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SportsTuesday: Ozzie, The Bears and Ballpark Franks

Could Chicago possibly be happier? The good news arrived Monday and I have a hard time believing that any sports fan in our fair city didn't rejoice as long and as loud as was humanly possible. Clearly we will all always remember exactly where we were when we absorbed the fact that . . . Ozzie will return next year to again manage the White Sox.

What's that you say? You thought I was talking about the Bears? Well, I'm certainly happy they pulled out their biggest win since the 2006 NFC Championship game. I mean, it would take an extreme killjoy to point out that despite the great start, if the Bears lose to the Giants this coming Sunday evening in New Jersey, they will have the exact same record at the end of the first quarter of this season as they did last.

Oh, and welcome back Ozzie. You are a bigger drama queen than anyone currently performing on North Halsted or North Broadway but there is something to be said for a guy who can keep things interesting all the way through a 162-game season.

But back to the Bears, who stand alone atop the NFC at 3-0. I'm not sure how they did it, although 17 Packer penalties, the most committed by a team from Green Bay in a game in the last half century or so, loomed slightly large. The last was an obvious pass interference call but 35-yard penalties will never feel right. The college game made the correct call when it capped the distance that can be gained on this sort of infraction at 15 yards.

After the Bears killed all but a few remaining seconds on the clock - thank you Packer coach Mike McCarthy for the ridiculous, Pollyanna challenge that made it possible - Pat Mannelly made the perfect snap, Brad Maynard put down the perfect hold and Robbie Gould made the game-winning 19-yard field goal.

A Pollyanna challenge, by the way, is one where the coach is saying "if I wish hard enough that Tim Jennings actually recovered the fumble out of bounds, I'm sure my wish will come true." It doesn't, of course, and because the challenge failed, the Packers were docked a timeout - a timeout that would have enabled them to stop the clock with as many as 40 seconds remaining before the Bears' final field goal rather than allowing the Bears to run it down inside of :10.

One thing I am sure of is that Jay Cutler is once and for all a tough son-of-a-gun. He was fortunate earlier and later Monday when Packer defensive backs dropped one potential pick and had two others nullified by penalties. But he also bounced back quickly after absorbing a hit that would have sidelined 99.99 percent of humans, including most NFL quarterbacks, late in the fourth quarter.

Right after Packer linebacker Frank Zombo (that's a halfway decent name for a linebacker, isn't it?) just about unhinged the quarterback's jaw (and was assessed 15 yards for helmet-to-helmet contact), Cutler hit Devin Hester on a tricky little crossing route. Hester managed to drop that ball but when Cutler hit him with another one the next play, Hester grabbed it and took it up the field for a big first down.

As for the defense, well, this game might have been the ultimate validation of the "bend but don't break" philosophy. The Bears allowed the Packers to march down the field almost at will but as ESPN analysts Ron Jaworski and Jon Gruden (less annoying than usual overall) expertly pointed out, long drives featuring double-digit plays are tough to finish off.

The probability is that a team will eventually mess something up - i.e. commit a penalty or a turnover - and at least be forced to try a field goal. That happened to the Packers a couple times; Julius Peppers blocked one of those field goal attempts, and that was the difference. New Meadowlands Stadium, here they come.

Cubs Snub
One final Cubs indignity, or actually several.

I took in the home finale at Wrigley on Sunday with my 11-year-old son, but we only lasted four innings. Not only were the Cubs not showing other baseball scores on the secondary scoreboards (down the lines in the right and left field upper decks - those scores are more up-to-date than the ones on the scoreboard), they weren't showing any football scores.

Instead, the loop of Ballpark Franks commercials played on and on and on. I'm sure the Cubs would say that everyone gets scores on their phones these days so it doesn't matter but, well, I don't get scores on my phone.

We even responded to the scoreboard when it urged us "let's buy two." But we should have known that buying two hot dogs wouldn't be nearly enough to appease the savage corporate sponsorship beast and allow perhaps a score or two on the now inaccurately named scoreboard in between commercial messages.

It was an outrage, I tell ya. Oh, and Jeff Samardzija sucked (looks like the $10 million Jim Hendry paid him to give up football will soon be added to the massive amount Hendry has wasted while leading the Cubs on a steady downhill trip these past four seasons - surely Tom Ricketts has to have a Eureka moment about his incompetence at some point soon, doesn't he?).

And the Cubs' three, four and five hitters (Blake DeWitt, Xavier Nady and Kosuke Fukudome) were still short of 25 combined home runs when the game started. But hey, at least we had a chance to watch Alfonso Soriano botch a fly ball and, on a separate play, throw to the wrong base. Ah baseball, we will miss you. Or maybe not.

Blackhawks Bit
I had also planned to write a brief about the Blackhawks' preseason, but I haven't had a chance to absorb enough of it. I will say I was delighted to stumble upon the preseason game against the Red Wings that was televised on WGN on Saturday night. It was a very welcome break from the college football quadrupleheader that was my other sports viewing choice.

The only problem? As I watched the Hawks take a lead they would not relinquish, I was reminded it is now much tougher to make fun of this club than the aforementioned baseball team. What is a cynical sportswriter to do?


Jim Coffman brings you SportsMonday in this space every week - except when it appears on Tuesday. He welcomes your comments.

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Posted on Feb 21, 2020