Cubs

Dear Mr. Fantasy

Dear Mr. Fantasy

Friday, December 18

As you might expect, me being a bartender, Im expected to help fulfill fantasies. Tough work, but somebody has to do it. The unfortunate part is its usually (?) only to provide advice to fantasy sports geeks. The rock-star lifestyle of a high profile bartender never ends! Ill admit that for years, I didnt quite get the guys who obsessed over fantasy sports. They talked a foreign language, kind of like back in college, those guys who used to play Dungeons and Dragons. (Thats one fantasy world I never understood: Sit around a basement table, casting charm spells? Why dont we go to a bar, and try to cast real charm spells?)

As the years passed though, my fascination with the numbers of sports and the ease of getting into a league on the computer, combined to get me started. Oops.

Once youre in, its hard to get out. I think the thing that hooks you is the fact that, for the most part, that it doesnt make sense. Until its over, then it makes complete sense. Most times. Churchill described fantasy football the best when he was asked about it and responded: Fantasy football is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. That dude was ahead of his time, because he couldnt have described all fantasy sports any better.

As much as you think you know, you dont know. But I know that I know more than most of the guys in my leagues. What do they know? (And by leagues, Im using a plural to represent different sports, not playing 5 football leagues at the same time. There is nothing more annoying than the guy who has every stud or surprise player because he plays in 11 leagues! Stop talking now!)

Another part of the intoxicating effects are the definite results. They might not always be indicative of what happened, but they are there none the less. This is in contrast to most bar discussions that usually dont have a definitive beginning or end. Fantasy sports give you a result. My favorite part of these results is, if they go against you, they dont matter anyway, and if they go in your favor, they cement your genius.

And isnt what its all about? 99.9 of sports conversation is about proving that youre right or at least understand whats going on. Fantasy sports, or shall I say, prowess in them, give you credibility. Doesnt it? In a word, NOT!

While they are based in fact, their results are not. The results are based on luck, in most situations. If you have Larry Fitzgerald, and he only has 3 catches because hes a decoy or the Cardinals are running against an inferior opponent, does that make him less of a weapon? Of course not, but if his lack of production comes at the wrong time, it can cost a fantasy owner a game, or heaven forbid, a championship. Great play- bad result. It depends on so many variables. Over the course of a season, Fitz on your team will give you great results, but for one game? Flip a coin. Isnt that awesome?!

Im writing this blog during one of the biggest weekends of the year, for me the biggest, for just about every fantasy football format. Its the 1st of two rounds of playoffs and I think this is the most important because, lose this weekend and all of your work is down the drain. Loser Bowl? Thats for losers! If youre playing for a little more than just pride, the big payoff is for the top 2 teams so you need to get to that game. But its a definite be careful what you wish for scenario, because my brain is being twisted into a pretzel. Ive examined every option I have for my team, and the other 250 or so free-agents that are out there that I can acquire. Im not kidding. I have serious issues!

This is especially where that luck thing comes in. Study all you want. Examine every match-up. One of your studs has a bad game and youre done. Have two Indianapolis Colts who have helped carry your team all year questionable because they have nothing to play for, and you roll the dice. Go for it Caldwell, go for it!

Anyway, I think that this fantasy adventure that Ive been on these last couple of years (football, and the root of all evil, baseball) have taught me something. Ive learned that fantasy is a lot like real life. You can study and prepare all you want, but just when you think you have it all figured out, something happens that you were never expected. Good or bad. What that teaches you is that, as much as you want to be in control, most times you have none at all. Just like being married!!

And the most important thing it teaches you, if you take it, and yourself, too seriously, theres never going to be a happy ending. And whats the fun in that? Its supposed to be fun, right??

So enjoy the weekend my fantasy brethren, and may the bounces go your way, (Unless, youre in my league!!) and remember: Jamaal Charles is my Boy!

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jon Lester struggles against the division-rival Cardinals

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jon Lester struggles against the division-rival Cardinals

It was a tough day for the North Siders.

The Cubs got obliterated by the Cardinals as Matt Carpenter had a three-homer, two-double day. Ben Finfer, Seth Gruen and Maggie Hendricks join David Kaplan on the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast to talk about the blowout.

Was Jon Lester due for this kind of terrible outing? And do the Cubs have enough to swing a big trade before the deadline?

Plus, the panel discusses Matt Nagy’s first training camp practice in the rain and Roquan Smith’s absence in Bourbonnais.

You can listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Could Bears improve and still lose ground? The MMQB's Albert Breer weighs in on tough NFC North

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USA TODAY

Could Bears improve and still lose ground? The MMQB's Albert Breer weighs in on tough NFC North

NBC Sports Chicago’s John "Moon" Mullin talked with The MMQB's Albert Breer, who shared his thoughts on where the Bears stand — and if they’ll be able to compete — in a highly competitive NFC North.

Moon: The Bears have made upgrades, but they’re in the NFC North and not many divisions are tougher, given the strength at quarterbacks.

Breer: Yes. You look at the other three teams, and they all very much believe they’re in a window for winning a championship. The Packers are going through some changes, but they’ve gotten Mike Pettine in there as defensive coordinator and a new general manager who was aggressive on draft day. I know that internally they feel that’s going to give them a boost, and bringing Aaron Rodgers back obviously is the biggest thing of all.

Minnesota, all the things they did this offseason, signing (quarterback) Kirk Cousins, (defensive lineman) Sheldon Richardson, and they were knocking on the door last year.

The Lions have been building for two years under (general manager) Bob Quinn and (new coach) Matt Patricia, who lines right up with the general manager — the two of them worked together in New England. They really believe that Matthew Stafford is ready to take the sort of jump that Matt Ryan made in Atlanta a few years ago, where you see that mid-career breakthrough from a quarterback that we see sometimes now.

It’s one of the toughest divisions in football, and every team in the division believes that it’s in the position to contend right now.

Moon: We didn’t see a lot of Mitch Trubisky — 12 games — so it sounds possible that the Bears could improve and still lose ground.

Breer: The Lions were pretty good last year. The Vikings were in the NFC Championship game. And who knows where the Packers would’ve been if Rodgers hadn’t broken his collarbone. The biggest change is that Aaron Rodgers will be back, and that’s the best player in the league. It was a really good division last year, and you’re adding back in a Hall of Fame quarterback.

As far as the Bears, there’s going to be questions where the organization is going. It’s been seven years since they were in the playoffs. I think they certainly got the coach hire right. This is a guy who I know other organizations liked quite a bit and was going to be a head coach sooner or later.

And I think he matches up well with Mitch. I think the Bears are in a good spot, but as you said, they’re competing in a difficult environment, so it may not show up in their record.

Moon: A lot of love for the Vikings after they get to the NFC Championship and then add Kirk Cousins.

Breer: A lot of people look at Minnesota and think Kirk Cousins’ll be a huge improvement. And maybe he will be. I think he’s a very good quarterback, top dozen in the league. But Case Keenum played really, really well last year, so it wasn’t like they weren’t getting anything out of that position last year.

The NFC right now is clearly the strength of the league. If you picked the top 10 teams in the league, you could make a case that seven or eight of them are in the NFC. I think there will be NFC teams that miss the playoffs who could be in the Super Bowl coming out of the AFC. There’s a little bit of an imbalance there.

Moon: Trubisky projects as part of a wave of new quarterbacks league-wide, a sea change in the NFL.

Breer: The interesting thing is that this is probably as stable as the league has been at quarterback in a long time. There’ve been questions where the next great quarterbacks will come from, but I don’t know that there’s a team right now in the NFL like you looked at the Jets or Browns last year, where you say that team is definitely drafting a quarterback in 2019.

Everyone either has a big-money veteran or former first-round pick on their roster. One team that doesn’t is the Cowboys, but they’ve got Dak Prescott who’s played really well. Every team in the league has some stability at the position. I think the position is as healthy as it’s been in a long time, and you’ve got a lot of good young prospects.