Just living the dream

Just living the dream

Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2010
4:34 PM

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

I just want to start off with a thank you to everyone who helped me with the raffle for F.I.R.S.T. and those who bought a ticket or made a donation. The final tally should be a little over 3000. Thats awesome!

Also awesome was the help of the Notre Dame athletic department in ensuring a wonderful experience for the winner and his entourage. One of my bar regulars (go figure!) was the lucky person. (I wont reveal his name here, but some do refer to him as, Shoe Alan.) That he was able to enjoy the game with his son made it even better for me.

They sent me pictures from their time on the sidelines and finished off their long day with a beverage at the bar, with whom I would think would be their new favorite bartender. How cool is that?!

As for myself, I had my own pretty cool experience last week. For just about as long as I can remember, Ive been going to the Thursday round of the Western Open. Of course when it was the Western, the tournament was played over the July Fourth weekend and drew huge crowds. That Tiger always played here, since he liked the course and liked hanging out with M.J. and taking his money in golf wagers, added to the excitement.

For the last three years the tournament has been moved to September, had a name change (The BMW Championship) and Tiger? Well, weve gone over that enough, but he still gets your full attention when you see him with a driver in his hand. Now usually, I like to walk the course once, eat a pork chop sandwich on fourteen, (you can smell them all over Cog Hill!) then pick a spot to hang out to watch the featured pairings come through, most times by the sixteenth green.

Ive had a lot of fun over the years, maybe even more since the changes have been made. One thing about the September date is that it isnt nearly as hot. For a big man lumbering around miles of hilly terrain, this is no small consideration. The other immediately noticeable thing about the September date, especially on a Thursday, is the size of the crowd. It has to be a third of what it was when it was held during the summer. And, for whatever the reasons, this year was the smallest gallery Ive ever seen following Mr. Woods.

As a golf fanatic, it doesnt get any better than to be able to get up-close to one of the top seventy in the world, walk the course with them, and see them do what they do. Or does it? One thing Ive never done too often, at any tournament, is to sit at eighteen for an extended length of time. Its always too crowded number one, and number two, since Im a commoner, I dont get to sit in the fancy-shmancy seats with the hoidy-toidys! Well, stop the presses!

Due to the largesse of another one of my regulars, (I wont reveal his name here, but some do refer to him as, Greek George.) I was able to enter a world that I could heretofore only dream existed. Its known as a luxury box. Whoa! We decided that before we walked around the course, we would see what the life of the privileged had to offer. It offers many, many things! After climbing stairs that reached to the heavens, we reached our destination. Inside, giant white leather furniture abounded, some of which conveniently surrounded large flat-screen TVs. On which if you were, say, a fan of the baseball team from the southside, you could watch their afternoon game while not missing the action on the green at 18. Thats because right outside the glass doors, were 5 rows of comfy, movie theatre style seats, overlooking the green.

After sampling one of each of the 20 food items being served, twice, and watching the Sox stumble to the end of the most disappointing 7-3 road trip ever, it was time to focus on golf. The fancy seats were no more crowded than the course below, which offered an ideal vantage point, without sacrificing comfort. Do I sound like I belonged? The next perk was something I did not expect but took full advantage of. Because who should be sitting in the seat one in front and one over from me? None other than Mr. Cub himself, Ernie Banks! Now Ive known Ernie for several years due to his frequent visits to the restaurant. And much like with Harry, many times as Im walking past his table, I seem to invariably find myself stopping by to hello, then get to meet a new cast of characters, and soon become engrossed in an entertaining conversation.

Ernie, like Harry, always seems to be surrounded by interesting people, and more to my amusement, is always surrounded by people doing or saying interesting things. This is due to the fact that Ernie, like Harry, is so approachable. But when people get close, they then realize who they are talking to and will say about anything in their nervousness. Always the gentleman, Ernie greeted all comers, even those who did not root for the Cubs (who always were harassed by the peanut gallery!) or those who might have been a little young to know who he was. The one constant though, and this is something that always come up when I talk to people about their Harry remembrances at the bar, is the connection that existed.

Everyone always has a story about a prior meeting that a loved one had before and the subsequent effect that prior encounter had. Or it was simple as someones father had been a big fan and they felt compelled to just say hello. Neat stuff. Turns out Ernie is a big golf fan, hes locked in, and especially a fan of Tiger. We sat discussing each group as they came in and what they needed to do depending on their approach shot. Soon enough, the beverages were flowing, the conversation was all over the road and we had watched about 13 groups come home.

Could 4 hours really have gone by? Since theres no one left on the course, I guess were not going to be doing much hiking today. The time just flew by, and it would soon be time to go back to the house and punch in. As I was on my way home, reflecting on what had just happened, I just laughed and thought to myself, well thats something you dont get to do every day! Then I laughed even harder when I thought that next year, Im going to be sitting in the same spot. Ive seen how the other half lives, and I like it!

Preview: White Sox, Royals tangle Friday night on CSN

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Preview: White Sox, Royals tangle Friday night on CSN

The White Sox take on the Royals on Friday, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. from Kansas City. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Miguel Gonzalez (0-1, 4.57 ERA) vs. Danny Duffy (0-0, 2.13 ERA)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

[SHOP WHITE SOX: Get your White Sox gear right here]

— Channel finder: Make sure you know where to watch.

— Latest on the White Sox: All of the most recent news and notes.

— See what fans are talking about before, during and after the game with White Sox Pulse.

Preview: Cubs, Phillies start series Friday on CSN

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Preview: Cubs, Phillies start series Friday on CSN

The Cubs take on the Phillies on Friday, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 12:30 p.m. Then catch first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Jon Lester (4-3, 2.60 ERA) vs. Adam Morgan (1-2, 5.61 ERA)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

[SHOP CUBS: Get your Cubs gear right here]

— Channel finder: Make sure you know where to watch.

— Latest on the Cubs: All of the most recent news and notes.

— See what fans are talking about before, during and after the game with Cubs Pulse.

Bears' move away from Forte part of change in run-game philosophy

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Bears' move away from Forte part of change in run-game philosophy

The Bears’ decision to move on from Matt Forte, the No. 2 running back in franchise history behind only Walter Payton in yardage, was not necessarily an easy one. It was, however, unanimous at Halas Hall, sources told CSNChicago.com. And it was also part of a significant deeper change in the main operating principle underpinning the Bears’ rushing offense.

Depending upon what Forte does with the New York Jets — and for how long — the decision might be open to question. Few NFL decisions aren’t.

But the Bears’ offense under John Fox and new coordinator Dowell Loggains was clearly going away from what Forte was accustomed to — a true featured back with a relief-back in the form of a Chester Taylor/Marion Barber/Michael Bush — and moving onto a true use of two backs in the fashion that Fox’s Denver Broncos offenses used them.

The change will be more than just a few carries. Forte lost carries last season to Jeremy Langford and Ka'Deem Carey. This is different.

Instead of Forte and an understudy, as the de facto rushing offense has been since Forte was drafted in 2008, the Bears this offseason made the decision to emphasize the run even more under Loggains, and that has meant something other than simply more carries for Forte’s understudy.

For perspective purposes: Last season Forte missed three full games due to a knee injury but still totaled 276 touches (carries plus targets) to 236 combined for Jeremy Langford and Ka’Deem Carey. When Forte returned from the three-game injury break, the offense had changed. Forte had four 20-carry games in the first six. He had one over the final six.

Forte did not appear publicly to genuinely embrace the job-sharing approach as Langford’s carries matched and in cases exceeded his own. Whether he would have been on board with ceding even more meaningful time to a co-back is another matter that would have been open to question, though any suspicions that direction are now moot.

(If Forte would have had problems with younger backs rising, he would not have been the first; Thomas Jones ultimately demanded a trade after the Lovie Smith Bears drafted Cedric Benson to broaden the run game.)

Regardless, the true multi-back system will be a change for the Bears, harking back perhaps to the Bears building their run game on two starter-grade backs in Benson and Jones. The Bears’ unsuccessful attempt to bring in C.J. Anderson from Denver suggests less a no-confidence vote in either Carey or Langford than a measure of the commitment to both competition and a depth chart with meaning past the top one or even two names. The Bears have used mid-round picks on running backs in three straight drafts (Carey, Langford, Jordan Howard this year), making the same point the Anderson interest did.

And that’s how Langford took the Howard selection to a position that where confidence in him was one of the reasons the organization was OK with parting with Forte.

“I really didn’t think too much of (the Howard pick),” Langford said. “I know it’s just competition. That’s what brings a lot of running backs, a lot of positions, to push themselves even more. Competition is always a good thing, and playing in the NFL, there’s always going to be competition, so you can’t really become too complacent as a player.”

“Complacent” wasn’t a word anyone was likely to apply to Langford, and certainly to Carey, who played his way up from a roster bubble at the end of training camp last year. And Howard as a fifth-round rookie isn’t guaranteed anything for awhile in training camp except reps with the 2s or 3s, with Jacquizz Rodgers also re-signed after an injury shortened 2015.

Loggains has been dealt a hand without an ace like Forte but with what he and the organization think can be three or four kings, depending on roster decisions at the end of August.

“We like where Jeremy’s at,” Loggains said. “He needs to continue to develop. There’s things he can do a better job of in the passing game, but we still like our other backs. Ka’Deem Carey finished strong for us last year. We obviously drafted a back. We’re excited about getting Jacquizz Rodgers back as well.”