Frankie O: Who are you?

Frankie O: Who are you?

Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2010
2:55 PM

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

As Bears fans bask in the glow of Sundays domination of the Eagles, instead of giving me a ton of grief, they give me a ton and all ask the same question: What do I think of the Bears now? I dont believe that its because a bartenders opinion is going to seal the deal, but rather part of a larger quest. Besides the burning desire to learn oneself, there is always that need to define others. When it concerns the local heroes, this is always taken to a new level. The essence of any sports discussion, or in the bar read: argument, is the ability to clearly and accurately describe what we have witnessed and how it will affect the future. People want to know. Who am I? Or who I am? Those are two completely different questions! This was forever etched in our sports consciousness after one of the most famous melt-downs ever, the Dennis Green The Bears are who we thought they were! rant after a Monday night game in which his team had a melt-down and handed the Bears the game. While us fans found what he said, and especially how he said it, to be hysterical, it brought to the fore the questions that keep my bar lively.

This couldnt be more true than in the discussions of this years Bears. The two biggest faces, Jay and Lovie, and the team itself have been analyzed over and over. (Analyze This!) Ill start with Jay. After his heroes welcome upon his trade here, no one has endured more scorn since he began playing. Throwing an average of two picks a game will do that. But also its the demeanor thing. The public has a perception of how it wants its star quarterback to look, feel and PLAY like. Cutler so far, obviously, has been all over the road in his play. The thing that loses him support is that when discussing his play, he looks completely disinterested to the point of boredom. Doesnt he realize how serious this is? Why do you think Derek Anderson is taking so much heat for being caught smiling and laughing on the sideline Monday night while his team was getting hammered? For fans its just as important that you carry yourself as a winner as it is winning, well when youre losing anyway, if you win, do whatever you want. ALL is forgiven with winning. That the Bears are winning now, and hes playing very well, has brought some understanding or should I say acceptance to his personality quirks. He also earned points with his rant towards the officials, for sticking up for his teammates. Funny, not too long ago the same act would have been vilified around here not too long ago for him once again being petulant. This is the same Cutler, just one who seems to be figuring out his third offense in three years, and one who for the first time in his career is playing on a team with a defense that can make a difference.

Lovie is a fun one to discuss now. I havent felt the overwhelming support for him yet, and I find that a little puzzling. Heres a guy that was given a second chance in fans eyes. I did not come across a single person at the bar last year that thought that he should have been retained as coach. (Nor Jerry Angelo as G.M. for that matter.) That he has taken this opportunity and run with it is all to his credit. Defensive play is what he is known for and the defense is playing great. Being a leader that can right the ship is just as important, and his influence over the offense to change when it was needed cant be denied. But once again it gets to the perception thing. During the awfulness of the last three years, his even-keel demeanor, lack of anger and say nothing coach-speak made him the number one target of fans discussing what was wrong with the team. Some even considered him to have an above-it-all arrogance. Well now, during the good times, he has the perception of a calm cool leader. It cracks me up that as maddening as I sometimes found his behavior, especially during the last two years, to be, that he is EXACTLY the same right guy right now. How funny is that? How funny is it that I think that right now, he should be considered the coach of the year in the NFL?

So who are the Bears? I think that right now, they are one of the best teams in football. The win on Sunday made that statement for all to see. But as Jerry Glanville once pointed out, NFL stands for: Not for long! Anything can change in an instant. Thats why I found it very telling when discussing the aftermath of the game, everyone on the team said its all about next week and moving forward. Basking in the glow in this league will get you beat in a hurry and turn you into yesterdays news. (Or LAST weeks Sports Illustrated cover!) This team being focused on that is a good thing. They have a five game opportunity in front of them and its going to be fun to see how they respond. They are playing at a level that will let them play for a while and thats the point. For as I have reminded everyone who wanted to give me the needle for Sundays outcome, winning games in November only gives you a chance, winning games in January and February are what we all will remember, and tell us all we need to know. (Analyze That!) (Get it? A sequel reference. A sequel!)

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Lightning tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Lightning tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Grab the first goal.

The Blackhawks have scored the game's first goal in seven of the last eight games, and of those seven, they've won six of them. Meanwhile, the Lightning have scored the first goal only 17 times in 48 games this season, and are 12-5-1 in those games. They're 9-17-4 when they allow the first goal, so getting out to a lead first will be important against a struggling Lightning team looking for signs of life.

2. Will the floodgates open for Jonathan Toews?

After a four-point game in a 4-2 win over Vancouver, the Blackhawks captain matched his point total over his previous nine games. He's up to 26 points on the season, which is now fifth among Chicago forwards. When Toews has offensive droughts, they usually last longer than they should. But when he gets hot, he gets extremely hot. Perhaps we'll see the floodgates open offensively.

3. A chance for the team lead in scoring.

With an empty-net goal on Sunday, Marian Hossa tied Artem Anisimov for the team-lead with 18 goals. Artemi Panarin is right behind with 17, and Patrick Kane isn't far either at 15. The Blackhawks had four 20-goal scorers last season, and haven't had more than that since the 2013-14 season. They're definitely on pace to hit four, but could they surprass that? Richard Panik, who scored another goal Sunday as well, is fifth with 11 goals while Ryan Hartman has 10. Toews is at eight, but a flurry after a drought could make things interesting.

4. The triplets reunited?

In an effort to jumpstart a struggling offense, Lightning coach Jon Cooper reunited the triplets line of Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat that was so successful during their 2015 playoff run in their latest game, a 5-3 loss to Arizona. It's unclear whether they will begin tonight's game on the same line, but if not, it's worth watching throughout the game whether they do. The Blackhawks have been coming at opponents in waves lately, so Cooper could look to separate the three to distribute the scoring.

5. Take advantage on special teams.

The Lightning have racked up the fifth-most penalty minutes in the league, and own a bottom-10 penalty kill unit at 80.1 percent. The Blackhawks are the second-least penalized team, and have converted on 17.9 percent of their power plays, which sits at 16th. But they haven't scored one on the man advantage in five straight games, going 0-for-9 during that span. Here's a chance to change that.

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Report: Cubs preparing to roll the dice with Brett Anderson

Report: Cubs preparing to roll the dice with Brett Anderson

The Cubs are preparing to roll the dice with Brett Anderson, hoping the talented, frequently injured pitcher can stay healthy and provide insurance for their rotation.

Anderson posted a telling message on his Twitter account on Monday night, hinting at what would be another offseason check mark for the defending World Series champs.

The physical for the agreement — first reported by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports and MLB Network — won't just be a formality as Anderson underwent back surgery last March and appeared in only four games for the Los Angeles Dodgers last season.

But Anderson fits on paper as a left-hander who will turn only 29 on Feb. 1 and won't have to carry front-of-the-rotation responsibilities or feel Opening Day urgency on a team with five projected starters.

The Cubs had been willing to gamble around $6 million on Tyson Ross, who recently signed a similarly structured one-year deal with the Texas Rangers as he recovers from surgery to address thoracic outlet syndrome.

The calculus would essentially be the same with Anderson. The Cubs have to factor in last year's grueling playoff run into early November, this season's sky-high expectations, the organization's lack of high-end, upper-level pitching prospects and the uncertainty surrounding the 2018 rotation.

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Anderson finished sixth in the 2009 American League Rookie of the Year voting with the Oakland A's, but he's reached the 30-start mark only one other time and never accounted for 200 innings in a single season.

Anderson underwent Tommy John surgery in the middle of the 2011 season, and the injuries piled up from there, dealing with a strained right oblique, a stress fracture in his right foot and a broken left index finger.

Anderson had such a fragile reputation that he accepted the one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from the Dodgers after a strong platform year in 2015 (10-9, 3.69 ERA). The Dodgers only got 11 1/3 innings out of Anderson, who didn't pitch during a playoff run that ended at Wrigley Field in the National League Championship Series.

The Cubs stayed exceptionally healthy while winning 200 games across the last two seasons and need to be prepared in case John Lackey sharply declines at the age of 38 or Mike Montgomery experiences growing pains while transitioning from the bullpen.

Whether or not Anderson is ultimately the answer, the Cubs will be looking to place a sixth starter into their plans.

"I don't know if a six-man rotation on a permanent basis is the wave of the future," team president Theo Epstein said earlier this winter. "But we certainly endorse it on a temporary basis as a nice way to pace guys for the whole season.

"We can get them some rest, whether you do it in April to preserve depth and ease guys into the season, especially after a deep October and November run. Or after the All-Star break in the summer to kind of get through the dog days and give guys a little bit of a breather as you ramp up for the stretch run.

"I think it would be tough to pull off all season long. But it's something that (could certainly work) in the right spot."