Cubs

Random News of the Day: Wedding Brackets

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Random News of the Day: Wedding Brackets

Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011
8:58 a.m.

By Joe Collins
CSNChicago.com

Guys know sports. We eat, sleep and breathe them. We love and respect the games, the players, the competition, the hype and the excitement. They make us who we are and we can never get enough. We love talking about the MVP-performance we watched on TV the night before, or the MVP-performances we say we had back in school. We love talking complex strategy, like why you should bunt a speedy runner over to second when you have a solid lefty hitter on deck. And we also like turning everyday situations into something, anything, that is sports related: placing basketball nets over the garbage can, folding papers into triangles so you can kickflick field goals, throwing snowballs as if we were the next Roy Halladayyou name it. And when were in uncharted waters, its relieving to know that we can always channel the sports world to put us back in a safe harbor.

And for guys, nowhere is this more apparent than in wedding planning.

You see, I am in the selecting a type of wedding invitation phase with my fiance. Obviously, this is her domain. Its all her on this. And frankly, thats the way it should be. I feel about as out of place as the Ernest Goes To Camp producers were on Oscar night, 1988. We got through two of those gigantic invitation selection books and declared that the ball was in her court from that point forward (haonce again: sports references make it easier). But as we were discussing our invitation list, along with the differences between Esperanza and Monotype Corsiva fonts, I fell into a sports trance and had a vision: a wedding invitation list is a clone of the selection process for the NCAA basketball tournament. Guys: if you have gone the marital distance, or if youre in the wedding on-deck circle (like me), or if youve ever filled out an NCAA bracket before, then you can relate to the following. Picture what a wedding looks like. Now merge it with March Madness. It should look something like this:

1 Seeds: Bride, groom, best man, maid of honor - The ones that go the distance. Theyre the teams that have consistently met the challenge in the past and the ones most likely to stick with you all the way to the end.

2 Seeds: Parents Of the Bride And Groom - When making a wedding invitation list, placing these teams anywhere below a 2-seed would be an outrage.

3 Seeds: The Rest Of The Wedding Party - These people are likely to be very good friends and family members. Sure, you might have a 3-seed who plows through too many whiskey sours and falls victim to The Electric Slide by the end of the night, but heyupsets happen.

4 Seeds: Most Aunts, Uncles & Grandparents - They earned their ticket to the big dance. Some made it because of their names alone. We all have the consistent Uncle North Carolina and an Aunt Wisconsin in our family, right? And sometimes theres a Grandpa Gonzaga that comes around and becomes the life of the party.

5 Seeds: Everyday Friends - Solid, loyal and fun to be around. Theyre a must-invite. But as weve seen in the NCAA tournament in recent years, a lot of five seeds have been known to turn sour. Decide which ones can will show up down the road in life and proceed with guarded optimism.

6 Seeds: Cousins - Most are very deserving of the invite. The party wouldnt be the same without themespecially if one of them can distract the banquet hall manager so that extra booze can be sent in through the side door.

7 Seeds: Friends From Work - Great group, albeit somewhat unpredictable. They deserve the invite because theyve fought in the trenches with you day in and day out.

8 Seeds: Bulk Family - Something you could buy at Costco? Maybe. Anyway, bulk family refers to the other family members you see 2-3 times a year: not necessarily the distant relativesbut the ones with names you actually remember (which is a problem for me at times). In the NCAAs, the 8-9 game is usually one of the more entertaining games because they beat each other up so much that they usually have nothing left when they match up against the 1 seed. Kind of brings you back to a heated argument at Thanksgiving dinner, eh?

9 Seeds: (See 8 Seeds)

10 Seeds: High School Friends - As we all know, high school is a popularity contest. In March Madness the 10 seeds are popular picks, not only because they can get past the first round, but also ones that can wreak havoc for 2 seeds (look out, parents of the bride and groom: high school friends tend to know how to party). High school friends at a wedding are like Butler in the NCAA big dance: old school, fun, predictable, yet kind of annoying if people start overcrowding their bandwagon.

11 Seeds: The Wedding Connoisseur - The 11 seed comes to the wedding and automatically megaphones, So this table is the cool tableright? Good people, but you could do without them. Theyre fancy themselves as good Lambada dancers. Fun for some, unsettling for most.

12 Seeds: The Family Black Sheep - Probably doesnt deserve an invite, especially because they are the odds-on favorite to dive through the wedding cake like its a Guns N Roses video. Yes, the black sheep invite is one that is somewhat out of obligation and yes, they probably wont stay past the first dance, but theres also a good chance that they provide some visual ribaldry. (Note: keep these people away from a live microphone)

13 Seeds: The Wedding Personnel - What? We need to reserve a dinner spot for the photographer? Cant we just sneak them a few dinner rolls?

14 Seeds: Any Wedding Crasher - Frankly, you have no idea who these people arebut they always seem to make the dance more exciting. After 10 minutes, especially if theyre creating a lot of fun, you stop questioning why they showed up.

15 Seeds: Your Childhood Friends That You Havent Seen Since 1995 - It goes like this: you know how you catch up with someone you havent seen in years, and the conversations really exciting for the first few minutes, but it always falls flat soon after because you both realize you have nothing in common anymore? Thats the 15 seed for you. They cant go the distance. Nothing says wedding fun like comparing your childhood friends to, oh, Austin Peay.

16 Seeds: Your Second Cousin Owen From Pittsburgh - Owen, not to mention your other second cousins from Sioux Falls, have no reason being at the dance. Theyre on the obligatory invite list solely because of conference tie-ins (in a wedding sense, it means they happen to have the same last name as you).

Oh, and Im sure you might be saying, Whoawait? What about the NIT Tournament? I have that covered too! Here are the wedding NIT teams that should never make it to the big dance: ex-boyfriends, ex-girlfriends, ex-cons, the gun enthusiast uncle whos also a fan of the open bar, Carrot Top, Charlie Sheen, your parole officer, your therapist, the one cousin who smells like taco mix and Dane Cook.

Whether its planning a wedding, a funeral even a day at jury duty, sports can always be mixed in. Just take it one game (or wedding invitation shop) at a time.

Or something like that.

Jason Kipnis comes home looking to write one final chapter of his career

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USA Today

Jason Kipnis comes home looking to write one final chapter of his career

Jason Kipnis, who’s potentially the Cubs’ new second baseman but indisputably the pride of Northbrook, said there’s one major reason why his possible reunion with Wrigley Field is so exciting.

“Now I don’t have to hate the 'Go Cubs Go' song,” he quipped.

Kipnis was a late addition to the Cubs’ roster, and still not even a guaranteed one at that. After almost a decade spent being one of the Cleveland Indians’ cornerstones, Kipnis arrived in Mesa on a minor league contract, looking to win a job. Ironically, being with his hometown team is unfamiliar territory for the two-time All-Star. 

“[Leaving Cleveland] was hard at first,” he said. “You get used to the same place for 9-10 years, and I think it’s a little hard right now coming in and being the new guy and being lost and not knowing where to go. But it’ll be fun. It’s exciting. It’s kind of out of the comfort zone again, which is kind of what you want right now – to be uncomfortable. I don’t know, I’ve missed this feeling a little bit, so it’ll be good.”

It was a slow offseason for the second baseman, but the second baseman said that he was weighing offers from several teams. Opportunity and organizational direction dictated most of his decision-making, but Kipnis admitted that the forces around him were all, rather unsubtly, pulling him in one direction.

“They were telling me to take a deal, take a cut, whatever. Just get here,” he joked. “... It made sense, it really did. I think I didn't fully understand it until it was announced and my phone started blowing up and I realized just how many people this impacted around my life. Friends and family still live in Chicago, so it’s going to be exciting.”

The theme of renewed motivation has hung around Sloan Park like an early-morning Arizona chill, and Kipnis said part of the reason he feels the Cubs brought him in is to set a fire under some guys. He talked with Anthony Rizzo during the offseason, who talked about how the Cubs had struggled at times to put an appropriate emphasis on each of the 162 games in a regular season. That’s not a new problem in baseball, and it struck a chord with Kipnis, who himself was on plenty of talented Cleveland teams that never got over the hump. 

“They got a good core here. I’m well aware of that, they’re well aware of that, too,” he said. “I texted him and called him and asked him what happened last year, because I look at rosters, I look at St. Louis’, I look at all that, and I’m like, ‘I still would take your guys roster.’” 

As for his direct competition, Kipnis said he hasn’t had a chance to really get to know Nico Hoerner yet, but doesn’t feel like the battle for second base has to be a contentious one by any means. At 32, Kipnis has been around long enough to understand the dynamics an aging veteran vs. a top prospect, and doesn't feel like it’s a situation where only one of them will end up benefiting. 

“I know he came up and had a pretty good success, so I think [it’s] going to be a competition, but at the same time, I’m not going to try to put him down,” he said. “I’d like to work with him, kind of teach him what I know too and hopefully both of us become better from it.” 

According to Javy Baez, the Cubs need to improve their pregame focus

According to Javy Baez, the Cubs need to improve their pregame focus

While the Cubs’ decline has been talked about over and over again, it’s always been framed in relatively vague terms. Perhaps in the interest of protecting a former manager who is still well-liked within the clubhouse, specifics were always avoided. It was just a change that was needed.

That is, until Javy Baez spoke on Sunday morning. In no unclear terms, Baez took a stab at explaining why such a talented team has fallen short of expectations in back-to-back seasons. 

“It wasn’t something bad, but we had a lot of options – not mandatory,” Baez said from his locker at Sloan Park. “Everybody kind of sat back, including me, because I wasn’t really going out there and preparing for the game. I was getting ready during the game, which is not good. But this year, I think before the games we’ve all got to be out there, everybody out there, as a team. Stretch as a team, be together as a team so we can play together.”

Related: What to love, and hate, about the Cubs heading into 2020

The star shortstop's comments certainly track. Maddon is widely considered one of the better managers in baseball, but discipline and structure have never been key pillars of his leadership style. He intrinsically trusts players to get their own work done – something that's clearly an appreciated aspect of his personality... until it isn't. World Series hangovers don’t exist four years after the fact but given Maddon’s immediate success in Chicago, it’s easy to understand how players let off the gas pedal. 

“I mean I would just get to the field and instead of going outside and hit BP, I would do everything inside, which is not the same,” he said. “Once I’d go out to the game, I’d feel like l wasn’t ready. I felt like I was getting loose during the first 4 innings, and I should be ready and excited to get out before the first pitch.” 

“You can lose the game in the first inning. Sometimes when you’re not ready, and the other team scores by something simple, I feel like it was because of that. It was because we weren’t ready, we weren’t ready to throw the first pitch because nobody was loose.” 

Baez also promised that this year would be far more organized and rigid. They will stretch as a team, warm up outside as a team and hopefully rediscover that early-game focus that may have slipped away during the extended victory lap. That may mean less giant hacks, too. 

“Sometimes we’re up by a lot or down by a lot and we wanted to hit homers,” he said. “That’s really not going to work for the team. It’s about getting on base and giving the at-bat to the next guy, and sometimes we forget about that because of the situation of the game. I think that’s the way you get back to the game – going pitch by pitch and at-bat by at-bat.” 

Baez was less specific when it came to his contractual discussions with the team, only saying that negotiations were “up and down.” He’d like to play his whole career here and would be grateful if an extension was reached before Opening Day – he’s just not counting on it. The focus right now is on recapturing some of that 2016 drive and the rest, according to him, will take care of itself.

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