Frankie O's Blog: Hey Bartender!

Frankie O's Blog: Hey Bartender!

Friday, Feb. 18, 2011
9:30 a.m.
By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

Being your friendly barkeep requires many different talents, that most of them are hidden is a cross that I must bear. The most obvious attributes of someone who dares to serve alcohol to adults is their appearance and the ability to communicate. Since Im a little challenged in one of those areas, I find the need to over-compensate in the other. (You guess which is which!)

Anyway, being known as the sports guy means that I need to be well versed in the wide world of sports and need to stay current. This enables me to give an opinion when asked, and for some reason, Im asked a lot. Never one to want to disappoint, my Clavinesque knowledge of the days events are a constant cause for concern, at home anyway. Does the word issues ring a bell? Why do I know these things? The ability to share my take though never gets old, and as long as Im the one dispensing the libations, its never WRONG either!

The sudden retirement of Jerry Sloan really resonated with me. It told me how old I am, and maybe how out of touch with todays athletes. For guys like me, Sloan represented the old school approach: Direct, no-nonsense and in your face. What a great way to treat pampered multi-millionaires! Its amazing that he lasted so long, because we know, no players will quit on their coaches faster than NBAers. The one thing that Sloan had besides his unyielding will, was the total support of his owner, Larry Miller, until his passing that is. Short of Phil Jackson, I dont think any NBA coach had more control of his situation. With Miller gone, and the battles with players constant, it looked like he just got worn out. Regardless, I will always look back at him as one of ultimate competitors as a player and coach, in any sport.

The Albert Pujols saga? Speculation is always the most fun game we play, and figuring out where Albert will end up is at the top right now. (Sorry Carmelo Anthony, your story bores me. Wake me when its over.) He is NOT going back to St. Louis. If he is true to his demand to be paid as the games best player, and he is the best player, its not going to happen there. St. Louis believes that he will never be as good as he was during his first ten years, and mathematically, that it probably correct, but he has earned the right to be paid. Add to it that he has been grossly under-paid during the length of his current 7-year deal, and Im convinced that he has been dancing in a towel screaming Show me the money!! at his agent. Who will benefit from this high-stakes game of chicken? Dont look now, but the team that makes the most sense, on so many levels, is your Chicago Cubs. Ill let that thought marinate for a while before I devote about 10,000 words to it in your near future!

Does it get any more fun than Bill Murray winning the pro-am at Pebble Beach? Carl Spackler is an icon to any guy whos ever swung a golf club, in addition to being a big-hitter.long! Im sure there were tears in his eyes as he realized by winning, his playing partner, Cinderella-boy D.A. Points qualified to play at Augusta. Would the par-3 be ready for the two of them? I hear its being played on Briar. Theres a pool and Ikes pond, which is perfect for me! And just because I have to: Its in the hole!! How bout a Fresca?

Interesting move with the Bears Mike Tice. He was as valuable as any person in that organization. Did anyone expect the O-line to play well at all, let alone not get Jay Cutler killed? That being said, I always thought that the etiquette was to let a coach go if he could get an upgrade in responsibility. Keeping him is a smart move. Keeping him and making him happy is even smarter.

Why are people asking me about Tiger spitting? Tiger has never been one for manners on the course, unless that is someone tries to take a picture during his backswing. Glad to see he is trying to act beyond reproach as he tries to fix his image, along with his swing. For the record, I have no problem with spitting on the course, as long as there arent 100 cameras focused on you. And in that case, if you really have to, dont do it on the green. Seems simple enough.

Hey, did you see Peter Forsberg is returning to the NHL? What? He already retired again? Didnt see that coming!! LOL! Kris Versteeg to the Flyers? Nice! GM Paul Holmgren is getting it done, although Im still convinced that my heart is going to get ripped out, AGAIN, but we have plenty of time to talk about that.

Speaking of my heart getting ripped out, those who know me cant wait to mention the Phillies rotation this year. The eternal optimist in me (I heard that!) cant wait for this magical season to start. The realist, (Real Frankie O?) cant wait to see how the lack of right-handed hitting will doom them once again. Im sure the 78 games last year of scoring 3 runs or less was just an aberration. Whatever!

Something that makes me laugh? Mario Lemieuxs indignation at how the NHL handled the fallout of the Penguins-Islander brawl last week. Hey Mario, when you stopped whining, did you stop to consider the irony in your rant due to the fact that you employ one of the top cheap-shot artists in the league in Matt Cooke. Now thats funny, not funny ha-ha, but funny.

Oprah in a sports blog? What? Seems the QB for the Eagles was supposed to appear on her show and has since backed out. I personally think that Michael Vick should talk to her. I just dont think a live audience should be included. Oprah has earned the right to be an inquisitor, most of her audience probably not. In the court of public opinion, I dont think a lot of people believe he has paid enough for his crimes. He should be able to go public, in a forum that crosses over from the comfort of the sports world to do that. It should not include an entire room stacked against him that can interject their opinions without recourse. If he truly wants to walk down the road of redemption, there are more prices to be paid. I think the O would be relentless with her pressure, but would do it with a class that befits someone of her stature. Two more things: I only know how Oprah is because my wife watches her every day and I can hear it in the background. And, I still cant believe I have to become versed in everything Vick, but being an Eagles fan has long since gone beyond normalcy for yours truly.

For something more positive, I could write about the merits of Derrick Rose every day. I hope we all realize how special the metamorphosis we are watching truly is. He will not stop trying to get better. I almost like seeing him have a bad game, because you know he is going to come back with a vengeance. A lot of talk about whether the Spurs game before the break has any additional significance since the San Antonio has the best record in the league. I dont think so, especially since, barring any further injuries, this is not the Bulls team that will have to be reckoned with during the spring. But D-Rose thinks its a big game, so there you go. 42 points, and a 10-point win against the team with the best record in the NBA? I guess it was a statement game and one was made. Gotta love that guy!

Had enough yet? Thought so. Remember, Im always here for you, whether its behind the bar or online. All you have to do is pull up a stool or send me an e-mail at frankieo@harrycarays.com and let er rip. But, you should ALWAYS be careful what you wish for, I have a habit of giving you just a little bit extra!

Northwestern holds off Ohio State for fifth Big Ten win, first win in Columbus in 40 years

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USA TODAY

Northwestern holds off Ohio State for fifth Big Ten win, first win in Columbus in 40 years

It's not something that's been said often over the decades, but Northwestern is one of the best teams in the Big Ten.

That's the story the standings tell, and with another week of the 2016-17 season in the books, the Wildcats sit at 5-2 in conference play, good for the second-best mark in the league.

That fifth conference win came Sunday afternoon with a 74-72 defeat of Ohio State. It was the first time Northwestern won in Columbus since 1977.

This is the first 5-2 start to Big Ten play for the Cats since 1968. So is this the first time ever the Cats get an invite to the NCAA tournament?

Of course that remains to be seen, but Chris Collins' squad sure seems to be setting itself up for inclusion in the field of 68. Sunday's win was just the latest to come away from Evanston, and in seven conference games, four of the team's five wins have come in road games, including three straight at Nebraska, Rutgers and Ohio State.

Northwestern had to find a way to win Sunday. A couple surges in the first half took the Cats from modest deficits to a lead that grew as big as eight. The halftime advantage was five, but that slipped away quickly as Northwestern shot poorly after halftime. Ice cold is a better descriptor, the Cats struggling to get their field-goal percentage above 30 percent over the final 20 minutes. It got there eventually, the team finishing shooting 32.3 percent in the second half, but it was the work from the free-throw line that made the win possible. Over the final 20 minutes, Northwestern was 14-for-16 from the charity stripe, including going 11-for-12 over the final minute and a half.

The key stretch came when a Scottie Lindsey 3-ball broke a 56-all tie with four and a half minutes to play. Ohio State countered with a bucket, but freshman point guard Isiah Brown turned in back-to-back scores of his own, the second a breakaway layup off a steal. That made it a five-point lead, and though the gap shrunk over the game's final three minutes, Northwestern's free-throw shooting allowed the Cats to hold that lead the rest of the way.

Meanwhile, the Buckeyes shot themselves in the foot at the free-throw line. They were 12-for-23 on the game, and all but one of the attempts came in the second half, making for 10 missed free throws over the game's final 20 minutes. Northwestern committed a lot of fouls, but Ohio State couldn't capitalize, something that has to be quite painful for the Buckeyes, considering they had edges in other statistical categories. They shot 45.6 percent from the field compared to the Cats shooting 37.5 percent. Ohio State also had 16 second-chance points and 28 points in the paint. But Northwestern had 17 points off 13 Ohio State turnovers.

Lindsey finished with a game-high 21 points and has scored in double figures in every game this season. Bryant McIntosh had 17 points, and Vic Law had 10. Jae'Sean Tate scored 14 points for Ohio State, with JaQuan Lyle adding 13, Trevor Thompson scoring 11 and Cam Williams putting in 10.

The win was Northwestern's fourth straight and boosted its overall record to 16-4 to go along with the 5-2 mark in the conference. The Cats next play Nebraska on Thursday.

The loss snapped a modest two-game win streak for Ohio State and dropped the Buckeyes' record to 12-8 overall and 2-5 in the Big Ten. They next play Minnesota on Wednesday.

Marcus Kruger 'pretty close' to returning for Blackhawks

Marcus Kruger 'pretty close' to returning for Blackhawks

Marcus Kruger has been sidelined a little longer than the originally expected three weeks with his right hand injury. Not that any missed time is enjoyable.

"I wanted to get back there probably a few weeks ago but unfortunately I couldn't," said Kruger, who suffered his injury on Dec. 30 against the Carolina Hurricanes. "I tried to listen to the doctors and do everything I can instead to be ready when I get cleared. That's my mindset."

Kruger is close, but not quite there, as the Blackhawks prepared for Sunday night's game against the Vancouver Canucks. Kruger skated with his teammates for the first time since being injured but wasn't among the line rushes. The center took faceoffs on his own at the end of practice. Kruger pronounced himself, "pretty close," to returning. Coach Joel Quenneville said the Blackhawks will see how Kruger is over the next few days. The Blackhawks play again Tuesday and Thursday before heading into the All-Star break this weekend.

The Blackhawks have missed Kruger's versatility and especially his play on the penalty kill. The Blackhawks' kill has been fine through Kruger's absence but he nevertheless is a big part of it when he's healthy.

"We have a lot of options and when he's out everyone gets a more important role, whether starting or faceoffs. And we have a rotation of five guys who are in there most of the time. But he definitely absorbs the most responsibility when he's playing in that area," Quenneville said of Kruger. "So it's nice you get to try some other guys and you get deeper as you go along."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

One of the players who's emerged in Kruger's absence is Tanner Kero, who filled his third-line center void. Kero and linemates Vinnie Hinostroza and Marian Hossa clicked on the dads trip, coming up with big plays and points in the Blackhawks' victories over Colorado and Boston. As of now, Kero appears to have the hold on third-line center.

"I don't see too many things that would change his positioning because he really helped himself," Quenneville said.

Kruger said he's fine if that means returning to fourth-line center duties. Regardless, he'll help bolster the Blackhawks' forward lines. The last step is likely contact, which Kruger got a little of – outside of faceoffs – in Sunday's skate. Kruger's had to wait a little longer than expected on his injury but he's getting there.

“Obviously [I want to] get back and playing the same way,” Kruger said. “First I want to get healthy and then get back playing my best and do everything I can for the team.”