Blackhawks

Santo's life was full of passion

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Santo's life was full of passion

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

I could have made a lot of money this week, if I could have found someone to take a prop bet. It would have been easy. I had no doubt in my mind, that in the first election after his passing, Ron Santo would be elected to the Hall of Fame. Honestly, did you expect he wouldnt? Its just another chapter in his incredible journey that makes you want to laugh and cry at the same time. If you Google bittersweet, the first ten pages are Santo entries.

When I wrote about his death a year and one day ago, it was done so with a heavy heart and a sense of anger and disappointment that he left while still being denied something that he justly deserved and wanted so much. Validation. Especially from his peers. (At least they would understand better than writers, right?) Even at my advanced age, I did not see most of his career. As a young Phillies fan though, I knew most of the stars on the other Major League teams as I began my baseball obsession and he was one of them.

I could spend thousands of words here arguing on his behalf, but most of that would be statistical analysis on my part. That is where Hall of Fame considerations can become skewed. They are not a complete measure. Especially since baseball is considered a game of nuance, in which a connoisseur can see, and understand, more. In that regard there is the new Sabermetric tool known as WAR. (Wins against replacement) It measures the amount of wins a player is worth over a player coming up to replace him. (Dont ask!) It is a very popular tool used by many front offices in the bigs, including a certain group that has taken over the Northside. According to Baseball Reference.com, Santos career is worth 105 on their all-time list. There are currently 234 players enshrined in Cooperstown. You do the math!

Again though, to get lost in the numbers is to miss the point. Ronnie was more than that. He meant more than that. His being on this earth each day was a credit to his determination to live a life to its fullest, let alone to play a game. I still cannot fathom what it must have been like for him to be an athlete with diabetes. And doing it in a time when his maintenance was so primitive compared to today. Also primitive were the attitudes towards those with a disease, thus him having to hide it so long, for fear of not being able to play. What a burden to have to shoulder, every single day. My feelings are that having had conversations with doctors about the reality of his situation led to his unbridled enthusiasm towards life.

This is where Ron Santo has touched so many. His was a life full of passion. He shared that passion with anyone who cared to pay attention. So often we think we know what we see, but it isnt until we are able to go a little further that we can truly understand. Ive always imagined that leading a public life could be a bit of a pain. You cant escape anywhere. Everyone is watching. Ronnie was able to use this to the benefit of countless others. It was hard to be a baseball fan, and not know of his health issues as he got older. Also you knew that he was relentless in finding funding for JDRF. (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) Finding a cure for any disease takes money, a lot of money. But its also those going through it, to share with those that come after them, to provide hope and inspiration. As the father of a child with a rare illness, Im acutely aware of how unbelievably invaluable that behavior is. When you discover that something is wrong with your child, it can feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, winning the battle to drive you into the ground. But having someone who has been there, to share what your path forward is, and that it is difficult, but doable, is a godsend. I can only imagine how many families he has touched in a positive way with his time and candor. For that alone I am in awe of what he has done for diabetes awareness and JDRF.

Once again this week, I watched This Old Cub, the documentary on his life made by his son Jeff. The story weaves through his life up to the year 2003. It is a compelling portrait. The rawness of the video showing what he went through to walk as a double-amputee is as riveting as it is uncomfortable to watch. Almost as uncomfortable, was to watch as he received a phone call he didnt want to receive, one telling him he didnt make the Hall. But through it all is a view into the determined heart and soul of a winner. He doesnt whine or complain. He just does what he has to do and keeps on moving. His family is so fortunate to have such a heart-felt interpretation of him that will last forever. Included in that is his grandson. Their scenes together were nothing but love and joy. (It was great watching Ronnie combing the little ones hair, think he was jealous?)

So while I, like MILLIONS of others, am so disappointed that I wont get to hear his acceptance speech, Im not going to let it get me down. He showed me thats not an option. Im going to smile knowing that even after he is gone, hes providing his family, friends and fans with an opportunity to thank him for his lasting impact. In the end isnt that what matters most? That your time helped others, that you made this a better place? Its only fitting that from now on any reference to his name will be preceded by the moniker Hall of Famer. Because you know, where he is now, hes already been inducted.

It reminds me of the scene in Field of Dreams where Doc Graham has no interest in going to a place where dreams come true. Hes comfortable, and accepting, of what life gave him. An unbelieving Ray doesnt comprehend how a man could not want go back and get a second chance at his dream. Doc, like Ronnie, understood he served a different purpose. While undeniable is the pain that he didnt get to live a day as a Hall of Famer, dont consider that part of his life as tragic. If he hadnt been there to provide the positive inspiration he was, for so many people who needed it, now that would have been tragic. There are 234 (235!) Hall of Famers, but there was, and will be, only one Ron Santo.

R.I.P. Hall of Famer!!

Patrick Sharp hitting his stride in Year 2 as broadcaster

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NBC Sports Chicago

Patrick Sharp hitting his stride in Year 2 as broadcaster

The NHL’s best players competing against each other will be a familiar sight for Patrick Sharp, who will work his first All-Star Game as a broadcaster this weekend in St. Louis. 

The three-time Stanley Cup champ with the Blackhawks was the MVP of 2011’s All-Star contest with a goal and two assists. 

Less than two years after hanging up his skates, Sharp's transition from player to television analyst has been as seamless as everyone expected. In addition to the look and the experience, the 2014 Olympic gold medalist has been a student of his new game behind the scenes.

"I feel a little more settled," said Sharp, who can be seen Friday and Saturday on NBC Sports and NBC covering the NHL All-Star festivities. "Just trying to improve and get better at the job. It's just like playing in the NHL, the first year you ask a lot of questions and you learn as much as you can from the people that have done it before you and that are really good at it. Going into Year 2, nothing really changes; you just want to continue to get better. 

"I love following hockey and watching games; it makes the job a little bit easier. I don't think I'll ever get fully comfortable on television, but it's been fun and a good transition for me from playing the game." 

The 38-year-old’s bountiful in-depth insight during game broadcasts has come as no surprise to those who know him.

"Sharpie looks like he's really found a career," said Patrick Kane, who often shoots his former teammate a text after catching him on TV. "He does a really good job and he's easy to listen to. He knows who he's talking about, he has really good information. 

"It almost to me sounds like you're just talking to him, like me just having a conversation with him about hockey. He does a really good job of explaining the information and I think he's done pretty well at it."

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews regularly watches his former alternate captain’s commentary as well.

"I think the way he studied the game, the way he understood the game, he obviously has a lot of passion for it," Toews said of Sharp as a player. "I think it's great that our sport has someone like him with his talent level and his career so soon after his playing days to go out there and talk about it and relate some things to the fans that a lot of people, even myself, wouldn't even recognize.

"He does a great job. I think he's more than poised up there too.”

The fact that the former Hawks forward looks like he’d have no trouble skating in today’s NHL adds to his on-air presentation.

“He's still pretty jacked, I'm assuming,” Alex DeBrincat said. “He hasn't gained any weight. You'd assume after your career you'd let go a little bit, but doesn't look like he has.”

“The thing about Sharpie was he was always one of the top-five guys in fitness testing, he was always in great shape,” Kane said. “He was strong, a powerful skater, had a good shot, was able to shoot it pretty good.

"It felt like he could still play. It was just kind of like the opportunity and if he wanted to travel, move his family; so, I wouldn't have been surprised if he kept playing and was successful too.” 

Some of Sharp’s former teammates knew the transition was inevitable.

“Guys that wanted to chirp and make fun of him said he couldn't get there soon enough, he loves the camera,” Toews said with a chuckle. 

Others saw a different path for No. 10. 

“I don't know if we really expected him to do that to be honest with you,” Kane said. “I thought maybe he'd be trying to get in with the team somewhere whether it was scouting or trying to get into the front office. I could see him doing that even to this day. 

“Maybe that's a stepping stone for him maybe in the future. I wouldn't be surprised to see him in the front office at some point because I think he's pretty good at scouting players and knowing a lot about the league too.” 

For Sharp, nothing can compare to the rush of playing in front of a sold-out United Center crowd, but the feeling right before going live on the air comes close. 

“I love it,” the Winnipeg native said. “It's very similar [to playing]. I love having the earpiece in and hearing our producer tell us that we're on in '10 ... 9 ... 8 . . .' Hearing the countdown kind of gives you that adrenaline feeling, the butterflies that you used to get as a player right before the first shift of a game. 

“I kind of miss that stress and anxiety of being a player and putting pressure on myself. I can't really think of too many other things in the game that bring that to us, so this is maybe a close second.”

Despite another career in the game, the four-time 30-plus goal-scorer with the Hawks still goes through what a lot of players do after they exit the ice. 

“The struggles of hanging up the skates and then trying to figure out what's next, I kind of went through that myself, still going through it,” Sharp said. “I miss the game every day. 

“I love being a part of NBC, but there's nothing that's going to replace being a professional hockey player and that's something that I did my entire adult life. I'm thankful that I've got an opportunity to continue working and be in the game, but at the same time I've had struggles just like every other former player. I want to keep my mind occupied and try to fill that void of playing hockey as best I can.”

Sharp joins NBC Sports’ national broadcast team every other week for a Tuesday or Wednesday game during the regular season. He’s frequently an analyst for Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago and come the postseason he’ll be on the national broadcasts full-time.

Whether he’s on TV in Chicago or nationally, Sharp prepares the same way.

“I think when I do more prep, that's when I struggle on the air,” he said. “I feel like I do enough prep just by being the same hockey guy that I've been my entire life. I watch the games, I stay involved, I talk to some players that are still playing that are friends of mine. 

“I don't look at it as doing research and preparation; I just love the game and love being around it and watching different players and teams play. I feel like when I fill my head with stats and things that I want to say on the air, it never comes out quite the way I want it to. So my approach now is just stay on top of the league as best I can and let's go out there on TV and just have a conversation and talk some hockey.”

Patrick had plenty of opportunities to talk hockey and get in front of the camera while with the Blackhawks, which made the transition that much easier.

“I think playing for the Blackhawks all those years we had so many opportunities to do different things with the media. Whether it was those Winter Classic games, we had the cameras following us around every year it seemed for a month of the season; training camp was always answering questions and making up videos,” Sharp said.

“The preparation that I got with the Blackhawks, being a Blackhawk player, it prepared me for life in the media post-hockey. My last game was on a Saturday and I took the week and I had an opportunity to come in and talk with NBC on the following Monday and I did it and I'm glad I did because it's been a fun experience and I like working with that team at NBC.”

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device. 

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Discussing 2020 White Sox expectations

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Discussing 2020 White Sox expectations

SportsTalk Live is on location at McCormick Place to preview SoxFest 2020. Chuck Garfien and David Haugh join David Kaplan on the panel.

0:00 - White Sox manager Rick Renteria joins the guys to talk about the team's big offseason and the expectations for the 2020 season. He also talks about how the team with handle Michael Kopech (4:00) and what Dallas Keuchel brings to the rotation. (6:00) Plus, he explains how guys who turned the corner in 2019 like Lucas Giolito and Yoan Moncada can stay hot in 2020. (15:00)

17:00 - Steve Stone joins the guys to explain how the White Sox rebuild is going according to plan despite not landing one of the top free agents this winter. Plus, he updates his Twitter follower battle with Jason Benetti (23:00) and talks about how he would handle Michael Kopech's return. (25:30)

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below: