Cubs

CSN's Journey to Cambodia

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CSN's Journey to Cambodia

Watch entire two-part documentary here

I mean hell on Earth. Its apocalyptic. I used to tell people it would be like a scene after World War III, after the nuclear holocaust. You dont feel like youre on Earth. -- Bill Smith

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- Its a vast wasteland of trash, poverty and disease; a mountain of garbage, a world without hope.

Its a place youd never want to visit, let alone live your life. And yet, that is the reality for hundreds of Cambodians whose dead-end existence brought them to a place where only a miracle can save them.

Or a man with a camera who wanted to help.

Bill Smith, the longtime team photographer for the Chicago Bulls, Bears, and Blackhawks found the Phnom Penh garbage dump while visiting Cambodia 10 years ago. Think of the dirtiest place in the United States, multiply it by 20 and that is where these people work and live -- many of them children, who scavenge through the garbage for 30 cents a day, enough to buy morsels of food.

Its the kind of scene you cant forget. Bill certainly couldn't. It changed his life -- and because of him -- has since transformed the lives of over 100 children from the garbage dump.

He and Chicago Bulls executive Joe ONeil have created A New Day Cambodia, a center two miles from the garbage dump that provides free shelter, food and education for children who once had nothing.

Now they have a chance at life -- which is everything.

The look and sparkle in their eyes is the just the biggest difference, Smith said. Hopelessness becomes hope for the future and its not just that they are clean. They have a whole different persona. They hold their head higher, they have pride, they take care of themselves and feel more human than they were before.

Tuesday and Wednesday at 7 p.m. CT, Comcast SportsNet will air From the Sports World to the Third World: A Journey to Cambodia, a two-part documentary that takes you inside the garbage dump as well as the center for A New Day Cambodia.

In Part 1, youll meet people like Sokha Chen, who was orphaned at the age of 9, and was living on the side of a road with her brother for six months. After her brother died, she made her way to the garbage dump where Smith found her in 2007. Five years later shes thriving at a New Day Cambodia. She goes to one of the best private schools in the country, she was recently featured in Newsweek as one of 150 women who shake the world, and last year traveled to the White House where she met first lady Michelle Obama.

The metamorphosis from one child to the next is extraordinary.

Ill never forget the day we went out and picked up these children at these shacks and literally the parents said good-bye to their children, ONeill recalls. I think we moved about 15 or 16 kids in the first trip. These kids had to learn how to use a toilet. They had never used showers before. We had hired a staff here and we were scared beyond belief.

Smith and ONeil had no experience in starting or running a charity, let alone 8,000 miles away from their homes in Chicago.

I was worried. My intentions were good, but maybe we had made a mess of things, maybe we had made a mess of their lives, Smith said. We didn't know what we were doing. We took them away from their parents, we turned their lives upside down, we dont really know what were doing, we have no experience in this, but it worked.

In Part 2 on Wednesday, we follow along as Smith and ONeil go into the slums of the garbage dump to choose four more children to bring to the center.

One of the kids is a malnourished 7-year-old boy named Mey-Mey who was living with his mother and five siblings in a one-room shack with barely any possessions.

Smith says that he feels like hes playing God when he decides which children to rescue. Looking inside the home of Mey-Mey, he knew immediately the difference he and ONeil could make in the young boys life.

This puts donation money to work in a way that every single penny will count for this boy, said Smith, standing outside the familys shack, which was surrounded by garbage.

This means the world to this family. Its like giving them a million dollars, or a thousand dollars a week for life. They have absolutely nothing, and now theyre going to have their youngest child go to school.

At home, Smith and ONeil have their minds set on their full-time jobs back in Chicago. However, a large part of their hearts are always with those who they have saved thousands of miles away.

 This is not a charity that you do for a year or two, or a dinner you support and then say, Heck with it. We have 100 children here and they aren't going away, ONeil said. We want to send everyone on their way where they can self-sustain and start a family, provide for that family, provide for their former family and improve not only their life but elevate their country and give back to their country and other children and help the new kids coming along.

Smith has made a career out of taking photographs of some of the most iconic figures in Chicago sports history: Michael Jordan, Dennis Rodman, Derrick Rose, Walter Payton and Jim McMahon.

They are heroes for their achievements. The same should be said for Smith and ONeil. Athletes affect lives.

These two men are changing them.

People are neglected, and for some weird reason, Joe and I, weve figured out how to do this, Smith said. And we feel a responsibility now. Like we actually know how to go out to a garbage dump and pick out kids and deal with the parents, and its just kind of an unusual talent that we have learned. They have become part of our family. Its an extension of our family over here and what we get out of it is coming to see our extended family and watch them prosper.

Albert Almora Jr. gave another example of his all-around game

Albert Almora Jr. gave another example of his all-around game

Albert Almora Jr. might be in the middle of a breakout season. The 24-year-old outfielder continues to show his impressive range in center field and is having his best year at the plate.

In Sunday's 8-3 win against the Giants, Almora had three hits and showed off his wheels in center to rob Evan Longoria of extra bases. The catch is visible in the video above.

"Defensively, right now he's playing as well as he possibly can," Maddon said.

On top of the defense he has become known for, he is hitting .326. That's good for fifth in the National League in batting.

"He's playing absolutely great," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "He's working good at-bats. His at-bats have gotten better vs. righties.

"The thing about it, is there's power there. The home runs are gonna start showing up, too."

There's also this stat, which implies Almora is having a growing significance on the Cubs as a whole:

There may be some correlation, but not causality in that. However, with Almora's center field play and growing accolades at the plate, the argument is becoming easier and easier that he is one of the most important players on the Cubs. That also goes for Almora's regular spot in the lineup, which has been up in the air with Maddon continuing to juggle the lineup.

Bears still see Dion Sims as a valuable piece to their offensive puzzle

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USA Today Sports Images

Bears still see Dion Sims as a valuable piece to their offensive puzzle

Dion Sims is still here, which is the outcome he expected but perhaps wasn’t a slam dunk — at least to those outside the walls at Halas Hall. 

The Bears could’ve cut ties with Sims prior to March 16 and saved $5.666 million against the cap, quite a figure for a guy coming off a disappointing 2017 season (15 catches, 180 yards, one touchdown). But the Bears are sticking with Sims, even after splashing eight figures to land Trey Burton in free agency earlier this year. 

“In my mind, I thought I was coming back,” Sims said. “I signed to be here three years and that’s what I expect. But I understand how things go and my job is come out here and work hard every day and play with a chip on my shoulder to prove myself and just be a team guy.”

The Bears signed Sims to that three-year, $18 million contract 14 months ago viewing him as a rock-solid blocking tight end with some receiving upside. The receiving upside never materialized, and his blocking was uneven at times as the Bears’ offense slogged through a bleak 11-loss season. 

“The situation we were in, we weren’t — we could’ve done a better job of being successful,” Sims said. “Things didn’t go how we thought it would. We just had to pretty much try to figure out how to come together and build momentum into coming into this year. I just think there were a lot of things we could have done, but because of the circumstances we were limited a little bit. 

“… It was a lot of things going on. Guys hurt, situations — it was tough for us. We couldn’t figure it out, along with losing, that was a big part of it too.”

Sims will be given a fresh start in 2018, even as Adam Shaheen will be expected to compete to cut into Sims’ playing time at the “Y” tight end position this year. The other side of that thought: Shaheen won’t necessarily slide into being the Bears’ primary in-line tight end this year. 

Sims averaged 23 receptions, 222 yards and two touchdowns from 2014-2016; that might be a good starting point for his 2018 numbers, even if it would represent an improvement from 2017. More important, perhaps, is what Sims does as a run blocker — and that was the first thing Nagy mentioned when talking about how Sims fits into his offense. 

“The nice thing with Dion is that he’s a guy that’s proven to be a solid blocker,” Nagy said. “He can be in there and be your Y-tight end, but yet he still has really good hands. He can make plays on intermediate routes. He’s not going to be anybody that’s a downfield threat — I think he knows that, we all know that — but he’s a valuable piece of this puzzle.”