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SportsMonday: Firing Blanks

Every time a Major League Soccer game ends in a scoreless tie, someone should be fired.

Do these people want fans to attend the games or not? It just isn't that difficult to send lots of players forward to ensure exciting attacking - and counter-attacking - soccer will be played.

Take, for example, the United States team's 4-2 loss to Mexico in the Gold Cup final on Saturday evening. Surely the game was notable for the circumstances - arch-rivals facing off in the final of a big event in front of a huge crowd (about 93,000 people filled the Rose Bowl). But all those goals made it great, even if it was a wee bit disappointing that the Yanks blew a 2-0 lead.

Meanwhile, the Fire stumbled to a 0-0 draw in the middle of the week against Real Salt Lake.

The Fire did manage to avoid the double shutout on Sunday afternoon at Toyota Park. But the team still failed miserably to put together enough decent play to actually record a victory. The visiting New York Red Bulls took the lead in the first half, gave it up early in the second and then managed to hold on down the final stretch for a 1-1 tie, the Fire's unbelievable 11th of the season against 2 wins and 4 losses. (The Red Bulls weren't happy with another draw either.)

My youngest daughter is playing T-ball this year at Welles Park. They play four innings and do not keep track of the score. Her team has fewer ties than the Fire.

The game was telecast on ESPN and analyst John Harkes could barely contain his disdain. The guy just wasn't impressed by the level of play virtually throughout. And while the Red Bulls had excuses, including the absence of leading players who were either hurt or recovering from playing in the Gold Cup, the homestanding Fire did not.

What was impressive, as always, were the vocal chords of the Fire's Section 8 fans. The folks who named themselves after the portion of the old Soldier Field where they sat and who now congregate behind the north goal at Toyota continue to amaze with their ability to keep the robust songs and chants going all game long.

They root for a Fire team, after all, that has managed to win only two of its 17 games this year. And they are still out there belting out songs of devotion for more than 90 minutes of game action. Awesome.

Bulls Beat
The Bulls aced the draft. With the 23rd pick of the first round, they traded up to grab Nikola Mirotic - a 6-10, sweet-shooting power forward - and then nabbed Marquette 6-6 swing man Jimmy Butler with the 30th.

Mirotic, who by all accounts is a determined defender and rebounder who isn't afraid to mix it up, was available at that point because he has four years remaining on his contract with Real Madrid in Spain. If he wants to come stateside before the completion of that deal, the buyout is reportedly $2 million.

But the Bulls are happy to have him stay in Spain for a while because A) they want him to gain more seasoning (he's like a college kid who could definitely use another year or two in school) and B) they don't yet want to give him the guaranteed contract he would have coming to him as a first-round pick.

The Bulls aren't exactly up against the salary cap (even if it gets significantly smaller in the collective bargaining agreement currently being negotiated) but they will be if they give Derrick Rose the maximum contract extension that is their absolute first priority.

The kid Butler won't contribute much on offense next season but he plays great defense. He will spell Luol Deng at times and can be matched up against strong opposing scorers.

The Bulls clearly need to add more shooting in free agency and they are in a position to do so - if there is free agency, that is. The current collective bargaining agreement runs out June 30 and owners are reportedly ready to institute a lockout.

So, considering where the NFL talks are at, two of the four biggest sports leagues in North America could find themselves in the midst of lockouts at the same time - that's not quite as awesome as Section 8.


Comments welcome.

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