Frankie O's Blog: The True Meaning

Frankie O's Blog: The True Meaning

Friday, Jan. 7, 2011
11:46 AM

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

You hear that a lot during the holidays. The true meaning is at the core of it all. The true meaning of Christmas is love for one and all. I try telling that to my 4-year old, but shes still more interested in that jolly old fat guy who slides into her house leaving presents. No, not her father! He leaves a trail! Then there is the New Year, which brings hope of a better future and new beginning for mankind. That is, if that future includes using a shake-weight for the next month and eating low-carb sandwiches at Subway with Jared. The true meaning of the New Year is doing all those things we put off from last year, isnt it?

Then there is the BCS. Im still trying figure out its true meaning. 35 bowl games?! Honestly?! Without a playoff?! With the 70 team field littered with 6-6 records? I wont get into the farce that was the Sugar Bowl. With the allowance of the New Fab-Five for Ohio State (Why should Michigan have the only Fab-Five in the Big Ten that will live in infamy? These schools compete at every level!) to play in the game, it became apparent to all that the true meaning of B.C.S. is Big Cash Soiree. And were all invited as long as we pay, but please make that check out to the university and not the kids we want to watch play. (A triple rhyme? 2011 must be Frankie o time!)

But the true meaning that I get asked about constantly at the bar is about the 2010 NFL regular season. What did it mean? Well judging from my confidence picks, Im probably the last person to ask. (I won week 1, then did not get another sniff until week 16, when all I needed was a Tuesday night win by my Eagles to win the pot. I hate Tuesday NFL games!) But of course that doesnt stop me from having an opinion, whether Im right or not well have to wait until this weekend to see.

These next two weekends are the best the NFL has to offer, in my mind. Two games on Saturday, followed by two games on Sunday with all of the losers going home, there is always enough drama to keep the bar hopping. (By that I mean: Thirsty!)

This Saturday starts with an absolute dog of a game at Quest Field, or does it. The Seahawks are the first team in NFL history to reach the postseason with a losing record in a non-strike season. They are also a 10.5 point underdog at home. As much as I want to say they can make a game of it, in this the year of the upset that doesnt make sense, I just cant pull the trigger. The fact that the Saints are down to Mo Morris and an injury-slowed Reggie Bush at running back would scare me against any other playoff team. I think the lack of the running game has helped force Drew Brees into a un-Brees like 22 interceptions. Couple that with the fact that their defense is not the turnover machine it was all of last year and that they will not play a postseason game in the Superdome and I do not think that they are long for this playoff world. But I still like them on the road against a team that gave up 47 touchdowns this year and was outscored during the season by almost 100 points! This matchup reminds me not of an NFL playoff game, but the Meineke Car Care Bowl. The NFL was smart to get it out of the way first so its stench will be gone by the end of the weekend. Im having a problem finding a true meaning of this game besides it being a scrimmage for the defending champs.

Saturday night will be the Bluster Bowl. Well one sided bluster at least. Rex Ryan has not stopped talking since before this season started. And he and the Jets are responsible for two of the most disturbing video images of the year. First there was Antonio Cromarties attempt at reciting his childrens names and ages without stopping to think about it in Hard Knocks and then there were Rexs home movies on YouTube. Yikes! ( Some would say Ryan is the new Rex Gross-man! Wheres my rim-shot?!) Anyway, any great theatre always a good-guy and a bad-guy, Ryan loves to be bad and the NFLs hero, Peyton Manning, will always wear the white hat. As far as the actual on-field match-up goes, neither of these teams really lived up to their pre-season hype.

The Colts due to a slew of injuries and the Jets not being who we thought they were. (LOL) I still dont understand with a team that wants to pound the ball, why they got rid of Thomas Jones. I thought he fit their system perfectly and enabled the Jets to use complimentary backs around him. He and L.T. would have been a scary, albeit elderly, backfield. As it was the Jets, I believe, used Tomlinson too much and it showed during the seasons second half. And was there a bigger disappointment than Shonn Greene this year? And while I think the addition of Santonio Holmes as a wideout can make the Jets attack lethal, the fact that he has Mark Sanchez throwing to him sometimes negates that. I think once Holmes joined the team, they fell in love with the long-ball instead of what they were being given and it lead to inconsistent offensive results. As far as the Colts, it seemed that every guy on the team besides Manning and Reggie Wayne got hurt. Still they are in the playoffs for the 9th straight time and most of that can be attributed to the NFL best pitchman. With everyone going down around him, he still threw for 4700 yards and 33 tuddies and willed his team to ANOTHER division title. And Rex, did you ever notice that when we usually hear Peyton speak, hes getting paid a large sum of cash?! The true meaning of this game is that if you cant walk the walk, you cant talk the talk! I like the Colts.

Sundays early game should treat us to a slugfest. The question is if its going to be a one-sided slugfest. The Ravens are as physical as any team in the NFL and it all starts with Ray Lewis. The Sunday Night Game against the Steelers was brutal. The Ravens ended up losing, but Pittsburgh knew they got away with one as they were leaving town. The Chiefs have two of the most dynamic players in the league in Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe and I was a fan of the steady play of QB Matt Cassel, but as a team as a whole I think that they got to this dance a year early. Being man-handed (Yes, I meant that spelling. Its an homage to one of the funniest Seinfeld show bits ever!) by the Raiders and Chargers during December proved that point. In fact, look at their wins and who have they beaten? Theyre definitely a schedule darling. Well that ends, and rather abruptly, now. The Ravens have balance and play-makers and playoff veterans at every turn. They are a tough, tough team. In fact, I think they have the best shot at beating the team that plays to their north and looms over this weekend and the entire playoffs, but thats another story for another blog. The true meaning of this game is that you shouldnt bring a knife to a gunfight. The Chiefs have been fun to watch this year, but that fun will end when the more proven Harbaughs squad comes to town.

Then in the marquee game of the weekend, the game everyone, including THIS GUY, is waiting for, its the team that will break my heart EVERY TIME, versus the most despised rival of where I live. Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in! A famous movie quote? Nope. Its the description of the season that Ive had with the football team that has tormented me for my lifetime. After getting spanked by Dallas on consecutive weekends last year to gag a division title and then get booted out of the playoffs to get that over-rated Tony Romo (Honestly?!) his first postseason win, I did not have much expectation for my Eagles in this year 1 A.D. (After Donavan.) A lot of young talent, but to win you need a defense and I didnt see one. So what happened? They gave up 46 touchdowns! That is not a typo. 6-10 then, right? (Or 7-9 and a division title in the NFC West? Boo-Ya!) Well to the surprise of everyone, the offense of Mike Vick, no, not that offense, the Eagles offense of Mike Vick took the NFL by storm, (At least until an aforementioned Tuesday!) and scored an NFC high 49 touchdowns and team record and NFC high 439 points. Eagles game? Take the over! So this high-powered offense will end my suffering right? Not so fast. Wait, it will be fast. The Eagles have the fastest offense Ive ever seen, but in a cruel twist of fate, they are going to play a defense that can play just as fast, especially at linebacker. I think the Packer defense learned enough in his cameo against them, and in the subsequent tape of the Viking and Bears games, to provide that cagy old vet, defensive coordinator Dom Capers, with the formula to defuse the TNT that is the Vick offense. (Eagles offense!) On the other side, even without a run game, Aaron Rogers has lit up the league. Now, he gets to go against a unit that has given up 31 touchdowns and almost 250 yds. a game, through the AIR! I see points, a lot of points, so many in fact that I dont know if Vick can keep up. So the true meaning of this game, for me, AGAIN, is that you cant always get what you want.

So there you have it, I like 3 road teams to win this weekend, and the team that started the year with the most hype, and my AFC preseason Super Bowl nod, to take a seat. In my usual ironic twist, my preseason pick for the NFC side of SB XLV, will knock out the team I root for most. Nice! And remember, these picks are straight up, for as I learned during 2010, the true meaning of insanity, is trying to bet this years games against the spread. MERRY NEW YEAR!

Pat Summitt used the sport to empower women at Tennessee and beyond

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Pat Summitt used the sport to empower women at Tennessee and beyond

Needing yet another men's basketball coach, Tennessee officials turned to the one person they thought would be perfect to take over the Volunteers program.

Pat Summitt said no.

She wasn't interested in the job in 1994 after Wade Houston was forced out, and she turned it down again when Jerry Green quit in March 2001. A Tennessee governor once joked he wouldn't have his job if Summitt ever wanted to run her home state.

Breaking the glass ceiling in the men's game, political office, that wasn't Summitt's motivation. She had the only job she ever really wanted.

"I want to keep doing the right things for women all the time," Summitt said in June 2011 after being inducted into her fifth Hall of Fame.

Summitt died Tuesday morning at age 64.

The woman who grew up playing basketball in a Tennessee barn loft against her brothers, and started coaching only a couple years after Title IX was invoked, spent her life working to make women's basketball the equal of the men's game. In the process, Patricia Sue Head

Summitt stood amongst the best coaches in any sport when she retired in April 2012 with more victories (1,098) than any other NCAA coach and second only to John Wooden with eight national championships.

Summitt used the sport and her demand for excellence to empower women and help them believe they can achieve anything, taking no backseat to anyone.

When I moved to Tennessee in 1976, girls played six-on-six, half-court basketball designed to protect them from getting hurt. Summitt, who took her Lady Vols to four AIAW Final Fours, refused to recruit Tennessee players. Tennessee high schools switched to five-on-five rules starting with the 1979-80 season.

The NCAA finally started running a national postseason tournament for the women in 1982. At the time, Summitt was known for having "corn-fed chicks" on her roster, big and strong but not talented enough to win national titles. After she won her first national title in 1987 in her eighth Final Four either in the AIAW or NCAA, she said, "Well, the monkey's off my back."

Back then only a student ID was needed to attend a women's game. And there was no demand for the results of those games. After graduating from Tennessee, I helped the sports writers by bringing notes from an NCAA Tournament game back to the office for someone else to write up. There was no urgency since there was no reader demand.

So Summitt worked to make it impossible to ignore her team or the women's game.

By January 1993, so many people wanted to watch then-No. 2 Tennessee visit top-ranked Vanderbilt that the contest became the first Southeastern Conference women's game to sell out in advance. With children under 6 allowed in free, having a ticket didn't guarantee getting through the door; at least 1,000 were turned away at the door - including Vanderbilt's chancellor.

The Lady Vols won 73-68, a game I covered in my first year as a sports writer for The Associated Press in Nashville.

"This was the biggest game in women's basketball, and that's what I've been waiting 19 years to see," Summitt said. "I'm glad I stayed around to see it."

Summitt scheduled opponents anywhere and everywhere, barnstorming the country to introduce people to women's basketball. Tennessee played Arizona State in 2000 in the first women's outdoor game played at then-Bank One Ballpark, drew the largest crowd ever to a regional championship in March 1998 when 14,848 packed Memorial Gym in Nashville with Tennessee trying to finish off the NCAA's first three-peat and helped Louisville set a Big East record christening the KFC Yum! Center in 2010.

The Lady Vols became must-see TV in the sport as Summitt put the women's game on the national stage with six national titles in the span of 12 years.

I remember when I got real up-close look at what drove Summitt.

Assigned to cover Summitt as part of AP's annual college basketball preview package in the fall of 1998, I spent nearly 30 minutes with the coach in her office.

Door closed, Summitt gave a glimpse of that famous stay-away stare. With undivided attention now on me, she wanted to know if I had talked with her mother, Hazel, for the story. She then showed me the engaging side, laughing when asked about a stretch of play during the 1998 title game that resembled the Showtime Lakers, beaming while reflecting on how well her Lady Vols showed women could play the game.

The Lady Vols lost 69-63 to Duke that season in the East Regional. The next day I left a message at Summitt's house and late that afternoon, she called back to talk about more life lessons and basketball.

"It's a game, and winning and losing both can be great ways to teach kids how to get ready for the real world," said Summitt, who had to stop the interview because her mother had given son, Tyler, a gift. She explained he would have to save some of that cash before buying something for himself. Then she resumed the conversation about the game.

That was Pat Summitt: Hoops and family.

She held everyone to the exacting standards she learned from her father cutting tobacco and helping bale hay on the family farm. Tennessee and Connecticut was the biggest draw in women's basketball with Geno Auriemma and his Huskies handing Summitt her lone title game loss in 1995. But Summitt canceled the series in 2007 and refused to say why other than, "Geno knows."

Summitt ended a nine-year championship drought with her seventh national title in 2007 followed by the eighth in 2008. She became the first NCAA coach to win 1,000 games Feb. 5, 2009, and received a new contract that boosted her annual salary to $1.4 million - far removed from the $8,900 of her first season.

She never got to the 40th season in that contract, her career cruelly and prematurely ended by early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type. She finished 1,098-208 with 18 Final Fours, at the time tying the men of UCLA and North Carolina for the most by any college basketball program.

Not that numbers define Summitt, who once said, "Records are made to be broken."

Yes, all marks fade, but no one will eclipse Summitt's contributions to women's basketball.

How Far Will You Take It? - The Wrigley Field Scoreboard

How Far Will You Take It? - The Wrigley Field Scoreboard

Despite the recent renovations to Wrigley Field, one iconic feature of the century-old ballpark remains the same. The scoreboard.

Still manually operated as it has always been since its installation in 1937, the iconic scorebard is part of the rich tradition of Wrigley Field. With the construction of two large video boards in left and right fields, the center-field scoreboard stands tall to link changing Wrigley with its historic past. 

Kelly Crull takes a ride around Wrigleyville in the all-new Toyota RAV4 Hybrid to bring you the history and evolution of the iconic Wrigley Field scoreboard. 

Buddy Ryan changed the NFL game forever – and more than once

Buddy Ryan changed the NFL game forever – and more than once

One very distinguished voter for Pro Football Hall of Fame inclusion once explained a criterion of his for inclusion in the league’s most hallowed circle: If you wrote the history of football, would you have to include this individual?

Buddy Ryan is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame; he should be, but that’s for another discussion, another time. Because the simple fact is that if you were indeed writing a history of the National Football League, that history would be incomplete without Buddy Ryan.

“I think Buddy changed the game of football,” said Mike Ditka, Bears head coach with Ryan as his first, albeit inherited, defensive coordinator. “He is the reason why teams started going to all these three- and four-receiver sets.

“He never let offenses do what they wanted. The game of football is what it is today because of Buddy.”

Ryan did not create great defense. That had been done wholly or in parts by others – Bill George, George Allen, Dick Butkus, and so on. But what Buddy Ryan did echoes down through the history of the NFL, in more a few of its defining moments.

Super Bowl III is always remembered as Joe Namath’s day. Obscured by all that Namath and the New York Jets’ offense did was what the defensive line of Buddy Ryan was doing to the Baltimore Colts, specifically holding them to exactly seven points, on a late afterthought touchdown, a team that was coached by Don Shula and included John Mackey, Jimmy Orr and averaging nearly 29 points per game.

Super Bowl III was beyond cataclysmic for the growth of the modern NFL. And all that was long before Super Bowl XX.

Maybe the best measure of how truly great a coach Ryan was lay in the fact that he managed to turn OFFENSIVE players into fire-breathers.

“He’d say to the offensive line, ‘you fatasses can’t block anybody in practice, how you gonna do it in a game?’” recalled Hall of Famer Dan Hampton. “And [left tackle Jimbo] Covert and [left guard Mark] Bortz would just turn into animals.”

Ryan loved his players. But it was tough love, affection that had to be earned, and once earned, was something they treasured.

At the end of Otis Wilson’s rookie (1980) season, No. 55 may have been the team’s first-round pick, but Ryan was publicly blunt.

“We did OK, but that ‘55’ killed us," Ryan said after one game. 

Wilson turned the humiliation into something, becoming a student of the game, his craft, even to the point of cramming for Ryan’s legendary written tests.

“'I’m out of school, Buddy,'" Wilson said he wailed. “'Why you givin’ me these exams?'"

“You need to understand the total package,” Ryan ordered. “I want you to know what everybody’s doing.”

Today that sounds almost quaint; everybody’s supposed to know everybody else’s assignments. But never lose sight of the originator, who beat that concept into every head on his defense.

In the end, Ryan belonged to more than Chicago. He was a Jet. He was a Viking. He was Bear. He was an Eagle. And finally a Cardinal.

He belonged to the NFL, which, exactly as Ditka said, was changed forever by him.