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Random News: Worst holiday gifts for the sports fan

Random News: Worst holiday gifts for the sports fan

Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010
9:18 AM

By Joe Collins
CSNChicago.com

You might not know this, but you're a pretty good actor. You can play happy person when your natural instincts call for sarcastic humor with a slice of anger and embarrassment. Just flashback to the last time you opened a really lame present.

Take the following scene: you're exchanging gifts at a family party. You select a present. You rip off the wrapping paper and take a look inside. It's a pair of socks.

A Green Bay Packers pair of socks.

You: (pinching your fingers, forcing a smile, twitching slightly, trying to be nice) "Y-y-yeah! It's great! I can put it to good use!"

Your Sarcastic Thoughts: "Yeah...as exhibit A in a restraining order case in the near future."

The Gift-Giver: "Oh yeah! I thought you might like that! I heard you like sports!"

You: (shaking your head incredulously) "That indeed."

Your Sarcastic Thoughts: "That's it. I'm moving in with the Kardashians. I'm out. Every year it's something different with this bunch."

The holiday season brings out the best acting skills in all of us. We gut out conversations with people we see once a year. We compliment the chef whose food may or may not have a hair in it. We try to play the nice guy. We try to not embarrass people. We don't want to hurt anyone in the season of hope, joy and giving. We try to shake off bad Christmas presents. The gift might be a waste, but we don't want burn bridges in case the person actually comes through with a fairly decent one down the line, you know?

But there shouldn't be the need to act in the first place. It's time to take a stand.

It's always better to give than receive this time of year, right? So if we're going to go all-out in giving, we need to start doing it correctly. I have come up with a list of the worst possible gifts you can give to a sports fan. It's a list that's sure to turn one's stomach and serve as a breeding ground for horrible flashbacks to Aunt Shirley's X-Treme X-Mas party back in 2002 (or whatever). But through pain does come pleasure. Take notes. And don't be "that guy" or "that girl" that serves up the following:

A Personalized Jersey: I went to a game at Cubs-Mets game at Shea Stadium a while back and sat a few rows behind a guy that had "Szczepanski" and a 21 on his road Cubs jersey. The Mets fans had a field day with it: "My Sosa...how you've changed!" "Hey Pat...I'd like to buy a vowel!" "I bet you spent more on that jersey than on your flight." "Tell your Mommy to stop sending you out in bad clothing." And so on. Nonstop. For nine innings. But don't blame the long last name or opportunistic Mets fans. Blame the moronic idea of personalized jerseys. They're the equivalent of having your name printed on your lunch box in 3rd grade. They both will leave you hurt mentally (and physically in, say, Oakland).
A Team Logo-ed Tie: This is where having a girlfriend should...should...come in handy. No girl in their right mind would let their guy wear a tie like this in public. And if you're a guy that sneaks out of the house with a tie like that? You know what-- good for you. You have no shame. Nice job with being your own independent self. It's admirable. But take note: if you're closing down a bar at 2:45am, and it's down to you and that guy over there battling to get that girl's phone number, you will eventually need the tie to wipe away your tears. You have no shot.

Cologne Endorsed By An Athlete: I was one of the biggest Michael Jordan fans growing up. I got his shoes, hung up his posters, watched every game and screamed like crazy when he would go for 50 at the old Madhouse on Madison. He is, and will always be, the man. But my Mom and Dad got the idea that, since I was a fan of MJ, I would be a fan of his cologne. Not exactly. No offense Mike, but the Michael Jordan cologne smells like a combination or kerosene, Preferred Stock and a tequila bar in Cabo on New Year's morning.

Bad Sports Movies On DVD: If you're a sports fan, you need to be careful when you talk about your likes and dislikes around others. See, a lot of guys like sports, movies and comedy. But a lot of gift-givers screw up and think that all three of these can be combined into one can't-miss present:

You: "Oh wow! You got me...Caddyshack 2!

Gift Giver: "Yeah! I thought you'd like that! I figured since you love golf and already own the original Caddyshack, it would be perfect!"

Not exactly. Friends don't let friends watch two hours of failure (even most Clippers fans). Other sports movies not to give as presents this holiday season: Rocky V, Angels In The Outfield, The Fan, Any Given Sunday, The Babe, Juwanna Man, Major League: Back To The Minors, Slap Shot 2, Like Mike, Kazaam, Ed and Teen Wolf Too.

An Autographed PhotoBaseball CardBallJersey Of Someone You Don't Cheer For: Here's another rule-- any time you hear a person repeat the kind of gift they're opening, it's usually a sign that you goofed up. For instance if someone says to you, "Oh wow...you got me an autographed picture of Hakim Warrick! Nice!", you're in trouble. Hey-- just because you got a killer deal on eBay doesn't make you a hero on Christmas morning. Do some homework.

Bad sports gift honorable mentions include: socks of rival teams, socks of your favorite team, socks...period, random team-sponsored paraphernalia (plastic lawn ornaments, air fresheners, seat covers, floor mats, orthodontia..etc), tickets for teams you don't cheer for, any sports-themed Christmas ornament, any Jock Jams CD or any sports-themed underwear.

Good ideas for the sports fan in your life? How about high-def television? Or a recliner chair? Tickets to the Super Bowl? OK, OK, let's not get crazy here. But seriously, even something simple like a gift-card to an all-you-can-eat wingsburger joint on football Sunday would do the trick. All it takes is a little research-- without going overboard. Sports fans are simple but we're slightly more fickle than you might think. We love our sports but we won't know what to do with a Macho Man Randy Savage lunch box. And we don't want to waste time regifting or putting things on Craigslist.

And we'd rather keep our acting skills at bay.

(Wait hold on a second...I know people that would like a Macho Man Randy Savage lunch box. A lot of people.)

Or something like that.

After loss to Patriots, Bears' defense searching for answers — but not confidence

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USA Today

After loss to Patriots, Bears' defense searching for answers — but not confidence

A year ago, had the Bears come within one yard of tying the New England Patriots in a game in which they allowed two special teams touchdowns, the vibe in the Solider Field locker room might’ve been different. Sort of like, hey, that was pretty good that we were able to hang with one of the league's best teams and nearly tie and/or beat them despite our own mistakes. 

The operative term, then, after Sunday’s 38-31 loss to the Patriots may be confident frustration. The Bears know they’re a good team, better than they’ve had in recent memory. And that makes losing a game this team felt it was close to winning that much more frustrating. 

“We still had confidence last year that we could go in and win games (last year), but I would say this year we know what type of team we have,” defensive lineman Akiem Hicks said. “We know we got a quarterback that’s developing and throwing the ball down the field really well. We know we have a great wide receiver corps. We know we have rushers that can get to the quarterback. We have a really good team and we’re going to have to figure out how to capitalize on that big play momentum and finish games out.”

Perhaps this is a picture of a talented team still trying to figure out how to win. The Bears’ defense entered Sunday allowing an average of 8.8 yards per play in the fourth quarter and allowed 6.5 yards per play in the final 15 minutes Sunday, including a critical 96-yard touchdown drive. 

And while Mitch Trubisky’s Hail Mary to Kevin White came up one yard short, that the Bears were even in that situation to begin with was the problem. New England was able to chew up 3:49 off the clock before punting the ball back to the Bears' offense with 24 seconds remaining. Get a stop earlier and the Bears might not have to rely on a nearly-converted heave with time expiring to tie the game. 

“In games like this, your room for error is slim in all phases,” cornerback Kyle Fuller said. “No matter what we did (well), there are still a couple things that we have to clean up against a team like that."

The Bears’ defense is remaining confident despite scant pressure on Brady — he was sacked once (by Roquan Smith) and hit only three times (by Smith, Bilal Nichols and Roy Robertson-Harris). Khalil Mack barely showed up on the stat sheet, registering only one tackle while being dropped into coverage far more frequently than he made an impact as a pass rusher. How much he was affected by his injured ankle, or how much defensive coordinator Vic Fangio felt he had to gameplan around it, is unclear (Mack did not speak to the media following the game). 

Leonard Floyd, too, was picked on by Brady, who frequently got the ball out quick in a successful effort to mitigate a pass rush that’s struggled to make an impact after recording 18 sacks in four games to begin the year. But the confidence is still there, despite seemingly few reasons for optimism since the second half in Miami kicked off last weekend. 

“We definitely don’t feel like (we’ve hit a wall),” safety Eddie Jackson said. “That’s probably the greatest quarterback in the NFL right now. We just gotta come in, we left some things on the field, we left some plays on the field. Like I said, it’s tough trying to put this one behind you but, you know, it’s a long season. We’re not getting down on ourselves, we’re still going to play with confidence. That confidence is still there.” 

Games against two of the league’s worst offenses in the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills, then, should help the Bears’ defensive production match its confidence, if that line of thinking is to be believed. But as the first four games of the season get farther and farther in the rearview mirror, this is a defense that has to prove itself again in the coming weeks. 

“(The Patriots) came to play all together, and not saying we didn’t but we didn’t make the plays when we needed to make the plays,” outside linebacker Aaron Lynch said. “It’s on us. Defense, we got it though. We’re not worried about it. It’s another game we lost. We got how many other games, we got 10 games left? Yeah. I’m not worried about it. I don’t think anybody is.”

New-look Mavs looking to make big jump this season

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USA TODAY

New-look Mavs looking to make big jump this season

Outspoken Dallas Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban conceded his team was playing for draft lottery position last season, but insisted it would be a one year only strategy.

Dallas finished tied for the league’s third worst record, but fell to fifth after the lottery.

So, Cuban and the Mavs’ front office decided to make a bold move on draft night, trading their 2019 first round pick to Atlanta to move up two spots for a chance to select international sensation Luka Doncic.

Early in the season, Doncic has more than lived up to the hype, showing the creativity and flair that made him such a fan favorite on the European professional circuit. Through the Mavs’ first two games, Doncic is averaging 18 points, 7 rebounds and 3.5 assists while giving Rick Carlisle’s team a much-needed boost in transition.

Doncic and second-year guard Dennis Smith Jr. will give opposing teams nightmares in the open court all season long. They led the offensive onslaught in the Mavs’ 140-136 win over Dallas Saturday night, combining for 45 points. Doncic finished with 26 points, while Smith scored 10 of his 19 in the 4th quarter, including a tie-breaking three-point play with six seconds left.

Veteran swing-man Wesley Matthews added 19 against the Timberwolves, and his 3 point shooting helps the Mavs maintain floor balance in half-court sets.

The Mavs also strengthened their front court in the off-season, signing veteran center DeAndre Jordan in free agency. Dallas was overmatched in the middle last season, with future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki and Dwight Powell giving up size in the post, but Jordan will provide rim protection and an alley-oop threat when Doncic, Smith Jr. or veteran point guard J.J. Barea drive to the basket. Jordan had a big game in the home opening win over Minnesota, scoring 22 points, pulling down 10 rebounds and blocking 5 shots.

Nowitzki, starting small forward Harrison Barnes and backup guard Devin Harris all missed Saturday’s game because of injuries, but Barnes and Harris are considered game-time decisions against the Bulls.

Here’s what the Bulls will need to do to get their first victory of the season Monday night.

1. GET BACK ON DEFENSE! Doncic and Smith Jr. are deadly in the open court, capable of making spectacular plays to bring the home crowd to life. The Bulls’ players have to sprint back on defense after missed shots to cut off transition opportunities, or it’s going to be a long night. The Mavs are averaging 128 points through the first two games.

2. CLOSE OUT ON 3-POINT SHOOTERS This will be a familiar theme in my keys until the Bulls start doing a better job of matching up in transition and closing out on three point threats. Detroit’s win at the United Center on Saturday came down to the Pistons’ 18-40 shooting from three-point range, and Dallas has even more players capable of doing damage from beyond the arc.

3. LET DUNN DO IT Getting Kris Dunn back from paternity leave should make a big difference on both ends of the court. Dunn has the athleticism and physicality to match up with either Doncic or Smith Jr., and his defensive skills will be critical in keeping the Mavs from turning this game into a track meet.

On the offensive end, Dunn need to be patient and get the ball into the hands of the Bulls’ top scorers, Zach LaVine and Bobby Portis. Even though Fred Hoiberg wants his team to play at a fast pace, they’ll need to pick their spots on when to run against the explosive Mavs.

As always, turn to NBC Sports Chicago for the very best pre and post-game coverage. Kendall Gill and Will Perdue join me for Bulls Pregame Live at 7 p.m/, and we’ll have expanded post-game analysis when the action goes final in Dallas. You can also stream the shows live on the brand new My Teams by NBC Sports app.