InternetFM presents sports content from our partner site YourSportsFan.com including podcasts of “The Weekend Sports Report” with Les Grobstein, Steve Leventhal and Alison Moran, along with “Dorf on Sports” with Fred Wallin and Andy Dorf. YSF also features original sports articles.
….we are joined by Les Grobstein, WSCR 670 Chicago overnight host. The Grobber discusses the Bears’ stunning upset of the Green Bay Packers on the night honoring Brett Favre’s induction into the Lambeau Field Rig of Honor. Jeff Rich gives us his take on the game as well, plus other key NFL and college football matchups. Lastly, John Poulter makes his weekly appearance with an NHL and EPL update.
Hear interviews with Aaron Rogers, Mike McCarthy, Jay Cutler, John Fox, Larry Fitzgerald, and Broncos coach Gary Kubiak.
The snow is falling, the Bears are losing and the Green Bay Packers are licking their chops as they host Chicago on Thanksgiving Day. The Bears are coming off a 17 – 15 loss to the Brock Osweiler-led Denver Broncos last Sunday at home… while, the Packers reclaim the division lead after dismantling the Minnesota Vikings on the road in Minneapolis, 30 – 13.
With Turkey Day on the horizon, it is time for the much anticipated, never duplicated and always entertaining …Thanksgiving menu!
The Turkey: QB Aaron Rodgers
Whether it is a Butterball, Honeysuckle or Norbest, the most important item of any meal of the year is the turkey. Everyone basis the success of Thanksgiving on how the Turkey turns out and how long it takes Uncle Randy to pass out after his 5th helping. The Packers go as Rodgers goes and many believe that he is having a “down season”. If a “down season” means throwing 23 touchdowns to 3 interceptions thru 11 weeks, then what do you call Peyton Manning’s season this year? Expect Rodgers to throw for 275+ yards and 3 TD’s as he is deservingly always the center of attention.
The Mashed Potatoes: The Bears Offensive Line
The mashed potatoes seem to be that one side that everyone takes too much of but always gets eaten. The masked potatoes also have a tendency to crowd the turkey territory which can limit the amount of space the turkey has to operate. The Bears will need a strong showing by their offensive line in the run game to prevent Rodgers from getting more possessions then necessary. With center Hroniss Grasu back last week, the Bears were able to move Matt Slason back to his left guard position to help sure up the Bears line.
The Stuffing: RB Eddie Lacy
I am not sure if Lacy is the stuffing or ate all of the stuffing but he is coming off his best game of the season as he rushed for 100 yards on 22 carries. Lacy has been nursing a groin injury throughout the season which led to James Starks stealing some of Lacy’s carries the past couple game, but if healthy, Lacy will be asked to “stuff” the stat sheet against the Bears again in week 12.
The Gravy: WR Pernell McPhee
The added bonus. The bee’s knees. The savory nectar of the gods, which helps wash down Aunt Margie’s green bean casserole and any other undercooked/burnt side that appears on your plate. This is McPhee to this Bears defense, which ranked 30th in total defense last season and now is up 14 spots to number 16, thanks to the defensive mentality McPhee has brought to the locker room. Another added bonus has been 5th round draft pick out of Penn State, Adrian Amos at the safety position, who appears to be a big part of this team going forward.
The Rolls: WR Randall Cobb and WR James Jones
An essential part of the Thanksgiving meal but goes unnoticed thanks to the turkey and stuffing. The rolls are always were they are supposed to be but don’t seem to need much attention. Cobb and Jones have played with Rodgers for years now and their presence is negligible but their impact on the game is great. Whether they are your safety blanket (in Jordy Nelson absence) or your go to in crunch time, the rolls don’t make or break the meal but they play their part.
Yams: WHAT THE HECK IS A YAM?
The Cranberries: QB Jay Cutler
Love them or hate them, they are on the table year after year and there is no end in sight… You have tasted them year after year but just when you decide you like them, the next bite is sour and icky. Cutler has had a nice year under OC Adam Gase… but with Gase’s departure in the upcoming offseason, will Cutler be able to build off of this year success?
Pumpkin Pie: A Bears win
Bears Packers Notes & Predictions
Key Matchup: The Turkey vs. The Gravy
Key Injuries: RB Matt Forte (Day-to-day), WR Eddie Royal (Questionable)
Fact: Brett Favre beat Chicago 23 times during his NFL career
Fantasy Spotlight: WR James Jones
Spread: Packers -9
Prediction: Bears 20, Packers 31
….Cheryl Raye-Stout @Crayestout from WBEZ in Chicago joins us for a discussion of the Bears’ resurgence this season. A long time journalist in Chicagoland, Cheryl also recounts her experiences covering the Bulls during their championship run. Jeff Rich and Dave talk about how can the Green Bay Packers break their losing streak, and other key NFL games. Jeff and Steve highlight the top college football contests. Lastly, John Poulter updates the hockey season and gives his thoughts on the baseball postseason awards.
Hear interviews with Mike McCarthy, Julius Peppers, Adrian Peterson, Vikes Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner, John Fox, Jay Cutler, Brock Osweiler of the Broncos, Larry Fitzgerald, and Bengals coach Marvin Lewis.
Some fans might have been expecting an exhibition type game in Evanston but it sure didn’t feel like it, as the Wildcats held off the Fairfield Stags 72-79. In the end, the Cats were too big and fast for the MAAC team from Connecticut which helped the Cats improve to 2 – 0.
There were some familiarities between last year’s Cats and this 2015-16 team on the court tonight as the defense intensity was in midseason form. Half way thru last season, Coach Chris Collins instituted a 2 – 3 matchup zone defense that helped lead the Cats to a 5 – 3 record in their last 8 Big Ten games. Coach Collins has had a whole offseason to sharpen his team’s defensive prowess in the 2 – 3 zone and only time will tell if it can contain Big Ten opponents.
The Cats had freshman Aaron Falzon leading the way in scoring at half with 9 points and ended up with 13 for the game. The 6’ 8” forward from Newton, Massachusetts had another nice game after scoring 20 in the Cats season opener against UMass Lowell. Falzon brings a stretch 4 mentality to the Cats which has helped boost NU’s 3-point scoring.
With a year under his belt, point guard Bryant McIntosh looks to establish himself as a legitimate Big Ten point guard and lead this Cats team to the post season. McIntosh has bulked up from last year and continues to fill up the stat sheet as he dropped 20 points, with 5 assists, 4 steals and 5 rebounds. If it wasn’t for his heroics late in the game, NU might have been upset by Fairfield.
In his senior year, Alex Olah is looking to dominate down low and hopes to build off of a great junior campaign where he averaged 11.7 PPG, 6.9 RPG and 1.8 BPG. The Cats weren’t in dire need for a big game from Olah as he scored 10 points and pulled down 5 rebounds. Expect some big games from Olah this year as he will have to be one of the main contributors if the Cats want to have a great year.
The only unfamiliar part of this game was the lack of 2nd year forward Vic Law, who will miss 4 – 6 months with a torn labrum in his shoulder. The 6-7 wing averaged 7.0 points and 4.8 rebounds in 24.4 minutes per game during his freshman season.
“We’re certainly disappointed for Vic,” said Northwestern head Men’s basketball coach Chris Collins “He dedicated himself and made great progress during this offseason, and had a great summer and preseason on the court. I have no doubt that his attitude toward recovery and improvement will be relentless and that he will continue to be a tremendous teammate. We expect a full recovery in 4-6 months and Vic remains a foundational piece of our program for the future.”
Even without Law for the season, Coach Collins is trying building this program into a contender but will have to make some serious noise in the Big Ten for the tournament committee to believe his team is ready to take the next step.
…our guest Chris Boden on ComcastSportsChicago joins us to preview the Bears-Rams game as well as get his take on Chicago’s 2015 season to date. Jeff Rich chimes in on on the 2015 Packers-Lions, as well as the big games in the rest of the NFL, plus a discussion of the current college football playoff standings. Lastly John Poulter checks in with the latest news from baseball and the NHL.
Hear audio interviews from Mike McCarthy, Aaron Rogers, Rams QB Nick Foles, John Fox, Jay Cutler, and Martellus Bennett. Don’t miss a hilarious cameo from Jeff Foxworthy.
The first 3 quarters of Monday Night’s game against the Chargers was not pretty for the Bears as they were losing 16 – 7 going into the 4th quarter… But Jay Cutler was able to orchestrate 2 touchdown drives late in the game to pull out the victory. Bears tight end Zach Miller scored the game winning touchdown with a circus catch from 25 yards out with 3:19 left in the game. Lamarr Houston was able to sack Phillip Rivers twice on the Bolts final drive to help seal the victory.
The Bears now turn their focus to the St. Louis Rams, who are coming off of a heated loss to the Minnesota Vikings. The Rams’ Lamarcus Joyner was at the center of the controversial hit on Sunday but Coach Jeff Fisher knows it was just a football pay, “It’s a part of the game. I’m disappointed that he went out. I hope he returns to play as soon as he can,” Fisher said.
The Bears can expect a physical matchup this Sunday as the Rams like to grind out the game on the ground with rookie thoroughbred running back Todd Gurley. Gurley has put up some eye popping numbers thru 6 games as he is averaging 5.6 YPC and has scored 4 times. At 6’ 1” and 227 pounds, Gurley runs like Adrian Peterson without the domestic violence issues. Expect the Bears defense to see a heavy dose of Gurley as they rank 21st overall against the run.
The Rams are fortunate to have a RB like Gurley because QB Nick Foles ranks dead last in total passing yards. Foles is only averaging 177 YPG, which has limited the receptions for WR Kenny Brit and WR Tavon Austin. St. Louis signed perennial concussed slot WR Wes Welker this past week and has the possibility of suiting up against the Bears.
The real toughness of the Rams comes from the defensive side of the ball with a defensive line that loves to wreak havoc on opposing QBs. Led by DE Chris Long and DE Robert Quinn, the Rams are only giving up 18.3 PPG, which is 6th in the NFL and are even better at home with a 12 PPG average. A couple other notable Rams defenders are DT Aaron Donald (who was rumored to get drafted by the Bears back in 2014), CB Janoris Jenkins and MLB James Laurinaitis.
It looks like the Bears will be without Matt Forte for the second straight game so Jeremy Langford will look to have back to back solid performance as the lead back. Langford’s stat line in San Diego was 18 carries for 72 yards and a TD, while adding 3 catches for 70 yards.
Martellus Bennett looked like his old self last game too with 8 receptions for 57 yard and a score. Alshon Jeffery seems to be fully healthy as he pulled down 10 of his 16 targets for 151 yards. Even with another 150+ yard performance, Jeffery left some plays on the field with 2 drops, one of which would have been a touchdown.
If this game was in Chicago, the Bears would have a good shot of knocking off the 2nd place team in the NFC West but on the road with Gurley running the rock will be too tall of an order for this team. The only way the Bears win this game is if they make Foles beat them thru the air.
Bears Rams Notes & Predictions
Key Matchup: Bears Run Defense vs. RB Todd Gurley
Key Injuries: RB Matt Forte (Questionable), WR Eddie Royal (Questionable)
Fact: The Bears are the only team to not have a touchdown in the 3rd quarter this year
Fantasy Spotlight: RB Todd Gurley
Spread: Rams -7
Prediction: Bears 20, Rams 22
ESPN football analyst Jim Trotter didn’t have to dig too deep for his biography of NFL linebacker Junior Seau. Trotter covered the Hall of Famer while at the San Diego Union Tribune.
Trotter has crafted a compelling story chronicling Seau rise from modest beginnings in San Diego as the son of Samoan immigrants in rough and tumble Oceanside, California to the pinnacle of football excellence. That was where Junior developed his strong sense of family and community that was to be one of his greatest strengths and biggest weaknesses.
Trotter has compiled a detailed portrait of Seau’s life, built not just from his own interviews as a beat writer, but with input from Junior’s own family, friends, teammates, and coaches. At times, it’s not a very flattering picture of a man who had a child out of wedlock with his high school sweetheart, and then was an absentee father of his three other children.
However, it does give a very in depth look at Seau’s college and pro career, that endeared him to teammates and coaches, while frustrating and terrorizing opponents. At the same time he garnered the respect of friend and foe with his intensity, heart, along with the innate ability to be in the right place at the right time. The only thing that Junior failed to accomplish in his professional career was to win the Lombardi trophy, despite two trips to the Super Bowl.
Typical of players who competed at the highest level of sports, Seau’s work ethic was second to none. However, that competitive spirit also led to infidelity, heavy drinking, and gambling. Also there is some discussion of whether the numerous concussions that Seau suffered throughout his twenty year playing career may have exacerbated his proclivities.
Whether it Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) or the side effects of Ambien, that caused Seau to drive his SUV over the side of a cliff in 2010, and led to his taking his own life two years later may never be known. Did that exacerbate his distress over the end of his playing career and mounting personal debt?
Even casual NFL fans will enjoy Trotter’s story of the man who touched the lives of so many people, yet never forget where he came from. Unfortunately, that desire to help so many, led to his being pulled in too many directions, making bad business decisions, and undertake questionable, risky behavior. Despite that, it shouldn’t diminish his stellar on field accomplishments.
purchase Junior Seau: The Life and Death of a Football Icon from Amazon.com
76 years ago Northwestern hosted the first ever tournament, but they are still the only major conference school that has never made it to the post season. The 2015-16 NCAA Men’s Preseason poll came out and the Big Ten has 6 teams that make the top 25… but Northwestern is not one of them… yet.
In Coach Chris Collins first year, NU was tied for 10th in the Big Ten with a 6 – 12 record in conference play and had a 15 – 17 record overall last year. NU’s season had two “signature” wins as the Cats were able to beat Iowa and Michigan at home; both games took extra time for NU to pull the upset.
Northwestern returns five of its main contributors from last year, led by senior SG Tre Demps and sophomore PG Bryant McIntosh, the Cats look to build off of their young nucleus while hoping to get a career year from their emotional leader Demps.
Another large cog on the NU basketball wheel is 7 foot Romanian center Alex Olah, who was an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection of the league’s media members. Olah averaged just over 29 minutes per game while accumulating 11.7 ppg and ranked 2nd in the Big Ten with an average of 1.8 blocked per game and 5th with 6.9 rebounds per game.
Coach Collins will look to 2nd year wing Vic Law to establish another scoring option for the Wildcats while providing some defensive prowess at the forward position. Law started 19 games during his freshman year and averaged 7.0 ppg, 4.8 rpg and shot 35.5% from 3-point range. Law was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week on Feb. 23 for back to back performances in wins over Minnesota and Penn State.
Collins’ safety glove Sanjay Lumpkin returns for his last year as a Wildcat as he is the Swiss Army knife for this team. Whether it is defense or an offensive spark, Lumpkin is a reliable player who will be asked to play many roles this year. Lumpkin started NU’s first exhibition game against Quincy but expect him to be moved in and out of starting line up with Law.
Another young star in the making that had a nice freshman season is Scottie Lindsay. The Fenwick High School product was not as heralded as Vic Law as a recruit, but can fill a stat sheet every once in a while when called upon. Lindsay brings another 3 point threat as he shot 35.4% last year and averaged over 40% from the field.
The Wildcats added some depth and experience up front in 6’ 10” senior Joey van Zegeren who transferred from Virginia Tech. Zegeren played in 13 games last season and was leading the Hokies in rebounding at 5.3 per game and 3rd in scoring at 9.8 points per game before getting suspended for violating team policy. He will be responsible for alleviating some of the pressure from Olah throughout the season.
Coach Collins was hired to build a program that would sustain a winning atmosphere for the foreseeable future. Collins has recruited well and is looking to take his team to the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history but it will take a couple of big wins to create a resume that can get Northwestern basketball to the promise land.
….We are pleased to be joined by John Mullin from CSNChicago.com to preview the Bears – Chargers game Monday night, along with Jeff Rich to look at the Packers – Panthers game, which should be a Monday night contest. Dave and Jeff look at the rest of the NFL lineup, while Steve and Jeff discuss the big games in college football. Lastly, Mike Perlow chimes in with his picks in fantasy football for weekend tournament plays.
Hear interview audio from Mike McCarthy, Clay Matthews, Cam Newton, Greg Olsen, John Fox, Martellus Bennett, LB Sam Acho, Phillip Rivers, Peyton Manning, and DeMarco Murray.
Don’t miss a cameo from Chris Berman of ESPN.
The Bears snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory last week on the lakefront as they blew a 10 point lead in the 4th quarter to Teddy Bridgewater and the Minnesota Vikings. The Bears are now at 2 – 5 and look to steal a win on the road as they travel to San Diego for a Monday Night showdown with the Chargers.
Don’t let the Chargers 2 – 5 record fool you in to thinking that they are on the same level as the Bears. San Diego has been riddled with injuries on the offensive side of the ball but still have the number 1 unit in the NFL as they are averaging 423 yards per game.
The most recent injury for the Chargers was to 3rd year wide out Keenan Allen, who was having a Pro Bowl type season before lacerating his liver in last week’s loss to the Ravens, 29 – 26. Allen had 67 receptions for 725 yards and 4 touchdowns thru 8 games of the season but will have to watch from the sidelines for the rest of the year.
Who is going to replace Allen?
The Chargers are going to need wide receivers Malcolm Floyd and Stevie Johnson to step up in production to fill the void left by Allen. Floyd came into the NFL in 2004 and has played his entire career with the Chargers and is coming off of his best game in years thanks to Allen’s injury. Floyd pulled down 4 of 6 targets for 92 yards while scoring 2 touchdowns. Johnson on the other hand is coming back from an injury of his own and played a smaller role in the Chargers loss to the Ravens. Expect Johnson to be more involved this Monday night as he and Allen play the wide receiver position in a similar fashion.
If the Chargers were in the playoff picture, Phillip Rivers would have a legitimate shot in the MVP race this year. Rivers is putting up crazy number thru the first half of the season, he has started off 243-348 for 2,753 yards and has thrown 18 touchdowns to 7 interceptions. Rivers has had to throw the ball so much due to the lack of a consistent running game by rookie Melvin Gordon and Danny Woodhead.
The Bears have been bitten by the injury bug themselves, as Matt Forte injured his knee last week and the timetable for his return is uncertain. That means the Bears will have to lean on their 4th round draft pick, Jeremy Langford, to carry the load while Forte recovers from his injury. Langford has played a total of 73 snaps and has 27 rushes for 80 yards and two touchdowns with 2 receptions for 31 yards. (1 costly drop against the Vikings) The Bears believe that Langford has the ability to be an every down back but they didn’t want to experiment with that hypothesis because of an injury to Forte.
Fans should expect a high scoring game as the Chargers defense is ranked in the bottom 3rd of the NFL in total defense and both teams are giving up over 28 PPG.
Bears Chargers Notes & Predictions
Key Matchup: Phillip Rivers vs. Bears Pass Defense
Key Injuries: RB Matt Forte (Doubtful)
Fact: The Bears are undefeated against the AFC West this season
Fantasy Spotlight: RB Jeremy Langford
Spread: Chargers -4
Prediction: Bears 26, Chargers 31
Personally, the Bears bye week is one of the most relaxing times of the year for me as I can enjoy life without the black cloud of Bears football hanging over me. I don’t have to watch Jay Cutler throw a late interception, terrible clock management by coaches, or a defense that gives up a league high 29.8 PPG.
Nope, don’t have to watch it.
But like all good things, my utopia of watching the RedZone channel and the Blacklist had to come to an end at some point. The Bears are back in action this weekend on the lakefront as they host the 4 – 2 Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings are 2nd in the NFC North and they would make the playoffs if they were to start today.
The Vikings boast the 2nd best defense in points per game, only giving up 17 a contest while scoring a meager 20.7 PPG on the offensive side of the ball. Luckily for the Vikings offense, they are going up against a team that gave up 546 yards to Lions before heading into the bye week.
The Vikings are led by Adrian Peterson who seems to have big days against the Bears defense, Peterson has had 14 touchdowns against the Bears in his career. Peterson had a tough day last week against the Lions as he only rushed for 23 yards on 18 of his carries after battling a stomach illness due to eating shrimp. Peterson did have one rush for 75 yards that saved his afternoon from a stats standpoint but he didn’t seem himself in Detroit.
A name that Bears fan will need to get use to is rookie wide receiver Stefon Diggs. Diggs has busted onto the scene as the Vikings leading receiver thru the first 7 weeks snatching 19 passes for 324 yards and 1 touchdown. Diggs is a 5th round pick out of the University of Maryland and has only played in 3 games but is averaging over 100 yards/game.
The Vikings defense is coming off of a 7 sack performance against the Lions which means the Bears will have to hold off a hungry Minnesota defense. “This team is very hungry. We work our tails off… From Monday to Sunday, we’re always working. We’re always in the lab trying to get better,” Vikings cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said earlier in the week.
The Bears are going to have their hands full as Cutler will be going up against an excellent defense that is prone to giving up field goals instead of touchdowns. The Bears offense has scored less points per game than the Vikings but are giving up 13 points more on the defense side. It will be up to the Bears offense to keep the chain moving so Peterson doesn’t find an early rhythm against this pores Bears run defense.
Expect the Bears to have a tough time moving the ball consistently on offense and if they have to settle for field goals, it will be a long day in the Windy City.
Vikings Bears Notes & Predictions
Key Matchup: Adrian Peterson vs. Bears Run Defense
Key Injuries: WR Kevin White (Out)
Fact: The Bears have won 7 straight against the Vikings in Chicago
Fantasy Spotlight: WR Stefon Diggs
Spread: Vikings -1
Prediction: Bears 20, Vikings 24
on the Weekend Sports Report with Packer Dave and Steve Leventhal
….with both teams on bye weeks, this was a good time for our hosts along with regular contributor Jeff Rich to give listeners a Bears Packers 2015 season review. What’s gone right for Green Bay? Have the Bears exceeded expectations at 2-4? Also some thoughts on the upcoming NBA regular season.
We also dig into the SRN archives for some classic interviews with football Hall of Famers Jim Taylor, Bart Starr, and Dick Butkus.
The clock struck midnight on the Cubs season as the Mets swept them out of the playoffs in the NLCS. While the 27th out was being recorded, the fiancé and I turned to the DVR to catch up on a past NCIS episodes from the previous week. After the episode was done, she turned to me and simply stated:
“Well, you are taking this Cubs thing well.”
I understood her confusion considering the emotional toll the Blackhawks loss to the Kings in the 7th game of the conference final had on me two years ago or the Bulls giving up against the Cavs last year in the playoffs… and not to mention the Bears every week of my life.
I imagined she was expecting an exhale of unsuitable language, followed by me stomping around the apartment with smoke coming out of my ears but that was simply not the case with the Cubs this post season. I was fully content with how this year went for the Cubs and was not going to tarnish a brilliant campaign by dwelling on the most recent loss.
In 2007 and 2008 the Cubs were swept in back-to-back post seasons by the Diamondbacks and Dodgers. Whether the Cubs were a better team than their opponents is beside the point, those Cubs teams were under so much pressure to win it all, that they fell victim the pressure from a fan base that was looking to forget a 100+ years of bad baseball. That pressure forced those teams to lose sight of the fact that they were just playing baseball which paralyzed those players when it came time to perform.
“Don’t ever permit the pressure to exceed the pleasure.” – Joe Maddon
Joe Maddon has a cornucopia of great quotes from his brief time as Cubs skipper but the above one is his best. Many people think that he was only directing this quote to his players and coaches but it was also for Cubs Nation. As a fan of the Cubs, one should enjoy Maddon’s outlook as he has been laying a foundation of confidence for his team so when there are bumps in the road they can overlook them and move on to the next step.
The next step is developing a core of young players for the future while adding pitching depth to bolster a mediocre starting rotation. Thanks to some great drafting by Theo and Jed, the Cubs future is just getting started thanks to the talents of Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Jorge Solar, Addison Russell, Javier Baez, Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo.
Just getting started? At worst, the Cubs will have the services of Bryant, Schwarber, Russell, Baez and Rizzo for the next 6 years. Oh, and Solar for 5.
This team is primed for multiple trips to the playoffs as they arrived on the scene a year early and making the “final four” in their first year is a great start.
Stay tuned Cubs fans… there is more to come.
On a side note, Cubs fans should be unfazed by other team’s fans “trolling” them on social media or in person because it’s not worth their time. Any baseball fan worth their salt can see what the Cubs are building and know that winning is in their future.
An eerily empty Cubs scoreboard
When you sit in the Chicago Cubs press conference room following a game, you can hear a whole host of different sounds. You can tell when a faucet is turned on somewhere, as the pipes whistle, when the only air conditioning in the entire stadium is turned on, and when Kris Bryant hits a walk-off home run, you can not only hear, but feel the hundred year-old stadium brace under the pressure of 40-thousand-something fans vibrating with delight. I’ve felt that. I’ve felt the pure delight Chicagoans young and old have exuded with in response to the fact that for once, it feels like, for once, their team is freakin fun to watch. For once! For once, in the bottom of the ninth, the benefit of walking six blocks to their car to beat only about half of the traffic, doesn’t outweigh seeing what Addison Russell or Kyle Schwarber or Jorge Soler might do to try and win them a game. I’ve been there, I’ve seen it. I’ve also seen what it has been like for old farts who have bought season tickets, grumpily, year after year, decade after decade, only to see 50 or 60 or 70-win seasons, who threaten every year to sell them. I have seen those same loyal, grumpy old men this past year religiously check ESPN, fiddling with their phones, to check the scores and standings of a team littered with 20-somethings who nothing of that pain of a Cubs fan. Those same old, jaded, embittered men who by August in the seasons past, whispered, “the Cubs suck,” to themselves and their daughters after series of disappointing and embarrassing losses. I’ve seen all that. You’ve seen all that. But what I’ve never seen, and what I am still trying to convince myself actually occurred is what the Cubs did last Tuesday, what happened last Tuesday.
Now the Wild Card game wasn’t that surprising. Jake Arrieta was Jake Arrieta. Not that it’s not incredible, not that it’s not amazing what he has been doing, but by now, people are simply expecting incredible out of him, fair or otherwise. Clark street filled with people, the bars loved it, playing walk-up songs, blowing the horn, popping champagne. But again, that was mostly Jake Arrieta. It was surprising that Schwarber and Fowler were the sources of offense, and not the de facto “faces of the franchise” Rizzo and Bryant, but all in all that win went to Arrieta. And we’ve seen Clark street a mess with the Hawks fans before, Bulls fans, and all sorts of other viewers of big Chicago evenings and events, so it wasn’t all that different.
In terms of optics, Tuesday, wasn’t discernable from the previous Wednesday, when the Cubs took down the second best team in baseball. But in terms of feel, the two were a world apart.
On Tuesday, the Chicago Cubs, in game four of a best-of-five series beat the St. Louis Cardinals. I repeat, on Tuesday, the Chicago Cubs beat, in the playoffs, to move on, at home, the St. Louis Cardinals. The St. Louis Cardinals. Yeah, those guys, the bane of the Cubs existence (besides themselves), for as long as they have been in existence. The frickin St. Louis Cardinals. See? I’m still trying to convince myself.
Regardless of your sentiment for the Cubs, if you are a fan of sports, the momentousness of this feat is something downright fun to watch. The loveable loser, the baby brother not capable of anything, slayed the dragon. A bunch 20-somethings who knew and know no better exercised the demons of those loyal to the Cubbie blue.
It was as if someone was directing the whole thing. The white W towels were distributed as fans walked in the gates. Stars like Kerry Wood, Billy Williams, John Cusack, Eddie Vedder, Rob Manfred, and even Ron Santo, Ernie Banks, Harry Caray (in spirit) were all in attendance, looking on with as much enthusiasm as the school teacher next to them. Fans’ stomachs both fluttered with excitement and flipped with dread-filled anticipation. Tears leaked from the eyes of men who’ve only cried once or twice in their lifetimes. And children sat and bounced with excitement, not fully understanding what they were witnessing. Upon seeing Hammel give up two runs in the first, few were discouraged. It wasn’t unlike Hammel to do such a thing. The Cubs have an unfortunate penchant for giving up early runs. He made up for it when Maddon made the surprising decision to keep him in to bat in the bottom of the second. Driving in Starlin Castro with a single, Hammel himself eventually scored along with Kyle Schwarber off of a three-run, first pitch homer from Javier Baez. As the lead swung from favoring the Cards by two to the Cubs by two, off a shot from the rookie everyone expected one from sooner or later, towels were whipped so hard, half the fans probably lost them. As gladly as Cubs fans cheered when they scored, the equally happily jeered when the ump asked for the ball back from John Lackey, as it was the second time in the postseason that there had been questions about him doctoring the ball. “Lack-ey, Lack-ey, Lack-ey” chants rang through the stadium. After taking out the incredibly frustrated Hammel, Travis Wood eventually came in and later gave up the lead, few breaths were held. And rightly so. The following inning, Anthony Rizzo clocked one, giving the Cubs the go-ahead run. Even with all the back and forth, the loudest shot was yet to come. Leaning back in his armchair, bobbing to a rest in his stance staring right field and Kevin Siegrist down, Kyle Schwarber squared up and smacked the ball straight out of the park with a “clock” like the sound made when a driver meets a golf ball. Gaping silence, and then a volcanic eruption of noise followed. In the manner in which legends, myths, and lore are composed, the homerun ball wasn’t discovered until the following day, when a Cubs employee was sent to retrieve it. Upon finding it atop the new right field scoreboard, the Cubs decided to put it on a pedestal, encase it plexiglass and leave it there throughout the postseason. Upon Rondon recording the final out, the home Wrigley crowd, for the first time, celebrated at home. The street was absolutely filled with Cubs fans outside the stadium, on Clark street, as the few Cardinals fans in the stadium covered their red with their coats swiftly and quietly excused themselves. The electric awe that gently reverberated following the win throughout the stadium, and throughout all of Wrigleyville, as the team celebrated, their families came on the field, and fans stood around, unwilling to stop basking in the possibility that what had just happened was real. Chicago was soaked in it.
And ever since, in the week following, that is all that Cubs fans have known. #WeAreGood, the Cubs are even telling themselves. They too, are realizing that, convincing themselves that indeed, it might be possible, that they are good. The team with one of the best batting averages in the majors with runners in scoring position, the team feels nothing but clutch in big-time situations. It feels as though the Cubs are almost destined, have no possibility except the impossible, to win, for it feels that is all they know right now is to win.
As Joe Maddon put it, “Everything came together at the right time-it’s indescribable.” Every Cubs fan hopes and impossibly believes that perhaps, this time, for once, everything will come together, and it will be beyond indescribable.
on the Weekend Sports Report with Packer Dave and Steve Leventhal
…an exciting week in Chicago sports, as the Chicago Cubs vanquish their nemesis, the St. Louis Cardinals, and Toronto comes back from an 0-2 deficit to overtake the Rangers. John Poulter joins us with 2015 ALCS and NLCS previews, as well as a brief look at what’s upcoming in the English Premier League. Dave, Jeff Rich, and Steve look at Week 6 in the NFL, featuring the Bears at Lions, Chargers at Packers, and other key games. Also a peek at some of the big contests in College Football.
Hear comments from John Fox, Martellus Bennett, Mike McCarthy, Aaron Rogers, Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Antonio Gates, and Phillip Rivers.
Don’t miss a cameo from Jeff Foxworthy.