Bears

The Show Always Goes On

The Show Always Goes On

Friday, Feb. 19, 2010
9:40AM

So much for my excitement about the start of the Olympics. I dont know why I forgot that these are the Corporate Games. You would have thought the failed Chicago 2016 bid would have taught me that, but again something happens that makes me shake my head. In fact, its more than that the shenanigans of the failed bid did not result in the loss of life of an Olympic competitor. I cant get the image of Nodar Kumaritashvili out of my mind. My hope was to watch and learn about new champions bringing glory to their countries. Instead what Im left with is a sense of sadness over lost life and appalled at what levels the powers to be of the Olympics will stoop to.

As I wrote here last week, I along with most others, only pay attention to most of the sports being played at these games for two weeks every four years. But even I knew of the dangers of the Whistler Sliding Center for years. I would read about how it was the fastest track in the world and taking speeds to unthinkable of levels. All the while I wouldnt give these statements a second glance, assuming it was all a part of the natural progression of any sport that measures speed. (In the center's website, it is promoted as being, Vivid, violent and rough, not for the faint of heart.)

Was it natural? Or was it part of a master plan to increase revenue? What better way to sell than to increase the level of danger? The viewing public gets bored if its the same old, same old. Lets see where the edge is! The events leading to Kumaritashvilis untimely demise where all laid together in a perfect storm of, unfortunately, finding that edge. My hope was to watch and learn about new champions bringing glory to their countries.-- Frankie-O on video of Kumaritashvili's death.

In trying to find a location for the luge and bobsled track for the 2010 Vancouver Games, a site was found in upper altitudes that would afford proper temperatures and a location that would be tourist friendly. This track would be financially viable long after the games. But in choosing the site specifically, the tract of land was more vertical and narrow than any before. Usually these courses arent laid out on the same mountains as the alpine events; too steep. But thats where the tourists are, so why not? Then in a move to amp it up it was laid out in a space that was 100 yards wide. (In Calgary, for example, the track was laid out on a space that was 300 yards wide and Salt Lake City had a course that was 500 yards.) Im no physics major, but Im guessing if you put a luge track on a mountain thats very steep, then squeeze it extra tight, things going down are going to do so VERY FAST! After her practice run last Thursday, a day before Kumaritashvilis fatal last ride, Australian Hannah Campbell-Pegg was quoted, To what extent are we just little lemmings that they throw down a track and were crash test dummies? Given the fact of how Im sure none of these competitors want to let anyone know that they have any fear, I find that statement remarkably chilling. In fact, there where many statements like this, from many people, for years. Kumaritashvili himself admitted to being terrified of the course.

But at this point it was not going to change anything. The design of the course was there for a reason, so was the access to it or should I say lack of it. As Ive read many articles on this tragedy, I learned about the Canadian quest to Own the Podium. This is because they had the stigma of being the only host country of the Olympics to not have a gold medal winner during their games, and they had done it TWICE! This was not going to happen again. Much of what I read had to do with how, with limited runs down this monster track for international competitors, the Canadians with literally ten times the amount of practice, would have a considerable advantage over everyone else. With a track that has no room for error, you have to wonder if this had any effect.(Safety over winning?)

Then, as always, when there is a tragic occurrence of this magnitude, the blame game starts. Should there be any surprise? There are tickets to be sold and money to be made. Are we going to shut this thing down? It would be THE story. We cant have an accident cast a pall over our two-week corporate cash grab. The IOC and VANOC disassociated themselves right away. Each sport was under the governance of its own body. The International Luge Federation wont talk to anyone, (they must be grief stricken). The designers, very respected, were only building what they were asked to. In fact there were two sets of builders, so the track designers and builders had nothing to do with the support poles to the stands and roofs. So it was no wonder, after their thorough ten minute review, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police deemed there was no design flaw or that excessive speed played no role. What happened was an accident therefore there was no one to blame. Well, there was someone. The international governing body that was responsible for luge events wasnt talking to anyone, but they did issue a statement that placed the blame on someone besides themselves. The athlete came late out of curve 15 and did not properly compensate to make correct entrance into curve 16. There was no indication that the accident was caused by deficiencies in the track.

My question here is, if youre saying that he was a bad rider, one who was liable to make a mistake, making sure that it was known that he ranked 55th and 44th in the world the last two years, why was he allowed on such a high level course? Why wasnt he allowed more access and practice time? Shouldnt he have been required to master it at lower levels first? Isnt that what governing bodies are for? To protect the sport and those who partake in it? Also, if there was nothing wrong with the track, why was there a new wall put up as an extension of curve 16? Why where the luge events of these games moved down to lower staring points on the course, dropping speeds by a whopping 5 mph? Doesnt that make it seem like something could have been done BEFORE to prevent this?

I know Ill drive myself crazy trying to figure this out and hoping that something like it will not happen again. But I know thats not how the world works and for a lot of people this event will be forgotten as soon as the games are over,(if not sooner.) In life its about moving on and moving towards the future, not dwelling on the past. But the parent in me cant help but think what pain his parents are feeling at this moment. I agree life is about the future, the future of our children. Unfortunately, one of those children wont be here to see it, and that will be my image of these games no matter what else is done or said. Rest in peace Nodar.

Bears hire Deshea Townsend as defensive backs coach

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USA Today

Bears hire Deshea Townsend as defensive backs coach

The Bears unveiled their first assistant coach hiring since bringing aboard Chuck Pagano as their defensive coordinator, with Matt Nagy announcing the addition of Deshea Townsend as defensive backs coach on Friday. 

Townsend, a former cornerback and 13-year NFL veteran, had previous coaching stops with the New York Giants (assistant defensive backs coach, 2018), Tennessee Titans (secondary coach, 2016-2017), Mississippi State (cornerbacks, 2013-2015) and Arizona Cardinals (assistant defensive backs, 2011-2012). 

Townsend finished his career with 21 interceptions, 15 1/2 sacks and 112 passes defended in 191 games spent primarily with the Pittsburgh Steelers (1998-2009) and Indianapolis Colts (2010). 

Rumors swirled for the last week about the Bears’ potential interest in hiring future Hall of Famer Ed Reed as a defensive backs coach under Pagano, who coached him in college at Miami and in the NFL with the Baltimore Ravens. Pagano and Reed are coaching together at the NFLPA Bowl this week.

The Bears appear to have retained defensive line coach Jay Rodgers, while the team announced Ronell Williams was hired on Friday as a defensive quality control coach, a position previously held by Sean Desai.

Add Wendell Carter to list of unknowns that define the 2019 Bulls

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USA TODAY

Add Wendell Carter to list of unknowns that define the 2019 Bulls

The 2018-19 season was supposed to begin bringing answers to the Bulls’ rebuild. A healthy offseason for Zach LaVine, head coaching stability for Kris Dunn and a gym membership that Lauri Markkanen clearly made the most of was the lead-up to expectations of progress – if not a few more wins – in Year 2 since dealing Jimmy Butler on the night of the 2017 NBA Draft.

It was also the unwrapping of rookie Wendell Carter Jr. The Bulls selected the Duke center as a high-floor prospect, someone who could help complement Markkanen’s shortcomings, fill an immediate need and provide an anchor to a Bulls defense that had ranked 28th in efficiency the previous season.

Four months after a promising offseason the Bulls are 10-35, the second worst record in the NBA behind the post-LeBron-depleted, Kevin Love-less Cavaliers. Even the most ardent supporters of tanking must be at least somewhat concerned that the team has shown little growth under both Fred Hoiberg and, more recently, Jim Boylen. The Bulls really don’t know what they have outside of a volume scorer in Zach LaVine, a uniquely built Lauri Markkanen and a plus defender in Dunn.

And after news broke Friday, that Carter will miss the next 8 to 12 weeks – and presumably the rest of the season – after undergoing surgery on a sprained thumb, he can be added to the list of unknowns that is defining a lost season.

Carter had his bright spots to be sure – he finishes his rookie campaign averaging 7.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks – and despite his smaller build for an NBA center, proved he can anchor a unit. It’s unfair to dig in to his numbers too much considering he spent the majority of his minutes alongside Bobby Portis, Markkanen and Jabari Parker, who aren’t exactly Serge Ibaka replicas. The Bulls’ defensive efficiency was almost identical when Carter was on the floor (115.7) as it was when he was off it (115.6).

He was a fearless shot blocker – ask Russell Westbrook – with exceptional footwork for a 7-footer (and 19-year-old) who didn’t back down in a starting role while facing Joel Embiid, Andre Drummond and DeAndre Jordan in the first week of his NBA career (he also faced Anthony Davis and Nikola Jokic in the preseason).

He was an above-average pick-and-roll scorer, showing off some chemistry with Zach LaVine the last few weeks that was clearly built up in the early part of the season when LaVine was a usage monster and Carter was being asked to be a second or third scorer.

That was the good. Carter also had a serious fouling problem, tied for fifth in the NBA in personal fouls per game (3.5) despite playing just 25.5 minutes a night. Those numbers had thankfully dropped off some in January, as he averaged only 2.6 fouls per game after averaging 3.8 in 29 games over November and December.

He had his offensive limitations but was working through them. Though he was featured less as a distributor out of the high post once Boylen took over, Carter showed a soft touch around the rim, averaging a team-best 66 percent from shots inside 5 feet; to put that number in perspective, Deandre Ayton and Jaren Jackson Jr. were at 71 and 70 percent, respectively.

The 3-point shot we believed would be part of his game never came to fruition. He was asked to do more offensively under Hoiberg because of the injuries, but he still averaged twice the 3-point attempts (1.0) as he has under Boylen (0.4). Then again, he connected on just 18.8 percent of his 32 triples.

That’s where the final 37 games really would have helped Carter. Boylen has shown some open-mindedness toward pushing pace and allowing his young core full of athletes to play at the style they’re most comfortable in. Carter would have been part of that.

There’s also been plenty of discussion about the time Markkanen, LaVine and Dunn have spent together on the court. Their net rating is a ghastly -20.3, no real leader has taken over among the three and there has been little progress as a collective group.

But Carter is part of that, too. It’s easy to lump the three together because they were the return for Butler in 2016, but the Duke product is just as much of the core as Markkanen and LaVine are. This was a critical period for Carter to play in pick-and-roll action with Dunn, and learn defensive tendencies playing alongside Markkanen. Instead, Carter finishes his rookie campaign playing just 312 minutes with Dunn and Markkanen on the court together.

It’s tough to truly give Carter’s rookie season a grade. Markkanen set the bar high for expectations from the No. 7 pick, and Carter gave us a handful of “wow” moments. There’s no reason to believe he won’t continue to progress and turn into the center of the future. He wasn’t going to post the raw numbers Markkanen did, and while the Bulls expect big things from him he was clearly low on the seniority totem pole behind LaVine, Markkanen and Dunn.

Now, like so many of the Bulls’ key figures in this rebuild, we’ll wait and see what happens. Even if Carter does return at the tail end of the season to give him some momentum, it won’t make up for the 12 weeks he’ll miss – both in game action and in practice. His rookie season ends as an unknown, much like it’s been in every facet of the Bulls’ season.