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We can be (gym class) heroes, just for one day

We can be (gym class) heroes, just for one day

Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2010
11:39 AM

By Joe Collins
CSNChicago.com

It's too bad we live in a world where Bears tackle Chris Williams can't play "Red Rover Red Rover." I'm guessing that the brass at Halas Hall wouldn't allow such a thing, despite the fact that he wears a lot of protective equipment and goes up against 300-pound guys all the time. They probably have a prohibitive clause in his contract, you know? It's also too bad that Juan Pierre can't be turned loose in a pickup game of "Steal the Bacon." Or that you won't see Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith as enforcers in an impromptu game of floor hockey. Or even dodgeball. But given what happened to former NFL running back Robert Edwards, I could understand why owners and general managers would frown on such acts of silliness outside of their day jobs.

The school bells will ring once again for every Chicagoland high school, middle school and grade school in the next week or so, if they haven't started already. And thanks to Illinois being one of only five states that require physical education in grades K-12, you can bet a few of those games will be played a little more often in the Land of Lincoln. And by kids who aspire to be the next Williams, Pierre, Seabrook or Keith, no less.

Gym class is always the most looked forward to or the most dreaded class of the day. There's hardly any middle ground. Kids either get excited about the chance to climb a rope or hate the fact that they have to change into John Stockton-esque 80's shorts for 45 minutes. What do you remember about being a gym class hero? Or what was it about gym class that gave you the creeps? Here a few bits and pieces you might remember:

The Presidential Challenge: Like the Pro Bowl, the NBA Slam Dunk Contest or MySpace, the Presidential Challenge fitness test was a good idea for a year or two. Nowadays we all look back and laugh and say, "How could I ever take something like this seriously?" As you may remember, The Presidential Challenge focused on five staples of PE class dorkery: sit-ups, the shuttle run, pull-ups, the mile run and sit and reach. All five events reeked of potential disaster-- and I mean that both literally and figuratively. Remember how you always had to partner up with someone for sit-ups? If you picked a kid that didn't have the pork & beans with Cool Ranch Doritos for lunch, you were OK.

The shuttle run was always a torn ACL waiting to happen. Heck, depending on your gym teacher, the pull-up competition was a separated shoulder waiting to happen. The mile run always had that "if I drop before any one of you..." feel about it a'la Goldie Hawn in "Wildcats." But the sit and reach portion, where flexibility and unintentional comedy went hand in hand, was always my favorite. You had to sit and place your feet against a wooden box that looked like it was made by a D shop class student. Then, you had to stretch out your muscles (and dignity) toward a tape measure on the box. Woo hoo! What next? Can we square dance now? Fortunately, the tests were run by teachers who had to control 30 students all at the same time, so it was easy to bend the rules. "Wow Joe...87 sit-ups in a minute? I think that's a record!" Granted, these tests might set good health precedents at an early age, but where are all the Presidential Challenge winners these days? Point me in the direction of the Presidential Challenge Hall of Fame. Go on.

The Obstacle Course: This was an elementary school staple. Anybody else take part in this nonsense? Nothing says fun like turning a gymnasium into a ramshackle version of Double Dare for an hour. Usually, the PE class obstacle course featured some of the following:

1. Wobbly balance beams, three inches off the floor, getting you across an alligator lake (blue construction paper taped to the floor)

2. Having to tip-toe through the poison snake patchactually jump ropes, in the shape of snakes, strewn all over the place

3. A spooky cave contraption that was made out of soiled gym mats (which smelled like taco mix) all held together with duct tape

4. Rope swing across the canyon; in other words, a homemade staircaseplatform, a slippery rope, another platform...and a shattered femur

5. The Scooters : reckless kid doing 15 mph an unsuspecting pinky finger on another kid = a lot of screaming and an ice pack

(Random tangent: not sure if it was just my elementary school that did this, but why was every solution to a childs health problem an ice pack? Talk about a cheap fix. Headache? Ice pack. Blunt force trauma? Ice pack. Stressing out over the state achievement tests? Ice pack.)

Protect The Pin: If you see any news segments about social unrest on TV, say, on a college campus or in a city plaza, I am willing to bet that the highly motivated ones in those stories earned their stripes in games like Protect The Pin. Not sure if you had a game like this in the K-12 days, but this is what put my Tinley Park grade school on the map. Protect the Pin is like dodgeball meets handball meets a government revolt. I can't imagine that this game exists now with the push for "friendly" games in schools. Anyway, two teams are placed on opposing sides of a gymnasium. The midcourt stripe is the Mason-Dixon line. Six or seven foam rubber balls (about the size of small basketballs) were in play. Your goal was to knock down a bowling pin on the other side of the gymand doing so by staying behind the midcourt stripe. If you didnt think you could throw a ball and knock down the pin immediately, you could always peg (read: knock the living daylights out of) opponents via the thrown ball. If a member of the opposition caught the ball on a fly, you were out of the game. However, if your thrown ball was good enough to knock someone's glasses off --and the ensuing ricochet took out two more Z Cavaricci-wearing snobs-- all three were out. Fun stuff! Every Friday afternoon, the decibel level in our gym was tantamount to the old Chicago Stadium during a great Bulls or Blackhawks playoff run. See, throwing a punch in class to get even with the kid who stole your crayon was frowned on in the classroom. But you could always get even if that same kid was on the other team in Protect the Pin. All you need is a foam rubber ballor five. (Note: CSNChicago.com does not advocate violence or throwing foam rubber balls at your coworkers).

What we really need is to have some of our old gym class games on TV. Wouldnt that be fun? You knowget a bunch of free agent athletes in their prime, or even legendary athletes with a few screws loose (Tyson, Rodmanetc) and start up a 12-city dodgeball league. The Chicago Pinheads for starters. The public would never take a thing like that seriously, so you put the games on Saturday nights at 2am when people are just getting home with their steak burritos.

Hey, at least it would be a step up from a food dehydrator infomercial.

Or something like that.

Capitals' Devante Smith-Pelly speaks out about 'racially charged chanting' at United Center

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AP

Capitals' Devante Smith-Pelly speaks out about 'racially charged chanting' at United Center

After being on the receiving end of some racist taunts while he was in the penalty box during Saturday's game against the Blackhawks, Capitals winger Devante Smith-Pelly spoke publicly about the incident.

Smith-Pelly, a 25-year-old Canadian, reacted to the fans while he was in the box, going up to them from the other side of the glass. He addressed questions from the media about the incident on Sunday.

"I just heard some chanting, some, I guess, racially charged chanting," Smith-Pelly said. "You can tell by my reaction that I got pretty upset.

"What was said this time around crossed the line."

The Capitals released a statement about the incident:

"The Washington Capitals are extremely disappointed by the intolerant behavior extended toward Devante Smith-Pelly by a select group of fans during Saturday night's game against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center. The Capitals organization strives to be inclusive and has zero tolerance concerning any form of racism. Such behavior is unacceptable and has no place in hockey or society. As such, it is crucial to confront such appalling conduct, and the Capitals extend their appreciation to the Blackhawks organization and United Center security for swiftly removing the fans from the game."

The Blackhawks released a statement after the game with a similar tone.

Smith-Pelly said this has happened previously in his career.

"It's sad that in 2018 we're still talking about the same thing over and over," Smith-Pelly said. "It's sad that athletes like myself 30, 40 years ago were standing in the same spot saying the same thing. You'd think there'd be some sort of change or progression, but we're still working towards it I guess and we're going to keep working towards it."

The Capitals released the full interview.

Ben Zobrist knows reality of Cubs' crowded lineup: 'There are going to be good players that have to sit on the bench'

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USA TODAY

Ben Zobrist knows reality of Cubs' crowded lineup: 'There are going to be good players that have to sit on the bench'

MESA, Ariz. — Ben Zobrist has long been known for his versatility on the field. But it might take a new kind of versatility to get through what’s facing him for the 2018 season, being versatile when it comes to simply being on the field.

Zobrist was among several notable Cubs hitters who had a rough go of things at the plate in the follow-up campaign to 2016’s World Series run. He dealt with injuries, including a particularly bothersome one to his wrist, and finished with a career-worst .232/.318/.375 slash line.

And so, with younger guys like Javy Baez, Ian Happ and Albert Almora Jr. forcing their way into Joe Maddon’s lineup, it’s a perfectly valid question to ask: Has the 36-year-old Zobrist — just 15 months removed from being named the World Series MVP — been relegated to part-time status for this championship-contending club?

Obviously that remains to be seen. Joe Maddon has a way of mixing and matching players so often that it makes it seem like this team has at least 12 different “starting” position players. But Zobrist, ever the picture of versatility, seems ready for whatever is coming his way.

“I’m prepared for that, if that’s what it comes to. I told him, whatever they need me to do,” Zobrist said Sunday, asked if he’d be OK with being in a platoon situation. “You’ll see me at some different positions. As far as at-bats, though, I’ve got to be healthy. That was the biggest thing last year that kept me from getting at-bats and being productive. So if I can be healthy, I think I can play the way that I’m capable of, and the discussion then at that point will be, ‘How much can you play before we push you too far?’

“We’ve got a lot of great players, and there are going to be good players that have to sit on the bench on our team at times. But no one ever rusts because you know how Joe uses everybody. You’re still going to play. Even if you don’t start, you’re probably going to play later in the game. It’s just part of the National League and the way Joe Maddon manages.”

It’s no secret, of course, that when Zobrist is on, he’s the kind of player you want in the lineup as much as possible. It was just two seasons ago that he posted a .386 on-base percentage, banged out 31 doubles, smacked 18 home runs and was a starter for the team that won the World Series.

But he also admitted that last year’s injury fights were extremely tough: “Last year was one of the most difficult seasons I’ve ever had as a player.” Zobrist said that while he’s feeling good and ready to go in 2018, with his recent physical ailments and his advancing age, he’s in a different stage in his career.

“At this point in my career, I’m not going to play 158 games or whatever. I’m going to have to manage and figure out how to play great for 130,” he said. “And I think that would be a good thing to shoot for, if I was healthy, is playing 130 games of nine innings would be great. And then you’re talking about postseason, too, when you add the games on top of that, and well, you need to play for the team in the postseason, you’ve got to be ready for that, too.

“From my standpoint, from their standpoint, it’s about managing, managing my performance and my physical body and making sure I can do all that at the highest level, keep it at the highest level I can.”

Maddon’s managerial style means that Zobrist, even if he’s not technically a part of the everyday starting eight, will still get the opportunity to hit on a regular basis, get a chance to play on a regular basis. Baez figures to be locked in as the team’s No. 1 second baseman, but he’ll need days off. Maddon mentioned Sunday that Zobrist, along with Happ, have been practicing at first base in an effort to be able to spell Anthony Rizzo. It’s the crowded outfield where Zobrist could potentially see the most time. He’ll be a piece of that tricky daily puzzle along with Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward and the aforementioned Almora and Happ.

Unsurprisingly, in the end that versatility, combined with how Zobrist has recovered physically and whether he can get back to how he’s produced in the past, will determine how much he will play, according to the guy writing out the lineups.

“I think he’s going to dictate that to us based on how he feels,” Maddon said. “Listen, you’re always better off when Ben Zobrist is in your lineup. He’s a little bit older than he had been, obviously, like we all are. I’ve got to be mindful of that, but he’s in great shape. Let’s just see what it looks like. Go out there and play, and we’ll try to figure it out as the season begins to unwind because who knows, he might have an epiphany and turn back the clock a little bit, he looks that good. I want to keep an open mind.

“I want to make sure that he understands we’re going to need him to play a variety of different positions. He’s ready to do it, he’s eager, he’s really ready. He was not pleased with his year last year, took time to reflect upon it and now he’s really been refreshed. So I think you’re going to see the best form of Ben Zobrist right now.”

Two years ago, Zobrist played a big enough role to go to the All-Star Game and get named the MVP of the World Series. In the present, that role might be much, much smaller. But Zobrist said he’s OK with anything, admitting it’s about the number of rings on the fingers and not the number of days in the starting lineup.

“I’m 36 as a player, so I’m just trying to win championships at this point. It’s not really about what I’m trying to accomplish as an individual,” Zobrist said. “Everybody wants to have great seasons, but I’ve told (Maddon), ‘Wherever you need me, I’m ready.’ Just going to prepare to fill the spots that need to be filled and be a great complement to what’s going on.”