Fire

CSN launches new online Mascot Madness bracket tournament to determine Illinois' top high school sports team nickname

CSN launches new online Mascot Madness bracket tournament to determine Illinois' top high school sports team nickname

Official #MascotMadness brackets to be unveiled on Friday, February 5 at 11:00 PM CT on “High School Lites,” airing exclusively on Comcast SportsNet & CSNChicago.com

Fans urged to vote for their favorite Illinois high school sports nicknames in a 64-team bracket beginning Monday, February 8 at CSNChicago.com/MascotMadness

Chicago, IL (February 4, 2016) -- Comcast SportsNet Chicago, the television and online home of the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) State Championships, has announced the launch of a brand new online tournament entitled “Mascot Madness,” which will enable fans to determine the state’s top high school sports team nickname.

Resembling the popular 64-team bracket format, the official 2016 “Mascot Madness” brackets will be announced on the network’s popular weekly Illinois preps sports highlights program, High School Lites, on Friday, February 5 at 11:00 PM CT (also streaming live on CSNChicago.com).

Beginning Monday, February 8 at 12 NOON CT, fans can begin casting their first round vote by visiting the network’s dedicated “Mascot Madness” page -- CSNChicago.com/MascotMadness -- with the poll closing on Thursday, February 11 at 4:00 PM.  The “Mascot Madness” web page will utilize Twitter and Facebook for tabulating votes.  For the remaining five weeks, as the brackets shrink to 32, 16, 8, 4 and 2, fans are once again urged to start voting on Mondays starting at 12 NOON with the weekly polls closing at 4:00 PM every Thursday.  Viewers can check out the weekly results every Friday night on High School Lites or by simply visiting CSNChicago.com/MascotMadness.

IMPORTANT NOTE: There will not be any “seeds” associated with teams in the “Mascot Madness” tournament.  In the early rounds, match-ups in each of the four regions (Skyline, Highway, Heartland, and Prairie) are strictly based on similar school enrollment numbers.

The champion of Comcast SportsNet’s “Mascot Madness” tournament will be officially announced during the network’s live on-air/online coverage of the 2016 IHSA Class 4A Boys State Basketball Championship game, airing on Saturday, March 19 beginning at 8:00 PM CT.

From a social media standpoint, fans are encouraged to offer up their support and comments for their favorite school team nickname by utilizing the Twitter hashtag #MascotMadness. In addition, fans are urged to visit the network’s official preps Twitter handle (@CSNPreps) for daily updates and the latest information on not only the #MascotMadness tournament, but also for the very latest IHSA news, scores, and more 24/7. 

Injuries affecting Fire's preseason with season three weeks away

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USA TODAY

Injuries affecting Fire's preseason with season three weeks away

It may be a good thing that the Fire’s originally scheduled season opener March 3 at Colorado got moved back.

The Fire’s preseason has been riddled with injuries to key players and the extra week may end up being needed to get the team ready for the season. Four players (not counting the already known long-term injuries to Michael de Leeuw and Djordje Mihailovic) sat out Saturday’s game against Florida Gulf Coast University due to injury: Daniel Johnson (a right ankle injury suffered in a game against Philadelphia on Feb. 8), Grant Lillard (left knee), Matt Polster (left knee) and Luis Solignac (left hip).

Polster’s injury is especially notable because he has had recurring left knee problems since first suffering a sprain in the 2016 season finale at Toronto. Polster missed the first nine games of 2017 due to the injury and missed three more in August due to a related injury.

The 24-year-old, who is now the longest tenured player on the team and the only player remaining from before general manager Nelson Rodriguez’s tenure began at the end of the 2015 season, arrived with the Fire after playing with the U.S. national team in January. He played all 90 minutes on Jan. 28 against Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Bastian Schweinsteiger still hasn’t played in the preseason and the team hasn’t listed him as injured.

All the absences, combined with rest for some of the team’s regulars, resulted in a starting lineup against Florida Gulf Coast that featured two players who have appeared in an official match with the Fire. Three trialists and four draft picks started.

Four of the Fire’s seven scheduled preseason matches are in the books. The Fire lost 2-1 to Montreal on Feb. 14. One of the bright spots was a rare set piece goal after the Fire trailed the Impact 2-0. Dax McCarty headed in a free kick from Diego Campos. Campos has been dangerous on set pieces, hitting the post with a free kick and assisting a goal from a corner kick in Saturday’s 2-0 win against Florida Gulf Coast.

Next up is a match against USL expansion team Nashville SC on Feb. 21. Next Saturday the Fire play at Orlando to finish up play in Florida.

The Fire close out the preseason March 3 against the team’s USL affiliate, Tulsa, at Toyota Park before the season opener on March 10.

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

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USA TODAY

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

MESA, Ariz. — “That’s last year, don’t want to talk about that.”

In other words, Addison Russell is so over 2017.

The Cubs shortstop went through a lot last year. He dealt with injuries that affected his foot and shoulder. He had a well-documented off-the-field issue involving an accusation of domestic abuse, which sparked an investigation by Major League Baseball. And then came the trade speculation.

The hot stove season rarely leaves any player completely out of online trade discussion. But after Theo Epstein admitted there was a possibility the Cubs could trade away one or more young position players to bolster the starting rotation, well, Russell’s name came up.

And he saw it.

“There was a lot of trade talk,” Russell said Saturday. “My initial thoughts were, I hope it doesn’t happen, but wherever I go, I’m going to try to bring what I bring to the table here. It’s a good thing that it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m happy being in a Cubs uniform, I want to be in a Cubs uniform, for sure. But there was some talk out there. If I got traded, then I got traded, but that’s not the case.”

No, it’s not, as the Cubs solved those pitching questions with free-agent spending, bringing in Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood to replace the departed Jake Arrieta and John Lackey. It means Russell, along with oft-discussed names like Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ and Javy Baez, are all still Cubs.

While the outside world might have expected one of those guys to be moved in some sort of blockbuster trade for Chris Archer or some other All-Star arm, the Cubs’ young core remains intact, another reason why they’re as much a favorite to win the World Series as any team out there.

“I’m really not surprised. The core is still here. Who would want to break that up? It’s a beautiful thing,” Russell said. “Javy and I in the middle. Schwarber, sometimes playing catcher but mainly outfield. And then (Kris Bryant) over there in the hot corner, and of course (Anthony) Rizzo at first. You’ve got a Gold Glover in right field (Jason Heyward). It’s really hard to break that up.

“When you do break that down on paper, we’ve got a lineup that could stack up with the best.”

This winter has been about moving on for Russell, who said he’s spent months working to strengthen his foot and shoulder after they limited him to 110 games last season, the fewest he played in his first three big league campaigns.

And so for Russell, the formula for returning to his 2016 levels of offensive aptitude isn’t a difficult one: stay on the field.

“Especially with the injuries, I definitely wanted to showcase some more of my talent last year than I displayed,” Russell said. “So going into this year, it’s mainly just keeping a good mental — just staying level headed. And also staying healthy and producing and being out there on the field.

“Next step for me, really just staying out there on the field. I really want to see what I can do as far as helping the team if I can stay healthy for a full season. I think if I just stay out there on the field, I’m going to produce.”

While the decrease in being on the field meant lower numbers from a “counting” standpoint — the drop from 21 homers in 2016 to 12 last year, the drop from 95 RBIs to 43 can in part be attributed to the lower number of games — certain rate stats looked different, too. His on-base percentage dropped from .321 in 2016 to .304 last year.

Russell also struggled during the postseason, picking up just six hits in 36 plate appearances in series against the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers. He struck out 13 times in 10 postseason games.

Of course, he wasn’t alone. That World Series hangover was team-wide throughout the first half of the season. And even though the Cubs scored 824 runs during the regular season, the second most in the National League and the fourth most in baseball, plenty of guys had their offensive struggles: Schwarber, Heyward and Ben Zobrist, to name a few.

“You can’t take anything for granted. So whenever you win a World Series or you do something good, you just have to live in the moment,” Russell said. “It was a tough season last year because we were coming off winning the World Series and the World Series hangover and all that. This year, we had a couple months off, a couple extra weeks off, and I think a lot of guys took advantage of that. I know I did. And now that we’re here in spring training, we’re going to get back at it.”