Bears

Fan Fare

Fan Fare

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

I am a sports fan.

A HUGE sports fan!

Anyone reading for any part of the 6 years here already knows this. My psychosis is on full display for all to see. But that doesnt mean that in my fervor that I am unaware of the part I play in the process. I am an observer. And, I am a source of revenue for the teams and leagues I follow. That is why I am bombarded with garish signage, internet offers and commercials as a reward for my visits to a stadium or arena and in my near constant TV viewership of athletic endeavors. Its a badge of honor that I have watched over 500,000 Anheuser Busch commercials in my lifetime. (I wont even mention the Viagra and Cialis commercials that seem to dominate national broadcasts these days, but that number is growing rapidly every day!) It comes as part of the price to enjoy the ultimate reality shows of our times.

For as much as sports exist to entertain, like any other business their continued existence is dependent on their ability to turn a profit.

They say its a game, but its really a business. And, as we all know, business is business. This leads to plenty of off-field drama and reality shows. It also makes a fan think.

The two areas I find interesting are:

1) Who is responsible for a franchises financial viability?
2) What responsibilities exist in the team-fan relationship?

Of course financial viability should be the responsibility of those running the franchise, right? I mean they put up the cash for the right to own. The main focus then must be to understand your target consumer and to give them what they want in the quantities that they desire. Im a believer here of the more you win, the more you make. Thats simple enough. Its the bottom rung of the competitive hierarchy that seems to have the most money problems, isnt it? That would make sense. They then have the choices to make in their fight for survival in this win-or-else world we live in. Sometimes though, as time has gone on, we have had the unique opportunity of being sold on the civic pride angle of having a professional sports franchise in our midst, no matter the scope of their on-field miscues. Whatever! I bring this up again of course in lieu of the Cubs latest grab for IllinoisChicago public funds. I know the headlines said that the Cubs were going to use their own money, but lets be real here. Someone is going to pay. Who might that be? Well, first of all, I would think the neighborhood might have to make a donation and that is in addition to what they have already donated to their local alderman to protect their interests.

To be honest, Ive never really had a problem with this, although I would also agree that the neighborhood should have some say on what occurs there. But ultimately, the Cubs have made everyone in that neighborhood a lot of cash and my guess here is that everyone in that neighborhood knew the franchise was right next door when the bought their property or opened their business. I would think the Cubs are well within their rights to get their payments from rooftop owners since those owners make a ton of cash directly from selling an experience related to someone elses business. But when you want to start shutting down public streets to effectively increase your business footprint, who directly benefits from that? And who would suffer? If I owned one of the Clark Street bars I would be very concerned about the negotiations going on with city hall.

Its with this in mind, that when I hear the improvements in and around Wrigley Field will enhance the guest experience, I reach for my wallet. Because thats what the bottom line here is. Upon my arrival to Chicago 18 years ago and my initial visits to Wrigley, I often wondered aloud (because thats how I wonder!) and later in this space, why the team didnt own the buildings surrounding the stadium poaching off their business. For most people, myself included, there is only a limited amount of time allotted to going to a game. The team should understand this and act accordingly. The common denominator of all of the stadiums built since Camden Yards in Baltimore was the number of options that a ticketholder has once they enter the ballpark. There are still options in the neighborhood, but the fun starts once you go inside and head down Eutaw Street. (I often tell folks at the bar, you havent lived until you get a picture in front of the stadium with the Babe Ruth statue and then go inside and have Boog Powells sweaty head add extra flavor to your barbeque beef sandwich before the game!)

So I can understand the Cubs trying to grab as much fan cash as possible, its their game.

And heres where the relationship should be honest. The enhancement is for one reason and one reason only. Again, no problem with that, just be upfront.

You know, like NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. Did you see his heartfelt apology to the fans for the lockout? Please.

His only job is to make money for the NHL owners. He apparently is pretty good at this. Since he took over 20 years ago, NHL annual revenue has risen from around 500 million to the current 3 billion. Wowza! For a niche sport in this country, thats impressive. Part of the collateral damage of this ascension though, were the three forced lockouts of their primary expense, the players. Did he apologize the other two times? I cant remember. Or care. Im a hockey fan. I just want to see the best players play. I dont need crocodile tears.

In a way, this lockout could end up working out to the NHLs favor. With the condensed 48 games in 99 days schedule, us fans are expecting more exciting, playoff-style hockey than we would see in a normal regular season, which of course will make everyone in the NHL more money in the long run. Funny how that works. Not funny ha-ha, but funny.
Because in the long run, its about the product. Do you think the Hawks public relations blitz right now would have had the same resonance 10 years ago? Thats what a Cup will do for you.

Add the NBA and the NFL to this labor strife mix.

Will the fans come back? Of course we will. Were fans. What else do we have to do?
In todays world fans will show their support but it comes in many different ways. No longer, I think, is a fan measured by how many games they go to. Who has the time, and more importantly, the money?

The fan today spends plenty on team merchandise and has to be able to watch any game, at any time, wherever they are. Thank you smart phone!!

And after spending all of your cash on jerseys and league subscriptions, who can afford going to the actual games? Add in to the fact that they are giving away big-screen HD TVs, why would you want to leave the house?

Me, I have to be compelled to go to a game. Two things do that. One is an over-the top experience for the large sum of money I know that Im going to invest. Wrigley held that for quite a while, but I have to admit, it looks pretty cool over my fireplace also and I dont have to worry about parking or a trough. Ive been there more recently for concerts. Now that is something that is worth the money. Seeing an iconic musical act in one of the iconic structures of all-time. Paul McCartney? Roger Waters? Bruce? Now thats priceless.

The other, and you would think this is unbelievably obvious, a winning product.

People want to be a part of something special, not a bridge to nowhere. Going to see a team that is near the top of their league is always cool and will always be the major part of the equation. That is an enhanced guest experience every day of the week.

If you build it, they will come. With their wallets open.

Fans like us, baby we were born to pay!

Matt Nagy is winning over his players by being himself

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USA Today Sports Images

Matt Nagy is winning over his players by being himself

Despite losing 34 of his 48 games as the Bears’ head coach, John Fox’s players generally liked him and were disappointed to see him fired on New Year’s Day. That’s not to say they were blindsided by it — losing leads to people losing their jobs, even if the culture at Halas Hall had changed for the better following the disastrous end of the Marc Trestman-Phil Emery era. 

It was with that backdrop that Matt Nagy was offered and accepted the position of Bears head coach a week after Fox’s firing. Four and a half months later, Nagy has seemingly made a strong first impression on his new team, with one reason standing out among many: He’s genuine in who he is and what he does.

“I would say Nagy can be stern, and he can be playful also,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “I think when you’re a first-year coach, you want to win (over) your guys, and you want to be firm, and he’s doing that. You can’t really tell he’s a rookie coach or whatever. I feel like he was born for this, and he’s doing a great job.”

Granted, no player is going to publicly blast their new boss — especially not before he’s even coached a game yet. But veteran players also aren’t oblivious to who can and cannot work out as a head coach, and there haven’t been any “damning with faint praise” types of comments that were more common five years ago at the beginning of the Trestman era.

Will this win Nagy any games come September? No. But consider this sort of like team chemistry: It won't win a team anything, but if a team doesn't have it, it can be costly. 

“He’s a cool coach, man,” linebacker Danny Trevathan — who played for Fox in both Denver and Chicago — said. “He’s always giving us little details and smiling but we know he’s a hard worker just like we are. He’s up there working just like we are. He’s always putting us in the right position and he takes care of us. On the back end, where I come from, you take care of coaches like that. You go out and make plays for those coaches.”

From an observational standpoint, Nagy comes across as genuinely excited not just to be a head coach, but the head coach of the Bears. Players respect that approach — he's not coming in acting like a hired gun, and he's shown through these OTAs and practices that he cares about them, even if they haven't spent much time together yet. And he's also not strutting into Halas Hall every day with an over-inflated ego based on his promotion. That resonates, too. 

“I like the way he came in,” Trevathan said. “He came in humble but he was hungry. He came anxious, moving around in the meetings. I like that. That gets me fired up. I feel like we’ve got a good leader up here in the head coach.”

Reynaldo Lopez is changing his place in the White Sox rebuild: 'When I'm on the mound, I'm the best and I don't care about the rest'

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USA TODAY

Reynaldo Lopez is changing his place in the White Sox rebuild: 'When I'm on the mound, I'm the best and I don't care about the rest'

Rebuilds are full of surprises.

Fans can pencil in any names they want into their 2020 lineups, but there’s almost no one who’s going to have a 100-percent success rate when it comes to predicting exactly what the next contending White Sox team will look like.

Reynaldo Lopez carried plenty of hype when he was acquired from the Washington Nationals in the Adam Eaton deal prior following the 2016 season. He had a high prospect ranking before he was called up last summer. He hasn’t materialized out of nowhere.

But with names like Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen, Carlos Rodon and others to compete with for one of those coveted rotation spots of the future, was anyone going to use the term “ace” to describe Lopez?

Well, in this rebuilding season’s most pleasant surprise for the White Sox and their fans, that’s exactly what Lopez has been. He’s been hands down the team’s best starting pitcher, and he’s making the case that he shouldn’t be considered an ancillary piece in this rebuilding process but a featured one.

He might not be getting the attention that others are. But he’s doing the most with his opportunity of being at the big league level right now. In the end, as long as you’re getting batters out, who cares how much attention you get?

“It’s not about what people say or what they are talking about,” Lopez said through a translator. “It’s about the confidence I have in myself, and I have plenty of confidence in myself. For me, I’m the best. I’m not saying the other guys are not. I’m just saying that’s the confidence I have. When I’m on the mound, I’m the best and I don’t care about the rest.”

Sunday marked the best start of Lopez’s young career, so said the pitcher himself. He was terrific in shutting down the visiting Texas Rangers, holding them to just two hits over eight scoreless innings.

It was one heck of a bounce-back performance considering what happened last time out, when he was roughed up for six runs in just two innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The difference? His attitude, his focus, his intensity, his conviction.

“I just changed my attitude in the game,” Lopez said. “I was more positive today than I was in my last outing and that was one of my biggest differences.”

“I do think he came out a little bit more focused, to be honest,” manager Rick Renteria said. “The intensity level was a little higher today. I think he threw the first couple pitches 97, 98 miles an hour, where his last outing they were at 93, 94. There wasn’t a whole lot of commitment or conviction to his pitches (against the Pirates). I think, as we talked after the last outing, (pitching coach Don Cooper) spoke to him a little about making sure he brought that intensity that he has the ability to do, to bring it from Pitch 1 and he did today.”

Renteria liked it all, and he saw something different in his pitcher when he went out to talk to him with two outs in the eighth. Lopez issued a two-out walk, and Renteria considered lifting Lopez from the game.

Lopez made sure his manager wouldn’t pull the plug on this outing.

“I hid the baseball in my glove because I didn’t want to leave the game,” Lopez said. “I asked me, ‘How are you? Are you good?’ And I told him, ‘Yes, I’m good.’ Then he asked me again, ‘Do you think you are able to get him out?’ And I said yes, ‘This is my game, and I’m going to finish it.’”

What did Lopez do with his extra life? He finished it all right, blowing Shin-Soo Choo away with a 96-mile-an-hour fastball. Then he showed as much emotion as he’s ever shown on a major league field. He earned that celebration.

“When you see your manager come out and you’ve already gone through most of your game in terms of what you might think you have in number of pitches available to you, and you reiterate that you want to finish a particular batter because you want to get out of that inning, and you do it, it's an accomplishment,” Renteria said. “It's a big accomplishment. For him, pretty good hitter. He battled him and he was able to get out of that inning and complete a very, very strong eight-inning outing.”

It’s the kind of exclamation point on a dominant afternoon that could stir some big plans in White Sox fans always dreaming of the future. What Lopez has done this season has been a strong case for a spot in that future rotation and a spot at the front of it, at that. Following Sunday’s gem, Lopez owns a 2.98 ERA with at least six strikeouts in four of his nine starts.

There’s a lot of development and a lot of time left before the White Sox contention window opens. But Lopez pitching like this offers a glimpse into the crystal ball, a look at what could be for an organization that’s acquired so much talent over the last two years.

You might not have seen it coming like this, but the future arriving in the form of Lopez is a sign that brighter days are ahead on the South Side.