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Saturday, December 9

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by Jeff Webber taking a vacation for the All Star Break. Greetings from the Wisconsin Dells!

Sox in Five

by Steve Gozdecki currently off for the All Star Break. Back next week with thoughts on Mark Buehrle's new contract, any trades the team makes and why it's rarely smart to try to repair vehicles while they're still in motion.

Fire in Five for 7-10-07

Thursday is the First Game of the Rest of the Season
by Steve Gillies

One: Meet the New Boss
Starting this week Juan Carlos Osorio will take the reins of the Fire. The more I've read about him, the more I feel dangerously hopeful. Before his most recent job as head coach of Columbian club Millonarios he was a fitness coach at Manchester City and the New York Metrostars (where he got to know John Guppy when he was their VP of marketing and sales). If you want to read more about him and his coaching methods, check out this excellent article written about his time at Manchester City. He could be the best of both worlds, a manager with international experience that also has knowledge of the way MLS works.

Two: A Word of Caution
Nobody should expect miracles. To tell the truth, miracles could turn out to be the last thing we need. In 2005 a fairly miserable LA team managed to scrape into 8th place and then get hot at the right time to win the MLS Cup. They continued to be miserable the next season, fired their coach and are still looking like a team trying to build a core group that fits together two years later. As much as I'd love it if Chris Armas got to lift the MLS Cup this year, the focus of the new coach should be developing the kind of players that can fill the shoes of Chris Armas (and Diego Gutierrez and CJ Brown, etc). In short, Osorio shouldn't be on a salvage mission. He's on a rebuilding mission.

Three: What A Weird Time To Start A New Job
Of course, rebuilding a team that's for sale isn't exactly ideal. On hearing about the sale, some thought Denis Hamlett would have remained in place until the new owners arrived to make their own appointment. Now, Osorio has a contract that will have to be honored financially even if the new owners want to replace him, something a company looking to buy the team might not be happy about. But for once I'm going to unequivocally praise a John Guppy decision. Guppy clearly had a qualified guy in mind when he fired Dave Sarachan and acted quickly to bring him in. Given how badly the team needs new ideas and a new approach, it was absolutely the right thing to do, sale or no sale.

Four: It's Either Booze or Processed Cheese and Sausage
So who are these new owners going to be? A bit more light was shed on the subject this week, with two interested parties emerging. One is the Bronfman family, who made their fortune with Montreal based beverage company, Seagram's. The other is the local Frank Klopas group backed financially by the Greco family. Apparently their money comes from food processing, particularly cheese and sausage. The Bronfman family is the frontrunner right now with Klopas still trying to convince the Grecos to make a bid. It's tough to say who fans would prefer, a smaller local outfit led by a local hero, or a bigger outfit that could has more resources to make the club better (eg, put money into another DP, a training facility or a youth development program). On moral grounds, it's between alcoholism or obesity and heart disease, so that's a wash.

Five: What I've Been Watching Instead of the Fire
If you noticed, for the second week in a row I've barely mentioned the actual soccer. I have to admit, of the past three games, I only watched parts of the 2-0 defeat to a Brian Hall-inspired LA Galaxy. There have been other, better soccer games on television. The U-20 World Cup which is pretty entertaining in general since the players are still at an age where all the joy hasn't been coached out of them yet, but even more so since the US is playing well enough to beat Brazil. Still, with the new coach and players like Justin Mapp and Thiago back in the lineup, Thursday's game against Houston is a perfect time to start paying attention to the Fire again. So next week I'll be back to talking about the soccer, instead of just commenting on stories the Trib's Luis Arroyave or Soccernet's Ives Galarcep broke days ago. Who knows, I might even be talking about a Fire win.

Sky in Five

Fan Fashion Contest!
by Anne Elizabeth Moore

One: What the Buzz is About
The hottest thing going doesn't always live up to the word of mouth. After jumping to the third slot in Eastern Division rankings, the WNBA's Chicago Sky failed to win a game or have any players named to the All-Star starters list. That's right: not even '06 All-Star Candice "The Gum Chewer" Dupree made the cut this year, with her 19.4 point, 8.2 rebound and 1.5 block per game averages. All this, and she does it chewing gum. What else do they want, an arm tied behind her back? She could probably do that.

WNBA All-Star starters were announced last Tuesday, and reserves will be in later today. A glimmer of hope remains, although not for the Eastern Conference Sky: Top Western Conference vote receiver Sue Bird of the Seattle Storm will be recovering from knee surgery, leaving a slot open alongside her teammate Lauren Jackson and three other players.

Two: Important Announcement
The nickname of rising star Sky guard and last week's Player of the Week Jia Perkins, following consultations with my palmist, astrologer and mentalist, is going to be "Jia." 'Cause in the future, other people are going to want to be nicknamed after her.

Jia's nearly single-handed double-overtime June 29 win against the Sacramento Monarchs (39 points, 10 assists, four rebounds and three steals) made her the first player in WNBA history to rack over 30 points and 10 assists in a single game. And how does she prepare for all the feminine aggression she cuts through on the court in pursuit of the basket? Shopping. "Lucky for me [Michigan Avenue is] only a few blocks away so I'm able to walk there. I normally don't spend that much time out there but I've got to check to see if there are any sales," she says in a blog post.

Also last week, Israel's Anda Ramat Hasharon brought Jia on board to join the spurned Deanna Jackson abroad in the off-season. Jackson was released from her Sky contract after landing in a local jail and losing her passport for punching out a player from an opposing team in a parking lot.

Three: Games 17 and 18: Lose
The July 7 game against the last-in-the-conference Washington Mystics started out with a couple fumbled field goal attempts by Chastity Melvin, but the first shot was taken by the tough-lookin' forward guard Alana Beard, who wears one arm covered in black and the other exposed like she is a freaking arm Amazon. It is good fashion, something emulated lakeside by the Gum Chewer, who wears a similar thing on her left arm, but white, the color of angels from heaven. Dominique "The Beast" Canty sat out the first half of the game, allowing Jia some time with the crowd, who roared her every action appreciatively. The Sky remained ahead throughout much of the game, but in the final four minutes of official play, a big push by the Mystics gave them a four-point lead for a final Sky defeat of 77-73.

The July 8 game against the Indiana Fever dropped us back to fourth place and gave us an 8-10 record. It started slow for the Sky, with the Fever's All-Star starters Tamika Catchings and Anna DeForge coming on strong right away and leading their team to an 86-70 win, their third consecutive victory. Catchings brought in 16 points and a career-high 11 assists, while the Sky seemed unable to pull their field goal success rate out of the toilet-situation 35 percent range.

The Prodigal Weekend
Sunday's game against the Fever did, however, give prodigal daughter Cathy Joens — one of our lost blondes — a chance to prove her mettle and pull in 16 points for the team. Following her release in late May, she was re-signed on July 5 for reasons that remain somewhat elusive: Head Coach Bo Overton already stated he's a got a team the size he wants, and in addition to her consistent shooting, "she already knows our system and will blend in quickly." Still, the hard questions remain: Will we see more lineup losses? And when will Jenna Rubin and Amanda Lassiter return?

Good things came out of the Saturday night defeat at the hands of the Mystics, too: Point-scorin' prodigy Chastity Melvin passed the 3,000 point mark in the game with about four minutes left in the third quarter, becoming only the 19th player in WNBA history to rack up as many points. Actually, she passed the 3,004 point mark in this game, so she's only 1,728 points below Lisa Leslie's all-time high of 4,732.

First Annual Fan Fashion Awards
The weather is hot, people, and my repertoire of homemade Chicago Sky basketball tees, hoodies and tanks is either dwindling or totally inappropriate. So you know what? Time for a contest: The fan who sends me the best homemade tee or tank (I'm a small!) gets to accompany me to a game. Not only might you get the chance to meet Bo Overton afterwards, but there are free sandwiches! Which, besides the basketball playing, drum corps, breakin' crew and Dippin' Dots, is pretty much the only reason I show up every game! You will be expected to dress appropriately. (Unfortunately, because I am a sportswriter now, I cannot.) Please note: this contest will remain open until someone enters it. Email for the mailing address.

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Steve Gillies / July 11, 2007 10:58 PM

Update - It looks like alcoholism won - sort of. A company called Andell Holdings, which is comprised of Andrew Hauptman and his wife Ellen Bronfman (grand-daughter of the Seagram's founder) Hauptman, are in a preliminary agreement to buy the Fire, pending league approval and yada yada yada. Good or bad for the Fire? Who knows, but at least the sale talk will be over.


About the Author(s)

Steve Gillies has been a Fire fan since he stood in a torrential downpour while the Fire beat New England 6-0 and he realized watching American soccer games in person was a lot better than watching European football matches on television. Each week he'll give you five things to talk about if you happen to get cornered by one of those soccer people at a party. Send comments to

Anne Elizabeth Moore didn't go to professional blogging school or anything like some of these sports writers today, but she's been nominated for more comics awards. That's gotta mean something. Send comments to

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