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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 »

Is Chicago Bulls Coach Vinny Del Negro Losing The Team?

Posted by sportsmaven on January 8, 2009

Chicago Bulls GM John Paxson knew he was taking a huge risk by hiring rookie coach Vinny Del Negro as his next coach of the Bulls.  We all know how well rookie coaches have fared in Chicago since Phil Jackson left town after the 1997-98 season.

Chicago Bulls Head Coach Vinny Del Negro, left, talks with Joakim Noah in the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Sacramento Kings in Chicago, Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2009. Chicago won the game 99-94. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

Chicago Bulls Head Coach Vinny Del Negro, left, talks with Joakim Noah in the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Sacramento Kings in Chicago, Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2009. Chicago won the game 99-94. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

Names like Tim Floyd, Bill Cartwright, Jim Boylan (interim after the Scott Skiles firing) and now Del Negro have all walked the hallowed halls of the Berto Center with the unofficial title of “rookie head coach.”  All have failed miserably, some setting the team back years in what feels like year 10 or 11 of  the rebuilding project.

Now there’s rumblings behind the scenes that current Bulls rookie coach Vinny Del Negro may be losing the team:

Are these signs that Vinny Del Negro is losing his team?  I would have to say that these are definitely not signs that Del Negro has a firm grasp on the team, the way Scott Skiles had a grasp on the team when he was named Bulls coach.

The Bulls are definitely in a rebuilding mode around Del Negro and rookie point guard Derrick Rose.  A .500 record is not out of the question for this Bulls team, but losing to the likes of the Minnesota Timberwolves doesn’t help the cause.  More to come on this issue as the season progresses…

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Musings On The Chicago Bulls and the NBA

Posted by sportsmaven on April 21, 2008

The NBA playoffs started this weekend and noticeably absent are the Chicago Bulls. While the best teams in the NBA begin the “money” season, teams like the Milwaukee Bucks hire disciplinarian coaches like Scott Skiles. Other teams like the Chicago Bulls are holding their off season team meetings and wondering what to make of the mess of a wrecked season.

In the NBA, like other major professional sports leagues, teams win with a combination of athleticism/talent and desire. With talent and desire, you are the San Antonio Spurs or the Boston Celtics. With lack of athleticism/talent, but an abundance of desire, you can be teams like this year’s Philadelphia 76ers and in the past, teams like the Chicago Bulls. Teams with neither talent or desire become the Memphis Grizzlies or the New York Knicks.

What exactly happened with the Chicago Bulls this season? The Bulls were a team with little talent but with great desire. They worked, hustled, played defense according to the gospel of John Paxson and Scott Skiles. It brought the Bulls 49 wins last season, a playoff series win against the rapidly aging Miami Heat, and a heated playoff series loss to the Detroit Pistons. Entering this season, the Chicago Bulls had a high draft pick, compliments of the New York Knicks and all their starters returning from last season’s successful run. Many picked the Bulls to win the Eastern Conference and advance to the NBA Finals for the first time since the Michael Jordan era.

Then, two things happened that led to the downfall of this year’s team. First, Bulls GM John Paxson knew that he needed a superstar talent to lead this team. Every successful team in the NBA, short of the Detroit Pistons, have a superstar player, a team leader, the guy that will take over in crunch time of a game and impose the will to win on his teammates. Paxson missed badly on acquiring C Kevin Garnett from the Minnesota Timberwolves and whiffed a couple of times on trades for C Pau Gasol. Paxson had drafted some very nice complementary players from solid, winning college programs after cleaning up the mess left by previous Bulls GM Jerry Krause, but none had proven to be the superstar, athletic talent that teams require to compete in the upper echelon of NBA championship contenders. Paxson correctly determined that he needed to acquire that superstar player, and as timing would have it, during the NBA pre-season, Kobe Bryant, arguably the best player in the NBA was vocally unhappy with his situation and publicly stated he desire to get out of Los Angeles. To his credit, Paxson inquired about the availability of Kobe Bryant and rumors ran rampant over the airwaves. Bryant was sure to be traded, as there has been no love lost between Bryant and Los Angeles Lakers head coach Phil Jackson, supposedly Jackson had enough with his moody star player. The table was set for a blockbuster deal with prime players identified from the Bulls being some combination of Luol Deng, Ben Gordon, Tyrus Thomas, Joakim Noah, Kirk Hinrich, and Ben Wallace. Luol Deng and Ben Gordon were also offered what each player considered lowball contract offers going into the preseason, but combined with the trade talks, led to a bad taste in every player’s mouths. In the end, the teams never came to terms on players and the deal fell through as the season began.

The second thing that happened was most likely residual from the events above, for some reason, most every player on the Bulls had stopped responding to the playing and coaching style that brought great success to the Bulls. The Bulls stopped hustling for loose balls, stopped playing hard nosed defense, lacked hustle, with team play virtually non-existent. Both Deng and Gordon admitted that the Kobe Bryant trade rumors plus the perceived lowball contract offers affected their play. Each played as through they had to individually prove they were worth not only bigger contracts, but to justify not being traded for Bryant. Their play dropped off dramatically, along with the other potential players in the trade, Kirk Hinrich, Ben Wallace, and Tyrus Thomas and the fate of Coach Scott Skiles and the Chicago Bulls was sealed.

So where does that leave the Bulls now? John Paxson had two of the most difficult tasks to complete in last year’s off-season. He needed to find a superstar, talented player and needed to move Ben Wallace and his albatross contract. Paxson was successful in unloading Wallace to the Cleveland Cavaliers after this season was lost, but has been glaringly unsuccessful in getting that superstar athletic stud talent, and without the high draft picks that can yield that player in the NBA draft. If the Bulls get lucky to land one of the top 2 picks and be in a position to get C Michael Beasley or G Derrick Rose, they can still leverage a combination of Larry Hughes, Kirk Hinrich, Ben Gordon, Luol Deng, or Drew Gooden to land a second superstar type player to fuel their rebuilding process. The Bulls need athletic, talented players that have the desire to compete and win every night and need to complement those players with a supporting cast of complimentary players. Right now, they have the complimentary players, but they still lack the superstar.

The Bulls also need a coach that will bring the team spirit back, a coach that can get the players to buy into the team concept once again. Rick Carlisle is available, as is Larry Brown as well as a slew of other ex-NBA coaches that work for ESPN, TNT, or any other network that employs ex-basketball coaches. This offseason is mission critical for GM John Paxson. If he doesn’t get it right, his next moves will be as ex-GM of the Chicago Bulls.

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Super Bowl XLI Predictions

Posted by sportsmaven on February 3, 2007

The Super Bowl brings the good, the bad, and the ugly in predictions from almost everybody who is somebody on the planet. From athletes, to the media, and celebrities, everyone is an expert when it comes to their Super Bowl picks. In an attempt to consolidate as many Super Bowl predictions as I could find and hear this week, the following lists are the “expert” opinions on who wins Super Bowl XLI on Sunday:

NFL Players, Coaches, Analysts Picks:

    • ESPN Analysts

      Len Pasquarelli – Colts 27-23

      John Clayton – Colts 27-17

      Chris Mortensen – Colts 27-20

      Gene Wojciechowski – Bears 27-26

      Gary Horton – Colts 31-24

      Jeremy Green – Bears 26-23

      Bill Simmons – Bears 33-30

      Jemele Hill – Bears 34-31

      Scoop Jackson – Bears 31-28

      Ron Jaworski – Colts 31-21

      Sal Paolantonio – Colts 31-20

      Eric Allen – Bears 21-17

      Mike Golic – Colts 31-23

      Greg Garber – Colts 30-21

      KC Joyner – Bears 31-27

      John Banks, Deputy Editor – Colts 31-14

      Peter Lawrence-Riddell – Colts 28-17

      Joe Wojciechowski – Colts 27-20

      Chris Berman – Colts 30-20

      Joe Theismann – Colts

      Merril Hoge – Colts

      HBO’s Inside the NFL Team

      Bob Costas – Colts

      Cris Carter – Colts

      Dan Marino – Colts

      Cris Collinsworth – Bears

      ESPN’s Around the Horn Team

      Tim Cowlishaw – Bears

      Tony Reali – Colts

      Jay Mariotti – Bears

      Woody Paige – Colts

      Jackie MacMullen – Colts

      Kevin Blackistone – Colts

      ESPN’s Pardon The Interruption Team

      Michael Wilbon – Bears

      Tony Kornheiser – Colts

      Other ESPN Personalities

      Jim Rome – Colts 24-17

      Andrew Siciliano – Bears

      Ray Ratto – Colts 31-16

      Fox’s The Best Damn Sports Show Period

      Chris Rose – Colts

      Rodney Peete – Bears

      Leann Tweeden – Colts

      Rob Dibble – Bears

      John Salley – Colts

      Chicago Tribune Reporters

      Terry Bannon – Colts 27-23

      Mike Downey – Bears 28-26

      Brian Hamilton – Colts 27-23

      Ed Sherman – Colts 31-20

      Bob Foltman – Colts 24-21

      John Mullin – Bears 21-20

      Rick Morrissey – Bears 28-17

      Fred Mitchell – Bears 27-23

      Dan McGrath – Colts 30-21

      Melissa Issacson – Bears 28-24

      David Haugh – Bears 31-28

      Don Pierson – Colts 30-24

      Skip Myslinski – Colts 34-21

      Paul Sullivan – Bears 30-27

      Lew Freedman – Bears 27-21

      Mark Gonzales – Colts 31-27

      Teddy Greenstein – Bears 27-23

      Philip Hersh – Bears 30-27

      Ed Hinton – Bears 24-9

      Michael Hirsley – Bears 28-21

      KC Johnson – Bears 28-14

      Barry Temkin – Bears 31-27

      Dave Van Dyck – Bears 23-20

      Actors/Celebrities/Athletes/Politicians

      David Letterman – Colts 34-27

      Tom Dreesen – Bears 30-27

      Craig Ferguson – Colts

      Morgan Freeman – Colts

      William H. Macy – Colts

      Dennis Farina – Bears 23-17

      Joe Mantegna – Bears 31-21

      Gary Sinise – Bears 24-21

      Dennis Franz – Bears 24-13

      Bernie Mac – Bears 33-31

      Ashton Kutcher – Bears 24-20

      Paul Newman – Bears 21-20

      Dwayne Wade – Bears 28-24

      Sylvester Stallone – Colts 38-30

      Jack Nicklaus – Colts 34-24

      Arnold Palmer – Colts 31-24

      Serena Williams – Colts 17-13

      Sen. John McCain – Colts by 6

      Sen. John Kerry – Colts 34-27

      Al Franken – Bears 21-20

      Bill O’Reilly – Colts 31-10

      Larry King – Colts 21-7

      Charlie Sheen – Colts 37-33

      Jimmie Johnson, NASCAR – Colts 31-28

      William Shatner – Colts 24-17

      Haley Joel Osment – Colts 31-24

      Mickey Rooney – Bears 24-14

      Tony Sirico – Colts 21-14

      Pat Robertson – Colts 17-14

      Jerry Falwell – Colts by 14

      Duane “Dog” Chapman – Bears 35-28

      John Wooden – Colts

      Bobby Thomson – Colts 24-17

      Ralph Branca – Colts 41-24

      Jennie Finch – Colts 34-27

      Danica Patrick – Bears 31-27

      Molly Sims – Colts 31-24

      Kendra Wilkinson (Hugh Hefner’s girlfriend) – Colts 27-13

      Dick Vitale – Colts 28-21

      Tony Parker – Colts 25-20

      Phil Jackson – Bears 20-15

      Bob Cousy – Colts 37-12

      Leroy Nieman – Colts 24-10

      Ed Asner – Bears 27-24

      Elisabeth Shue – Colts 35-21

      Dionne Warwick – Colts 28-21

      Wayne Newton – Bears 21-7

      Dick Van Patten – Colts 31-21

      Connie Stevens – Bears 32-23

      Jack Valenti – Colts 28-27

      Tobin Bell – Colts 31-6

      Robert Loggia – Colts 35-29

      Buzz Aldrin – Colts 28-17

      Chuck Yeager – Colts 21-14

      Sen. Richard Lugar – Colts

      Richard M. Daley – Bears

      Mike Eruzione – Colts 31-21

      Michael Phelps – Colts 28-17

      Jermain Taylor – Colts 30-24

      Jeremy Wariner – Bears 27-10

      Kerri Walsh – Colts 27-18

      Ian MacShane – Bears 38-35

      William Sanderson – Colts 31-17

      Leah Remini – Colts 34-23

      Jesse L. Martin – Colts 31-24

      James Denton – Colts 26-16

      Jim Caviezel – Colts 31-20

      John Amos – Bears 24-17

      Marisol Nichols – Bears 24-20

      Stephen Root – Colts 27-21

      Robert Iler, Jr. – Bears 28-24

      Dawn Wells – Colts 24-14

      Barry Williams – Colts 27-17

      Florence Henderson – Colts 24-14

      Adam West – Colts 28-24

      Sam Hornish – Colts 41-14

      Matt Kenseth – Colts 34-17

      Jeff Burton – Colts 28-24

      Susan Anton – Colts 31-24

      L. Scott Turow – Bears 24-20

      Vince Neil – Colts 31-24

      Joan Jett – Colts 28-14

      Carrot Top – Colts 31-17

      Penn & Teller – Colts 28-17

      James Blake – Colts 27-17

      Reggie Miller – Colts

      Steve Kerr – Bears

      LeBron James – Colts

      Andy Roddick – Colts

      Bill Bellamy – Bears

      Anna Kournikova – Bears

      Enrique Iglesias – Bears

      Stewart Cink – Colts

      John Daly – Colts

      Davis Love III – Colts

      Brad Faxon – Colts

      Charles Howell III – Colts

      David Toms – Colts

      Justin Leonard – Colts

      Jeff Sluman – Bears

      Aaron Baddeley – Colts

      Fred Couples – Colts

      Camilo Villegas – Bears

      Tom Glavine – Colts

      David Wright – Bears

      John Maine – Colts

      Jose Reyes – Colts

      Vernon Wells – Colts

      NBC Staff – 3 of 5 pick the Colts

      USA Today – 5 of 6 pick the Colts

  • Zach Thomas, LB, Dolphins – Bears

    Roy Williams, S, Cowboys – Bears

    Drew Brees, QB, Saings – Colts

    Sean Payton, Head Coach, Saints – Colts

    Carson Palmer, QB, Bengals – Colts

    Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Seahawks – Bears

    TJ Houshmanzadeh, WR, Bengals – Bears

    Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jaguars – Colts by 14

    Ronnie Brown, RB, Dolphins – Colts

    Joe Montana – Colts

    Mike Ditka – Bears 28-24

    Jack Del Rio, Head Coach, Jaguars – Colts

    Curtis Martin, RB, Jets – Colts

    LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Chargers – Colts

    Steve Mariucci – Colts

    Michael Strahan, DE, Giants – Colts

    Jarrett Payton, RB, Titans – Bears

    Troy Aikman – Colts

    Michael Irvin – Colts

    Media

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