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Saturday, May 23

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Bulls Fri May 22 2015

What We Know About the Bulls Offseason

BullsIt was a disappointing end to a frustrating season for the Bulls. They were a team built to win this year and they got an All-NBA performance out of Jimmy Butler. They faced a horribly depleted Cleveland team in the Eastern Conference semi-finals. Instead of a trip to the finals and a chance for a ring, they spiraled out of the playoffs with a lackluster performance that was an embarrassing for a team that embraced its blue collar home.

While the final four teams decide who will hoist the Larry O'Brien trophy, the Bulls begin an offseason full of questions in a place no team wants to be: basketball hell. No cap space and no high draft picks on a team loaded with guys on the wrong side of the aging curve. And that's before even getting to whatever is going to happen with Tom Thibodeau.

With so much being unknown for the Bulls going into the summer months, let's go over everything we know for sure.

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Chad Ruter / Comments (0)

White Sox Fri May 22 2015

Avisail Garcia's Bat Emerges for White Sox

Chicago White SoxThe White Sox have experienced mixed success over the first 38 games of the season. Last night's 5-2 loss to Cleveland dropped them to 18-20, which is actually a little better than where they should be. The six-game winning streak was good, but otherwise both the offense and the starting pitching hasn't been there. The Sox have scored 128 runs, 29th in the league, and the starters have registered a 4.56 ERA, 25th in baseball. Their run differential is -34, 25th overall.

But while everyone else has been slow to get it going (including Jose Abreu, who's been very good but not otherworldly), Avisail Garcia has been excellent. The right fielder's .319 batting average cracks the top 10 in the American League. Garcia has been on fire since April 29. Since then, he's had a line of .372/ .410/ .538 with 10 multi-hit games.

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Mike Chamernik / Comments (0)

Blackhawks Wed May 20 2015

Kruger Gets Redemption, Ties Series in 3OT Thriller

Chicago Blackhawks After Marcus Kruger took a vicious header to the boards, off a questionable hit by Clayton Stoner early into the first period of Game 2 of the Western Conference Final, it was apparent Kruger was going to be finished for the evening and Stoner would be ejected, or, at the very least, serve a double-minor penalty. The play foreshadowed how the rest of the game would play out: big hits, physical play and no love lost between either side.

Stoner only received a two-minute minor, upon which the Blackhawks were able to capitalize in a rare power-play goal, while Kruger remained in the game, which turned out to be key hours later in the Blackhawks' thrilling 3-2 win played in three overtimes, the longest game ever in the franchise's 89-year history.

While Hawks fans grabbed a quick nap and made their commute to work this morning in a much-better mood -- albeit, a little groggy -- after a prize fight of a hockey game, their team now heads back home for Games 3 and 4 at the United Center with the series tied at one-a-piece.

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Jim Crago / Comments (0)

Blackhawks Mon May 18 2015

Despite Layoff, Ducks, Andersen Outplay Blackhawks in Game 1

Chicago BlackhawksAfter a lengthy rest for both the Anaheim Ducks and Blackhawks, it was time to drop the puck for Game 1 of the Western Conference Final at the Honda Center in sunny California. The narrative leading into Game 1 was the Hawks would have been on too much rest and would lose all the momentum after taking it to the Minnesota Wild in a four-game sweep.

Turns out the Hawks only had three more days of preparation than the Ducks (10 days compared to seven days), which didn't seem to kill any momentum for head coach Bruce Boudreau's team, after taking the first in this series by the final of 4-1.

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Jim Crago / Comments (0)

Football Fri May 15 2015

Youth Football has a Concussion Problem

the mashBy Katie Karmin & Charlie Connelly

From the first days of peewee ball to the stadium lights of the high school field, it's abundantly clear that physical harm is a reality of football. For years, it was just "the norm" for adolescents and young adults to break a bone or suffer a concussion here and there. If a young player was injured, odds were they had been playing their hardest out on the field, and that was glorified.

Today, much of America's youth has been born into the luxury of protection. From more effective airbags to an actual bomb detection shield in Israel, safety has never been as advanced as it is today. But within that world, football is taking new hits for the harm it poses to players' health.

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Tailgate / Comments (0)

Blackhawks Fri May 08 2015

Blackhawks in Western Conference Final, Sweep Wild

Chicago Blackhawks Nothing this season has been particularly easy for the Blackhawks in terms wins. Even with a bit of a cushion, like in last night's Game 4 clincher in which the Hawks went up 4-1 late in the third period after Marian Hossa scored an empty-netter against the Wild in a six on four advantage, the Hawks managed to let Mike Yeo's team get dangerously close before closing it out by the final of 4-3.

For the first 57 minutes, the Hawks played about as solid as they have all season -- heck, the last few seasons -- by way of blocking shots (14 total), winning faceoffs at the dot (the Blackhawks have three in the top-20 this postseason in Jonathan Toews, Brad Richards and Antoine Vermette) and Corey Crawford finding his groove again in between the pipes. Oh yeah, and Patrick Kane doing his thing -- he scored nearly as many goals this series (5) as the entire Wild roster (7).

The final three minutes were another story, but one that proved to be near impossible to defend, especially with the Wild using a two-man advantage on two occasions. No matter, because the Hawks find themselves once again in the Western Conference final -- the team's third appearance in a row and fifth trip in the last seven seasons -- and look to make right on falling short last year.

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Jim Crago / Comments (0)

Blackhawks Wed May 06 2015

Kane and Crow Steal Show in Game 3 Win for Blackhawks

Chicago Blackhawks Coming into Tuesday night's tilt at the Xcel Energy Center, the Blackhawks were a mere 1-9 in Game 3s on the road under head coach Joel Quenneville. The usual narrative read like a road map these last handful of years: Take the first two and then settle in on the road, while trying to steal one, preferably in Game 4.

The Game 3 slide happened twice last postseason: once against this same Wild team and then again in the Western Conference final against the eventual Cup champs, the Los Angeles Kings. Last night, however, Patrick Kane and Corey Crawford rewrote that narrative, and now the Hawks are up a commanding three games to none on the Minnesota Wild and look to close out the series Thursday night.

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Jim Crago / Comments (0)

Blackhawks Mon May 04 2015

Blackhawks Set Pace on Wild to Go Up 2-0

Chicago Blackhawks It was quite a long weekend of sports, especially for all those in the Chicagoland area. The NFL Draft kicked off Thursday in Draft Town, the Bulls dispatched the Bucks in grand fashion to move on to the second round of the NBA playoffs, The Cubs and Sox tried, the fastest two minutes in sports produced a thrilling finish in the 141st Kentucky Derby, and Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao finally got it on, albeit, in a rather lackluster display in the squared circle.

It was a legendary four days for sure, which undoubtedly produced a few hangovers and a neglected punch list. But capping it all off was the Hawks finally showing a little life on the defensive end and setting the pace against a quick Wild team, going up two games to none in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

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Jim Crago / Comments (0)

Feature Wed Apr 29 2015

Chicago Fire's Matt Watson on Art, Veganism & Playing for a Living

Chicago FireIt's a Monday night and I'm sitting in the Chicago Diner with Matt Watson, the English midfielder with the Chicago Fire a month or so into his second year playing the club. We're at Chicago Diner — perhaps the city's premier meat-free eatery — because Watson is a vegan and has been meaning to try it out since moving here from Vancouver last March. But at present it is a bit of a fool's errand, as our conversation has gotten off to a running start, and Watson has hardly had a moment to pause and bite into his Buddha's Karma Burger, a curried sweet potato sandwich that captured his attention straightaway.

It seems though that whenever I let up with my questions to give him a chance to eat, Watson still has something more to say. He's a gregarious person; curious, open, funny, all in ways that one doesn't expect to find in a professional athlete. It's quite refreshing honestly, and so the conversation just keeps flowing. Before the end of the night we've covered serious ground — not unlike Watson does on the pitch — chasing topics in every direction from discussing our mutual love for "The Walking Dead," to heady talk about whether art and souls actually exist, even stopping briefly to figure out what is going on with Jay Electronica's rap career (Watson has had to give up on the underground sensation ever releasing a proper album).

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Benjamin Cannon / Comments (1)

Fire Tue Apr 28 2015

Chicago Fire Keep Winning Streak Alive

Chicago FireAs anyone who has seen Vegas Vacation, The Godfather Part III, or Blues Brothers 2000 can likely attest, taking time away from something that had been great can make the act of returning to it a rather painful experience. These trepidations were no doubt a feeling shared by many as the Chicago Fire took to the field last Friday after a full 20-day spell in the dry dock. The Men In Red had begun to form into a cohesive unit in the matches prior to the unintended hiatus, leading several people to speculate that the squad's progress would be undone in the fallow period. The naysayers were proven wrong in the end, as the night saw the Fire put on quite a show for their soccer-starved fans, rolling to a 1-0 victory over the visiting New York City FC. David Accam opened his scoring account with the team, and nearly came close to netting his first hat trick as well.

The result can be credited to a wide variety of factors beyond simply that of the Fire outplaying NYCFC. For one thing, New York were without starters David Villa and goalkeeper Josh Saunders, two big difference makers for the side. Second, the Fire played nearly the 2/3rds of the match with a man advantage after Andrew Jacobson was sent off in the 24th minute for fouling David Accam on a breakaway. Despite these advantages Chicago were still only able to manage a one goal performance, which nearly slipped away at the end of the game. That the Fire were held to such a parsimonious lead was, quite simply, because NYCFC keeper Ryan Meara had an absolutely sensational night between the sticks--save for his lone gaffe that led to David Accam's goal--which called to mind the performance put on by Tim Howard at last year's World Cup in the USMNT's match against Belgium. The second best defensive performance on the night came not from the NYCFC defense, but from the uprights of the goal itself, as the Fire struck woodwork 3 times in most convincing fashion.

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Benjamin Cannon / Comments (0)

Chicago Tue Apr 28 2015

Blackhawks Prep for Wild Series

Chicago Blackhawks After a rather neurotic series against the Nashville Predators, the Hawks find themselves in a second-round rematch against a team hell-bent on making good from last year's 4-2 series loss in the Minnesota Wild. The Hawks were able to figure out Pekka Rinne just in time to close out the Preds, all while figuring out issues within their own net in Corey Crawford and Scott Darling (and then Crawford again).

The Hawks' defense didn't help matters, allowing way too many shots on goal to both Crow and Darling, but in the end they managed to pressure Rinne, especially the last four to five minutes of Game 6, and eke out a series win.

All is well and good in Hawksland now, but if recent play is any indication of how this team will perform from here on out, the result might be Wild in six -- or even shorter than that.

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Jim Crago / Comments (0)

White Sox Fri Apr 24 2015

Food, Fight: A Night with the White Sox

Chicago White SoxThe lowest point of the last five years for the White Sox wasn't the collapse of 2012 or when Gordon Beckham dropped a game-winning pop-up in 2013. No, it was this damning interactive feature by the New York Times.

The publication took a trip around the league and named the best and worst food item at every stadium. They didn't follow that template with the White Sox, though. The Times said that every concession item at The Cell was garbage. "What to Avoid: Everything," the graphic said.

In the years since, the club has ramped up the food choices at Sox Park, from the grandiose (the "Winning Ugly Grand Slam," a four-meat sandwich) to the simple (the "Walking Taco," which is Fritos covered in chili), from the familiar (Beggar's Pizza by the slice) to the exotic ("Adobo Mango Chicken Sausage").

Yesterday, the Sox hosted "Taste of Chi Sox," where fans got to sample newer menu items in the Miller Lite Extra Base bar above the 100 level down the left field line. I attended, loaded up my plate, and could safely say that if you listen to the Times and avoid these items, you're a world-class yutz.

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Mike Chamernik / Comments (0)

Fire Thu Apr 16 2015

Chicago Fire Facing An Empty April

Chicago FireIn Newtonian physics one of the basest principles governing movement states that an object in motion will remain in that state unless acted upon by an equal and opposite force. With the Chicago Fire gaining momentum, finally fielding a fully-fit side and cruising to their second win in a row, things appeared to be auguring in their favor. That is to say, unless something should arise and put a stop to their forward progress, significantly altering the team's trajectory.

There was already going to be a minor speed bump along the way, with Chicago and the New England Revolution electing to reschedule their April 15th match, as it coincided with the ever-popular USA-Mexico international friendly happening on the same day. The bye-week for the Men In Red would lighten a congested week, allowing them more time to maintain match fitness before they were to head to Montreal on April 18th to face the Impact.

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Benjamin Cannon / Comments (0)

Blackhawks Thu Apr 16 2015

Darling Lifts Blackhawks Over Predators but Bigger Question Ahead

Chicago Blackhawks Most everyone in Chicago expected the Blackhawks to win Game 1 against the Predators in Music City last night. What no one ever could have predicted was how they eventually got it done.

In what easily will go down as one of the most exciting games played in the last 20 years, the Hawks went from being down 3-0 after the first 20 minutes of play, which prompted Joel Quenneville to pull goalie Corey Crawford, to clawing their way back on the very broad shoulders of Lemont native Scott Darling and eventually winning in the game's second overtime by the final of 4-3.

Hawks fans will excuse the lack of sleep after a win like that, which is nothing a few extra cups of coffee won't fix. But what likely will keep Quenneville and staff up even later on this evening's off night is deciding whether or not to re-insert the man who got them there in Crawford, or simply to ride the hot hand in Darling and see how it plays out.

Lovie Smith famously said on multiple occasions, "Rex is our quarterback," despite his inconsistent play on the field. Will Q echo those sentiments?

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Jim Crago / Comments (0)

White Sox Thu Apr 16 2015

Plenty of Games Left for Streaky White Sox

Chicago White SoxDespite a loss yesterday afternoon, the White Sox are starting to heat up. They had won three in a row and are starting to jell. The team is starting to resemble the team that many folks thought they could be, a crew that can compete for the American League Central crown this year.

The streak follows up a four-game losing skid to start the year, one that raised serious concerns about what this team could accomplish. The Royals made the Sox look bad. It was starting to look like it was going to be a long year on the South Side.

OK... I'll drop the shtick. It's only been eight games. We still know nothing about the 2015 White Sox.

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Mike Chamernik / Comments (0)

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