It’s been a long time, so let’s throw up some links:
1. The Blackhawks Game of the Century (My Tribe) – It’s nice to see the Blackhawks start getting some attention again in town, with Rocky Wirtz taking swift action in turning around a franchise that was decimated by his father’s bull-headed business practices. The biggest news for the casual fan, of course, is that the Hawks and Red Wings will be playing at Wrigley Field next New Year’s Day in the NHL Winter Classic. This will certainly be a great event for the city of Chicago in a historic venue – of course, I’ll miss it all if the Illini end up in a warmer locale for a bowl game that day. (We actually have expectations this year!!!)
That’s the dilemma here. The scheduling choice (I’m not sure if the NHL or NBC is to blame here) to put the Winter Classic on the same day as the Rose Bowl, Capital One Bowl and other major bowl games makes about as much sense as putting it opposite of the opening round of the NCAA Tournament or game 1 of the World Series – the national attention is elsewhere. Plus, this past New Year’s Day, Michigan played in the Capital One Bowl while Illinois played in the Rose Bowl right after that, which happen to be the major college football draws for the Detroit and Chicago media markets, respectively. If that type of situation happens again this coming New Year’s Day, how are Chicago and Detroit fans going to choose between the Winter Classic and their respective college home teams?
As much positive press as the NHL received for the ratings for last year’s Winter Classic, it ended up garnering a 2.6 on NBC with teams from two cities (Buffalo and Pittsburgh) that got huge local ratings since they had no local college team conflicts. In contrast, the Capital One Bowl aired directly opposite of the hockey game on cable (as opposed to network television) and received a 9.1 rating on ESPN and the Rose Bowl got a 11.1 rating on ABC. That should be clear evidence to the NHL its headliner event ought to be moved to a date with a lot less competition for eyeballs. Plus, while there will be a certain curiosity factor of watching a hockey game at Wrigley Field, any combination of Illinois, Notre Dame, Michigan and/or Michigan State playing in New Year’s Day bowl games, which has occurred every single year except for one since the turn of the millennium, would reduce the local ratings for the Winter Classic in Chicago and Detroit by a significant margin. If I were NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, I would do a whole lot of things, but first and foremost would be to move the date of the Winter Classic to the weekend in between the AFC and NFC Conference Championship Games and the Super Bowl where the game would have the full attention of the sports world. Placing the marquee regular season game of the season up against a day that has been reserved for college football for decades (with the ratings to back it up), particularly in the middle of Big Ten country, is asinine.
2. The Dark Knight Triumphs and Disturbs (Chicagoist) – I’m not a very big comic book guy at all, but even I got wrapped up in the hype around The Dark Knight and ran out to see it this past weekend. The generally glowing reviews of the film are warranted – the best thing that I can say about the late Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker is that you completely forget that it’s Heath Ledger up there since he consumes himself in the role so thoroughly. Plus, the latest Batman installment spent much of last summer filming right outside of my old office building at LaSalle and Wacker, so it was a kick to see the long chase scene on Lower Wacker Drive and multiple shots on LaSalle Street up on the big screen. In contrast to Batman Begins, which filled in a shell of the Chicago skyline and street scenes with a lot digitized images, The Dark Knight displays the city of Chicago pretty much as-is, such that it’s truly fair to call this a “Chicago movie” in the same manner as The Fugitive, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and The Blues Brothers. Regardless, if you’re one of the five people in America that hasn’t seen the film yet, there’s no reason to wait.
3. Williams, Jazz to Play Bulls in Champaign (Pantagraph) – I wasn’t planning on going to the Illinois Homecoming game this year because it happens to fall on the same day as my law school class reunion, but now I’m really regretting it with this preseason game being added on Friday night to start off that weekend. Deron Williams, Derrick Rose, Ron Zook, Rejus Benn – all my man crushes in one place and I’ll have to miss it. Uh, let’s move on.
4. Together Again Briefly, Dee Brown and Deron Williams Chart Different Courses (ESPN.com) – Speaking of the Illini and the NBA, J.A. Adande (one of the few non-schmucks left at TWWL) had this nice piece examining the juxtaposition of the situations of Dee Brown and Deron Williams in college compared to the pros. It would be nice to see Dee get a spot somewhere in the NBA – the Jazz were a much deeper team, so he may have a better shot at cracking the rotation in Washington.
5. Brett Favre, Could Cause Sickness (Windy City Gridiron) – If there’s one saving grace about the 24-hour news ticker about Brett Favre’s movements over the past week, it’s that there is finally some movement away from the monolithic media monkey love for this man that has existed for the past decade. I have always hated Favre, plain and simple, and it’s nice to see people outside of Chicago and Minnesota start realizing that he is as selfish as any other athlete out there.
6. Kevin Jones Signs With Bears (Huddle Up) – As the Bears open training camp, I’m trying to think of any athlete that has ruined my past fantasy seasons in either baseball or football more than Kevin Jones. I’ve been a victim of catastrophic injuries to Rocky Baldelli and Cris Carpenter on a number of occasions on the baseball end, but there’s nothing quite like how you get fucked when your starting running back goes down. That being said, the Bears taking a flyer on Jones isn’t a bad idea in the real football world – when the alternative is throwing in rookie Matt Forte out there after an offseason dedicated to wiring Cedric Benson bail money, you can’t afford to be picky.
7. Illini Sell Out Ohio State Game (FightingIllini.com) – The note here about the Illinois-Ohio State game selling out within an hour is a load of B.S. – I went online as soon as tickets went on sale and this game was already gone. So, if anyone out there has 2-4 tickets available for the game, shoot me a message.
8. Baseball Hall-of-Famer Jerome Holtzman Dies (Chicago Tribune) – Most of the nation knows of Peter Gammons’ work at the Boston Globe due to ESPN, but for Chicagoans, it was Jerome Holtzman that defined baseball writing. His old column going through the all of the tidbits across the baseball world (not just the Cubs and White Sox) was always the first place I went to every week when the Sunday Chicago Tribune hit the driveway. May the Dean rest in peace.
(Image from Chicago Tribune)