Bears-Packers and Rupert Murdoch Synergy

Coming into Sunday, I had some bad juju feelings about the Bears-Seahawks game.  I was glad the Bears were playing Seattle as opposed to Philly, but felt dirty that the Packers had to win in order for that to have happened.  Then, Jim Cornelison took the microphone:

At that point, the combo of the crowd exploding and the snow flying removed all my doubt about the Bears and I would’ve bet all of my savings on Julius Peppers performing a Mortal Kombat finishing move on Matt Hasselback by the end of the first half.  (Believe or not, it’s even more of a scene when Cornelison performs at Blackhawks games.  He’s the best there is with the Star-Spangled Banner.)  With the way the Bears were clearly jacked up after that performance, I was hoping that the team would be wise enough to bring Cornelison back for Bears vs. Packers NFC Championship Game.  It’s not hyperbolic to say that this is going to be the single most important sporting event ever to be played in Chicago’s city limits – the Bears and Packers playing for the right to go to the Super Bowl trumps even a Cubs – White Sox World Series.  If there are two things that unite this town, it’s a love of the Bears and a hatred of the Packers.  I want to see the Bears come out on fire after the national anthem even more so next week.

However, a chill went down my spine earlier today.  Fox is televising the game and it is the epitome of a cross-promotional multi-platform leveraging synergisticalifragilisticexpialidocious organization.  In case you’ve avoided the 847,074 promos over the weekend, American Idol has its season premiere this Wednesday with Randy Jackson, J.Lo and the corpse of Steven Tyler.  The latest American Idol winner, Lee DeWyze, happens to be from the Chicago area.  I figured that it was almost too convenient for the Rupert Murdoch Empire.

Sure enough, moments after I had that thought, DeWyze Tweeted that he would performing the national anthem at Soldier Field (although the Bears won’t confirm it officially yet).  DeWyze isn’t terrible (here he is at last year’s NBA Finals), but as an acoustic guitar toting soft-voiced John Mayer knockoff, he’s the antithesis of the booming Cornelison.  I’ve been to midseason Bears-Packers games where both of the teams were medicore and they were still the ugliest and most nasty sniping crowds that I’ve ever seen in person (and remember that I’ve been to over 100 White Sox games, where the crowd has a propensity to attack umpires and coaches).  With the stakes this weekend, let’s just say crowd control might be an issue.  In the words of the late Richard J. Daley, “The policeman isn’t there to create disorder; the policeman is there to preserve disorder.”

I say this on behalf of Bears fans everywhere: we need every edge possible this Sunday because it is either going to be one of the greatest days in Chicago sports history or touch off the most miserable offseason imaginable.  There’s no in between.  Let’s at least guarantee the day starts out right.

(Follow Frank the Tank’s Slant on Twitter @frankthetank111 and Facebook)

(Image from Mike Roemer Photo)

The Future is Beautiful in Chicago

jay-cutler-chicago-bears-denver-broncos

I rarely ever write about football trades and free agent signings (the NFL Draft is a different story) because (1) even the most recognizable names on the trade and waiver wires are invariably way past their respective primes, (2) desirable players that are in their primes never get moved since they are either paid so much that they can’t practically be moved due to salary cap issues or are paid so relatively little being on their rookie contracts that they won’t be moved due to how valuable they are in a salary cap world, (3) it’s simply not that much fun to speculate compared to basketball, where one trade can legitimately change the prospects of a franchise (which is why I’m on every viable Bulls trade rumor like white on rice), or baseball, where the lack of salary cap allows for plenty of blockbuster deals both in the offseason and at the trade deadline every year, since adding a single football player outside of a top flight quarterback (who never get traded) is going to be a relatively low impact move when so many other pieces need to be in order for a team (in 99% of the cases, the addition of one football player is a piece that may help but not a cornerstone that single-handedly vaults a team from pretender to contender), and (4) Jerry Angelo and the Bears never seem to be serious players in any type of high impact trade or free agent discussion (in fact, their modus operandi for the past few years has been stockpile draft picks by trading down in the draft or obtain compensatory picks by letting guys like Bernard Berrian move on to other teams).

As a result, I haven’t even bothered to give much thought to the hubbub about Jay Cutler’s apparent fallout with the Broncos’ new head coach, Josh McDaniels. Regardless of how upset Cutler might have been, I couldn’t fathom the prospect of Denver trading away a 25-year quarterback that had already made a Pro Bowl within his first three years – name brand quarterbacks only get traded when they decide to retire, choose to un-retire two months later, and then bitch and moan about not getting his job back when the franchise that has catered to his every whim for nearly two decades decides that it has to move on after being yanked around about retirement plans for over five years. Even if I could have wrapped my mind around the thought that Cutler was truly available, I had absolutely no faith whatsoever that the Bears would offer what it would take to nab a player of that caliber. Early in the morning on April 2nd, I told a co-worker that my feeling was that the Redskins and Daniel Snyder would offer up the team’s first round draft picks for the next ten years (at least the ones that they still have left) plus ownership of any Six Flags theme park in order to get such a huge deal completed and the Bears wouldn’t even bother putting in a viable offer.

So, the fact that the Bears were actually able to nab a 25-year Pro Bowl quarterback was the most shocking transaction that I could ever remember the team (and possibly any franchise in Chicago) completing. After enduring years of that horrific graphic that every television network displayed during every Bears-Packers game with a list of the 87,323 quarterbacks that the Bears have gone through since Brett Favre’s first season with the Packers, there is actually a real quarterback in Chicago. Not only that, this quarterback may very well still be at the helm of this team in 2016 when Chicago hopes to hold the Olympics. (Note that after Mayor Daley spent an enormous amount of time and money to ensure that the visit of the International Olympic Committee evaluators this week would be perfectly coordinated, the news is now dominated by the dual headlines of the Cutler trade and Rod Blagoevich getting indicted.) I’m trying to avoid too much of the Kool-Aid (on the scheme of things, I would still wager that the Bulls landing the rights to draft Derrick Rose last year will end up being the seminal off-the-field Chicago sports moment of this generation), but I continue to be perplexed by that segment of the population that seems to be giving a thumbs down to this trade. Frankly, this reminds of the Bulls fans that began deluding themselves that Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah were becoming the frontcourt version of Michael and Scottie where they couldn’t be given up for a multiple-time All-Star big man in his prime averaging 20/9 over the course of his career. While that trade never went through (and Amare Stoudemire almost lost an eyeball a few days after the trade deadline passed), fans that complained for years that the Bulls needed a top-tier frontcourt scorer all of the sudden became scared of “giving up too much” when a top-tier frontcourt scorer was right in front of them. Likewise, Bears fans have been complaining about their quarterback situation since the Sid Luckman era (he retired in 1950, by the way), yet a sizeable segment of the fanbase inexplicably is criticizing this deal for a variety of knee-jerk (and ultimately illogical) reasons. Let’s connect this situation from one of my favorite scenes from ‘Swingers’, where Rob confronts Mike for being been holed up in his apartment for several days since he continued to be paralyzed by the break-up with his girlfriend:

There are a few lessons from that scene for the Bears fans that aren’t quite on board yet with the Cutler deal. At the top, we have to look at the things that we have as opposed to the things that we don’t have. The Bears traded away Kyle Orton, whose most notable achievements in Chicago were a fantastic neckbeard and a legendary penchant for Chi-town ladies and Jack Daniels straight out of the bottle. I’m not exactly sure what has happened over the last couple of months that has convinced some Bears fans that Orton is a guy that will lead the team to a Super Bowl victory (which is the ultimate goal as opposed to just making the playoffs by winning a mediocre division). Kyle Orton and Rex Grossman might have been the most interesting pair of mediocre quarterbacks in the NFL, but the emphasis needs to be on the fact that they were (and are) mediocre. Jay Cutler, on the other hand, has the ability to be a great quarterback – maybe not at the level of Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, but certainly can be in that next category of guys where you can a win a Super Bowl because of him as opposed to in spite of him. In 2008, only Cutler’s third season in the NFL, he passed for 4,526 yards, which is nearly 700 yards more than the Bears all-time single season record. Cutler’s career QB rating of 87.1 (once again, only after three seasons) would rank as the best in Bears history for a career. These are just a couple of the statistical categories where Cutler would already hold Bears all-time records, not to mention that he has already made one Pro Bowl (and I’ll say it once again, this is only after three seasons), which equals the total number of Pro Bowl appearances by Bears quarterbacks since 1963 (the lone appearance being Jim McMahon in 1985).

At the same time, while the Bears gave up a lot in terms of draft picks (first round picks for the next two years and a third round pick this year), there was no chance that any of those draft picks would have yielded a quarterback anywhere near the level of Cutler. This isn’t like the Herschel Walker trade, where the Vikings essentially skipped the NFL Draft for three years straight, or when Mike Ditka traded all of the Saints’ 1999 draft picks for Ricky Williams. A quick look at Bears’ recent and not-too-distant first round draft picks (Cedric Benson, David Terrell, Curtis Enis, Rashaan Salaam, Curtis Conway… urge to kill… rising) should immediately get rid of any hesitancy of Chicago sports fans to skip the first part of draft day this year and next year.

Another area where some Bears fans are bemoaning what they don’t have as opposed looking at what they do have is with respect to the team’s wide receivers (or lack thereof). I’ll agree that the Bears need better wide receivers immediately. However, that doesn’t mean that the Bears shouldn’t have gone out and traded for Cutler. Quite to the contrary, as Dan Bernstein eloquently stated on Friday on WSCR, arguing that the Bears shouldn’t have traded for Cutler because the Bears don’t have good wide receivers is like saying that you don’t want to pick up a million dollars in cash that you’ve won because you don’t own a suitcase. The Bears can still add a competent wide receiver this offseason (either through the use of a second round draft pick or signing a veteran like Torry Holt or Marvin Harrison) and, practically speaking, it’s a whole lot easier (not easy, but easier) trying to find wide receivers than a Pro Bowl quarterback that’s only 25 years old. Don’t forget that the Bears still have Earl Bennett on their roster – last year’s third round draft pick that happened to be Cutler’s favorite wide receiver target in his final year at Vanderbilt. Plus, this “we don’t have wide receivers” lament is suited in the old Bad Rex/Orton world, where the Bears needed wide receivers that could make their quarterbacks better. Now, the Bears actually have a quarterback that can make the team’s wide receivers better (as it should be).

It also seems like some Bears fans have gotten used to the pain of not having a top level quarterback for so long that they can’t handle a living a life without such pain. Every Bears fan under 70 years old (think about that for a second – that’s not hyperbole) has only known a franchise that has had mediocre (at best) or Division I-AA level (Jonathan Quinn, Peter Tom Willis, Moses Moreno, Henry Burris, Will Furrer, Rick Mirer… urge to kill… rising) quarterback play, so I think there’s some of us that will actually miss those Monday mornings after the game where Chicago sports talk radio contains 4 straight hours of censored expletives about the lack of our passing game. So, some of these Bears fans start throwing out some of the aforementioned complaints, or the supposed scarlet letter that “Jay Cutler hasn’t won a playoff game yet” (once again, he’s only been in the league for three seasons). By that short-sighted logic, we should sign Rex Grossman to a lifetime contract since he got us to the Super Bowl. Are we scared of entering a world where we can’t just blame Bears losses on the lack of a QB? Maybe some people can’t handle it, but I’m more than ready to move on.

Finally, this whole situation is absolutely manifest destiny applied to the NFL. Think of the number of crazy events that had to occur in order to set this trade into motion: (1) Tom Brady gets knocked out in the first few minutes of the 2008 season, (2) Matt Cassel steps in cold turkey after being a backup since literally high school (since he got to carry the clipboard behind both Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart at USC) and leads the Patriots to a record that would have landed them in the playoffs almost every other year, (3) Denver doesn’t make the playoffs and Mike Shanahan gets fired after having brought the franchise two Super Bowl victories, (4) the Broncos then hire Josh McDaniels, who coached Cassel as offensive coordinator with the Patriots, (5) Cassel gets the franchise tag placed on him by New England so that he wouldn’t go to free agency and the team could get some value back for him on the trade market, (6) McDaniels does everything other than publicly proclaim Cassel as being perfect for his system and the Broncos try to trade Cutler for him, (7) Cutler really doesn’t like this, (8) Cassel gets traded to the Chiefs, but McDaniels continues to indicate that his special sauce offense is going to be changed around in a way that it goes against all of Cutler’s strengths, (9) Cutler absolutely positively doesn’t like this, (10) Cutler does everything but publicly proclaim that he will never play for McDaniels, (11) for some inexplicable reason, McDaniels doesn’t do everything in his power to calm down a young franchise quarterback that the long-term stability of his coaching job will depend upon, (12) the Broncos are then essentially forced to put Cutler on the trading block, (13) Jerry Angelo has the intestinal fortitude to go against every precedent that his organization has set in terms of high-profile trades and “got in it to win it” as he put it, and (14) the Bears trade for Cutler to get the quarterback that they have never had.

While a number of Bears fans are a bit turned off by Cutler’s apparent negative reaction to criticism (and he’ll certainly need to become thick-skinned immediately to deal with a rabid Chicago media and fan base that can turn on a misguided interception), there aren’t too many good quarterbacks that aren’t prima donnas. I’ll challenge anyone to find a larger prima donna in sports than Brett Favre and, in all probability, the biggest d-bag in your high school class was the quarterback of your football team. It all doesn’t matter if it means legitimate chances to bring the Lombardi Trophy back to Chicago.

If anything else, the Sunday night regular season opener between the Bears and Packers at Lambeau Field is going to be a whole lot more interesting both locally and nationally. Let’s say this again because I still can’t quite believe it: the Bears actually have a real quarterback. The future is beautiful, Bears fans.

(Image from Midwest Sports Fans)

Random Observations on the World of Sports and Frank the Tank’s Football Parlay – New Year’s 2009 Edition

robbie-gould-bears-packers

A few random observations before we get to an expanded edition of this week’s football picks:

  1. The Bears Are Horrible… and the NFC is Even Worse – There was no logical reason for the Bears to have beaten the Packers this past Monday night.  They played as if though they were ready to pack it in for the season as opposed to fighting to keep alive in the playoff race.  Only the Bears have the ability to make me feel like I just drank some paint even while winning football games.  The only saving grace is that the NFC is so horrific (trading the Big 12 South straight up for the NFC West would have made for a much more competitive year) that this mediocre team could still actually host a playoff game if the right things fall into place.
  2. The Illini Basketball Team Actually Has Some Life… and So Does the Rest of the Big Ten – Hope is a dangerous drug.  As I’ve stated in some prior posts, I was more than willing to scrap this current Illinois basketball season as a complete rebuilding project with an aim toward giving Alex Legion ample playing time.  After absolutely crushing Missouri in the Braggin’ Rights Game on Tuesday night, though, the Illini seem to be looking to get back to the NCAA Tournament a year ahead of schedule.  One of these years, Illinois will beat Mizzou in football and then Mizzou will beat Illinois in basketball, upon which I will cardon myself in the basement with a plethora of perishable goods to prepare for the impending destruction of the world.
  3. Bulls Are the Ultimate .500 Team – Has there been a team in recent memory that have hung around the .500 mark with such consistency as this year’s Bulls?  I’m pretty sure they’ve attempted to get to .500 every single time that I’ve watched one of their games this season.  They’re like a baksetball version of an Escher painting.
  4. For the Love of God, Stop Fellating the Celtics – On the complete opposite side of mediocrity, I know that the ESPN criticism in the blogosophere can often be over the top at times, but how many fucking years in a row do they need to put up a fucking daily game-by-game comparison of a hot NBA team’s record versus the 1996 Bulls (and said hot NBA team flames out by the middle of January at the very latest)?  Well, the tizzy around the Celtics’ recent 19-game winning streak has been almost as ridiculous as the inclusion of the 2005 USC Trojans in the infamous “greatest college football team ever” bracket prior to that season’s national championship game (who subsequently lost to Texas).  When an NBA team only has 5 losses at the All-Star Break, then we can start talking about whether a team might beat the Bulls’ single-season record.  If it’s only a month-and-a-half into the season, though, just simmer down and shut the fuck up.  I cannot tell you how much I hate these premature crownings of teams.  Let me move on before I throw my laptop across the room…

On that happy holiday note, let’s get to a super-sized edition of the football picks (home teams in CAPS where applicable):

NFL FOOTBALL PARLAY

  • PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (-1) over Dallas Cowboys – In relatively quiet fashion, the Iggles have been as consistent as anyone in the NFC since Donovan McNabb learned about ties in the NFL.
  • Miami Dolphins (+3) over NEW YORK JETS – I’ll admit that all I want to see if Chad Pennington to come in and stuff the team that turned on him so that they could whore themselves for Brett Favre.
  • Chicago Bears (+3) over HOUSTON TEXANS – The bookmakers know that the Bears are horrible, which is how a listless Texans team could be favorites over a club that is still fighting for a legit shot at the playoffs.  Yet, I still think that the Bears will pull this out for a restless Chicago fan base.  Let’s hope that the Giants play their starters long enough (if at all) to do some damage to the Vikings at the same time.

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

Bears Games for the Season: 3-91
Overall Season: 19-20-3

NEW YEAR’S DAY NON-BCS BOWL PARLAY

  • Outback Bowl:  South Carolina Gamecocks (+3.5) over Iowa Hawkeyes – Can I really trust an Iowa team that lost to the Illini to actually cover against a Steve Spurrier-led team in Tampa? NFW.
  • Gator Bowl:  Nebraska Cornhuskers (+3) over Clemson Tigers – The only team that I trust less than Iowa is Clemson.
  • Capital One Bowl:  Michigan State Spartans (+7.5) over Georgia Bulldogs – I truly don’t understand this Georgia team, which was bandied around as one of a handful of national championship contenders at the beginning of the year.  On paper, UGA should be crushing State, but the Big Ten has a pretty good track record against supposedly superior SEC teams in Orlando.  I’ll take the points for Sparty here.

BCS BOWL PICKS

  • Rose Bowl:  Penn State Nittany Lions (+9) over USC Trojans – Chicago has alternately seen temperatures close to zero degrees, traffic debiliating snowfall once the temperature rises into the teens, and then zero-visibility fog as the temperature creeps above freezing over the past THREE days.  This type of setting has made the dark hole of no Pasadena trip to look forward to for the Illini (and me) even more depressing.  I always have an extremely hard time watching a major sports event the year after my favorite team has played in it (i.e. 2006 NCAA Final Four, 2006 World Series, last year’s Super Bowl) and this Rose Bowl will be no exception, particularly with the Illini failing to make any type of bowl at all.  The only thing that warms my heart here is that the Big Ten has its best shot to knock off those USC bastards yet.  Unlike Ohio State earlier this year, the Illini last season, and Michigan two years ago, JoePa’s current squad is anything but a stereotypical plodding Big Ten team – Penn State has as much speed as anyone in the country.  The spread is way too large here with the Nitanny Lions at full strength.
  • Orange Bowl:  Virginia Tech (+2.5) over Cincinnati Bearcats – I’d stay the hell away from this game in the sportsbook in real life.  In theory, Cincy should be much more motivated to be here, particularly since Virginia Tech was just in the Orange Bowl last season.  I’ll go with the established power here, though, only because the Hokies still have an abundance of talent to the point that I’m fairly surprised that they are more than a 1-point underdog.
  • Sugar Bowl:  Alabama Crimson Tide (-10) over Utah Utes – As much as I’d love to see Utah draw blood against the team that was #1 for most of the season, ‘Bama is way beyond the draws that the ’04 Utes and ’06 Boise State respectively received with Pitt and Oklahoma in their Fiesta Bowl non-BCS conference upsets.
  • Fiesta Bowl:  Ohio State Buckeyes (+8.5) over Texas Longhorns – Much like the Rose Bowl spread, there are way too many points to pass up taking here.  Plus, am I the only one in America that didn’t find a single thing wrong with how the Big 12 determined its tie-breaker at the division level?  Oklahoma, Texas, and Texas Tech were all tied for first place in the Big 12 South division with 1 win and 1 loss in head-to-head competition against each other.  It seems to me that having the BCS standings is the next logical tie-breaker (with “logical” being an extremely convulated term in the world of college football) since any conference would want to elevate a team that would have the best chance of getting to the national championship game.  While Texas beat Oklahoma head-to-head, the Longhorns didn’t have any more claim to get a spot in the Big 12 Championship Game than Texas Tech, who beat Texas head-to-head.  I have no clue why there was such a national uproar over a tie-breaking procedure that seemed to actually make a lot of sense considering how the national championship match-up is determined today.  Anyway, the point is that Texas seems to be acting like the ’06 Michigan Wolverines that complained mightily that they didn’t get a re-match with their fiercest rival in Ohio State in the national championship game and then got crushed by a very talented USC team in the Rose Bowl.  I have a strong feeling that Texas is going to put up a massive dud here, too, since Ohio State is anything but a pushover when Beanie Wells is on the field.
  • BCS National Championship Game:  Florida Gators (-3) over Oklahoma Sooners – No one should forget that Florida is going to be playing a virtual home game in Miami in the same manner that LSU had the home field advantage in last year’s national championship game in New Orleans.  At the same time, for all of the national bashing of Ohio State for its high profile stumbles over the past two seasons, they have made it to BCS bowls 6 out of the last 7 seasons (including this year) with 3 victories that includes a national championship (the only two losses coming in the last 2 national championship games).  There isn’t another program other than USC that would trade places with the Buckeyes with that type of record.  Meanwhile, in the last four BCS bowls for Oklahoma, the Sooners were crushed by West Virginia (who was reeling after having just lost its head coach to Michigan) by 20 points in last year’s Fiesta Bowl, was on the wrong end of the classic upset by Boise State in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl, got blown out by USC by 36 points in the 2004 Orange Bowl for the national championship (one of the most horrific performances that I’ve ever seen considering the stakes), and was beaten by LSU in the 2003 Sugar Bowl for the national championship.  Jim Tressel looks like Mozart to Bob Stoops’ Salieri when it comes to BCS bowl performances.

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

Illini Games for the Season: 5-6
Overall Season: 19-22-1

Enjoy the games and Happy New Year!

(Image from Washington Post)

A Trip Across the Pond and Frank the Tank’s Football Parlay – Christmas 2008 Edition

london-house-of-parliament-big-ben

I apologize for the brief hiatus since I had to travel to London for work last week.  While this might sound glamorous on paper (and certainly compared to my first job out of law school where I was sent to exotic locales such as Danville and Flint, it’s a significant step-up), I didn’t have time to do any sort of sightseeing because I was working over 13 hours a day (which would have killed me if it wasn’t for the fact that I had visited all of the major touristy items in London on a previous occasion).  Of course, the one thing about much of Europe is that they pay as much attention to American news as their own news, which is root of their insistence that we aren’t worldly since we don’t reciprocate.  The fantastic Rod Blagojevich story was front-page news in the London tabloids and at the top of the hour on the BBC all week long with the tie to Barack Obama’s Senate seat (everyone over there LOVES our President-elect, if you hadn’t figured that out already – he’s seriously just behind The Beatles in the U.K. exultation power rankings).  Also, thanks to Sky Sports 2 (the Deuce!), I was able to watch the start of the Bears-Saints game at 1 a.m.London time last Thursday evening/Friday morning (Minneapolis Red Sox aptly pointed out that the British have greater access to NFL Network games than Americans) prior to falling asleep.  Interestingly enough, former Bear Shaun Gayle provides studio commentary for NFL games in the U.K. – apparently, there is enough of a cult following for American football (along with the presence of ex-pats) over there that the NFL gets pretty good coverage.  (It’s better than, say, coverage of the English Premier League over here.  Speaking of which, my only disappointment from the trip was that my work schedule prevented me from seeing Chelsea play a Champions League game in the middle of the week, knowing full well that Chelsea fans brought soccer hooliganism to new heights during the 1980s.)  As far as British television was concerned, it felt as if though I never left Chicago.

Anyway, I fell asleep in the middle of the second quarter of the Bears game and when I woke up the next morning, I got to embark on a parents-from-Home-Alone-esque path to get home to Chicago.  When I arrived at the airport, I found out that my Virgin Atlantic flight from Heathrow to O’Hare was canceled due to “technical problems” (AKA the company wanted to consolidate a couple of less-than-full trans-Atlantic flights to save some money), which meant that I would need to have a stop-over in the Seventh Airport Gateway to Hell (AKA Dulles Airport outside of Washington, DC, which is not to be confused with the Airport Taxi Line to Hell at Las Vegas International) to transfer to a United flight to Chicago.  (Note that while I’m a cost-conscious consumer in general, I will ALWAYS pay for a direct flight when it’s my own money- I don’t have any tolerance for that transfer bullshit.  When it’s a company-paid flight on an expense account, as in this case, a direct flight is my God-given fucking right.  My indignation at Virgin Atlantic’s callousness in trying to tell me that having a transfer would “only” result in me getting home a couple of hours later than expected was only tempered by the fact that any rash action would likely be characterized as an “international incident”.)  At that point, I was in “whatever” mode and simply relieved that I wouldn’t be stranded overseas.

After having a pretty productive flight from a personal enrichment perspective (I finished up Malcolm Gladwell’s new book “Outliers”, who also currently has a great piece in the New Yorker comparing the difficulties in evaluating who will become successful NFL quarterbacks and schoolteachers, and watched both “Wall-E” and “Tropic Thunder” for the first time – all are highly recommended), I arrived at the Seventh Airport Gateway to Hell.  Since I was coming off of an international flight, I got to go through the glorious process of having to sit in line at customs, exit the secured area, pick up my luggage, check-in to my connecting flight and drop off my luggage, and then enter through the security checkpoint again.  Luckily, I had a whole twenty minutes to do all of this before my flight back to Chicago left.  As I sprinted across the corridors of the Seventh Airport Gateway to Hell and got to the front of the security line, the lovely TSA guard (AKA a Jawa without a brown robe) informed me with almost a certain sense of glee that my flight had been selected for provisional screening.  So, as my connecting flight was making a last call for boarding, I got to be pulled off to the side to patted down and have my bags thoroughly checked.  (I very politely informed another TSA guard who was a complete dead-ringer for Scott Van Pelt that I completely understood that this was a “necessary procedure” and just wanted him to be aware that my flight was about to leave.  He checked my ticket and responded, “Oooh.  I guess you’re right.  I guess we’ll try our best to do this quickly so that you can possibly make your flight.”  Mr. Van Pelt then proceeded to sit down in his chair for another five minutes before he realized that there were no other guards available and finally decided to start checking my bags.  My indignation was only tempered by the fact that any rash action would likely be characterized as a “domestic incident”.)  After finally getting through security, I would have run to my terminal, but the Seventh Airport Gateway to Hell is set up where you need to take a “bus” (AKA double-wide with a couple of wheels attached) between terminals.  Fortunately, I was able to jump onto a double-wide as it was leaving.  As you can see, this traveling day to end all traveling days, so it figured that when I finally arrived to Terminal D, I realized that my gate was the VERY LAST FUCKING ONE AT THE END – and this was a LONG FUCKING TERMINAL.  I did my best Usain Bolt impression while weighed down by a full laptop bag and literally ran as fast I could to reach my gate.  Amazingly, the plane was still there and I was able to get on.  Unfortunately, a number of my passenger-mates from London didn’t make it and, to my knowledge, no one has heard from them again.

In the only smooth part of the day (and at which point, I was pushing close to being awake for 24 hours straight), my flight from the Seventh Airport Gateway to Hell to O’Hare landed almost 45 minutes early.  The traveling gods had to throw in one last “we’re completely fucking with you today”, though, as I gave all of that early landing time back and then some waiting for my luggage to arrive… which never came.  It was, of course, still sitting at the Seventh Airport Gateway to Hell along with everyone else’s luggage from the original London flight.  At that point, it was just meant to be.  I got back to my house over 8 hours after I was scheduled to get home (with my luggage arriving the next morning).

The moral of the story: take a boat the next time that you go to England.

Thank you all for allowing me to vent – here are this week’s picks (home teams in CAPS where applicable):

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PARLAY

(1) EagleBank Bowl:  Navy Midshipmen (+3) over Wake Forest Demon Demons

(2) Las Vegas Bowl:  BYU Cougars (+3) over Arizona Wildcats

(3) Hawaii Bowl:   Notre Dame Fighting Irish (-1.5) over Hawaii Warriors

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

Illini Games for the Season: 5-6
Overall Season: 19-22-1

NFL FOOTBALL PARLAY

(1) Atlanta Falcons (+3.5) over MINNESOTA VIKINGS

(2) Carolina Panthers (+3) over NEW YORK GIANTS

(3) CHICAGO BEARS (-4) over Green Bay Packers

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

Bears Games for the Season: 3-81
Overall Season: 18-18-3

Alright, so the NFL picks this week just happen to align with exactly what the Bears need in order to keep their playoff hopes alive.  It honestly wasn’t planned that way – I just thought they were pretty reasonable spreads.  (In the case of the Panthers-Giants game, if the Giants lose, then they would go into Minnesota in Week 17 needing to win just get any type of home game in playoffs, but if they win this week, then they lock up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and likely would sit everyone against the Vikings.  As a result, Bears fans need to root for Carolina all the way this weekend.)

Also, it’s very unfortunate that I won’t be able to spend the day after Christmas checking out the Illini in the Motor City Bowl (instead, it’s a whopper of a game with Central Michigan vs. Florida Atlantic).  Still, there’s a return of a holiday tradition that used to rank right up there with the Lions ruining the Thanksgivings of everyone in Detroit:  Bulls basketball!  That’s right – it’s a Rose vs. Beasley matchup next Friday night.  It makes me reminisce of the golden days around Christmas:

I can’t help you if you’re not pumped up after watching that.  My BCS bowl and NFL week 17 picks) will come at some point next week.  Merry Christmas, everyone!

(Image from Study Languages)

Post-Turkey Day Thoughts and Frank the Tank’s Football Parlay – 11/28/2008

turkey-day-thanksgiving-day-football

As I recover from my Turkey Day gorging (as well as possibly the worst offering of Thanksgiving Day football games in history, with all 3 NFL games and the Texas-Texas A&M tilt being blowouts), I’m feeling strangely good about the Bears this week.  Adrian Peterson will break a tackle or three, but I think the rest of the Vikings will be held in check.  The Illini basketball team isn’t half bad so far (I’ll eventually get to my postseason review of the football team once my anger subsists), while my man crush on Derrick Rose is growing exponentially on a daily basis.  Here are this week’s parlay picks (home teams in CAPS):

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PARLAY

(1) West Virginia Mountaineers (-3) over PITTSBURGH PANTHERS

(2) Miami Hurricanes (-1.5) over NORTH CAROLINA STATE WOLFPACK

(3) FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES (+16.5) over Florida Gators

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

Illini Games for the Season: 5-6
Overall Season: 18-20-1

NFL FOOTBALL PARLAY

(1) Indianapolis Colts (-4.5) over CLEVELAND BROWNS

(2) GREEN BAY PACKERS (-3) over Carolina Panthers

(3) Chicago Bears (+3.5) over MINNESOTA VIKINGS

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

Bears Games for the Season: 3-71
Overall Season: 17-16-3

(Image from ehow)

Frank the Tank’s Football Parlay – 11/15/2008

illibuck-trophy-illinois-fighting-illini-ohio-state-buckeyes

Here are this week’s parlay picks for Ohio State Week for the Illini (the mighty battle for the Illibuck) and Packer Week for the Bears (home teams in CAPS):

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PARLAY

(1) Purdue Boilermakers (+18.5) over IOWA HAWKEYES

(2) MICHIGAN WOLVERINES (-3.5) over Northwestern Wildcats

(3) ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI (+9.5) over Ohio State Buckeyes

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

Illini Games for the Season: 4-5
Overall Season: 16-16-1

NFL FOOTBALL PARLAY

(1) TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (-4) over Minnesota Vikings

(2) Arizona Cardinals (-3) over SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

(3) Chicago Bears (+3.5) over GREEN BAY PACKERS

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

Bears Games for the Season: 3-51
Overall Season: 14-13-3

Have a great weekend and, as always, Go Illini and Go Bears!

(Image from fightingillini.com)

Cut That Mullet and Frank the Tank’s Football Parlay – 11/7/2008

jeff-fisher-bears

Here are this week’s parlay picks (home teams in CAPS):

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PARLAY

(1) Oklahoma State Cowboys (+3.5) over TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS – Last week’s Texas-Texas Tech game was definitely the best college football game so far this season (and the last half of the 4th quarter was simply spectacular).  That game was such an exhilarating victory for the Red Raiders against an arch rival that it’s tough to imagine that they can keep the same intensity the week after.  The problem is that Oklahoma State is no slouch in the loaded Big 12 – these are excellent upset conditions.

(2) LSU TIGERS (+3.5) over Alabama Crimson Tide – ‘Bama has got to have a tough game at some point and Baton Rouge makes sense to being the place where that happens.  I won’t be surprised if Penn State is the #1 team in the country by the end of the weekend (which will unleash a torrent of Big Ten hating columns from the national media about how bad the conference is compared to the Big 12 and SEC this year).

(3) Illinois Fighting Illini (-7.5) over WESTERN MICHIGAN BRONCOS – Illini fans have been perplexed for a very long time as to why Ron Guenther would agree to play a game at Ford Field against WMU, particularly when we already had a game in the Detroit area this season against Michigan.  There is zero upside for the Illini here.

FYI – I’ve been eying the Illinois-WMU game on the calendar for a couple years now as FUBAR.  I’ll admit to being a complete future college football scheduling dork, which makes CFBPalace an invaluable resource to me.   Honestly, I love my job as a lawyer, but if I had to choose another profession (with the caveat being that I actually have the physical capabilities to fill that role, meaning that my lifelong dream of being shooting guard for the Bulls doesn’t count until I have my 30-year old growth spurt), I would rank the possibilities as follows: (1) NBA general manager, (2) political strategist, and (3) the guy at ESPN that hooks up college football teams that have open dates on their schedules (yes, this position actually exists).

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

Illini Games for the Season: 4-4
Overall Season: 16-13-1

NFL FOOTBALL PARLAY

(1) ST. LOUIS RAMS (+9) over New York Jets – There’s no logical basis for this pick.  The bookies have broken me.

(2) Green Bay Packers (+2.5) over MINNESOTA VIKINGS – In another complaint about the bookies, they continuously make the lines for Packers games this year so ridiculously attractive that a reasonable person can’t say no.  I have to shower every time that I pick the Packers just to remove the filth that my laptop chokes up on me, but if the Vikings are ever giving points, I’m taking them with no regrets.

(3) CHICAGO BEARS (+3) over Tennessee Titans – Remember how I said that I had a bad feeling about last week’s game against the Lions where they’d win but fail to cover (which is what ended up happening)? Well, despite the fact that Rex Grossman is going to be playing and a picture of the Bears defense has been on the side of milk cartons since the second week of the season, I’ve got baseless positive vibes about this game.  (By the way, I never knew before now of the story of how the playing career of Titans coach Jeff Fisher with the Bears was actually ended due to a broken leg inflicted by former Steelers coach Bill Cowher.  That’s what I call some knowledge that you need to drop when you start discussing the greatest mullets in history at your next cocktail party.)

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

Bears Games for the Season: 3-41
Overall Season: 13-11-3

Have a great weekend and, as always, Go Illini and Go Bears!

(Image from USC Legends)

Double Goose Egg and Frank the Tank’s Football Parlay – 10/17/2008

I was on a blissful vacation last weekend, which means that I thankfully didn’t have to watch a horrific couple of days of football from the Illini and Bears.  Therefore, I’ll direct you to Illinitalk and Blog Down Chicago Bears for their respective rants.  Onto this week’s parlay picks (home teams in CAPS):

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PARLAY

(1) NAVY MIDSHIPMEN (+2.5) over Pittsburgh Panthers – I have few rules in life, but one of them is that a Dave Wannstedt-coached team is not allowed to be ranked for two weeks in a row.

(2) Miami Hurricanes (-3.5) over DUKE BLUE DEVILS – The mighty might have fallen a bit in Miami, but they’re still light years ahead of Puke football.

(3) ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI (-15.5) over Indiana Hoosiers – The bookies are absolutely KILLING me with another double-digit spread in favor of Illinois for the second week in a row (and we know how that turned out against Minnesota), especially with the Hawaii-style defense (as in no defense) that the Illini appear to be utilizing lately.  Still, WTF was I thinking in picking Indiana last week after they put up an embarrassing performance against Iowa?  I should have known better than to choose those Satan’s Spawn enablers.  Let’s hope that the Minnesota game was the equivalent of the Iowa game last year – a Zookian brain fart against an inferior team.

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

Illini Games for the Season: 2-3
Overall Season: 11-9-1

NFL FOOTBALL PARLAY

(1) GREEN BAY PACKERS (+2) over Indianapolis Colts – The bookies have essentially made the Packers into my anti-Illini for gambling purposes this year, where I’m pretty sure every spread involving Green Bay so far has been within a field goal.  They’re way too enticing again, especially at home against an Indy club that largely running on reputation this season.

(2) CAROLINA PANTHERS (-3) over New Orleans Saints – You know that the spreads are FUBAR this week when I’m including this game, which involves two scarily inconsistent teams.  I’m still in denial that we are entering a world where the Dolphins are a favorite against the Ravens and Vegas is spotting double-digits to Brian Griese versus a Mike Holmgren-coached team.

(3) CHICAGO BEARS (-3) over Minnesota Vikings – The fact that the Bears have the same record as the Vikings right now is a complete abomination.  The New York Times pointed out that the difference between the Bears being 6-0 as opposed to 3-3 is a swing of a total of 8 points in an aggregate of 4 minutes at the conclusion of their 3 losses.  Meanwhile, the Vikings needed a questionable pass interference call to pull out a win against the pathetic Lions.  This really ought to be a double-digit spread for the Bears on paper, but Vegas correctly recognizes that there are still plenty of ways that we can pry defeat from the jaws of victory in the fourth quarter.

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

Bears Games for the Season: 1-41
Overall Season: 6-9-3

FIRST BULLS RANT OF THE SEASON

On a final note, if Larry Hughes starts another Bulls preseason game instead of Derrick Rose (yes, I’ve been watching preseason basketball – there’s some serious b-ball withdrawl on my end), I will personally see to it that Vinny Del Negro’s rims are ripped off his car and sold off on Maxwell Street next Sunday.  In a remarkable turn of events, Stacey King actually stated something worthwhile on Tuesday’s broadcast by noting that the rest of the Bulls need to adjust to Derrick Rose’s game as opposed to the other way around.  My gawd, I think he’s got it!!!  There will be a justifiable fan mutiny if we continue to hear crap that Rose needs to be coddled into the lineup.  I agree that all observers need to temper expectations for production out of 19-year old rookie point guard, but he needs as much time on the floor as possible since this team needs to be built around his talent and skills instead of trying to wedge him into a rotation with 18 other undersized guards.  The regular season hasn’t even started yet and the presence of Larry Hughes is already making me twitch – this isn’t a good sign.  At the very least, I need to be able to take in the sight of two of my man crushes in Rose and Deron Williams going at each other in a special exhibition game at the Assembly Hall in Champaign on Friday night – I’m officially getting all tingly right now.

Go Bulls, Go Deron, Go Illini, and Go Bears!

(Image from ESPN.com)

Team Chemistry and Frank the Tank’s Football Parlay – 10/9/2008

I’m off to Napa Valley for the weekend, so the truncated parlay posts continue for at least one more week.  For your enjoyment, here’s a nasty dunk from last night by Celtics rookie Bill Walker:

While I was impressed with the dunk when I caught it on SportsCenter last night, what got me to rewind my DVR numerous times was the fantastic sight of the entire Celtics bench, particularly superstars Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, going absolutely bonkers for a rookie to the point where they had to hold each other back from spilling onto to the court (in a preseason game, no less).  If you’ve read my blog for the past several years, you’ll know that I’m of the general opinion that winning creates team chemistry more than the other way around.  However, there’s something to be said for how tight the Celtics appear to be as a team – Kobe Bryant has posterized opposing players hundreds of times in the same manner as Walker but the rest of the Lakers are usually too busy hitting on the flavor of the month actress sitting courtside to notice.  At the same time, the sight of Andres Nocioni and Kirk Hinrich going nuts on the bench for a Tyrus Thomas dunk would be only slightly less awkward than this piece of history.  Anyway, here are this week’s football picks (home teams in CAPS):

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PARLAY
(1) INDIANA HOOSIERS (+6) over Iowa Hawkeyes
(2) MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS (+2.5) over Vanderbilt Commodores (It’s time to cash in your Vandy chips)
(3) ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI (-12.5) over Minnesota Golden Gophers

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

Illini Games for the Season: 2-2
Overall Season: 10-7-1

NFL FOOTBALL PARLAY
(1) Green Bay Packers (+2.5) over SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
(2) DENVER BRONCOS (-3) over Jacksonville Jaguars
(3) Chicago Bears (-2.5) over ATLANTA FALCONS

Frank the Tank’s NFL Football Parlay Record
Last Week: 1-0-2

Bears Games for the Season: 1-31
Overall Season: 5-7-3

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):

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PARLAY
(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

NFL FOOTBALL PARLAY
(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