Cubs

Should fans continue booing the Bears at home?

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Should fans continue booing the Bears at home?

The Bears have dropped five of their last six games, culminating in a fall from grace as the No. 2 seed in the NFC to currently on the outside looking in at the conference's playoff race.

And Bears fans are none too happy about it, as evidenced by the loud boos cascading from all corners of Soldier Field during Sunday's loss to heated rival Packers.

Many in Chicago took to Twitter or Facebook or the nearest water cooler in calling for head coach Lovie Smith's head, demanding the mild-mannered field general be fired and replaced with the likes of Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden.

And while fans are certainly justified in their despair and frustration, is booing the team at home really something that should continue?

Brian Urlacher, who has spent his entire career in Chicago, was visibly miffed after the game at the fans' reaction.

"Two of the people I don't care about -- fans or media," Urlacher told Lou Canellis on WFLD after the game Sunday night before defending Smith for a while.

"Our crowd was pretty good today for the most part. They were loud for a minute there -- the boos were really loud -- which is always nice. The only team in our division that gets booed at home is us. It's unbelievable to me."

Urlacher has a point. And this isn't the first time a member of the Bears has had an issue with the Soldier Field faithful this season. Just ask Jay Cutler.

But there's also the opposite side of the coin.

Chicago is a city divided in the summer, but united in the fall and winter. It's always Cubs-Sox in June and July, but when the Bears start getting into the thick of their season, it brings Chicagoans together.

This is a city that has grown weary with disappointment by the sports teams over the past year.

The Cubs may have a brand new front office, but they still approached the franchise record for losses in a season with 101 defeats in 2012.

The White Sox led the AL Central for most of the '12 season before collapsing down the stretch and giving way to the Detroit Tigers.

The Bulls held the best record in the NBA during the 2011-12 regular season, but saw superstar Derrick Rose go down to a torn ACL in the first playoff game at the United Center.

The Blackhawks are in the midst of a nasty NHL lockout that has extended more than 90 days and has hockey fans legitimately concerned that there may, in fact, not be a season at all.

And then there's the Bears. They rode a five-game win streak to a 7-3 record last season before an injury to Cutler knocked them all the way out of the playoff race. A similar occurrence is taking place this year, as the Bears have fallen to 8-6 after a 7-1 start.

But it still begs the question, should fans continue to boo the Bears at home, or should they be more like the home crowd at Lambeau Field for Packers games or at Mall of America Field for Vikings games? (I find it hard to believe the Lions are not booed at home given the struggles of that franchise over the past decade or so.)

Or are the fans in the right, especially considering the Bears have dropped six straight games to the Packers, their heated rivals?

Is Joe Maddon covering for Wade Davis? Where do Cubs go from here?

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USA TODAY

Is Joe Maddon covering for Wade Davis? Where do Cubs go from here?

Is Cubs manager Joe Maddon taking the heat and covering for Wade Davis while the All-Star closer deals with atypical soreness in his right arm?

“No, no,” Maddon said Tuesday when asked if Davis felt anything unusual that lingered into the National League Championship Series after last week’s all-out effort eliminated the Washington Nationals from the divisional round.

The Los Angeles Dodgers took a 2-0 lead in this best-of-seven bullpen battle without Davis throwing a single pitch, the backlash from Cubs fans, Twitter and the national media again putting Maddon on the defensive, the year after he got second-guessed for pushing Aroldis Chapman so hard during the World Series.

This NLCS truly is a bizarro world, with Maddon comparing the Buster Posey Rule to the Chicago soda tax, getting so little benefit of the doubt – the Cubs really did beat the Cleveland Indians in Game 7 – and working the baseball term “dry-hump” into one answer during Monday’s Wrigley Field press conference.

Maddon said he would have to check first with Davis – who would have almost five full days in between relief appearances – if the Cubs need a four- or five-out save in Game 3.

“Nevertheless, I always check,” Maddon said. “I can’t just assume that.”

Maddon’s Game 2 calculus on Sunday night at Dodger Stadium – sticking with lefty reliever Brian Duensing in a 1-1 game to start the ninth inning and then bringing in John Lackey to serve up the walk-off, three-run homer to Justin Turner – made you wonder if Davis was still dragging after ending Washington’s season and traveling on the overnight cross-country flight that got diverted to New Mexico for about five hours when Jose Quintana’s wife experienced a panic attack.

“I think he just got mentally exhausted,” Maddon said. “Physically, 44 pitches, he hasn’t done that in a while. But also the seven outs and what it meant and the plane ride itself, sitting on the tarmac, there was a lot of non-rest going on right there, so it was harder to recover.

“So, no, he was fine for the last game, but we set up the parameters before the game.”

Maddon is sticking with his story, that he would only deploy Davis in a save situation and not use him for one out against Turner (1.115 career postseason OPS) or have him totally warm up without the guarantee of getting him into the game.

“To put Wade in that position would be wrong on my part,” Maddon said. “We had already talked about the circumstances, so my loyalty there lies with Wade, or my decision-making lies with Wade, nobody else.

“That was a heavy day for him (in Washington). Going into the last game in L.A., like I talked about, we talked about one inning only, and not to get up and not put him in the game.

“If you get him up and sit him down, then you have no idea what it’s going to look like. My responsibility is to him, also, and to the players, so I told him that before the game, so I had to stick with our decision.”

Before finalizing the Jorge Soler trade at the winter meetings, the Kansas City Royals took the unusual step of allowing the Cubs to meet with Davis at his home in New York’s Hudson Valley and go through a physical exam. The Cubs wanted reassurances after Davis spent parts of last season on the disabled list with a forearm strain and a flexor strain.

The Cubs wondered if “dry-humping” had contributed to those injuries, and tried to stay conservative with Davis during his free-agent year, watching him convert his first 32 save chances and using him for three-plus outs only three times during the regular season, all in mid-to-late September.

“If you look at the numbers this year, I thought going into the playoffs his usage has been really good,” Maddon said. “Minimal, in a sense. We didn’t get him up hardly at all where we didn’t utilize him.

“He just wasn’t set up for it the other day. So honestly, I think he’s in really good shape right now, actually. I don’t think he could have gone those seven outs the other day if he had been overly dried up during the course of the season. He felt good. But that was above and beyond, and that wasn’t part of the game plan the other night.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Ben Zobrist shares his leadoff approach

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Ben Zobrist shares his leadoff approach

Sports Talk Live is on location at the Brickhouse Tavern at Wrigley Field to get you set for Game 3 of the NLCS. David Haugh (Chicago Tribune), Jesse Rogers (ESPNChicago.com) and Bob Nightengale (USA Today) join Kap on the panel. 

Plus, Ben Zobrist and Curtis Granderson drop by to talk about the big matchup.

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here: