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Fire Fri Mar 27 2015

Chicago Fire: On Gaining Through Losing

Chicago FireWould it be foolish to suggest that there is power to be found in defeat? That one learns more about themselves in agony than in ecstasy? Consider that the Chicago Fire have started their season on what is being called an historic low—for the team, at least—scoring only one goal in three matches, and tallying a whopping zero points, of a possible nine, going 0-3-0. It is surely a situation which has caused much hand-wringing and disparaged thinking. But it should, first and foremost, be viewed in context: of the team, of the season, and of the league, as a way of seeing things fully.

Think of it this way: to lose in a knockout tournament, like the current NCAA March Madness basketball competition, means no more play, straight up game over, go home, have a nice life. But a loss in the regular season is a signal, saying things aren't working, reformulate, try harder. And it is there, in that distinction that one finds the crucial kernel, that of hopeful experimentation. That a team can achieve better, and that it fully intends to do so. Make no mistake, the Chicago Fire are not some Bialystock and Bloom production of Springtime For Hitler, they are a going concern.

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Benjamin Cannon / Comments (0)

Blackhawks Wed Mar 25 2015

Crawford Finding the Ability to Forget

Chicago Blackhawks Goalies are a lot like relief pitchers in baseball, meaning, if there's a bad outing, they need to forget it ever happened. The ability to block something out -- suppressing it deep within the hippocampus -- has separated the elite in late-inning relief from those who wind up back in Triple A.

This season for the Hawks, Corey Crawford has excelled in his ability to let go the occasional clunker and come right back a few days later to lock it back down in net. It'd help his cause, and sanity for that matter, if his teammates cleared the zone a little more consistently, but nonetheless, Crawford has put up career numbers in a season where he's on pace to see more shots than ever before.

What's different from this season compared to seasons' prior when the Hawks' netminder would fight through more frequent slumps? Perhaps it's working harder between the pipes as well as exercising his neurological skills.

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Jim Crago / Comments (0)

Blackhawks Tue Mar 17 2015

Blackhawks Keeping Pace in the Central Minus Kane

Chicago Blackhawks Losing a player like Patrick Kane would cause any team and fan base to question its future, especially so close to the playoffs. Before fracturing his left collarbone on February 24, against the Florida Panthers, Kane was leading the league in scoring and making a strong case for becoming the first Hawk since Stan Mikita in 1968 to win the Art Ross (scoring title) and Hart Memorial (regular-season MVP) trophies.

Since the injury, the Hawks have compiled a 6-1-1 record and have closed the gap on both the Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues in the Central Division to within five points apiece. With 14 games remaining on the regular-season schedule, the Hawks are looking to make a legitimate run at winning the division with a (somewhat) rejuvenated power play, and sense of urgency with old and new blood on the roster.

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Jim Crago / Comments (0)

Fire Mon Mar 16 2015

Chicago Fire Home Opener Goes Awry

Chicago FireWhat connectve tissue binds the following disparate items: Steven Spielberg's 2005 thriller Munich, Bon Iver's 2011 self-titled album, and this past Saturday night's Chicago Fire tilt against the Vancouver Whitecaps? If, dear reader, it should happen that you've experienced any of the three the scent may be familiar, but for those souls who haven't had the pleasure, please allow this explanation. Each of the above-named items are of that particularly unfortunate caste: entertainments which tease their audience into believing they are in the company of something truly wonderful, only to squander much of that goodwill in the waning moments, whether it be through a ridiculously operatic grief-sex scene, Bruce Hornsby-channeling soft rock, or a defensive lapse leading to a goal in the 86th minute spoiling the home opener.

Often the best way to process the reaction that this causes is to simply dismiss the trespasses against that which came before, rather than dismiss the entire work itself. Songs can be removed from listening devices, films paused for eternity, but for a game of soccer, such expurgation is less an option.

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Benjamin Cannon / Comments (0)

Review Tue Mar 10 2015

Review: Before the Ivy: The Cubs' Golden Age in Pre-Wrigley Chicago

BeforeTheIvy.jpgThe Cubs ownership had been battling with the neighborhood over a noise ordinance during its ballgames over the past few seasons. At one point matters became so heated the team owner threatened to move his team elsewhere.

Around the same time, renovations to the stadium were being finished off, which would update the old gem to a more state-of-the-art facility that would rival any other ballpark in the league. Of course, money would be an issue, which, ultimately, caused the team to break up its veteran squad in favor of rebuilding a winner from the ground-up.

Sound familiar? It should if you've been paying attention to the Northsiders over the last handful of seasons. But it turns out this kind of thing had been happening over a century ago -- well before stepping foot onto Wrigley Field -- to a team once defined by a dominant pitching staff and a string of world championships.

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Jim Crago / Comments (0)

Baseball Mon Mar 09 2015

Review: Joe Black: More Than a Dodger

JB.pngI had never heard of Joe Black.

I knew nothing about the first African-American pitcher to win a World Series game. I was unaware of the man who, after finally reaching the big leagues at 28, nearly won the 1952 National League MVP as a rookie. I was clueless about the gregarious gentleman who was a major part of both professional baseball and the Greyhound Corporation for decades after his playing days ended. I didn't know about all the lives he touched.

But, as I got towards the end of his biography, Joe Black: More Than a Dodger by Martha Jo Black (his daughter and coordinator of Fan Experiences for the White Sox) and author Chuck Schoffner, I not only learned about Joe Black, I came to admire him.

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Mike Chamernik / Comments (0)

Blackhawks Thu Mar 05 2015

New Blackhawks Looking to Help Team as Playoffs Approach

Chicago Blackhawks As the trade deadline approached Monday at 2pm, Blackhawks fans were bracing either for a Bryan Bickell or Patrick Sharp (or both) deal that would free up some much-needed cap space for next year and yet still help a team looking to fill the void of an injured Patrick Kane. As the trade clock expired, both players were still in town and Vegas odds makers still felt confident in giving the Hawks a 6-1 edge to win it all come June.

There's no question general manager Stan Bowman has confidence in his team to make it that far, despite the loss of, at the time, the league's leading scorer. The evidence of that comes from the trades made over the last week, which brought in a highly-sought after forward; a veteran on the blue line, who hasn't seen action all season; and a young winger who has more fights (6) than goals (5) this season.

With 18 games remaining in the regular season, and a tightly-packed playoff push in the Central, Bowman is hoping his wheeling and dealing creates a run reminiscent of the 2010 winner, which also could mirror how the team is broken apart, win or lose.

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Jim Crago / Comments (0)

Blackhawks Thu Feb 26 2015

Kane Injury Creates Opportunity for Some, Headache for Bowman

Chicago BlackhawksAs if the Blackhawks already weren't looking for answers on its power play, scoring woes, defensive positioning, goaltending questions -- you name it -- now Joel Quenneville and Stan Bowman have to deal with the reality of Patrick Kane sidelined for the next 12 weeks with a fractured left clavicle.

With just over 12 minutes left in the first period, Alex Petrovic checked Kane into the boards while going for a loose puck in the Hawks' offensive zone. The hit wasn't anything deliberate or heinous by any means, but it was enough to send Kane, left-shoulder first, into the wall.

After looking into the issue, the league has decided Petrovic will not be disciplined for the hit, nor will there be a hearing to discuss the act that took place Tuesday evening at the United Center, in which the Blackhawks won 3-2 in a shootout. The Hawks will take the extra point, but the thought of being without its leading scorer and, at the time, potential Hart Trophy winner, has the team pulling together even more so now than after losing three straight last week.

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Jim Crago / Comments (0)

Bulls Wed Feb 25 2015

Derrick Rose Injured: What That Means for Him & the Bulls

BullsYesterday was a tough day for Chicagoans. In the bitter cold of night, Chicago watched Twitter explode with Patrick Kane getting injured in Tuesday's game against the Florida Panthers and, to the shock of the entire sports world, Derrick Rose's reported knee pain turning out to be another tear in his medial meniscus in his right knee. The 26-year-old point guard is said to be out indefinitely, and considering this is the same knee that he tore his meniscus in last season and kept him to 10 games, questions about his future as a player is coming in to question just as the future of the Bulls is. So... "What do the Bulls do now?"

Rose's injury problems aren't exactly hidden. The former MVP hasn't played a full season since 2011. One of the inconvenient things about this on the Bulls' end is that the trade deadline has passed, so if they wanted to make a trade for a high caliber player to fill his spot, that ship has sailed. There are rumblings that old 2012-2013 Rose replacement, Nate Robinson, has shown interest to help provide a bit more relief for the current guards.

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Jake Payne / Comments (1)

Blackhawks Tue Feb 24 2015

Darling Gets Another Shot as Blackhawks Fight Through Slump

Chicago Blackhawks You can forget about catching the Central-leading Nashville Predators at this point. Just go ahead and erase the idea of surpassing the best team in the Western Conference right now, which has amassed 87 points and has gone 7-2-1 in its last 10 games.

The focus for the Blackhawks, with 22 games remaining on their schedule, including the home-at-home stint with the Florida Panthers starting tonight, is to remain above water and catch the St. Louis Blues for second in the division.

The panic button has been pressed (again) after the Hawks lost their last three games -- a 3-2 shootout thriller against the Red Wings; a 4-1 loss to the Avs, which produced three goals in just over three minutes in the third period for Patrick Roy's squad; and a 6-2 laugher against the Bruins in front of a national audience -- all during the longest homestand of the year against a set of struggling teams.

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Jim Crago / Comments (0)

Baseball Fri Feb 13 2015

Reactions to the Jackie Robinson West Controversy

The Jackie Robinson West story had many facets when the Chicago-based, all African-American youth baseball team rolled through the Little League World Series to a United States Championship last summer.

And, after the last few days, the club's story has gotten even more frenetic. JRW was stripped of its title on Wednesday.

The news hits home for a lot of people. JRW encompasses many talking points, including the issues and inflated importance of youth sports; the lack of African-Americans in baseball; the chasm between the rich and poor; penalties and the enforcement of rules; and the Chicago vs. everyone mentality. Many opinions have been offered, and here is a sampling of them.

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Mike Chamernik / Comments (0)

Blackhawks Wed Feb 11 2015

Blackhawks Look to Ride Hot Hossa During Homestand

Chicago Blackhawks Marian Hossa headed into St. Louis last Sunday with only 10 goals and 34 points after 52 games played this season, and what surely was a lot of questions about his own play swirling in his head. The 36-year-old Slovak had been mired in a bit of a slump, which coincided with his team's recent play on the longest road trip of the season.

The Blackhawks had been shutout back-to-back games for the first time since 2006 during this "Frozen" trip and the defense was skating on its heels, appearing slower than normal for a team as talented as any in the league. All coach Joel Quenneville needed was a player or two to help ignite the team and the rest would follow suit.

What followed was a takedown of the Blues (two points), a shootout loss to the Coyotes (one point) and a rejuvenated Hossa, who tallied four goals and four points along the way.

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Jim Crago / Comments (0)

Blackhawks Thu Feb 05 2015

Scoring Woes for Blackhawks a Mere Blip on the Radar

Chicago Blackhawks Ease off the ledge, Blackhawks fans. Things might look a little shaky as February begins, but just because Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow to allow for another six weeks of Old Man Winter, doesn't mean your favorite team will continue its recent play into the extension called on by everyone's favorite rodent.

Yes, things currently may not seem fine, considering the team has scored as many goals in the last two games as the entire writing staff at Gapers Block -- zero. And, yes, they've been shutout two games in a row for the first time since 2006. But just as the blades upon which they skate can use a little sharpening from time to time, so too will be their ability to sharpen their skills and glide right back to winning more consistently.

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Jim Crago / Comments (0)

Blackhawks Thu Jan 29 2015

West Coast Swing a Tough Test for Blackhawks

Chicago BlackhawksAfter a nice break at the halfway point of the season, and whatever you wanted to call the display on ice in Columbus for the All-Star game, the Blackhawks laced up their skates for another long swing to the west coast. The last time the team logged this many miles across the Continental Divide, they collected 10 points in six games (5-1-0) and averaged 3.83 goals per game against some of the conference's best.

Coming into the game against the defending champion Los Angeles Kings Wednesday night, the Hawks were riding a warmed up Marian Hossa (one goal, one assist against Pittsburgh), a young Teuvo Teravainen gaining more confidence at the wing and even a few shifts at the dot, and a completely thermal Patrick Kane making a case for becoming the first Hart Memorial Trophy winner since Stan Mikita in 1968.

Unfortunately, for the Hawks, and those who stuck with them on television until the wee hours, the end result was a little too familiar in games that were in hand but squandered in the third period.

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Jim Crago / Comments (0)

Fire Tue Jan 27 2015

Chicago Fire: Pieces Falling Into Place

Chicago FireEven as a hard, gritty snow falls like windblown sand in the faces of earthbound Chicagoans, it grows continually hard to deny that, with every day, spring is creeping ever nearer. For supporters of the Chicago Fire that feeling has accelerated over the past few days with the finalizing of several very large and important moves.

The team and front office have made such strides over the offseason that the air swirling around the coming season has recently been rather sweetly scented with an aroma of cautious optimism, but there were still some stray notes of uncertainty. There was the matter of the team's jersey sponsorship with Quaker, which expired at the start of the 2015 season. Then there was the matter of the lingering, will-they-or-won't-they dance between the club and Wigan Athletic midfielder Shaun Maloney who expressed interest in joining the club only to see negotiations stall. Finally, a television deal had yet to be reached or announced.

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Benjamin Cannon / Comments (0)


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