Chicago Sports Inside and Out – The Chicago Sports Maven

Bringing Chicago sports to the world!

Archive for June, 2008

Grading the Chicago Bears 2008 NFL Draft

Posted by sportsmaven on June 30, 2008

The Chicago Bears opened their rookie mini-camp and all eyes are on evaluating the rookies of the 2008 draft class, as well as the two free agent QB acquisitions. Now that all the draft grades have been passed out, the Bears look to have had a strong draft, as judged by nearly every football prognosticator, talent evaluator, and draft guru. The expert draft grades:

ESPN’s Mel Kiper: Chicago Bears: GRADE: B
AOL’s FanHouse: Chicago Bears: Grade: B

More grades? Your thoughts? Please feel free to send me a link……

Posted in Chicago Bears | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Living The American Dream

Posted by sportsmaven on June 30, 2008

Magnus Midtvedt was a foreign exchange student from just outside Oslo, Norway. Magnus was also a student that lived in our home since the last week of August in 2007. Today, Magnus went home to Norway, 10 months after arriving in the United States and the Chicago suburbs as a young, quiet, shy boy from Scandinavia.

I have been waiting to write about Magnus all year, mostly because I wanted to fully experience the wholeness of hosting an exchange student before putting it to words, but watching Magnus pack for his journey home brought back the memories that he has lived since the day he arrived in the International Terminal at O’Hare Airport last August.

Magnus arrived to the shores of Lake Michigan alone and unassuming. He was very much a young boy, traveling half way around the world to embark on a journey we all knew would be special, but yet he was to begin this journey alone, and amongst strangers. He was brave and courageous to do this on his own, but Magnus had a dream to play basketball in the US and Northbrook, Illinois is where it was to happen for him.

Basketball in Norway is a fledgling sport, still very much at the grass roots level, meaning not very advanced. As a young boy, Magnus fell in love with basketball and with Michael Jordan while watching the movie, Space Jam. Little did he realize that in a few short months, he would be living his American Dream.

Every young boy has dreams of being a schoolboy sports hero, whether on the gridiron or the court. In Magnus’ case, it would be the hardwood of the basketball court. Magnus worked countless hours in our backyard basketball court with the hopes of just making the Glenbrook North High School basketball team. Not only did Magnus make the team, but he developed into one of the best shooters on the team, parlaying that into valuable playing time off the bench and a remarkable run into the state playoffs in a magnificent season of American high school basketball.

Magnus’ shining moment was in the Proviso West Holiday Basketball Tournament this past December. Glenbrook North was scheduled to play Whitney Young, a local powerhouse and a top contender for the Class AA state basketball championship. One of Whitney Young’s top players was G Marcus Jordan, the son of Magnus’ basketball idol. The game was broadcast on Comcast Sports Net, the local sports cable television outlet. Sitting in the stands behind the Glenbrook North bench was perhaps the best player ever to play the game of basketball, Michael Jordan. Magnus entered in the 4th quarter of a one sided game, where he proceeded to hit a 3 pointer in front of his hero and idol. Michael acknowledged the moment with a little fist pump and Magnus was in heaven. There could be no better moment to witness someone living the dream of their lifetime. I was proud to be present to witness such an accomplishment, but also humbled and thankful to experience the rare and wonderful moment of a dream fulfilled.

That moment happened over 7 months ago, and it was one of many, many moments that Magnus has experienced in his brief stay as a member of our household. In my eyes and heart, that was the one moment that will forever define our experience with Magnus. As the parade of newly made friends came to say their goodbyes this afternoon, I watched the completion of the development and maturation of a young man, a boy no longer.

As I walked Magnus to the security line at the airport and said my goodbye, I felt a large part of my existence for the last year was leaving with him. I have to admit that it was a difficult moment for both of us, but more difficult that I would have thought for me. As I watched Magnus go though the security line, I noticed how American he had become – wearing the basketball shirt, the baggy jeans shorts that kept falling down as he took off his belt to go through the metal detector, to hearing one of his favorite new American sayings “my bad”.

As Magnus gathered his belongings from security, he took one look back, waved bye to me, and walked around the corner to his new life, a life of unlimited potential and dreams fulfilled, with many new dreams to follow.

Posted in High School/Prep Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Chicago Cubs Run Into A Mid-Season Rut

Posted by sportsmaven on June 30, 2008

No doubt, so far in the 2008 season, Chicago Cubs fans have been treated to great baseball above and beyond any fathomable expectations. The Cubs entered June with the best record in baseball and have played most of the month of June with that same label, but as June comes to a close, the Cubs are limping to a well deserved and needed break for the 2008 All-Star game at Yankee Stadium in New York.

For the first time this season, the Cubs are facing adversity. The Cubs have played so well that even fickle fans have been spoiled by the lengthy and meaningful success the Cubs have enjoyed so far this season. Their season long dominance at Wrigley Field has provided a sense of dominance in the somewhat weak National League, but injuries are starting to pile up and it’s beginning to take it’s toll on the Cubs dominant run.

When RF Alfonso Soriano went down with a broken hand in the Braves series, all was not lost, as the Cubs lost Soriano earlier in the season and responded as though he was never missed in the lineup. But with this injury plus injuries to RHP Carlos Zambrano, CF Reed Johnson, LHP Scott Eyre, and nagging injuries to CF Jim Edmonds and RF Kosuke Fukudome, the Cubs are finding that all is not well on the “It’s Gonna Happen” bandwagon.

During this weekend’s Sox series, the Cubs started an OF of a mis-cast RF Eric Patterson, injured CF Jim Edmonds, and just returned from injured RF Daryle Ward. The White Sox ran on Patterson all day on Friday and he has yet to see the lineup since. RHP Ryan Dempster also picked a bad time for his worst outing of the season, and P’s Sean Gallagher and Sean Marshall couldn’t stop the bleeding.

The Cubs can’t seem to shake the pesky, smoke and mirrors miracle of the St. Louis Cardinals, now only 2.5 games ahead in the standings. The Milwaukee Brewers are also sneaking up, moving to 4.5 games back. The Cubs played the Sunday night prime time game on ESPN tonight and now have to fly all night to San Francisco to start a 4 game series with the improving Giants (fortunately missing on all world Giants starter RHP Tim Lincecum) and a July 4th weekend series in St. Louis with the Cardinals.

I though Cubs manager Lou Piniella actually did a great job of reminding the Cubs and the fans that although the Sox series has serious emotional hooks in a north/south divide, that this series was one of many series over the course of a full season. Piniella elected to juggle his starting rotation a little, but rested key players such as 2B Mark DeRosa, Kosuke Fukudome, and C Geovanny Soto over the weekend, with the implicit message that the season isn’t won in June by overextending regulars in an interleague matchup that is more glitter than substance.

With Reed Johnson and Carlos Zambrano due to come back this week, and Alfonso Soriano healing very quickly, reinforcements are on the way. With the All-Star break in less than two weeks, much needed rest will soon follow. Once the Cubs are back to full strength, the cream should rise to the top again in the National League. Lets not panic just yet…..

Posted in Chicago Cubs | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Five Reasons Why Derrick Rose Is The Right Pick For The Chicago Bulls

Posted by sportsmaven on June 29, 2008

Moments before the start of the 2008 NBA Draft, the Chicago Bulls had still not given any guidance as to the direction they were going with the #1 pick. Most experts agreed that Memphis G Derrick Rose would be the Bulls choice, but the Bulls did a great job of keeping Kansas State F Michael Beasley in the picture and when NBA Commissioner David Stern walked to the podium to announce the pick, I was uncertain who the Bulls wrote on the card in the commish’s hand.

In the end, Derrick Rose was the right pick for the Bulls for the following reasons:

1. The NBA is evolving into a more perimeter controlled game. Ballhandlers and penetrators are at a premium. Derrick Rose was the best of the perimeter players in this year’s draft. Rose can score, pass, rebound if needed, and play defense. He is unselfish almost to a fault. Rose can penetrate, get to the basket, and finish once he gets there. He still needs to work on his outside shot, particularly his 3-point shooting, and even Rose himself has acknowledged that, but his inside/outside game now is quite potent and will only get exponentially better with time.

2. Derrick Rose is the most competitive player in this year’s draft. His will to win is something not seen in Chicago Bulls basketball since Michael Jordan. In a recent Chicago Tribune article, Rose was asked to describe himself. His response: “An unselfish guard who’s willing to do anything to win. I mean, anything.” Very focused, very precise. His will to win is enormous. This is a kid that cried after losing AAU games. Willing to do anything to win and hates losing? These are qualities that are sorely lacking for anyone currently on the Bulls roster.

3. Derrick Rose’s work ethic and leadership is second to none. Rose has been heralded as the hardest worker in this year’s draft. Again, in a recent Chicago Tribune article on Rose, his work ethic has been described as follows:

“Last summer, shortly after Rose arrived at Memphis, Calipari received a report that Rose’s knee was hurting him. Why would his knee be bothering him already, Calipari wondered.

The answer: Rose was toiling in the gym for six hours at a time. It might have been the first time in recorded history that a coach asked an elite player to stop working so hard.”

Rose is willing to dedicate whatever time is necessary to be the best. All great leaders start by leading by example. Rose is soft spoken, but his actions will speak louder than words. Over time, the words will be there, but Rose may already be the hardest worker on the Bulls roster and he has yet to attend a practice, much less play a game.

4. The home town hero scenario was too good to be true – on the day of the NBA Draft Lottery, the Chicago Bulls had a 1.7% chance of winning the #1 pick. Fate ran it’s course and the Bulls somehow defied odds and were put in position to draft the most dynamic player in this year’s draft. That player so happened to be from Chicago, so a hometown hero in the making.

Many critics point to C Eddy Curry and his inability to succeed with the pressure of playing in your hometown as a reason why the Bulls should have bypassed Derrick Rose. That logic makes absolutely no sense to me. It has nothing to do with playing in your hometown. It has everything to do with heart and character, and Derrick Rose has more heart and character than Eddy Curry. That alone will make the difference. The question of Derrick feeling pressure playing at home was handled deftly on the night of the draft:

His mom Brenda downplayed the notion that playing in Chicago will put more pressure on her son, telling ESPN: ‘‘He’s used to playing in Chicago.’’

The Rose family has handled Derrick professionally with great foresight of the potential of playing in Chicago for the Bulls. They have taught Derrick to handle pressure. This is a support system that Eddy Curry lacked.

5. Derrick Rose’s heart is in Chicago – he will also be the heart of professional basketball in Chicago for years to come. One day, Mr. Rose will be known only as Derrick, like the other great Bull, Michael. The heart of a championship team has walked in the door of the House That Michael Built. If Derrick Rose continues to work his craft, to constantly and consistently work on improving his game, the sky’s the limit. He will one day wear a NBA championship ring, maybe multiple rings…..and I am not one to doubt that this will not happen.

If you still doubt that Derrick Rose is the right pick for Chicago, the Bulls will be playing in the NBA Summer League in Orlando, FL from July 7-11. You can watch a live video webcast of each game on http://www.orlandomagic.com.

Posted in Chicago Bulls | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »