Holiday Cheer!

Holiday Cheer!

Wednesday, December 30

Now that the stress of the Christmas part of the holidays is over, I can concentrate, or should I say re-concentrate on sports. Besides Team Frankie O in the fantasy football playoffs I havent had as much time for the sports world. Well that ends now!

Ive always considered the New Years holiday as kind of like my Opening Day. All of the frustrations of the past year are gone and I hit the reset button. As always, I have great anticipation, and am convinced that, finally, this is the year. Now usually I open up on the road because Im at work, but this year Im off so Ill open at home. And I couldnt have picked a better year. New Years Eve is stacked with bowl games and Ill probably catch most of them, in between snacks.

But a game Ive been waiting for since the hockey season started will be on the 31st this year. The New Jersey Devils are coming in to play the Blackhawks and this will be a real test. Over the last 15 years or so, or when Martin Brodeur became their goaltender, the Devils have been good, but then there is a year when they have the look, usually it ends with them hoisting the Cup, three times in fact. Well, they have that look again. It all starts with Brodeur. I dont think that most people could name 2 other people on their team, but with Brodeur, who cares? They start with him and build the team out. Whos 2 behind the Hawks in goals against? The Devils. Whos tied with the Hawks for most points? The Devils.

Who has beaten the defending Stanley Cup Champion 3 times, in their own building, by a combined score of 12-1? Thats right, you guessed it, the Devils. Theyve got the look all right. One thing in the Hawks favor though, is that the Devils are on the second night of a back-to-back (Pittsburgh again, this time in New Jersey), and their 4th game in 6th nights. They should be a little tired, but then again, there is that guy in net. I cant wait for the game. It will make a statement to the league about both teams. And, I know, a little early, but if youre dreaming the big dream, this could be the team that ultimately stands in the way.

After a couple hours of sleep, it will be right back to the sofa for an early, for a nocturnal bartender anyway, trifecta of 2 bowl games and the Winter Classic starting at 10:00 am. (How do people get up that early?!) First up is Northwestern in the Outback Bowl. Like Ive said here many times, Im a fan of Coach Pat Fitzgerald and love how his teams play. They dont quit. I think its time for them to get the schools second bowl victory and first in 61 years, especially after their heart-breaking loss last year in over-time in the Alamo Bowl. Go Cats!

Then, near the end of the NW game, its time to watch two of MY teams, unfortunately I dont feel good about either one. At noon, Penn State takes on LSU in the Capital One Bowl and the Philadelphia Flyers take on the Boston Bruins in Fenway Park in the 3rd Winter Classic hockey game.

Any time a team from the Big 10 takes on one from the SEC, there is concern. With PSU this year, the two times they played tough, fast defenses, (Ohio State and Iowa) they looked over-matched and got spanked. LSU is very tough and physical on the defensive side, and like most SEC teams, scary fast. This could get ugly. One thing though, Joe Paterno owns the all-time record for bowl wins (23) and this is because, given time, he can come up with a game-plan to play anybody. Thank goodness hes had plenty of time, (7 weeks) I hope hes been staying up late!

As for the Flyers, theyve had a tumultuous season to say the least. Carrying the weight of high expectations, they started out good, then, out of nowhere fell apart. (Sound familiar?) This led to their coach getting fired. It was a classic case of getting rid of the nice guy, players coach, and replacing him with the stern task-master. Theyre probably having lots of fun in their clubhouse these days. NOT! It seems to be working though, theyre on a little winning streak, and actually went into Boston and beat the Bruins 3-1 two weeks ago. Ill keep my fingers crossed. But the thing about the game, obviously, is watching them skate around in Fenway. It looked awesome here at Wrigley last year and I wouldnt expect it to be any less so this year. Will there be Chow-dah at the end of the bench to help keep the players warm?

After the inevitable afternoon nap, Ill be ready for the Granddaddy. Doesnt matter whos playing, Ill always watch the Rose Bowl. Does any other football field look better on TV? Someday Ill have to go and check it out for myself.

Then its time for the soap-opera that will be the Sugar Bowl. Whats superman going to do next? Deliver a baby at halftime? And, whither Urban Meyer? Do you think the announcers will talk about the game at all? Keep Tom Brennaman away! Im glad the games on New Years Day though. I like that Im able to watch almost all of the big-time traditional bowls, since for the BCS they spread them out, but theres still a part of me that misses the log-jam of games that used to occur on the 1st. I'll just have to make do with the 5 games that are on, stretching out for 13 hours, finishing off with the Sugar Bowl, which will provide the perfect background noise for me to doze off to.

I cant wait. The two-day New Years sports feast will be the perfect way to start the year and, most importantly, help me get my sports swerve back on! And, not a moment too soon, because the NFL playoffs are less than 10 days away, and Ive got to be ready for that heartbreak!

Happy New Year!

Fire can't hold onto halftime lead, settle for draw with LA

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Fire can't hold onto halftime lead, settle for draw with LA

The Fire had a chance to continue the momentum from Saturday’s win at Montreal, but couldn’t put the finishing touches on a second-straight win.

Instead, the Fire settled for a 2-2 draw at home against the LA Galaxy on Wednesday after the Fire led at halftime.

After a dull first quarter of the match, the game featured four goals, two more called back for offside, a number of close chances and wide open play.

LA’s U.S. national teamer Gyasi Zardes opened the scoring in the 31st minute and the floodgates opened soon after. Zardes pounced on a loose ball in the box with a hard and low shot after the Fire couldn’t fully clear a cross.

Just three minutes later the Fire (5-11-8, 23 points) equalized with a goal that also required a couple deflections to wind up at the feet of an open shooter. Michael de Leeuw headed a cross on frame and LA goalkeeper Clement Diop came up with the initial save. However, the save bounced off A.J. DeLaGarza’s face and landed right to Arturo Alvarez, who scored with a half volley.

[SHOP: Get your own Fire jersey here]

The Fire completed the turnaround when Luis Solignac was tripped in the box for a penalty kick, which David Accam converted to give the hosts a 2-1 lead in the 39th minute.

In the second half, Chicago had a golden opportunity to take a two-goal lead when David Accam chased down a long ball and dribbled around LA goalkeeper Clement Diop. Diop came way off his line and Accam easily took him out of the play. Instead of shooting at an open net, he dribbled into the box and passed to Luis Solignac, who missed the shot with two defenders, but still no goalkeeper in his way.

The Galaxy (9-4-12, 39 points) later made the Fire pay when two substitutes connected. Alan Gordon centered a ball to Giovany Dos Santos, who scored with his first touch.

In addition to not starting Dos Santos, LA didn’t include Robbie Keane or Steven Gerrard in the matchday lineup and Nigel De Jong was available as a substitute but didn’t play.

The Fire next play Saturday at D.C. United.

Notre Dame disappointed, embarrassed as it moves on from weekend arrests

Notre Dame disappointed, embarrassed as it moves on from weekend arrests

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Brian Kelly went through three stages of emotions after learning that six of his players were arrested in two separate incidents over the weekend. 

First, the seventh-year Irish coach was disappointed. Then he was embarrassed for the university.

“And then I was mad as hell,” Kelly said. 

Kelly dismissed senior safety Max Redfield and indefinitely suspended cornerback Devin Butler in a stern statement released Sunday, and meted out internal discipline for running back Dexter Williams, cornerback Ashton White, linebacker Te’von Coney and wide receiver Kevin Stepherson. Those four players — Williams, White, Coney and Stepherson — are practicing will be available for Notre Dame’s season opener against Texas unless Notre Dame’s Office of Community Standards decides to take further disciplinary action against them. 

Butler, who was charged with two felonies on Tuesday and pleaded not guilty to those charges on Wednesday, remains indefinitely suspended, Kelly said. 

Notre Dame players, though, would prefer to move on from a tumultuous weekend that cost them their starting safety and plenty of goodwill in the public eye. 

“We’ve had enough meetings, it’s been talked about enough and I think it’s time to put our heads down, start working and get ready to go down to Austin, Texas and win a football game,” offensive lineman Mike McGlinchey, who was one of four team captains named on Wednesday, said. “That’s what we’re looking to do and I think our team is right on track. The last couple days they’ve put their heads down, ready to work, practice has been (guys) flying around and having fun. I think that’s what our focus needs to be on at this point. Coach Kelly and his staff and the university will handle what needs to be handled and it’s our job to play and win football games.” 

Wide receiver and newly-minted captain Torii Hunter Jr. echoed that sentiment: “We’re just looking to go forward and just make better choices as a team”

Still, there’s no whitewashing the disappointment of the arrests. Notre Dame wrapped up preseason camp on Friday, and within less than 12 hours had six players arrested. Butler was charged with resisting law enforcement and battery against a public safety official, both of which are felonies; Redfield, Williams, White, Coney and Stepherson were all charged with possession of marijuana and Redfield, Williams and Stepherson were charged with illegal possession of a firearm, all of which are misdemeanors. 

“It’s a disappointing situation,” defensive end and captain Isaac Rochell said. “You never want to be in this situation. I don’t need to do anything (as a captain) — I trust the coaching staff, I trust coach Kelly. And my only job is to support and enforce what he says to do. But bottom line, I trust them.”

Kelly said he hopes his players can take away messages about not making “selfish” decisions and representing more than just themselves out of last weekend’s incidents. The impact of those arrests will be felt immediately in Texas, when true freshman Devin Studstill and sixth-year graduate student (and natural in-the-box strong safety) Avery Sebastian are in line to fill in for Redfield at free safety. 

When asked why Redfield received a harsher punishment than the others, Kelly declined to get into specifics. 

“There’s a lot of things going on there,” Kelly said. “I think any time you dismiss somebody from the program, that’s serious. So I would say the best way to characterize that is it’s gotta be serious for me to dismiss somebody from the program.”

Sending Redfield away may hurt Notre Dame’s on-field production, but Kelly felt it was the right, and necessary thing to do. And with it made, the Irish will aim to push forward and put the the disappointment and embarrassment of the weekend behind them with a focus on Sept. 4’s trip to Texas. 

“You have to be prepared as a college coach, unfortunately, to deal with some poor decisions,” Kelly said. “They crop up. I think you have to be as fair but you also have to be quick in making decisions. And when they don’t square with your mission or philosophy in your program or your university, you can’t be afraid to make decisions. And you can’t be swayed by external factors. You gotta do the right thing.”

Preview: Channel Seed Ag Bowl opens Iowa football season Thursday on CSN+

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Preview: Channel Seed Ag Bowl opens Iowa football season Thursday on CSN+

High School football is back in Iowa as you can catch the fourth annual Channel Seed Ag Bowl live on CSN+ on Thursday night.

This year's game will feature the visiting Northeast Rebels as they take on the Central DeWitt Sabers in a game that will start at 7:00 p.m.

Taking place at Birney Field in Dewitt, this game is the season opener for both schools as these two haven't matched up on the gridiron since 1984. The former Big Bend Conference rivals are only 20 minutes apart but haven't played in over 30 years as Thursday's game should make for a unique atmosphere.

Besides the live CSN+ broadcast, you can also see this game streaming live on CSNChicago.com as you can find the live stream here. If you wish to find CSN+ click here for the channel finder