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Monday, April 21

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Bulls Fri Apr 18 2014

Nobody Wants to Play the Bulls - Can You Blame Them?

Bulls_200.pngThe Eastern Conference was host to a lot of tanking this season -- mainly racing to see who could get the most ping pong ball combinations on draft lottery night. But in the last few days of the season, playoff bound teams started losing like crazy too.

With a shot at the East's top seed still within their grasp, the Heat decided LeBron James and Chris Bosh should "rest" in their penultimate game, ceding home court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference to the Indiana Pacers (who are 35-6 at home and just 21-20 on the road). By sliding to the two spot, the Heat avoided a possible date with the Bulls until the conference finals.

Not to be outdone, the Brooklyn Nets were lining up perfectly for a first round slugfest with the Bulls with a week left to go in the season. Then came a "stunning" collapse in the final five games. Losses to Orlando, Atlanta, New York (without Carmelo) and Cleveland dropped Jason Kidd's team to the six seed, and a first round date with Toronto instead.

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Chad Ruter / Comments (0)

White Sox Fri Apr 18 2014

Eaton Rises and Grinds for the White Sox

Sox_200.pngLast night, with two men on in the sixth inning and the White Sox down by a run, Adam Eaton demonstrated why White Sox fans are so fond of him.

Eaton hit a little squibber up the first base line. After a moment of hesitation by the Red Sox defense (a runner was heading home on the play), first baseman Mike Napoli flipped the ball over to pitcher Jon Lester, who was running to cover first. Routine play... but Eaton, hustling the whole way, beat Lester to the bag for an infield single.

The new Sox centerfielder has been doing this since he joined the team. This is what he does, this is the type of player he is. He's been characterized as a "grinder," someone who plays the game the right way and someone who exerts maximum effort every moment he's on the baseball field.

Eaton is shaping up to be more than just a grinder for the Sox this year, though.

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Mike Chamernik / Comments (0)

Blackhawks Thu Apr 17 2014

Blackhawks and Blues Preview: Round 1

Thumbnail image for GB blackhawks icon.png It seems a little surreal that the NHL playoffs are set to begin, considering how quickly the Blackhawks arrived here after an even more surreal ending to last season. But nevertheless, the postseason is upon us and head coach Joel Quenneville's squad is set to open the first round in St. Louis against the Blues at the Scottrade Center for Game 1.

The Hawks finished the season 46-21-15 at 107 points, which earned them the fourth-best point total in the Western Conference, a rather surprising position considering they were the second-highest scoring team in the league with 3.18 goals per game and twelfth in goals against with 2.58.

By comparison, the Blues were seventh in the league in scoring at 2.92 goals per game and third at goals against per game at 2.29. But all that matters now is which team will hold it together and stay consistent over a longer period of games that either could go as quickly as five or as grueling as seven

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Jim Crago / Comments (0)

White Sox Wed Apr 16 2014

The Joys of an Empty Sox Park

Sox_200.pngJust when I was about to head out the door to go to yesterday's White Sox game, I checked Twitter and saw some bad news. The club shut down the upper deck because of the blustery weather conditions. Cheapskates stay home! While the cancellation did save me from potential frostbite and certain discomfort - oh, and $7, too - it robbed me of one of my favorite experiences.

The Sox have had trouble filling the stadium in the early season. Not counting Opening Day and Saturday's afternoon game against the Indians (75-degree temps and a fleece blanket giveaway), the Sox are pulling in about 13,000 fans per game. The weather has been bad and the opponents haven't been too exciting, but 13,000 is pretty lackluster. That's bordering on Montreal Expos territory.

Yet I was still excited to go to the game Tuesday, mainly because the park would be empty. Am I a maniac? A psychopath? Not only was I going to this game alone (and I was considering keeping score, too!) but I actually enjoy being one of 10,000 fans at Sox games instead of one of 40,000. For a run-of-the-mill regular season game, at least.

I have a bunch of reasons why I cherish a deserted US Cellular Field. Other than my own introverted spirit, of course.

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Mike Chamernik / Comments (1)

Windy City Rollers Mon Apr 14 2014

Double Crossers, Manic Attackers to play for Windy City Rollers Home Championship

wcr-logo.png Windy City Rollers home teams the Manic Attackers and the Double Crossers both won Saturday and will face each other next month for the Ivy King Cup.

The Manic Attackers, who finished the regular season with an 0-3 record, beat last years home season champions The Fury 186-180. The Double Crossers, who were winless the previous three seasons, beat the Hell's Belles 271-242.

The Manics and the Double Crossers will play for the Ivy King Cup, awarded annually to the home season champion, on May 17.

Bill Mayeroff / Comments (0)

Chicago Mon Apr 14 2014

Inaugural Be The Match Starts Chicago In Right Direction

Finish.jpg It was a blustery spring morning on Saturday as more and more people approached the tent area at Montrose Harbor. The sun was beginning to peak out, and the warmest outdoor temperature since last October put a smile on everyone's face.

In all reality, the weather could have been 40 degrees with rain, but it wouldn't have mattered. A 5K run and 1K walk to benefit finding a cure for leukemia, lymphoma and other life-threatening diseases was about to start, and the warmth of community and togetherness provided enough energy to power the United Center.

In its inaugural event in Chicago, Be The Match, an organization that for over the past 25 years, has helped countless numbers of individuals find matches from donors, including, according to it's website, 61,000 marrow and cord blood transplants and nearly 6,300 transplants a year. And what better way to help spread awareness of such a program than a healthy stroll on the city's north side.

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Jim Crago / Comments (0)

Fire Fri Apr 11 2014

On Poetry and Soccer in April

GB fire icon.pngIn these United States April is designated National Poetry Month, perhaps a cheeky nod to T.S. Eliot's denunciation of it as "the cruellest month," though too because no single month inspires as much introspection as that positioned between winter's abject brutalism and summer's all-encompassing hedonism. What more does the soul need than to sound its barbaric yawp as the western hemisphere transitions, shaking off the hoary frost of hibernation, pining for the summer past and spring to come. Flowers are yet but firm seeds, suffused with potential in the dusky loam; the rains fall, ceaseless and grey, upon a huddled populace; and Major League Soccer is like a toddler exploring an orange for the first time, struggling to get beyond the bitter rind, inside which lies a brilliant, bright treasure. Fingernails digging in hard flesh, the squish of juice underneath singing sweet, sticky songs of summers yet to come.

Which is to say that play is slow-going these days. Here in the city of wind, home to both the Poetry Foundation and the Chicago Fire Soccer Club, we are especially suited to enjoy the marriage of these two art forms, often cherished the world over but little embraced at home. The obvious among us may come to the simple conclusion that they are linked because the sport of soccer, reductively referred to daily as 'the beautiful game,' is poetry in motion. It is not. In fact, that is a phrase that has long since lost all meaning by sheer dint of repetition, though American society has a way of doing that at an accelerated pace anymore.

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Benjamin Cannon / Comments (0)

Blackhawks Fri Apr 11 2014

Kane and Toews Prepare for Return to Blackhawks

Thumbnail image for GB blackhawks icon.png With just two games remaining on the Blackhawks' regular season schedule, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews continue to recover from their respective injuries (Kane: lower-body injury; Toews: upper-body injury) in preparation for the postseason and defense of the Stanley Cup.

Not since 2007 has the team been without both stars for an extended period of time. But thankfully with the steady play of Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp and Duncan Keith, not to mention the emergence of Ben Smith and Jeremy Morin, the Hawks have rattled off four wins in a row (one in OT, a 3-2 winner over the Montreal Canadiens), and now await either the Colorado Avalanche or St. Louis Blues in the first round of divisional play.

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Jim Crago / Comments (0)

White Sox Fri Apr 11 2014

Garcia Out For Year, Still In Our Hearts

Sox_200.pngThe season is only a week and a half old, but already we've seen some good things out of the White Sox group of young guys. Jose Abreu is tearing the cover off of the ball, Adam Eaton is hustling his way into our hearts and Chris Sale has been, well, Chris Sale. So far, so good.

For the most part. A day after having his best game of the (super, super, super) young season, Avisail Garcia tore the labrum in his left shoulder and will miss the rest of the year. Ugh. He was one of the guys to watch on this White Sox team and not having him around will be depressing.

Garcia was acquired last year in the Jake Peavy trade and the soon-to-be 23-year-old was a good get in that transaction. He may struggle with plate discipline but he hits the ball. He was a top Tigers prospect for a few years, and was half decent with the Sox over the last two months of the season (.775 OPS, five homers in 42 games).

What else is notable about Garcia's injury? A few things.

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Mike Chamernik / Comments (0)

Cubs Tue Apr 08 2014

Cubs Don't Need Aces For Future Success

Cubs_200.pngOne worry floating around about Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer's plan is that they haven't been able to secure a front-of-the-rotation starter up to this point through drafts, trading, or the international market. Sure, C.J. Edwards (the highest ranked pitcher in the Cubs system) is thought of by some to have ace potential, but he'd need to add about 40 pounds before anyone starts taking him that seriously.

Knowing this weakness, the focus during the last two winters has been finding a young starting pitcher on the free agent market who has the potential to be around (and still successful) when the likes of Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Arismendy Alcantara and Albert Almora are all ready for the big stage. But they've come up short in the bidding on both Anibal Sanchez and Masahiro Tanaka.

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Chad Ruter / Comments (0)

Fire Mon Apr 07 2014

Fire Unbeaten in Four Games, Though Winless in Five

GB fire icon.pngIf you were to taste the most delicious apple in the world, all crisp, juicy flesh, far beyond being the paragon of tart sweetness, what would you do? Would you not, after having savored every succulent bite, try to find a way to keep this flavor in your life? Surely, you might think, this is just as easy as saving the seeds from the core and planting them in the ground, your careful stewardship bearing literal fruit for the rest of your life and beyond. If you were to go to these lengths though, the apples you'd pluck from the tree would be a sour affront to your avaricious aspirations, a flavor far removed from the ambrosia from whose seeds it had sprouted.

This is due to the fact that apples are considered extreme heterozygotes, meaning that when they reproduce their offspring contain such wildly different DNA that they bear little resemblance to the parent. Because of this heterozygosity, an apple variety is only able to continue its propagation through the process of grafting, where a limb of a successful tree, the scion, is joined with a host tree, the rootstock, and over time the desired fruit will grow just as it had originally. In order for this graft to take, there must be a strong bond through which will flow the lifeblood of the tree and if this bond is not properly forged, the graft may die off.

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Benjamin Cannon / Comments (0)

Blackhawks Mon Apr 07 2014

Morin and Smith Shining for Blackhawks

Thumbnail image for GB blackhawks icon.png If you would have known two months ago that both Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were going to be out for the remainder of the regular season down the stretch, odds are you wouldn't have pictured Jeremy Morin and Ben Smith as two of the key components keeping the Hawks afloat for home ice in the first round. But lo and behold, with just three games left in the 2013-'14 season, the Hawks are two points behind the Avalanche and have won three in a row thanks to these two on the ice.

With all the focus on the likes of veterans Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith to help keep the Hawks on pace with the Avs for the first-round divisional playoff matchup while Toews and Kane heal, there's no doubt been a focus on the opposing teams in containing this talented triad. And while each has contributed per usual, it's been the play of Morin and Smith that has turned the heads of fans and caught the attention of head coach Joel Quenneville.

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Jim Crago / Comments (0)

Blackhawks Wed Apr 02 2014

Blackhawks Hopeful Toews Injury Not Serious

Thumbnail image for GB blackhawks icon.png After Brooks Orpik's questionable, but legal hit on Jonathan Toews in Pittsburgh, Blackhawks fans were faced with a reality they posed at the beginning of the season: If the team remains healthy, they should be able to repeat as champs.

As Toews skated off on his own nearly halfway through the second period, he was added along with Patrick Kane on the team's list of injuries. And while his upper-body injury doesn't appear to be serious, at least according to head coach Joel Quenneville, the crushing blow by Orpik sent a fan base into a state of panic, counting how many games remained on the regular-season schedule.

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Jim Crago / Comments (0)

Chicago Mon Mar 31 2014

Spring Officially Arrives With Shamrock Shuffle


"If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome."
― Anne Bradstreet, The Works of Anne Bradstreet

Winters in Chicago are usually pretty rough on anyone, no matter if you've lived here your whole life or if you're a recent transplant. And if there's one thing everyone in this town can agree on, it's that this last winter was by far the worst in recent memory.

Tourists from far out of town or newcomers fresh out of college would ask, "Is it always this bad around here?" The answer inevitably is, "It gets bad, but this is a little out of the ordinary." With record-setting snowfalls, followed by record-setting sub-zero temperatures -- followed by more snow and then more sub-zero temperatures -- it was enough to make the thick-skinned Midwesterner tremble like a newborn fawn.

After being exposed to such atrocities for a few weeks, the thought on everyone's mind after a long commute home became a little more hopeful, "This, too, shall pass. Heck, there's only 47 days left until Opening Day!" Baseball aside, living in this town for at least three years will make the most callous cynic into an ardent optimist, and every year the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle means spring-like weather truly is right around the corner.

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Jim Crago / Comments (0)

Fire Mon Mar 31 2014

Chicago Fire Fight for a Draw in Messy DC Match

GB fire icon.pngIt is perhaps too easy to look at the facts of a sporting contest, whether it be the final or box score, and form a point of view without having seen minute of the game in question. Why do we care so much for results? Does not a win achieved, but otherwise unearned, blot out a poor team performance? So too does a draw in what could have very easily been a loss. This is what was on display in our nation's capitol this last Saturday, where a hung-over looking Fire were able to pull level with DC United thanks to some late match heroics. The team seemed out of sorts, which could be attributable to the rainy atmosphere or the dire attendance at RFK Stadium, and hopefully this will have been a teachable moment for them.

Before the breakdown let's take a look at where the team was this time last year, shall we? After the first four matches of the 2013 season the Fire were facing some pretty dire straits, with a record of zero wins, one draw and three losses. They had been scored on nine times, and only netted one goal, which came in a 4-1 loss to Chivas USA. Their one draw had come off a 0-0 result at Kansas City. At present the Fire have a record of 0-1-3 (3 points). All of this is to say that if the result on Saturday, and to a larger extent the whole of this new season, leaves something to be desired, things are better than they were already last year and can only go up from here.

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Benjamin Cannon / Comments (0)

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