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Frankie O's blog: What's under your tree?

Frankie O's blog: What's under your tree?

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

As you get older the holiday season takes on new meaning. For me it signifies the end of the ten month torture-fest known as my fantasy sports affliction. I cant explain the fog that takes over your brain when you have to know every three-back rotation in the NFL as well as every NL bullpen. Its a wonder that I can do anything else. I love the reactions I get in the bar talking about it. Guys are especially skeptical about the roto baseball.

Why would you do that? Dude, youre drinking a Grasshopper, why would you do that?!

But I do understand talking about fantasy sports can make peoples eyes glaze over. Fantasy conversations in the bar should be in general terms, getting specific about your team just kills the buzz. Especially, if youre that guy who owns every player of relevance. Of course thats easy to do if you have a void in your life that makes you enter 7 leagues. The story you want to tell loses all meaning when you begin with the phrase, In my other league Dont be that guy!

Ironic though, in the two month break I get from the obsession with endless statistics, that Im right in the middle of the most wonderful time of the year and all that it brings with it.

Lately, the true meaning of the holiday season is increased stress. At my advanced age - and those of you who know me know how far that it advanced this week! life is about simplification. Unfortunately, that goal is increasingly elusive. So during this season of giving, I do. I give the wife the credit cards and close my eyes. There. That was easy. This is supposed to be a time of fun, right? And since no good deed goes unpunished, Ill have the depressing winter blahs, along with everyone else, when the bills come in next month. Cest la vie. (Did I just go French? Boo-Ya!)

What I think the holidays can do though, hopefully, is bring back that feeling of when we were younger and anything was possible. Kind of like Opening Day, except its colder and you get presents.

It also should be a time to be thankful for what we have. That of course is ironic, since all we are bombarded with by the advertising world is about everything that we DONT have and should, because we deserve it!

Ive gotten to a place where the holidays bring about memories from those of the past and hopefully Im creating the same kind for my kids. None of mine really center on what I got. I always remember as a kid getting a bunch of things, but I couldnt tell you most of what I got or when I got it. (Obviously, most were sports related.) Some of it has to do with being born on Christmas week. So I was getting presents for that, and some that were combined! (I swear Im not bitter! But while Im getting combined gifts, my sister is having picnics and parades on her birthday since she was born on the 4th of July. Honestly!)

Not a year goes by though that I dont remember Christmas of 1971.This was the time when my infatuation in pro football was starting to bloom. It was all we talked about as kids at school or afterward, when we would play at the park until it was time to go home.

After awaking way too early and tearing the paper off all of our presents, we played for a while, then, it was time to visit both sets of grandparents. I remember that for most of the day, the TV was off as we were visiting. After being at my grandparents on my fathers side for a couple of hours, the television was turned on, after we ate, for the Dolphins-Chiefs playoff game. I dont know that I fully understood what I was watching (Or that I would today for that matter!) but I realized that the game meant a lot and was very exciting. The energy came right through the TV. That was assured by the big game AFC voices of their time, Curt Gowdy and Al DeRogatis. The score kept going back and forth with twists and turns. Big defensive plays, field goals, missed field goals, touchdowns and interceptions, until after 82 minutes and 40 seconds, Garo Yepremian kicked the game-winner from 37 yards out. It was (is) the longest game ever played in NFL history. Double-overtime! Twelve Hall of Famers played in the game, six on each side. Both of the head coaches are also inducted in Canton. But the player I will never forget was the Chiefs Ed Podolak. He was all over the field. Smallish for a running back, he had a funky facemask under which his large nose seemed as though it was going to protrude right through it. By the end of the game that nose was covered in sweat and dirt and blood. He had 350 total yards in one of the guttiest performances I have ever watched. Too bad it was in a losing effort. I was rooting so hard for the Chiefs to win. (Setting up a long string of games in which the football team Im rooting for met a bitter demise. Be nice or Ill root for your team!) There is much debate about the greatest games in NFL history, but you can guess which one gets my vote. That was when the NFL started for me.

While watching the game in the living room, I heard the side door in the kitchen open. My grandfather was still in uniform as he came through the door arriving home from his shift as a local police officer. Soon afterward I had to get out (Gladly!) of his recliner in front of the TV. As he loosened his tie as he sat down to relax, I hopped on his knee so that we could have our picture taken together. I sat on the floor next to him as we watched the rest of the game. I dont remember much else, but I remember Ed Podolak and sitting on my grandfathers knee for that picture like it was yesterday. That was forty years ago. It wasnt too long after that my grandfather passed away. That picture is one of the few that I have with him. There isnt a time that I hear about that game and dont think about that picture. Nor is there a time that I look at that picture and dont remember that we watched that game together.

So as I enjoy another Christmas, there are plenty of NBA games and one NFL game to watch. In my family, the Bulls and the Bears will be must-see TV. A game without Kobe kind of loses its luster for the Bulls against the Lakers so I hope he plays, but it doesnt look good. And I wont even get into the Bears situation, but how can we stop watching this far in? But in the end, it doesnt really matter. As always its about getting together and sharing time with each other. But you never know, maybe something memorable will happen that we all can share. I already know that your team doesnt always have to win to have a memory that will last a lifetime.

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

Jimmy Greenfield, Connor McKnight, and Matt Spiegel join Kap on the panel to discuss Corey Crawford back on the ice for the first time in 10 months. The Bears have good news when it comes to Khalil Mack, who injured his ankle against the Dolphins.

Plus, Fred Hoiberg announces that Jabari Parker is coming off the bench for the season opener.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

Putting Bill Belichick’s complimentary comments about the Bears in context

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USA TODAY

Putting Bill Belichick’s complimentary comments about the Bears in context

Bill Belichick had plenty of good things to say about Matt Nagy and the 2018 Bears during a conference call with reporters on Wednesday. Some of the highlights:

 

On the Bears’ season as a whole:

 

“The Bears have lost two games, one on a game when they were in control of the game and another one they lost in overtime. This really looks like a 5-0 team to me, if you change one or two plays. You can say that about a lot of teams, but that’s the league we’re in.”

 

On Mitch Trubisky:

 

“I think he’s done a good job of getting ball to the players that are open or in space and letting them be playmakers. He has a lot of them. That’s the quarterback’s job is to deliver the ball to the playmakers and let them go. I think he’s done a good job of that. He’s a tough kid, which I respect. That’s what we would ask our quarterbacks to do, to make plays to help our team win, to get the ball to the players that are open and in space. It’s not about stats. It’s about doing what you need to do to win.”

 

On Tarik Cohen’s usage:

 

“He plays about a little bit less than 50 percent of the time and he’s in a lot of different places, he’s hard to find. He’s a dynamic player that can run, catch, really threaten every yard of the field from sideline to sideline, up the middle, deep. You can throw it to him, you can hand it to him and he’s elusive with the ball and he’s elusive to be able to get open so the quarterback can get him the ball. Those are great skills to have. Any one of those is good and he’s got several of them.

 

“He’s very hard to tackle. But they do a great job mixing him, not just putting him in the game but who he’s in the game with, what the combinations are and then where they locate him and so forth. There are a lot of multiples. It’s hard. Coach Nagy does a good job with that and he’s a special player that you gotta know where he is at all times.”

 

On Trubisky’s 54-yard bomb to Taylor Gabriel on Sunday:

 

“That’s about as good a throw and catch as I’ve seen all year. The execution on that was like 99 out of 100. It was a great, great throw, great route, great catch. There was like a few inches to get the ball in there 50 yards downfield and that’s where it was.”

 

On Akiem Hicks’ impact, who played for the Patriots in 2015:

 

“He’s hard to block. It doesn’t make any difference what the play is, you can run to him and he’s hard to block. You can run away from him, and he makes tackles for loss on the back side. He’s quick and can get around those blocks when there’s more space back there because everybody is going to the front side. He can power rush. He can rush the edges with his quickness. He’s a very, very disruptive player. He’s hard to block on everything.

 

“I appreciate all of the plays he makes. He makes plays on all three downs, against all types of plays, whether it’s reading screen passes or power rushing the pocket to help the ends, to help (Leonard) Floyd and Mack and (Aaron) Lynch rush on the edge. He’s a powerful, disruptive guy. (Eddie) Goldman has done a good job of that. (Bilal) Nichols has done a good job of that too. They have some really powerful guys inside that are hard to block, and they change the line of scrimmage in the running game and the passing game. It really creates a problem, frees up the linebackers in the running game and helps the ends because the quarterback can’t step up in the pocket in the passing game.”

 

On Matt Nagy:

 

“Obviously he's done a great job, as has Ryan with building the team. They have a lot of good players. They have a really experienced staff and they do a great job in all three areas of the game. They're good in the kicking game, they're good on defense they're good on offense. They have highly-skilled players in all three areas.

 

“It's a well-balanced football team that does a lot of things well. Run the ball. Stop the run. Throw the ball. Rush the passer. Intercept passes. Return kicks. Cover kicks. Cover punts. They're at the top of the league in all those categories. Turnovers. Points off turnovers. It doesn't really matter what area you want to talk about, they're pretty good at all of them. That's why they're a good football team.

 

“Coach Nagy and his staff certainly deserve a lot of credit. It's not a one-man band. They're all doing a good job. It's a good football team. I'm sure there will be a lot of energy in the stadium this week. It will be a great test for us to go into Chicago and be competitive against them.”

 

While listening to Belichick rave about the Bears, this missive from former Patriots general manager Michael Lombardi stands out:

 

“Whenever Belichick tells the media on Mondays or Tuesdays that he has already moved on to the next game, trust me, he’s not lying. I worked with Bill for five years in Cleveland, and then during the 2014 and 2015 seasons in New England. Belichick treats every game like a Super Bowl; no detail is too small, no possible scenario or situation goes overlooked. I have heard Belichick break down a bumbling Jaguars team as if it was the reigning two-time Super Bowl winner and treat Blake Bortles like he’s the second coming of Aaron Rodgers. Belichick does it with tape to back up his claims, only showing his team the opponent’s greatest strengths. (With Bortles, I swear, he must have used George Lucas to doctor the video.) No Patriots opponent is underestimated or taken lightly — EVER.”

 

One of the myriad things that make Belichick the best coach in the NFL — and maybe the best coach in NFL history — is how he never takes an opponent lightly, and then how he’s so successful at scheming against what an opponent does best.

 

The Bears are undoubtedly better in 2018 than they were in the John Fox era, or when these two teams last met in 2014 (when New England waxed a moribund Marc Trestman side, 51-23). And a lot of Belichick’s points are valid – that throw Trubisky made to Gabriel was outstanding, for example.

 

But Belichick talks this way about every team he faces. And that, again, is part of what makes him the best at what he does.