bowls.

Bears Arriving In Miami

Bears Arriving in Florida

It is widely believed that the team that deals with the adversity the best, the team that settles down and adapts to the environment first has improved it’s chance of coming out on top come game day, as the distractions are plentiful. The team that is less distracted and more in routine has a better shot of winning this game. The Bears have had a full day head start, while the Colts will have to play catch up.

The Bears are still 7 pt. underdogs going into Sunday’s game. The pressure is squarely not on the Bears, as most reasonable people believe that the Colts have the far superior offense. From Lovie Smith, to Rex Grossman, Brian Urlacher, Adewale Ogunleye, these Bears are preparing and having fun, being the loose team. Time will tell if the Colts have the opportunity to do such.

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Sports Maven’s Top 5 Needs for White Sox in 2007

Posted by sportsmaven on January 29, 2007

This weekend was the 15th Annual SoxFest Fan Convention at the Palmer House Hyatt in downtown Chicago. The timing was mixed for Chicago White Sox fans, as it just so happens that the convention fell on the weekend prior to Super Bowl XLI, and the Chicago Bears just happen to be playing in that Super Bowl for the first time in 21 years. Chicago Cubs fans know how that goes with the last two seasons of Bears playoff home games coinciding with the Cubs Convention, but fortunately, the week is slow for Super Bowl news.

The big news out of SoxFest was GM Kenny Williams inadvertent torching of P Mark Buehrle’s chances of being with the White Sox past the ’07 season. The White Sox made plenty of news this off-season by trading P Freddie Garcia to the Philadelphia Phillies for P Gavin Floyd and P Gio Gonzalez, a move I liked, by the way. I felt the more sketchy move was trading P Brandon McCarthy to the Texas Rangers for P John Danks and P Nick Masset. I felt McCarthy was the young pitcher that Williams was using to build his strategy of post-title rebuilding to stave off the hyper inflation of pitcher salaries. This is a HUGE roll of the dice with the payoff being very marginal, at best.

Regardless, if the White Sox are to have a chance to get back to the post-season and compete for a World Series title, I predict 5 key needs/things will have to happen. They are:

1. Bullpen needs to be way more solid. Last year’s bullpen was a bit of a mess, especially in left handed relief. The White Sox had a hard time bridging the gap to closer Bobby Jenks. LHP Matt Thornton was a terrific surprise for the White Sox, but P Neal Cotts (since traded to the Chicago Cubs) was a disaster. The White Sox bullpen is now filled with power arms from both sides with the addition of RHP David Aardsma (from the Cubs trade), LHP Andrew Sisco, and late season pick up RHP Mike MacDougal. Add LHP Boone Logan into that mix and there are a lot of power arms that can really bring it. If this group can somehow find the consistency that was non-existent last season, this will put the White Sox worlds ahead of where they were last season.

2. Fill the hole in CF — CF Brian Anderson was a major disappointment last season. He will be the first to admit that. That being said, there is no way the White Sox can go into the 2007 season with that same kind of hole in their lineup. Anderson actually caused two holes, as his hitting in the 8/9 spot was virtually an automatic out in a strong White Sox lineup and caused power hitting 2B Tadahito Iguchi to have to hit in the #2 spot, which he is able, but would be much better suited to hit lower in the order. I’m very encouraged by the signing of OF Darrin Erstad and the developement of OF’s Jerry Owens and Josh Fields. Brian Anderson has a fight on his hands this season. He could very well end up from the starting CF in Chicago to starting CF in Charlotte.

3. Buehrle needs to come back in form, need strong seasons from the #4/#5 starters — P Mark Buehrle needs to rebound from a career worst 12-13 4.99 ERA season to be the typical Mark Buehrle we are used to seeing. P Javier Vasquez finished the season on a strong note, but was essentially a 5 inning pitcher for most of the season. The since departed P Freddy Garcia had an up and down season, but finished very strong. (although his fastball lost some life this past season) The struggles of the starting rotation only highlighted the difficulties in the bullpen, as they were forced to pitch more in bad/ineffective/short outings by starters Buehrle/Garcia/Vasquez. The bottom of the rotation is now new, with Vasquez holding down the #4 spot in the rotation, and the #5 that could be Gavin Floyd or Charlie Haeger. Either way, the bottom of the order plus Buehrle need to step it up bigtime for the White Sox to compete.

4. Jim Thome, Jermaine Dye, Paul Konerko need to keep up with the big bats — otherwise, the White Sox have no chance. Any significant drop in one or two of the Big 3 will spell doom for the White Sox. The White Sox have an almost perfect balanced lineup, power hitters and avg./contact hitters, hitters with speed, and fairly good lefty/righty balance. The Big 3 keeps producing, the White Sox are in the race. If not, will be a long, grinder season that won’t be pretty.

5. Develop a replacement for LF Scott Podsednik — I am not a big Scott Podsednik fan. I thought in 2005, he did what he needed to to ignite the White Sox and in the playoffs he was huge, but 2006 really showed that he and Anderson were the weak links in an otherwise formidible White Sox lineup. Now, Scottie Pods starts out 2007 behind the 8-ball with groin surgery. The White Sox need an effective leadoff hitter badly and Scottie Pods is not the answer…..another season like ’06 and the White Sox find more trouble.

The White Sox lived off of the 2005 World Series last season, but things change quickly. The intoxication of the first World Series victory in 88 years is nearly worn off and the construction on the Dan Ryan expressway is a year over schedule, so the White Sox have some work to do to get even close to last year’s attendance record. Do all 5 above, the White Sox are in the playoffs. Anything less, the AL Central is too strong and the White Sox will find themselves on the outside looking in.

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Chicago Blackhawks Lose — Again

Posted by sportsmaven on January 28, 2007

The Chicago Blackhawks are a franchise in distress. It doesn’t matter which players they bring in our who coaches this team. It doesn’t matter who the GM is, this team is lousy. Bring in Nikolai Khabibulin and he gets crushed every night. Adrian Aucoin — injured and ineffective. Brian Smolinski — invisible. The only one performing consistently is Martin Havlat. The Blackhawks got a little bit of a bump when Denis Savard was named head coach, and I definitely like his style over that of the very unmatched and bad hire, Trent Yawney. (who’s team play mirrored his last name) Last night’s loss to the Nashville Predators is the Blackhawks 10th winless game in a row, and they are virtually out of the playoff race.

So what to do to fix this team? Who knows what this team needs. It definitely needs more talent on the rise. It definitely needs more goal scoring. Ultimately, the team needs a refreshing new view from ownership. Top to bottom, this team is not getting the job done.

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Perception Is Reality For The Chicago Bears

Posted by sportsmaven on January 27, 2007

Chicago Bears mania has totally engulfed the city of Chicago. I had arrived home from my business trip to Washington, DC and the cab driver that was driving me home begins talking about the Bears. He then changed the subject to something unrelated to sports, mainly my flight home and how we both like big planes over little planes because we feel safer in large planes. At this point, we both agreed that we didn’t know why we felt that way, for there is really no difference between a big plane and small plane. We PERCEIVE it to be safer, thus our perceptions become our reality.

The same thing can be said about the Bears being underdogs to the Indianapolis Colts and their perception that they are underdogs, their perception that nobody believes they can win, thier perception that the Bears get no respect, their perception is that Peyton Manning is a much better QB than Rex Grossman (well, maybe that one isn’t too far from reality) My point is at this juncture of the season, teams are looking for any edge to help them gain an advantage to help them win the game. The Bears did it superbly last week against the New Orleans Saints and it looks like this week and next, the media and all the pundits are lining up the Bears to feed off the underdog/no respect card once again.

The gap between perception and reality doesn’t have to be large, it just has to be sellable to motivate one team over the other. The media is making that gap larger and Lovie Smith and the Bears are using it to build one of the Bears most successful playoff season mottos: “Play Angry”. I like that and I like the Bears. Play with a chip on your shoulder and FINISH.

By the way, after the Colts won the AFC Championship in the biggest comeback in AFC Championship history, guess who was on the cover of this week’s issue of Sports Illustrated:

peytonmanning-1-26-07.jpg

The Saints last week and now the Colts? If this doesn’t bode well for the Bears, I don’t know what will……

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