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« October 2009 | Main | December 2009 »

November 30, 2009

The [Monday] Papers

By Steve Rhodes

A few interesting additional facts for the Chicago Bears to think about when contemplating how much better the Minnesota Vikings are:

* The Vikings' Vice President of Player Personnel is Rick Spielman, who was the Bears' personnel director from 1997 to 1999.

From Wikipedia: "Spielman has overseen three drafts in Minnesota. His most notable draftees include Adrian Peterson in 2007 Tyrell Johnson in 2008 and Percy Harvin in 2009. The draft aside, Spielman is best known for the free agency splash the Vikings made in 2008, when they signed Bernard Berrian and Madieu Williams to big contracts and traded a first round and two third round picks to the Kansas City Chiefs for pro-bowl defensive end, Jared Allen, and finally in 2009 when the Vikings came to terms with long time Green Bay Packer Brett Favre."

* The Vikings' defensive coordinator is former Bear Leslie Frazier, who led the 1985 Bears with six interceptions.

* Former Bears' wide receiver Bernard Berrian would be Chicago's top receiver if he was still with the team; with Minnesota he has been overshadowed this season by Sydney Rice and Harvin.

* Percy Harvin vs. Devin Hester. Discuss.

* Coffman: "Maynard followed this up with another not-great punt but caught a huge break when the ball rolled almost 20 yards before going out of bounds inside the five. At that point did anyone else think to themselves 'Oh great, so now when the Vikings go down and score it will be an especially demoralizing 95-plus yard drive rather than a garden variety 70-something-yarder?'"

* Ofman: "Oh was I wrong."

Newspaper Narrative
"As for Thanksgiving being the busiest travel time of the year? Not true either, says Bialik. The number of commercial flights shows that Thanksgiving does not come close to being the busiest travel period."

See the "Turkey Story" item here (and the one above it).

Not only was I not rewarded in my newspaper career for reporting the truth, I damaged my career by doing so. I reserve the right to remain bitter.

Daley's Lies
Speaking of reporting the truth, our mayor is a serial liar and reporters in town know it. They talk about it amongst themselves. But they don't report it that way to the public.

The mayor's latest batch of falsehoods came in an interview with WBEZ's Allison Cuddy. The Sun-Times's Abdon Pallasch took a look and found that - in the words of the experts he talked to - the mayor was "less than truthful," "told a number of falsehoods," and was plain "wrong."

Pallasch's vetting of the mayor's claims makes clear that when it comes to the equivalent of one-sixth of the city's budget - its TIF funds - Daley is either a bald-faced liar or doesn't know what he's talking about.

How many people think Daley simply doesn't know what he's talking about - 20 years into his mayoralty and this late in the TIF debate?

Daley says the city has to do a better job of marketing TIFs. In other words, it has to lie better.

*

The Reader vetted Daley's claims three weeks ago.

The Daley Show
"As for the previously promised scrutiny, Ald. Carrie Austin, 34th, Budget Committee chairwoman, said many aldermen had their concerns about Daley's spending plan addressed in closed-door briefings with the mayor's staff before public hearings even started."

Tiger's Tail
Maybe this is stale by now, but . . . from Texts From Last Night:

(918): i guess i finally out drove tiger woods this morning.

Retro News
"Floyd's barber shop is a Wicker Park throwback."

Only if some old guy named Floyd is giving $5 haircuts.

But no, Floyd's is a chain out of Denver.

How in the world is that a Wicker Park throwback?

It reminds me of when the Deluxe Diner moved into the space formerly occupied by Friar's Grill. The Deluxe Diner was a retro diner designed to evoke the feel of a place like . . . Friar's Grill, which was actually an authentic, old-school grill.

But a little too authentic, I guess.

Next: Corner Tavern, designed to evoke the feel of the corner tavern that used to be here but which was just a little too real . . .

You might as well put a Taco Bell in where El Chino used to be.

*

That would actually make me very happy, but you get the point.

Billy Boy
"Chicago restaurateur Billy Dec has paid $1.65 million for a 10-room Lincoln Park house," the Tribune reports.

"Dec continues to own a 3,338-square-foot house farther north in Lincoln Park that he purchased in 2004 for $745,000."

See also: 20 Tweets: Billy Dec.

We live in a horrible world.

Double Agent Dorothy Brown
Or not.

Guv Candidates Withhold Tax Returns
Two goofs and a baby.

Mell's Mess
Stays on ballot, but can't vote for herself.

Bears Bite
The New York Times's preview of the Bears game:

"Jay Cutler's passes sail high over all our heads, like weather balloons, differential calculus or 'Remembrance of Things Past.' It takes amazing arm strength and a shocking lack of impulse control to overthrow Devin Hester, but Cutler finds a way. Some cosmic force turns Pro Bowl quarterbacks into Mike Phipps impersonators once they reach Chicago. Maybe it's the weather (which hasn't been a factor this year) or Ron Turner's offense, or maybe the team needs to stop cobbling its receiving corps from undrafted speedsters and converted return men. The Vikings can officially knock the Bears out of the division race with a victory, but the Bears have been unofficially knocked out."

-

The Beachwood Tip Line: First-and-ten.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:51 AM | Permalink

SportsMonday

By Jim Coffman

So many lowlights to choose from, so little inclination to spend a ton of time breaking down another typically crushing Bears loss - but break it down I shall.

Bears bubble screens must die. Hey Ron Turner, it was clear in the Philadelphia game that other teams have figured these plays out. Your team lines up two receivers out wide to the same side, they don't immediately rush out into a pattern and opposing defensive backs crash in and take guys down for losses no matter how quickly Jay Cutler gets the ball out there. And I know it was Devin Hester catching these little disasters against the Eagles and Earl Bennett who made the catch and lost several yards in the first offensive series versus the Vikings Sunday, but that wasn't enough of a change now was it?

Ofman:
  • Wrong about Favre

  • Instead, after linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer ended the first Minnesota possession by standing up running back Adrian Peterson and then beautifully stripping the ball, the inept offense couldn't give the ball back to the home team quickly enough. And then Brad Maynard shanked the punt, so the Bears didn't even enjoy a significant field position shift. Yikes.

    After the Bears defense rose up again and forced a three-and-out, Hester made his presence felt by dropping the ensuing kick. He managed to recover his muff but the tone was set. And sure enough, we were then treated to another audaciously inept offensive series. At least the capper to this one was unique. On third-and-two, the Bears apparently turned to defensive tackle Anthony Adams to provide some extra power off tackle. When a team loads up at tight end with a player who doesn't have a receiver's number, the first thing he always has to do is report to the referee. Surely the Bears never ran this play in practice without reminding Adams that first he had to report. So of course he didn't report and the flag flew. And Forte came up short anyway.

    Maynard followed this up with another not-great punt but caught a huge break when the ball rolled almost 20 yards before going out of bounds inside the five. At that point did anyone else think to themselves "Oh great, so now when the Vikings go down and score it will be an especially demoralizing 95-plus yard drive rather than a garden variety 70-something-yarder?"

    And sure enough they did. The Bears actually managed to respond with a score of their own, the Vikings did the same to re-take the lead and then the turnovers started. And there was no way the Bears were going to overcome turnovers against this team.

    Skipping way ahead, the Bears called it a game midway through the third quarter when they declined to go for it on fourth-and-a-foot while trailing by three scores. At that point it was too bad someone couldn't have just thrown in a towel.

    Favre Frolics
    For a long time the secret to beating Brett Favre - something that Lovie Smith's teams did regularly when Favre was still in Green Bay earlier this decade - was to simply catch the interceptions. The quarterback could always be counted on to throw three or four possible picks and if defenders could hang onto at least a couple of them, their team had a great chance to win. Corralling passes that often resembled 90-mile-per-hour fastballs was clearly easier said than done but still, the opportunities were there.

    The opportunities haven't been there this season. Favre completed 22 of 25 passes in a Viking dismantling of Seattle the Sunday before this one and it was just the latest chapter in a half-season-plus of amazingly accurate passing. He never did rear back and try to gun the ball through triple coverage against the Bears, and really, he hasn't done it all season.

    So let's not hear any more of the ridiculous yammering about how Favre somehow betrayed Green Bay. Despite his leading the Packers to the 2007-08 NFC championship game, the team decided Aaron Rodgers deserved a chance behind center in the fall of '08. Not surprisingly, Favre balked and a trade to the Jets ensued. He dithered and dawdled at various times during the next year-plus, doing terrible damage to the credibility of retirees everywhere, but he eventually ended up with the team that was the by-far best fit. It was also the by-far most talented team in the NFC (the Saints' defense isn't close to as good). And wouldn't you like to be a Vikings fan now.

    Bears Big Picture
    Watching defensive backs Al Afalava and Danieal Manning never quite cover anyone throughout an entire 60-minute game Sunday reminded us again of Jerry Angelo's biggest off-season failing: the absolutely incomprehensible decision to not pursue an experienced safety in free agency. Former Pro-Bowlers Darren Sharper and Brian Dawkins were out there, ready to go, and the Bears, who remain double-digit millions under the salary cap this season, had the money to sign them. Instead they went to the Saints and the Broncos, respectively, revitalizing what will be playoff teams.

    The Vikings have been built largely through the draft but when they had the chance to sign difference-making free agents and other players whose original teams didn't value them enough, they moved swiftly. The guys who made their good lines great, offensive guard Steve Hutchinson and defensive end Jared Allen, both arrived in such a fashion. And then there was that quarterback.

    Broadcast Bits
    Analyst Troy Aikman didn't spare Lovie's feelings, that's for sure. He called him out for the dim-witted replay challenge in the first half that had absolutely no chance of overturning Knox's kick-off return fumble. And then in the second half he took the coach to task for trying to hide the failings of his defense. He noted "the Bears defense simply hasn't played well against any good offensive teams." Play-by-play man Joe Buck struggled at times. At the start of the second half he spoke of the Vikings "accepting" a false start penalty, apparently forgetting that team's don't have a choice in that situation. But overall, Buck is awfully good at this stuff. His talk show is more than a small stretch but the man can call the action.

    Hawks High
    Don't say the Hawks finished their road trip with two straight losses. They finished with a loss and an overtime decision - and that is a significant distinction. After winning the first four games of their annual late November trek west but then falling 3-0 to the Anaheim Ducks the day after Thanksgiving, the Hawks refused to be outscored during regulation against the Los Angeles Kings late the next night. They also held on throughout the extra five-minute period that ended with the teams still tied at one. The shootout did not go well (the Kings won it 2-0) but the performance that would have been good enough for a tie in the first 80 or so years of NHL competition earned the Hawks a standings point. And a point on the road, especially at the end of a long stretch away from home, is big.

    That was especially the case after it seemed as though the Hawks were on their way to another shutout loss. They had trailed by a goal for a long stretch and hadn't scored for more than 100 minutes overall before captain Jonathan Toews finally broke through and knocked in an equalizer near the third period's halfway mark. The Blackhawks poured in the goals during huge victories over Calgary, Edmonton and, most impressively, the Sharks during the trip. But it was the single goals at Vancouver (a 1-0 win) and Los Angeles that might have been the biggest tallies of all.

    So the Hawks notched nine out of a possible 12 points during the two weeks worth of action. The long and winding season has a whole lot more winding to do. But so far for the division-leading team that has now put a solid half-dozen points between itself and the injury-riddled (a.k.a. old) Red Wings, so good.

    -

    Jim Coffman rounds up the sports weekend in this space every Monday. He welcomes your comments.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:44 AM | Permalink

    Favre Delivers; I Don't

    By George Ofman

    Okay, I admit it. I was wrong. I wrote it right here back in August. "Maybe he'll get his revenge against Green Bay but he'll never get a chance against the Bears. That's because Favre will be a non-factor by then. He'll have been sacked into another retirement; his right arm will fall off into one of Minnesota's 10,000 lakes or his teammates will offer him a road map back to Mississippi."

    Oh was I wrong.

    Not only is Farve's arm intact, he is my pick for the league's most valuable player.

    And the road map could lead to Miami and another Super Bowl.

    Yesterday was just another notch in his oversized belt: 397 yards passing, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He has only three picks all season! Jay Cutler had five in one game.

    Favre's passer rating is the best in the league.

    And he's 40.

    And I hope he comes back next year so long as he doesn't play another dog-and-pony retirement show again.

    Let's face it: The man is in a league of his own.

    Would it be wrong to exclaim he's the best player in NFL history? Go ahead, make an argument for someone else.

    What Favre did to the Bears, he's done to several other teams this season. He dismantled them with precision - and help from a solid offensive line, sure-handed receivers who know how to run routes, a running back who bowls defenders over even if he has hands of stone, and a golden arm that won't quit. But the arm is attached to a head that won't quit. He thinks better than some quarterbacks throw. (See Jay Cutler for the time being).

    I wasn't the only skeptic who thought Favre would have to be scraped off the field, placed on a cart and rendered useless forever.

    But some athletes transcend their sport while being able to ignore father time's persistence.

    Chris Chelios was backlining the Red Wings to Stanley Cups and, at 47, he's still playing with the Chicago Wolves.

    Forty-five-year-old Jamie Moyer won 42 games the last three seasons.

    Nolan Ryan was firing fastballs in his 40s.

    George Foreman was fighting into his 50s.

    Phil Niekro was knuckling until his late 40s.

    Jack Nicklaus won the Masters at 46.

    Some guys have it, and have it for a long time.

    Brett Favre is one of those guys.

    Think about this for a moment. Favre has only three interceptions this season. Just three! Up to now, the fewest he's had in a season is 13. He's on pace to throw for over 4,000 yards, something he's done only five times in his 18-year career. His current passer rating is 13 points higher than his previous best. The game prior to the Bears, he completed 88 percent of his passes, a personal best.

    Sorry, folks, I don't think steroids or any other performance enhancing drugs are in play here.

    This is simply a blacksmith forging a perfect sculpture; an artist painting a masterpiece.

    I know there are some of you who hate him because he was a Packer for all those years. I also bet you admired and respected him.

    And now, despite the fact he's a Viking, I'm actually pulling for him to win the MVP award for a fourth time and win his second Super Bowl.

    It would be fitting, don't you think?

    -

    George Ofman, an original member of The Score and a veteran of NPR, has covered more than 3,500 sporting events over the course of his career. Comments welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:31 AM | Permalink

    November 28, 2009

    The Weekend Desk Report

    By Steve Rhodes

    The Weekend Desk has the holiday weekend off. We'll all be back on the beat around here come Monday morning.

    The [Friday] Papers
    Just going to add a few items to yesterday's column.

    * "Let me put the chilling language of bureaucracy in terms you may better understand," Dennis O'Toole writes in the Tribune: "There are 10.5 million fewer chickens to eat right now than a year ago, and, therefore, 21 million fewer wings. Demand, meanwhile, remains steadfast and unwavering. As a result, chicken breasts are cheaper than wings for the first time in the recorded history of things like this.

    "Bars and restaurants all over our once-great nation have responded by booting wings from the menu. Such an act of cowardice is akin to spitting on a bald eagle or putting an American flag in the dishwasher."

    * Must-Listen: The Sound Opinions Annual Turkey Shoot.

    * Long live rock - be it dead or alive.

    * "David Lee seemed to have found the perfect job," John Keilman writes in the Tribune.

    "He was a longtime crack addict who, in sobriety, had discovered a talent for persuading other users to seek treatment. That led to a family business performing interventions, confrontations designed to get addicts to face their problem while ending their loved ones' enabling behavior.

    "David and his brother Kevin traveled the country from their Lowell, Ind., office, preaching compassion wrapped in toughness, including the necessity of exiling a loved one if he refused to go along with the plan. The practice, David thought, was airtight. Time and again he had seen it work.

    "But that was before it was turned upon him. In March 2008, David was kicked out of his company after suffering a series of relapses. No more paycheck, no more company car, no more free rent in the apartment above the office.

    "A taste of one's own medicine is rarely sweet, but for David Lee it was a calamity. He felt abandoned and furious, and nearly disavowed what he had helped to build. It would take a full year for him to once again accept the insight that animated the entire system. The intervention wasn't really about him. It was about everyone else."

    * "The I-Team has peeled back the layers of bureaucracy to reveal the truth about townships, units of government that critics call unnecessary and a waste of millions of dollars in tax money," Chuck Goudie reports.

    "When you pay tax after tax, especially in Cook County, you expect that the money will be spent wisely on programs that matter and not just set aside for some rainy day in the future.

    "But the ABC7 I-Team and the Better Government Association have discovered that Cook County townships have stashed away a fortune in tax money. They are sitting on more than $100 million in taxpayer funds - collected but unspent."

    * Obama administration seeks to halt Bush-era declassification order.

    * Ofman: Dis and dat, dem and dose.

    The [Thanksgiving] Papers
    1. "State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias has made millions of dollars from his family's community bank since his election in 2006, much of it from payouts related to his father's death, according to four years of tax returns he released Wednesday," the Tribune reports.

    "Giannoulias, a Democrat running in the primary for U.S. Senate, released his tax returns the day before Thanksgiving, when fewer people are likely to notice the news. The treasurer has been criticized by Democratic Senate opponent David Hoffman for large Broadway Bank payouts to him and his family."

    Because Giannoulias - a purported progressive committed to transparency and accountability - released his tax returns on the day before Thanksgiving, he will be punished here.

    All Giannoulias has done is promise Illinoisans the same old way of doing business, using a media strategy to deceive voters by playing hide-and-seek.

    Alexi Giannoulias, you are this year's Turkey Day Turkey of the Day.

    2. Second place: Mayor Daley, for choosing Wednesday to name three new cabinet members.

    3. Third place: Daley and the City Council Finance Committee. It's not only irresponsible to dole out $35 million in "property tax relief grants" of $25 to $200, it's politically transparent to use parking meter reserve funds to do so. Only Alds. Joe Moore (49th), Ricardo Munoz (22nd), Toni Foulkes (15th), JoAnn Thompson (16th) and Scott Waguespack (32nd) had the guts to vote no.

    4. "Back on February 13, state rep Kevin Joyce introduced a bill to expand the kinds of materials open to the public under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act," Ben Joravsky reports. "On April 3 that bill passed the house and was sent to the senate, where it sat in committee for weeks. Legislators tell me that during that time city lobbyists got in touch with their allies in the senate, and on May 18 Senator Don Harmon gutted the bill, removing the language about the FOIA and adding an amendment that extended the life of the four Chicago TIF districts: Madden/Wells, Roosevelt/Racine, Stony Island/Burnside, and Englewood Mall. None of these fall into Harmon's legislative district.

    "Harmon - who didn't return calls for this story - is from Oak Park, whose TIF policies seem to be almost as nutty as Chicago's, hard as that is to believe. (Hardly a week goes by without some Oak Parker calling and asking me to write about one TIF debacle or another.)"

    Alexi Giannoulias may be the Turkey Day Turkey of the Day, but Don Harmon, you are this week's Worst Person In Illinois. You advance to the annual tournament with the wind at your back.

    5. Beachwood Thanksgiving Classics: Vol 1.

    6. Beachwood Thanksgiving Classics: Vol 2.

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Better than Butterball's.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 3:15 PM | Permalink

    November 27, 2009

    Ofman: Dis and Dat, Dem and Dose

    By George Ofman

    Hope you didn't fall asleep after stuffing yourself with stuffing, and a little bit of turkey. Speaking of turkeys, who devised the rumor that Mike Martz would love to coach Jay Cutler? Didn't he criticize his play earlier in the season and wasn't he fired by then Lions coach Rod Marinelli, who happens to be underperforming as the Bears defensive line coach? Even Martz said of the rumor "Somebody is making this crap up." Don't serve this with yams.

    *

    Ron Turner appeared oblivious to the rumors he might be out at the end of the season, claiming he's only concentrating on the Vikings. Here's something else to concentrate on; resumes.

    *

    It wasn't all that long ago the Blackhawks were as moribund a franchise as there was in sports. So look at them now. They had won eight straight games heading into today's matinee at Anaheim. They're near the top of the league in points, the fans are not only back but delirious and the franchise is worth 26 percent more than a year ago. All they need to do before the playoffs is stay health and keep a watchful eye on Cristobal Huet.

    *

    How is it the Hawks are having no trouble navigating their circus trip while the Bulls look like month-old cotton candy. After yet another drubbing, this one at Utah, Luol Deng claims the team is battling uphill. Derrick Rose thinks it's a lack of communication and Joakim Noah isn't sure what the problem is. May I offer this word and go from there? TALENT!

    *

    Omar Vizquel I understand. Andruw Jones is a bit of a stretch for me. But this is vintage Kenny Williams. He's wanted both players for years. Vizquel agreed to a two-year contract several years ago, then the Giants offered him three and he bolted for the left bank. Jones was part of a rumored trade for Magglio Ordonez. Now both are with the Sox. Vizquel will turn 43 but is still a vital player who didn't make a single error playing some second, short and third last season, and will be a mentor to some young Sox infielders. Jones will be 33 and needs a bat transplant. He can still hit homers (17 in 82 games at Texas last season) but he's nowhere near the player he was with the Braves.

    And then, ask yourself this question; How does a guy who averaged 32 homers and 97 RBI for seven years suddenly put together back-to-back years totalling 92 homers and 257 RBI, then drop to 26 and 94? Then he signs a two-year, $36 million deal with the Dodgers and breaks down? Go ahead; ask yourself the question. I'll bet most of you come up with the same answer.

    *

    Is it fair to say Jimmie Johnson belongs in the same breath with Tiger Woods and Roger Federer?

    *

    When it rains, it pours. C.J. Fiedorowicz had committed to Illinois. This guy was rated the top tight end in the nation, according to guru analyst Tom Lemming. Then he watched Ron Zook's offense, which seldom passes to the tight end. So Fiedorowicz decided to back out of his commitment and declared for Iowa. Is Zook simply a passenger in the ocean liner being captained by Charlie Weis?

    *

    By the way, will the Irish simply hand the job to Cincinnati's Brian Kelly and get it over with? PLEASE?

    *

    Gotta love Brett Favre. He's playing Brutus to Jay Cutler's Caesar. Favre praised the Bears QB to the hilt this week, saying he is better than he was at age 26; he's damn good and the Bears are better off with him than without. Sunday, Cutler will exclaim, "Et tu Brett" while the Vikings destroy him and his teammates.

    *

    Allen Iverson is retiring. That should put to rest the dopes who actually wanted to see the Bulls sign this self-centered lug.

    -

    George Ofman, an original member of The Score and a veteran of NPR, has covered more than 3,500 sporting events over the course of his career. Comments welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:58 AM | Permalink

    The [Friday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    Just going to add a few items to yesterday's column.

    * "Let me put the chilling language of bureaucracy in terms you may better understand," Dennis O'Toole writes in the Tribune: "There are 10.5 million fewer chickens to eat right now than a year ago, and, therefore, 21 million fewer wings. Demand, meanwhile, remains steadfast and unwavering. As a result, chicken breasts are cheaper than wings for the first time in the recorded history of things like this.

    "Bars and restaurants all over our once-great nation have responded by booting wings from the menu. Such an act of cowardice is akin to spitting on a bald eagle or putting an American flag in the dishwasher."

    * Must-Listen: The Sound Opinions Annual Turkey Shoot.

    * Long live rock - be it dead or alive.

    * "David Lee seemed to have found the perfect job," John Keilman writes in the Tribune.

    "He was a longtime crack addict who, in sobriety, had discovered a talent for persuading other users to seek treatment. That led to a family business performing interventions, confrontations designed to get addicts to face their problem while ending their loved ones' enabling behavior.

    "David and his brother Kevin traveled the country from their Lowell, Ind., office, preaching compassion wrapped in toughness, including the necessity of exiling a loved one if he refused to go along with the plan. The practice, David thought, was airtight. Time and again he had seen it work.

    "But that was before it was turned upon him. In March 2008, David was kicked out of his company after suffering a series of relapses. No more paycheck, no more company car, no more free rent in the apartment above the office.

    "A taste of one's own medicine is rarely sweet, but for David Lee it was a calamity. He felt abandoned and furious, and nearly disavowed what he had helped to build. It would take a full year for him to once again accept the insight that animated the entire system. The intervention wasn't really about him. It was about everyone else."

    * "The I-Team has peeled back the layers of bureaucracy to reveal the truth about townships, units of government that critics call unnecessary and a waste of millions of dollars in tax money," Chuck Goudie reports.

    "When you pay tax after tax, especially in Cook County, you expect that the money will be spent wisely on programs that matter and not just set aside for some rainy day in the future.

    "But the ABC7 I-Team and the Better Government Association have discovered that Cook County townships have stashed away a fortune in tax money. They are sitting on more than $100 million in taxpayer funds - collected but unspent."

    * Obama administration seeks to halt Bush-era declassification order.

    * Ofman: Dis and dat, dem and dose.

    The [Thanksgiving] Papers
    1. "State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias has made millions of dollars from his family's community bank since his election in 2006, much of it from payouts related to his father's death, according to four years of tax returns he released Wednesday," the Tribune reports.

    "Giannoulias, a Democrat running in the primary for U.S. Senate, released his tax returns the day before Thanksgiving, when fewer people are likely to notice the news. The treasurer has been criticized by Democratic Senate opponent David Hoffman for large Broadway Bank payouts to him and his family."

    Because Giannoulias - a purported progressive committed to transparency and accountability - released his tax returns on the day before Thanksgiving, he will be punished here.

    All Giannoulias has done is promise Illinoisans the same old way of doing business, using a media strategy to deceive voters by playing hide-and-seek.

    Alexi Giannoulias, you are this year's Turkey Day Turkey of the Day.

    2. Second place: Mayor Daley, for choosing Wednesday to name three new cabinet members.

    3. Third place: Daley and the City Council Finance Committee. It's not only irresponsible to dole out $35 million in "property tax relief grants" of $25 to $200, it's politically transparent to use parking meter reserve funds to do so. Only Alds. Joe Moore (49th), Ricardo Munoz (22nd), Toni Foulkes (15th), JoAnn Thompson (16th) and Scott Waguespack (32nd) had the guts to vote no.

    4. "Back on February 13, state rep Kevin Joyce introduced a bill to expand the kinds of materials open to the public under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act," Ben Joravsky reports. "On April 3 that bill passed the house and was sent to the senate, where it sat in committee for weeks. Legislators tell me that during that time city lobbyists got in touch with their allies in the senate, and on May 18 Senator Don Harmon gutted the bill, removing the language about the FOIA and adding an amendment that extended the life of the four Chicago TIF districts: Madden/Wells, Roosevelt/Racine, Stony Island/Burnside, and Englewood Mall. None of these fall into Harmon's legislative district.

    "Harmon - who didn't return calls for this story - is from Oak Park, whose TIF policies seem to be almost as nutty as Chicago's, hard as that is to believe. (Hardly a week goes by without some Oak Parker calling and asking me to write about one TIF debacle or another.)"

    Alexi Giannoulias may be the Turkey Day Turkey of the Day, but Don Harmon, you are this week's Worst Person In Illinois. You advance to the annual tournament with the wind at your back.

    5. Beachwood Thanksgiving Classics: Vol 1.

    6. Beachwood Thanksgiving Classics: Vol 2.

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Better than Butterball's.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:00 AM | Permalink

    November 26, 2009

    The [Thanksgiving] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    1. "State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias has made millions of dollars from his family's community bank since his election in 2006, much of it from payouts related to his father's death, according to four years of tax returns he released Wednesday," the Tribune reports.

    "Giannoulias, a Democrat running in the primary for U.S. Senate, released his tax returns the day before Thanksgiving, when fewer people are likely to notice the news. The treasurer has been criticized by Democratic Senate opponent David Hoffman for large Broadway Bank payouts to him and his family."

    Because Giannoulias - a purported progressive committed to transparency and accountability - released his tax returns on the day before Thanksgiving, he will be punished here.

    All Giannoulias has done is promise Illinoisans the same old way of doing business, using a media strategy to deceive voters by playing hide-and-seek.

    Alexi Giannoulias, you are this year's Turkey Day Turkey of the Day.

    2. Second place: Mayor Daley, for choosing Wednesday to name three new cabinet members.

    3. Third place: Daley and the City Council Finance Committee. It's not only irresponsible to dole out $35 million in "property tax relief grants" of $25 to $200, it's politically transparent to use parking meter reserve funds to do so. Only Alds. Joe Moore (49th), Ricardo Munoz (22nd), Toni Foulkes (15th), JoAnn Thompson (16th) and Scott Waguespack (32nd) had the guts to vote no.

    4. "Back on February 13, state rep Kevin Joyce introduced a bill to expand the kinds of materials open to the public under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act," Ben Joravsky reports. "On April 3 that bill passed the house and was sent to the senate, where it sat in committee for weeks. Legislators tell me that during that time city lobbyists got in touch with their allies in the senate, and on May 18 Senator Don Harmon gutted the bill, removing the language about the FOIA and adding an amendment that extended the life of the four Chicago TIF districts: Madden/Wells, Roosevelt/Racine, Stony Island/Burnside, and Englewood Mall. None of these fall into Harmon's legislative district.

    "Harmon - who didn't return calls for this story - is from Oak Park, whose TIF policies seem to be almost as nutty as Chicago's, hard as that is to believe. (Hardly a week goes by without some Oak Parker calling and asking me to write about one TIF debacle or another.)"

    Alexi Giannoulias may be the Turkey Day Turkey of the Day, but Don Harmon, you are this week's Worst Person In Illinois. You advance to the annual tournament with the wind at your back.

    5. Beachwood Thanksgiving Classics: Vol 1.

    6. Beachwood Thanksgiving Classics: Vol 2.

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Better than Butterball's.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:12 AM | Permalink

    November 25, 2009

    The [Wednesday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    "The roster of 449 inmates at the U.S. Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility - dubbed the Supermax - includes a Sept. 11 conspirator, Zacarias Moussaoui; the would-be 'shoe bomber,' Richard Reid; the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Ramzi Yousef; and a former Chicago gang member accused of aiding terrorists, Jose Padilla," the Tribune reports.

    "The cells here also house the Unabomber, Theodore Kaczynski, of south suburban Evergreen Park, and Timothy McVeigh's accomplice in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, Terry Nichols.

    "But if having terrorists imprisoned a 10-minute walk from your home is a safety risk, there's no sign of that in Florence, Colo., a rural community about 110 miles south of Denver.

    "'We still leave our doors unlocked at night,' former Mayor Bart Hall said."

    Board of Mr. Ed
    "Did you ever try to get reimbursed at work for business travel expenses?" Chicago lawyer and musician Matt Farmer writes at Huffington Post. "It's usually not too complicated. You turn in your receipts. You fill out a form with some basic information about your trip. You get the proper person in the office to sign off on the document. And bingo - within a few weeks, your expense check generally lands on your desk.

    "Unless, of course, you work for the Chicago Board of Education. The board's reimbursement process is now shrouded in mystery ever since former board president Michael Scott used his board credit card to take his wife to Copenhagen for Chicago's 2016 Olympic bash."

    Grilled Cheese Candidate
    "The only candidate who hasn't been eager to sit down with me for a snack is former Illinois Republican Party chairman Andrew McKenna," John Kass writes. "He must be too busy spending millions on ads referencing Blagojevich's hair while avoiding how certain Republicans helped Blagojevich get elected, with little if any squawking from party establishment.

    "If McKenna does call, I fully expect him to order a grilled cheese sandwich and Campbell's cream of tomato soup. That would certainly distract me from asking whether he's the one candidate Chicago Mayor Richard Daley would like to see in the governor's mansion."

    *

    DuPage County is bigger than six states, county board president Bob Schillerstrom tells Kass in today's column.

    Cruise Control
    Sun-Times Travel Editor Lori Rackl extols the virtues of Royal Caribbean's latest whiz-bang cruise ship, but only the print version includes this caveat at the end: "Information for this article was gathered on a research trip sponsored by Royal Caribbean."

    Sponsored?

    Does that mean "paid for"?

    I've had queries before about who was paying for Rackl's worldwide travels while the paper sunk into financial oblivion, but I've never found the time or energy to follow up. But this is basic stuff. You don't do it. Not if you're a pro, that is.

    Does Royal Caribbean's "sponsorship" of Rackl's on-site visit mean she went in the tank for the company? Not necessarily. I'm sure the ship is as awesome as described. But Royal Caribbean's "sponsorship" meant they got a story in the Sun-Times that might not otherwise have appeared. And they got the story under a presumably respected byline.

    Worse, there is absolutely nothing in the story that couldn't have been had by sitting in Chicago and reviewing the press materials.

    The new ship is newsworthy, and times are tough, but there are a lot of other ways to write about it on the cheap - simply a chart listing its amenities, or perhaps a fun history of cruise ships, or maybe a "how do they do it" piece - than to let a company "sponsor" your coverage.

    Daley's Big Oprah Joke
    His latest lie.

    A Chicago Thanksgiving
    How local celebs will spend it.

    That New Runway Is Really Loud
    Park Ridge can't sleep.

    Charity Case
    "University of Illinois law professor Suja Thomas has launched a blog with her husband to motivate themselves and others to give away more money to charity," the ABA Journal notes.

    Bloodshot Briefing
    "I don't get how these rock bands live in some places, even like Brooklyn," Brighton, MA's Matt Kerstein tells our very own Matt Harness. "Or San Francisco. I mean, I tell my buddies to look into living in Chicago. But some of the people on the coasts don't give it the time of day.

    "Music-wise I can't put my finger on it, but there is a certain thing out here that's hard to explain. Maybe it's because it's down to earth and not a lot of bullshit. The music is more matter-of-fact."

    Saving Jay Cutler
    "It takes a village to raise a quarterback," our very own George Ofman writes. "What the Bears desperately need is a new village."

    Jolie vs. Obama
    "Barack Obama does not have Angelina Jolie's seal of approval," US magazine reports.

    "She hates him," a source close to the U.N. goodwill ambassador tells the magazine.

    Wow. I guess I would care more if she ever actually made a good movie.

    - via This Week In Education

    World's Greatest College Football Report
    A special double issue by our very own Mike Luce. Even if you are not a college football aficianado, this is a fun read.

    The Pope's Nose Awards
    Jay Cutler gets one. Find out who else is a winner.

    Hamster Hell
    "The must-have toy this holiday season is the electronic hamster," Ad Age reports.

    "Zhu Zhu Pets, a line of five furry interactive hamsters (pronounced Zoo Zoo) have been selling so briskly they have gone missing from retailers' shelves for weeks. The little hamsters are so popular, Toys 'R' Us is using them as a Black Friday marketing centerpiece. Every Toys 'R' Us will have 100 of the furry bots for sale at midnight when the stores open for Black Friday shopping, with a limit of one per customer.

    "Walmart and Target aren't even bothering to advertise it in their circulars anymore as the shelves empty as soon as the little critters arrive. And the play pets' $8 price tag has risen accordingly. On eBay and Amazon, just one pet is now going for $60 to $100, if you can even find them at all."

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Dark and moist.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:05 AM | Permalink

    Bloodshot Briefing: Brighton, MA

    By Matt Harness

    In an effort to move forward and keep things smelling fresh, Beachwood Music is branching out from the Bloodshot Records tree. We aren't going too far away, and we still aspire to be the top spot for all things Bloodshot with the weekly Briefing.

    But there's other Chicago-based music that deserves some attention.

    Last week, Beachwood Music brought you an inside look into Coach House Sounds, which has recorded two Bloodshot artists.

    Recently I spent some time with Matt Kerstein, singer, songwriter and leading force behind Chicago band Brighton, MA. Bloodshot fans maybe know him as a founding member of Scotland Yard Gospel Choir along with Elia Einhorn. Kerstein lives in Wicker Park and loves Piece's pizza.

    Beachwood Music: You're from Brighton, Mass., the name of your new band. What brought you to Chicago?

    Matt Kerstein: I came out here for college at 18 years old and stuck around. I went to Columbia, initially for music. I did two years of music concentration, and then I went into English and I did some journalism for the paper. I got a liberal arts degree.

    Beachwood Music: That's where you met Elia Einhorn, at college, and formed Scotland Yard Gospel Choir, right?

    Matt Kerstein: We both were kind of in the same crowd, and we just struck it up as two of the few guys at Columbia focused on songwriting. We lived near each other and became good friends. He was the first guy I knew who had written a bunch of songs. It was a good period.

    Beachwood Music: You were with the band for one LP I Bet You Say That To All The Boys before leaving to form Brighton, MA. What caused the break?

    Matt Kerstein: It was such a huge learning experience. That album we made totally reflects the mish-mashing of our tunes, and I discovered what I wanted to do. I tried to mold the Choir that way, and I realized it wasn't going to be that way, which was cool. But I felt like I was at a point where I had to keep following my path.

    We were going farther away from each other, and we knew we couldn't keep doing that. We saw the future going more separate, so we did it sooner rather than later.

    Beachwood Music: You guys shared a big stage for the first time this month since the split when your band played a benefit for Scotland Yard Gospel Choir at the Hideout. How are things with you two now?

    Matt Kerstein: It was a hard break-up, but everything's under the bridge now.

    Beachwood Music: You definitely are a Chicago band. You live here, you work here, you put out an album on a local label and recently played a month-long residency at Schubas in February. Also, the Subterranean talent buyer Derron Swan loaned you the money to make your EP. Chicago treats you right?

    Matt Kerstein: I don't get how these rock bands live in some places, even like Brooklyn. Or San Francisco. I mean, I tell my buddies to look into living in Chicago. But some of the people on the coasts don't give it the time of day.

    Music-wise I can't put my finger on it, but there is a certain thing out here that's hard to explain. Maybe it's because it's down to earth and not a lot of bullshit. The music is more matter-of-fact.

    Beachwood Music: You are working on your second LP right now. When's that coming out? Are the folks at Chicago's Loose Tooth Records going to be involved again?

    Matt Kerstein: There's no release date. We're taking a little break now, we are going to begin getting out every weekend, maybe 10 shows a month. We then want to hit SXSW.

    We don't know who will put it out. We kind of want to explore and see what else is out there.

    We're not against putting it out ourselves, but it's all up in the air right now. We just want to make a great record, book a tour and see what our best options are.

    It's nice, of course, to have a certain amount of backing, certain name recognition and weight behind you. You miss out on all that when you do it yourself.

    But I don't know. We've come a long way. We are curious how it can be. I guess the grass is always greener.

    Beachwood Music: What's the new record going to be like?

    Matt Kerstein: The first EP was fast and all feel. The next album we spent some money on and got carried away with all the toys. We had a few too many guitars, and we had a few too many vocalists. I think we will go back with a bit more care and thought than the first, but we will try not to overthink it. We do want to take a step back and try to be more intimate.

    Beachwood Music: Having a steady live show in the city where you live must have given you some validation and not too mention a cheaper chance to get more music out?

    Matt Kerstein: Schubas was great. It's tough to see what kind of effect it has. But we did see a spike in iTunes and CD sales. Also, the shows grew from the first to the last. I expected the first one to be the biggest.

    Beachwood Music: A decade ago if you asked me what I thought about my favorite bands selling music for commercil use, I probably would have broke a guitar. But in this age, bands have to find ways to make money, one of which is licensing songs to TV shows and commercials. Among others, I've heard songs from the Dodos, Black Keys, Vampire Weekend and Langhorne Slim all on commercials. Brighton MA had a song on Gossip Girls as did Scotland Yard Gospel Choir. I don't blame them at all, as long as the music comes first and licensing second. What's your position?

    Matt Kerstein: Is it selling out? When you're younger, you think that way. But I don't feel like we have a choice. My No. 1 goal is to make the next record, and we pay for that through gigs, CD sales and licensing.

    Yeah, I hope one day we get to the point where we don't have to do that, and we can make decisions based on some sort of principle. But we ain't there yet.

    Beachwood Music: Okay. Time for Jukebox Heroes. It's 1:30 a.m. on a Tuesday night. You're drunk. You have enough money in your pockets for five songs to send you on your way home, or at least be the soundtrack to the bartender tossing you out on the street. Name those tunes.

    Matt Kerstein: "Five Years" by David Bowie first comes to mind. "So Long, Marianne" by Leonard Cohen. Something by Neutral Milk Hotel. How about something rocking, "Holland 1945." Some AC/DC for good measure. Anything. Bob Dylan "Highway 61 Revisited," "Queen Jane Approximately."

    -

    Kerstein and Co. next play in Chicago on Jan. 22-23 at Schubas.

    -

    Bloodshot Briefing Notes
    * Hey fatso, put down the leftover turkey leg and turn off the TV. Go to FitzGerald's on Friday night for the Bottle Rockets. One of the best rocking bands at one of the Chicago area's best rocking places.

    * Say what? Twlight author Stephanie Meyer caught a Ha Ha Tonka show and then talked about it on the red carpet at the premiere of her new movie New Moon. Here's guessing she thinks they're hot. See from yourself.

    * The Dex Romweber Duo has released a video for "People, Places and Things" from Ruins of Berlin.

    -

    Matt Harness brings you Bloodshot Briefing every week. He welcomes your comments.


    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:59 AM | Permalink

    The College Football Report: Special Double Issue

    By Mike Luce

    This week, the College Football Report celebrates Thanksgiving with a special double issue. While you sit at your desk for one more day or recline on the couch later in the week, we expect you will have at about twice as much time for CFR as normal. Provided you can free up a few minutes in between jobs on Mafia Wars.

    PLUS:
  • Saving Jay Cutler
  • The Pope's Nose Awards

  • In addition to busting at our digital seams with added content, we also would like to take a moment to express our thanks. We love college football. We love talking about (for entertainment purposes only) gambling on college football. So, thank you, college football. What would our Saturdays (and Thursdays, and sometimes Wednesdays and Fridays) be without you? In particular, we would like to thank the following . . .

    Teams:

    The University of Connecticut Huskies
    Thank you for ridding the world of Charlie Weis. At least for now. Late in the game against Navy on November 7, NBC flashed to Coach Weis, swigging from a water bottle on the sidelines. A trickle of water escaped his lips, dribbled down his chin, and spattered his grey sweatshirt/muumuu. And I threw up in my mouth a little. Only appropriate, as Weis and his arrogance have sickened me for years.

    Last Saturday, the Huskies arrived in South Bend to face Notre Dame for the first time in school history. UConn football joined Division IA (now the "FBS") in 2000 and the Big East in 2004. Head coach Randy Edsall took over in 1999 and led the Huskies to consecutive bowls in 2007-08. This season, however, Edsall's team came into the game against the Irish with a 4-5 record.

    UConn never played scared. The Huskies took it to the Irish, racking up 231 yards rushing and ultimately triumphed in the second overtime. The future for Weis, which looked bleak after two straight losses to Navy and Pittsburgh, is now crystal clear. He will have plenty of time to polish his resume and eat crow.

    TCU and Boise State
    First, allow me to knock on wood, throw some salt over my shoulder, and cross my fingers. (Note: the latter makes typing difficult.) Okay, now . . .

    Thank you for helping to discredit the BCS. As we have discussed before, we can only hope for a change to the formula. We will have to wait years for a playoff system to emerge.

    But for now, even casual fans will have to wonder why neither school will be allowed a shot at the national championship. TCU (#4 in the BCS this week) and Boise State (#6) have a bit of work to do but will likely finish among the top eight. While most projections place both in BCS bowls as "at large" teams, what should we think if Boise beats Iowa? Or if TCU pulls out a win against a team like Alabama? Then what?

    Eastern and Western Kentucky, North Texas, Eastern Michigan, Western Carolina, and all other Directional Creampuff teams
    Thank you for padding the records for nearly all the big-name teams. Some of you (notably, Middle Tennessee State at 8-3) are Directional Creampuffs in name only. Others (looking at you, Eastern Michigan and that 0-11 record) proudly carried the Creampuff banner throughout the season.

    The SEC (most of it, anyway)
    As a lonely fan of SEC football immersed in Big 10 country, I try to keep quiet. Fortunately, teams like Florida and Alabama have held serve throughout the season. While the conference has faded from the polls a bit, the Tide and Gators have been at or near the top most of the season. For now, only four teams (also including LSU and Ole Miss) from the SEC rank among the Top 25. All the same, 10 teams have reached bowl eligibility and should present some great match-ups in the post-season.

    Coaches:

    Rich Rodriguez, University of Michigan
    I'm thankful I don't have Rich-Rod's compensation package. Wait, let take that back. I'm thankful not to be cracking under the pressure of 106,201 fans at every home game, a second straight losing season, another loss to Ohio State, and the expectations accompanying a $2.5 million contract. There, that's better.

    Thanks should also go out to the good people at USA Today, who kindly compiled a database of salaries for nearly every NCAA I-A head coach. I love a good database. If you scroll down to "Rodriguez, Rich," you will find his 2009 base salary ($859,000), "other income" ($1,662,000 in shoe and apparel deals, local endorsements, etc.) and his maximum bonus ($300,000 of incentives, a moot point as the Wolverines didn't sniff the post-season).

    Let me point out an interesting feature of the database - access to actual contracts! Yes indeed, right there in crystal-clear PDF, you can pull up a copy of Rich Rod's paperwork. While we you have that up on your screen, kindly read Section 4.02(f). I'll give you a minute.

    Has it sunk in yet? If you are a Michigan fan, I bet you just realized . . . should the Wolverines discover that a major NCAA rules violation (like, say, all that allegedly excessive practice time) Rodriguez can be fired for cause. Yep, you can save yourself as much as $4 million in "firing bonus" money that the university would owe if Rodriguez is fired without cause (i.e., a 3-9 season, followed by a 5-7 season).

    All you need are a few disgruntled boosters (check), some bitter former players (check), blood-thirsty sportswriters (check), and a young NCAA investigator (preferably one who reads a lot of Scott Turow). Throw in a busty, doe-eyed graduate assistant from the UM NCAA Compliance Office, and you've got a blockbuster!

    Head Coach Charlie Weis, Notre Dame
    You know what? We've said enough already. Moving on.

    Rick Stockstill, Middle Tennessee State
    The Blue Raiders hit the jackpot with Coach Stockstill, who has led the Blue Raiders to an 8-3 record and a possible bowl game. With only one game remaining (on the road at Louisiana-Monroe, not a guaranteed "W"), MTSU may be among three Sun Belt teams playing in bowl games next month. Pull up that salary database again. For a grand total of $281,655, Stockstill has taken a perennial also-ran with only one other winning record since 2002 and turned the team into a conference contender.

    But the sharks are circling. Last week, Stockstill announced he had withdrawn his name from the Memphis coaching search. Somehow, I doubt Memphis will be the last suitor for Coach Stockstill's services. After serving 24 years in the trenches as an assistant coach, I hope he gets everything he deserves. Thank you, Coach, for showing us how it should be done.

    Players:

    QB Jacory Harris, University of Miami
    While Jacory didn't live up to my "dark horse for Heisman" dreams, I'm still thankful the unflappable Harris has played a part in the '09 season. Known for sporting odd haircuts, crazy sunglasses, and wearing mismatched shoes, Harris has shown it is possible to play QB for a big-league team in a major market and still show some personality. I only wish we could say the same of McCoy, Tebow, and the others in the Year of the Quarterback.

    RB Jacquizz Rodgers, Oregon State
    Thank you for laboring away, virtually unnoticed, in the distant Pacific Northwest. Thank you for racking up 1,313 yards rushing, 436 yards receiving, and 20 total touchdowns. Thank you for outperforming your conference rival, Toby Gerhart of Stanford, by scoring four TDs in Oregon State's 38-28 win earlier this season. Thank you for showing what a 5-foot-7, 191-pound (really?) sophomore running back can do when somebody gives him the ball. And if you help the Beavers beat the Oregon Ducks on the road next Thursday, thank you for helping me say . . . I called it.

    Mascots:

    Uga VII
    Last Saturday, we observed a moment of silence here at the College Football Report to pay our respects to the departed. Uga VII passed away at the tender age of four years. The seventh of his proud line, Uga VII enjoyed a brief life lolling around the sidelines during Georgia Bulldog games and while he may not have been as memorable as some of his predecessors, we honor his memory all the same. Thank you, Uga VII, for . . . everything.

    (We can only hope the Seiler clan nicknames Uga VIII as "Ocho-Uga." Somehow, I doubt it. But wouldn't that be great?)

    The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga "Mocs":
    I don't know what the hell you are, but thank you for brightening my day.

    Issues, Things and Other Stuff:

    The Nike "Pro Combat" uniform
    This thing is just completely ludicrous. How complicated is a football uniform? It could be an athletic uniform; it could be alien life form. I feel like one of these things may become sentient with no warning, seize control of an FSU player this Saturday, and light Coach Bowden's walking corpse on fire. Check out this and this and make up your own mind.

    One other thought on this topic: Where would you put the over/under on the total cost - strictly R&D - to develop the Pro Combat uniform? $3.4 million? $4.7 million? Pick a figure. I don't think it's possible to go too high. In a certain sense, the higher the figure the better for the marketing guys at The Swoosh. In fact, if you can find this out, I will send you a free turkey leg.

    Clemson, Florida, Florida State, LSU, Miami, Missouri, Ohio State, Texas, TCU and Virginia Tech will wear (or have worn) the Pro Combat this season.

    Buying the Hook:
    I still can't resist your wily charms. Thank you for costing me an extra 10 percent on every loss.

    You:
    Last but not least, thank you, dear reader.

    And with that, let's take a look at the action among the top BCS teams last weekend. The following is for entertainment purposes only, including gambling.

    Game: Florida International 3 @ #1 Florida 62 (-47)

    What was supposed to happen? Well, the point spread could have been an indication. I mean, if you were scratching your head about the possible outcome of this one on Saturday morning . . . "Let's see . . . FIU @ Florida . . . the Gators should be able to pull that out, right?"

    What actually happened? Florida covered a 47-point spread . . . by 12 points! Are you kidding me? Let's go ahead and give this game the "Pay attention to us!" award this week.

    *

    Game: Chattanooga 0 @ #2 Alabama 45 (n/a)

    What was supposed to happen? Until a few moments ago, I didn't realize Chattanooga was in Tennessee. I had heard of Chattanooga before, of course. But if you gave me three guesses, I would have gone with: Alabama, Tennessee, and Mississippi. In about that order.

    So, let's clear up a bit of confusion - "Chattanooga" is the informal name for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

    What actually happened? Last week, we professed our love for teams with confusing mascots. The Chattanooga Mocs are our new favorite example. The school's Moccasin mascot began as a water moccasin (you know, the snake) in the 1920s, changed to a moccasin (you know, the shoe) in the 1960s, and then switched to Chief Moccanooga (you know, the racist mascot) until 1996.

    In '96, Chattanooga got wise to political correctness, shortened the name to "Mocs" and adopted a bird in a conductor's hat as the mascot. The logo features a train (you know, as in "Chattanooga Choo Choo") with the bird at the helm. Hard to visualize? Think we're kidding? Check this out. We have no idea either . . . but we love it!

    *

    Game: Kansas 20 @ #3 Texas 51 (-28)

    What was supposed to happen? Those of us (hypothetically) trying to make up (hypothetical) ground after weeks of poor (hypothetical) gambling decisions really hoped Texas would cover the spread. For entertainment purposes only, of course.

    What actually happened? YES! Hook 'em Horns!!

    *

    Game: #4 TCU 45 (-32) @ Wyoming 10

    What was supposed to happen? I was hoping TCU wouldn't cover this ridiculously large number on the road in Laramie.

    What actually happened? Dammit. You know what they say, you only win the bets you don't make. Either that, or "you gotta be in it to win it." One of those.

    *

    Game: #6 Boise State 52 (-23) @ Utah State 21

    What was supposed to happen? Well, certainly not both a Boise cover and an "over." You know, because we looked at both of those options. We even considered parlaying the 23 with the over 63 . . . at tidy 2.5:1 odds. So, obviously one or the other or both of those things probably shouldn't happen.

    What actually happened? DAMMIT.

    *

    Game: #8 LSU 23 @ Mississippi 25 (-4.5)

    What was supposed to happen? We didn't pay much attention to this game last week. We're not really sure what was supposed to happen, to be honest. Wasn't LSU supposed to cruise through the remainder of the season and into a BCS game? Wasn't that the plan?

    What actually happened? LSU head coach Les Miles suffered a brain cramp. Or slipped into a mini-coma or something. Go read any of the stories about the final two minutes of this game. I can't even bear to repeat it.

    *

    Game: #10 Ohio State 21 (-11.5) @ Michigan 10

    What was supposed to happen? If the pre-game hype was to be believed, this game would be the turning point for embattled Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez. (Remember him?) The networks, desperate for some viewers for what has been a lackluster game in recent years, began spinning stories of Bo Schembechler. Forty years ago, the then-unknown Schembechler led the Wolverines to a shocking upset over the rival Buckeyes. Schembechler went on to . . . well, you know the story.

    What actually happened? Rich-Rod ain't no Bo Schembechler.

    *

    Game: #11 Oregon 44 (-5.5) @ Arizona 41

    What was supposed to happen? Everybody thought that the Wildcats might have a shot at upending Oregon in this game. I'm not sure how these things happen. In certain games, the college football world seems to collectively decide on a certain outcome well in advance. And then all the coverage and analysis seems to skew in that direction . . . right up to the point when it looks like that outcome is at risk, and then suddenly, ho-HO, the commentators make a 180 and start slobbering all over the other team.

    What actually happened? I don't know what I would call that condition, but it was in full effect on Saturday night. Did everyone spontaneously forget about Oregon's offense? What about QB Masoli? What about that guy? What happened when he lunged into the end zone for the winning TD in the second overtime?

    *

    Game: Minnesota 0 @ #13 Iowa 12 (-12)

    What was supposed to happen? Who cares?

    What actually happened? The game was decided by four field goals. Next!

    *

    Game: #14 Penn State 42 (-3.5) @ Michigan State 14

    What was supposed to happen? Watching the Spartans season has brought us down here at the Report. Michigan State has gone through some bizarre years of late, and many thought the Spartans were poised to make some noise in the Big Ten. Sadly, MSU dropped three of its first four by a combined 10 points . . . and that was pretty much that.

    What actually happened?
    I think the Sparties gave up on Saturday. They just didn't have it in them. While MSU might get a consolation bowl bid, I'm not sure I would care to see them walk through another game this season.

    And in other BCS action . . .

    North Carolina State 10 @ Virginia Tech 38 (-21)
    #16 Wisconsin 31 (-7) @ Northwestern 33*
    #25 California 34 @ #17 Stanford 28 (-7.5)**
    #19 Oregon State 42 (-31) @ Washington State 10
    Duke 16 @ #10 Miami (FL) 34 (-18.5)
    San Diego State 7 @ #21 Utah 38 (-20.5)
    Air Force 21 @ #22 BYU 38 (-9.5)
    Virginia 21 @ #23 Clemson 34 (-21)
    Memphis 14 @ #24 Houston 55 (-23)
    #25 Rutgers 13 (-10.5) @ Syracuse 31***

    * Like clockwork, every year. What a goofy rivalry.
    ** Oops, so much for that idea, Stanford.
    *** Ewww.

    Finally, while we look ahead to a full weekend of family fun, turkey sandwiches and excessive wine consumption due to aforementioned family, the Beachwood Sports Seal will be hunkered down in front of the TV.

    Thanksgiving weekend is an excellent time for rivalry games, from the flagship Iron Bowl (Alabama-Auburn), to the heated Florida State-Florida match-up, to the oddly named Egg Bowl (Mississippi-Mississippi State), even games such as the Battle for the Bronze Boot (Colorado State-Wyoming) could be entertaining.

    While you bake, smoke or deep-fry your bird this weekend, think of the Seal. He'll be spending the holiday with his closest friends at ABC, CBS, and ESPN with nothing but the Vegas line and the Dominos delivery man (large, thin crust, extra anchovies) to keep him company.

    Game: #3 Texas (-21) at Texas A&M (Thursday, 7 p.m.)
    Pick: Texas A&M

    Game: Illinois @ #5 Cincinnati (-20.5, Friday, 11 a.m.)
    Pick: Cincinnati

    Game: #2 Alabama (-10) @ Auburn (Friday, 1:30 p.m.)
    Pick: Alabama

    Game: Nevada @ #6 Boise State (-13.5, Friday, 9 p.m.)
    Pick: Boise State

    Game: #18 Clemson (-3) @ South Carolina (Saturday, 11 a.m.)
    Pick: South Carolina

    Game: #25 Mississippi (-8) @ Mississippi State (Saturday, 11:20 a.m.)
    Pick: Ole Miss

    Game: #14 Virginia Tech (-16) @ Virginia (Saturday, 2:30 p.m.)
    Pick: Va Tech

    Game: Notre Dame @ Stanford (-10.5, Saturday 7 p.m.)
    Pick: The Cardinal, for all the clams. Trust the Seal.

    -

    Mike "Dr. Dude" Luce brings you The College Football Report in this space twice a week, with the generous assistance of the Beachwood Sports Seal. They both welcome your comments.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:21 AM | Permalink

    Saving Jay Cutler

    By George Ofman

    Can you remember the last time there was such a hue and cry over a Chicago Bears quarterback?

    Sure you can.

    It was just a few years ago and just about everyone wanted the head of Rex Grossman.

    Soon, the good and bad Rex was history.

    But it's different with Jay Cutler. A lot different.

    There is a faction that believes he's an over-hyped bum whom the Bears overpaid for and who will never materialize into a franchise quarterback.

    But there is a larger group who believes Cutler isn't the problem - the Bears organization and lack of talent is.

    Don't get me wrong. Cutler has had a lousy season and Sunday night's game against the Eagles was arguably his worst because there were three touchdown passes waiting to be completed only Cutler overthrew his receivers. That said, I'm in the camp who believes it takes a village to raise a quarterback.

    What the Bears desperately need is a new village.

    And how intriguing is this? Pro Football Weekly publisher and WSCR football analyst Hub Arkush revealed last night that someone in the Bears organization above Jerry Angelo has begun surveying the landscape of possible changes at head coach and/or general manager.

    If this is true, then someone should be talking to Mike Shanahan or Mike Holmgren or Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden. Talk to all of them. Someone needs to take a team with a quarterback whose potential may be stymied and revive it.

    And next year, not 2011.

    This takes money and the Bears have it. Whether they're willing to part with it is another matter. Let's remember, Lovie's deal runs through 2011 and Angelo's through 2013.

    Money aside, this is about philosophy. The current regime has not been able to foster a plan that transforms the Bears into an elite franchise, let alone a playoff team. Top draft choices have mostly failed and the "we get off the bus running" mentality must change. The Bears are passing more this year, many times out of necessity because of a failed running game and their inability to take or hold a lead.

    Will firing the head coach and the general manager really happen? I doubt it, but with the luminaries previously mentioned in this column, this organization must take pause and realize where it can go with leadership that has been so successful. All have won Super Bowls and Shanahan began the grooming process of Cutler. He coached him as a rookie in 2006 and then again in 2007 and 2008. During the first two seasons, Cutler threw 21 touchdown passes in the red zone, 16 of them in 2007. He had no interceptions. None!

    Last season, Cutler threw 17 TDs in the red zone but also four interceptions. Still, 33 red zone TDs in two years has to tell you something like maybe the guy is talented?

    But then Shanahan was gone, Josh McDaniels took over and soon after that, Cutler was gone, too.

    All of these men, Shanahan, Cowher, Holmgren and Gruden want back in, and the Bears job is certainly more attractive than the one in Cleveland or Buffalo or just about anywhere else. Holmgren might be more interested in running the show without a headset. And while Gruden just signed a contract extension with ESPN to do Monday Night Football, one has to believe that if the Bears made him an offer, he wouldn't refuse.

    All of this could be moot. The only changes could be the ouster of Ron Turner and some other offensive coaches. This would be significant, but Lovie and Jerry would still be in charge.

    I firmly believe Cutler is much better than what we've seen. He has to be. Give him the necessary support and you might see the guy some have called a franchise quarterback.

    If you don't, the quarterback and franchise just might sink.

    -

    George Ofman, an original member of The Score and a veteran of NPR, has covered more than 3,500 sporting events over the course of his career. Comments welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:52 AM | Permalink

    Fantasy Fix: The Pope's Nose Awards

    By Dan O'Shea

    In the O'Shea household, we don't let a Thanksgiving pass without mention of "the Pope's Nose." That's what my dearly departed Italian mother and many mothers before her called the turkey's tail - though really, it's not a tail, just more of a butt-flap, if you'll accept that term for consideration.

    Nothing would get my mother more excited on Thanksgiving than the Pope's Nose. During the hours-long cooking of the bird, she would eagerly inspect the turkey's anus to check the progress of this appendage. It was said to be the sweetest and juiciest meat on the bird, though I think present generations would just call it fat. I'm not she sure ever actually ate the Pope's Nose - I let her take that secret to the grave, and would like to think it was thrown to the dogs when the rest of us weren't looking.

    In any case, now that I host Thanksgiving, I have no intention of ever eating the Pope's Nose, which seems to me the least desirable element on an otherwise tasty carcass.

    And that's why I think the Pope's Nose makes such a perfect award for the worst fantasy football performances of this season.

    I've chosen a player at every position who I think so far, through Week 11, has embodied the worst possible return on his original draft position:

    QB: Jay Cutler. No surprise here, though I almost went with Tony Romo, who has been spotty all year. Cutler leads the NFL in INTs, so if those have any decent negative value on your league, he is probably killing you.

    RB: Larry Johnson. He had already deflated into a fifth-round pick in many leagues, but his suspension and subsequent release by Kansas City capped a 0 TD season - and at a time when the KC passing offense was woeful and gave him plenty of chances. He's caught on in Cincinnati, but is unlikely to do much.

    WR: Dwayne Bowe. There are many candidates, but Bowe, a definite third-rounder and top 10 WR coming into this season, is the biggest stinker. He took an already unproductive season (KC's offensive game plan was no help) and shelved it with a drug suspension. He'll be back for the final two weeks of the season, but was essentially a wasted pick. What is it with these Kansas City guys?

    TE: Anthony Fasano. This was shaping up to be a weak position this year, but Fasano was viewed as a chic high pick during the pre-season. Instead, Miami's offense has immersed itself in wildcat trickery, and Fasano has only 1 TD and 113 measly receiving yards.

    K: Nick Folk. Both long and accurate coming into this season, he has missed five field goals (and at least 15 fantasy points) when the Dallas offense has needed him most. He is 13th in the league in field goal percentage, and anyone who drafted him was probably counting on him being near the top.

    Our Fantasy Fix Action Ratings, Fantasy Basketball Update and Expert Wires will return next week. In the meantime, don't forget to set your fantasy football rosters (and your oven timers) in time for the three Thanksgiving Day games. Enjoy your bird, including the Pope's Nose, if you must.

    -

    Dan O'Shea's Fantasy Fix appears in this space every Wednesday. Comments welcome. You can also read his about his split sports fan personality at SwingsBothWays, which isn't about what it sounds like It's about.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:41 AM | Permalink

    November 24, 2009

    The [Tuesday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    1. Facebook feed: "Matt Farmer predicts that a general lack of strength, focus and agility will leave at least four Chicago Bears linemen trampled under foot by fellow shoppers on Black Friday."

    2. Via Jameson Campaigne: A cool unemployment map.

    3. Why didn't I get a flu shot? I'm a Mac and I thought we didn't get viruses.

    *

    Is there a way to make the swine flu kosher? Can a rabbi come over and bless your sweat?

    4. Has there ever been a better campaign slogan in Illinois history than the one Dan Proft is using? "Illinois isn't broken. It's fixed."

    Exactly right.

    5. Texts From Last Night:

    (617): I just bought a CD. I feel like a traitor to my generation.

    *

    (586): Now that the fun of having an iPhone has worn off I find that using screen as a coke tray is by far my favorite app

    6. Pat Quinn: "I think the people of Illinois are a lot happier today, in November of 2009, than they were at the beginning of this year."

    Not true. At the beginning of the year we had hope.

    7. Ald. Rugai's Street Sure Is Smooth.

    8. The Twins' Joe Mauer won the AL MVP Award this week. Mauer, of course, will always be linked in Cubs history with Mark Prior. Prior fell to the Cubs in the 2001 draft when Minnesota opted for the hometown catcher over the pitching phenom. But there was a third player in the mix, too.

    Here's what the Tribune wrote before the draft:

    "The Cubs still might wind up with Southern Cal ace Mark Prior with the second pick in the upcoming draft. The Twins have gotten very serious about St. Paul high school catcher Joe Mauer with the first pick, which would leave the Cubs to take their choice between Prior and Georgia Tech third baseman Mark Teixeira."

    Pure Cubs.

    9. "Citing the problems of being heavily dependent on consumer spending in a recession, Schaumburg is poised to impose its first municipal property tax in its 53-year history," the Daily Herald reports.

    10. He's Jay Cutler - now with lyrics.

    11. Acting Stimulated: Recovery Bill Saves Shakespeare.

    12. We've always been another Detroit.

    13. "In the decade since mass protests over the punishment of six black students in Decatur, the state's racial gap in discipline has split wide open. It's such a gaping hole that now more than half of all Illinois children suspended from public schools are black, even though they represent less than one-fifth of the enrollment, according to an Associated Press analysis."

    14. "It's a token public option, an ersatz public option, a fleeting gesture toward the idea of a public option, so small and desiccated as to be barely worth mentioning except for the fact that it still (gasp) contains the word 'public'," Robert Reich writes.

    "Our private, for-profit health insurance system, designed to fatten the profits of private health insurers and Big Pharma, is about to be turned over to . . . our private, for-profit health care system."

    15. Jeering Heathers.

    16. He's a turkey.

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Oven-fresh.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:56 AM | Permalink

    November 23, 2009

    SportsMonday

    By Jim Coffman

    I have a friend who loves Soldier Field as currently constituted. He loves the way it looks, the way it sounds, the way the setting sun creates a warm, reflective glow in the eastern stands as a November afternoon turns to evening (okay, that's a bit of a stretch). Actually what he really loves is that it is a comfortable, convenient place for him to watch a game - approximately 100 times more so than it was before the renovation was completed in 2003. He remembers the last game he attended at the old Soldier Field - a playoff loss to, coincidentally enough, the Philadelphia Eagles in 2001. That game was marked by a huge halftime surge to the toilets (even more so than usual perhaps because it was the post-season). After a while (as the 10-minute halftime drew to a close), scores of male Bears fans in that part of the stadium decided they couldn't wait any longer to relieve themselves at the woefully lacking facilities (mostly overmatched Port-o-Potties). The resulting mass wall-piss created what could only be described as a river of urine flowing down the ramps leading out of the place. Ah, yes, the good old days - although it must be said that golden phenomenon was a fitting metaphor for the Bears' play, both in that specific playoff game and during so many other Chicago football fiascos.

    Special Reports:
  • He's Jay Cutler
  • Help Fire Lovie
  • Horse of the Year
  • Coach Crap
  • Bears Blame

  • So in my friend Jon's honor (he is a good guy, a great meteorologist . . . and he has almost perfect season tickets), I will start this column with neither snarky snippets nor a broad architectural critique (as if I could muster such a thing) about that big, wacky place the Bears call home. "Wacky" is alright isn't it? It's kind of fun, kind of crazy and it is definitely the best I can do.

    Sunday evening, after all, was my once every year or two pilgrimage to the actual site where the team that has forever been my fall obsession plays its home games. And so I had a chance to yet again contemplate the stadium in question and to note that . . . wait, don't go there. The place is undeniably so much better than it used to be for the most important constituency (and no, that's not you Mr. Architecture Critic). We were able to get in and out smoothly thanks to cabs (we both live on the North Side) that dropped us off and then picked us up on Columbus Drive, a little more than a mile north of the Field. Although be careful where you try to pick up a cab over there. Cops on ATVs were patrolling areas where cabs aren't supposed to stop, ready to crack down on miscreants who dared defy fencing put in place to try to force fans to wait to hop in their ride until they are a suitable distance away.

    Like I noted earlier, we sat in great seats but the percentage of seats at Soldier Field that can be classified as at least "good" is remarkably high. It seems like there are an incredible number of luxury suites (the stadium overall seats 61,500, the lowest capacity in the league - I wonder where it ranks in total number of suites). But perhaps that makes it more economically viable to be so much smaller (and comfortable) than so many of the huge football bowls (with tens of thousands of not-good seats) that dot the land. Anyway, we had decent beer (Honkers) and decent food (Italian beef) nearby and besides the ever-mysterious "there's a timeout - where - on the field - awww" thing that has to be one of the stupidest rituals in the history of spectator sport, the extra-curricular entertainment was solid (hey Bears, how about more of the drill team, not just little snippets before the game and at the start of the second half). In particular I cannot get enough of the digital scoreboard clip of the bear squishing the dear, departed John Candy under a door. I vote that alternating timeouts be filled with John Candy clips (culminating with the bear on the door) and the drill team. Who's with me?

    The game itself was forgettable. Gone was the optimism inspired by early-season fourth-quarter drives to critical field goals (not touchdowns, we now remember almost bitterly, but field goals).

    I didn't think the Bears were going to manage the needed final touchdown drive when they got the ball with just under two minutes remaining.

    And when Cutler threw that final pick, he was actually putting everyone involved on our side out of their misery. That drive was over when Cutler went back to pass on the first play with 75 yards to go and not much time and fired a quick six-yard pass to Greg Olsen right in the middle of the field. Why in the universe would you start this sort of drive that way? Don't you at least have to take a look (and probably take a shot) at receivers running patterns out wide with a chance to either get out of bounds or to pick up enough yards that it doesn't really matter if they get out of bounds?

    Isn't that why Cutler is here? Because he has the arm strength to complete those kinds of passes? And it wasn't just that he threw the ball to Olsen at that point, it was that he didn't even look out wide, just as Cutler didn't even look wide on a failed third down at the 10 earlier in the game when he successfully avoided a rush, moved forward with several options in front of him, but chose to zero in on Olsen and try to force one in to the tight end despite double coverage that sure enough foiled the scoring attempt and forced a field goal. Nice. And of course that play reminded us of the final play of consequence in the previous Bears contest, when Cutler moved forward to avoid the 49er rush, declined to even consider receivers out wide and fired his fifth interception up the middle in the vicinity of Olsen.

    It is becoming more and more apparent that Ron Turner will be trying not to let the door hit him in the ass at the end of the season. But a change at offensive coordinator and not at head coach and general manager sets up a troublesome scenario. Lovie brings in a new offensive coordinator for the 2010 season and he and Cutler scramble to install a completely new system. Then the Bears fail again (why would we be optimistic after three straight lame seasons?), Lovie and Jerry are fired and a whole new crew is brought in. Three systems in three years is an NFL nightmare. Hey Ted Phillips, you need to make a run at Mike Shanahan the day after the season ends. Offer him whatever he wants for gosh sakes. Eat the Angelo and Lovie contracts because you can, because you were 20 million under the player salary cap this season for goodness sakes. Get it done!

    Bear Notes
    There was a great deal of chatter this week about how it is the team's fault that professional quarterbacks always suck around here. But the Bears hierarchy didn't make Jay Cutler brutally overthrow Devin Hester on a wide open hitch-and-go in the first half of Sunday's loss to the Eagles. And they didn't have anything to do with Cutler air-mailing a bomb out beyond the reach of Johnny Knox in the second half.

    *

    The majority of the time the Eagles ran the ball on Sunday, there was at least a crease in the line or a surge to run behind. The majority of times Bear running backs took handoffs, there was nothing. Is it that offensive Ron Turner's run calls are too conservative and predictable? Or is it that the Bears linemen aren't good enough?

    *

    A couple more third-and-huges converted again against the Bears Sunday. "I couldn't defend third-and-long" is in the running for a prominent spot on Lovie's coaching tombstone.

    *

    The best play of the night wasn't Kahlil Bell's long first-half run in and of itself, it was what Knox did during Bell's run. Knox turned on the jets when he saw Bell zip past him and managed to get back in front of Bell in time to engage in his second block of the play. The rookie wide receiver didn't quite spring Bell for a touchdown but he did help him get an additional 15 yards and his effort should have been inspirational. Too bad the Bears and Lovie just can't seem to do "inspiration."

    -

    Jim Coffman rounds up the sports weekend in this space every Monday. He welcomes your comments.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:49 AM | Permalink

    The [Monday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    Wow, that really sucked. You'd think the swine flu would be more fun to have considering it's named after a beast that gives us so much goodness.

    LISA: I'm going to become a vegetarian.

    HOMER: Does that mean you're not going to eat any pork?

    LISA: Yes.

    HOMER: Bacon?

    LISA: Yes, Dad.

    HOMER: Ham?

    LISA: Dad, all those meats come from the same animal.

    HOMER: Right Lisa, some wonderful, magical animal!

    But it was no fun at all. In fact, I've never felt worse. As some of you who know me personally know, I offered at one point to sign over our $35,000 grant from the Chicago Community Trust to whoever would come over and smother me with a pillow.

    I couldn't even manage to craft a joke out of swine flu not being kosher, though I did steal a line from Beachwood regular Jash and ask several people to send over the hambulance.

    I can't tell you what a delight it was to wake up in a pool of sweat over and over and over. Or to cough so much and so deeply that I pulled every minute muscle in my body . . . over and over and over. Or to feel like my skull was giving me a personal lesson in plate tectonics.

    I swear, I do not know how people persevere through serious disease. I would not be a hero.

    Anyway, now I'm on an antibiotic to make sure I don't lapse into pneumonia but - unlike the economy - I'm on the recovery curve. I'm just very weak. I ate a real meal on Sunday for the first time in seven days, so it's gonna take some time to get my strength back.

    He's Jay Cutler!
    Our good friend Tom Latourette is back with a new work of musical genius.

    Bear Monday
    "Just when it looked like the sustained mediocrity of the NFL was going to keep the Bears in the playoff race, the 2009 season took yet another disappointing turn on Sunday night with an unremarkable 24-20 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles," Mike Mulligan writes in the Sun-Times.

    "A victory would have put the Bears back at .500, just one game removed from a wild-card spot. Instead a loss puts them in the middle of nowhere. Not good enough to contend in an ordinary conference and not even in position to benefit for their failure in terms of draft picks.

    "Moreover, this game was a further stripping away of the devices the Bears have used to defend themselves. It was the third straight loss after the humiliation at home by Arizona and a bad loss in San Francisco. The Bears have lost five of their last six, with the only victory coming against Cleveland on Nov. 1. You can argue they haven't had a legitimate victory since before the bye week on Oct. 4 against Detroit."

    *

    Our very own Jim Coffman was there.

    Generation Gap
    "Half of drivers 18-34 admit texting on the road."

    And half of drivers 55-70 admit to reading a newspaper while driving.

    Beachwood Sports
    While most of the site went cold when I did - and will remain so this week due to the holiday - our esteemed sports staff kept cranking it out. What you might have missed:

    * Help Fire Lovie.

    * If an NFL coach says it, check it out.

    * Stupid and arrogant is no way for the Bears to go through life.

    * And the horse of the year is . . .

    P.S. Oprah
    We were pretty much on the ball with this one.

    Political World
    I made a few NBCChicago.com posts this morning as I jumped back in the saddle here.

    * Quinn's crappy clean-up job.

    * Illinois pols have on interest in fighting fair.

    * Burt Natarus's red light district.

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Using all of the pig.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:32 AM | Permalink

    The Blue & Orange Kool-Aid Report

    By Eric Emery

    I highly recommend Bears fans employ the following tactics to get Lovie Smith and his staff fired:

    1. Increase the number of cleverly named websites devoted to running Smith & Co. out of town.

    This area needs significant help. I've found "fireloviesmith.com" and "fireronturner.net." Two websites will not get the job done. Here are some recommendations to get you started:

    * "sendlovietodetroit.com"

    * "blagofordacoach.com"

    * "barackchangethedacoachforus.com"

    * "lovieforonewayticketoutofhere.com"

    * "bringbackwannstedt.com"

    * "yourmommashouldcoachthebears.com"

    * "pwnlovie.com" (photoshop Lovie's face on passed out people)

    * "loviewipethatfuckingstupidlookoffyourface.com"

    * "turnerspicsoflovie.com" (pics of Lovie that explain why Turner is still employed)

    * "corpseofhalasforcoach.com"

    * "ditkaforcoach.com"

    * "postresumeforfuturebearsjob.com"

    2. Post your grievances.

    In 1517, Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses at the Castle Church in Wittenberg Germany. He did so because he was really pissed off at the Catholic Church. Do you know what all 95 Theses were? Of course not. All you really know is that he was really pissed off. Who knows, one of the grievances could have been "I'm sick and tired of spending two hours in fucking church every Sunday. Don't you think we could shorten this shit up a bit?"

    So you need to post your own list. And I don't mean online. That's for lazy people. You need to go old school and personally go to Soldier Field or Halas Hall and post these up yourself.

    Along with your very legitimate grievances, here are some others:

    * Every time Ron Turner calls a play, a kitten dies. You like kittens, don't you? (I highly recommend including a picture of a really cute kitten.)

    * If I pay for another ticket with Smith as head coach, you need to provide free beer.

    * We expect this from the Cubs. Bears, you have really disappointed us this time.

    * In this town, only Daley gets to pay people for doing nothing productive.

    * Remember this change fad? Well, get cracking.

    * I'm staying at my mother's house tonight and I'm taking the kids with me.

    * I think you have a problem with alcohol.

    3. Signs at the game.

    At this point, you might say "I'll go to the game and boo a lot." This is not a good strategy. Boos are for general dissatisfaction. Boos create collateral damage. You don't want to boo Robbie Gould.

    Signs center frustration with those who deserve it. Chances are your sign will not make in on TV. Most football announcers cannot read anyway. But they can count.

    You can also opt with some other displays that qualify as signs:

    * Dress like Lovie Smith while holding a clipboard with a large "?" on it.

    * Buy plane ticket in Lovie's name and enlarge it for display purposes. Make sure you pick an undesirable city, such as Baghdad, Kabul, or Oakland.

    * Acquire two paper bags, one big and one small. Cut holes for eyes. Buy a lifelike doll. Wear bag and place small bag on doll. (Do not use a real baby, even if they are pissed off too.)

    4. Just do something crazy.

    * Boycott all the "official products of the Chicago Bears," such as U.S. Cellular, Staples, Motorola, and United. Continue to use Wm. Meyers Movers Inc. Perhaps they will really be the official moving and storage provider to Lovie Smith.

    * Organize a Chicago hunger strike. You will not eat Italian beef sandwiches until the Bears fire Lovie.

    * Call sports radio and give them ways they could trade Lovie for something worthless, like the whole Raiders roster.

    -

    Game: Eagles at Bears

    Storyline: Everybody in Chicago hates Lovie. Everybody in Philadelphia hates McNabb, but at least he'll help a team win.

    Reality: It's time to trade Lovie and two more first-round draft picks to Philly for McNabb.

    Prediction: Philadelphia Minus 3 Points, Under 45 Points Scored

    -

    Sugar in the Blue and Orange Kool-Aid: 20%
    Recommended sugar in the Blue and Orange Kool-Aid: 10%

    -

    For more Emery, please see the Blue & Orange Kool-Aid Report archives and the Over/Under collection. He welcomes your comments.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:10 AM | Permalink

    November 21, 2009

    The Weekend Desk Report

    By Natasha Julius

    Don't worry, everyone. If the pigs don't get you, the leaping carp will.

    Market Update
    Home values in Lakeview showed a staggering increase this week. Well, you know, relatively speaking anyway.

    Rio Grande
    The 2016 Olympic Games isn't the only high-profile event to trade the Windy City for the Marvelous City. Apparently Block 37 may also be moved to Rio.

    Pressed Press
    Mayor Daley left no doubt this week who he feels is responsible for the rapid exodus for our fair city. Apparently, the media Chicago media is so vicious it is now causing itself to leave.

    Will Fare-L
    Forbes Magazine this week named Will Ferrell Hollywood's most overpaid actor. Ferrell earns a mere $3.29 for each dollar he is paid, making him slightly more profitable than the CTA.

    Bearly Diplomatic
    Perhaps already preparing for the potential fallout of a Sunday night home loss, Chicago officials have announced that, should the Eagles win, Donovan McNabb will be recalled.

    Justice Delayed
    Finally this week, duh.

    Posted by Natasha Julius at 9:35 AM | Permalink

    November 20, 2009

    Ofman: Dis and Dat, Dem and Dose

    By George Ofman

    Try putting yourself in the Bears shoes. Why would you want to talk to Bob Costas? Why would you want him to grill Jerry Angelo on the warts of his football organization? Why would you want him to probe Lovie Smith about some of the decisions he's made? Why would you want him to have access to Jay Cutler only to undress him about all those interceptions?

    Can you blame the Bears for being arrogant and stupid?

    Yes!

    *

    Major league baseball won't add replay but it did decide to tighten its playoff schedule, which is a relief. I didn't want to watch the World Series in December.

    *

    If Notre Dame won't fire Charlie Weis, can it at least send him the Bears? That way Costas won't be able to interview him, either.

    *

    I've written about, read about and heard about reasons for and against Curtis Granderson being a Cub. He should be, but not at all costs. The native Chicagoan is a good player and fits everything the Cubs need from a solid defensive centerfielder, to a left-handed hitter with power who can run and has a good resume as a lead-off man. He can't hit left-handed pitching but if the Cubs hired Rudy "The Guru" Jaramillo to aid their ailing bats, think what he could do for Granderson.

    *

    This just in: Milton Bradley is still a Cub but I'm willing to bet my house, so long as it's not foreclosed, he won't be by spring training.

    *

    This just in part two: The Cubs have agreed on a two-year deal with John Grabow. This is a good thing.

    *

    Patrick Kane is 21. Yippee! Did the Buffalo cab driver send him a gift?

    *

    Kane and teammates Joanthan Toews and Duncan Keith are about to get mega-contracts. And do you know what that means? Several popular teammates of theirs won't be here next season. This is called the NHL's hard salary cap. Who could go? How about Patrick Sharp or Kris Versteeg or Dustin Byfuglien or Adam Burish. I'll be willing to bet one of them is playing for someone else next season.

    *

    Today marks the two-year anniversary of John McDonough becoming president of the Blackhawks. It's been a remarkable two years highlighted by increased attendance (like full houses every night), increased value of the franchise by 26 percent, a trip to the conference finals, etc. It's also been marred by the firings of Denis Savard and Dale Tallon (history will say smart moves), some bungling of money and a somewhat controversial contract to Marion Hossa, who almost immediately underwent surgery. Despite that, the Hawks arrow is pointing up and with a bullet!

    *

    Jay Cutler has 17 interceptions, five in the red zone. Derrick Rose averaged 16.8 points, 6.3 assists, 3.9 rebounds and shot .475 from the field during his rookie year. Going into last night's game against the Lakers, Rose's numbers this year were 13.4, 5.5, 2.9 and .438. So, are these guys seeing the same tarot card reader?

    *

    Can we say this loud and clear? Ireland's soccer team got screwed!

    -

    George Ofman, an original member of The Score and a veteran of NPR, has covered more than 3,500 sporting events over the course of his career. Comments welcome.

    Posted by Natasha Julius at 12:58 PM | Permalink

    TrackNotes: The Oscars

    By Thomas Chambers

    America has an obsession with awards.

    I've always thought the Hollywood people stepping all over each other to win the three dozen or so different awards they bestow upon themselves was quite unseemly. Yet, they still can't get it right.

    Jackie Gleason never won an Emmy, one of the most heinous crimes in the annals of showbiz. Andy Griffith never won an Emmy for The Andy Griffith Show! More recently, Jason Alexander never won an Emmy for Seinfeld. Unbelievable. Was the Academy just doing the opposite?

    These days, the world of Thoroughbred horse racing is in a tizzy over who should win the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year, racing's equivalent of the Oscar for Best Actor Man or Woman Who Acted in Any Movie This Year, if there were such an award. Rachel Alexandra? Or Zenyatta?

    These horsey people are supremely conflicted. There is a movement afoot to rig the ballot so that they both might win it more easily. Under current rules, both stunning females could win it, if they each get exactly the same number of votes, but voters are allowed to choose only one.

    Daily Racing Form Editor Steven Crist went a little sideways in condemning the Federation of Horse Racing Authorities for favoring the Europeans in its recent rankings. See? People get worked up about awards.

    Who cares? I've said as much on a few of the forums, only to be lambasted for not understanding the importance of the award. If important means you will be more content with one of them winning it, even if you disagree, take your comfort where you can get it. And yeah, I do understand how important it is for marketing purposes in the breeding suite.

    Besides the opportunity to see the kings and queens of the sport and some of the trophy wives at the Eclipse Awards ceremony, what the hell does it mean to me? Like Sonny said in A Bronx Tale, "Do you think Mickey Mantle cares about you?"

    I enjoyed watching them both race, immensely. One thing that really frosts me is so many people, literally minutes after the Breeders' Cup Classic, declared Zenyatta the horse of the year, female of all-time and, some, one of the best horses ever! I'd hate to think that along with Americans' obsession with winners and losers (it's poisoned our political discourse), my contention that they also have the attention spans of gnats is so completely true. And I don't mean Nat Birnbaum, one of the many gags that helped Art Carney win multiple Emmys. Did they create the racing world on Nov. 7?

    I'm not going to chronicle it here myself. Others have done a great job of that.

    Bloodhorse.com's Steve Haskin has admittedly put the issue on his sleeve and lists the merits of both horses.

    If you want to see Rachel Alexandra, go to YouTube and watch this.

    Then go back and watch this and this with Zenyatta. They'll give you a good idea of what the two horses are about.

    See, I haven't forgotten what either one of them have done. I remember all of their races, all of the excitement they both gave us.

    Did I just hear somebody ask me? Okay, I'm game.

    It's Rachel Alexandra. She beat the girls of her generation, she beat the boys of her generation, and she beat the older boys. And she traveled a noble journey to do it, different tracks and different track conditions. She's 3-years-old, and that is one helluva an accomplishment.

    And when I watched her races once again, I got a full 2009's worth of chills up my spine. I remember my jaw dropping watching her as those races were won. Such a young filly, she took it all on and conquered. My gut feeling is that it's really a no-brainer.

    So there, I said it. My 2009 memory is intact.

    Bobby Frankel, Rest In Peace
    Thoroughbred horse racing lost a true giant Nov. 16 with the passing of trainer Bobby Frankel. We hadn't seen much of him this year, only hearing simply "he's not well."

    Obviously, I didn't know him, except in a handicapping state of mind. In my short time in this game, I remember his horses getting pounded on the tote board the same as any other premiere trainer, but in recent years, I couldn't believe how bettors sometimes underestimated his horses. Then I cashed in. I figured, Bobby doesn't do nothin' for nothin'. He was from Brooklyn, after all.

    When you look at his record, you'll see there was almost no race he didn't succeed in. Except one: The Kentucky Derby.

    Whether it was a horse new to his barn or Frankel shipping in to Arlington or anywhere else, you always knew there was logic, preparation and method to everything he did. And he seemed to take the horse's welfare into top consideration. Perhaps more than many. They said he was gruff, but he seemed to give the media all it wanted even if it might not have understood his intensity.

    Thankfully, we've got a few ideas on training and some anecdotes to remember him by. One I recall is when he stayed home from the 2007 Breeders' Cup because one of his dogs was in its last days. I remember thinking at the time, this is one unusual guy, and he must really love his dogs. He must be a real softy. I liked that.

    Playing this game, I'll miss him.

    -

    Thomas Chambers is the Beachwood's man on the rail. He brings you TrackNotes every Friday. He welcomes your comments.

    Posted by Natasha Julius at 12:50 PM | Permalink

    The Blue & Orange Kool-Aid Report

    By Eric Emery

    This week, the Bears return to what was their happy home. After losing in yet another creative way, Soldier Field will feel like a home - a home that is on the brink of a bitter divorce. Here, Bears fans will split, warming up their baseball rivalries for the 2010 season.

    I caution Bears fans to stick together by attacking the real problem: the Chicago Bears. Frankly, the Bears fans' effort has been downright disappointing. Sure, some made posts to forums and friends' Facebook pages (which were totally entertaining!), but if you really want change, you have to make it happen. Let's face it, voting for change but doing nothing about it is so 2008.

    I highly recommend Bears fans employ the following tactics to get Lovie Smith and his staff fired:

    1. Increase website urls:

    This area needs significant help. I've found fireloviesmith.com and fireronturner.net. Two websites will not get the job done. Here are some recommendations to get you started:


    • "sendlovietodetroit.com"

    • "blagofordacoach.com"

    • "barackchangethedacoachforus.com"

    • "lovieforonewayticketoutofhere.com"

    • "bringbackwannstedt.com

    • "yourmommashouldcoachthebears.com"

    • "pwnlovie.com" (photoshop Lovie's face on passed out people)

    • "loviewipethatfuckingstupidlookoffyourface.com"

    • "turnerspicsoflovie.com" (pics of Lovie that explain why Turner is still employed)

    • "corpseofhalasforcoach.com"

    • "ditkaforcoach.com"

    • "postresumeforfuturebearsjob.com"


    2. Post your grievances:

    In 1517, Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses at the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. He did so because he was really pissed off at the Catholic Church. Do you know what all 95 Theses were? Of course not. All you really know is that he was seriously pissed off. Who knows, one of the grievances could have been "I'm sick and tired of spending 1 ½ hours in fucking church. Don't you think we could shorten this shit up a bit?"

    So you need to post your own list. One other important thing, you really cannot post these online. Besides, online posts are for lazy people. You need to go old school and personally go to Soldier Field or Halas Hall and post these up yourself. Plus, Martin Luther didn't have Kinkos, so really, you have no excuse.

    Along with your very legitimate grievances, here are some others:

    • Every time Ron Turner calls a play, a kitten dies. You like kittens, don't you? (I highly recommend including a picture of a really cute kitten.)
    • If I pay for another ticket with Smith as head coach, you need to provide free beer.
    • We expect this from the Cubs. Bears, you have really disappointed us this time.
    • In this town, only Daley gets to pay people for doing nothing productive.
    • Remember this change fad? Well, get cracking.
    • I'm staying at my mother's house tonight and I'm taking the kids with me.
    • I think you have a problem with alcohol.

    3. Signs at the game

    At this point, you might say "I'll go to the game and boo a lot". This is not a good strategy. Boos are for general dissatisfaction. Boos create collateral damage. You don't want to boo Robbie Gould.

    Signs center frustration with those who deserve it. Chances are your sign will not make in on TV. Most football announcers cannot read anyway. But they can count.

    You can also opt for some other displays that qualify as signs:

    • Dress like Lovie Smith while holding a clipboard with a large "?" on it.
    • Buy plane ticket in Lovie's name and enlarge it for display purposes. Make sure you pick an undesirable city, such as Bagdad, Kabul, or Oakland.
    • Acquire two paper bags, one big and one small. Cut holes for eyes. Buy a lifelike doll. Wear bag and place small bag on doll. (Do not use a real baby, even if they are pissed off too.)
    4. Just do something crazy
    • Boycott all the "official sponsors of the Chicago Bears", such as U.S. Cellular, Staples, Motorola, and United. Continue to use Wm. Meyers Movers Inc. Perhaps they will really be the official moving and storage provider to Lovie Smith.
    • Organize a Chicago hunger strike. You will not eat Italian beef sandwiches until the Bears fire Lovie.
    • Call sports radio and give them ways they could trade Lovie for something worthless, like the whole Raiders roster.

    -

    Game: Eagles at Bears
    Storyline: Everybody in Chicago hates Lovie. Everybody in Philadelphia hates McNabb, but at least he'll help a team win.
    Reality: It's time to trade Lovie and two more first round draft picks to Philly for McNabb.
    Prediction: Philadelphia Minus 3 Points, Under 45 Points Scored

    -

    Sugar in the Blue and Orange Kool-Aid: 20%
    Recommended sugar in the Blue and Orange Kool-Aid: 10%


    Posted by Natasha Julius at 12:08 PM | Permalink

    November 19, 2009

    Fantasy Fix

    By Dan O'Shea

    NFL coaches have had a tough year, and I'm not just talking about the assistant who was allegedly beaten and threatened by his own head coach in Oakland. Of course, here in Chicago, there's poor Lovie Smith and his embarrassing lack of facial expressions - he's only got that one open-mouthed, dumb-founded languorous look that TV cameras tend to dwell upon.

    Meanwhile, it seems like a larger number of coaches than usual may be on the firing line this off-season, with former Bears coach Dick Jauron already a goner in Buffalo. Even the good coaches are seeing their decisions questioned. This past Sunday night, New England's Bill Belichick, the coach who formerly could do no wrong, was lambasted for going for it on fourth down and short yardage deep in his own territory with little time left, up by less than a touchdown, and with a guy named Peyton Manning leading the other team's offense. The Patriots didn't make the first down, and lost. The move was pure Belichick: A first down would have won the game, and to punt it was to unquestionably put it in the hands of the best quarterback of the decade (sorry, Tom Brady) and possibly this year's MVP (that would be Manning). A gutsy move, and I liked it.

    Still, you won't find me offering much more love to NFL coaches in general because they continue to wreak havoc on our fantasy teams. What makes fantasy football so challenging is balancing individual player past performance, future expectations and week-to-week match-ups, and making a decision about who to sit and who to start. But, often, the real wild card is a fourth factor: Communication from head coaches. Sometimes they name starters for a given week, other times they introduce some mystery by saying there isn't a clear starter, or saying they'll give the second-string guy more playing time or more touches in a given week even though he actually won't be starting the game on the field. Some coaches act like they're stating the facts, others like they are playing mind games with that week's opponent. In any case, there is risk in taking them too much at their word.

    My sad examples from last week involved Kansas City RB Kolby Smith, a hot pick-up last week (after previous starter Larry Johnson was released), and Washington RB Ladell Betts, who seemed poised to start until questions arose late about an injury and the possibility that he might share carries with two other RBs. I had a bye week for several players, and needed help, so I picked up both, with the idea I would start Smith and might hold long-term if he panned out, and would stash Betts on the bench for Week 10.

    What happened was this: Smith, who was talked up by his head coach prior to the game, scrounged for a few yards here and there, but Jamaal Charles, a forgotten man on the KC bench, got most of the carries, and ran wild for 103 yards and a long TD. Betts, whose coach didn't vocally commit to him before the game and raised the injury issue, also went nuts, running for 114 yards and a TD.

    I took cues from the coaches' statement in the press, and got burned (though I also figured I was safe with the match-ups - Smith against a lousy run defense, and Betts against a great one). So, I guess the first moral of this story is not to take the loaded statements of NFL coaches too literally, and the second is not to over-think.

    Our Week 11 Fantasy Fix Action Ratings take a look a largely-unowned star performers from Week 10:

    Player: Lee Evans, WR
    FFAR: PICK UP
    Comment: Buffalo's offense has been mediocre all year (losing to Cleveland 6-3 is the definition of bad), and much of that was due to the loss of QB Trent Edwards to injury, not necessarily Jauron's lack of imagination (though that didn't help). Now, Edwards is back, and Evans was his favorite target in Week 10, more than Terrell Owens. That may continue, though this isn't Tom Brady-to-Randy Moss, so don't expect miracles.

    *

    Player: Marc Bulger,QB
    FFAR: PICK UP
    Comment: 298 yards passing and 2 TDs with 1 INT last week against an unbeaten team that collects INTs by the bundle. He has some soft defenses to play against the rest of the season after a challenging assignment in Arizona this week, though. Definitely not a starter in one-QB leagues, but in two-QB leagues he might have potential.

    *

    Player: Jason Avant, WR
    FFAR: SKIP
    Comment: Came out of nowhere for 156 receiving yards for Philadelphia, but QB Donovan McNabb was burning through receivers like crazy last week, to the tune of 450 yards passing. Avant is now on his radar, but he's not the first, second or even third choice for McNabb, and it was clear last week that McNabb was not looking for him in the end zone.

    *

    Player: Michael Bush, RB
    FFAR: SKIP
    Comment: Oakland turned away from Darren McFadden some weeks ago, and toward Bush, who ran for 119 yards in Week 10, but he will face some tough defenses the next few weeks (Cincinnati, Dallas, Pittsburgh). Also, McFadden, recovering from injury, should be much more in the mix for carries, and a third RB, Justin Fargas, seems to get red-zone touches, which could take scores away from Bush.

    Expert Wire
    * Yahoo! Pick-Ups of the Week lists Detroit QB Matthew Stafford as a strong buy, in part because he is playing Cleveland. I'll go along with that, though more so just because I like how much the Lions are having Stafford throw more every week - 51 attempts last week. He's thrown twice as many INTs (12) as TDs (6), so the numbers look a bit ugly, but you'll get at least 200 yards passing and a TD out of him.

    * Bleacher Report says Atlanta QB Matt Ryan may be in for a tough game in Week 11 against the New York Football Giants. Starting RB Michael Turner probably will be sidelined with an injury, but that seems likely to make Ryan throw more often, which I think means more completions and yards, though the Giants certainly know how to bring the pressure.

    * FanHouse has more on the Dick Jauron firing. I don't really buy that this changes things in the fantasy world, though the growing argument has it that new management will try to make sense of the Owens signing by forcing the ball his way.

    * ESPN's Eric Karabell comments on some breaking news: Kansas City WR Dwayne Bowe, who has had an up-and-down season, but still has been a frequent pass target, has been suspended for four weeks for a drug violation. Bowe has not been as good as he was last year, but was still a viable flex option. Now, he is no more than a stretch if your team is still alive in the fantasy league playoffs the last two weeks of the NFL season.

    Fantasy Basketball
    After the first few weeks of the NBA season, it is probably becoming clear where your fantasy team's shortcomings are. Maybe you have narrowly won match-ups, but that won't win championships. Where are the weak spots? Too few three-pointers? Not enough steals? Crappy field goal percentage?

    Salvation might be found on the waiver wire, with some help from the FFAR:

    Player: Rudy Fernandez, PG/SG
    FFAR: PICK UP
    Comment: If your problem is lack of three-pointers or steals, Fernandez is your answer. He has treys to spare, 19 so far in the short season, and 21 steals. There are players widely available who have more baskets from beyond the arc, like Steve Blake, but Fernandez brings a .457 FG%, while Blake is sitting down at .348.

    *

    Player: Carl Landry, SF/PF
    FFAR: PICK UP
    Comment: Landry has been on a run, and may only be a short-term option, but he's delivered 14.2 PPG on a .545 FG% this year. He's taking more than 10 shots per game, which is a good threshold for the FG% to have a real impact on your team average.

    *

    Player: Jared Dudley, SF/PF
    FFAR: PICK UP
    Comment: He has 13 steals and 17 three-pointers in 11 games, and has a nice balance of other stats - 9.2 PPG and a .466 FG%, so that he's more than just a specialist in those areas. Dudley also has consistently been in the mix for more than 22 minutes per game.

    Expert Wire
    * ESPN's Fantasy Basketball Blog has analysis of the trade that sent troubled/troublesome Stephen Jackson to Charlotte. The blog sees Jackson's numbers taking a hit because he's dropping into a lineup with the slowest-paced game in the league. Yet, I wouldn't be surprised if he leads Charlotte in scoring, not that that's anything to write home about.

    * SLAM Online follows up on the ankle injury to superstar PG Chris Paul. This was one of those painful-looking injuries that makes it tough to guess how much time will be missed. SLAM says a rookie, Darren Collison, will get most of the opportunity in Paul's absence.

    -

    Dan O'Shea's Fantasy Fix appears in this space every Wednesday. Tips, comments, and suggestions are welcome. You can also read his about his split sports fan personality at SwingsBothWays, which isn't about what it sounds like It's about.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:47 AM | Permalink

    November 18, 2009

    The [Wednesday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    Ugh. This is brutal. "Got the pig bug?" one friend asked via Facebook. I doubt it, probably just regular flu. But how can you tell? All I know is it's like a sanitarium in here. I don't know how people persevere through serious illness because the misery of this one is just about all I can take. Fever, chills, headache, a cough that seizes every muscle in my body . . . just brutal. And yet, I think I'm on the upswing! I'm planning to return to Beachwood full-force tomorrow, but we'll see. I kinda thought I'd be back today but I have a blinding headache and I'm still drenched in my own sweat.

    But that doesn't mean we don't have some Beachwood goodness to bring you. Mike "Dr. Dude" Luce brings you a fabulous College Football Report worth reading even if you're not a huge college football fan. And George Ofman takes us on a tour of the Bulls' Circus Trip, which got underway this week.

    Hopefully we'll get the rest of the site cranked back up and get Beachwood HQ fumigated in the meantime so I don't keep re-infecting myself. That's all I can muster for now. Hopefully see you tomorrow.

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Hand-cranked.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:46 AM | Permalink

    The College Football Report

    By Mike Luce

    A note to our readers: first, our apologies for the late release of this week's review; and second, we will use the terms Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) and Division I-AA interchangeably from this point forward. The same goes for Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and Division I-A. We have complained about this cosmetic change to the long-standing I-A/I-AA naming convention before, and now we'll choose to ignore it as we see fit. So there.

    Ofman:
  • Circus Tripping

  • * The College Football Report would like to give a hand to some programs across the land that became bowl eligible with a win on Saturday. While no one has been speculating about Southern Methodist's role in the national championship race, or how the Kentucky Wildcats could be a BCS darkhorse, both still deserve some recognition. This week, we will take a break from reviewing the exploits of big-name programs in favor of celebrating the little guy. Or at least the not-so-big guy.

    Note that not all of these teams will automatically play in a post-season bowl, although the odds are good. Most BCS conferences have at least six bowl tie-ins and some (the SEC, for example) have as many as nine. (This does not mean that the SEC sends nine teams to bowl games every season but instead that up to nine bowls will invite a team from the conference should that many be bowl eligible.)

    All the same, six is usually the magic number. Only four teams (Arkansas State, Bowling Green, Louisiana-Lafayette and San Jose State, all at 6-6) finished with six wins and remained home at the end of the regular season last year. At least one team (6-5 Kansas State, with two Ws against FCS schools) already has six wins in 2009 but must record at least seven for eligibility - teams from the former Division I-A can only count one win against I-AA programs toward their total. I'm not bothered by this rule. Let's face it - the Iowa States of the world need a little help padding the win total, but piling on Ws against Directional Creampuffs seems a bit unfair.

    So today, we tip our hat to:

    * Iowa State (-5, won 17-10 vs. Colorado): May your Cyclones never play the Hurricanes, lest we all suffer "total protonic reversal."

    * Missouri (-1.5, won 38-12 @ Kansas State): Good for you. No really, you didn't cost me money on Saturday or anything. Nice job. No, really. Bravo.

    Here is something to consider - we make picks (for entertainment purposes only, of course) every week. Should you enter into a friendly wager with a friend, we hope our picks can act as some helpful information. Most likely, for example, you would be well served reading our preview column and then doing the exact opposite of whatever we say. (Although it should be noted that we went 3-2 last week.)

    But services exist that require interested parties to pay for ongoing subscriptions, one-off reports, and access to periodic "key releases." The experts often pick every game but point out several of these key match-ups as the best bets. Further, some services go so far as to make special announcements when this or that game is a lock - a sure-fire winner.

    Are such picks 100 percent accurate? Of course not. But is it reasonable to think key picks and special selections should average better than 50 percent? We think so. Not true this season, however, as Kansas State (plus the points) was yet another busted call by the experts.

    Here's our advice for anyone tempted to cough up for special access to the experts: Flip a coin.

    Southern Miss (-3, won 27-20 @ Marshall): The College Football Report enjoys teams with a confusing nickname history. While Southern Miss has been known as the Golden Eagles since the 1970s, past nicknames include the Tigers, Normalites, Yellow Jackets, Confederates and Southerners. I say the more nicknames, the better. And if the marketing department at Southern Miss hasn't yet created a throwback "Normalites" jersey, they should. I would order one immediately - size M, please. (Does "medium" sound a bit girlie for something like a replica football jersey? Maybe. But those things always fit like curtains, and nobody looks good walking around in a "Normalite" jersey shaped like a tent. Trust me.)

    SMU (-7, won 35-31 vs. UTEP): The Mustangs have not received a bowl invite since 1984. The last winning season (6-5) came in 1986. Things have just not been the same for the Mustangs since suffering the "Death Penalty" from the NCAA for repeat rules violations in the 1980s.

    While the 'Stangs only lost a single season of play ('87) due to the judgment, the cumulative effect of the various penalties, including scholarship reductions, hiring limits, recruiting restrictions, and a ban on post-season play nearly killed the program. But the Methodists persevered, suffering through season after dismal season. The 2008 squad ended the year at 1-11. Coming into 2009, SMU ranked somewhere near the bottom out of all 114 I-A programs. The prospect of a winning season and a bowl game must seem like manna from heaven. Congrats, Mustangs.

    Arkansas (-14, W 56-20 vs. Troy): The Razorbacks have had a wild ride. If Arkansas played in the Big 12 North, rather than the SEC West, we might be talking about a New Year's Day bowl game. Instead, the Hogs have suffered in conference play but capitalized against cupcakes like Troy. While six wins at this point may feel like a bit of a letdown to the Arkansas faithful in Fayetteville, at least they notched number six in impressive fashion.

    Louisiana-Monroe (-21.5, W 21-18 vs. Western Kentucky): I wish the Warhawks didn't have to beat my beloved Hilltoppers to make it happen, but congratulations all the same. Nicely done! Headline: Directional Creampuff Reaches Bowl Eligibility!

    Kentucky (-3, W 24-13 @ Vanderbilt): The University of Kentucky Wildcats will (almost undoubtedly) reach a fourth straight bowl game this season. Last year, head coach Rich Brooks & Co. made UK history after making a third consecutive bowl trip - all Ws! The true-blue faithful in Central Kentucky are even talking about closing out the season with a win at home against . . . Tennessee. I mean, who are these guys?

    Football used to be no more than a distraction before the start of the real season - Kentucky basketball. But something curious happened over the past five or so seasons . . . basketball, with an obnoxious drunkard (Billy Gillespie) at the helm, slipped further and further from UK's accustomed heights. Meanwhile an old coot, out of the college game for 15 years, took over in 2003 and turned the program around in three seasons. We should all be so lucky to experience a career rebirth at the age of 62.

    CFR Notes
    In other action, the BCS contenders did not make much noise over the weekend. Apart from USC's stunning defeat at the hands of red-hot Stanford, the lineup has not changed much from last week. In fact, the top eight spots remain exactly the same.

    #1 Florida 24 (-17.5) @ South Carolina 14*
    #2 Alabama 31 (-11.5) @ Mississippi State 3
    #3 Texas 47 (-24) @ Baylor 14**
    #16 Utah 28 @ #4 TCU 55 (-20)***
    #25 West Virginia 21 @ #5 Cincinnati 24 (-9.5)****
    Idaho 25 @ #6 Boise State 63 (-32.5)
    #7 Georgia Tech 49 (-13.5) @ Duke 10*****
    Louisiana Tech 16 @ #8 LSU 24 (-23)
    #25 Stanford 55 @ #9 USC 21 (-10.5)
    #10 Iowa 24 @ #11 Ohio State (-16.5)
    Notre Dame 22 @ #12 Pittsburgh 27 (-6)
    Arizona State 21 @ #13 Oregon 44 (-21)
    #14 Miami FL 24(-3) @ North Carolina 33

    *As predicted by the Beachwood Sports Seal
    **Not as predicted by the Beachwood Sports Seal
    ***As we predicted
    ****Ahem, who is looking forward to taking Cincinnati's opponent in the BCS? (Raises hand.)
    *****Also, not as we predicted

    -

    Mike "Dr. Dude" Luce brings you The College Football Report in this space twice a week, with the generous assistance of the Beachwood Sports Seal. They both welcome your comments.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:28 AM | Permalink

    Circus Tripping With The Bulls

    It's time to send in the clowns, elephants and jugglers. It's also time to send the Bulls on a trip only a magician can envy. You see, ever since Michael Jordan left for more golf and less work, the Bulls have usually disappeared from the win column during their lengthy November sojourn known as the Circus Trip.

    As Ringling Bros. takes over the United Center, the Bulls tend to fall off their high-wire act. Matter of fact, since the 1999-2000 season, the Bulls have become steady bedfellows with futility on their circus tours. They went five straight years without winning a single game on the trip until winning for the first time in 39 tries in Utah on Wednesday, November 24, 2004. Thanksgiving turkey never tasted as good.

    It's amazing to think a team, no matter how good or bad (and there were some pretty bad Bulls teams during the streak) wouldn't fluke and win a game. Three times after the trip they came home 1-12. Once they were 1-11 and two other times, 4-12.

    Things have improved somewhat in recent years. The Bulls actually went 3-3 in the 05-06 season, the only time they've been .500 since the 97-98 campaign, Jordan's last. Last year's Bulls went 3-4 on the trip and came home 9-8, only the second time they were above .500 after the circus tents were dismantled.

    Teams claim they bond on the road, only seldom do they win. Take last year for example. Only seven of the 30 teams in the NBA managed to have winning road records.

    Major league baseball was just behind the NBA in road woes. Only eight of 30 teams had winning records away from home.

    The 2008 NFL season wound up with only seven teams with winning road records, seven that finished .500 and 18 that were below break even.

    The NHL's convoluted point system makes it difficult to ascertain who does well on the road but suffice it to say, not many.

    This doesn't point to why the Bulls were so utterly futile during a nearly six-year stretch of nothing.

    Maybe their overall record should. During the five years in which the Bulls didn't win a single game during the circus trip, they wound up a combined 106-304. To put that into perspective, the Bulls lost only 106 games during the six seasons they won the title. And, by the way, they had no trouble during the circus trip.

    Talent wins out.

    Which brings us to this year's Bulls. Do they have a chance of a half decent trip? Well, if you take last night, yes. They cruised to a 14-point win over Sacramento. Next up; the Lakers. Sorry folks. Even without Pau Gasol, L.A. has a guy named Kobe. Enough said. Bulls lose this one. And they probably lose the next one at Denver unless Brad Miller hits a shot with .03 seconds left and this time the refs don't wipe it out. And they probably get beat at Portland. That leaves Utah and Milwaukee. The Utah game is Thanksgiving night and I believe the home team will have one thing on their mind: turkey. Bulls steal this one but cannot contain the newest star in the league, the Bucks' Brandon Jennings, who scored 55 Saturday night.

    So I have the Bulls at 2-4. Not great but not bad considering their recent history on these trips.

    And now ladies and gentleman I direct you to the man on the flying trapeze!

    -

    George Ofman, an original member of The Score and a veteran of NPR, has covered more than 3,500 sporting events over the course of his career. Comments welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:09 AM | Permalink

    November 16, 2009

    SportsMonday: Blackhawks Briefing

    By Jim Coffman

    So much more satisfying to see a hockey game end in overtime isn't it? Shootouts are dramatic and they beat a tie, that's for sure, but they are contrived. I love the regular season NHL overtime with the four-on-four format that almost always produces end-to-end excitement. And sure enough the Blackhawks' impressive early Sunday evening victory (love those 6 p.m. starts!) over the team with the best record in the league, the San Jose Sharks, benefited greatly from a thrilling overtime finish.

    Only about 30 seconds had elapsed in the five-minute extra period when the Hawks gathered themselves in their own end and then busted out toward and then through center ice. A moment or two after entering the Shark zone, Jonathan Toews slipped the puck toward the goal knowing that Troy Brouwer was rushing up the slot and had a great shot at a redirection. Sure enough, Brouwer did tip the puck on net but Shark goalie Evgeni Nabokov stopped it and the rebound ended up behind the net in the possession of a Shark defenseman.

    Then Toews raced in and went to work, forcing a turnover, losing the puck for an instant - at which point Brouwer foiled a potential clearance by smoothly lifting an opposing stick - and then taking it back. As he did so, Toews spotted Brent Seabrook making a move toward the net. Toews put his pass on Seabrook's stick, the defenseman went down to one knee to try to make sure the puck didn't slip past him and then pushed a one-timer along the ice toward the middle of net. When the puck slipped through Nabokov's skates and into the goal, the Hawks had the perfect send-off to the coming two-week, six-game road trip that kicks off Thursday at Calgary.

    The overtime tally also capped off a determined Blackhawk comeback from a two-goal, second-period deficit. They pulled even with a pair of scores later in the middle period, the first of which also resulted from a great Toews set-up (Patrick Kane knocked that one in). On the tying goal that John Madden scored on a rebound of Andrew Ladd's shot a minute and 19 seconds before the second intermission, the call by Pat Foley and Ed Olczyk was almost better than the action. Olczyk pulled a Steve Stone, who has always impressed during baseball broadcasts with his ability to not only predict what pitch a pitcher was about to throw but also where the pitch would go and what the hitter would do (or not do) with it.

    Back to Olczyk, with the puck back in the Hawks' zone with about 1:35 on the clock, he noted that the Sharks had "two tired defensemen on the ice" and that maybe the Hawks would be able to take advantage of the situation. Sure enough, the blue-liners who hadn't managed to get to the bench to allow fresher legs to sub in were back on their heels when Ladd then rushed past the Shark blue line, put a shot on net and then chopped at the rebound while Nabokov sprawled in an effort to keep it out of the net. He did but he was way out of position when Madden swooped in to fire the second rebound into an almost empty net.

    The Big Picture
    The Hawks have won seven in a row at home, but that hasn't resulted in any sort of major move in the standings. An NHL team can go ahead and pile up victories but if a decent number of those results are overtime or shootout wins (when the losers get one point to the winners' two) against conference foes, those wins just don't give a team a big boost. The Hawks (12-5-2, 26 points) enter this week leading the Red Wings (10-5-3) by three and Columbus (10-6-2) by four in the Central Division. Elsewhere in the Western Conference, the Colorado Avalanche and Calgary Flames have piled up 27 and 26 points, respectively, in the Northwest and San Jose, the Los Angeles Kings and Phoenix lead the Pacific Division with 31, 26 and 22. The Hawks will need to play well on the road against all conference foes during the coming trip just to maintain their position among those teams.

    In Other News
    My favorite headline from the weekend in sports was rookie guard Brandon Jennings going off for the Bucks Saturday evening, pouring in 55 points to lead Milwaukee to a 129-125 victory at Golden State. Jennings' total set a new rookie team record, breaking the old mark held by a certain Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Jennings scored 29 points in the third quarter alone and was a one-man scoring machine in the final minutes of the fourth as the Bucks completed their comeback triumph

    Jennings was the kid who decided to take a pass on the colossal sham that is college basketball when he wrapped up his high school career in 2008, choosing instead to head to Europe for the required year between high school competition and entering the draft. Jennings, who became the youngest player to ever score more than 50 points in an NBA game, was able to hone his game against better, more mature players during professional competition for Lottomatica Roma. There were also no restrictions on how much he could practice, as there are in college. His numbers (he averaged just over five points per game) were not impressive but he did well enough in Rome and at pre-draft camps to be selected 10th overall in the NBA draft earlier this year. And after just missing a triple-double in his debut for the Bucks and turning in several more impressive performances before Saturday's spectacular outburst, it is quickly becoming clear that Jennings made a move that other potential NBA players should seriously consider for developmental purposes.

    Oh, and just last year he was also was paid more than a million dollars by Lottomatica and signed a $2 million contract with primary sponsor Under Armor.

    -

    Jim Coffman rounds up the sports weekend in this space every Monday. He welcomes your comments.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:43 AM | Permalink

    The [Monday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    Here's the note I sent to my NBCChicago.com minders this morning:

    "i'm so sorry, i think i've got the flu, and unfortunately i'm not joking. i've been staving off symptoms for the better part of the week and it hit me full force the last 24 hours. i'm going to go back to sleep and hope i either wake up cured or don't wake up at all. and i had a bunch of story ideas lined up from the weekend. michael scott, whoa! abdon's sun-times story about new trier endorsement was one, death penalty moratorium and gitmo prisoners entering governor's race was one (is jim ryan now the moderate) . . . please use if you want . . . or not . . . ugh, i've used up as many brain cells as are working right now. if i don't make it, i want pink floyd's "wish you were here" played at my funeral . . . i'm sorry."

    I did post Jim Coffman's SportsMonday column, however.

    And I hope everyone reads Natasha Julius's Weekend Desk Report every week, she truly turns out gem after gem. I'll leave that posted here. Updates on my condition as warranted.

    The Weekend Desk Report
    Look on the bright side, Bears fans. At least it's safe to watch football this weekend.

    Market Update
    Illinois' battered economy looks set to receive an unexpected boost as the state is poised to post significant gains in the import market for other people's problems.

    Track This
    Governor Pat Quinn this week announced a deal to stave off sharp fare increases for Chicago's public transportation system. CTA officials say this means they will no longer be able to upgrade the popular Bus Tracker feature to tell users exactly how fast one their buses is approaching.

    Daddy Issues
    Injured Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher reportedly wrote a letter on behalf of former Chicago alderman Ed Vrdolyak, describing "Fast Eddie" as a "father figure" to him. Which, when you think about it, makes a lot of sense.

    The Oracle of Ravenswood
    Lawyers for disgraced former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich this week argued that their client's dwindling trial should be delayed because, although he may have done a ton of illegal shit, he totally knew that it stood a decent chance of being completely un-illegal at some point in the future. Which would mean, naturally, he actually didn't do anything wrong in the first place, right?

    The Oracle of the Weekend Desk
    Finally this week, industry prognosticators seem certain that The Who will provide this year's Super Bowl halftime entertainment on CBS. Accordingly, the Weekend Desk Setlist Prediction Department has generated the following potential lineup:

    1. Who Are You?
    2. Won't Get Fooled Again
    3. Baba O'Riley

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Take a number.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:40 AM | Permalink

    November 14, 2009

    The Weekend Desk Report

    By Natasha Julius

    Look on the bright side, Bears fans. At least it's safe to watch football this weekend.

    Market Update
    Illinois' battered economy looks set to receive an unexpected boost as the state is poised to post significant gains in the import market for other people's problems.

    Track This
    Governor Pat Quinn this week announced a deal to stave off sharp fare increases for Chicago's public transportation system. CTA officials say this means they will no longer be able to upgrade the popular Bus Tracker feature to tell users exactly how fast one their buses is approaching.

    Daddy Issues
    Injured Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher reportedly wrote a letter on behalf of former Chicago alderman Ed Vrdolyak, describing "Fast Eddie" as a "father figure" to him. Which, when you think about it, makes a lot of sense.

    The Oracle of Ravenswood
    Lawyers for disgraced former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich this week argued that their client's dwindling trial should be delayed because, although he may have done a ton of illegal shit, he totally knew that it stood a decent chance of being completely un-illegal at some point in the future. Which would mean, naturally, he actually didn't do anything wrong in the first place, right?

    The Oracle of the Weekend Desk
    Finally this week, industry prognosticators seem certain that The Who will provide this year's Super Bowl halftime entertainment on CBS. Accordingly, the Weekend Desk Setlist Prediction Department has generated the following potential lineup:

    1. Who Are You?
    2. Won't Get Fooled Again
    3. Baba O'Riley

    Posted by Natasha Julius at 9:42 AM | Permalink

    November 13, 2009

    The [Friday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    1. "You could say that the Bears left their season right here, in San Francisco with Thursday's ugly 10-6 loss, but that would ignore the failings by this team that have been spread across the country," Brad Biggs writes in the Sun-Times.

    2. "I think he realizes he can't be elected governor unless he apologizes," Rob Warden says of Jim Ryan's apology in the Jeanine Nicarico prosecutions. "He is no more sincere than Dugan. I don't mean to equate what Ryan did with what Dugan did because Dugan committed three murders, Ryan only committed three attempted murders: Rolando Cruz; Alejandro Hernandez and Stephen Buckley. I think he should pull out of the race and turn his campaign fund into a benevolent fund for Cruz, Hernandez and Buckley."

    3. "In the Cruz-Hernandez cases, prosecutors, detectives and police officers acted in good faith and still came up with the wrong result," Ryan said.

    *

    "A series of journalists beginning with Rob Warden, now director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law, pored over the evidence and, to a one, concluded that the county had cynically botched the prosecution of Cruz and Hernandez and that Dugan was Jeanine's killer beyond any doubt," writes Eric Zorn, whose columns on the case were Pulitzer-worthy.

    *

    From Zorn: "Jim Ryan's role in the Nicarico case."

    4. BREAKING NEWS! Corruption No Longer Exists In City Hiring!

    5. "Testifying later at a City Council budget hearing, Corporation Counsel Mara Georges said if the court orders her to turn over the documents [sought by the city inspector general's office], she would ask the City Council to amend the municipal code 'to say my privilege is sacred'," the Sun-Times reports.

    "I do not think I can do my job and do it effectively for you if my client, including those people [aldermen] in this room, think that whatever they tell me is going to be turned over to the IG," Georges said.

    Wait - isn't Georges' client us?

    *

    On the other hand, maybe Georges should have a talk with Anita Alvarez on behalf of those Northwestern students and the Chicago media community at-large.

    6. It's not a mystery why Chicago pays $690 each to transport dead bodies while San Antonio only pays $125 and Dallas pays $94; we have to drive them to and from their polling places.

    7. "Universal Settles Newspapers' Complaints Over Fake Alien Abduction News."

    8. 74 tickets, 1 car.

    9. A better way to write the news, from John Cook at Gawker:

    Balloon Boy's Parents to Plead Guilty to Hoaxing America's Cable News Personalities

    Richard and Mayumi Heene, the parents of that cute vomiting boy who did not get lost in the air in a balloon, will plead guilty tomorrow to charges that they concocted the story in order to become famous, which happened.

    10. Senate Candidates Release Self-Serving Polls!

    11. Republican candidates for governor deny global warming. Gravity next.

    12. Rich Whitney lies in wait.

    13. "When people think of Bloodshot, they probably think of country," Matt Baron of Coach House Sounds tells us. "But you look deeper and they have other acts. Like great female vocalists. They live and breathe the bands they represent. My engineer's favorite session was with Mark Pickerel. He likes those dark country folk tunes that Mark likes to write."

    14. "The cookie incident, however, did make me think about the Head Guard's agenda," our very own Jerome Haller writes in I Am A Security Guard. "Truth be told, I don't know him very well. I pondered whether he targets suspects solely on the basis of skin color.

    "I got my answer later that night."

    15. Like Ed Norton, our man on the rail got his knuckles loose for the Breeders' Cup. And it was spectacular.

    16. You can't spell stick-up without UT. In Dr. Dude's College Football Report.

    17. Lovie Smith's next job.

    18. "I hope Jay Cutler doesn't throw a fit after watching films of his performance in San Francisco," our very own George Ofman writes. "I'm sure it would intercepted."

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Pick 'em.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:54 AM | Permalink

    I Am A Security Guard: Profiling

    As I checked in on a Sunday night, the Head Guard sat in the office. He said he'd work at the store during half my shift. That would be much longer than usual. The news concerned me. Perhaps he planned to watch me in action.

    About 30 minutes later, a young African-American male stepped past me. His frown and black leather jacket gave him a thuggish appearance.

    The Head Guard looked at me and tilted his head toward the visitor. We followed as he walked toward the food section. He stopped and grabbed a box of cookies. I figured we did not have to worry. He could not hide it in his jacket. I walked back to my post. A few minutes later, he paid for the snacks.

    I stood by the door and thought about the false alarm. What if the customer had accused the store of racial profiling?

    One of the risks of my position is defending myself against such a beef. Yet, for three reasons, I block out the danger and concentrate on doing my job.

    First, I have a cynical view of human nature. I've read enough newspaper stories and history books to know that people are capable of committing any foul act. Furthermore, I've gotten burned by a few co-workers, friends and relatives over the years. I don't trust many people regardless of background.

    Second, I don't let political correctness blind me to reality. Over the years, the store's guards have caught thieves of every age and color. One veteran told me he's nabbed a white priest in the act. Even guards and cashiers, all minorities, have been caught boosting from the store.

    Third, my job depends on preventing theft. Given the state of the economy, I'd like to stay employed.

    The cookie incident, however, did make me think about the Head Guard's agenda. Truth be told, I don't know him very well. I pondered whether he targets suspects solely on the basis of skin color.

    I got my answer later that night.

    While standing near the candy aisle, he gave me another head tilt. I walked toward him. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a white male with a backpack walk briskly toward the exit. I put two and two together and headed back to the door to block his way. The Head Guard and an assistant manager converged on him from the rear.

    The customer wore a pea coat, jeans and glasses. His expression was quite smug for someone with a pungent body odor.

    The Head Guard got down to business. "I saw you with an energy drink and soda," he said to the man. "Where are they?"

    "I left them back there," the suspect replied.

    The Head Guard sent me to the candy aisle to find the items. I found them on a bottom shelf and showed them to the group.

    After inspecting the goods, the Head Guard turned back to the suspect. "Do you have anything else in your bag?" he asked.

    "No," the man said. "I don't have to show you my bag, but you can look inside."

    The Head Guard accepted the offer. The empty bag confirmed his suspicions. The visitor had planned to load up on goodies. When he saw the Head Guard, he dumped the drinks and broke for the door.

    "I don't want to see you in this store anymore," the Head Guard told the suspect.

    "Okay." The man left.

    The Head Guard grinned in triumph. "I could tell he was planning something," he said to me. "I've got to school you."

    He already had. Like me, he'll bust anybody.

    -

    A very pseudononymous Jerome Haller earns rent money as a security guard for a large, publicly-held retail chain.

    -

    See more tales of security guarding, pizzeria waitressing, barista-ing and office drudgering in the Life at Work collection.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:47 AM | Permalink

    Ofman: Dis and Dat, Dem and Dose

    By George Ofman

    I hope Jay Cutler doesn't throw a fit after watching films of his performance in San Francisco. I'm sure it would intercepted.

    *

    SportsFriday:
  • Lovie's Next Job
  • Dr. Dude's College Football Police Blotter
  • Best Breeders' Ever

  • Are you beginning to think the tag of "Franchise" Cutler is wearing doesn't fit? It's not as if redzoneitis is something new. He threw four picks inside the 20 last year. He has a league-high five now. This isn't a problem, it's a disease. And I'm thinking Ron Turner does not have the cure.

    *

    LeBron James suggests Michael Jordan's No. 23 should be retired for all NBA players to honor the recent Hall of Fame inductee. Say LeBron, Michael's not dead so keep wearing your 23 when you sign with the Knicks next season. As much as Michael did, the guys who brought the league back from the dead are Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. How about retiring their numbers first?

    *

    Ben Gordon is averaging nearly 24 points a game and is shooting a shade under 50 percent. John Salmons is averaging 12.4 PPG on just 30 percent shooting. Fill in the blanks while the only sounds you'll hear from Salmons are clanks.

    *

    How important is Jonathan Toews to the Blackhawks offense? In the six games he missed due to a concussion, the Hawks mustered a measly average of two goals a game. In the 11 games he played, the Hawks averaged 3.5. Stay healthy J.T.

    *

    The Tigers are willing to listen to offers for Curtis Granderson. Either Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski is having a sizable brain cramp or the owner said downsize. It doesn't matter. Jim Hendry needs to get on the phone and offer top prospect Starlin Castro if he has to in order to bring in the antithesis of Milton Bradley. Granderson also happens to be a Chicago native. And he also happens to be a center fielder and leadoff man. That's two positions the Cubs could fill with one move. So how do you say no-brainer?

    *

    This just in from the airport: Jay Cutler was intercepted at security.

    *

    Maybe it's me but as horrible as Cutler was last night, don't the Bears still need to upgrade their offensive line and find wide receivers not on training wheels?

    *

    The value of the Blackhawks franchise has risen 26 percent under one Wirtz after having tumbled so far under another. And it wasn't all that long ago ESPN listed the Hawks as the worst franchise anywhere. What a difference a few good men on and off the ice make.

    *

    The NHL says the league's value is up this season. Who cares? I still can't see a damn Monday night Hawks game because of the stupid dispute with the Versus network.

    *

    Jim Thome is open to returning to the Sox. This would be fine if it wasn't for GM Ken Williams declaring he wanted more diversity at the DH spot. Fact remains the Sox still need power from the left side and Thome can still provide that plus invaluable leadership.

    *

    Say, just nine days to go until the Bears host the Eagles in a night game. Personally, I would intercept Cutler before he got to Soldier Field.

    *

    Just when Northwestern thought it might have a legitimate shot at making it's first ever NCAA tournament, its best player goes down with a foot injury. And all Kevin Coble has done is lead the Wildcats in scoring and rebounding his first three seasons. Perhaps some things are never meant to be.

    -

    George Ofman, an original member of The Score and a veteran of NPR, has covered more than 3,500 sporting events over the course of his career. Comments welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:34 AM | Permalink

    The College Football Report: Police Beat

    By Mike Luce

    The Week 11 Preview: You Can't Spell Stickup Without "UT."

    Steve Spurrier, now the wise old man of SEC coaches, famously needled rival Tennessee by saying "You can't spell Citrus without UT." In light of the news coming out of Knoxville, I wonder if current top Gator Urban Meyer might be tempted to revise his predecessor's legendary zinger.

    During the off-season, Meyer and Tennessee rookie head coach Lane Kiffin waged a war of one-liners in the press. Kiffin, or Kid Smirk as we like to call him here at the CFR, stirred the pot early and often. A tireless self-promoter, Kiffin predicted a victory in '09 over the defending champion Gators . . . last December.

    Then the last-minute switcheroo by prized wide-receiver Nu'Keese Richardson from Florida to Tennessee really seemed to set things off. While speaking at a fund-raising breakfast in February, Kiffin accused Meyer of cheating. He claimed Meyer tried to poach Richardson away from UT by calling the recruit during his visit to Knoxville. That sounds like typical SEC finger-pointing, until the Florida AD and SEC commissioner pointed out that Meyer hadn't broke any rules when contacting Richardson.

    Kiffin continued in much the same vein leading up to the season, and we touched on the he-said-he-said fallout after Florida's 23-13 win over UT in Week 3.

    Richardson stayed out of the spotlight until he missed a practice on November 1, when Kiffin said that UT was "dealing with an issue with Nu'Keese." He started against Memphis last Saturday anyway; in a blowout win, Richardson recorded his best game of the season, catching three passes for 54 yards and a touchdown.

    And then the news broke of Richardson, along with two other freshmen players, allegedly attempting an armed robbery in the wee hours of Thursday morning. Police say that two of the three pulled a gun on some youths sitting in a car at a local gas station and demanded money. As the occupants opened their empty wallets, a third man approached the car and pulled the two away to a waiting vehicle. According to some reports, while the victims had no money they did offer the robbers a cheeseburger - which was declined. A local woman acting as the trio's driver was also arrested for alleged drug possession.

    While I typically advocate a "wait and see" approach to such stories, this one seems pretty clear based on the information currently available. About the only silver lining in this situation is that the players didn't use a real handgun; when pulled over shortly after the botched attempt (in the getaway car - a Toyota Prius, of all things), police found a pellet gun and other gear identified by the victims.

    Sadly, there's no reason to think the kids wouldn't have used an actual firearm if one had been close at hand. And while the charges might not be as severe (robbery by pellet gun likely being a lesser offense than robbery by Smith & Wesson), I doubt it will much matter as far as playing careers are concerned.

    Here's our suggestion to coaches at big name programs everywhere: If you suspend a freshman player, assign an upperclassman chaperone for the remainder of the season. (One of the alleged perps, Janzen Jackson, missed the Vols' game against Memphis for "administrative" reasons.) The offenders would resent it, but the upperclassmen would hate even more the prospect of baby-sitting some 18-year old. Not that Jackson was any more or less to blame for the trio's brainless scheme, but I doubt he would have been involved at all had he to report his whereabouts to a grumpy 300-pound senior lineman. And who knows, maybe these are the very sort of kids who need a big brother.

    Beginning today, the blogs, pundits and call-in shows will cry out with calls for greater administrative oversight and questions about "Where were the coaches?" How about, "Where were their teammates?" (You know, the other guys. Those not riding in the Prius.)

    *

    In other news, reformed hitman LeGarrette Blount will rejoin his fellow Oregon Ducks on the playing field Saturday. Oregon head coach Chip Kelly, commenting on the reaction to Blount's reinstatement: "If I based this program on what public opinion is, I'd have a lot of problems." Bravo, Chip. If that was a Facebook status update, we would give you a The College Football Report Likes This.

    *

    While the news out of Knoxville has somewhat derailed our commitment to examine the state of the Pac-10 this week, let's take a look at some of the action out West. As always, the following is for entertainment purposes only. Including gambling. (Note: rankings reflect position in the BCS poll.)

    Game: #16 Utah @ #4 TCU (-20, Saturday, 6:30 p.m.)

    Comment: While obviously not a Pac-10 game, we promised to bring The Holy War to your attention. Well, it is upon us. And yea, you shall fear it. The water cooler will boil, Horned Frogs will rain from the sky, Utes will . . . do whatever it is that Utes do.

    We like TCU, incidentally.

    *

    Game: Stanford @ #9 USC (-10.5, Saturday, 2:30 p.m.)

    Comment: Quick, guess who has the better conference record! Yes, it's the Stanford Cardinal at 5-2 in Pac-10 play, compared to Southern Cal's 4-2 mark. Aside from having the most awkward (Cardinal, no "s", as in big ass pine tree not the chirpy winged animal) nickname in collegiate athletics, Stanford also fields a darn good football team. Stanford outscored Oregon 51-42 last week, and everyone seems to expect the Trojans to finally implode on Saturday.

    We're not buying. While USC sits below Oregon, Arizona, and Stanford in the conference standings, the Trojans have a chance to beat two of the three before the end of the season. Even at 10-2 USC might not end up at the top of the conference heap, but I imagine the BCS would still offer an at-large bid.

    Here's a final score prediction, just for kicks: Stanford 20, USC 31

    *

    Game: Arizona State @ #13 Oregon (-18, Saturday, 9:20 p.m.)

    Comment: Oregon has beaten ASU by a combined 168-73 score in their last four meetings. We're guessing the Ducks run up the score on Saturday night.

    *

    Game: #17 Arizona @ California (-3, Saturday 6 p.m.)

    Comment: At 4-1 in the Pac-10, the Wildcats can just peek over the Oregon Ducks and see the Rose Bowl off in the distance. To get there, 'Zona will have to navigate the following: at Cal this Saturday, then home against the Ducks, followed by two road games - in-state rival Arizona State followed by . . . USC. In this situation (Google "trap game" for more), we would typically like the Golden Bears. But star running back Jahvid Best will sit out while recovering from a concussion and Arizona is riding a three-game winning streak. We'll take the Wildcats plus the points.

    *

    Game: Washington @ #23 Oregon State (-12, Saturday 2:30 p.m.)

    Comment: Remember the good ol' days, when Washington was ranked and Steve Sarkisian was being hailed as a gridiron genius? Ah yes, Week Three. Those were the times.

    Now the Huskies can be fairly described as "reeling" while the Beavers look to make a late-season surge to a New Years Day bowl game. We'll take the chalk in this game. At the CFR, we love to root for beav . . . Oregon State.

    *

    The Beachwood Sports Seal doesn't care for this Pac-10 business. He prefers to make money. His picks:

    ~ #7 Georgia Tech @ Duke (+12.5, Saturday, 11 a.m.)
    ~ #1 Florida @ South Carolina (+17, Saturday, 2:30 p.m.)
    ~ #3 Texas (-23.5) @ Baylor (Saturday, 11 a.m.)

    -

    Mike "Dr. Dude" Luce brings you The College Football Report in this space twice a week, with the generous assistance of the Beachwood Sports Seal. They both welcome your comments.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:09 AM | Permalink

    TrackNotes: Best Breeders' Cup Ever

    By Thomas Chambers

    It started great and ended spectacularly.

    The 2009 Breeders' Cup World Championships was the finest and funnest stretch of horseplaying I've ever experienced. Oh, and I turned a profit too.

    Like Ed Norton, I got the old knuckles loose and cashed a ticket right up front on the first race from Santa Anita on Fillies and Mares Friday. Up next, the Breeders' Cup Marathon, an anomaly already, as it was just for males. Throwing in Man of Iron and showing faith in Jonathan Sheppard and nine-year-old Cloudy's Knight, it was exacta time. She may have moved a bit earlier, but Rosemary Homeister, Jr. was the picture of thrilled in placing 'Knight in her first Breeders' Cup.

    By this time, the Kimberly Komet arrived, big bro having beaten Chicago's answer to the Van Wyck, the Kennedy, on a Friday afternoon.

    The Juvenile Fillies Turf seemed a no-brainer, but the bettors thought otherwise. I remembered how everyone said Tapitsfly was having such a good week and twitched when he went off at nearly 10-1. Rose Catherine gave her all she could handle and we won't know if Tapitsfly's Robby Albarado inadvertently knocking the whip out of JJ Castellano's hand decided the outcome. ESPN did a tremendous job in getting the shot on slo-mo.

    Local training hero Wayne Catalano came through in the Juvenile Fillies for the second time (he also had Dreaming of Anna in 2006) with She Be Wild. I liked her based on my calculation of speed rating and track variant, and the Cat Man always represents himself well when he gets these kinds of chances. $25.80 win and place.

    Caught a small exacta in the Filly and Mare Turf, and I did it sticking with Pure Clan, who ran a helluva race to finish second.

    I also stuck with Life Is Sweet in the Ladies Classic and she rewarded me with a $24.20 win/place payout. And Zenyatta's stablemate also completed the first half of my two-day Classic Double, where you bet the Ladies Classic and the Classic like a Daily Double.

    After a great night of the sweet science at UIC Pavilion Friday night, it was off early to Hawthorne Race Course, where the Gold Cup Room would be filled by Breeders' Cup time, giving it a vibe you don't usually see.

    It was a betting error in the Sprint that had me doubting my very existence when Dancing In Silks, a horse I played and liked because he is a California boy and ran the best race of his life last out, came home the winner at 25-1. I had covered the second horse, Crown of Thorns, in an individual bet, but did not include him in the exacta. To my horror, I saw that he too was a California horse, lightly raced. I included Capt. Candyman Can in that exacta, duped by deceptive back class. The exacta paid $227.90. But not for me.

    This was one of those moments where your handicapping life passes before your very eyes. I was basically spinning my wheels, and trying the diversion of playing a few Hawthorne races proved futile. I chased the Juvenile and the Mile to no avail, but enjoyed Goldikova winning his second straight Mile in typically dominant fashion. He was probably the best Euro on the grounds.

    It was on to the Dirt Mile, which is not exactly a mile and is run on fake dirt. By this point, I had determined that, dammit, the stakes are larger on Breeders' Cup day. Wager bigger if you want the big payout and also be prepared to lose it.

    Furthest Land caught my eye by being two-for-two on synthetic, just winning the Grade 2 Kentucky Club Classic at Turfway with his best race ever, running in his second race off a short freshening, and working out very well on both dirt and Santa Anita's ProRide synthetic coming in. A $63 win/place payout later and I was back in business.

    I lost money but cashed a ticket as Conduit proved impossible to beat in the Turf. But the race provided one of the highlights of the day when Presious Passion did his patented "see you later" routine and built up a lead of more than 20 lengths. This time, however, he held on! He held and held and held until the final strides when Conduit raced by him in a thrilling finish. It was the race of 'Passion's life.

    And then came the Classic, which lived up to its name and then some. You could have handicapped for or against Zenyatta, but you couldn't toss her, as some did. In fact, I thought she would either win or finish far up the track, nothing in between.

    I also stuck with Twice Over and Summer Bird and remembered all of the gutty performances by Gio Ponti this year and covered him.

    The gate loading was a mess, as Quality Road refused to go in. Most times, they throw their tantrum and then load, but Quality was kicking high and hard and fighting it every inch. They then put a blindfold on him and that made it worse. The biggest fuss I've ever seen. He was then scratched.

    (Quality Road's travails continued Monday as he refused to board a plane for New York and will now have to be vanned across the country. He's a big, long horse, and fills up more of the gate stall than most. He's claustrophobic.)

    Once the gates opened, Zenyatta was a bit in the air and broke slowly. Any other horse, the race is over. She swung her head to and fro as they went under the finish line for the first time. Looking like the Kentucky Derby winner in running last, Zenyatta was in fact escorted into the first turn by Mine That Bird.

    By the half-mile pole, Zenyatta passed 'Bird and began making an oh-so-subtle move. Just reaching the main pack early in the last turn, Mike Smith and the big mare pulled a move I haven't heard anyone mention. Smith tucked her down on the rail on the turn. It was contrary to most of her previous wins when she just looped the field on the outside to stay out of trouble and used her exceptional talent to outrun them. This time, Zenyatta showed an extraordinary turn of foot and cut the corner like a turn at Indy and slungshot out of the turn and underneath an arc of horses taking the more conventional route. In the process, she inhaled six rivals.

    Now she was in about the five slot, entering the stretch quickly, seemingly content to find her usual path to the wire. But there was a wall of five horses in front of her and it appeared she would have way too much to do to win this race. You could be forgiven if you thought this was it; she was in this race up to her bridle. You could almost see her mind working as she quickly dipped to the open area outside to about the eight path, dispatched Colonel John, and laid down the throttle for all she was worth. She blew by Summer Bird, Gio Ponti probably never saw her, and she thundered to a full-length victory over Gio Ponti with Twice Over finishing third. In probably the last race of her career, she finished a perfect 14-0. She paid $7.60 and helped me hit the double for $96.

    It was the kind of race that will send chills up your spine when you watch the replay again in 20 years. I'm yelling "She did it! She did it!" and Hawthorne was going wild. She's the first mare to ever win the Classic and she went off at 5-2! What a gift.

    It was a magnificent ride by Smith, and who knew the huge mare could shoot the corner like that? Riding out, Smith kept her out past the clubhouse turn for a little peace and quiet away from the crowd, and Smith and trainer John Shireffs both said she had a lot left and that her cardiovascular came back down right away. Not even breathin' hard.

    Back at the grandstand and in the winners circle, the crowd buzzed and shrieked. Zenyatta maintained her cool. Smith, sitting atop Big Z like an aqua/pink parrot, was so happy, he just about didn't know what to do. One thing he did do was hug Zenyatta's neck with an undeniable affection. He couldn't get his arms all the way around her.

    From Calvin Borel and Mine That Bird and their one-note bebop in the Kentucky Derby, to Rachel Alexandra's anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better run to Thoroughbred greatness, to Zenyatta's thunderous exclamation point in The Biggest Race, if you love this game, you've got yourself all the way around this campaign. And you'll never let go.

    -

    Thomas Chambers is the Beachwood's man on the rail. He brings you Track Notes every Friday. He welcomes your comments.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:54 AM | Permalink

    Bloodshot Briefing: The Coach House Sessions

    By Matt Harness

    Coach House Sounds came to life last year as Matt Baron ate lunch at Amitabul, which bills its food as "Healing Buddhist Spiritual Vegan Cuisine."

    Over his meal, Baron, a musician who is studying to become a teacher, read a story about Daytrotter, the music studio in Rock Island that records live sessions with touring bands, The Chicago native believed he could do something similar.

    Not long after that seed was planted, he ran into Richard Edwards, singer and guitarist for Margot & the Nuclear So and So's. Edwards was someone Baron thought he should record. And when Scotland Yard Gospel Choir's Elia Einhorn also encouraged Baron's entry into the Web-based taste-making market, that was enough motivation to get Coach House operation up and running.

    Although Coach House Sounds opened its doors to bands last fall, Baron debuted the online community to the public this week at The Whistler in Logan Square.

    I spent some time with Baron, who already has recorded sessions with two Bloodshot bands, this week.

    *

    Beachwood Music: So talk about the origins of Coach House Sounds. How are you different than Daytrotter or HearYa, another Chicago-based music site with live sessions?

    Matt Baron: I was reading this article in the business section about Daytrotter. They were talking about the Grand Ole Party, and they had this quote from them about having to walk 20 minutes to buy cigarettes. Then I read Grand Ole Party was playing at Schubas that night. I live right around the block, and I have this space to do what Daytrotter can do.

    The difference is I wanted to make it more personal, more experimental and get more genres. We are creating an outlet for these bands to promote themselves and benefit their careers.

    Beachwood Music: Listening to the launch party this week, it was clear you wanted to expand your horizons farther than indie rock.

    Matt Baron: Yeah. That night we had a classical act, a storyteller, experimental jazz and a rock band. I mean Brian Costello, who read a short story, is a heavyweight on the Chicago indie cultural scene. He was a last-minute addition. I'd like to do more of that in the future. That night we were dipping our toes in different waters.

    I'm submitting something to Lincoln Hall, and I've been in touch with the Hideout.

    Beachwood Music: Who was your first band? How do you go about finding artists?

    Matt Baron: Animal City was the first. I saw them at Ronny's and thought they were cool. I shared the idea with them.

    I usually send out an e-mail; it's like cold calls. There was only one band not interested in the idea. They already had their own studio, and they just weren't into it.

    I'm not overly choosy, but I can cherrypick some. But to diversify is my goal. Miles Raymer wrote about this group the Hollows. I haven't had a girl group in yet.

    I check the Reader show listings, see what the Hungry Brain and Hideout are up to. The Hideout is my biggest inspiration because they do so many different things. I want us to be like a community center.

    Beachwood Music: Part of the The Whistler event was a silent auction to raise money for Scotland Yard Gospel Choir. What's your connection to the band?

    Matt Baron: I've known Elia for a little over a year. I had coffee with him one day and shared the idea. He also said Scotland Yard Gospel Choir was interested in doing a session.

    Beachwood Music: You also had Mark Pickerel in for a session. You building a relationship with Bloodshot?

    Matt Baron: Rob Miller even came over for that session.

    I've known about them being in Chicago and being around for a while. When people think of Bloodshot, they probably think of country. But you look deeper and they have other acts. Like great female vocalists. They live and breathe the bands they represent. My engineer's favorite session was with Mark Pickerel. He likes those dark country folk tunes that Mark likes to write.

    We are fans of Bloodshot.

    Beachwood Music: When's the next session going to be released?

    Matt Baron: Probably after Thanksgiving. The Lesser Birds of Paradise.

    -

    Bloodshot Briefing appears in this space every Friday. Matt welcomes your comments.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:09 AM | Permalink

    November 12, 2009

    The Blue & Orange Kool-Aid Report

    By Eric Emery

    Last week, I predicted that the Kool-Aid Nation was finally going to turn against Lovie Smith. And turn they did! It's safe to say that last week's debacle transformed the Kool-Aid to a bitter, semi-fermented swill.

    Here's the problem: The city's sportswriters insist that Lovie isn't going anywhere because Halas Hall hates the idea of eating two years of his contract. Here at the Kool-Aid Report, we know that isn't true. The real issues is that Bears management is simply too loyal. And with unemployment topping 10 percent, Bears management knows that Smith cannot survive in today's job market.

    Bears management could, however, work with an outplacement agency to line up a job for Lovie before launching him. Here are a few ideas that might work.

    * Send Smith to the governor's office, where he could use his calming demeanor to settle massive budget shortfall fears.

    * Send Smith to the Blackhawks as their new Fatherly Figure. Lesson one: How to tip cabbies.

    * Send Smith to City Hall, where he could use his powers of denial to resurrect Chicago 2016.

    * Send Smith to President Obama's "Jobs Summit," where he could change the way economic statistics are reported. For instance, doesn't 89.5 percent employed sound more palatable than the way they describe it now?

    * Send Smith to the Cubs to replace Lou Piniella. Based on past performance, Smith would at least lead the Cubs to one World Series appearance before sinking back into mediocrity.

    * Give Smith a leave of absence to send him to TTA: Tampa Two Anonymous. He might just come back a new man.

    -

    Game: Bears at 49ers

    Storyline: In case you hadn't heard, Niners head coach Mike Singletary is a former Bear. Didn't see him play? Think of Hunter Hillenmeyer. Now think of the opposite. That was Singletary.

    Reality: I cannot believe that I picked the Bears to win the division. I stink.

    -

    Pick: SF Minus 3 Points, Under 43.5 Points Scored

    -

    Bitterness in the Blue and Orange Swill: 85%

    Recommended Bitterness in the Blue and Orange Swill: 95%

    -

    For more Emery, please see the Blue & Orange Kool-Aid Report archives and the Over/Under collection. He welcomes your comments.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 2:04 PM | Permalink

    The [Thursday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    Just catching up with this Washington Post article, via The May Report:

    "It takes a while for most start-up companies to gain the confidence of a U.S. congressman and the promise of federal funds. But last year, a small Illinois company accomplished its goal in 16 days with the help of Rep. Peter J. Visclosky, a little-known Indiana Democrat who sits on the House committee that funds the Pentagon.

    "In rapid succession, the three-employee technology firm, NanoSonix, filed its incorporation papers in Skokie, Ill., and hired a Washington lobbying firm, K&L Gates, which boasted to clients of its close relationship with Visclosky. A week later, Visclosky wrote a letter of support for a $2.4 million earmark for NanoSonix from the House Appropriations Committee's defense subcommittee."

    Wow. Sixteen days from incorporation to a $2.4 million federal earmark. I've been going about this all wrong.

    But wait - there's more!

    "The NanoBusiness Alliance, which is based in Skokie, was founded in 2002 by several scientists and a senior partner in Lux Capital in New York, and it aimed to help its members get research funding to turn their ideas into moneymakers. The alliance in 2003 hired the predecessor firm to K&L Gates, Preston Gates, which was then rebuilding its lobbying shop after the departure of rainmaker Jack Abramoff, who went to prison in a federal influence-peddling scandal. The firm became K&L Gates as part of a 2006 merger, and its lobbying revenue is on pace to hit nearly $20 million this year.

    "The firm signed clients at nanotechnology trade conferences and told them that it had found a committed supporter in Visclosky, who was then gaining seniority on the Appropriations subcommittee that controls the Pentagon budget."

    Who knew so much nano was going on in Skokie?

    *

    Back to NanoSonix:

    "As Visclosky's committee moved the earmark forward, Murdock, his wife and executives from the NanoBusiness Alliance wrote $21,700 in campaign checks to the congressman and the DCCC. Murdock said he could not recall whether K&L Gates suggested the donations."

    He could not recall. Slipped his mind. The idea came from somewhere but . . . oh, who knows where.

    *

    For godsakes, they've got a $2.4 million earmark and no website yet!

    Prisoner Pablum
    Tribune editorial cartoonist Scott Stantis raps Gov. Pat Quinn today for his budget-induced prisoner release program. Unfortunately, Stantis gets it wrong on two counts.

    First, the prisoners being released early are hardly hardcore, as one might think from Stantis's depiction of raging dog-like creatures, snakes and bats steaming out of a prison door with mischief in their eyes and baring teeth.

    Instead, the prisoners being released - just 62 this week, and 1,000 in all - are already near the end of their sentences and currently living in "adult transition centers," which I take to mean halfway houses, or places like them.

    Additionally, the prisoners' crimes were not committed against people, which I take to mean they were drug offenses or property crimes.

    Second, without knowing the race of the prisoners being released, it's never a good idea to depict criminals as dark animals when the incarcerated are disproportionately people of color.

    *

    Frankly, I'd rather take my chances with one of our 1,000 new neighbors than, say, the credit card companies that are now reaming me by unilaterally hiking their interest ratest to 22.9 percent just like they're reaming everybody else. Who are the bigger criminals?

    Facebook Feed
    Scott Buckner would tell everyone to go to hell, but I live there and I'd rather not see them every day.

    Green Scene
    In the comments section, the mysterious Sean Burke responds to accusations that he's a Democratic plant installed in the Cook County Board President's race to upend Green candidate Tom Tresser.

    Cool Site Of The Day
    Waterbeds for the holidays.

    Veteran's View
    Robert Scheer: "You know, you were a major war hero. The Distinguished Flying Cross. Thirty-five suicide missions over Germany. Crash-landed your plane to save the crew. Received the Distinguished Flying Cross - that's, you know, one of the really top medals you can get - an incredibly heroic figure from World War II. Richard Nixon was a parade guard in the Navy who did not see combat. Yet in that campaign, as is often the case, Richard Nixon played the patriotism card - who's really willing to defend the country, who's really willing to stand up for America, and so forth. And I asked Sen. McGovern, I said: 'How come you didn't bring up your war record in response to this and talk about your own personal heroism, which was considerable?' And George McGovern gave me an answer - it was the best answer I ever got from any politician to any question I ever asked - he said, 'It would have been unseemly'."

    *

    And maybe it would have. But that shouldn't have stopped the media from correcting the record. A mistake it keeps making.

    *

    McGovern on Obama's health care plan:

    "I wish he had not started with a compromise proposal. There's always room for compromise as you go along. His bill, as the House passed it, is now 2,000 pages long. The one that Hillary Clinton had 16 years ago was 1,300 pages. The problem with that is it's so easy for demagogues to pick them apart. And nobody's ever going to read 2,000 pages; at least I never have. I was in Congress for 22 years, but I never read a [2,000]-page bill, and I don't think anybody else will. And so it's easy to subject them to it. I would have just had a one-sentence bill: Congress hereby extends Medicare to all Americans. Period."

    *

    McGovern on the bank bailout:

    "I would have voted against the $700 billion giveaway. I think that was a mistake, particularly since they didn't attach any conditions to it. That was what bothered me, and I think there should have been a few populists taking the floor of the House and the Senate and say[ing]: 'I can't go down and get that kind of money from the government. What have these big banks and insurance companies, what have they done to deserve this? And what protection is there to the taxpayer? Are we just going to donate $700 billion with no conditions they have to meet?'"

    *

    McGovern for president.

    Quinn Plays Coy
    Defends what he won't admit to.

    Bicyclists Baloney
    Another casualty of parking meter madness: The credibility of the Active Transportation Alliance.

    Dye vs. Bradley
    George Ofman weighs in on two very different dilemmas.

    Hangovers
    Tall tales and modern erotic aesthetics.

    Meet Mr. Stinky
    And Diapers, Coupons, and Churros. In I Am A Security Guard.

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Hypo-allergenic.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:21 AM | Permalink

    Booklist: Hangovers

    By The Beachwood Plug And Play Desk

    We put the word "hangover" into the search bar on Amazon and came up with 58,080 results. Here are the top 20.

    1. The Hangover Handbook, Revised Edition: 101 Cures for Humanity's Oldest Malady by Nic Oudtshoorn.

    2. Fiscal Hangover: How to Profit From The New Global Economy (Agora Series) by Keith Fitz-Gerald.

    3. Hurricanes & Hangovers: and other tall tales and loose lies from the coconut telegraph by Dear Miss Mermaid.

    4. The Prohibition Hangover: Alcohol in American from Demon Rum to Cult Cabernet by Garrett Peck.

    5. Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton.

    6. Love Hangover: Tips for Christian Singles: Moving from Pain to Purpose After a Relationship Ends by Shewanda Riley and Germaine Hawkins.

    7. Hangover Cures by Ben Reed and William Lingwood.

    8. How to Cure a Hangover by Andrew Irving.

    9. Goodbye Hangovers, Hello Life: Self Help for Women by Jean Kirkpatrick.

    10. Paris Hangover by Kirsten Lobe.

    11. Hangover Square: A Story of Darkest Earl's Court by Patrick Hamilton and J.B. Priestley.

    12. After the New Economy: The Binge and Hangover That Won't Go Away by Doug Henwood.

    13. Divorce Hangoer: A Successful Strategy to End the Emotional Aftermath of Divorce by Anne Newton Walther.

    14. The Perfect Drink for Every Occasion: 151 Cocktails That Will Freshen Your Breath, Impress a Hot Date, Cure a Hangover, and More! by Duane Swierczynski.

    15. A Million Dollars for Your Hangover (The Illustrated Guide for the New Self-Help Alcoholic Treatment Method) by Maxie C. Maultsby and Hank Chapman.

    16. FREE Acupressure Guide For Relieving Hangovers From MobileReference by MobileReference and mobi. (Kindle Edition)

    17. Bonjour, Hangover! by Hassoldt Davis.

    18. Hayford Hall: Hangovers, Erotics, and the Aesthetics of Modernism by Sandra Chait and Associate Professor Elizabeth Podnieks.

    19. Hangover Soup: A Novel by Louise Redd.

    20. The Humanitarian Hangover: Displacement, Aid, and Transformation in Western Tanzania by Loren Landau.

    -

    Previously in Booklist:
    * Drunkards

    * Kinko's Kiosk 2009

    * Coming Attractions

    * Amazon Recommends

    * The Walgreens Discount Shelf

    * Kinko's Kiosk

    * The Last 10 Books I Read And Why

    * The Beachwood Inn Bookshelf

    * Five Best Books Ever (For Now)

    * A Beachwood Gift Guide

    * Have A Right-Wing Christmas

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 4:37 AM | Permalink

    Dye vs. Bradley

    By George Ofman

    There are two general managers with two dilemmas. The one on the North Side has a much bigger one than the one to his south.

    Jim Hendry has to get rid of you-know-who.

    Ken Williams let go a World Series hero.

    And it's possible both players could wind up teammates next season.

    Talk about schizophrenic symmetry!

    One guy is total class. The other is a total ass.

    Williams must replace the very likely departing Jermaine Dye.

    Hendry must find a taker for Milton Bradley.

    Marion prison is not an option.

    Dye is done on the South Side because he costs too much. Such is baseball. When the GM says we don't have the money and the guy you're letting go just made $11 million, economics become more important than RBIs.

    Bradley is done on the North Side because he costs too much too, but in this case, the Cubs will be forced to eat some of his salary in order to push his sorry act out of town. It won't taste very good to new owner Tom Ricketts, but if Bradley stayed, Ricketts would have gas every day.

    The dilemma for Hendry is much greater than for Williams. He's trying to sell another team the equivalent of the H1-N1 virus. The extra money is there for the cure, if there is one. The Mets say they don't want anything to do with him. Gee, I wonder why. You mean New York City wouldn't embrace another loser? Doesn't mean the Mets won't be part of a three-way trade.

    How about Texas? How about Jermaine Dye signing a free agent contract there? Think if the Cubs ship Bradley there first Dye might say, "Are you kidding me?"

    Dye would deserve much better than to have Bradley in the same state, let alone the same locker room.

    Despite having a very depressing last two months of last season, Dye is a first-class pro who played first-class baseball for the Sox. He's a man to admire for the way he handles himself on and off the field. He was their World Series MVP and followed that up with a monster 2006 in which he belted 44 homers and drove in 120 runs. Even though he had a subpar season in 2007, the Sox rewarded him with a two-year deal. Dye responded with a 34-homer, 96-RBI season even though he faltered in September. But last year, Dye's batting average dipped to a career low .250 and while he was lights-out the first four months, the lights went out in August and September when he hit only .183 with a paltry four homers and 16 RBI. Those final two months sealed the fate of the soon-to-be 36-year-old.

    The fate of Bradley is sealed, too. He's gone even if Hendry is unable to prove that a fool is born every minute. As solid a pro as Dye is, as miserable a human being Bradley is. He comported himself here as if the world was out to get him. Come to think of it, he might be right. There's a reason he's played for seven teams in nine years and maybe eight in 10 if Hendry can BS better than some Republicans can. Bradley is the antithesis of Dye. He's loathed by many, including his (former) teammates. Imagine some of them applauding after Hendry told them he was suspending the miscreant for the last 15 days of the season.

    Dye also should get applause, only for the opposite reason.

    So while both players appear to be gone, we depart with this; good luck to one, good riddance to the other.

    -

    George Ofman, an original member of The Score and a veteran of NPR, has covered more than 3,500 sporting events over the course of his career. Comments welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:20 AM | Permalink

    I Am A Security Guard: Nicknames

    In order to alleviate the pain of working my crappy job, I've started creating nicknames for some of the store's more obnoxious customers. That provides a bit of levity which helps prevent me from crying or performing a rash act.

    The coping mechanism allowed me to survive a recent Saturday night. Four class acts I've christened Churros, Coupons, Diapers and Mr. Stinky arrived one after the other.

    Churros often puts trays of the treats on a rail just outside the door and sells to passersby. I should chase him away, but a rare dose of sympathy keeps me from doing the deed. He's a short, middle-aged local with a limited knowledge of English. I give him bonus points for showing some hustle instead of begging.

    After he makes a few bucks, he boxes the goods and leaves them beside my post. He expects me to watch his stuff while he shops.

    Shortly after I started work, Churros set up his goods on the rail. Twenty minutes later, I walked outside to gather carts. Churros mumbled and pointed to someone panhandling in the parking lot. He wanted me to muscle his competition.

    That rubbed me the wrong way. So I simply said "Okay," stayed by the door and scanned the lot. Sure enough, a man carrying a backpack chatted with men by a car. The beggar left the lot after they gave him change.

    Sometimes, karma works. Churros did not make any sales. He soon packed up and left.

    *

    Coupons earned his nickname because of a fondness for last-minute shopping. My store's weekly sales start on Sunday and end on Saturday at midnight. He often arrives during the final hour. When Coupons does not find a desired item, he interrogates a cashier before demanding a rain check. Because he's friends with a manager, he's rude to the staff.

    On this night, he grabbed a sales paper and a cart around 11:55 p.m. and strolled around the store. He approached a cash register about 40 minutes later. As the Nice Cashier scanned his goods, he noticed the sale prices had expired. He left the register to hunt for an assistant manager. A few minutes later, the assistant showed up and told the cashier to charge Coupons the sale prices.

    *

    Diapers, an elderly man, earned a unique honor: two nicknames. He acquired the first, Toilet Paper, several months ago when he berated a manager to learn when his favorite brand would go on sale. But a later incident spurred me to give him a more fitting moniker. He asked the Nice Cashier if he could open a package of adult diapers and try on a sample. Diapers got outraged when she said no.

    After walking by my post, he grabbed a Chicago Tribune, parked himself at a register and read. A musty smell wafted from him. When a couple needed to pay for donuts, he fell back a few feet and continued to read. When he finished, he put the paper back on a rack and bought two gallons of milk.

    A half hour following Diapers' departure, I had to contend with an even worse smell. Mr. Stinky was in the house.

    *

    Mr. Stinky usually shows up late at night in the same dirty T-shirt and jeans. He rocks an odor that consists of funk and urine. The Cool Cashier sniffs hand sanitizer to combat the smell, which lingers after he departs.

    He also calls the cashiers "sweetheart" while forking over the money for potato chips. A few nights before my shift, he took it a step further by touching the Nice Cashier's back. She told an assistant manager, who ordered me to chat with Mr. Stinky during his next visit.

    When he arrived, I pulled him aside. The same assistant glared while standing behind him at an angle. While trying to ignore the odor, I told Mr. Stinky that customers can't make inappropriate comments to cashiers or touch them.

    "I didn't do anything," he said.

    "The cashier said you did," the assistant manager said. "If it happens again, I'll ban you from the store."

    "Okay," Mr. Stinky said. He found his chips and walked to the cash register. After exchanging small talk with the Nice Cashier, he paid and left. Of course, he did not apologize.

    Since then, he has not returned to the store. Fine with me. One down. Three to go.

    -

    A very pseudononymous Jerome Haller earns rent money as a security guard for a large, publicly-held retail chain.

    -

    See more tales of security guarding, pizzeria waitressing, barista-ing and office drudgering in the Life at Work collection.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:10 AM | Permalink

    November 11, 2009

    The [Wednesday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    1. Are Cook County Dems fucking with Tom Tresser?

    2. Illinois' Fugliest Political Web Sites.

    3. "Most baby boomers: white, married, went to college."

    And the vast majority of them never marched for civil rights or against the Vietnam War, nor attended Woodstock, despite what the media has been trying to tell you for the last couple of decades.

    *

    Let me tell you something that occurred to me once again when I searched for the link to the baby boomer story in the Sun-Times, where I first saw it in print: They are so not optimizing their website.

    *

    "In the last few years, I've visited a lot of newspaper websites for various projects," Chris Silver Smith writes at SearchEngineLand. "These sites are most frequently the online arms of what were once strictly printed local newspapers. When visiting these sites, I've been struck by the technical clunkiness of most - they're typified by poor usability, layouts still closely influenced by traditional print newspaper layouts, dysfunctional on-site search engines, and content management systems hamstrung with badly-formed page templates.

    "Naturally, these sites are not optimized for search engines nor to make their content readily findable via search. It's unsurprising that the sites are search-unfriendly. The newspapers probably feel highly conflicted in regards to search - the nostalgic desire for successes experienced in the past have made them grow unhappy with the internet paradigm, and they've worked each other up into a frenzy to hold Google responsible for their troubles. It's hard to expressly invite a perceived enemy into your house on one hand while issuing invective against him on the other.

    "(I have also encountered newspaper sites which have optimized by some degree. But, these seem fairly few, and even some of them have only taken faltering steps in that direction. The exceptions are some of the biggest players such as the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and other juggernaut newspapers - which are doing professional jobs at optimization.)"

    *

    Now, I don't bow to the gods of search engine optimization. I think it's important to retain creative control and judgement over headlines, for example. Satisfying incoming search traffic isn't as important as satisfying your loyal readers. But there's a lot more to SEO than headlines.

    The challenge, though, is complicated. The division of labor in a traditional news organization collapses on a website; editorial duties take place in the same space as business functions like marketing and circulation. After all, isn't a writer who puts the appropriate tags on a story or a designer who builds a Digg button into the mix - to use small examples - crossing old department boundaries?

    It's reminiscent of the shift of back-office production duties to design desks, and design duties to copy desks. Technology flattens organizations and rewrites labor efficiencies and the locations of specialized knowledge. There's a dissertation in there somewhere; I did a paper on this when I was in graduate school and now would be a good time to dig it out and see how it applies to today's media organizations. But the answer isn't to stick to old ways; rather it's to find new ways that retain journalistic integrity instead of letting the marketers and technologists set the standards. Yet another reason why journalists have got to get in the game.

    4. Once again the Tribune publishes a press release by a known liar a known liar who won't submit to an interview with its own reporters. Why?

    5. Reinventing Classifieds.

    *

    There's far more fresh and fun thinking about the news business going on than is generally recognized. As usual, journalists haven't figured out yet how to keep track of their own profession. Or maybe they don't care.

    *

    Real-time ads for real-time news.

    6. "Loyal readers know that Matches Boyle is a regular in this column," John Kass writes in today's must-read. "In 2002, while he was lighting arsons, he mysteriously vaulted over more than 200 better qualified firefighters to become a lieutenant. How? Matches received a 'merit promotion' from City Hall.

    "Matches, 51, is the brother of the politically connected John 'Quarters' Boyle, 49, currently serving federal prison time for bribery. Many years ago, Quarters stole millions of dollars in state tollway change but kept his mouth shut. The discreet Quarters was later rewarded by Mayor Richard Daley with a political job.

    "Quarters and his buddies ran one of Daley's top patronage armies, the aptly named Coalition for Better Government."

    The mayor wasn't available for comment, though he was available to pretend he wrote an Op-Ed that the Tribune gladly published.

    *

    "On Friday, Judge Martin ignored Matches' testimony. He ruled that though Matches did indeed betray the public trust, there was no connection between the firefighter's job and the arsons."

    7. "[T]he neighborhoods receiving the most in blight-fighting TIF money are the wealthiest," the Reader reports.

    The mayor wasn't available for comment because he was busy approving the final draft of his Op-Ed piece for the Trib.

    8. "DEAR MAYOR DALEY: Your bulldozers are hard at work tearing down what's left of the former Michael Reese Hospital campus," David Roeder of the Sun-Times writes today. "It seems as if you are doing this out of spite because the city lost the 2016 Olympics bid, in which the Reese site figured prominently.

    "Otherwise, why ignore the input from landmarks advocates, who say that parts of the campus attributed to a highly regarded architect, Walter Gropius, should be saved?"

    The mayor wasn't available for comment because . . .

    9. Deb Mell sucks, but so do absurd petition rules.

    10. Illinois reps waver on health care.

    11. Trade Eli Manning!

    12. Facebook Feed:

    * "Matt Farmer wonders whether the State of Illinois can somehow package Milton Bradley, Tommie Harris, Rod Blagojevich, and Venetian Night as part of a multi-player, multi-state trade."

    * "Barbara Bohn Favorite CTA Red line conductor, to those of us leaving the train: 'Good luck in the real world.'"

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: World beaters.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:05 AM | Permalink

    Fantasy Fix

    By Dan O'Shea

    There's some interesting news in the fantasy basketball world that I want to turn my attention to at the outset because the reports are about two certified stars, Tracy McGrady and Allen Iverson, and another player who might just be certifiable, Stephen Jackson.

    First, it appears that McGrady will be back in uniform sometime next week after knee surgery. That's good news for fantasy hoopsters who took a flyer on him because a Houston Rockets team without Yao Ming this season will be putting the rock in his hands early and often. Still, don't depend too much on an early boost because McGrady is bound to see limited minutes per game until sometime next month.

    On the bad news front, The Answer owes one to the Memphis Grizzlies, who took a flyer on him for this season. Iverson was hurt in the pre-season and, after a slow start, requested a leave of absence from the Grizzlies. There seems to be a nebulous family reason behind that leave. He reportedly is thinking about retirement. This may not have too much fantasy impact because anyone who drafted him probably did so recognizing that his days as a top-flight scorer were mostly behind him.

    What about Stephen Jackson? He wants out of Golden State and there have been rumors he could land in Dallas. Occasionally, Jackson has been a good source of overall points at steals, prone to a big night now and then, but he's a bit of a loose cannon. If you have him, he will probably prove tough trade bait, but see where he lands before you make any moves.

    As the young NBA season progresses, a few players have caught our eye for Fantasy Fix Action Rating consideration:

    Player: JR Smith, SG
    FFAR: PICK UP
    Comment: He is coming off a suspension stemming from off-season trouble with the law, but he almost won the NBA's Sixth Man Award last year, and tends to have long streaks of a very high scoring games tempered with occasional lapses into mediocrity. He averaged more than 15 points per game last season. Count on him for more this year - if he gets the minutes on the floor to do it.

    *

    Player: Marreese Speights, PF/C
    FFAR: PICK UP
    Comment: A chic sleeper pick among rookies last season, he was over-shadowed by the likes of Derrick Rose, Eric Gordon and others, but this season he's averaging almost 15 points per game, almost 7 rebounds and more than one block. Might be reaching a bit on this one, but I think he could finish this season as a top 50-60 player.

    *

    Player: Chuck Hayes, SF/PF/C
    FFAR: SKIP
    Comment: I have been back and forth about Hayes because his multi-position eligibility is so enticing and he does do a little bit of everything - scoring, steals, rebounds, blocks. But, he just doesn't do enough of any one of those things, and also tends to get into foul trouble. I'll probably revisit this later in the season, but for now, I'm saying no.

    *

    Player: Quentin Richardson, SG/SF
    FFAR: PICK UP
    Comment: Q has somehow straightened himself out this year, shooting at almost a 50 percent clip for a new team, Miami . This is a guy who had a 39 percent field goal shooting rate last year and a truly woeful less than 36 percent the year before. He's a role player for Miami, so may not get huge totals, but on top of his improved FG shooting, his three-point proficiency provides a nice boost .

    Ready For Some Football
    The trading deadline is very near in many fantasy leagues. I always have found football trades a tough prospect unless you trade position for same position (RB for RB, for example). Our Fantasy Fix Acton Ratings this week has the lowdown on some potentially trade-able players:

    Player: Correll Buckhalter, RB
    FFAR: ACQUIRE
    Comment: The Denver RB was overshadowed by rookie Knowshon Moreno (as well as upstart QB star Kyle Orton) for most of this year, but Denver has been faltering, and I think they will go to this reliable runner/short-yardage receiver more often. He's probably been sitting on someone's bench all year - go find him.

    *

    Player: Steve Slaton, RB
    FFAR: HOLD
    Comment: Yes, he has fumbled his way out of a true starting job, but oddly, Houston still seems to be turning to him in scoring situations - he has three TDs in the last two weeks - and in short pass situations. He has definitely lost the value that made him a borderline Round 1 fantasy draft pick, but could be good in a flex position if you need him.

    *

    Player: Eli Manning, QB
    FFAR: TRADE
    Comment: A good move to make at the deadline because he just had a good week after four really bad ones. A stunning season went awry after four weeks, and he has mostly tough pass defenses the rest of the way.

    *

    Player: Kolby Smith, RB
    FFAR: ACQUIRE
    Comment: A name out of the past. Smith had his moments last season, and came of the injury list just as Larry Johnson was digging a deep hole for himself. With Johnson out of town, Kansas City may actually turn more to Matt Cassel's arm than its backfield, but Smith is in line for some work, and likely fantasy point totals that at least make him a decent flex choice. He probably was picked up by someone in your league when Johnson was suspended - make an offer.

    *

    Player: Ladell Betts, RB
    FFAR: TRADE
    Comment: He may start the next two weeks for Washington with Clinton Portis out - or maybe Larry Johnson will fly into town. Betts has done a bang-up job at times filling in for the injury-prone Portis, so a lot of fantasy teams may want him now. But, there's a lot of uncertainty here, and he may only have a two-week starring role, so I'd ship him for value while you can.

    Expert Wire
    * Fanhouse has notes on what seemed to be an argument between Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford and the guy who should be his primary target, Calvin Johnson. Maybe Johnson had a problem with the five interceptions Stafford had thrown, the QB's worst performance in a year that has seen a spike in his fantasy value - at least when he hasn't been injured. The Lions haven't been doing much better than last year, but Stafford has shown promise, and needs to be on the same page with Johnson to fulfill that promise.

    * Yahoo! Pick-Ups of the Week has Tampa QB Josh Freeman as a moderate buy for Week 10. He has all of one NFL start to his name, but it went pretty well, with three touchdowns. The initial observation has been that his solid fantasy performance in Week 9 came against a stout Green Bay defense, but this week's outing against Miami probably will provide a much tougher test.

    * The Washington Post suggests the hometown Redskins may be keen on picking up Larry Johnson. The Redskins have been in bad shape all year, and now their (declining) star Clinton Portis is out for at least a week or two, but this might be grasping at straws. The Redskins need to give Betts a chance and starting thinking about which new coach they will bring through their revolving door next year.

    -

    Dan O'Shea's Fantasy Fix appears in this space every Wednesday. Tips, comments, and suggestions are welcome. You can also read his about his split sports fan personality at SwingsBothWays, which isn't about what it sounds like it's about.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:57 AM | Permalink

    November 10, 2009

    The [Tuesday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    Just as news organizations face the question of whether to allow free advertising into their news reports by referring to the U.S. Cellular Fields and the Tostitos Fiesta Bowls of our world, the Chicago media in particular faces a question when referring to the Independent Police Review Authority.

    The Independent Police Review Authority used to be called the Office of Professional Standards, until Mayor Richard M. Daley reconstituted the office after complaints about OPS became too much to politically bear.

    But there is nothing "independent" about IPRA. The mayor hires its chief administrator.

    Rather, the name is a concoction borne of a political strategy; it's a piece of propaganda.

    Every time, though, the media refers to the Independent Police Review Authority, readers and viewers get the impression that some sort of outside agency is at work.

    The media might be transmitting the fact of the authority's name, but it's also transmitting a falsehood about what it is.

    IPRA's own website is straight out of Soviet annals.

    "The Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) is an independent department of the City of Chicago staffed with the civilian investigators."

    I understand that this is supposed to mean independent of the police department, but it's not independent of the City of Chicago, i.e., the mayor's office.

    "IPRA was created by the Chicago Police Department in 1974 in response to public and internal concerns about the integrity of excessive force investigations."

    Is this an admission that IPRA is the same thing as OPS, or an attempt to erase IPRA's previous incarnation?

    "In 2007, by ordinance, the City of Chicago re-structured IPRA creating an independent City department."

    Okay, maybe I'm nitpicking about the website, but it's all of a piece. So whenever I see Independent Police Review Authority in the press, I bristle.

    *

    David Axelrod came up with the "Urban Health Initiative" to help sell the University of Chicago Hospital's patient-dumping. I wonder if he came up with Independent Police Review Authority too.

    *

    This isn't to cast aspersions on current IPRA chief Ilana Rosenzweig. It's to once again ask the media to not allow itself to be outmanuevered by the people they cover.

    Fool's Game
    "Do you think that I'm actually a damned fool?" U.S. Rep. Danny Davis asked a reporter who had asked if his heretofore dual candidacy for re-election to Congress and the Cook County Board presidency was some sort of political gambit.

    Why yes, Danny, we do!

    You made an ass of yourself hawking polls purportedly showing you leading all candidates in the county board race while simultaneously passing petitions to keep your old job. And then, having supposedly failed in a breakfast meeting to persuade Todd Stroger and his 10 percent approval rating to drop out of the race, you up and quit yourself.

    I understand the concern that multiple black candidates could open a path to victory for white sewage district honcho Terry O'Brien in the Democratic primary, but you've already stated very clearly that you don't think Stroger can win.

    The reporter asked a reasonable question.

    Toni Time?
    Dorothy Brown and Todd Stroger have challenged each other's petitions, and both could conceivably be knocked off the ballot. That would give Toni Preckwinkle a one-on-one with O'Brien on the Dem side.

    Magnet Madness
    Families with one child in a magnet school will get an ever better chance than they already have of getting additional siblings into the same school under a new policy being worked out by Chicago Public Schools.

    More nepotism? Isn't this going backwards? It's like instituting legacies.

    Imagine if your brainy kid lost one of those hard-to-come-by spots in a magnet school to an inferior student because the numbskull had a really smart older sister. Fair?

    I understand the benefits of having kids from the same family attend the same school, but once again we see how magnet schools are solutions that ignore the real problem. Kids should go to neighborhood schools. Brothers and sisters can attend together. Many wouldn't even have to take a bus. Communities would be strengthened. And we could rid ourselves of magnet madness in all its incarnations.

    But if we only had neighborhood schools, we'd have a segregation problem - though not necessarily one that much worse than what we already have. And apparently upstanding white families would flee the city. Neither problem is really the fault of the school system, though, so I humbly suggest we stop trying using the school system - children - to solve them.

    Poll Dance
    "The campaign for Cheryle Jackson released today the results of a poll that shows nearly half of the voters in the Democratic Primary for U. S. Senate are undecided, and Jackson quickly moves from second place to first once voters are introduced to the candidates' messages and qualifications," the campaign says.

    I wonder which messages they are using. "Cheryle Jackson rules! Would you vote for her now?"

    *

    "In short, polling shows that Cheryle Jackson is a frontrunner in the race for Illinois' open U.S. Senate seat."

    Isn't everyone "a" frontrunner in a small field - except maybe whoever is running last? And maybe even then?

    The State Legislator Who Rocks
    Loves Yo La Tengo and KISS.

    Parking Meter Politics
    "Parking meters have become such a political issue that in St. Petersburg, Fla., mayoral candidates have run on proposals to either eliminate all parking meters downtown or reduce meter enforcement hours," AP reports.

    Home Wrecker
    State Rep. Deb Mell (yes, that Mell) may lose her House seat because she allegedly used the wrong address on her nominating petitions.

    Poverty Elimination Panel
    Off to a slow start.

    Oprah and L.A.
    Why she might go.

    Shoes Drop
    For entertainment purposes only. Including gambling.

    Buckle and Suckle
    The pratfalls of desire.

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Now with reward points.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:21 AM | Permalink

    The College Football Report: Connect Four

    By Mike Luce

    We'll gloss over the bulk of last weekend's action today to focus on the four games that had most affected the BCS picture: Iowa vs. Northwestern, LSU vs. Alabama, Oregon vs. Stanford, and Notre Dame vs. Navy.

    Off we go!

    Iowa vs. Northwestern
    The other shoe finally dropped on Iowa. I haven't been rooting against the Hawkeyes, but I have been skeptical. Iowa played too many unexpectedly close games. The Big 10, while not top-heavy with elite teams like Florida and Texas, simply has too many solid teams to coast through an entire season.

    Sadly, an injury to QB Ricky Stanzi in the second quarter effectively ended Iowa's bid for a perfect season and a shot at the national championship. After 14 straight wins (dating back to last season) and four comebacks in the fourth quarter, the dream was over.

    Making matters worse, it looks like Stanzi will miss Saturday's game against the Buckeyes in Columbus. Rather than a true acid test, college football fans will be forced to watch as Ohio State shellacks the visiting Hawkeyes and clinches the Big 10 title and a spot in the Rose Bowl. We can only hope that OSU will go on to lose to Oregon or possibly USC (again). Sigh.

    LSU vs. Alabama
    Injuries also fouled up the LSU-Alabama game. The first half was a defensive struggle, with LSU leading heavily favored 'Bama 7-3 at halftime. But the Tigers lost starting QB Jordan Jefferson and RB Charles Scott in the second half. While Jefferson's loss may have derailed the passing game, losing Scott seemed to completely alter the playbook for Louisiana State. The senior had piled up 83 yards by the third quarter, including a 34-yard sprint that ended in an awkward tackle and a shoulder injury. LSU's offense, prone to bouts of futility, nearly ground to a halt.

    Meanwhile on defense, LSU continued to hang tough until cramping forced CB Patrick Peterson to the sidelines. The Tide immediately exploited his replacement - a safety playing out of position at corner - with a short pass to stud receiver Julio Jones. One juke move and 73 yards later, Jones sailed into the end zone and clinched the game for Alabama.

    Oregon vs. Stanford
    Out west, the Ducks dropped a stunner to the Stanford Cardinal. I can't even make sense of the Pac-10 right now. Let's table any further discussion and take a deeper look at the West Coast later this week.

    Notre Dame vs. Navy
    Finally, the long-awaited end to the Charlie Weis Era at Notre Dame may be in sight. We predicted his demise earlier this season when picking USC to romp ND at home in Week 7. But the prospect of a 10-2 season and a berth in a BCS also-ran bowl game might have staved off the inevitable. So much for that idea. For the first time since 1936, an unranked Navy team beat Notre Dame. Ouch. With a sub-.500 record since the start of the 2007 season, and a road game against Pittsburgh (-7 in the early lines) this weekend, it looks like the Irish will be seeking a new savior in January if not before.

    The Rest of the Best
    Let's take a look at the remainder of the BCS Top 14 (those teams eligible for a BCS bowl) from Week 10. You might notice that the favorites went an appalling 4-8 against the spread last weekend. I don't remember a worse weekend for "the chalk" in a long time. The following is for entertainment purposes only, including gambling.

    - Vanderbilt 3 @ #1 Florida 27 (-35)
    - UCF 3 @ #2 Texas 35 (-35)
    - #9 LSU 15 @ #3 Alabama 24 (-7)*
    - Northwestern 17 @ #4 Iowa 10 (-14.5)**
    - Connecticut 45 @ #5 Cincinnati 47 (-17)
    - #6 TCU 55 (-24.5) @ San Diego State 12
    - #8 Oregon 42 (-7) @ Stanford 51
    - Wake Forest 27 @ #10 Georgia Tech 30 OT (-14)
    - #16 Ohio State 24 @ #11 Penn State 7 (-5.5)
    - #12 USC (-12) 14 @ Arizona State 9***
    - Syracuse 10 @ #13 Pittsburgh 37 (-21.5)
    - New Mexico 14 @ #14 Utah 45 (-27.5)

    * While the outcome wasn't much of a mystery, the point spread swung on a pair of two-point conversions. Les Miles opted to try for two early in the third quarter and missed. Due to the margin, 'Bama went for two after its next score to force a two-score lead. Had both teams just kicked extra points, the game would have ended in a push. Just another example of how gambling can ruin your enjoyment of sports.

    ** The line for this game shrank by two points, leading me to believe that Vegas desperately needed somebody to put some action on NU.

    *** See what I mean? What the hell is going on out there . . . ?

    -

    Mike "Dr. Dude" Luce brings you The College Football Report in this space twice a week, with the generous assistance of the Beachwood Sports Seal. They both welcome your comments.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:30 AM | Permalink

    The State Legislator Who Rocks

    By Steve Rhodes

    Rep. Susana Mendoza (D-Chicago) has done fine work for her district during her eight years in office, but it was her bravura performance during the Blago impeachment imbroglio that - at least briefly - made her a star. From calling the ex-governor a "pathological liar" who might be in need of medical attention while he was still in office to her eloquent disquisitions on why he deserved to be impeached, Mendoza became a go-to media favorite who nonetheless never drifted into sillyland.

    Mendoza also rocks.

    In fact, she is quite likely the rockingest member of the General Assembly - perhaps in its entire history. She's a Roger Waters fan, for godsakes.

    And when she isn't on the job in Springfield, you can catch her at shows around town here in Chicago. Among the interests she lists on her Facebook page: live music.

    And her taste - judging by her Facebook favorites - is (nearly) impeccable: "Wilco, The White Stripes, !!!, Yo La Tengo, Rage Against The Machine, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, Jane's Addiction, U2, Pixies, Modest Mouse, Sonic Youth, Radiohead, Interpol, Depeche Mode, Queen, Beastie Boys, Nirvana, AK Trio, Pool of Frogs, and yes...to the chagrin of some of my friends, I like Aerosmith. On the Spanish side, I love Luis Miguel, Mana and Juanes."

    Her favorite quote as listed on Facebook comes from Hendrix: "When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace."

    But the real fun is tracking Mendoza's status updates and Twitter feed.

    Here are a few highlights.

    * Susana A. Mendoza will be rockin' out at the KISS concert with the girls tonight. The KISS Army will be out in full force. Woohoo!!!
    November 6 at 7:33 p.m.

    * Susana A. Mendoza is still thinking about how awesome Wilco was this weekend!!! October 20 at 11:47 p.m. via Twitter (Mendoza went both nights)

    * I am SO going to that KISS concert. Holy hilarious...that's gonna be insane! Great seeing you too Jules!
    October 21 at 8:02 p.m.

    * Susana A. Mendoza is saying it's official. Yo La Tengo is pure musical genius. They were themselves tonight at The Vic...completely AWESOME!
    October 7 at 12:15am via Twitter

    * Susana A. Mendoza is totally in awe at how amazingly awesome NIN was tonight!!!
    August 28 at 11:54pm via Twitter

    * Susana A. Mendoza thought that Jane's Addiction was &$"!#%# AMAZING!!!! Awesome...thank you Perry!
    August 9 at 11:35pm via Twitter

    * Susana A. Mendoza is in love w/Depeche Mode! They always were and continue to be my favorite band. Day 1 at Lolla rocked!!!
    August 7 at 9:58pm via Facebook for iPhone

    So I asked Mendoza to rank her favorite shows of the year. This was her response:

    "So if I can think back clearly enough to exactly one year ago, I'd have to say that I saw (and all of these were totally fun and kick #@$) Beck, My Bloody Valentine (I think I got permanent hearing loss at that sick show . . . it was awesome), Pool of Frogs at Metro and The Empty Bottle(my favorite local Chicago band that not too many people know about but should), went to Pitchfork to see Yo La Tengo, Flaming Lips and a bunch of other good bands, caught Chicago's own Tortoise at Pritzker Pavillion, did Lollapalooza AGAIN and remembered why I worshiped Depeche Mode all throughout college (although I did not crowd surf out of the crowd this year like I did when Rage Against the Machine played there the year before . . . that was AWESOME CRAZY!), Depeche Mode and Janes Addiction were the highlights for me at Lolla, saw The Ting Tings at Metro and couldn't stop dancing to them, saw Unicycle Loves You (another cool local Chicago band), absolutely LOVED Nine Inch Nails at the Aragon and jammed to Yo La Tengo at the Vic which is an incredible venue. And, as for the double cherry on top, I did Wilco back to back this last weekend. While my favorite band is hands down Wilco at this point, I'd have to say that the best show I saw this year was Nine Inch Nails, followed by Wilco and Yo La Tengo at the Vic. The Pixies are next!"

    Indeed. From those about to rock, we here at the Beachwood Music Desk salute you, Rep. Mendoza.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 2:19 AM | Permalink

    Why Oprah Prefers L.A.

    By The Beachwood Harpo Affairs Desk

    Oprah Winfrey reportedly is considering a move to Los Angeles. Here's why.

    * Sunshine is supposedly slimming.

    * Really angry about parking meters.

    * Persuaded by those California commercials.

    * Wants to be closer to the Laurel Canyon diet.

    * Angel Network told her to.

    * Can't take another winter from the backseat of her limo.

    * Vibes here have gotten really bad.

    * Wants to live somewhere that has an Olympic stadium.

    * Falling out with Obamas; wants to move as far away from them as possible.

    * Bid for the Cubs fell through.

    * Finally giving up on Stedman Graham.

    * Angels told her to.

    * Angling for role on The Hills.

    * The New Age is a lot newer there.

    * More gurus to choose from.

    * Bribing building inspectors less expensive.

    * Wants to buy the Los Angeles Angels.

    -

    Your suggestions welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 2:18 AM | Permalink

    Chicagoetry: Gleam

    Gleam

    I and I buckle at the weight of the load.
    I and I suckle at the nape of liberty.

    I and I rankle at the prospect of servitude.
    I and I cackle at the vehemence of zealotry.
    I and I seethe from a locus of pain.
    I and I breathe in and breathe out again.
    I and I ponder every cloud above the swarm.
    I and I wonder if the horse is out the barn.

    I and I kowtow to the favor of the Muse.
    I and I wonder if the feint is any use.
    I and I accommodate the pratfalls of desire.
    I and I reconcile to wallow in the mire.

    I and I dream of a quiet afternoon.
    I and I gleam of a truce with doom.

    -

    J.J. Tindall is the Beachwood's poet-in-residence. He welcomes your comments. Chicagoetry is an exclusive Beachwood collection-in-progress.

    -

    More Tindall:

    * Music: MySpace page

    * Fiction: A Hole To China

    * Critical biography at e-poets.net

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:41 AM | Permalink

    November 9, 2009

    The [Monday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    This town's sportswriters are never better than when the team or teams they are following become an abject embarrassment. So if you are pained by the wrong turn the Bears have suddenly taken this season, at least enjoy the writing.

    * "Two-and-a-half seasons removed from their Super Bowl appearance, the Bears are who they never imagined they would be - just another mediocre football team," Brad Biggs writes.

    "Now, after two humiliating losses in a span of three weeks, you have to start wondering if the McCaskeys and general manager Jerry Angelo are starting to become fed up with who they have become because no one can say a blowout loss at Cincinnati was an aberration, not after the Arizona Cardinals destroyed the Bears 41-21 Sunday afternoon at Soldier Field, another low point in the tenure of Lovie Smith."

    * "They deserved every boo," Dan Pompei writes. "They were loud and long. Some were deep and throaty. Others were high and piercing.

    "Whether they emanated from the cheap seats or the luxury boxes, they came from the heart."

    * "The Bears' basic defensive scheme is a corpse laid bare in the morgue," Jim Coffman writes. "The fact that they can't adjust to cover the same damn play that has killed them on literally dozens of third-and-long plays this season is a bitter joke and emblematic of everything that has gone wrong for this franchise, really, since the Super Bowl in 2006."

    * "Tell you what, Lovie Smith had better think about firing himself as defensive coordinator before someone else thinks about firing him as head coach," Steve Rosenbloom writes.

    * "If one positive came out of this latest humiliating defeat it's that denial is no longer an option," writes Neil Hayes.

    * "Lovie is not only the head coach but the man who wrested the defensive play-calling from Bob Babich," writes George Ofman. "Here's a suggestion: Give it back!"

    Funkadelic Relic
    "Chicago's Pedro Bell was the artist behind some of music's most iconic album covers," the Sun-Times reports. "Now his life is anything but a pretty picture."

    The Daley Show
    "Chicago Begins 24 Hour A Day Booting."

    The Carol Adams Show
    Do you ever get the feeling you still haven't gotten the real story?

    I had that feeling reading Laura Washington's column today.

    "In 2003, [Carol Adams] was appointed secretary of the state's Department of Human Services by Gov. Rod Blagojevich," Washington writes. "After Pat Quinn took over in January, it appeared Adams' days in that high-profile post were numbered."

    That was when Quinn was still in fumigation mode.

    Adams tried to jump to the presidency of Chicago State University last spring before Quinn pushed her out but she didn't land the job.

    On Oct. 11, Quinn surprisingly handed Adams a cushy assignment to head up a trade office in Africa.

    Adams called the appointment "a life-long dream come true."

    Curiously, the chairperson of the DuSable Museum Board of Trustees tells Washington that the museum hired Adams as its new CEO just eight days later, on Oct. 19.

    On Oct. 29, we learned that no evidence was found that Adams' driver did anything other than, well, drive her around - at $84,600 a year. Adams had claimed that her driver had many other duties justifying his salary but refused to elaborate or release any documents that would back her up.

    One day later, Adams notified Quinn that she no longer wanted the trade post job, citing "pressing family medical issues."

    And now she's the new DuSable boss.

    Something tells me there are a few missing pieces here - and that Adams will be back in the news soon enough.

    The Danny Davis Show
    "What remains unanswered is whether Davis's county board flirtation had a strategic purpose - perhaps for Stroger - or whether Davis simply doesn't like his Washington job much but can't find another one to get elected to."

    Machine Wars
    "Hynes sprang from the Machine and Quinn has been adopted by it. There's bound to be resentment between two guys who now find themselves brothers."

    Northerly Island Makeover
    And don't say put an airport on it.

    Mystery Solved
    "The room itself is quite larger than the men's," our very own Nick Shreders writes in his review of the women's bathroom at the Beachwood Inn. "It has a raised floor that goes back several feet to the toilet at which Minnie Mouse greets you from the back wall."

    The Political Odds . . .
    . . . have changed.

    Trivial Pursuit
    We're up to 575 items, and the latest one is particularly good.

    A Good Question

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Groovin'.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:03 AM | Permalink

    SportsMonday: Bears Burial

    By Jim Coffman

    Good quarterbacks kick Lovie's ass.

    It doesn't help that Tommie Harris is the stupidest player in the NFL. And that just as Hunter Hillenmeyer was settling back into the middle linebacker spot he re-injured his ribs during the first Cardinal drive (he came back after some time on the sideline and was ineffective).

    Ofman:
  • Blame Lovie

  • But just as Cincinnati's Carson Palmer carved up Smith's Bears defense last month, so did Arizona's Kurt Warner on Sunday. It was downright eerie to watch the Cardinals find a way to tack on the final field goal just before the intermission to ensure they would match the Bengals' 31-point halftime total of two weeks prior.

    Actually, Warner's third and fourth throws weren't impressive. They fluttered a bit and took their time floating to receivers. It was as if he hadn't quite warmed up well enough - or he was feeling the effects of a Harris hit on the second play from scrimmage that was set up by Hunter Hillenmeyer's perfect fake blitz.

    But the Bears failed to take advantage because the receivers on both plays were so wide open. And they were essentially running the same play, the play the Bears just cannot cover in Lovie's beloved cover-2 even when they don't blitz and should have a significant numbers advantage in the secondary.

    First, Arizona receiver Steve Breaston and then Larry Fitzgerald ran mid-range in-routes and had no trouble gaining separation from overmatched Bear cornerbacks with safeties nowhere to be found. After those two tosses, Warner's throws regained their zip. It helped that the Bears couldn't manage to put another decent hit on him until they were in a multi-touchdown hole.

    Just like Palmer, Warner knew what the Bear defense was going to do and just how to combat it every stinking time he barked out a snap count during four straight touchdown drives in the first and second quarters. Defenders carrying out Lovie's scheme didn't trick him in a significant way even once on any of those drives.

    Most importantly, Warner knew there were big swaths of downfield territory there for the taking whenever he needed a big gain. Just turn a decent wide receiver inside deep enough to clear the short zones (and that isn't very deep against this bunch) and the quarterback knew the yards would be there, time after time after time.

    The Bears' basic defensive scheme is a corpse laid bare in the morgue. The fact that they can't adjust to cover the same damn play that has killed them on literally dozens of third-and-long plays this season is a bitter joke and emblematic of everything that has gone wrong for this franchise, really, since the Super Bowl in 2006.

    When the Bears lost to the Bengals, many fans howled about it being a historic setback, a huge new low. But it wasn't. Just a year prior, the Bears didn't just lose big when they still had a chance to make something of the season, they lost 37-3 to the Packers. But the loss to the Cardinals combined with the debacle in Cincinnati, now that's a nadir. And if general manager Jerry Angelo and club president Ted Phillips aren't starting to plan for a coaching change, they'll have to plead insanity in the court of public opinion.

    The great thing about the Harris personal foul and ejection on the fourth frickin' play of the game, even more so than Harris whaling on the Cardinal offensive lineman well after whistles had blown, i.e. when there was the best chance that multiple men in stripes were looking at him, was that he wasn't just punching a guy. He was punching a guy who was wearing a helmet!

    In other words, he had a much better chance of doing damage to his own hand than to the Cardinal lineman's cranium.

    If Lovie can't convince Harris to issue a full-fledged, no reservations "I'm an idiot" statement on Monday (because it is clear, after an official suspension last season and an unofficial one this time around, that suspensions don't work with Harris), either Harris or his coach has to go immediately.

    And I know that Harris won't issue that statement and I know that he won't go and Lovie absolutely won't go. But hey, Jerry and Ted, it isn't just the rabid "fire the coach after every loss" guys calling for some sort of drastic measure (or at least an intense mea culpa from a prime scapegoat), it is everyone who really cares about this team. Everyone.

    Lovie Lacks Fight
    Lovie's big chance to at least raise a mild objection to the proceedings was the offensive pass interference call on Greg Olsen that effectively stymied the Bears' final drive of the first half. Bad call or not (and I guarantee that in retrospect - in other words, in the film room - the officials will not be able to justify that call in the context of at least a half dozen other calls not made on Sunday), the coach needed to at least make it clear to officials that he would be turning up the heat if calls didn't start evening up. He couldn't be bothered.

    Bears fans won't remember Lovie taking the team to the Super Bowl in 2006, they will remember the fact that he just doesn't care enough to fight for his team - ever.

    It followed then that the Bears couldn't get a call when Olsen was obviously interfered with on a critical play in the third quarter. On that one, after the coach again declined to muster even a mild rebuke for the nearest official, quarterback Jay Cutler stopped waiting for his coach to act. He let the officials have it and was assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

    Oh by the way referee Ed Hochuli and friends, that's the most pathetic officials can ever be. When they blow a call and grow rabbit ears and tack on additional sanction, like a basketball ref whistling a "T" on a guy with an understandable beef, officials who do that have sunk to the depths.

    Great to see Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner, in his team's eighth game this season, finally figure out that if opposing teams load up to stop the run, the Bears need to throw it (even if the head coach keeps yammering nonsensically - he did it again last week - about how his team is a running team first despite the fact that his by-far best player is his quarterback).

    And they need to throw it 10 times in a row to start a game if need be. And if they can throw it effectively during that time, especially deep down the field, it will loosen up the defense for all sorts of offensive possibilities further down the line.

    Sure enough, the Cardinals resorted to blitzes more frequently as the game wore on and the Bears countered effectively with standard screen passes to Forte and bubble screens to Hester and Earl Bennett.

    Pass Then Run
    I was actually relieved when the Cardinals tackled Johnny Knox on the kickoff return after Arizona's second touchdown. If Knox had taken it all the way back, the defense would have been right back out there and surely wouldn't have had a chance.

    But it didn't matter, even though the Bears held the ball for at least a little while (mustering a first down) before the offense stalled. That was when Turner squandered the goodwill engendered by the great start with the moronic reverse call to Hester that resulted in a 12-yard loss and, soon thereafter, a punt.

    The third time the Bears had the ball, Forte busted out for just the sort of big run made possible when an opposing team knows early on that the Bears will pass the ball and pass it some more if the defense commits too many players to run defense first.

    Jay Cutler, who played a great game overall, would throw an interception in the second half but the only major mistake he made was taking a sack at this point. The Bears were eventually forced to punt and when the Cardinals drove it down the field yet again, the rout was officially on.

    Fire Notes
    Great win for the Fire on Saturday night and great time had by my son Noah, daughter Alana and I during the game in our seats in the AYSO discount section. The squad advances to a Saturday night Eastern Conference one-game final with Real Salt Lake at home with a spot in the MLS Final the next weekend on the line.

    It is hard to imagine our enjoying a sporting sequence more than Cuauhtemoc Blanco's 83rd-minute goal following exquisite service from hyper-hustler Patrick Nyarko preceding 10 more minutes of the manic defensive play that preserved the necessary 2-0 victory.

    Unfortunately we didn't have the greatest of times during the endless pre-game schlock (just because the Premiership and so many other high-falutin' soccer governing bodies insist on endless, vapid ceremonies before the game doesn't mean the MLS has to do the same).

    And after the game it felt like we barely made it out of the anarchic parking lot intact.

    Hey Fire, you and I both know that you play in a minor league facility (although it is shiny and new - you have to love that) in a minor league locale (you have to love even more the fact that in Chicago the major league teams play in the city and the minor leaguers inhabit the suburbs).

    But a team must acknowledge some new responsibilities when the crowd numbers more than 20,000. And you do call yourselves Major League Soccer after all.

    So the next time an event is clearly going to be big out there in Bridgeview, perhaps you could establish that the first few rows of vehicles can host post-game tailgate parties but that's it (so the rest of us can crawl out of there reasonably confident we won't run over some drunken dimwit).

    And perhaps you could set things up in the parking lot so it isn't absolute chaos as way too many vehicles try to get out of way too few exits. Thanks ever so much for your consideration.

    -

    Jim Coffman rounds up the sports weekend in this space every Monday. He welcomes your comments.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 2:00 AM | Permalink

    Blame Lovie

    By George Ofman

    Jay Cutler threw for 369 yards, the seventh most in Bears history, yet the considerable angst Bears fans were feeling has now turned into total anger.

    Do you blame them?

    Their anger is vented mostly at one man, Lovie Smith, who is starting to resemble a punching bag more than an NFL head coach.

    Blistered after a 45-10 loss at Cincinnati and highly criticized following an ugly 24-point victory over Cleveland, Lovie is feeling the brunt force of yesterday's flogging by Arizona as if Hurricane Katrina found new life off Lake Michigan.

    And he deserves it.

    Lovie is not only the head coach but the man who wrested the defensive play-calling from Bob Babich.

    Here's a suggestion: Give it back!

    When a team scores on its first six possessions and marches through your defense as if butter was re-invented to look like football players, you've got problems.

    And Lovie's got them.

    When a team manages to be successful on third down eight straight times, you've got problems.

    And Lovie's got lots of them.

    When the worst rushing team in the NFL (dead last averaging 65 yards per game) gains nearly three times as many, you've got problems.

    And Lovie apparently has more than we can imagine.

    When your overpaid defensive tackle decides to act like a pro wrestler in front of over 60,000 paying customers, you've got problems.

    And in this case, Tommie Harris may have more than Lovie.

    I'd like to say look at the bright side but there's a game at San Francisco this Thursday followed by one against Philadelphia followed by one at Minnesota and the Bears have to play the Vikings and Packers again plus travel to Baltimore. But there is a bright side.

    The Bears still have games left against Detroit and St. Louis.

    Is there another way of saying 6-10? How about 7-9? Maybe an upset in is the cards.

    And maybe Ahmedinejad is sending President Obama a congratulations e-mail for passing health care in the House.

    In all honesty, Cutler deserves better. But he better understand it isn't going to get better around here for quite some time. Remember, the Bears don't have a first-round pick in next year's draft because of him and they don't have a second-round pick because of Gaines Adams, whose name doesn't appear in the stat sheet. Being invisible for a game like this may be a plus.

    Being Lovie Smith means you can't hide.

    By the end of the season, Lovie may be on the run.

    Losing a close game is one thing. Getting blown out when two teams manage 31 points in the first half is another.

    The blame doesn't rest solely with Lovie. Jerry Angelo handed him this motley group. But Lovie and his staff are in charge of scheming.

    Please, whatever you do, don't apply for jobs with the CIA.

    How is it possible you game-plan for a team that just got beat by Carolina in which Kurt Warner was picked off five times and he throws passes against your defense as if it hasn't left the bench yet?

    How?

    How is it possible for guys like Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells run as if Moses parted the Blue and Orange Sea.

    How?

    Is it because Lovie and his staff can't coach? Is it because Lovie and his staff can't make adjustments? Is it because Lovie and his staff are coaching lousy talent?

    I think the answer is yes to all of the above.

    Firing Lovie now won't change a thing. The same players will still be there, though I must admit the defense would be in better hands if Brian Urlacher and Pisa Tinoisamoa were healthy. But I'm not sure their presence would change the won-loss record.

    So the only thing to do is wait. If the Bears wind up 7-9 or 6-10, Ted Phillips will be on the hot seat. Will the President and CEO pull the trigger and tell Lovie and his staff to take a hike.

    I know what I would do. I might even do it now.

    Check resumes.

    -

    George Ofman, an original member of The Score and a veteran of NPR, has covered more than 3,500 sporting events over the course of his career. Comments welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 1:38 AM | Permalink

    Beachwood Inn Review: The Women's Bathroom

    By Nick Shreders

    Second in a series.

    I had the pleasure of entering this hallowed ground after closing on a recent Saturday night. After patronizing the Beachwood Inn for the last couple years, the women's restroom was the last bastion of uncharted territory. I couldn't help but be reminded of Armstrong and Aldrin or Lewis and Clark.

    Grossness Factor: 1 out of 10.

    Contents:

    * 1 white plastic bucket underneath sink pipes
    * 1 container of generic handsoap
    * 1 full length mirror
    * 1 picture of Minnie Mouse
    * 1 roll toilet paper
    * 1 roll hand towels
    * 1 sink
    * 1 toilet

    Ambiance: The women's restroom is surprisingly clean and lacks graffiti. I don't recall ever being in a restroom at a bar that did not have some sort of witty statement or someone's phone number etched on the walls. This adds to the mystery of what it is that women really do when they gather behind closed doors in a restroom.

    mmouse.jpgThe room itself is quite larger than the men's. It has a raised floor that goes back several feet to the toilet at which Minnie Mouse greets you from the back wall. Cream-colored floor tiles match the tiling on the walls. Every few wall tiles have a flower print that subtly reminds me of Picasso's Dove of Peace.

    Bathroom Tissue: The bathroom tissue was soft enough and was in adequate supply. There was plenty of paper towels for one to dry their hands with.

    Toilet: No review would be complete without properly utilizing the facilities.

    I laid down some toilet paper around the seat, dropped my pants and sat down. The toilet was nearly spotless with the exception of a couple drops of urine on the rim, thus confirming my long-standing suspicions that men are not the only ones who do this.

    There was no log in the toilet or urine pools on the floor. Everything was quite clean.

    You should take under advisement that the toilet seat slides to the right a little, which I would not consider a safety hazard at this time but could lead to an embarrassment if one was intoxicated enough.

    Throughout the day I had a couple Bloody Marys, a basket of extra red-hot chicken wings, and some chili-cheese tater tots; perfect for watching college football all day long. With the addition of a few Pabsts, I could feel trouble was brewing down below.

    My stomach was the eye of the storm and through it this toilet was my Captain Ahab.

    Five minutes later and it was my favorite part: the flush. I gave the handle a firm downward push and fortunately the toilet had excellent water pressure. I held on for a few seconds and pondered my next course of action in the event it were to overflow. There was no window to escape from but fortunately everything went down just fine.

    I placed the toilet seat back down, washed my hands and turned off the light. The bar was closed and it was time to go home.

    Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 flushes.

    -

    Comments welcome.

    -

    See also:
    * Beachwood Inn Review: The Pinball Machine


    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:48 AM | Permalink

    November 7, 2009

    The Weekend Desk Report

    By Natasha Julius

    A bum ankle isn't going to stop us from covering all the key stories this weekend.

    Market Update
    Due to the latest figures on U.S. unemployment, we have been forced to shed 10.2% of the words in this week's

    Eye for an Eye
    Efforts to stem the brutal tide of unemployment are continuing this week, with Florida coach Urban Meyer declaring disgraced star linebacker Brandon Spikes will lose only 10.2% of his job. "After all," the coach explained, "it's not like he pulled the guy's hair or anything."

    Creased Brows
    The new economic realities have had troubling impacts north of the border as the Hockey Hall of Fame announced they will reduce this year's incoming class by 10.2%. Of course, many point out 10.2% of the proposed inductees didn't really earn it anyway.

    Silver Lining
    Major U.S. corporations are looking to spin the worse-than-expected job loss news in whatever way they can, pointing out pink-slipped employees will now have more time to queue up for swine flu vaccine.

    Rageorgelina?
    Finally this week, the impact of double-digit joblessness has been felt in all corners of society. Celebrity dictatorship Rajoelina was forced into an embarrassing power sharing agreement when harsh economic realities saw them lay off Joe Jonas. However, some analysts believe the move was prompted more by a desire to see the quirky, high-maintenance star replaced once economic pressures subside. "It's no secret," says one observer, "that they've been looking to upgrade their publicity liaison for quite some time."

    Posted by Natasha Julius at 8:42 AM | Permalink

    November 6, 2009

    The [Friday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    In a digital world galore filled with voice recognition software, high definition television, tweets, texts, onboard car computers that know when you've been in an accident, GPS baby strollers and instantaneous communication methods never dreamed of on most planets visited by the Enterprise, you'd think we could avoid 11-digit dialing.

    Isn't there an app for that?

    Trix R 4 Kidz
    The Tribune compares Chicago Public Schools' breakfast menus with reality.

    On paper: "Mini waffles, Assorted Kellogg's cereal, Scrambled eggs and Granola Bar and fresh fruit of choice."

    On the tray: "Doughnuts, Frosted Flakes, Froot Loops, juice, milk. A few children took the waffles with syrup as well."

    *

    By the way, CPS, "Froot" is not the same as fruit.

    *

    And hey, does Kellogg's have a naming rights deal or something? I mean, that's actually not a bad idea. Maybe Whole Foods could be persuaded to sponsor breakfast in Chicago schools.

    O'Hare Shocker
    "With both video and audio rolling, the businessman, Wafeek 'Wally' Aiyash, allegedly offered Ald. Isaac 'Ike' Carothers a $100,000 cash bribe - $10,000 of it up front - if Carothers would secure [airport] concessions contracts for him, a criminal complaint unsealed Thursday says," the Sun-Times reports.

    "Rosemarie Andolino, who heads the Department of Aviation and O'Hare Airport expansion, was stunned by the allegations."

    After all, it takes a lot more than $100K to get airport contracts these days.

    Reese Pieces
    "Knuckling under to the Daley administration, the city's landmarks commission Thursday rejected a recommendation that the former Michael Reese Hospital campus on the Near South Side be designated a historic property," the Sun-Times reports.

    Well, seeing as how the mayor appoints the members of the commission, it's a lot less knuckling under and a lot more doing the job they were hired to do.

    Parking Alert Alert
    For $9.99 a year, a guy featured in Mary Schmich's column today will send you e-mail and text alerts the night before the street sweepers are coming so you remember to move your car.

    Funny, but I get those alerts for free from my alderman's office.

    Mental Floss
    But by all means, let's try to keep Venetian Night!

    This Week's Worst Person In Illinois
    Kirk Dillard, who hops aboard the train to kookville.

    Opting Out
    Why health care reform may never come to Illinois.

    Machine Monster
    Horror movie on tap: The Assessor.

    The Year In Bloodshot
    Beer-B-Qs and bests.

    Dr. Dude's College Football Report
    Introducing the ShamNow Trophy. Inaugural winner: The NCAA for their online good sportsmanship toolkit. Dr. Dude takes a look.

    TrackNotes
    Preparing your Breeders' Cup betting card.

    Blue & Orange
    What dreams about the Bears really mean.

    Numbers Don't Lie . . .
    In the hands of sports guru George Ofman.

    Programming Note
    It's possible that a small celebration of our grant award from the Chicago Community Trust might break out this evening at the good ol' Beachwood Inn. (Stop calling and trying to reserve rooms, by the way!) I'm pretty exhausted, so who knows, but my guess is that just such an event might occur and once again I will be called to rally from the week's injuries to plug the winning set into the jukebox. Feel free to join us and, if you don't tell the Trust, the first $35,000 in beer is on me.

    That Ice Thing

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Thirsty.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:43 AM | Permalink

    Ofman: Dis and Dat, Dem and Dose

    By George Ofman

    Numbers don't lie. Ben Gordon is averaging 24 points in five games for the Pistons and he's shooting 51 percent from the field. John Salmons is averaging 11 points in five games for the Bulls and is shooting 29 percent. That's 29 percent! Where do I get my refund?

    SportsFriday:
  • The Blue & Orange Kool-Aid Report
  • TrackNotes
  • Dr. Dude's College Football Report

  • *

    Wow is Lovie Smith getting torched by the media. Some are calling him boring, others a liar. Fans think he has no passion. Is this the same boring and passionless Lovie that got the Bears to the Super Bowl? I'm just asking.

    *

    The Sox traded or were close to sending Chris Getz and Josh fields to the Royals for Mark Teahen. Fields was done here. Getz stole 25 bases in 27 attempts last season. If Teahen is here to play right field that would mean Scott Podsednik will be looking for a new home. That would also mean the Sox would have lost 57 stolen bases. If Teahen plays third, then Gordon Beckham is going to second.

    Here's the word I got on Teahen; very inconsistent, not very good with men in scoring position and doesn't take advantage of hitters' counts. This was a guy who, in 2006, hit .290 with 18 homers and 69 RBI in just 393 at-bats. Since then he's had more than 520 at-bats in each season and hasn't come close to those totals. Last year he hit only .271 and mustered only 12 homers and 50 RBI. Let's call this a minor deal and move on, shall we.

    *

    The Cubs held organizational meetings in Mesa where they're sure to get a deal of a lifetime to stay as spring training tenants. Now, about dumping Milton Bradley . . .

    *

    The Bulls gave a much better effort and deserved to win at Cleveland last night. But oddly enough, it appeared as if Vinny Del Negro wanted John Salmons to be the go-to guy when it counted after Derrick Rose made a key 7-footer with 1:44 left. Salmons bricked a 25-footer, and then was the man with the ball on the next trip. Where was Rose? Well, he was on the wing when he should have had the ball. If you want Rose to continue his development, it has to be in crunch time.

    *

    The Yankees win another title. That's 27. The White Sox have three, the Cubs two. Now those are numbers that really don't lie!

    *

    Ron Turner has backed off his desire to pare down the offense. What the Bears really need to do is pare down Orlando Pace. Either show him the bench or show him the door otherwise, Jay Cutler will be shown X-rays of body parts!

    *

    Think the Blackhawks don't miss Jonathan Toews, Ben Eager, Adam Burish and Marian Hossa? Going into last night's game at Phoenix they ranked 14th in goals per game at 2.92. They did rank sixth in goals against and part of the reason is they've given up the fewest shots in the league, and by a significant margin.

    *

    Everyone's jumping on this bandwagon: Iowa isn't that good even though the Hawkeyes have a 9-0 record and are fourth in the BCS standing. This says two things; the Big Ten Stinks and Iowa simply is the best the conference has to offer.

    *

    Air Jordan's win, Central Florida's loss. Adidas cancelled the final year of a five-year contract with the school after Marcus Jordan refused to wear its shoes, opting instead for his pappy's famous footwear. Talk about being swooshed! Maybe Marcus's dad should donate Air Jordan sneakers to all the players while Nike jumps and replenishes the coffers Adidas left dry. And while he's at it, Michael should get Hanes and Gatorade to fork up.

    -

    George Ofman, an original member of The Score and a veteran of NPR, has covered more than 3,500 sporting events over the course of his career. Comments welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:43 AM | Permalink

    The College Football Report: BCS Mind-Melt

    By Mike Luce

    I'm proud to announce another first here at the College Football Report. The same folks who brought you The Brown Shoe Award now present . . . the ShamNow Trophy. And the inaugural winner is . . . the NCAA's "Committee on Sportsmanship and Ethical Conduct"! According to its webpage, the Committee exists to develop "a positive sporting environment for intercollegiate athletics." The Committee consists of 11 members who meet twice a year, issue an annual report, and - "if necessary" - hold one conference call. (I think CFR may need to hand out an award for bureaucratic efficiency as well. In my experience, comparably sized committees in the workplace can't decide between Jimmy John's and Potbelly's for lunch without a conference call.)

    To help spread the sportsmanship message, the CSEC provides an Online Toolkit. Let's take a look at the Toolkit's contents:

    * A PDF of "Saving Face: How to Lie, Fake, and Maneuver Your Way Out of Life's Most Awkward Situations"

    * A "Tailgating Situation Analysis" that identifies Anheuser-Busch as a "partner in message delivery." Yes, the same company that released 27 varieties of college-themed Bud Light cans cans. (Maize-and-blue for Michigan, purple-and-gold for LSU, etc.) How's that partnership doing?

    * The cell phone numbers for Tony Dungy and Dr. Harry Edwards.

    * A link to the webpage of Jacksonville optometrists Drs. Wood, Lanier, Bowman & Rogers with a note reading "mention code EYEGOUGE for 10% off first appointment!"

    That's right, we're not going to let the Brandon Spikes non-suspension go so easily. As we reported earlier this week, Florida LB Spikes drew a half-game suspension (read: "slap on the wrist") for attempting to blind Georgia RB Washaun Ealey last Saturday. Spikes, already hampered by a leg injury, voluntarily suspended himself against tomato can Vanderbilt this weekend. What a guy.

    BCS BS
    If you expected the BCS to earn the ShamNow this week, we can understand. The World Series ended last night, leaving us with a few weeks of nothing but college football and early games in the NBA and NHL seasons. What else is there to talk about . . . ? Yep, time to pull out the ol' BCS playbook! Time to rage against the inequities of the machine - even though in this case The Man has a contract with ESPN until 2013 rendering all debate in the interim more or less moot.

    Do I support the BCS? No. Would I favor a playoff system? Yes. Should Boise State have to join the PAC-10 for a shot at the national championship? No. Yet I find the teeth-gnashing tiresome. How hard could it be?

    The annual debate - nearly all one-sided - got fully underway earlier this week as notable voices weighed in. Big names, like the Washington Post's John Feinsten, laid out the case against the BCS. Critics of the Bowl Championship Series selection system claim that teams outside the 66 in the BCS (Pac-10, Big 12, Big Ten, SEC, ACC, Big East plus Notre Dame) get unfairly excluded regardless of record or qualifications. Critics favor a playoff system that, somewhat like the NCAA basketball tournament, would allow the Little Guy a shot at the national championship.

    A quick rundown of the BCS Top 10 standings this week: Florida, Texas, Alabama, Iowa, Cincinnati, TCU (undefeated, non-BCS), Boise State (undefeated, non-BCS), Oregon, LSU, and Georgia Tech. Note that Oregon's only loss came to Boise State in Week One.

    The point-counterpoint usually runs something like this:

    BCS: The system makes every regular season game important.

    Critic: If so, Boise's win over Oregon - in Week One - should be just as important now as it was eight weeks ago.

    BCS: You have to consider the whole body of work. (In other words, an early loss by a BCS team to a non-BCS doesn't really matter because BCS teams go on to prove their mettle against other - presumably tougher - BCS teams in conference play. Whereas non-BCS teams go on to play . . . other non-BCS teams. Because they play in a non-BCS conference. Follow?)

    BCS: Teams like Boise State should play a tougher non-conference schedule.

    Critic: They try to - but nobody will play Boise State!

    BCS: A playoff system would interfere with academics.

    Critic: Not so, because a) nobody objected when the season recently expanded to 12 or 13 games, and b) the playoffs would fall during the holiday break, or at worst at the start of the spring semester.

    BCS: Playoffs would ruin the traditional tie-ins between bowl games and conferences.

    Critic: The BCS bowls have already done that, with the exception (most years) of the Rose Bowl.

    And here's a new straw man introduced by Big East commissioner John Marinatto on Wednesday:

    BCS: Only eight teams would experience a post-season bowl.

    Critic: Wait, what? An eight-team playoff is seven games, right? There are 34 bowl games!

    Finally, my personal favorite. I hate paperwork too.

    BCS: Switching to a playoff system would be too complicated. It's logistically impossible to figure out which system to use, who qualifies, and how the participants would split up all the money.

    Critic: Well, you geniuses invented the BCS HAL 9000. Surely we could get this done.

    Here is the dirty little secret - the networks and the NCAA don't favor a playoff system because it would inevitably compete with the NFL.The 2009-10 BCS National Championship Game - the fifth and final BCS bowl - takes place on Thursday, January 7. The NFL playoffs begin with wildcard weekend on Saturday, January 9.

    Yet I have not seen a hypothetical playoff scenario that would enable the television networks to make more money and avoid competing against their own coverage of the NFL. The fans want a playoff. The players want a playoff. (OK, maybe not Oklahoma.) Hell, there's even a pro-playoff Political Action Committee!

    We need a change we can believe in! Well, not so much a change, really, more like a tweak. Let's call it an adjustment. After all, most of the usual suspects will keep the cash. But Utah will have a chance to get smoked by LSU in the first round. Fine, let's just call it what it is - we need more gambling opportunities!

    And with that, our non-BCS picks for Week 10 - for entertainment purposes only. Including gambling.

    Game: #25 BYU (-13) @ Wyoming (Saturday, 1 p.m.)

    Comment: Wyoming is not a terrible team. The Cowboys boast a 3-1 mark in home games, and have competed against Air Force and Utah in the past two weeks. Brigham Young desperately needs a win, however, to have a shot at a decent post-season bowl game. We don't like giving double-digits on the road, but we'll take the Cougars.

    *

    Game: New Mexico @ #17 Utah (-27.5, Saturday, 5 p.m.)

    Comment: New Mexico is downright awful. Whew. When the wind blows just so, you can smell their stench from here. Even so, we don't love the Utes. After all, that is a lot of points. But the allure of the half point may be too much to resist. Ah, buying the hook. It always seems like a good idea, but really just costs you more money when you lose.

    *

    Game: #13 Houston @ Tulsa (+1, Saturday, 6:30 p.m.)

    Comment: The Golden Hurricanes hosted Boise State a few weeks ago and only lost by a touchdown. Houston ain't no Boise.

    *

    Game: #6 TCU (-24.5) @ San Diego State (Saturday, 3 p.m.)

    Comment: This line has been creeping northward all week. We have seen it waver between -24 and -25 for a day or two. In contrast to Tulsa and Wyoming, the Aztecs don't look intriguing - even on paper. SDSU allegedly resorted to a secret halftime beheading ritual to beat New Mexico by three last week. I doubt such chicanery will work against the holy warriors from Texas Christian.

    *

    Game: #5 Boise State (-21) @ Louisiana Tech (Friday, 7 p.m.)

    Comment: I'm sensing a tight game, even a potential upset. It's Friday night, it's primetime, La-Tech has nothing to play for, and the Broncos . . . wait, what am I saying? ROLL, BOISE, ROLL! IT'S YOU AGAINST THE WORLD! SHOW THOSE FATCATS WHAT YOU CAN DO! Ahem. Umm, yes, we'll take the Broncos. Thanks.

    CFR Notes
    The Beachwood Sports Seal resurfaced on Thursday night, took Virginia Tech by 13 points, and settled down to a nice evening of prime-time ESPN. By the time his fish-and-chips takeout arrived, the Hokies were leading 6-0. The Seal looked distressed. Despite red-zone possession after red-zone possession, Virginia Tech only managed one touchdown. The cover was at serious risk, and the chorus of bleats and warbles at a fever pitch, when Va Tech intercepted an ECU pass, promptly went three-and-out and kicked a 31-yard field goal for the PUSH. Va Tech 16, ECU 3.

    With that harrowing experience weighing heavily on his blubbery mind, the Seal submitted the following picks:

    ~ Syracuse @ #14 Pittsburgh (-21, Saturday, 11 a.m.)
    ~ Central Florida (+35) @ #2 Texas (Saturday, 11 a.m.)
    ~ Connecticut (+17.5) @ #4 Cincinnati (Saturday, 7 p.m.)

    -

    Mike "Dr. Dude" Luce brings you The College Football Report in this space twice a week, with the generous assistance of the Beachwood Sports Seal. They both welcome your comments.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:18 AM | Permalink

    TrackNotes: Breeders' Preview

    By Thomas Chambers

    Seems like we've been down this road before. Or have we?

    For the second straight year, the Breeders' Cup World Championships come to us Friday and Saturday from the Oak Tree Meet at Santa Anita in lovely Arcadia, California.

    The pervasive issue once again will be the track's Pro-Ride artificial racing surface. In an America where Thoroughbred racing evolved for generations on dirt surfaces, we again have the added monkey wrench of handicapping some of the best horses in the world on a surface engineered to assuage the guilt of the human species.

    Grass form and synthetic form are interchangeable, they say, which is why the Europeans, accustomed mainly to racing on turf, won five of the main track races last year and may win more this year. But blanket conclusions are risky. Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert says Santa Anita's surface plays a lot like dirt. Daily Racing Form's Steve Davidowitz cautions that we must first see how the track is playing before hammering the Euros out of hand.

    "Fact is we have seen more front-running and stalk-and-go types prevail in the past two weeks than we saw all last Oak Tree meet on the same track," Davidowitz writes. "If the new trend continues, the shift from last year's stretch-running bias to a track that accents good overall speed is sure to impact the main track BC races on both Nov. 6 and 7."

    My thought is that with all of the criticism the Breeders' Cup took last year, they'll try to make the track more fair. And who knows that they are not mixing in a higher ratio of sand in normal track maintenance? So Davidowitz is right: watch what the track does.

    Betting Prep
    A handful of runners will not go simply because of the surface. But those who are left are among the finest runners around. Prepped and primed and coddled for just this day. We'll get the best efforts from talented horses and for me, that makes for intelligent and enjoyable wagering.

    Some stage-setting before talking about the races:

    * You'll hear all day the speculation about Zenyatta's chances as she takes on the males in the Breeders' Cup Classic Saturday. She's 13-0 and will pass Personal Ensign as one of the best females in history with a win in the Classic - a win that would be even more spectacular by virtue of coming over an international cast of good males.

    She got the workout her connections said they had to see to push her into the Classic. She has no more to prove against females, already owning the win in the 2008 Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic and continuing her dominance over females in 2009. From a handicapping point of view, forget the battle-of-the-sexes angle. The huge mare should enjoy the stretchout to 10 furlongs, given the tremendous inertia she creates with her large frame. Mike Smith's timing in sending her at just the right moment from a second-tier stalking position - and a clear path - will be critical as these are not a bunch of "wish-they-all-could-be" California girls like Zenyatta has been facing. And there just may be enough doubters out there to keep her price at 3-1 or better. We hope.

    * I would be surprised if Kentucky Derby winner Mine that Bird wins the Classic, but he's worth a look out of respect for his Derby win, a decent Preakness performance and the fact he's bred for the distance. I just wonder how he's going to get that perfect trip he always seems to need.

    Daily Racing Form Editor Steve Crist weighed the pros and cons:

    "He has been likened to Giacomo, another 50-1 Derby winner who never won another important race, but I think that's unfair to him: All three of his Triple Crown efforts were better than Giacomo's. Even if you dismiss the Derby itself, his second to Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness was an excellent effort, and who knows what would have happened in the Belmont if his rider hadn't moved way too soon."

    Fine, but a good price must be had, minimum 12-1. I know it's trainer-speak but it also appears as if Mine That Bird is working well coming into the race. Other observers say no. Can you tell I don't want to be torched by this horse?

    * As always happens, there have been horses, some prominent, who have dropped out of the Breeders' Cup. Kodiak Kowboy's airways were not clear enough for his connections' liking, so he's out. He had a good chance in the Sprint. Allicansayis Wow is out of the Filly & Mare Sprint with a more serious leg injury. John Sadler simply withdrew Dave in Dixie from the Juvenile without explanation.

    Gitano Hernando will not be wheeled back after an impressive 18-1 win in the Goodwood Stakes on October 10. Team Valor does not want to pay the $250,000 nomination fee it would require to get him in and will instead point him to the super-purse $6 million Dubai World Cup next March. Bad timing took West Coast buzz horse Rail Trip out of contention in the Classic after a minor foot problem kept him from getting in a scheduled/needed workout.

    We all know Jess Jackson is keeping Rachel Alexandra out of the Breeders' Cup out of disdain for the artificial surface. Trainer Bob Baffert is doing the same with Indian Blessing. She simply didn't "take to" the Santa Anita surface. You also won't see European sensation Sea the Stars, retired early out of breeding greed, or Dublin, Fabulous Strike, Hot Dixie Chick, Jackson Bend or Macho Again.

    * Beware the jockey bet!

    Here's how it's explained: "Breeders' Cup plans to offer a parimutuel bet on which jockey has the most wins in the 14 Breeders' Cup races, scheduled for Nov. 6-7 at Santa Anita Park, the organization announced on Thursday.

    "Though the field for the wager has yet to be set, the bet will likely have 14 wagering interests, according to Ken Kirchner, the simulcasting consultant for Breeders' Cup. The 14th betting interest will be a field comprising all jockeys that are not named individually, and ties will be treated as a dead heat, Kirchner said. Wagering will open on Nov. 5, after riders have been named."

    Unless it's Clark Kent, people don't usually run in these races. Horses do. And the fact they can take only 14 individual betting interests makes it worse. And the horses will pay more. Put those few pilasters on a longshot you like. Really. Enough said.

    Here's the wagering menu and full schedule.

    * Keep an eye on the turf sprint races, especially when you hear them say "the downhill course." They start on the top of a rise and go downhill. Then, they have to cross over the width of the main track before getting back to the turf in the stretch. It can be disconcerting to a horse and if your pick gets over it without breaking his rhythm, you can breathe again.

    * ESPN and ABC will be all over the Breeders Cup Friday and Saturday. Their coverage is always better than NBC's, but you're still not going to see the odds listed as cleanly or as often as you would like. Dexter can skin people alive on Showtime, but it would be wrong to show, tsk-tsk, gambling. Online wagering sites give you full-time, real-time odds.

    U Got The Look
    A look at the racing that caught my attention (all post times Central):

    Breeders' Cup Classic, Saturday, 5:45 p.m.: We've got a million stories here. As noted, Zenyatta is the buzz. If Mike Smith times his ride correctly, Zenyatta wins this race. Either she or Irish invader Rip Van Winkle will be the favorite. But, RVW apparently had a flareup midweek in one of his chronically sore feet; super trainer Aidan O'Brien assures us he's OK. Hmm. If healthy, Rip is the real deal, coming off two Group I victories in Great Britain and suffering the bad luck of running into Sea The Stars in his three previous races/losses. He's a contender, but I'm not sold on the company he beat in his last two, and I don't like his post position, 10.

    Summer Bird will probably be third favorite, but this is his first time on the synthetic surface. Reports are he's tolerating, rather than relishing, the Pro-Ride. If he grabs the track, Kent Desormeaux will know what to do. Arlington Million winner Gio Ponti has been makin' like a Euro with four Grade I turf wins this year and a close fifth-place finish here in February. Christophe Clement might be reaching a bit, but Gio has been very versatile and comes in two-off of a freshening after the Million. Gio Ponti 6-1 or better? I'm all over that.

    Richard's Kid will be a mild wiseguy coming off a Pacific Classic (Grade I) win two back. He thrives on the synthetic and finished well in the Goodwood. Looks like he'll try to join Mine That Bird and Summer Bird in the closers club.

    My longshot wiseguys here are Girolamo and Twice Over. Gotta take a shot on Girolamo's first trip on synthetic as the son of A.P. Indy (Seattle Slew) comes off three climb-the-ladder-of-success wins. It's a big step up, but Alan Garcia's aboard and the horse likes to win. Twice Over invades from Great Britain with three straight wins as a 10-furlongs specialist. This is a typical turf-to-synthetic move rampant in this Breeders Cup.

    Ladies Classic, Friday, 5:45 p.m.: Your favorites are Careless Jewel and Music Note. 'Jewel is a near freak coming in with five visually impressive wins in a row, including the Grade I Alabama. 'Note is more of a hard knocker, and comes in with two straight wins, the Beldame and the Ballerina. She has run in eight consecutive Grade I's. I like the company she has kept better than Careless Jewel's. Music Note's last four have been virtual key races. But Careless Jewel, out of Tapit, will take off from post one and try to wire the race. She's two-for-three on Polytrack but has never run on Santa Anita's ProTurf, and her finest races have been on dirt. If either of these two falter, I would love to see poetic justice in a win by Life Is Sweet, who has done nothing but campaign hard, always in the shadow of her stablemate Zenyatta. She won three straight here in the spring.

    Another dilemma is Cocoa Beach. Her form has not been great lately, but they say she looks fantastic in her works. I'm just not sure she's ever shown enough speed to win this. My wisegirl: British invader Proviso

    Breeders' Cup Turf, Saturday, 4:57 p.m.: Last year's winner, Conduit, comes back for more and is the 7-5 favorite. He's won once in four starts this year and just got up for fourth in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe last out, edging out Dar Re Mi, one of the favorites in this race. Combine them with Spanish Moon, and these three, with their gaudy speed figures, look much the best on paper. The fun in this race will be Presious Passion, winner of the Clement L. Hirsch here October 11. He'll try to open up a two-time zone lead and just hang on, as he did in the Arlington Million before the soft turf got to him. Exciting, but he won't sustain for 12 furlongs. My wiseguy: None. Although on a side note, we'll get to see Red Rocks, who won this race in 2006 but bombed here last year. But he beat Curlin. It was in the July 2008 Man o' War in an ill-advised decision to put Curlin on the turf.

    Filly and Mare Turf, Friday, 4:23 p.m.: Ah, the old familiar faces. Forever Together is favored in this 10-furlong turfer, which she won last year. I don't like her chances on this speedy California turf course, she seems to do better this year on softer courses. British horse Midday brings in the Euro class credentials, having just run in four straight Group I's. Magical Fantasy is the horse for the course, having won four straight, including the Yellow Ribbon here on October 10. My wisegirls: What would you say if I picked Pure Clan and Dynaforce? Yes, both of them stellar performers in Arlington's own Beverly D, won by Dynaforce. Pure Clan just won the Grade I Flower Bowl and Dynaforce is due. Also, Maram, winner of the Juvenile Fillies Turf here last year is morning line listed as 15-1. If she goes off at 10-1 or higher and you don't at least take a flyer, don't blame me.

    Breeders' Cup Sprint, Saturday, 2:10 p.m.: Zensational will be such a favorite here that many people will single him in their multi-race exotics. He's been rompin' and stompin' with five impressive wins in his last six. But against who, and how many (i.e. short fields)? Figuring to be hot on the lead are Zensational and Fatal Bullet. If they burn each other up, who picks up the pieces? Fleeting Spirit, who comes in off of four straight impressive Group I's in Europe, finished fourth in the Turf Sprint last year. Capt. Candyman Can has the speed figures, but will need to get out of his second-itis. Look for Gayego to be closing, very possibly enough to win. My wiseguy: Dancing in Silks, a local boy who's taking a big step up and just fired the best race of his career here a month ago. That's a classic sprint angle.

    Breeders' Cup Mile, Saturday, 3:28 p.m.: Goldikova. He freed himself from heavy traffic in this race last year and turned in one of the most impressive wins of the day. The Irish wonder has had another fine campaign this year and looks to repeat, although his post position is problematic. Who might beat him? Justenuffhumor will take money, based on the six straight wins he turned in just before throwing a clunker in his last race on soft turf. Zacinto and Delegator come in after finishing 2-3 to Rip Van Winkle in the Queen Elizabeth II in September. My wiseguys: Gladiatorus on the Euro angle and Cowboy Cal if he doesn't bounce.

    Post Script
    This is the Super Bowl for horseplayers. And speaking of business models, big bro, the Kimberly Komet, zips in for Breeders' Cup Friday, Windy City Fight Night 7, "Day of Reckoning" boxing action presented by Dominic Pesoli's 8 Count Productions at UIC Pavilion Friday night, and Breeders' Cup Saturday at beautiful Hawthorne Race Course. If you see us smokin' cigars, you know we've gone over the top, man.

    -

    Thomas Chambers is the Beachwood's man on the rail. He brings you Track Notes every Friday. He welcomes your comments.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:58 AM | Permalink

    The Blue & Orange Kool-Aid Report

    By Eric Emery

    Last Sunday, the stars aligned perfectly. My son and wife went elsewhere and the Steelers enjoyed their bye week. Add both together and you get the coveted Power Bye Week Nap. The problem: I slept through most of the Bears game. Luckily, my subconscious picked up the slack and followed the game in my dreams:


    *

    Dream: Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner sat quietly in a cage.

    Meaning: Bears could not make right choices to convert red zone visits into TDs.

    *

    Dream: Lovie Smith failed an easy math quiz.

    Meaning: When you have the elite #6, you should have at least that many wins by this point.

    *

    Dream: Devin Hester is being chased.

    Meaning: Maybe Hester isn't quite as fast as he used to be.

    *

    Dream: Brian Urlacher is sitting naked on my couch.

    Meaning: Brian Urlacher is sitting naked on his couch.

    *

    Dream: The Bears team bus falls off a cliff.

    Meaning: With a loss to the Cardinals this week, it's time to start the "Fire Lovie" watch.

    -

    Cardinals at Bears

    Storyline: Remember when offensive genius Mike Martz almost became the Bears head coach? Remember when the Bears could have signed the now Cardinals QB Kurt Warner? Well, the Bears didn't, and outside of a tenuous Super Bowl appearance, they've lurked around .500. Ooops.

    Reality: Bears fans turn on Lovie for good.

    Prediction: Cardinals Plus 3 Points, Over 44.5 Points Scored

    -

    Record: 5-5

    -

    Sugar in the Blue and Orange Kool-Aid: 65%
    Recommended sugar in the Blue and Orange Kool-Aid: 40%

    -

    For more Emery, please see the Blue & Orange Kool-Aid Report archives and the Over/Under collection. He welcomes your comments.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:47 AM | Permalink

    Bloodshot Briefing: BBQs and Bests

    By Matt Harness

    As 2009 comes to a close, we at Beachwood Music are hitting some highlights from the past year in Bloodshot land.

    Of course, the year was dominated by the label's cross-country birthday parties. More than 20 different bands played at nine sites.

    The celebration started in Pittsburgh in early July and ended with Tempe's bash in late October. There still remains a possibility of a Seattle stop.

    The Deadstring Brothers win the award for presence as the Detroit rockers played in seven of the nine cities. Ha Ha Tonka, Bobby Bare and the Wacos jammed at six, while the Bottle Rockets and the Dex Romweber Duo entertained crowds at four.

    Beachwood Music spent a few minutes with Bloodshot co-founder Rob Miller as he looked into the rearview mirror.

    Beachwood Music: Let's get the perfunctory first question out of the way. How'd it go?

    Miller: Overall, it was a grand success that a lot of people enjoyed.

    Beachwood Music: What were some of your highlights from the road?

    Miller: At every show there was a band that did a set that surprised me. That's just the nature of the beast. Dex Romweber in Brooklyn, for one example, or the Wacos in Minneapolis. But there is never one moment or one highlight.

    The ongoing rush and excitement of these lineups is watching the people get into something they might never have know about otherwise. People coming to see the Wacos and getting floored by Ha Ha Tonka, Graham Parker fans flipping over the Deadstring Brothers.

    Beachwood Music: Which artists were received well across the country?

    Miller: Each town was getting exposed to things they might never have before.

    Beachwood Music: Give us an idea of your typical concert day? Pretty crazy, I imagine.

    Miller: Started about three-plus hours before doors and ended about two hours after the show was over. Twelve to 14 hours. We're the fist ones in and the last ones out.

    Beachwood Music: Now that the 15th anniversary is mostly finished, what does Bloodshot do moving forward?

    Miller: Personally, it's been a really rough year. There's been a lot of personal and family issues to deal with and, given the collapse of the economy, I am sure I have worked harder here in full-on survival mode to keep this going.

    I think, if anything, I appreciate the little moments more. It's been really humbling to go out to all these cities and have people tell us how much the music we've represented has meant to them over the years and to see people coming out in such big numbers (4,000 at the Hideout) in such difficult times to enjoy the vibe we've tried all these years to maintain.

    In Tempe, a town really hit hard by the economy, so many people thanked us for keeping the tickets at $5 and bringing it to them, and how they hadn't seen so many folks out having a good time in a while.

    Beachwood Music: What's on deck for rest of the year?

    Miller: I'm tired. But now we have to gird ourselves for the (hopefully) busy holiday season. And then, we begin the 2010 releases by the Deadstring Brothers, Andre Williams, Graham Parker, Bobby Bare, Jr., and, as always, some surprises we can't talk about.

    It never ends.

    Beachwood Music: Not much longer before you turn 20. Already thinking about what that party's going to like?

    Miller: If it were possible to punch you in the nose via the interweb, I would.

    Given that at this time last year, it was doubtful that we would even make it through this year, I can't ever ever ever let my head think that far ahead. It is rather presumptuous.

    Best of Bloodshot
    We're not done yet. Here's a look at how Bloodshot bands figured into Amazon's "Best Of" lists from 2009.

    * Label alumnus Neko Case checked in at No. 1 in the Top 100 list for her Midnight Cyclone.

    * Justin Townes Earle's Midnight at the Movies landed at No. 8 in the Best Country Albums.

    * Rosie Flores found herself at No. 37 in the Outstanding Albums You Might Have Missed category for her work on Girl of the Century.

    Choir Note
    Finally, Double Door is hosting another concert benefit for Scotland Yard Gospel Choir on Dec. 19 with 100 percent of the proceeds going to the Bloodshot band. Bloodshot's Detroit Cobras, Dex Romweber Duo and The Blacks are are on the bill along with the Lawrence Peters Outfit.

    -

    Bloodshot Briefing appears in this space every Friday. Matt welcomes your comments.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:38 AM | Permalink

    November 5, 2009

    The [Thursday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    Terrific news today for the Beachwood and other similar projects around town. We would like to express our gratitude to the Chicago Community Trust. From the CCT:

    The Chicago Community Trust Announces Community News Matters Award Recipients

    Innovative program to spur the growth of new sources of high quality local news and information about the Chicago region selects 12 award winners

    November 5, 2009, Chicago - The Chicago Community Trust, our region's community foundation, today announced 12 recipients of $500,000 in awards under an innovative new program, Community News Matters, to spur the growth of new sources of quality local news and information about the Chicago region.

    The award winners were selected from among 86 requests, totaling $5.7 million.

    "The response to this program demonstrates without a doubt that the Chicago region is loaded with talented people and smart organizations determined to find new ways to serve the public's information needs in these times of enormous change in the media landscape," said Terry Mazany, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Trust. "The Chicago area has become a real laboratory for development of the future for community news and information."

    Mazany noted that given changes in traditional media, there is a growing need for the philanthropic sector to help develop new and different ways to provide communities the information they need. As a result, the Trust has begun expanding its support of news and information projects.

    "These award recipients are outstanding examples of the rich mix of imaginative solutions and different types of innovators at work in our region," he said.

    The Community News Matters program was spurred by a lead grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation's Knight Community Information Challenge and is jointly funded by The Chicago Community Trust, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. It seeks to increase the flow of truthful, accurate and insightful news and information in the region and spur development of new business models for news.

    The Knight Community Information Challenge is a five-year, $24 million effort to help community and place-based foundations find creative ways to use new media and technology to keep residents informed and engaged. The Trust received one of the Challenge's first matching grants.

    "Projects like these have the power to engage communities around pressing issues and spark the conversations and actions that move communities forward," said Trabian Shorters, Knight Foundation's vice president for communities.

    The following are the 2009 Community News Matters award recipients:

    Projects designed to improve the flow of information in high-need communities

    Columbia College Chicago
    Nonprofit/For Profit
    $45,000
    For a Columbia College/Chicago Tribune collaboration using student and professional journalists to cover government meetings, businesses, churches and other institutions in Austin, with content distributed via a new Web site (www.austintalks.org), Tribune's ChicagoNow blog site (www.chicagonow.com), a mobile edition, a newsletter and text messaging

    Gapers Block Media, LLC
    For Profit Business
    $35,000
    To increase the amount of neighborhood-based, original local coverage on Gapers Block (http://gapersblock.com), with priority given to stories about underserved communities and issues that affect them

    Loyola University Chicago (School of Communication)
    Nonprofit
    $45,000
    For a partnership between Loyola and Benito Juarez Community Academy to train high school and college journalists to cover Pilsen, with content distributed via a new Web site, "Adentro de Pilsen" (Inside Pilsen), a Spanish language news magazine and (potentially) hand-held mobile devices

    South Suburban Publishing LLC
    For Profit Business
    $30,000
    To train and equip citizen journalists to cover news in Markham for a new Web site (www.southsnews.com), using smartphone video reporting and traditional online newsgathering techniques

    Projects designed to strengthen information sharing, learning and unique perspectives by and for specific groups

    Chicago Association of Hispanic Journalists
    Nonprofit
    $30,000
    For a new Web site to promote the work of Chicago-area Latino journalists, to assign freelance reporters to fill gaps in coverage about issues of interest to the area's Latino community and to train and mentor student and citizen journalists

    Chicago Youth Voices Network
    Nonprofit
    $60,000
    To engage several hundred youth journalists in twelve local youth media programs to explore and report on how Chicago teens are faring in the economic recovery, using online polls and social media reporting

    Community Media Workshop
    Nonprofit
    $45,000 total
    1. $15,000 to help build and develop a strong, healthy online news ecosystem in the Chicago area through continued tracking, convening, reporting, collaboration with and education of the sector

    2. $30,000 to launch (in collaboration with Northwestern University Medill School professor Jack Doppelt) a reporting, story sharing and translation service for ethnic media and their audiences, building on CMW's ethnic media work and Medill's "Immigrant Connect Chicago" program

    Projects designed to create and build new business models

    Chicago News Cooperative
    Nonprofit (to become L3C)
    $50,000
    To support development of a new L3C cooperative business model providing enterprising journalistic coverage of the Chicago area using various Web, print and broadcast platforms, including a new Web site called "The Chicago Scoop"

    Northwestern University (Medill School)
    Nonprofit
    $30,000
    For graduate students to help two local community news ventures develop sustainable business models, with in-depth analysis, prototype development and recommendations for business strategy, audience, content design, delivery, marketing and revenue

    Project designed to support investigative journalism and civic engagement

    Better Government Association
    Nonprofit
    $60,000
    To train volunteer "reporter monitors" to report on government meetings downtown and in Chicago's neighborhoods for a new "Good Government Virtual Town Hall" Web site

    Projects designed to improve technology platforms and aggregation of news and information

    Beachwood Media Company
    For Profit Business
    $35,000
    To help the Beachwood Reporter (www.beachwoodreporter.com) create a sustainable business model through strategic enhancements in technology and content

    Brad Flora
    Individual
    $35,000
    To upgrade software used by The Windy Citizen (www.windycitizen.com) to enable the site to expand and better integrate with other social media platforms

    The proposals were screened by a diverse group of Trust program staff and consultants with extensive community and media experience. Then an expert advisory board reviewed the proposals and made recommendations to the Trust's Executive Committee, which made the final selection. Advisory board members from institutions seeking funding were not allowed to vote on their organization's proposal.

    The Trust received requests for more than ten times the funds available from a broad group of applicants - from community organizations and individual entrepreneurs to traditional, ethnic, nonprofit and new media ventures; youth programs; universities and colleges; and public broadcasting outlets.

    "This shows just how much need and opportunity there is to support all the very promising innovation going on in Chicago right now," said Ngoan Le, vice president of programs, who commissioned The New News: Journalism We Want and Need, a study assessing the state of Internet-based news in Chicago.

    To support this growing community of innovators, the Trust will offer educational, information-sharing and networking sessions throughout the coming year for all interested Chicago-area media innovators, including all Community News Matters applicants.

    The New News report found that while the Chicago area is full of media experiments, the many online news sites, blogs or e-newsletters serving the Chicago area have not yet filled the gap created by a decrease in the amount of local news coverage by traditional media. It found that nonprofit leaders are concerned about the lack of quality news coverage on local issues. Not only have the leaders interviewed seen a decrease in reporting on issues they care about, they worry that less of the information they see is vetted, edited and fact checked; that it's getting harder to get a balanced diet of news and a sense of shared community; and that it has gotten harder to determine what's important amidst a deluge of information.

    About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
    The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes excellence in journalism worldwide and invests in the vitality of the U.S. communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Knight Foundation focuses on projects with the potential to create transformational change. For more information, visit www.knightfoundation.org.

    About The Chicago Community Trust
    For 94 years, The Chicago Community Trust, the region's community foundation, has connected the generosity of donors with community needs by making grants to organizations working to improve metropolitan Chicago. In 2008, the Trust, together with its donors, granted more than $100 million to nonprofit organizations. From strengthening schools to assisting local art programs, from building health centers to helping lives affected by violence, the Trust continues to enhance our region. To learn more, please visit the Trust online at www.cct.org.

    The Trust has a longstanding commitment to community information with its support, for 19 years, of Chicago Matters, a multimedia public affairs series featuring the work of WTTW 11, Chicago Public Radio, the Chicago Public Library and The Chicago Reporter, a publication of the Community Renewal Society.

    About the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
    The MacArthur Foundation supports creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. In addition to selecting the MacArthur Fellows, the Foundation works to defend human rights, advance global conservation and security, make cities better places, and understand how technology is affecting children and society. More information is at www.macfound.org.

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Operators standing by.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:04 AM | Permalink

    Over/Under

    By Eric Emery

    The health care debate continues in our worthless legislative branch. One version of the bill sticks most of the cost with those who make over $1 million. Most NFL players loved the idea, until they realized that a good number of them make over $1 million. As a result, some players have resorted to the following to help stop this:

    PLUS:
  • Ofman: Batting Leadoff

  • * Players write congressman to use the Sally Struthers model: Each player will sponsor a child at the same cost of one cup of coffee a day.

    * Brian Urlacher argues on Facebook that socialized medicine isn't that helpful. For instance, his team doctors failed to help his wrist and now all he is living on his Aflac insurance.

    * Tank Johnson writes Op-Ed piece bemoaning that he can no longer afford bullets for his guns.

    * Devin Hester appears on TV asking for donations to "The Human Fund."

    * After many complaints, the House version adds the "Harris Amendment," which states that underachieving defensive lineman pay double.

    * The Senate version exempts all Raider fans making over a million from paying the new tax, citing that these fans "have suffered enough."

    * Unhappy with the new deal, Bears QB Jay Cutler demands a trade to Canada.

    -

    OverHyped Game of the Week: Steelers at Broncos

    Storyline: All Orton does is win. All Roethlisberger does is run around for 15 seconds and throw it down the field.

    Reality: After thinking about the Broncos' system versus the Bears system, all Cutler does is cry.

    Prediction: Broncos Plus 3 Points, Over 39.5 Points Scored

    -

    UnderHyped Game of the Week: Cowboys at Eagles

    Storyline: It's hard to be more American than a cowboy or an eagle, unless you're team nickname is "The Ethnocentric Xenophobes."

    Reality: After watching Brokeback Mountain, cowboys seem to be more tolerant.

    Prediction: Cowboys Plus 3 Points, Over 48 Points Scored

    -

    Last week: 1-3
    Record: 12-12

    -

    For more Emery, please see the Blue & Orange Kool-Aid Report archives and the Over/Under collection. He welcomes your comments.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 2:44 AM | Permalink

    Looking Out For Number One

    By George Ofman

    The World Series is over, another one minus our local heroes. It's been four years since the Sox won it all. It's been . . . it's not worth mentioning. You know where this was headed. Now comes the resurrection period, the one in which both the North and South Sides reconnoiter their teams.

    And they need reconnoitering.

    And the top of the order remains an issue.

    Will the White Sox continue to employ Scott Podsednik?

    Will the Cubs go back to a healthy Alfonso Soriano and take yet another step backwards?

    Wasn't the leadoff problem the same one haunting both teams last year?

    Weren't both teams after the fleet-footed Brian Roberts?

    So what happened?

    Guess Roberts likes losing in Baltimore.

    So what happens now?

    Aren't both teams interested in free agent Chone Figgins?

    Scratch this idea; he'll likely be too expensive.

    Johnny Damon? He could work for the Sox. He had quite a year and turns 36 on Thursday. He can still hit and get on base but he's a left fielder now. He's a free agent who won't command $13 million which is what he's earning now. But the Sox would have to dump Podsednik and move Carlos Quentin to right. It could work. Remember, leadoff men are more important in the National League than the American because of the DH.

    Of course, both teams could simply stay in house. But would it work?

    Kosuke Fukudome had an OBP of .404 in 35 games as the leadoff man for the Cubs. Fukudome's problem is he's not a base-stealing threat, which isn't necessarily a big problem. He scored 21 runs in 130 at-bats, which was quite good when you consider the Cubs didn't score a whole lot of runs last season. If he played 162 games, that would work out to 97 runs scored. He's not a middle of the lineup guy so the top spot might work.

    Ryan Theriot had a .354 OBP in his 42 games in the top spot, which is where he stole six of his 21 bases from. He also scored 22 runs. Theriot's problem is his strikeouts were up and his walks down. Still, if he's rested properly, he's an option, especially if the Cubs find another shortstop and move him to second base.

    After that, it's either a trade or the free agent market and the latter won't happen.

    The White Sox situation is a bit more complicated. Podsednik came off his second career year and how many more does he have at age 34, which he'll turn next March? He was picked off the scrap heap in May after Colorado let him go. He wound up hitting .303 in the top spot with a .355 OBP. He also scored 73 runs, drove in 48 and stole 30 bases. It was his best season since 2003 in Milwaukee.

    But Podsednik is a poor base runner with limited defensive capabilities. And he's a free agent. Do the Sox re-sign him or do they go after Damon or, do they take a closer look at Chris Getz? The young second baseman had only 76 plate appearances at the top of the order and he was okay with a .341 OBP. But, for the season, Getz stole 25 bases in 27 chances. The problem here is Getz might not be the everyday player the Sox want him to be. Still, he could be in the mix.

    Waiting for a leadoff man to emerge, especially with so many players expected to be non-tendered, might be dangerous for both teams. And they have other, more pressing needs.

    But it does start at the top, so don't think the Cubs and Sox won't be thinking number one as they try to be number one next season.

    -

    George Ofman, an original member of The Score and a veteran of NPR, has covered more than 3,500 sporting events over the course of his career. Comments welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 2:26 AM | Permalink

    November 4, 2009

    The [Wednesday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    "More than $4.7 million in federal stimulus aid so far has been funneled to schools in North Chicago, and state and federal officials say that money has saved the jobs of 473 teachers," the Tribune reports.

    "Problem is, the district employs only 290 teachers."

    Beachwood readers - through ProPublica reporting posted on our Politics page - already know that the stimulus numbers touted by the Obama administration are bunk.

    Air Daley
    "A perennial consultant at O'Hare Airport has been awarded a $3.7 million contract to plan for a project major airlines are refusing to fund and consider 'ill-conceived': a new western terminal," the Sun-Times reports.

    "Landrum & Brown has dominated the O'Hare planning landscape for decades, raking in nearly $80 million worth of no-bid business during Mayor Daley's 20-year administration. Now the Ohio company will plan for a range of possibilities for the new western terminal that nobody but the city seems to want."

    Let's take a brief look at Landrum & Brown's history with O'Hare, shall we?

    Tribune, June 14, 1989: "Mayor Richard Daley continued his assault on what he termed 'ridiculous' O'Hare International Airport consultant contracts Tuesday, and said the top executives of the city's major airlines must share in the blame for allowing the waste to happen.

    "Daley told the Civic Federation that he is canceling an additional $285,000 in consultant contracts, including $200,000 for 'media support' and $85,000 for advice on internal publications.

    "In all, the Aviation Department's official consultant, Landrum & Brown, handles $11.9 million worth of subcontracts," he said. "While some are necessary, many seem to be boondoggles for well-connected consulting firms."

    "Daley said he has ordered Landrum & Brown to cut $3 million from its budget. When he said the list of contracts to be dumped included $16,000 earmarked to review the department's employee newsletter, many members of the audience at the Palmer House luncheon laughed."

    Tribune, June 25, 1989: "Mayor Richard Daley blasted Chicago's aviation consultant Friday and said the firm, along with the city and the airlines, shares the blame for a $32 million shortfall that has been mounting in the O'Hare International Airport operating budget over the last 18 months.

    "You could blame the city, Landrum & Brown (the Cincinnati-based consultant) and the CEOs of the airlines," Daley said at a meeting Friday with The Tribune's editorial board. "They're all in cahoots out there."

    Tribune, June 8, 2000: "[T]he records show that since 1987 Chicago's own consultants have privately insisted that O'Hare needs new runways to handle passenger demand at the same time city officials have publicly sought to discredit that notion. The only alternative, the consultants say, is a third airport.

    "The documents also provide a rare, behind-the-scenes glimpse into the way city officials try to sway public opinion and minimize political fallout. One memo by a city consultant states that the city has engaged in a 'protracted guerrilla war' to thwart attempts to build the Peotone airport.

    "Another memo by a city consultant warns that the city has made `disingenuous' claims to hide plans to expand O'Hare's capacity. Other documents suggest the city and its consultants fudged projected growth numbers at O'Hare to mask the need for new runways.

    "For example, the city's longtime aviation planning consultant, Cincinnati-based Landrum & Brown, predicted in internal documents in 1995 that by 2020, 69 million passengers a year would want to board planes at O'Hare. But in 1998, in forecasts that formed the basis for the publicly released World Gateway Program, the consultant revised the figure to 49 million. Last year, 36.3 million passengers boarded flights at O'Hare."

    Tribune, Jan. 13, 2002: "A city investigation last year found evidence that a longtime friend of Mayor Richard Daley's improperly lobbied Chicago officials on behalf of an airport contractor and was paid a contingency fee, a practice prohibited by city ethics law, according to a confidential report obtained by the Tribune.

    "Under a compensation agreement with the contractor, Taylor Street activist and businessman Oscar D'Angelo could have received more than $1 million for his efforts, which included pushing for a contract extension for the client, airport planning consultant Landrum & Brown."

    And so on. Get it?

    Poll Position
    A Beachwood reader writes:

    "I got phone polled for the comptroller's race tonight. Really. The comptroller's race. Anyway, it was obviously being paid for by . . . Miller, a state rep . . . forgot his first name already.

    "The main thing, though, is that the guy conducting poll, who was nice but clearly not the best reader or student of Illinois politics, not only couldn't pronounce Blagojevich (expected), but also committed the following pair of awesome malapropistic misreadings of his script:

    "1. 'He'll fight to stop those corruptions that lobby for tax breaks then ship jobs overseas' rather than 'corporations'

    "2. 'He's supported by a group of unscrumptious lawyers' rather than 'unscrupulous'

    "It was kind of awesome; made the twenty minutes of my life that it burned up well worth it."

    The New Block 37
    Including The Foreclosure Mart and Kurtisville.

    Pollution Control Pick Stinks
    Meet the Zalewskis.

    Return of the Living Hack
    Ted Matlak vs. John Fritchey.

    Inside The Outsiders
    Jim Ryan tries to out-outside Andy McKenna.

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Outside in.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:53 AM | Permalink

    The New Block 37

    By The Beachwood Block 37 Affairs Desk

    "Block 37 wants to open by Thanksgiving."

    And we've got the exclusive list of stores, offices and attractions you can expect to see.

    1. The Invisible CTA Superstation. Watch - or don't - as invisible CTA train cars whisk invisible travelers to O'Hare on important invisible trips.

    2. The Block 37 Haunted House. Stocked to the brim with decades of failed plans for Block 37.

    3. Walmart Outlet Store. Staffed by a single worker - Ald. Anthony Beale - whose (on-the-clock) hours are kept to 39 a week.

    4. Twitterville. A Twitter cafe run by AT&T.

    5. For Reals. The latest from nightclub impresario Billy Dec. Samantha Ronson will spin records the last Friday of every month and Paris Hilton will bore you in person every other week.

    6. Chicago 2016. A simulated version of the Olympics we didn't get. Watch the shotput event while an animatronic Mayor Daley picks your pocket.

    7. Kurtisville. Watch Bill Kurtis find the Internet. Sponsored by AT&T.

    8. The ComEdy Store. ComEd hires stand-up comics to entertain as you stare at the substation on the block hoping to be there on the day it blows.

    9. The Willis Towerette. Backed by city subsidies, the London insurance giant moves in and rechristens the block's office space "Little Willie."

    10. The Currency Exchange Exchange. Using blueprints originally drawn up for a food court, the Block 37 complex will now feature a currency exchange court for all your check-cashing needs. Pawn shops nearby.

    11. The Foreclosure Mart. Like the Merchandise Mart, but stocked with goods banks have acquired through office and home foreclosures.

    12. Retro Block 37. A collection of B-movie houses, junk jewelry stores and divey bars and burger joints like the ones that actually made money before someone decided the block needed to be urban renewaled.

    -

    Your suggestions welcome.

    -

    1. Beachwood reader Mark suggests:

    Chicago State, Loop Campus: Another in a growing collection of satellite facilities the school doesn't even know it needs.

    Pumpkin Patch: Selling one new Smashing Pumpkins song every week until Billy Corgan finally decides to replace himself in the band.

    Chicago Children's Museum: Plans put on hold until the mayor is sure there's not another piece of parkland that can be ripped up to accommodate it instead.

    Marshall Field's: With Carson's long since gone, Macy's needs a Gimbel's to keep it on its retail toes. Who better to play the role than the beloved local icon the company bought out? Frango war!

    Skating rink: Because this just seems like a perfect place for one.

    Chicago News Cooperative Headquarters: If there's one thing the NY Times can really teach Chicagoans, it's how to severely cripple your company's financial future by taking on massive debt to build a shiny new brick-and-mortar shrine to your crumbling print enterprise.

    Michael Jackson Museum: In your face, Gary!

    Chicago Public Stocks and Detention Center: Why should convicted Illinois pols get to serve out their inevitable jail terms in cushy country club facilities far from the voters they fleeced? Put 'em in the front window on State Street and watch tomato sales at the nearby farmers' markets skyrocket.

    Chicago Cubs Gift Shop: What better tenant to anchor this star-crossed, long-time loser of a development than a franchise that hasn't won in over a century? Opening weekend sale: we'll pay you to take a Milton Bradley jersey off our hands.

    TIF Museum: Funded by the newly created Block 37 TIF district.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:42 AM | Permalink

    November 3, 2009

    The [Tuesday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    Let's just state it plainly: The mayor is a liar.

    But he plays dumb with the best of 'em.

    *

    Journalist convention somehow prevents traditional reporters from calling the mayor a liar. Maybe he "misleads" at best, or makes "conflicting" statements, or is not just "not entirely accurate."

    But if you believe in objectivity, you have to report that the mayor is not just a liar, but a serial liar because that's what the objective facts show. To say otherwise is to subjectively spin - out of cowardice.

    Power Grab
    By Ron Huberman. Wow.

    More MSM Madness
    Oh for godsakes! They should be playing the spread with house dollars!

    *

    But what do I know. I'm clearly no Jim O'Shea. Next year Greg Moore will get MacArthur funding to build a news cooperative without a sustainable business model.

    Illinois-Style Reform
    "When the U.S. health care debate began last spring, the insurance industry and its congressional defenders fretted over the prospect that 119 million Americans might defect from private insurance to a public option, thus devastating the business model of wealthy insurance companies," Robert Parry writes.

    "Since then, however, the industry has won so many concessions that the threat from the surviving public option has shrunk to about five percent of its feared effect. In assessing the House leadership's health reform bill, the Congressional Budget Office projects that only six million Americans could or would sign up for the bill's version of the public option.

    "And, to make the picture even prettier for the insurance industry, many of those six million would be the chronically ill, customers that the private insurers don't want anyway."

    Economic Indicator
    (201): She's NOT homeless...she graduated early.

    Target Markets
    * "Although the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times both looked at property tax increases across the city on Tuesday, neither paper mentioned that across Chicago, black and Latino neighborhoods will see the highest percentage hikes in their bills," the Chicago Reporter notes.

    "Four out of the five community areas with the highest percentage increase - West Garfield Park, Fuller Park, Englewood and North Lawndale - are predominantly black, according to The Chicago Reporter's analysis."

    * "The morass of mortgage foreclosures continues to climb its way up the Chicago area's socioeconomic ladder," the Tribune reports.

    "Once commonly viewed as a problem affecting low-income urban neighborhoods, new data show the greatest percentage increases in foreclosures are occurring not within the city of Chicago, where they declined during the third quarter, but in the suburban collar counties, which are using their limited means to help residents."

    * "Homeowners make the best of life in unfinished subdivisions," the Daily Herald reports.

    -

    Okay, so it's tough all over. But no one channels yuppie angst like the MSM. My God, how to cope? Cut back on that Starbucks! And if you lose your job, remember: It's not your fault. Not like the poor people who are unemployed. Not like the blue-collar workers who lost their jobs when this country's manufacturing base disintegrated. That was just economics. That was for the greater good. But my God, what's wrong when people don't want to pay for crappy news?! Can't they see they need irrelevant reports of random crime in order to know what's going on?!

    -

    I'm confused. Are we supposed to be sad that - as David Carr writes in the New York Times - "while the business of business may be back, the business of covering it with heroic narratives and upbeat glossy spreads most certainly is not."

    I mean, isn't that great news? Isn't that kind of business coverage part of the problem?

    "Business coverage has been, at its heart, aspirational, a brand promise that suggests that if you clip the right articles, internalize the right rhetoric, then you too will end up as one of the shiny, happy people striding boldly across the pages of magazines with names like Fortune, Money, Fast Company and Wired."

    In other words, business "journalists" have been the handmaidens to shysters and sharks, criminals and charlatans.

    "But nobody is going to read, let alone aspire to, magazines called Middled, Outsourced, Left Behind and Clobbered."

    Really? Put a dot-com behind each of those titles and try not to attract a readership.

    "It's as if American business has lost custody of its own story."

    If only!

    But isn't that the point of journalism? You wouldn't want government in custody of its own story, would you?

    Stop the madness, folks. Please. I can't take much more of this.

    Aaaaaargh!
    "[C]ompare how Wikipedia and Britannica treat writer Jack Kerouac," the Tribune's John Keilman writes. "Wikipedia's entry was written and tweaked by more than 1,000 users. Although the text includes 44 footnotes, you mostly have to take it on faith that Irishguy, RasputinAXP and the rest of the pseudonymous contributors know what they're talking about.

    "Britannica's take was written by college professor Regina Weinreich, author of Kerouac's Spontaneous Poetics. It was edited and fact-checked by six company employees, three of whom are named in the entry.

    "Which version is more accurate? Beats me. But if I were a high school English teacher, I know which one I'd accept as a source in a term paper."

    1. So you'd take six Brittanica employees over 44 footnotes?

    2. As an editor, would you accept a one-source story in which the source was, say, Regina Weinreich?

    3. Has Weinreich ever had anyone in the academy disagree with her? Or is she the voice of God?

    4. You don't know which version is more accurate so you'd accept a student who just cribbed from a corporately-scrubbed encyclopedia entry instead of someone who read through a richer, deeper Wikipedia entry?

    5. "Study: Wikipedia as accurate as Brittanica."

    Beachwood Relief
    * "You tried to wear your Jesus costume into Family Christian stores and say it was a book signing" and other great texts from Halloween.

    * "We put the word 'drunkard' into the search bar on Amazon and came up with 67,967 results. Here are the top 20."

    * America's dirtiest college football player. And contrary to what we pretend we tell our children, he'll be rewarded handsomely.

    * "Watching the Bears is very tough for anyone to swallow, particularly, the brain trust whose brains can't be trusted," George Ofman writes in Dead Man Throwing. "Jerry Angelo pulled off one of the most important transactions in Chicago Sports History by obtaining Cutler but soon, there will be three letters after his the quarterback's name: R.I.P."

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Texty.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:49 AM | Permalink

    Booklist: Drunkards

    By The Beachwood Plug And Play Desk

    We put the word "drunkard" into the search bar on Amazon and came up with 67,967 results. Here are the top 20.

    1. Drunkard by Neil Steinberg.

    2. The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives by Leonard Mlodinow.

    3. The Modern Drunkard by Frank Kelly Rich.

    4. A Complete and Utter Failure by Neil Steinberg.

    5. Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp.

    6. Dry: A Memoir by Augusten Burroughs.

    7. A Drunkard's Path: A Someday Quilts Mystery by Clare O'Donohue.

    8. 65 Drunkard's Path Quilt Designs by Pepper Cory.

    9. Drunkard's Path Stepping Beyond by Cheryl Phillips, Karla Schulz, and Brooke Jeschke.

    10. Drunkard's Walk by Frederik Pohl.

    11. A Shortcut To Drunkard's Path: Easy Applique Curves (That Patchwork Place) by Ann Frischkorn and Amy Sandrin.

    12. Discourse By Three Drunkards On Government by Nakae Chomin.

    13. Life of Claude A. Gunder Saved by the Blood From a Drunkard's Hell, Now in Taylor University, Upland, Ind., Preparing for Temperance Lecture Work by Claude A Gunder.

    14. A New Turn on Drunkard's Path by Mary Sue Suit.

    15. Curmudgeons, Drunkards, and Outright Fools: The Courts-Martial of Civil War Union Colonels by Thomas P. Lowry and William C. Davis.

    16. Death on the Drunkard's Path: An Iris House Mystery by Jean Hager.

    17. Drunkard's Path Quilts: With Plastic Templates (Dover needlework series) by Mary Carolyn Waldrep.

    18. The Drunkard Kung Fu and Its Application by Leung Ting.

    19. Zuijiuquan (A Drunkard's Boxing) - Chinese Kung-fu Series 4 (English and Mandarin Chinese Edition) by Cai Longyun and Shao Shankang.

    20. Happy Trails: Variations on the Classic Drunkard's Path Pattern by Pepper Cory.

    -

    Previously in BookList:
    * Kinko's Kiosk 2009

    * Coming Attractions

    * Amazon Recommends

    * The Walgreens Discount Shelf

    * Kinko's Kiosk

    * The Last 10 Books I Read And Why

    * The Beachwood Inn Bookshelf

    * Five Best Books Ever (For Now)

    * A Beachwood Gift Guide

    * Have A Right-Wing Christmas

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:11 AM | Permalink

    Best Halloween Texts Ever

    By The Beachwood Holiday Messaging Desk

    Culled from Texts From Last Night.

    *

    (513): You tried to wear your Jesus costume into Family Christian stores and say it was a book signing.

    *

    (252): I had sex with billy mayes last night. HE KEPT IN CHARACTER THE WHOLE TIME.

    *

    (256): we were dressed as cave people and he kept telling everybody i was so easy a caveman could do it.

    (413): Hey its bob the builder. Where did you go?

    *

    (415): I have before 2 am pics and after 2am pics, which do you want to see first?

    *

    (949): so we told my parents we were going trick or treating. got high as shit at some playground. and then bought our own candy so we looked legit when we got home.

    *

    (571): Ended up passed out drunk in the neighbors lawn, still in costume. Neighbors thought I was a lawn decoration. Ten points for best Halloween ever.

    *

    (708): she asked if she could keep her bee antennas on during her mugshot. i love halloween.

    *

    (860): You were so drunk that some guy dressed as Harry Potter pointed his wand at you and screamed "Accio SHITSHOW"

    *

    (319): then they high fived as they party boyed me. I was a policewoman sandwhich. I love you halloween.

    *

    (401): im keeping my plan b box as a souvenir of my first halloween weekend in college

    *

    (202): i just watched kanye west and taylor swift have a chugging contest. why cant halloween be every day

    *

    (626): Waldo just asked us for directions. Even he doesn't know where he is.

    *

    (440): so i walked in, looked up the stairs and all i saw was smashed pumpkin, tube socks, and marinara sauce

    *

    (309): I put the beer in my little red riding hood basket.

    *

    (919): Calvin and Hobbes are double-teaming a butterfly. They're in the bathroom, and drawing a crowd.

    *

    (719): I woke up with ten beers in my bag that hoarded at the party last night. Rally? Its five somewhere.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:03 AM | Permalink

    Dead Man Throwing

    By George Ofman

    Jay Cutler swallowed blood. And you want his offensive coordinator to swallow some hemlock.

    Watching the Bears is very tough for anyone to swallow, particularly, the brain trust whose brains can't be trusted.

    PLUS:
  • Dr. Dude's College Football Report

  • Jerry Angelo pulled off one of the most important transactions in Chicago Sports History by obtaining Cutler but soon, there will be three letters after his the quarterback's name: R.I.P.

    The man is a cinch for concussion. Cutler was pounded to the ground so often he saw more turf than fertilizer.

    Fertilizer, stench, and the Bears; it's very hard to separate with a blender.

    Angelo, Lovie and Turner: it's very hard to blend a winning team with.

    Therein lays the problem.

    It takes a village to raise a child. It takes an offensive line to protect a quarterback. Angelo thought he had the right mix when he hired Orlando Pace and Frank OhmyGod (Omiyale on your scorecard) to be part of Cutler's posse. Pace is a sure Hall of Famer only he has to retire first and it would be wise of Bears brass to show him the exit sign post haste. Omiyale was finally replaced but Beekman, Kruetz, Williams and Garza didn't exactly perform like the kind of bodyguards you want guarding the body of the franchise. These are the general manager's choices.

    It's also the coach's job to best scheme how not to get their quarterback maimed. If the Cleveland Browns, one of the worst franchises in any sport, is allowed to find Cutler as if he has a welcome mat pasted to his jersey, then what do you think Arizona, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Minnesota will be plotting? I'm thinking Cutler discards the jersey and dons a suit of body armor for the next game. His mobility will be limited but not his life span.

    Lovie said "The running game, we're committed to it as anything, even when you're not getting yards." In an effort to protect the franchise, I suggest the Bears run on every play, even if they don't get any yards. Preservation has its price.

    It's really too bad. The optimism surrounding the acquisition of Cutler was overwhelming to the point some misguided fans, and even a few in the media, were muttering the word SUPERBOWL!

    Shame, shame, shame.

    The way things are going; Cutler may be looking for a different bowl in ICU.

    Granted, Cutler hasn't made you forget Sid Luckman even though most of us can't remember who he was. He has as many interceptions (11) as touchdowns. This is not a stat of envy. But it's also a byproduct of the hideous line, inexperienced receivers, and questionable play calling by Ron Turner, who actually said he's ready to start paring down the playbook.

    Does this mean we rescind the trade of Cutler and get Kyle Orton back? He was very adept at pared-down playbooks.

    Say, it wasn't me who lined up Greg Olsen as a fullback as the Bears couldn't score on first-and-goal from the two. Turner is figuring he might have to dumb things down because the Bears are making too many mistakes. So, whose fault is this, the players or the coaches . . . or the GM?

    There is lots of blame to hand out when your team gets embarrassed 45-10 but when it wins 30-6?

    And then there's the red zone, which should be renamed the H1N1 zone. The Bears look awfully sick when they enter it. Field goals don't do it for me, especially against a team that might have trouble beating Mt. Carmel on a chilly Friday night.

    Be ready, Bears fans. What you see next Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals could like NFL 101. If it saves Cutler's life, I'm all for it.

    -

    George Ofman, an original member of The Score and a veteran of NPR, has covered more than 3,500 sporting events over the course of his career. Comments welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:20 AM | Permalink

    The College Football Report

    By Mike Luce

    Week Nine: the Nerfing of America continues.

    Nearly every year since 1933, the Florida-Georgia game has been played in Jacksonville, FL. Along with the epic tailgating along the nearby St. Johns River, the party continues during the game. Rather than drink from the usual smuggled flasks present at most games, fans can buy drinks in the stadium due to a loophole in NCAA regulations that prevent the sale of alcohol in college venues but don't prevent on-premise sales for games held in pro stadiums. All this boozing earned the game the well-earned nickname of "The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party."

    The No-Fun Committee decided during the off-season, however, that the nickname condoned excessive drinking, irresponsible behavior, and other shenanigans. So the student government associations for Florida and Georgia got together, supported by an anonymous donor (although his initials were rumored to be N.C.A.A.), found a 1,000-year-old cypress tree on the state border, and carved it into a 12-foot trophy. As the inaugural winner, Florida will take home and proudly display the "Okefenokee Oar." That's right, one of the oldest traditions in the SEC can now be described as "The Battle for the Big Freaking Paddle." Good times.

    Here's the recap of Top Ten action in Week Nine - 100% Nerf-free. For entertainment purposes only. Including gambling.

    Game: Georgia 17 @ #1 Florida 41 (-16)

    What was supposed to happen? A lot of drinking without having to worry about a big freaking oar.

    What actually happened? Florida won the game handily. But rather than the final score, the blogoshere, the Twitterverse, and AM sports radio waves can't shut up about Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes. A 2008 First Team All-American, Spikes leads a tough defensive unit as responsible (if not more so) for the Gators' success this season as the exploits of Tim Tebow and the Florida offense. Spikes is a phenomenal player. He also seems like a real asshole. What else can you say about a guy who gouges at the eyes of an opponent?

    Tensions run high on the field - and in the stands - every season during the Florida-Georgia game. Although the rivalry lacks some of the history of other SEC feuds such as Alabama-Auburn (the "Iron Bowl") or Alabama-Tennessee ("The Third Saturday in October"), little love is lost between the Gators and Bulldogs. Some players have faced one another before while at premiere high school programs in the Southeast. Some were recruited by both schools, and nearly ever starter for either team feels as though they are the best at their position. (Except the kickers, who must hope no one realizes they are getting a full ride to kick a ball. And not always accurately.) On Saturday, the rivalry quickly reached a fever pitch. Midway through the second quarter, the referees called the team captains together to issue a warning. The refs had seen too much action after the whistle, heard too much trash-talking, and tried to get the game under control.

    Florida coach Urban Meyer described Spikes' action later in the game as one of many "emotional things" that happened on the field. I'd like to give Spikes the benefit of the doubt and say he was overwhelmed in the moment and lost his cool. Except this is the same player who has punched opponents on the field . . .

    . . . and punted the ball into the stands after running an interception back for a touchdown.

    I think it's fair to say he has a history of assholish behavior.

    Meyer first heard of the eye-gouge play from his wife (!) on Sunday night, followed by a similar conversation with d-coordinator Charlie Strong on Monday. Note to coaches everywhere: if the defensive coordinator asks to talk to you about a dirty play by his star player, maybe you should look at the tape. Meyer's solution? Suspend Spikes for the first half of Florida's next game (against lowly Vanderbilt).

    Let's rewind to Week One. A star player loses control and lashes out at an unsuspecting opponent. In the case of Oregon's LeGarrette Blount, however, ESPN catches his punch on national television (during prime time on the opening weekend of the season) and plays it in slow-mo high definition over . . . and over . . . whereas many missed the incident between Spikes and Georgia RB Washaun Ealey on Saturday. So what's more important - that players be held to a high standard of sportsmanship or how many people are watching?

    *

    Game: #3 Texas 41 (-9) @ #13 Oklahoma State 14

    What was supposed to happen? Many suspected that, if Texas were to lose a game before the Big 12 championship, it would happen in Stillwater.

    What actually happened?
    Not so much. Maybe we can hold out hope for Kansas or Texas A&M to pull the upset. Can you tell that I'm not exactly rooting for the 'Horns?

    *

    Game: #4 USC 20 (-3) @ #10 Oregon 47

    What was supposed to happen? Should USC defeat Oregon, a BCS bid would be a near certainty. As for the Ducks, a win against a Top Five team could vault them into a coveted spot as the best one-loss team in the country.

    What actually happened?I don't think I'm alone in my shock at the outcome of this one. Oregon exposed USC's loss to Washington this season not as a fluke (as many supposed at the time, including us here at the Report, more or less) but instead as the first warning that the Men from Troy were truly overrated. I have read Oregon's win chalked up to the power of "chemistry," but I think that does the Ducks a disservice. But if Oregon is the better team, what does that say about Boise State?

    *

    Game: #5 Cincinnati 28 (-16.5.) @ Syracuse 7

    What was supposed to happen? If Bearcat QB Tony Pike had to pick a stretch to miss due to injury, he could have done worse. Cincinnati could trot the waterboy out against Syracuse and still expect a win.

    What actually happened? I didn't have the heart to take Cincinnati in this game. The Greg Paulus experiment may be officially over. The plucky quarterback, a former point guard with the Duke Blue Devils, showed bright promise early in the season but has come crashing back to Earth in Big East play. To make matters worse for the Orangemen, troubled WR Mike Williams quit the team on Monday morning. Williams was a semifinalist for this season's Biletnikoff Award as one of the best receivers in the country.

    *

    Game: San Jose State 7 @ #6 Boise State 45 (-36.5)

    What was supposed to happen? The question wasn't so much if Boise would win, but by how much. For some of us, the margin was very important. Not quite can't-pay-the-rent important, more in the making-up-for-two-rough-days-at-the-track category.

    What actually happened? You can (knock on wood) always count on Boise in a pinch. From everyone here at the Report, Broncos . . . thank you.

    *

    Game: Indiana 24 @ #7 Iowa 42 (-17.5)

    What was supposed to happen? Another week, (what should have been) another ho-hum Big Ten conference win for the Hawkeyes who seem determined to shoulder into a BCS game and the inevitable beatdown.

    What actually happened? Iowa again trailed entering the fourth quarter and needed 28 straight points to defeat the Hoosiers. Like Oregon, the chemistry angle has shown up in several articles discussing how Iowa has survived so many close calls this season. But I can't remember the last time the Hawkeyes showed up and dominated a game they were projected to win. And yet, the boys from The Tall Corn State boast a 6-2 record ATS and an impressive 3-0 mark as underdogs. How long can Iowa keep this up?

    *

    Game: UNLV 0 @ #8 TCU 41 (-35)

    What was supposed to happen? Sure, TCU would win. But with a number that big, you're essentially saying UNLV won't score. Even a fluke touchdown for the 'dogs would have robbed TCU of the cover. Do I love Texas Christian? Yes. Do I cover-five-touchdowns love them? No.

    What actually happened? The Horned Frogs don't have the toughest schedule in the country by a long shot, but we can say this - TCU wins the games it is supposed to win. By big margins.

    *

    Game: Tulane 0 @ #9 LSU 42 (-36.5)

    What was supposed to happen? Another tuneup! We're going to submit a request to have Tulane reclassified as a Directional Creampuff. Hell, most people people don't know where to find Tulane on a map anyway.

    What actually happened? Not for nothing, but a $100 bet against Tulane every week would have you up $490 on the season. The things we wish we would have known . . . next season I'll think to point out such trends when you can make some use of the information.

    -

    Mike "Dr. Dude" Luce brings you The College Football Report in this space twice a week, with the generous assistance of the Beachwood Sports Seal. They both welcome your comments.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:00 AM | Permalink

    November 2, 2009

    The [Monday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    1. "Cutler plays the part of the infuriating adolescent so well it sometimes drives foes to absolute distraction," our very own Jim Coffman writes in SportsMonday.

    2. Remember when things got so bad with Block 37 the city tried to rename it 108 North State Street? Is it too late to just put the ice rink back? Or maybe turn it into a piece of urban realism by sticking a giant fork about this big in it . . . because it stopped being funny a long time ago. Now it's just gruesome.

    3. Halloween in Chicago 2009. (Someone went as Twitter.)

    4. With apologies to Cheap Trick. In Playlist.

    5. "Cheney FBI interview: 72 instances of can't recall."

    Maybe he thought he was interviewing for the St. Louis Cardinals' batting coach job.

    *

    If only the poor would show the kind of character our wealthiest and most powerful citizens do . . .

    *

    I guess it's all about the parenting.

    6. "Standard Parking Corporation Reports Solid Third Quarter 2009 Results and Free Cash Flow of $6.4 Million."

    7. "For 21 years, Terrence J. O'Brien has been on the board of Cook County's sewage-treatment operation, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago," the Sun-Times reports.

    "During that time, O'Brien and his friends have started more than a dozen companies, including two engineering firms that have landed at least $3 million in contracts over the past decade from governments including the state of Illinois, the City of Chicago and the town of Cicero."

    8. "We don't need to escalate."

    - Marvin Gaye

    9. "Mayor Richard Daley is scheduled to hold a news conference to announce his 'Energy Action Network plan'," the Tribune reports. "He'll only be taking questions from reporters on that topic, according to his staff."

    All reporters are also urged to turn in their homework by 5 today because the mayor has plans for the evening and wants to get his editing done early.

    10. Dick Cheney is not here to talk about his criminal past.

    11. Mark McGwire does not recall appearing before Congress.

    12. Richard M. Daley says Chicago leads on ethics by example.

    13. "WBBM-Ch. 2 political editor Mike Flannery has listed his longtime 17-room mansion in Beverly for $1.25 million."

    14. Former Tribune Internet haters tabbed by MacArthur Foundation, WTTW and Reader as visionaries.

    15. Head exploding.

    16. "As told by Mr. Ross Sorkin, a business writer at the New York Times, the policy response was even more seat-of-the-pants than it seemed at the time," the Economist notes. "The $700 billion figure for the Troubled Asset Relief Programme was plucked from the air, the roughest of guesstimates . . .

    "Just as remarkable is the combination of hubris and ineptitude of those running the most troubled firms. Lehman's boss, Dick Fuld, sacked or sidelined those who gave warning about its dizzying debt levels and dangerous exposure to commercial property. He scuppered a life-saving deal with the South Koreans by barging clumsily into negotiations being run by a key lieutenant, which were delicately poised. AIG's executives did not know how big the insurer's balance-sheet hole was, and sometimes did not seem to care."

    17. Can we please not use the term "Bleacher Bums" anymore to describe those who sit in the Wrigley Field bleachers? They aren't bums anymore, they're yuppies. Adjust accordingly.

    *

    And that goes double for new Cubs owner Tom Ricketts, who fits the new profile perfectly as a rich kid who coincidentally got rich himself. He's a stock broker for godsakes! The transformation of a once-hallowed franchise whose fans were true believers in rooting for an underdog continually run aground by incompetent management who nonetheless played in a ballpark that symbolized enduring values is now complete. Sure it's nice to be out from under the corporate yoke of Tribune Company, but make no mistake: Ricketts is of the new breed. He's the frat guy who started going to Nirvana shows. Time to move on.

    18. "Most socialists opposed the bailout," Frank Llewellyn and Joseph Schwartz write in the Tribune. "They opposed the Bush administration's trillion-dollar-plus corporate giveaway, not because they objected to the government acting to preserve financial stability, but because they took issue with doling out billions to banks without a serious restructuring of the financial system. Democratic socialists (and other progressives) favor regulatory reform that would compel financial institutions to lend responsibly to consumers and to invest in productive enterprises that create jobs. To this day, mega-banks continue to risk our collective economic well-being by speculating in exotic, non-transparent financial instruments that do not foster productive economic activity . . .

    "Contemporary democratic socialists want to mitigate the many adverse effects that unregulated capitalist markets have on the lives of ordinary people by supporting intelligent democratic regulation of the economy (particularly the financial sector) and by using progressive taxation to finance high-quality public goods that can satisfy all citizens' basic needs for health care, education, unemployment insurance and job training."

    19. "Study: 100% of Credit Cards Reviewed 'Unfair or Deceptive'."

    20. If you rebuild it . . .

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: In your grill.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:22 AM | Permalink

    Don's Latest

    By Don Jacobson

    Since I embrace the ethos that no bootlegs shall pass, and because I'm poor, I don't actually come into possession of a lot of major label music anymore. Only occasionally will I charge up the credit card for an MP3 track of a "big" band these days, and even then it's usually when I'm reminded of some exceeding great music from years past - from the days when the majors were taking chances with real artists.

    So, after many months of making these rare purchases off of iTunes, I found that 15 of them had accumulated on the hard drive - enough for a decent mix CD. After burning it, I looked it over and thought this was actually a dang-ol' cool collection (and really, don't we all think that, even when we put in those Styx tracks?) And because my mind's a blank, I call it The Latest (with a please-don't-sue-me nod to Cheap Trick).

    1. Cheap Trick, "California Man." Blurt's review of Cheap Trick's latest The Latest says they reference "California Man" on it:

    "A few songs later they catapult headlong into 'California Girl' which, though revved up, can't disguise the fiftiesish, rockabilly-flavored undercurrent, right down to Zander's Jerry Lee Lewis-type whoops and vocal flourishes. And yes, it's an answer song to the Move classic 'California Man,' and as anybody reading this probably already knows, Cheap Trick famously covered that neo-rockabilly outing on 1978's Heaven Tonight."

    -

    2. Crow, "Evil Woman Don't Play Your Games With Me." I'm biased because this is a Twin Cities band from the late '60s and this tune got a lot play here. And it was more influential than I thought. This is from Crow's Web site:

    "Crow had a truly unique sound which included aggressive musical interpretations combined with a distinctive blues rock sound. 'Evil Woman Don't Play Your Games With Me' charted nationally and hit the top ten of the national Billboard 500 during the winter of 1969. So diversely influential in the music world this release from the band was that Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath covered the hit on their very first release in 1970, an album which was not at the time released in the United States, but has since been released in the United States on the 2004 Black Sabbath Greatest Hits compilation CD.

    "Also, Ike and Tina Turner covered 'Evil Woman Don't Play Your Games With Me' on their album Come Together."

    Here's a nice stereo of version of "Evil Woman" hosted by Music Mike.

    -

    3. The Golden Dogs, "Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five." An awesome cover of the Wings classic from the Toronto indie rockers off their 2007 album Big Eye Little Eye. From the YepRock Records Web site:

    "The cover of 'Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five,' the B-side to Paul McCartney & Wings' nonsensical epic 'Band on the Run,' slithered onto Big Eye Little Eye through the band's passion for performing it live.

    "'It has become a real favorite for us to perform live,'" said Golden Dogs songwriter Dave Azzolini. 'We usually do it in the middle of our set and it serves as an amazing apex for the show. Crowds have come to expect us to really rock that out and we love to make them happy by losing ourselves in it.'"

    -

    4. J.J. Jackson, "But It's Alright." My all-time favorite '60s soul song. It still pops into my head out of nowhere 42 years after it came out. I couldn't agree more with "Jamie" who posted a comment on Sam Juliano's "Wonders In the Dark" movie blog:

    "My favorite one-hit wonder right now? 'But It's Alright' by J.J. Jackson, which is from a sub-sub-genre I love (Northern Soul), and I think right now it's the greatest dance song I've ever heard."

    Right on, Jamie.

    -

    5. The Jayhawks, "Save It For a Rainy Day." Sometimes things just get so damn beautiful I have to cry. Something about this song just makes me bawl like a baby. From 2003's Rainy Day Music, I had a similar experience as Jimmy "Hambone" Hamilton from the Regular Joe blog, which is about all things St. Joseph, Mo.:

    "One day a couple years ago, I found myself singing the chorus of a song, as I drove down the highway. I didn't know many words, something about 'save it for a rainy day,' and realized I didn't know the song or the artist, or for that matter even where I had heard it. I scanned my admittedly damaged short term memory, but couldn't come up with it.

    "A week or so later I was half snoozing on the couch with the sound turned low and caught myself humming along with the tune again. I excitedly sat up to see who it was. Hmm, the Jayhawks, I'd heard of them, alt-country guys. Been around a while, but never hit it too big. I filed it away on my mental hard drive, such as it is. Over the next few weeks, I heard the song several more times, liking it more each time, until I had to make a run to my favorite music retailer."

    -

    6. The Replacements, "Unsatisfied." Of course, nary a day goes by that I don't reference some kind of Placemats song in my mind. But two things made me think of it recently: First, I saw the movie Adventureland, in which "Unsatisifed" plays a key role in a great dramedy about sexual angst, sleazy theme parks and limp corn dogs. (Also on the soundtrack, produced by Yo La Tengo, is "Bastards of Young.")

    Also, a sad moment has passed in the Twin Towns, much similar to Lounge Ax closing in Chicago. The Uptown Bar, where the Stinson brothers' mom was a bartender for years and was one of the fulcrums of everything had happened here musically in the '80s and '90s, shut its doors this weekend.

    She was still pouring Leinies.

    The Replacements - Unsatisfied
    Found at skreemr.com

    -

    7. UFO, "Cherry." Gotta keep givin' all my love to Cherry. It all came back to me when I was watching an episode of Prison Break where it was playing on a radio when the recovering alcoholic girlfriend wanders into a bar and is tempted to fall off the wagon. Then some nasty assassin tries to strangle her.

    Chicago rock 'n' roller Darren Robbins of the Time Bomb Symphony says on his He's a Whore blog of the 1978 UFO album Obsession:

    "Thankfully, the band quickly returns to more righteous fare in 'Cherry,' which alternates esoteric, stripped down verses with anthemic choruses and does the impossible by working both as a lilting love ballad and all-out arena rocker."

    -

    8. XTC, "Dear God." The all-time greatest song about atheism. Andy Partridge is a genius pop poet. Its notoriety as a plea against intolerance, religious violence and poverty kind of overshadows its haunting musical construction and some of Partridge's best singing.

    Right on is this assessment by Emilio from Uruguay on his blog Musicko:

    "Instrumentally, the song is a masterpiece: violins sweep all over it in a sort of prolonged swoon, whereas a child sings the intro and outro to noticeable effect. And the band is impeccable as usual. The song is also an excellent exponent of what is found within Skylarking on the whole: clever music that is superbly arranged and performed. XTC never sounded so true to themselves and so accessible at the same time."

    -

    9. Boston, "More Than a Feeling." Did Nirvana rip off Boston's riff for "Smells Like Teen Spirit?" The debate continues. On Nirvana's new Live at Reading 1992 CD/DVD, released last month, they segue right from a playful cover of the dinosaur into their smash grunge hit. An homage? An admission?

    "It's 1992 and the wonder of the mid-80's Los Angeles hair metal scene has been hung out to dry by a bunch of herberts in ripped jeans, stupid hats and check flannel shirts who all seem to be wallowing in a world of self pity, drug habits and stolen riffs from 1970's AOR bands," opines a blogger from the London creative agency Clinic, who says he or she was at the Reading concert.

    "I remember my mate Jeff saying to me as the opening riff to 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' reverberated through the rising steam of bodies, 'Sounds just like "More Than a Feeling" by Boston that, doesn't it?' Yes it does!! And you, Cobain me old son, you have been found out!"

    -

    12. Elvis Costello. "Party Girl." I think this song is the ultimate consequence of Elvis' bittersweet young soul. Like David N. of the We Can Rebuild Him blog, I count "Party Girl" among his Somewhat Neglected songs. Turns out he wrote it for a girl who was victim of the tabloid press because she fell into Elvis' paparazzi-filled orbit.

    "For years, the general consensus among Elvis fans was that it was about Bebe Buell, famed former super-groupie, lover of Steven Tyler and Todd Rundgren, mother of Liv Tyler, ex of Elvis. But he claimed it was instead a defence of a student he met on tour in the US who tabloid journalists caught him with in a car, proceeding to smear her reputation to some extent."

    Of course, along with thrilling wordplay, David N. nails the real reason I like this song: Its unabashed power-popism.

    "The emotional intensity he is aiming for is evident in the song's instrumental choices. For this is basically a power ballad, with big guitar chords and cascading piano and lots of high hat and very melodramatic rising and falling passages . . . Every song (on Armed Forces) sounds perfectly played and honed to perfection, and this one is no exception."

    Elvis Costello & The Attractions - Party Girl
    Found at skreemr.com

    -

    13. Jo Jo Gunne, "Run Run Run." Oh my God. I could not believe it when I heard this on WMBR (Cambridge, Mass.) Feeling its early-'70s boogying self coming out the speakers sent me into spasms of joy as I flashed immediately on GTOs and 8-tracks.

    Oh, and as San Diego writer Gordon Hauptfleisch of BlogCritcs says, "Run Run Run" (with future Heart guitar wizard Mark Andres doing the coolest, weirdest slide run ever) "soon becomes one of those songs that will be run, run, running through your head indefinitely, carried along by a slide guitar and background vocals stuck on stupid: 'Doo doo doo / Doo doo doo doo / Run run run / Run run run . . . ' Repeat and rinse, and add in, sparingly, lead vocalist Jay Ferguson to interject, say, a carpe diem freak-out greeting: 'Welcome to the party / we're all just papers in the wind,' and you have yourself a Top 40 American hit."

    14. The Troggs, "With a Girl Like You." Cool, cool (somewhat) overlooked mid-60s garage ballad. What I didn't know until now is that singer Reg Presley and the rest of The Troggs are from rural Hampshire, England, and not that that is so special, but I see Presley is in fact a "Hampshire Hero," according to the Hampshire County Council's Culture, Communities and Rural Affairs Department blog.

    "Reg Presley, a real 'Hampshire Hero,' is certainly someone who anyone who remembers the 1960s will know. For those of you who did not experience, at first hand, one of the finest decades to be alive in the 20th century, Reg Presley was the lead singer with the Troggs . . . and the Troggs came from Andover! It was rare for pop groups not to be metropolitan, and coming from deepest Hampshire was unusual...

    "Anyone who rhymes waitin' with hesitatin' gets my vote as a hero, although his funding and interest of the study of crop circles may slightly diminish his heroic status."

    Ummm, what's all this about Reg Presley and crop circles? Quick, call the Daily Mail!


    THE TROGGS - With a girl like you
    Uploaded by peter95000. - Explore more music videos.

    -

    15. Bo Diddley. "You Can't Judge a Book By Its Cover." Since he died recently I realized how appallingly bad my Diddley collection was so I started off by buying 1962's "Cover" (written by Willie Dixon). The absolute greatest thing about this song is the way he demands that you turn up the radio. That had to be the first time anyone said that on a song.

    So impressed with it was Mick and Keef, they performed this song at the Stones' first-ever recording session that same year. According to the Collecting Vinyl Records blog, Oct. 27 is the anniversary of "the Rolling Stones making their first recordings at Curly Clayton Studios. The band, which currently consists of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, pianist Ian Stewart, and drummer Tony Chapman, cut Muddy Waters' 'Soon Forgotten,' Jimmy Reed's 'Close Together,' and Bo Diddley's 'You Can't Judge a Book By Its Cover.'"


    Bo Diddley - You Can't Judge A Book...
    Uploaded by fredozydeco. - Arts and animation videos.

    -

    From the Beachwood jukebox to Obama Radio, we have the playlists you need to be a better citizen of the Rock and Roll Nation.

    Posted by Don Jacobson at 8:45 AM | Permalink

    Halloween 2009

    While Barbara Brotman moped.

    1. Halsted.

    -

    2. Going as Twitter.

    -

    3. Ninjas.

    -

    4. Excalibur.

    -

    5. At Roger's and Tina's.

    -

    6. Bunnies and Bloody Mary.


    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:29 AM | Permalink

    SportsMonday: Cutler the Infuriator

    By Jim Coffman

    Will the fact that Jay Cutler occasionally causes opponents to absolutely lose their minds - cue the tape of Cleveland Brown defensive coordinator Rob Ryan screaming "Fuck you! Fuck you!" at the quarterback on Sunday, help him win a championship? Because that's all that matters - we really don't care if he is a delightful chap to have around, we just care if he puts up victories. Cutler is who he is and he may change a little as he goes along, but he won't undergo any sort of startling transformation.

    Cutler plays the part of the infuriating adolescent so well it sometimes drives foes to absolute distraction (he must have been a joy to parent during that last stage when kids are still communicating regularly with mom and dad but the tone is changing and they revel in things like catching them in contradictions). And we all know guys who never really got out of that stage, they just transferred their scorn from parents to peers. Last season saw opposing quarterback Phil Rivers (San Diego) professing his hatred for his rival and other opposing players have labeled him a punk in comments scrubbed clean for public consumption. And of course there was Bobby Wade yammering about Brian Urlacher thinking Cutler was "a pussy" early on during training camp. Urlacher denied it (after all, Cutler was his teammate now).

    Even the quarterback's helmet contributes to the effect. You can barely see his eyes peeking out through the top of his face mask. The effect is similar to the one affected by a teenager rebel who lets his bangs grow down over his eyes. You know he can still see, but surely he can't see as well as he could if he just got a haircut. And no this isn't personal; my 10-year-old son Noah prefers his hair short and hasn't quite reached that stage in life to which I am referring (although I'm sure we'll get there soon enough).

    So, does Cutler the Infuriator cause opponents to lose discipline more often than not? Or does he inspire them to play better? Only time will tell.

    *

    There was some great stuff in the Trib this past week from Dan Pompei about Cutler's passer rating when his team falls behind by multiple scores (it falls to an average of 68.7 and in those situations in his career, Cutler has thrown 12 picks to only 6 TDs).

    Pompei responded to feedback from his column a couple of days later by pointing out that other star quarterbacks have much better numbers in those sorts of situations.

    The Packers' Aaron Rodgers was impressive in just such a scenario Sunday. After the Packers fell behind 24-6, he led them to three touchdowns to pull within a score. But rookie-of-the-year so far Percy Harvin then turned in another big kick-off return (back past the 50) and the Vikings were on their way again.

    *

    Back to coach Ryan for a moment. The season began with such promise for Buddy's boys. The twin sons of legendary ex-Bear defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan, Rex and Rob, went into the season with new assignments that were filled with potential. Rex Ryan took over the head job with the New York Jets and the team rushed out to three straight impressive victories to start the season. But yesterday's 30-25 loss to the Dolphins dropped them to 4-4 on the season. And of course Rob Ryan is still looking for his second victory in Cleveland (the team fell to 1-7 Sunday).

    *

    And back to the Bears - I won't be breaking down the specifics of Sunday's drudgery in this space. You knew going in a game with the Browns wouldn't assuage the doubts raised by the debacle in the Queen City (Cincinnati), didn't you? When does the Cardinal game start next Sunday?

    -

    Jim Coffman rounds up the sports weekend in this space every Monday. He welcomes your comments.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:58 AM | Permalink

    MUSIC - Christgau Loves Chicago Neonatologist.
    TV - Amazon & The Way Of The World.
    POLITICS - Yes On Vouchers For After-School Programs.
    SPORTS - The Ex-Cub Factor.

    BOOKS - Writers Under Surveillance.

    PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Original Warrior.


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