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Top 10 Moments In Chicago Sports In 2008

Posted by sportsmaven on January 17, 2009

The new year has already started and amidst the resolutions, fresh starts, diets, and new beginnings comes the ever reverent look back at the year that has passed.  The year 2008 was a banner year for Chicago sports, as three teams won their prospective division titles, and one, the Chicago Wolves won a championship.  There was good, bad, ugly, and everything in between for Chicago sports fans.  So, lets take a look back on the Top 10 Moments in Chicago Sports in 2008 (in no particular order):
Bears use goal line stand to beat the Eagles 24-20

Bears use goal line stand to beat the Eagles 24-20

Bears goal line stand against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 4 — The Chicago Bears were leading the Philadelphia Eagles 24-20, Eagles had first and goal from the Bears 4, 5:40 left in the game.  Eagles run RB Cornell Buckhalter off right tackle for 3 yards.  Second and goal was a handoff to FB Tony Hunt for no gain.  Third down was back to Buckhalter to the right for no gain.  Eagles call a time out and decide to go for it on 4th down.   Buckhalter again off left tackle, this time, stood up by RE Alex Brown of the Bears for no gain.  Game over.  Bears win.

Zambrano hurls a no-hitter.

Zambrano hurls a no-hitter.

Cubs RHP Carlos Zambrano throws no-hitter against the Houston Astros on Sept. 14th —  The Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros waited two long days to find out where they would be playing their key late season series against each other.  Houston was being devestated by Hurricane Ike and MLB moved the Astros to “neutral” Miller Park in Milwaukee to face the Cubs.  Zambrano brought his “A” game with him to “Wrigley North”, shutting down the powerful Astros lineup, striking out CF Darrin Erstad swinging for the last out of the first Cubs no-hitter in 36 years.

Chicago Cubs Win 2008 NL Central Division

Chicago Cubs Win 2008 NL Central Division

Cubs win back to back NL Central Division titles — The Cubs began the 2008 season with one of it’s goals to win the 2008 NL Central Division title, as well as seeking their first World Series appearance since 1945 and first World Championship since 1908.  Alas, the Cubs could only slay one 100 year drought, as they won an NL-best 97 games en route to the 2008 NL Central Division title for their  first back to back division titles since 1908.  A quick sweep in the NL Divisional Series by the hands of the Los Angeles Dodgers dimmed what was to that point, a most magical season for the North Siders.

chicago white sox win 2008 al central division title

chicago white sox win 2008 al central division title

White Sox win 3 elimination games in a row to win the AL Central title — The Chicago White Sox looked dead in the water, losing  4 of their final 5 games to the Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians, coughing up a 2.5 game division lead and falling 1/2 game behind the Twins with one game to play.  The final game of the Cleveland series and the regular season was a must win game with Mark Buehrle on the bump, the Sox beat the Indians to force the Monday afternoon post-season makeup game against the Detroit Tigers.  The Sox win the makeup game against the Tigers, forcing a one game playoff game against the Twins for the AL Division title, this time, in Chicago.   The Sox, behind a masterpiece by LHP John Danks, beat the Twins 1-0 and claim the AL Central Division title, winning three elimination games in a row.

derrick rose drafted #1 by chicago bulls

derrick rose drafted #1 by chicago bulls

Chicago Bulls win the 1st pick in the NBA Draft and the right to select PG Derrick Rose Chicago Bulls GM John Paxson had to work wonders to undo all the bad karma and decision-making by Bulls brass in the post-Michael Jordan/Phil Jackson era, but by sheer luck,  one of those bouncing ping-pong ball went red, and the Bulls, with a x% chance, landed the #1 pick in the 2008 NBA draft.  Around the same time, a young freshman PG from Chicago was leading his one-loss  Memphis Tigers team to the 2008 National Championship game against the Kansas Jayhawks.  The Jayhawks win the title, the young freshman forgoes his eligibility and declares eligible for the NBA Draft and the prodigal son returns a hero.

The City of Chicago becomes a finalist for host city for the 2016 Olympic Summer Games — Chicago survived the US bid process to emerge as the US entry for host of the 2016 Olympics.  Election Night provided the world a glimpse of what Chicago 2016 could be as Grant Park served as the world’s stage for President-Elect Barack Obama’s election night speech.  Chicago is President Obama’s hometown and can be in prime position to be named 2016 host, but it can’t rest on that momentum as concerns about finances, transportation infrastructure, and sports facilities still shroud Chicago’s Olympic bid chances.

Youngsters lead the resurgence of the Chicago Blackhawks

Youngsters lead the resurgence of the Chicago Blackhawks

The arrival of a young and resurgent Chicago Blackhawks hockey team, who finished  the 2007-08 season very strong and opened the 2008-09 season even stronger — the Chicago Blackhawks under owner Bill Wirtz became the city’s red headed stepchild of Chicago professional sports.  Even the minor league AHL hockey team, the Chicago Wolves, were outdrawing the Hawks in attendance.  Things couldn’t have been any lower, and then, Bill Wirtz died.  Bill’s son Rocky took the team over and his first move as team owner was to steal marketing genius John McDonough away from the Cubs, hiring McDonough as his new team president.  A change in coaches (Joel Quenneville in, Denis Savard out), a #1, and #3  draft pick later, youngsters C Jonathan Toews and RW Patrick Kane lead a marketing and on-ice resurgence of the Chicago Blackhawks.  High point to date, a team best 9 game winning streak leading into the 2009 Winter Classic against the Detroit Red Wings.  The game resulted in a loss for the Blackhawks in the standings, but was a HUGE win for the Hawks in prestige and heritage.  A vintage Original Six team is reborn.

Chicago Bears Matt Forte leads Bears ground attack

Chicago Bears Matt Forte leads Bears ground attack

Bears hammer Indianapolis Colts on national TV in the season opener, marking the coming out party for Bears RB Matt Forte and ruining the home opening of the Colts new Lucas Oil Stadium — The Chicago Bears were playing on national television.  They were also playing the mighty Indianapolis Colts on the road in the Colts brand spanking new stadium.  The Bears have traditionally been nothing short of horrible in nationally televised night games and this was Sunday Night Football on NBC.  And QB Peyton Manning, coming off a knee injury, was planning on starting this game. The Bears were doomed, but fate forgot to mention that to this Bears team, lead by a resurgent defense and the nimble running of rookie RB Matt Forte, the only Bear to eclipse 100 yards rushing in his first ever game (123 yards), the Bears down the mighty Colts 29-13.

QB Juice Williams leads Illinois to 2008 Rose Bowl

QB Juice Williams leads Illinois to 2008 Rose Bowl

The University of Illinois football team plays in it’s first Rose Bowl since 1984 — In 2001, the University of Illinois football program was reaching it’s pinnacle capped by a Big Ten Conference Championship and an appearance in the 2002 Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.  Two short years later, the Illini hit rock bottom, going 1-11, eventually firing coach Ron Turner and hiring master recruiter Ron Zook as his replacement.  In year 3 of the rebuilding process, the Illini found themselves with a 9-4 record, stunning #1 Ohio State on the road in a 28-21 victory that propelled the team to it’s first Rose Bowl in 24 years.

Chicago Wolves win the 2008 Calder Cup Championship

Chicago Wolves win the 2008 Calder Cup Championship

Chicago Wolves win the 2008 Calder Cup Championship, bringing a hockey title back to Chicago — The Chicago Wolves AHL hockey team beats the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 5-2 bringing the Calder Cup back to Chicago.  It is the 4th title for the Wolves in their 14-year history.  Soon after, Wolves Coach John Anderson is promoted to coach the parent team, the NHL’s Atlanta Thrashers. The Wolves dip into a famous Chicago hockey family, tapping Don Granato as their new head coach.

Posted in Chicago Bears, Chicago Blackhawks, Chicago Bulls, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Fighting Illini | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Chicago Bears Let Super Bowl Slip Through Their Fingers

Posted by sportsmaven on February 6, 2007

I know what you’re thinking, that the Chicago Bears were thoroughly dominated statistically in yesterday’s Super Bowl XLI. I beg to differ with my own Super Bowl analysis — the Bears were actually in it until the end. So what did the Sports Maven see in the matchup between the Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts? I saw plenty to be disturbed about and things that are very encouraging for next season. My disturbing thoughts are:

1. The Bears played way too conservatively offensively. The Bears were 6 1/2 pt. underdogs coming into the game and had nothing to lose. When Devin Hester returned the opening kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown, first time in Super Bowl history that has happened, and the fastest score in Super Bowl history, the momentum of the game immediately swung to the Bears. When Chris Harris intercepted Peyton Manning on the Colts first offensive series, the momentum for the Bears was off the charts. I thought Ron Turner’s offensive gameplan was too concentrated on running the ball out of the gate and not using the pass to loosen up the Colts 8-9 man fronts. In their most successful offensive games of the season, the offense started by going deep early and establishing the passing game early. Then it became easier to pound the ball. I felt that Turner played into the Colts hands with his gameplan. Too many 3 and outs (15 possessions, 48 plays, for the game, and average of 12 3 and outs and 3 drives of 4 plays.) The Bears offense should have attacked after the Manning INT. Instead, it was 3 and out, momentum leaving the Bears. All and all, a ridiculously poor game plan from the offense. This play to not lose mentality has got to go. Despite all this, the Bears are still only 5 points down midway though the 4th quarter of the Super Bowl.

2. The Bears played way too conservatively on defense too. Bears played as though they were trying not to lose the game. My friends at dabearsblog.com said it best. Where was the blitz? When the Bears blitzed, Peyton Manning looked rattled. It was certainly effective, but problem was that it was rarely used. The bend but not break philosophy also has to go. Another game plan that played into the hands of the Colts, particularly Peyton Manning. Giving n Manning an opportunity to establish rhythm was the WORST thing the Bears could have done and they did it. This game was an opportunity to attach Manning, make him uncomfortable, but that never happened, as the defense played scared. I felt the Bears defense watched too many Colts players catch balls in front of them and then didn’t make plays. The Bears defense not stopping the Colts on third down was equally important as the Bears offense’s failure to run more than three plays at a time. Despite all this, the Colts couldn’t score offensive TD’s and the Bears are still 5 points down midway though the 4th quarter of the Super Bowl.

3. Third down conversions on both sides of the ball were not in favor of the Bears. The Bears couldn’t stop the Colts on third down. The Colts were 8 of 18 on third down, while the Bears were 3 of 10. Enough said on this one.

4. Turnovers and poor tackling hurts the Bears. The Bears committed 5 turnovers and missed more tackles than a Pop Warner little league team. Five turnovers in the Super Bowl? You gotta be kidding me….

5. Rex Grossman needs much work, more improvement, and some competition. Rex couldn’t hold the wet ball. Rex couldn’t take a snap, despite the fact that he took about 99.5% of all the snaps this season. Rex threw two costly interceptions, one with the Bears down only 5 points with most of the 4th quarter remaining. Rex is too much of a gambler. He wants to make the big play, and is very impatient. If there is one person Grossman should take cues from, it’s the guy across the sideline from him, Peyton Manning. Grossman is immature. He is immature in how he plays the game. He is immature in how he handles the media. He is immature in what comes out of his mouth. He needs to grow up. Shut up and play. Rex is too talented to be as wildly inconsistent as he displayed this year.

My encouraging thoughts are:

Davin Hester’s Touchdown in SB
Chris Harris Interception in SB

1. Bears return 19 of 22 starters. Nineteen of 22 starters under contract. The lone 3 are Pro Bowl OG Reuben Brown, who has expressed a strong interest in coming back, an interest shared by Bears management, Pro Bowl LB Lance Briggs, who will most likely be “franchised” if a new contract is not worked out, and DT Ian Scott, who inherited the starting DT position when Pro Bowl DT Tommie Harris went down for the season with a torn left hamstring.

2. Mike Brown and Tommie Harris will be back from injuries. The jury is still out on how they will play after injury. Tommie Harris is still young and many notable players have come back from a torn hamstring and been effective again. (Ray Lewis being one of them). Mike Brown’s Lisfranc ligament tear on his right foot is the more concerning of the two injuries, as players who have historically injured that ligament have difficult time returning to a high level of play. Nonetheless, the two stalwarts of the Bears D should be back in time for training camp.

3. The NFC North Division should once again be weak — the Bears will still have the most talented team in the division. They will not be playing a last place schedule next season, but 6 games against division foes should ease that pain. Of course, the Green Bay Packers will be improved with the announcement of Brett Favre’s return, so if anything, show up for BOTH Packer games.

4. The Bears are $23.9 million under the 2007 Salary Cap — this is a good thing, as the Bears will have a short laundry list of needs going into next season.

Urlacher SB Disappointment

So the end of a good season cut short with a Super Bowl loss….lets finish the job next year for the bandwagon for Glendale, AZ begins today. Next up, the NFL Combine in Indianapolis (of all places) and the 2007 NFL Draft, where the Bears will have the 31st pick of the draft.

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Chicago Bears Get To Work Today

Posted by sportsmaven on February 1, 2007

With all the expanded media coverage the last two weeks, it was easy to forget that there was a football game to prepare for today. The Chicago Bears began their serious preparation for Super Bowl XLI. The Bears were in pads, helmets and shorts today and reports said that practice went very well. Ron Turner, the Bears offensive coordinator stated that the Bears offense worked on their first and second down play packages today, which is the Bears routine for Wednesday throughout the season. Briggs - Urlacher in SB Practice

According to Rich Eisen from the NFL Network, reports have it that the Bears looked relaxed, yet ready to go, ready to play this game. I agree, as the Bears seem to be using the “Play Angry” motto plus the underdog role to forge an us against the world bond. I feel good that this plays into the Bears hands perfectly. I am excited to see the Bears come out and prove to the world not only do they belong in the Super Bowl, but they can compete and are more than capable of winning this game.

Bears Playoff Mantra

The more time I spend breaking down the analysis, the picks by the experts, the comments, the more the keys to this game become simpler and simpler. Right now, Super Bowl XLI comes down the Peyton Manning vs. The Bears. It will obviously be more than that, but from the media perspective and slant, it is all about the X-Factor and aura of Peyton Manning vs. the underdog, bonding closer and tighter as every day goes by Chicago Bears football team. The Bears have no Peyton Mannings on their roster. Brian Urlacher is as close as it gets and he’s a middle linebacker.

As each day goes by, the Bears sit and stew, are asked the same questions about being second fiddle to the Colts, listen to how it’s finally Peyton Manning’s year, how it is his time and that he is the chosen one. Peyton Manning, the friendly, likable guy in the boy next door commercials, it’s his coronation, his time to rise and beat the demons that have held him back. All about how the Bears are the better team defensively, special teams and are quite competent offensively, but yet have no chance to win because of the ‘Peyton Manning effect”. I think the pressure is squarely on the broad shoulders of Peyton Manning and the Bears will enter Dolphin Stadium on Sunday night loose, but quietly motivated, letting all the perceived disrespect stew into their performance on the field of play. Many a statement has been made that the QB position is where half the Super Bowl MVP’s come from and that this is Peyton Manning’s right to claim, his coronation. Lets see what the experts say on Monday morning….

Back to the “expert” picks. Clearly in the experts eyes, the Bears are underdogs in every way possible for this game. The most hardened and experienced of analysts just can’t bring themselves to pick the Bears. You name it, you will be hard pressed to find an analyst worth his salt picking the Bears to beat the Colts. This is what I’ve seen so far this week:

Gil Brandt – NFL.com Analyst – Colts 27, Bears 17.
Dr. Z – CNNSI.com – Colts 34, Bears 24
Experts at CBS Sportsline – 4 of 6 pick the Colts to win the Super Bowl
Vinnie Iyer – SportingNews.com – Colts 34, Bears 24
ESPN Scouts Inc. Pick – Colts 28, Bears 24
ESPN Analyst Mark Schlereth’s pick – Colts (no score)
ESPN Analyst Chris Mortensen’s pick – Colts by 4 points
ESPN Around the Horn’s Woody Paige – Colts (“here’s no way in hell or Miami that Chicago can beat Indianapolis.”)

NFL Network Picks from today:
– Rich Eisen – shocking that the Bears are as big an underdog, Bears looked relaxed and appear to be a team ready to play this game, no pick.
– Terrell Davis – everybody is picking the Colts, so the pressure is on the Colts, Bears getting extra motivation from being underdog, no pick.
– Trent Dilfer – Bears look ready to work, no pick.
– Steve Mariucci – Bears have the best team, but picking the Colts because of one player, Peyton Manning
– Drew Brees, NO – Colts
– Carson Palmer, CIN – Colts
– Sean Payton, coach, NO – Colts
– Hines Ward, PIT – Bears
– Matt Hasselbeck, SEA – no pick
– Holly Robinson Peete – Colts
– Zach Thomas, MIA – Bears
– Roy Williams, DAL – Bears
– Brian Baldinger, analyst – Bears
– Donovan McNabb, PHI – Bears (and he’s a Cubs fan too!)

Other expert picks:
– Jimmy Johnson, Fox NFL Analyst on WSCR Chicago Sports Radio – Colts
– Boomer Esiason, NFL.com Analyst on WSCR Chicago Sports Radio – Colts
– Emmitt Smith on WSCR Chicago Sports Radio – Colts
– Al Harris, Packer’s CB on WSCR Chicago Sports Radio – Colts
– Chad Johnson, CIN WR on WSCR Chicago Sports Radio – Colts

Bears can’t even get a break in video games. The Madden ’07 forecast from ESPN – Colts 38, Bears 27

ESPN Cold Pizza’s Skip Bayless’ Pick – Bears

Ogunleye SB Press Conference

No wonder Adawale Ogunleye looks like he is over the media sessions, interviews and all the Super Bowl fluff. If you were listening for two straight weeks about how much the Colts were better than you, i’m sure you would have the same expression on your face…..

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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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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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