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Saturday, April 25

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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)

Blackhawks Tue Apr 14 2015

Patrick Kane Cleared to Play for Blackhawks, but Is It Too Soon?

Chicago Blackhawks It's been 49 days since Patrick Kane broke his left collarbone when Florida Panthers' defenseman Alex Petrovic put a mild cross-check on the league's leading scorer. Kane was given 10-12 weeks of recovery time by doctors, which put Blackhawks fans in a state of depression and general manager Stan Bowman in a trading mood.

During that stretch, the Blackhawks went 12-8-1, often trading places with the St. Louis Blues in the standings, until the gas tank ran on empty the last four games of the season. Forty-nine days later, the Blues clinched the Central, the Hawks managed to keep pace with the floundering Nashville Predators in the loss column and start the first round on the road, and Kane was cleared to participate in Game One of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

A lot has changed, but one question remained the same: would Kane's shoulder hold up come playoff time, especially when contact is intensified? The prognosis had Kane coming back deep into the postseason; however, now that Kane has been cleared to return five weeks earlier than expected, that initial question has changed: is Kane returning too early?

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Jim Crago / Comments (0)

Fire Mon Apr 06 2015

The Day the Fire Sprang to Life

Chicago FireThere should be a saying that "nothing terrible happens on a beautiful Chicago day," and if anything could attest to that, it would have been the Chicago Fire this past Saturday. They seemed to shake off the winter blues and played their most exciting game of the season in a 3-2 win against Toronto FC for their second win in a row. The real story isn't that the Fire won, its how they won it. For a team that was supposed to be one of the worst teams in the league, they played with a certain flair, heart, and pace that bottom dweller could never muster. It almost seems like this game was the Fire's coming out of the basement moment and their beginning to a streak of staying out of it.

Frank Yallop, who had to coach on his birthday, had a great present in Shaun Maloney seeming to find his ground. It could have been some confidence drawn from playing for the Scotland National Team over the international break and scoring two penalties against Gibraltar in a 6-1 trouncing, but whatever the reason is, he played like a man who realizes his role as a designated player. Not only did he score his first goal for the Fire and free up his teammates with his passing, but he also looked a lot more accurate on the eight corner kicks he took. He only took one shot, but his contribution to the team was more than just a stat line, his ability added to the completeness that was the team that game.

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Jake Payne / Comments (0)

Blackhawks Wed Apr 01 2015

Playoff Scenario for Blackhawks Shifting Everyday

Chicago Blackhawks It's been an interesting week in the NHL's Central Division for nine teams -- some of those looking to get in and some of those looking to host home ice. Just when the Blackhawks' playoff scenario looked bleak late last week (in regards to positioning), they win two games in a row and are now back in the hunt for the division lead.

Just as March went out like a lamb, so too did the Hawks' play, prior to their last two. They went from being a wild-card team last week after losing 4-1 in Philly and then dropping 5-2 at home to the Blue Jackets, to currently sitting one point behind St. Louis for second and five points behind Nashville for the division lead.

And with six regular-season games remaining on the schedule -- two of which are against the Blues -- the Hawks are hoping to make life a little easier on their travel schedule by hosting, at minimum, the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

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Jim Crago / Comments (0)

Bicycling Mon Mar 30 2015

Race the 2015 Gapers Block Criterium

Half Acre Cycling Gapers Block CritsStill in your winter malaise? Haven't really prepared for bike racing season? Well your chance is next week with Half Acre Cycling at the 2015 Gapers Block Criterium in Calumet Park, 9801 S. Avenue G, starting Monday, April 6 and running through April 9. For four days, racers of all genders interested in criterium racing can come gain experience and motivation to get ready for the upcoming racing season. Registration costs $40 for women's cat 5, $60 for men's cat 4/5 or 5.

Jake Payne / Comments (0)

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)

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