Loyal to a fault

Loyal to a fault

Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2010
3:19 PM

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

One of the frequent conversations that I will get into at the bar will involve who has the best fans. Since Im from Philadelphia, this conversation will usually start when one of my customers will tell me how horrible Philly fans are. Now I wont deny that some of my Philly brethren are knuckleheads, embarrassing actually, I just dont that think they should represent all of us thoughtful, handsome ones!

On-field tasings could happen anywhere, and for my money, should. (Wouldnt it have been great if the fatherson duo on the Southside had been dropped on the spot when they attacked the Kansas City 1st base coach? And before I hear too much crowing from the other side of town about Sox fans, let us remember that these morons spent their afternoon at Wrigley.)

My point is that ANY fan base has its issues. I just dont think that a group should be identified by a misguided few, no matter how entertaining it makes a verbal beat-down at the bar. The talk at the bar these days, seems to be a lot about baseball fans. In this town there has always been the argument about Cubs fans, and how loyal and devoted (read: better) they are because they always fill up Wrigley Field. My point has been that they might be just the opposite, although with all of the empty seats there this month, maybe not.

This is the only way that a fan has to show their displeasure, but not showing up. Now all empty seats are not created equal and should not be viewed that way. Atlanta Braves fans not showing up for playoff games has long been a joke and bringing it up is an easy way to tick one of them off! The view of outsiders, especially from the Northside, being that after 14 consecutive playoff appearances, Braves fans are jaded, and dont appreciate what they have. How about ticket prices for playoff games are jacked up, and for those 14 appearances, the Braves only have one title to show for it? Thats a lot of disappointing traffic jams on the way home. (Have you ever driven in or around Atlanta? Ouch!)

This year, there are two fan bases on opposite sides of the spectrum. Philly fans are being lauded for selling out (45,310!) Citizens Bank Park a record 122 in a row to watch their Fightins and in Tampa Bay, they cant get over 8,000 to watch the most exciting young team in baseball clinch a playoff berth, prompting star 3rd baseman Evan Longoria to publicly call it embarrassing. As far as what Longoria says, I agree. But that being said, what do you expect? Tampa is not a major market, there are many other options there for one to entertain themselves, and oh by the way, they play in the worst ballpark ever built. EVER! This is not the first time that the Rays are being thought of as a joke franchise and wont be the last, off the field that is. On the field, for right now, theyre about as good as it gets. Until, that is, they cant afford to pay all of their great young talent, and they all leave to play for real teams. In Philly is where one of the great National League teams of any generation performs and the locals have suffered through so much, (In EVERY sport!) that they cant get enough. But, speaking as a Phillies fan, just because the stadium is full every night doesnt mean that the fans are better, theyre just enjoying it more. Its the chicken-egg thing. If a team is good, they will come, if it is bad, they will not.

I think the fact of whether fans go to the ballpark, most times, is a measure of a product on the field. As consumers, we all have choices. My choice is that I can afford to spend the 500 it takes to take my family of 5 to a ballgame maybe once a year. Something that would sway my decision to go more, or less, would be the value I get for that expenditure. Everything is more fun, or can be rationalized to the Boss, when you win. Does that make me less of a fan? I read about the team every day. I watch EVERY game on TV. The games outcome, sometimes, can affect my mood. Im a die-hard! But, just because I would make a monetary decision, based on several factors, like say the convenience of only having to wait in line for the bathroom at my house for 10 minutes, doesnt mean I dont care. There are many ways to judge how much a person cares for something or how much that thing means to them. In todays electronic age of being a fan, I dont think attendance is the only one. Having a team become very good and then be adored by the local populace, doesnt mean that the fans are all front-runners. It could mean that the following of that team is just, finally, getting some reward for their investment. And I dont see anything wrong with that. Am I right Blackhawk fans?

Todd Frazier's late single lifts White Sox over Mariners

Todd Frazier's late single lifts White Sox over Mariners

The White Sox offense showed a bunch of late life on Thursday night.

Todd Frazier had two hits with runners in scoring position, including the game-winner, as the White Sox topped the Seattle Mariners 7-6 at U.S. Cellular Field. Frazier’s one-out single in the ninth inning off Nick Vincent scored Adam Eaton as the White Sox won for the fourth time in five games. Frazier’s game-winning hit was his first since June 2015 and the fifth of his career. It and a game-tying, two-out, two-run single in the seventh helped Frazier shake off a game in which he struck out three times in his first three at-bats.

“You learn something,” Frazier said. “You take the last at-bat and throw it away and just keep on going. Unfortunately, it took me three times to do that. To come up clutch today felt pretty good.”

Frazier leads the club in home runs and RBIs.

Similar to his teammates, however, Frazier has lefty plenty of chances for more damage on the table. He entered Thursday hitting .159 with runners in scoring position for a team that ranks 18th with runners in scoring position (.255).

While Frazier struck out with runners on the corners in the first inning, he succeeded in his next two tries. He picked up Jose Abreu in the seventh after the slugger struck out against Steve Cishek. Frazier sat on a slider and ripped a 2-0 pitch into left field to drive in Eaton and Tim Anderson, whose one-out RBI double made it a 6-4 game.

Then in the ninth, Frazier came through again. Eaton’s bloop single to center got things going before Anderson bunted him over. Vincent walked Abreu to get to Frazier, who singled to left again.

Frazier was previously 17-for-17 with five doubles, four homers and 42 RBIs with runners in scoring position.

“These are the best ones,” manager Robin Ventura said. “You can't rely just on the homer. There's more to his game than that. You have to be able to knock in runs when you're not hitting them over the fence. He can use the other side of the field. I think he can level it out somewhat and get some hits. Just put it in play more because you don't know know what's going to happen.”

[MORE: Rick Hahn denies rift in White Sox front office, holds off on plans for 2017]

David Robertson found that out in the top of the ninth inning when his outing was delayed for several minutes by a trio of fans who ran onto the field. Robertson worked around the delay and a one-out walk to keep the score tied at 6.

Down 2-0, the White Sox scored three times in the first inning to briefly take the lead.

Abreu and Avisail Garcia both singled in runs and Dioner Navarro had a bases-loaded sacrifice fly.

White Sox starter Anthony Ranaudo pitched well after a slow start and then ran into bad luck in the sixth inning. What looked to be a surefire double play ball kicked off Ranaudo’s glove and combined with an Anderson throwing error led to a three-run inning that put Seattle ahead 6-3.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Ranaudo allowed six earned runs in 5.1 innings.

The White Sox were 6-for-11 with runners in scoring position.

“That’s just part of it,” Robertson said. “I guess that happens some times.

“Everybody played hard. They didn’t give up at all tonight. We pitched well enough to win and had timely hitting. A few things went our way, a couple errors that really ended up giving us a few runs. A few things went our way and it was great to pick up a win.”

Jay Cutler, Dowell Loggains face deepest test yet in Bears' third preseason game

Jay Cutler, Dowell Loggains face deepest test yet in Bears' third preseason game

Third preseason games come with added significance simply because it is the one practice game in which the starters play the closest to a full game prior to the start of the regular season. But for the Bears, Saturday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs is potentially far more important for another reason.

The Kansas City game looms as something of a new tipping point in the one relationship that must function above all others for immediate success of the franchise:

The working relationship/bond between offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains and quarterback Jay Cutler.

The two-plus quarters that Cutler is expected to play will be the longest yet trial by fire for his trust in Loggains. The latter has been a coordinator previously in his career, but with less time and success in the position that most of Cutler’s previous list of coordinators.

And few of those relationships survived, let alone flourished once Cutler lost faith or belief in their messages, whether under an avalanche of sacks, poor play selection or design, or whatever.

Cutler put up the best season of his eight-year career in 2015 with Loggains as his position coach. Adam Gase was the coordinator, Gase came in with credibility from having worked with Peyton Manning in Denver. The credibility traced to not necessarily what Gase might have taught Manning, but rather because of what Gase undoubtedly LEARNED from Manning.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Saturday’s test will be far short of the ones the regular season holds, when Loggains’ offense has been scouted and schemed for. But after a stretch of “quizzes” for Cutler-Loggains, this is a “test.”

Buy-in with Loggains?

Loggains has traction with Cutler – for now. Cutler was consistent in his compliments of Loggains last year, but it was Gase ultimately in his ear on game days. Indeed, the entire offense believed in Gase: “When I’m in the huddle…and we get a play call,” offensive lineman Kyle Long said at the time, “there’s never a time where we look at each other and think, ‘Oh [darn].’”

The NFL reality is that Loggains, who has stressed an even stronger commitment to running the football (Long and associates love that), has to earn, or re-earn that gut-level trust.

Most of all, from Cutler.

The lurching start to the preseason – the Bears’ 22-0 home loss to Denver, in which the offense with Cutler netted 13 yards in 10 plays, two of them ending in sacks of Cutler – was test No. 1. The Cutler-Loggains relationship appeared to emerge intact.

“We talked,” Cutler said. “We talked a lot about that game. I think the major point for us was, ‘Let’s not panic. Let’s not hit the fire alarm and put guys in a panic.’

“Because it was the first preseason game and we watched the film and a lot of the stuff that went wrong was because of mistakes… . So it was a matter of just kind of cleaning that stuff up and just going back to work. Which I thought we did a really good job of offensively [at New England]. Hopefully we can do that this week, too.”

Tough warm-ups

NFL schedule-makers did Loggains and the Bears no favors. Their first three preseason opponents – Denver, New England, Kansas City – were all top-10 run defenses. Meaning: The Bears are working to establish Loggains’ run-based offense right into the teeth of three of the NFL’s best at stopping that.

[RELATED: Rookie class making much-needed impact from Bears]

The Bears want to run. But just consider: What if they can’t run against a monster Chiefs front that includes Jaye Howard and Dontari Poe and which held the Bears to 3.3 yards per carry, tied for their second-lowest of 2015, in their meeting last season?

Which then tasks Loggains with getting the offense to the right solutions, and those traditionally have not been – and should not be – solely found in Cutler’s right arm. The Bears streamlined and simplified Cutler’s decision-making last year, by design, and it was the right strategy, minimizing a Cutler weakness.

But now Loggains is front-and-center in those decisions. And Cutler has never appeared to suffer from an excess of patience through his career, even the new, more mature Cutler.

And not only WHAT Loggains tells Cutler, but also HOW he tells him, will matter. Gase was generally quiet; that worked. Loggains is very expressive, which Cutler said he now appreciates.

“He sets the tone every day,” Cutler said. “There’s never a gray area. He sets the tone, sets the standard, and if you don’t live up to that, meet those expectations, he’s going to be vocal, he’s going to let you know.

“As a player, that’s all you can ask for: A coach telling you how to do it, and when you don’t do it, you expect him to push you and help you achieve those goals.”

Preseason game No. 3 will be the biggest test yet for the synchronicity that is there now but needs to stand up to inevitable failures.

Illinois lands Huntley DE Olalere Oladipo

Illinois lands Huntley DE Olalere Oladipo

Illinois added another important in-state piece as Huntley three-star ranked defensive end Olalere Oladipo (6-foot-4, 235 pounds) announced his college decision Thursday night to the Fighting Illini.

"Illinois has a great staff, is close to home," according to Oladipo. "Illinois felt like a nice fit for me."

Oladipo is also the second verbal commitment Illinois added Thursday as the Fighting Illini added a commitment from Miami (Fla.) Central four-star ranked wide receiver Carmoni Green (6-foot-1, 178 pounds).

Oladipo is now the sixth in-state verbal commitment for the Fighting Illini Class of 2017. Oladipo joins St. Rita OLB Marc Mondesir, Auburn OT Verderian Lowe, Marian Catholic QB Cameron Thomas, Chicago Brother Rice WR Ricky Smalling and Bolingbrook ATH Kendall Smith.

Illinois now has 11 known verbal commitments total in the Class of 2017.