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Bears in Five

Holy Crap!
by the Bearscast.com Staff

One: Holy Crap.
Holy Crap. Holy Crap. Holy Crap. Holy Crap. Holy Crap. Holy Crap. Holy Crap. Holy Crap. Holy Crap. Holy Crap. Holy Crap. Holy Crap. Holy Crap. Holy Crap. Holy Crap. Holy Crap. Holy Crap. Holy Crap. Holy Crap. Holy Crap. Holy Crap. Holy Crap. Holy Crap. Holy Crap! The Chicago Bears are in the Super Bowl!

Seriously One: Too Much Bears
Super Bowl coverage paradoxically begins in Week 13 of the regular season, which means by the time it gets to the actual game, you're sick and tired of hearing about the two teams involved. This raises the question — is it possible to get too much Bears? Is that conceivable? It doesn't seem like it should be. But it likely will. This is the time when the media starts aching for a good quote from one of the players, hopefully a prediction of some sort. I'm going to go ahead and urge punter Brad Maynard — who, by the way, was one of the stars of the last game — issue a challenge to the Colts, saying, "Man, those busters can't teach us how to stunt!" a la Yukmouth.

Two: Keeping our coaches, an added bonus to victory?
The head coaching jobs are said to be disappearing. Defensive coordinator Ron Rivera was seemingly at the top of every team's wish list. He interviewed for all of the early openings during the Bears' bye week. Offensive coordinator Ron Turner also spoke with some teams and officially interviewed with at least one. But the success of the Bears seems to be working against them as far as landing another job is concerned. Teams have already started to fill their vacancies. Hopefully all of jobs are taken before the Super Bowl is played, and Ron and Ron can stay. If that sounds selfish, it's because it is. And if either Ron or Ron become a head coach this upcoming off-season, let us be the first to say congratulations.

Three: The Rex Had a Good Game
The stats may not necessarily bear it out, but Rex Grossman in fact played a good game. That's some true stuff — no playin'. I know that we're big Rex boosters here, but we're not just blowing smoke. The Bears, as if in a season-long feint, finally did what every Bears fan has been begging them to do all season — use Cedric Benson to pound opponents' defenses to pave the way for Thomas Jones, who is quicker and more elusive. The result was that the Bears ran the ball a whole lot, and Rex frankly did not have a lot of chances out there. But when the game plan called for passing — specifically in the second half — Rex did the damn thing, throwing a beautiful touchdown pass to Bernard Berrian to ice the game. The frigid weather and snow made things a little tougher and there were a number of dropped balls which makes the stats deceptive. That makes two consecutive good games for Rex, and both in the playoffs. This cat is mentally tough — he's got one finger aimed at your head to start, and another pointed at your weak-ass heart.

Four: Brad Maynard, The Maury Buford of Punting.
Besides excelling at cowbell-playing, Maury Buford was an amazing punter. Really an essential part of the 1985 Chicago Bears team — a team that really played its best when the opponent had long downs and a lot of field to cover. He also had one of the most bad-ass names of a professional athlete ever, sounding more like a 1950s Jewish Catskills comic stage name than a punter. Brad Maynard is the Maury Buford (note the initials — B.M., M.B. — coincidence!?) of the 2006 Bears of the, um, 1985 Bears. You know what we're trying to say. If you could describe a punter as being "relentless," then Maynard was that, consistently pinning the Saints high-powered offense deep in their own territory and often leaving the kicks unreturnable. Given the conditions on the field, that is even more impressive.

Five: "The Bears Defense Are Paper Tigers."
Where you at, Sean Salisbury, with your 500 career passing attempts, tired-sounding voice, hardly stay awake during your radio show? Where'd you go, Jay Mariotti, Mr. Hating-Til-The-Last-Minute? What happened, ESPN talking heads, unanimously — unanimously! — picking the Saints over the Bears? Where you at? Where's that contrition? What happened? You're all geniuses, I thought. You get paid insane money to make predictions and flex your football knowledge. Meanwhile, you're all so consumed with your own catchphrases, clich├ęs and conventional wisdom you can't be bothered to fall back on reason, know what I mean!? Come on! The Bears defense faltered occasionally — so did the '85 Bears defense, by the way — but here's a team that survived 25 turnovers from its quarterback and sporadic offense generally and went 13-3 — Thirteen and Three! — on the season, all on the strength of a dominant defense that forced 44 turnovers. That doesn't just go away. The Bears flat-out smothered not the best offense in the playoffs, not the best offense in the NFC, but the best offense in the entire league — the number one offense! With the exception of one big play, the Bears completely shut the Saints down. Ian Scott stepped up brilliantly in Tommie Harris' place, and the line was able to generate enough pressure up front to allow the linebackers to stuff the run in the backfield. That's a good defense. That's the evidence of a whole season's work! Lovie Smith and Ron Rivera don't just stop being defensive masterminds. Doesn't happen. What does happen, is y'all make fools out of yourselves. Meanwhile, BEARSCast marches on, the best show on the Internet.

Pucks in Five

Buy, Sell, Trade
by Jeremy Piniak

With the Blackhawks mired in a nine-game losing streak, the All-Star Break this week couldn't come soon enough for a team that's looked lost since it rang in the New Year. Here's a quick look at what to expect, and what should be expected, in the final third of the season that begins Friday against Nashville.

One: Goalie Gone
With Patrick Lalime expected to return to the team from his rehab assignment in the next week, the team's three goalies will be one too many. Starter Nicolai Khabibulin isn't going anywhere, due both to his play and his massive contract, which leaves Lalime or Brian Boucher as the likely trade targets. While the Blackhawks are desperate for offensive help, neither goalie figures to garner much in return, unless packaged with other players. Otherwise, expect at most a third line forward or mid-round draft pick, neither of which will have much impact this year.

Two: Listening to All Offers
With the Hawks season all but over, the team will be sellers as the Feb. 27 trade deadline nears. Besides the aforementioned goalie, the Hawks have a number of mid-range vets that contenders may look to add for postseason depth. Forwards Bryan Smolinski and Peter Bondra could garner some interest, along with defenseman Jassen Cullimore and Adrian Aucoin, and any player who has an expiring contract. Aucoin's departure would benefit the Hawks the most, but will be the hardest to move by virtue of his $4 million a year salary and injury history. The others all carry a decent price tag, but have the experience to help contending teams make a run for the Stanley Cup. With the team needing a massive offensive overhaul in the offseason, any offer that doesn't involve Martin Havlat and Tuomo Ruutu should be listened to.

Three: Playing for a Future
As the team falls to the basement of the Western Conference, there is little left for the Hawks to play for, other than pride (which has been lacking lately) — and more importantly, a spot on next year's roster. Smolinksi, Bondra, Michael Holmqvist, Jeff Hamilton, Denis Arkhipov, Michael Handzus, Karl Stewart and Craig McDonald all have expiring contracts, and could also garner trade interest due to the short-term commitment involved in them. Of those players, only Handzus should be guaranteed a place back. Stewart is not an offensive threat, but his physical play and constant effort have been one of the team's bright spots lately and should earn him a future role. Hamilton and Arkhipov were both brought in to help spur the offense on, and while both have been disappointing, their play down the stretch will dictate their future.

Four: See the Future! Today!
The party line the past two years has been the number of talented prospects in the Hawks farm system and their unlimited potential. Now that this season is nothing but an afterthought, it's time for some of these players to get a long look at the top level.

Rookie phenoms Cam Barker and Dustin Byfulgien are up with the parent club from Norfolk, and while there have been some glaring miscues, have shown flashes of their long-mentioned promise. Once some players are moved around, it will be time to see some of the forwards from Norfolk get a real shot with the Hawks as well. Adam Burish has played a number of games for the team this year already and has shown his future belongs in the NHL; now let's see his "Killer B" teammates: Michael Blunden, Dave Bolland, and Troy Brouwer. All had some strong preseason play, and are expected to be a big part of the Blackhawks' future. What better chance to see what they can do in the last two months of the season?

Five: Super Bowl!
Not to steal Bears in Five's in-depth analysis, but after attending the NFC Championship game Sunday, just had to say, Let's Go Bears!

Bulls in Five

Bulls Who?
by Jason Maslanka

One: Are You Ready for some Basketball?
The answer for most, right now, is no. There's usually only one time per season that the Bulls get relegated to the tenth page of the sports section. That's the annual month of partying known affectionately as March Madness. This year, the poor guys get the shaft twice while the Bears parade into Miami for the Super Bowl. Luckily, it's a long season that's only half over, and if there's ever a time to pay less attention to the Bulls, it seems to be now.

Two: Less Attention?
Sure, it's time to pay less attention to this team because they're hard to watch often. They break out of a losing streak by destroying a pitiful Memphis team and follow that up with an impressive win against San Antonio and a solid division win against Milwaukee. Now, they lay an egg against the Jazz at home on Saturday and blow one last night to the Pacers, who just traded for Troy Murphy. Yes, that's right... for Troy Murphy. With the win, the Pacers went over .500 and the Bulls started the second half of their season with a loss to a mediocre team.

Threeeeee: Projections
With a first half record of 23-18, the Bulls project out to 46 wins. Before we act like the major media and declare the season a failure, that total would have been good for fifth in the East last year. While that shouldn't be anyone's goal in a year where they could compete for a championship, it's not awful either. If one takes into account the terrible record the team compiled on their early west coast trip, it's safe to give the team another 3-4 wins in the second half. With 49-50 wins, the team is looking at the fourth or third seed and home court advantage for a round. The Bulls currently sit in third place in the Central Division, but only 1.5 games out of first place. As was said last week, this team can easily finish anywhere from first to fifth in this division. The first half of the season tells us very little.

Four: Rumors
Most folks continue to say that the Bulls need one of two things, a go-to scorer or a low-post scoring presence. That can be said for almost every team in the history of basketball, but, in truth, it would certainly help. Seven-footer Pau Gasol of the aforementioned Grizzlies is a possibility as his team is already out of it and the Bulls have the talent to trade for the talented Spaniard. The NBA trade deadline isn't until February 22nd, but their General Manager, Jerry West, has already confirmed talks with the Bulls about the big man. Kevin Garnett is often mentioned, as well as Indiana's Jermaine O'Neal.

Five: Bear Down... South
What would this column be without a congratulatory message for the Bears? Doubted by most, and disrespected more than any 13-3 team I've ever seen, the Bears demolished the Saints on Sunday afternoon to advance to their second Super Bowl. This will be the first Superbowl in years where I'm more excited for football than commercials. When will I find time to grab another beer?

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Comments

Steve / January 23, 2007 10:16 AM

So, we all ready to crown the Bears' asses?

The Boo Yaas and the many wanna-be Boos got pantsed hard by letting the "inspiring narrative" get in the way of the dang game.

There's a message there, Rudy -- stop that messin' around. Talent wins.

 

About the Author(s)

Ramsin Canon, Craig Aichele and Fitz are the hosts of Bearscast.com, the best and brightest Bears podcasts, part of the Chicago Sportscast Network. Now with 60 percent more non-football talk, bringing the football talk to 10 percent. Go listen. Send comments to hosts@bearscast.com.

Jeremy Piniak grew up watching hockey on all levels and is a lifelong Blackhawks fan who, inexplicably, still has hope that Bill Wirtz will once again provide Chicago with a championship hockey team and broadcast home games on TV, though he still mourns the destruction of Chicago Stadium. Every week he'll bring you five talking points on the state of hockey in Chicago (including, when possible, the minor-league Wolves and Hounds). Send comments to pucks@gapersblock.com

Jason Maslanka began his fandom of the Chicago Bulls in June of 1991, conveniently coinciding with the franchise's first championship. The years since the championships tested his fandom, but it never faltered. He believes that the NBA is more than dunks and hip hop, and that the NBA dress code is a good thing. He thinks most fans don't really understand basketball, and if they did, they'd love it even more. He knows that there are certain players who do the little things for no praise, and stat-mongers who don't really do anything to help their team win. Every week, he executes a beautifully crafted column containing five points you should be thinking about and discussing as a Bulls and NBA fan. Send comments, questions and arguments to bulls@gapersblock.com.

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