Groundhog Day!

Groundhog Day!

Thursday, March 25, 2010
11:59 PM

For the last 9 days I swear every time I woke up, I heard I Got You Babe playing on my radio alarm clock. Then it was time to get behind the bar. (That the alarm was set for 2 in the afternoon is a different story!) Nine straight days would make many a mortal crack, but not This Guy! Luckily, I was entertained by the masses, as always, and fascinated how everyday could be different, and just the same. Some observations from your bleary-eyed barkeep from a week (plus) of walking the planks:
MUCH MORE THAN MADNESS: I never fail to be amused by how wrong I can be, or how I can twist myself into a pretzel getting there. While admitting that I havent watched as much college b-ball as in usual years, I did hear all of those who said that the playing field was so even this year that there would be a lot of upsets. Dont we hear that every year? Add to it everybody I talked to at the bar was buying that notion and I came up with the novel idea of playing the chalk. Ka-BOOM! That was the sound of my bracket blowing up in my face. Funny thing though, most of the time, I was rooting against myself. My intense following of the tournament is not based on how I do, but rather on the fact that any team can be gone at any time. While this isnt the case every year, every game, it happens enough to keep us mesmerized, never more so than on Saturday night when Northern Iowa beat Kansas. While the game was being played, people kept on coming and coming into the bar. No one expecting the prohibitive favorite to lose, it would be fun to see how the squirmed out of the mess that they had created for themselves. Up by double-digits for what seemed like the entire game, the N. Iowa lead had been cut to just 1 with 42.8 seconds left. Then a series of passes against a desperate full-court press found their way to senior guard Ali Farokhmanesh, alone, at the three-point line. Now most coaches would tell Ali, no make that, scream at the top of their lungs until all of the veins in their heads popped, to hold the ball as long as possible, by dribbling away from defenders, then settle for the eventual foul, sending Ali, an 87 free-throw shooter to the line for two shots. This would give his team a 3 point lead and at worst would mean that the game would possibly go to overtime. Well, Ali had other voices that he listened to, since in a cold-blooded manner, he calmly jacked-up a 3-ball that put a dagger in the K.U. national title hopes. I remember Dr. J. answering reporters after he had made an ill-advised jumper in Game 4 of the NBA Finals that had sealed the championship for his(and my) 76ers, Sometimes, you have to dare to be great. Indeed. The bar was just mayhem. Forget the fact that this kid had just blown-up 75 of the brackets in the country with one shot, we had just watched someone, with everything on the line, achieve greatness. To do it as an underdog is the stuff of legend, a shot that every fan that watched, will remember where they were when they watched it. Its been THE talk of the bar ever since.

BRACKETS? WE DONT NEED NO STINKING BRACKETS!: One saving grace for the guy-in-a-red-bow-tie is that I had Kentucky winning it all, so while Im on life support, I still have a chance. A Lloyd Christmas chance, but Im still alive, because for all of the upsets, two 1s and three 2s are still alive and can give me five of the Elite 8. CHALK BOY never says die!

HAWKYTOWN!: After Saturdays mesmerizing college hoops it was time for some hockey. The Hawks were in Phoenix and ready to take on the streaking Coyotes. After gagging two 2-goal leads and losing the game in a shoot-out, there was wide spread panic in the bar. The goalies are considered average, teams are taking runs at them and they keep blowing late leads, makes you wonder how they have the best record in the West. Coach Q gave the team a verbal beat-down after the game and it seemed to work since they won a re-match 3 days later here at home 2-0. But then, Huet gets a start and they get pounded by Columbus 8-3. (I guess we know who the game 1 starter of the playoffs is!) That gives them a 5-5-2 record since the Olympic break. Whether their indifferent play of late is just due to the long season and they know they need to save something for the playoff grind or if its a harbinger of whats to come is creating a lot of angst in the faithful at the bar. One thing is for sure: The playoffs will answer every question that you have about a team. It would be nice if they went in with some momentum. Any one else notice who their last regular season game is against? (It rhymes with Dead-wings.) It could be a first round playoff preview. Dont know about you, but that is the one team I would not like to see in the 1st round.

TIGER TALK?: The Tiger stuff is well past over-done at the bar. Any analysis or opinions are left to the media types, here in the real world hes become a punch-line. I had the shows on in the bar where he was interviewed, but never was inclined to put the sound on, nor was I asked to do so. We all knew that he would not say anything that wasnt scripted or rehearsed. Im interested to see the reaction to Tiger the golfer since the other one is a waste of time, unless that is, he takes Arnies advice and meets the media head-onto get it over with. I think most of us would like to see that. I find it hard to believe that he can win people back with golf alone.

BASEBALL 102: I know Im just a bartender, but the Cubs always seem to do something that makes me scratch me head. Take the new lead-off hitter. Ill first say that thank god that Soriano is not in the lead-off discussion any more, that makes my head explode. Second, I do understand that they really dont have a lot of options. Really it comes down to 2 guys. One of those guys, Ryan Theriot, could be one of the best 2-hole hitters in baseball. He has a natural inside-out swing, has speed and can bunt. He also can take pitches and doesnt pout when he has to hit a grounder to move a runner. Hes a gamer. The other, Koske Fukudome, has shown that he is only comfortable when hitting in certain spots, like say lead-off, where last year when hitting there, he had close to a .400 on base percentage. Thats very good. When batting second last year he hit .215. Thats very bad. So where will they be batting this year? Of course Theriot will lead-off while Fukudome will be in the 2-hole. The rationale being that there are only 2 left-handed bats in the line-up and they want to use them to break up the right-handers. Wasnt this the same line of thinking that lead to Milton Bradley? When you have only two lefties and one is going to hit 8th, does it really matter if the other hits 1st or 2nd? 5 consecutive righties is better than 6? Ill go back to making drinks now.

THE 60 SOLUTION: The NFL decided that with the fact that over 60 of the over-time games since 1994 being won by the team that won the coin flip that they would change the over-time rules. Great! Finally they would listen to the fans and adopt the college OT rules? Not so fast. No the decision was to institute change for playoff games only. And it would only change so that a 1st possession field goal would not be enough to win the game on its own. If a team kicks a field goal on the 1st possession, the other team would get the opportunity to tie or win the game. Whos running this sport, NASCAR?

The problem that fans have with the current system is that a game can be decided by the flip of a coin. Thats it. What they want is a system where both teams are guaranteed at least one possession to see who can do more with it. You know, like in college football.

I know that no system is perfect, or is going to appease both purists and novices alike, but this, while moving forward is like saying, I want to go into the pool, but let me just dip my toe in first. Jump in!

If a team wins the coin flip and scores on the 1st drive: game over. Is that any less painful than a field goal? Its still a loss without the chance to offer a rebuttal. This argument reminds me of the one about a college football playoff. Fans want one thing, the powers to be another. We now have the chance that both teams will get the ball in overtime, only it depends on the situation, and when the game is played. Other than that, it makes sense.

View from the Moon: Bears 'siestas' continue, leaving progress difficult to find, but it’s there ... somewhat

View from the Moon: Bears 'siestas' continue, leaving progress difficult to find, but it’s there ... somewhat

Consider this a connect-the-dots exercise, with the end game being to figure out what the overall picture is. Because the Bears’ 27-24 loss to the Detroit Lions was many things, a couple actually very good, but too many of them kinda-to-very bad...

The overarching point of the 2017 season, per senior Bears management, is progress. Not just on the part of rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who had a fourth solid performance in six NFL starts; but on the Bears as a whole. A week after showing anything but, the Bears showed something that could masquerade as progress.

How real is it? The Bears in the past eight days have given few reasons to trust it.

Because while coming close against a respectable Lions (6-4) team counts for something, the Bears are still 3-7 at the end of the day and 3-13 under John Fox against the NFC North – a division winning percentage of .188, which would be lower than that of the Marc Trestman Bears (.250), who managed to win their three NFC North games in two seasons vs. Fox’s three.

As concerning perhaps, the loss left the Bears 3-9 under Fox in games decided by three or fewer points, the hallmark of what simplistically can be ID’d as “losing” teams.

“We’ve had a lot of close games, and it’s just finding a way to close those out,” Trubisky said. “We’re going to work towards that, and figure it out for sure.”

What makes “progress” difficult to see, though, is that the Bears do not play like a team either coached to be or with the proven ability to play at a professional level all the time. Teams with that problem typically make coaching changes at the ends of seasons, since the conclusion usually is that the talent can be there, just that the coach in hand, fair or not, can’t get it out of the roster.

“We’ve shown spurts and moments, like we have for some time now,” Fox summarized. “But we have lulls. We have siestas. We just don’t do it for 60 minutes. ... People have ups and downs. Well, we’re in a stage as a football team where we have those moments in games. We have to do a better job of coaching it and we have to do a better job of executing it in games.”

The Green Bay Packers were one kind of measuring standard last week, and the 3-7 Bears were embarrassed against a foundering team that had been soundly beaten by the Lions the week before the Bears faced them, and buried 23-0 at home Sunday by the Baltimore Ravens.

The Lions were a different kind of quiz, a real offense putting up more than 27 points per game. The Bears allowed the Lions their requisite 27 points (seven of those coming on a touchdown return of a Trubisky fumble), but put up nearly 400 yards and 24 points of their own in a game that ended on a Connor Barth missed field goal from 46 yards, Barth’s fifth miss in 11 attempts from beyond 40 yards.

(Barth’s miss may have been particularly bitter for Fox, after watching Detroit’s Matt Prater win the game from 52 yards – the same Matt Prater who kicked for Fox in Denver in 2011 when Fox’s Broncos beat the Bears in the Marion Barber Game with Prater field goals from 59 yards to tie with 3 seconds left, and from 51 yards to win in OT.)

“All these games in the NFL – they’re hard games – but when you have a game like this that you should win, you just have to win those games,” said wide receiver Kendall Wright. “I think with us, when we win one of those close games, it will help us get over the edge and we’ll start stacking them up on top of each other.”

Then again...

The Bears seemed to lose their compass in the third quarter, with one rushing yard on four attempts. But they finished with 222 yards and the way they amassed them mattered: 125 and a touchdown for Jordan Howard; 53 for Trubisky, a number of them on designed runs; and 44 plus a TD for Tarik Cohen – all combining to average 7.4 yards per carry.

Bigger picture, the Bears were in the position of having at least a chance to tie because Trubisky managed to drive the Bears 55 yards in the final 1:32 from the Chicago 17 to the Detroit 28. This would constitute something shiny lying there in the mud, and make no mistake: This is a big deal.

To put Trubisky in some kind of context: Rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman, the fifth-round pick of the Buffalo Bills, replaced Tyrod Taylor in the Bills starting lineup Sunday, against a Los Angeles Chargers defense allowing opponents to complete more than 64 percent of their passes. Peterman completed 11 of 14 in the first half, about 79 percent. But – five of the Peterman “completions” were to Chargers.

DeShone Kizer has been in and out and back in the starting lineup for the Cleveland Browns, suffering through a rookie season with one of the worst teams arguably in NFL history. But – Kizer, with 12 interceptions vs. four TD passes, is one of the reasons the Browns are in various “worst ever” discussions.

Trubisky threw 30 passes without an interception on Sunday, and 65 without a pick over his past two games. He’s thrown 145 NFL passes with just two interceptions, an INT rate of 1.4 percent that ranks ahead of Aaron Rodgers, Carson Wentz, Deshaun Watson, Matt Ryan and a list of others. Critics of his development can have their points, but the kid has learned ball security at an early NFL age even while averaging 32.4 pass plays per game.

The next step is getting his team over the top, because he is still completing just 53.1 percent of his passes and was missed badly on a number of throws on Sunday. His deft TD pass to tight end Adam Shaheen in the first half was NFL-perfect (where his guy or nobody catches it), but his throw low and behind running back Benny Cunningham at the goal line in the first quarter forced the Bears to settle for a field goal in a game decided ultimately by three points.

Trubisky clearly gets the big picture, too, pointing the thumb and not any fingers. He paused before answering a question about his rookie learning curve:

“I think adversity is a great teacher,” he said. “Overcoming the struggle is a great teacher. There’s no rookie excuse. You don’t get a freebie because you’re a rookie.

“My teammates trust me and they have confidence in me, so I’m preparing as I should. Coaches have me prepared and my teammates have my back. New situations are going to arise every time, but there are no excuses. I’m just looking at these opportunities as chances to overcome, and not dwell on it.”

Under Center Podcast: Alex Brown goes off on Connor Barth


Under Center Podcast: Alex Brown goes off on Connor Barth

On the latest Under Center Podcast, Laurence Holmes, Alex Brown and Jim Miller break down the Bears loss to the Lions on Sunday following Conner Barth’s missed field goal in the last seconds of the game and debate whether or not Tarik Cohen should be a part of the Bears two-minute offensive packages.

Plus, if the Bears hope to keep Vic Fangio past 2017, does he need to finish out the season as the Bears interim head coach?

Listen to the full Under Center Podcast right here: