Good Things For You and I

Fear not, Chicago baseball fans.  We have two saviors to get us through Saturdays…

… and Sundays (at least when we’re playing Detroit).

Juice and the Neckbeard carpet bombed the Detroit Metro area for a combined total of 765 yards of offense this past weekend, leading the Illini and Bears to thrash Michigan and the Lions by a collective score of 79-27.  With Illinois tossing its Bo Schembechler voodoo doll for the first time since I was a senior in college and the Bears putting together its first complete game since the season opener (granted, the Lions will do that to you with or without Matt Millen), I can’t be too down on the White Sox elimination.  (Cubs fans deserve to be pissed, though.)  More thoughts are coming later this week.

(Images from Chicago Tribune)


Well, I’m Glad it’s Football Season – Frank the Tank’s Football Parlay – 10/3/2008

It will be another short parlay post this week as I’ve got wedding duties for a good friend.  In short, this ought to be one of those banner sports weekends in theory, with the local football scene moving from Pennsylvania to Michigan with Illinois-Michigan on Saturday and Bears-Lions on Sunday, along with both the White Sox and Cubs trying to stave off early eliminations from the playoffs (ugh).  At least as a Sox fan, this playoff appearance is a bit like playing with house money at this point since absolutely no one has any expectations for this team compared to the others in the American League.  Plus, I didn’t expect much with Javy Vasquez yesterday – the next three guys in the White Sox rotation are going to give us much more of a chance to win.  I’m not sure if there’s much I can say to Cubs fans right now to make them feel better, other than Fox executives are flipping out just as much. (Note in that article the MLB executives have politically correct quotes talking about some great storylines for small markets, while the Fox sales exec straight-up says, “It’s all about the Cubs right now.”)  Anyway, let’s hope both baseball teams and the Illini turn it around (along with my horrid handicapping as of late after a pretty good start), with the strange feeling of the Bears being the overachievers of the past week.  Here are the football picks (home teams in CAPS):

(1) Ohio State Buckeyes (-1.5) over WISCONSIN BADGERS
(2) Florida State Seminoles (+2.5) over MIAMI HURRICANES
(3) Illinois Fighting Illini (+3) over MICHIGAN WOLVERINES (Michigan played possibly the worst first half in terms of self-inflicted wounds that I’ve ever seen from any football team but came back to win.  Still, I feel strangely good about the Illini in this game, which probably means that I’m going to be crushed by Muck Fichigan for the 959th time in life.)

Frank the Tank’s College Football Parlay Record
Last Week: 1-2

Illini Games for the Season: 1-2
Overall Season: 7-7-1

(1) BALTIMORE RAVENS (+3) over Tennessee Titans
(2) DENVER BRONCOS (-3) over Tampa Bay Buccaneers
(3) Chicago Bears (-3.5) over DETROIT LIONS (Will I get a Bears game correct this season? I feel like the Susan Lucci of the sports book.  If anything, this is empirical evidence that you should never ever gamble on a team that you are emotionally invested in.)

Frank the Tank’s NFL Football Parlay Record
Last Week: 0-3

Bears Games for the Season: 0-31
Overall Season: 4-7-1

(Image from

Two Chicago Baseball Teams Playing in October: Start Stocking Perishable Goods Immediately

Due to work constraints, I was limited to listening to pieces of the extended regular season of the White Sox over the last two evenings on the radio.  Even though the one-game playoff to determine the AL Central championship turned out to be what one of my friends thought was the best baseball game that he had ever seen as a Sox fan (even better than Game 1 of the 2005 World Series, in his opinion) and I wasn’t able to watch it, I haven’t stopped smiling for hours.  (By the way, the Twins over the course of this season have secured a place with Indiana, Michigan, Packers, and Pistons on my list of hated sports teams.  Call me heartless, but I derive great joy out of seeing this team full of virtual David Ecksteins get squished like the gnats they are.  We’ll see how well the Twins’ baseball philosophy will work when they move out of that indoor Hefty bag-walled shag carpet facility and into an actual ballpark.)  The past week for the White Sox has been a microcosm of the past season – looking completely listless and failing at all facets of the game during a critical series and then turning around a couple of days later to put together almost picture-perfect baseball.  As a result, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Sox proceed to get swept by the Devil Rays or the South Siders go on a 11-1 run a la 2005 – we’ve gone through 163 games and no one has any better read on this team today compared to Opening Day.

As tense as the regular season was, the one thing that I’ll look forward to this postseason is that I almost have a loose feeling as a result of the White Sox winning the World Series three years ago.  This isn’t to say that I’m complacent or satisfied – I’ll be throwing inanimate objects at my television this month as much as ever.  However, there isn’t the extra checked-in luggage full of bad history and karma making me wonder if I will ever live to the see the Sox win it all.  Instead, all Sox fans can simply focus on this particular team and this particular year without worrying about a flurry of “Eight Men Out” clips.

Obviously, this isn’t going to be the case for my Cubs fan brethren, who will be subjected a continuous loop of billy goats, black cats, and Bartman for as long as the team is still playing in the postseason.  Let me say something nice about real Cubs fans for once (by real, I mean people like Minneapolis Red Sox, TK, Marc, Ted Lilly Fan Club, and many others out there as opposed to the Big Ten Greek Reunion/Iowa tour bus “Wrigley Field fan” crowd) – their loyalty is the envy of every other sports fan base in the country, they break the stereotypes of the lackadaisical fans that supposedly only enjoy the beer garden atmosphere of Wrigley by taking over opposing teams’ stadiums all across the country, and, at the end of the day, truly deserve to get the payoff of a world championship.  Anyone that believes that real Cubs fans are part of a happy-go-lucky fan base that doesn’t care about whether their team loses is either ignorant or completely blinded by anti-Cubs bias.  As a White Sox fan that lived steps from Wrigley Field on the evening of Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS, I realized that no fan base that gave that much should endure that type of pain (well, except for those Hoosier Satan’s Spawn enablers).

Which brings us to the fact that will surely be repeated almost as much as the Cubs House of Horrors clip show – this year will be the first time that both Chicago teams are in the postseason in 102 years.  In contrast, the Mets and Yankees both made the postseason for New York in 2006, the Dodgers and Angels made it for Los Angeles in 2004, and the Giants and A’s made it for the San Francisco Bay Area in 2003.  The magnitude of the Cubs and Sox simultaneously being competitive, much less actually making to postseason play, cannot be understated.  This is a town that has had such a dearth of good baseball teams over the years that it still celebrates famous collapsers/underachievers such as the ’69 Cubs, ’83 Sox, and ’84 Cubs (I can’t imagine New Yorkers building statues and naming streets after the 1995 AL Wild Card Winner Yankees).  To suddenly have the prospect of a repeat of 1906 (where, by the way, the Hitless Wonder White Sox shockingly upset a Cubs team that still has the best single season record in history) is beyond the realm of comprehension for any Chicagoan.  Just to be safe, I’m moving myself, the wife, and the cat to the basement until the end of the month with a power generator on standby.  Of course, I’m willing to put up with Armageddon if it means seeing an all-Chicago World Series… as long as the White Sox come out on top.

(Image from

Quick Bears, White Sox, and Illini Thoughts and Frank the Tank’s Football Parlay – 9/26/2008

I’m short on time this week, so I’ll direct you to (1) a rant from Da’ Bears Blog that accurately reflects my feelings about the Bears – Bucs game that I suffered in person at Soldier Field this past weekend, (2) Minneapolis Red Sox talking me off the ledge slightly with the Royals’ recent history of playing the spoiler in the AL Central (the White Sox definitely know how to player spoiler for themselves, though) and (3) a back-and-forth between Black Shoe Diaries (the preeminent Penn State blog) and Illinois Loyalty regarding this weekend’s matchup.  On the eve of a State of Illinois versus Commonwealth of Pennsylanvia football weekend with Illinois – Penn State and Bears – Eagles (along with the White Sox grasping for its last lifeline and the Cubs finishing up a week where they , here are this week’s parlay picks for both college football and the NFL without explanation (home teams in CAPS):

(1) Colorado State Rams (+26.5) over CALIFORNIA BEARS
(2) Purdue Boilermakers (+1) over NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH
(3) Illinois Fighting Illini (+14.5) over PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS (The Illini have woken up form their slumber and are showing up for this game, right? Right???)

Frank the Tank’s College Football Parlay Record
Last Week: 1-1-1

Illini Games for the Season: 0-2
Overall Season: 6-5-1

(1) DALLAS COWBOYS (-11) over Washington Redskins
(2) Green Bay Packers (+1) over TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
(3) Philadelphia Eagles (-3) over CHICAGO BEARS (If the Bears could allow Brian Griese to completely shred the secondary, I’m not sure if it even matters whether Brian Westbrook is suiting up for the Eagles.)

Frank the Tank’s NFL Football Parlay Record
Last Week: 1-2

Bears Games for the Season: 0-21
Overall Season: 4-4-1

I Love the Reverse Jinx

If getting picks like this wrong every week means that the Bears take it personally and come out as fired up as they did tonight in a dominant 29-13 victory over the Colts, I’ll gladly get smashed in my parlay picks all year.  Between the resuscitation of the Bears defense, the emergence of Matt Forte, the Illini putting the hammer down on Eastern Illinois after a shaky first quarter, the White Sox taking two out of three from arguably the best team in baseball in the Angels (while the Carlos Quentin situation is a bit scary right now, let’s try to take a positive outlook), and the Twins finally relenting to give the Sox some breathing room in the AL Central, this is one of the best sports weekends in the Frank the Tank household in a very long time.  Let’s just keep this up!

(Image from Chicago Tribune)

Decent BCS Conference Rankings, Hoops at the Olympics, and Helmets Galore: Land-o-Links for 8/12/2008

When John Danks throws over 6 innings of no-hit ball and the White Sox still lose to the Red Sox, it’s a day when I should avoid writing about baseball. Here are some links on other issues in the sports world today:

1. The Great Conference Debate (Sports Illustrated) – While these types of rankings that sports websites tend to run during the dog days of summer often carry many flaws (please see last month’s rankings of the nation’s college basketball programs), the methodology used here by SI to compare the BCS football conferences is on the better end. I do believe that national title game appearances should be distinguished from other BCS games (and the lack of such distinction partially explains the Big Ten’s drop from first to fourth), but it is a relatively fair assessment overall. As SEC fans continue to bloviate about how even the worst of their teams could dominate the Big Ten (other than what happened in that pesky game last New Year’s Day where Michigan beat Florida in the Gator territory of Orlando, which has been conveniently forgotten by everyone south of the Mason-Dixon Line), it’s important to note that the SI rankings themselves show that the Big Ten was considered to be by far the strongest league during the first part of this decade. College football goes in cycles and the Big Ten is going to be a much tougher conference this year with Ohio State returning almost its entire team and improved squads at Wisconsin and Penn State (and hopefully Illinois). It’s also refreshing to see a balanced assessment of the performance of the ACC (as opposed to a lot of writers that have been very quick to pile on the conference for taking teams from the Big East five years ago while proclaiming that Rutgers is all of the sudden some type of powerhouse after its first two winning seasons since the school gave birth to college football over a century ago) – Florida State and Miami have simultaneously performed about as badly as possible over the past few years, which has masked the increased depth of the conference (while also providing the ACC much more upside if and when those schools get back on track).

2. So far, so good for NBA at Olympics (Sports Media Watch) – For those of us real Americans that don’t live in the Pacific and Mountain time zones and are able to watch many Olympics events live, we know that the most important development from NBC’s Olympic coverage is the resuscitation of John Tesh’s NBA on NBC theme song for basketball games. (If there’s one thing that you should know about me, it’s that I will find every opportunity possible to post old NBA on NBC intros from the 1990s Bulls dynasty. This golden classic from 1991, where Marv Albert speculates whether Michael Jordan would go down as one of the greatest athletes to never win a championship, with footage of Ernie Banks and, of course, O.J. Simpson in the days when he was simply a high-profile Hertz salesman, is the sole reason why YouTube was established.) At the same time, with over one billion people watching the U.S.-China basketball game on Sunday, there’s empirical evidence that Asians love basketball almost as much as they love gambling. Being half-Chinese, I can attest to that fact since every time I see a pop-a-shot machine, my hands start to tremble uncontrollably until I’m able to spend twenty bucks on the game to win 5,000 tickets (which I subsequently redeem for a couple of Tootsie Rolls or, if I’m lucky, a plastic dreidel).

The interesting thing that Sports Media Watch points out is the irony that interest in Olympic hoops in the United States has probably increased because of Team USA’s losses to other countries over the past few years. This is right on the mark – I’m truly going out of my way to watch the basketball games this year for the first time since the original 1992 Dream Team and this is speaking as someone that’s a monster hoops fan. For all of the issues that David Stern has had to deal with over the past few seasons (the Tim Donaghy scandal, the Pistons-Pacers brawl, etc.), the one thing that he’s got going for him is that the NBA is the only American professional sports league that has made legitimate inroads on the international landscape in a broad sense. Baseball has been very popular in a few Latin American countries and Japan for a number of years yet has struggled to break out of those regions, while basketball is being more widely adopted as the second major team sport after soccer on all of the continents (as shown by the fact that five countries, including Yao Ming for the host nation of China and not including the United States, chose current or former NBA players to carry in their flags in the opening ceremonies). The other sports leagues talk a lot about international expansion and may play a game here or there overseas, but the NBA is really the only one that is positioned to become a truly global league as opposed to a curiosity in other countries.

And finally…

3. The Helmet Project – This site has supposedly been in existence for quite awhile, but I just stumbled onto it today (which resulted in me canceling all of my meetings during the afternoon). The comprehensiveness of this site is astounding, as it covers the helmets from all of the various professional sports leagues since 1960 (i.e. USFL, CFL, XFL, etc.) as well as all levels of college football. (Even Minneapolis Red Sox can check out his favorite St. Norbert helmets through the years). As much as I love the Illini, the helmet designs throughout our history have been pretty lackluster – our current helmet, which has been around since 1989 with some minor color adjustments, is essentially an orange version of the New York Giants helmet from the 1980s (which they wisely scrapped a few years ago). The old “Illini” written on the side used through much of the 1970s and 1980s was never really impressive, either. An orange helmet with a blue Block I would be simple, clean-looking, and an exponential improvement, in my opinion.

(Image from New York Times)

Junior Griffey on the South Side and Land-o-Links for 8/1/2008

Minneapolis Red Sox has my quick take on the arrival of Ken Griffey Jr. to the White Sox organization here, although I seem to be in the minority of fans of seeing this as a generally positive move. I’m planning an expanded special take on Griffey and the White Sox over the next week, but until then, here are some links to tide you over for the weekend:

(1) Junior Mint ( – If there’s one thing that people my age (yes, I turned 30 earlier this year) will remember about Ken Griffey Jr., it’s that 1989 Upper Deck No. 1 is the iconic baseball card of our generation. This great piece from Darren Rovell is a couple of months old (I’ve been meaning to comment on it for awhile and this Griffey trade provided a perfect opening), but it brings up some interesting questions of how a baseball card that could very well be the most widely held of all-time can still command $275 in the open market. The arrival of Upper Deck was a seismic change in the sports memorabilia market, where “premium” cards became all the rage. Of course, so many of these premium cards flooded the market (and fewer mothers, who heard the horror stories from their husbands of housecleanings from yesteryear where 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle cards were thrown in the trash, got rid of them) that the boxes of baseball cards that I have stored in my basement have lost value in non-inflation-adjusted dollars over the past 15 years (much less looking at real dollars taking into account inflation). (Mental Floss recently had a nice quiz about what some prominent baseball and basketball cards are now worth according to Beckett – it turns out I would have been better off sinking everything that I had into Enron stock.) Nonetheless, buying up Upper Deck packs in the hopes of finding the Griffey rookie card back in 1989 was my childhood version of playing craps way too long at the Bellagio – I probably spent every extra penny I had on baseball cards at the time, yet I never found Upper Deck No. 1. However, if you’re interested in a stack of Todd Van Poppel rookie cards, feel free to give me a call.

(2) Illinois’ Jamar Smith Violates Probation By Drinking Again (NCAA Basketball FanHouse) – The horrific saga of Jamar Smith and the Illini has come to the end. Bruce Weber did what he had to do in kicking Smith off of the team – the fact that Smith even had a chance to come back to the team in the first place after the Brian Carlwell incident was considered to be suspect. Unfortunately, this guarantees that there’s going to be some more ugly on-the-court play for Illini basketball until Alex Legion is able to come into the mix in January. More and more, we look like an NIT-bubble team as opposed to even having a reasonable shot at the NCAA Tournament this season.

(3) Breaking Down the Preseason Top 25 (USA Today) – We are a little less than a month away from the start of college football season, but the first impression roses are already being handed out by the coaches. Illinois starts out at #19, which seems about right considering that our running game is probably going to take a step back with the loss of Zook kryptonite Rashard Mendenhall to the NFL but the defense brining back a more seasoned Martez Wilson (there’s a flash of him mowing down Chase Daniel in the EA Sports NCAA Football ’09 commercial). The Big Ten is getting the “Ohio State and everybody else” treatment again, with the Buckeyes at #3 and the next conference members being Wisconsin at #12, us at #19, Penn State at #22 and Michigan at #24. My initial feeling is that Ohio State is going to make the national title game once again with so many starters coming back again (Georgia is going down at some point), but I’ll put together a more in-depth preview in a couple of weeks.

And finally…

(4) All Favre, All The Time (Windy City Gridiron) – Normally, I’d be all over the news coming out of Bears training camp at this time of year, but I’ve been avoiding it because of stories such as this. That being said, someone did bring up this comparison to the Brett Favre situation that hit some items for me personally: what if the Bulls had told Michael Jordan that they didn’t want him back in 1995 because they were committed to Steve Kerr as their long-term solution at shooting guard? Could you have imagined the hysteria in Chicago if the Bulls organization had used that logic? Granted, I find a number of flaws in this analogy, since MJ had a lot more productive years ahead of him at that time (as shown by three more championship rings) than Favre does now and, most importantly, MJ retired the first time around in the aftermath of his father being murdered as opposed to being a d-bag for five years straight of holding an organization hostage every offseason about his retirement plans. However, the point is well-taken with respect to any reactions that might come from Packers fans (as misguided as they might be in general).

Have a great weekend and go Sox!

(Image from Mental Floss)

Life is Unexpectedly Awesome

A couple of weeks after this year’s Rose Bowl, I wrote a long post lamenting the state of the teams that I root for, stating that “none of my teams are going to be playing any games of real meaning from now until the Illinois football team suits up to play Missouri on Labor Day weekend.” I also said this about the Bulls: “[A]s a Bulls fan, do I want this team to stretch to grab the seventh or eight seed in the Eastern Conference so that it can be shellacked by Boston or Detroit in the playoffs, or would I rather roll the dice and see if we can get O.J. Mayo or Derrick Rose in the United Center on a full-time basis next season? Call me crazy, but the latter option is more appealing to me at this point.”

Well, for for the second straight weekend, the White Sox are playing the Cubs with both teams being in first place. Granted, the sweep of the Sox by the Cubs last weekend emphasized the fact that the North Siders, I’ll admit begrudgingly, have the most consistent top-to-bottom team in baseball this season. The White Sox are just an all-or-nothing team – they’ll either bash in double digit runs powered by multiple home runs or have a complete power outage. Fortunately, the pitching staff (both the starting rotation and the bullpen) has kept the team in pretty much every game, but for narcissistic Sox fan base, it’s disheartening to watch a 6 1/2 game lead over Minnesota dissipate in the span of a few days. (I don’t hate the Twins in the same manner as the Packers, Pistons, or Hoosiers, but they might be the most annoying team that I could think of, if you know what I mean. The Twins don’t actually have David Eckstein on their team, yet it’s as if though they’re marching out nine clones of him every evening. As great as they are to fawning analysts, I always get a perverse delight when they’re squashed like a group of gnats later in the year.) Nevertheless, the White Sox are performing about a million times better than I could have ever expected by this point in the season, all the while Ozzie Guillen continues to spout off about the rats at Wrigley Field. With the teams on both sides of town performing so well (I just had suck it up and buy a few tickets to a Cubs game from a broker for a friend coming into town that wanted to see Wrigley – let’s just say that ticket resellers can tell me how my ass tastes), I’ve been steadily stocking up my basement with non-perishable goods, supplies of water and transistor radios just in case the previously unthinkable event that once occurred in 1906 comes to fruition.

Meanwhile, the Bulls have been the biggest winners of them all as they have officially taken Derrick Rose with the number one pick in this year’s NBA Draft. As I’ve said before, I think he’s got the goods to be even better in the end than both Chris Paul and Deron Williams (and this is coming from someone who has a picture of Deron shooting the game-tying three from the 2005 NCAA Chicago Regional Final permanently ingrained as his laptop background), which translates to the Bulls finally having a legitimate superstar once again. I hate using too many superlatives, but I believe that we’re going to look at footage a decade from now of the Bulls winning the lottery last month and Derrick Rose heading up to the podium tonight and point to this time as one of the most important moments in Chicago sports history. The impact of superstars in the NBA can’t be underestimated, which the Bulls know better than anyone since they once had the biggest megastar of them all, and by all indications Rose is going to get to that level.

So, when this Labor Day weekend comes around, I’ll still be blanketed in orange when the Illini take on Mizzou in what will be the most important non-conference football game that Illinois has played since I went to school there. However, I have hopes that I’m also following a baseball pennant race on both sides of town along with anticipating the opening of Bulls training camp. As for the Bears… I’ll just stop pushing my luck right now.

(Images from Chicago Tribune and

Land-o-Links – 3/24/2008

I know the posts have been sparse, especially considering that we’re in the middle of March Madness, but I promise you that this blog will be coming out of its once-a-month-or-so rut very soon. Anyway, the Illini basketball team ended the season with their best impression of the 1999 club in the Big Ten Tournament on the heels of my previous post. Maybe next year won’t be so bad with the return of Jamar Smith and the addition of Alex Legion, right? Here are some links to tide you over in anticipation of the Final Four, baseball opening day and the Masters:

(1) Stuff White People Like – I’m sure that if you’re interweb-savvy that you’ve seen this blog already, but those that haven’t would be remiss not to check out the daily postings here. As many others have observed, it’s really Stuff Liberal White Yuppies and Hipsters Like, but of course that type of title would not lead to people passing around the link to this blog. My favorite gems are how white people like dinner parties, knowing what’s best for poor people, hating corporations (other than corporations that make stuff that white people like, such as Apple and Target), public radio, gifted children, and, of course, Wrigley Field. The only thing is that despite being a half-Asian libertarian Republican, this blog really hammers home how I’m pretty much a pasty white liberal yuppie on paper outside of the anti-capitalist undertones.

(Edit: In my long overdue review of everyone on my blogroll, I’ll note that Kenny pointed this blog out a couple of weeks ago.)

(2) The Republican Resurrection (The New York Times) – I don’t agree with Frank Rich very often (although my link history does show that I’m an avid New York Times reader), but he nailed the political analysis on the spot here. The Democratic Party somehow is grasping defeat from the jaws of victory yet again with a prolonged and increasingly nasty nomination battle. I’ll be upfront that I’ve always been a John McCain fan, but realistically, I’ve thought that he could only win in the general election if Hillary Clinton somehow grabbed the Democratic nomination at the last moment. That would mean that the Democrats would be putting up a politically polarizing candidate AND the party base would be less than enthusiastic in the general election. As unlikely as that may happen, the Clinton family sway over the Democratic superdelegates at least makes that a real possibility. I’m also simply amazed that there are still Democratic primary voters who sincerely believe that Hillary would do better than Barack Obama in the general election. Believe me – every Republican alive that has any knowledge whatsoever about the tempermant of the general electorate would rather face Hillary than Obama in November. This seems to be pretty obvious to everyone other than a blindly loyal subset of Clinton supporters.

(3) Fighting Illini Announce 2008 Spring Games ( – Given the state of the White Sox and Bulls, I’m being dead serious when I say that Illinois spring football is what I’m looking forward to the most in April sports-wise (other than the Masters).

(4) Playoffs or Lottery for Bulls? (Hoopsworld) – Speaking of the Bulls, I really hate being in this predicament as a fan. The team is 15 games under .500, yet the Eastern Conference is so horrible that they are still within 3 games of a playoff spot. So, what is better for the club in the long term – squeaking by into the #8-seed, where they would most likely be swept by the Celtics or Pistons in the first round, or taking its chances in the NBA Draft lottery with the hope that everything comes up Milhouse to be in position to get Michael Beasley or Derrick Rose (where either one would probably make the team a true championship contender next season)? I hate the notion of cheering against your own team from a bad karma perspective, but I have to disagree with the Hoopsworld writer and say that the Bulls would be better off heading to the lottery. Unlike football or baseball, where moving up draft positions is almost never worth the thought of losing more games, the NBA, as I’ve noted many times before, is a boom-or-bust environment where you need a superstar to have a reasonable chance to win it all. Not only are those superstars almost universally lottery picks, but they are disproportionately drafted with one of the top three picks. I’m not one of those chumps that wants a “nice Bulls team” that gets to the playoffs regularly but never gets over the hump – I was admittedly spoiled growing up with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, so I want to see the team be in position to win more championships. As a result, I’d rather see the Bulls wait for some ping-pong balls in May than watch them get crushed by KG or Chauncey Billups in four straight games. This all could have been prevented by John Paxson last year, but that’s another rant for another time.

And finally…

(5) American League Preview 2008 (Siberian Baseball) – Minneapolis Red Sox is starting up his annual baseball previews and I’m sure he’ll have the National League shortly. He has charitably put the White Sox in third place in the AL Central (actually, I think that’s about right – I don’t know how some crack smokers think that the Sox will be worse than either the Twins or Royals this season, but the South Siders are clearly way behind Detroit and Cleveland as we stand today).

Enjoy the rest of the NCAA Tournament and have a great day!

1, 2, 3, 4… What the Hell am I Cheering For?


A few weeks ago, I wrote about my pretty good fortune as a sports fan over the past few years, with my various favorite teams winning a World Series and getting to the Super Bowl, Final Four and Rose Bowl in a relatively short period of time.  Well, folks, that run has officially come to an end.  The Illini basketball team wouldn’t be able to win tickets from a pop-a-shot game at Chuck E. Cheese, much less garner an NCAA Tournament berth this season.  At the same time, the Bulls are using the rules from ‘Survivor’ to figure out who they are going to play every night.  The Bears head into the offseason with the strong likelihood of losing a Pro Bowler in Lance Briggs while not gaining, you know, an NFL-level quarterback.  Finally, the White Sox technically have a chance to get to the playoffs in the same manner that Dennis Kucinich technically has a chance to win the Democratic nomination.  Essentially, none of my teams are going to be playing any games of real meaning from now until the Illinois football team suits up to play Missouri on Labor Day weekend.  So, what’s a sports fan supposed to do with nearly 9 months to go without having anything significant to cheer for?  Well, here’s a guide of how I’m coping with this period of sports oblivion:

(1) Your Archrivals Are Still Evil – The only good thing about the Packers being in the playoffs is that I have a vested interest in seeing them get spanked.  Believe me, I would rather hear two weeks of hype about the supposedly greatest football team ever in the history of the universe going for perfection (even though they would have never been able to hang with these guys) than deal with another instance of the media fellating Brett Favre’s “rekindled passion for the game”.  At the same time, as long as Satan’s Spawn is still wearing blue shirts at the helm of the Indiana basketball program, the rest of the Big Ten has found a friend in me when they’re playing the Hoosiers.

(2) The Young Guys Are the Future… Right? – As someone that is a whole-hearted believer in the teachings of Adam Smith, I completely understand that coaches have an incentive to play veterans as long as possible since they supposedly give their teams the best chances to win on a nightly basis, which means those coaches are more likely to keep their jobs.  However, there’s a certain point when bad teams need to face the facts that they aren’t going anywhere and start checking out the young guys on the squad.  The Bears mercifully started doing that by the last few weeks of this season, which resulted in the world’s greatest neckbearded alcoholic leading the team to a couple of victories.  I thought that the drafting of Joakim Noah by the Bulls was ridiculous last summer considering that they are already a team full of offensively-challenged frontcourt players, but now that he’s here and the team is going nowhere, he should be getting more playing time instead of being voted out by his lackluster teammates (and for that matter, get Tyrus Thomas some more minutes, too).  It appears as though Bruce Weber has finally realized that the Illinois basketball team is going to benefit a lot more from starting freshman Demetri McCamey at point guard as opposed to Chester Frazier (I think Illini Nation has been a bit harsh on Frazier with the booing at Assembly Hall – he should have always been a sixth man for defensive help off of the bench, but was thrust into a starting role as a result of Eric Gordon aligning himself with Satan’s Spawn).  As for the White Sox… well, they traded their entire farm system to Oakland for Nick Swisher.  Anyway, at least the others are giving us some hope that there might be something better in a year or two.

(3) The Drafts and National Signing Days! – Any yahoo can watch some regular season games and the postseason – you know, actual competition on the field of play.  If you’re a committed sports dork like me, though, the dates of the NFL Draft, NBA Draft, and the college football and basketball National Signing Days are up there with the Super Bowl and Selection Sunday in terms of importance.  The one saving grace of cheering for a bad professional sports team is that draft day beckons as a beacon of opportunity.  Sometimes, it’s a choice that alters the course of history in a spectacular way (Portland taking Sam Bowie in 1984, leaving the Bulls to pick a young pup named Michael Jordan) or, alternatively, crashes and burns to set back a franchise for years (Cade McNown, Curtis Enis, Rashaan Salaam, Cedric Benson… OK, I’ll stop now), but it’s almost always important, especially if you’re picking high.  (I haven’t included the Major League Baseball Draft in this discussion since the correlation between high draft choices and eventual long-term success is relatively low compared to the NBA and NFL.)  So, as a Bulls fan, do I want this team to stretch to grab the seventh or eight seed in the Eastern Conference so that it can be shellacked by Boston or Detroit in the playoffs, or would I rather roll the dice and see if we can get O.J. Mayo or Derrick Rose in the United Center on a full-time basis next season?  Call me crazy, but the latter option is more appealing to me at this point.  (As a sidenote, WTF do I do if Eric Gordon ends up in Bulls uniform next year, which is a real possibility the way things are going?  I’ve always taken the opinion that I will let bygones be bygones when it comes to college players that I couldn’t stand – such as Anthony Thomas on the Bears – ending up on my favorite pro teams, but Gordon would be at an entirely different level.  On the one hand, he, in conjunction with Satan’s Spawn, has done more damage to the Illini basketball program than anyone else in my lifetime.   On the other hand, he’s such a phenomenal basketball player that he would be that superstar that I’ve been begging the Bulls to get for pretty much the entire time that I’ve been blogging.  Let’s move on before my head explodes.)

The NCAA National Signing Days are the equivalents of draft days for college football and basketball programs, although unlike the pros where the bad teams get the first crack at the best players, usually the rich get richer when it comes to the college level.  You can count on USC, Ohio State, Texas and Florida to be getting the 5-star recruiting ratings every year on the football side, while UNC and Duke are always pulling their weight in basketball.  That being said, it’s when college sports fans can start getting excited again – the turnaround of the Illinois football program was based on Ron Zook’s ability to seal the deal on National Signing Day months before spring practices would start.  Fortunately, both Illini football and basketball look to be getting very good (if not quite stellar) additions to their teams next season, so at least I’ve got that going for me.

(4) No Clouded Judgment on Fantasy Sports Teams – This really isn’t much different from how I approach fantasy sports normally, but a lot of people have certains biases for or against certain players or real-life teams in terms of picking their fantasy sports teams.  I love those types of people in my leagues since I’m normally able to count on crushing them down the road.  That being said, I don’t feel quite as dirty picking a baseball team full of Red Sox and Yankees players when the White Sox aren’t very good.

(5) No Clouded Judgment on Wagering – This is where I have a little more of a problem as opposed to fantasy sports.  I’m able to compartmentalize my biases with respect to fantasy sports very easily, but it’s not quite as simple in terms of betting.  For instance, if I had done a BCS bowl picks blog post this year, I would have certainly taken Illinois +14 in the Rose Bowl against USC, not necessarily because I really thought that they were going to win, but I believed that they would have at least covered.  Fortunately, my flight to L.A. did not include a layover in Las Vegas or else the bank would be foreclosing on my house this week.  Unless you’re cheering for one of those pantheon teams such as the ’85 Bears or the ’96 Bulls (or maybe this year’s Patriots team), you probably have a bit of an inflated view of how good your team is if they’ve been playing well, so you’re not very accurate in your wagering.  If you’re team is not very good, on the other hand, you tend to look at the lines more objectively – there were only a couple of weeks where I was on the wrong end in picking a Bears game against the spread this season in a friend’s NFL pool, but I was awful at choosing Bears games during their Super Bowl run last year.

So, I’ve at least got a few things to look forward to over the coming months.  It could be worse – I don’t quite feel like this Cowboys fan.  As for quality play from my favorite teams, I’ll see you in September.

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