Olympic Glory

Olympic Glory

Friday, Feb. 12, 2010
9:19 AM

Its that time once again when the world, or at least a part of it, comes together to celebrate sport. Sorry if youve (not) heard this before, but is anyone paying attention? Besides the NHL involvement, I cant say that Ive heard anyone talking about it. Wheres Gillooly when you need him? Wheres the hype machine? Well as were about to find out, sometimes you dont need one. I know theyve been X-gamed out a little bit, but the Winter Olympics always seemed to be a little more fun to me, a little more about the athletic endeavor. I mean, you ski how far, then shoot things? Now that takes dedication! Not to mention, what a great idea. There should be more tings that combine a sport with shooting things. Oh, right, we already have the NBA!

Obviously the best thing about these games will be the individual and collective inspirational stories of the athletes involved. (Im not always old and bitter, well almost!) For the most part I like everyone else, dont know about many of the athletes (or sports) that Im about to be compelled by, but I will. Well not all of the sports. I swear they explain the rules of curling at every Olympics (even the summer ones!) and I can never remember what the heck theyre trying to do. And another thing, what is the difference between the skeleton and luge? Any other sports that can be reversed? (Easy!)

Anyway, what I always take from any Olympics, after I get through all of the baggage, is the thrill of competition and what it means to these athletes. For some of us, as you get older, the competitions get further and further apart, so most of my thrill of competition is to watch those waging it. For the vast majority of these competitors, this is it. No big endorsements or pro careers. They get one or two shots at achieving greatness and thats it. Thats a lot of pressure. When someone is able to achieve success, or near, you cant help but not feel for them. Or better yet, feel a connection with them. As we all go through our lives, we all face many battles and hurdles along the way. But we persevere because thats what we have to do, usually anonymously and without a lot of fanfare, same as many of the winter athletes. There arent as many sports, nor as many viewers. But the humanness of competition, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat will be felt by all of us who do watch.

So sit back, or come into your favorite establishment (33 W. Kinzie) and enjoy the Games as they unfold with the understanding that, almost without fail, something cool is about to happen that you never thought you would appreciate or understand. Take it for what it is, someone giving there all and being rewarded for it.

Expansion of the College Football Playoff field continues to seem inevitable


Expansion of the College Football Playoff field continues to seem inevitable

There were six teams deserving of reaching the College Football Playoff this season. But there were only four spots.

But what if there were more spots?

An expansion of the Playoff field to eight teams has seemed inevitable from the day the four-team system was announced. Four more Playoff games means oodles more TV viewers, which means oodles more dollars.

And then we wouldn't be having all these arguments, either — but that's nonsense because of course we would, trying to figure out who got snubbed from the expanded bracket.

But this season's emphasis on the conference-champion debate might kick the efforts to expand the Playoff into high gear. Just take it from NCAA president Mark Emmert.

Now, technically speaking, there are 10 FBS conferences, each of which crowns a champion at the end of every football season. Emmert is obviously referring to the Power Five conferences: the Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, Pac-12 and SEC. He might want to pick his words a bit more carefully, considering he represents the other five conferences — the American, Conference USA, the MAC, the Mountain West and the Sun Belt — too, but his point remains understood.

This season has sparked a ton of controversy as the Playoff selection committee opted for the first time to include a team that did not win its conference, Ohio State, and it picked the Buckeyes over the Big Ten champs, Penn State. Plus, Big 12 champion Oklahoma was passed over in favor of non-champion Ohio State, too, actually falling behind another non-champion from the Big Ten, Michigan, in the final Playoff rankings.

With that decision brought the reasonable question of how much a conference championship should matter in getting a team into the final four and competing for a national championship.

The Playoff committee's mission is to pick the country's four best teams, and there aren't many people out there that will argue that Ohio State isn't one of the country's four best teams. But there's something to be said for winning a conference championship because if the Buckeyes can waltz into the Playoff without even playing in the Big Ten title game, why even have a conference championship game — besides, obviously, earning one more night of big-time TV money.

And so the call for an expanded Playoff bracket has reached perhaps its greatest volume in the short time the Playoff has existed. The obvious solution to Power Five conference champions continually being boxed out is to lock in five spots on the bracket for the five conference champions. Then, guarantee a spot for the highest-ranked team from the Group of Five conferences, and you're left with two "at-large" spots that this season would've gone to Ohio State and Michigan, two of the highest-profile programs in the country sure to drive TV viewership in battles against conference-champion Alabama, Clemson, Washington, Penn State and Oklahoma teams. And P.J. Fleck's undefeated Western Michigan squad takes the final slot.

That's quite the field. But if you think it would've solved all this year's problems, you're wrong. Still there would've been outcry that red-hot USC didn't make the field. The Trojans are playing so well that they could very well win the whole thing, despite their three early season losses. That debate over snubs will exist forever, no matter the size of the field, something we see play out each and every season in the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

Also, what a damper an expanded bracket would put on the final few weeks of the regular season. Ohio State's game against Michigan, the highest-rated game of the college football season with more than 16 million people watching, would've been effectively meaningless. No matter who won or lost, both teams would've made that eight-team field, right?

Additionally, another round of Playoff football would expand the season to 16 games for some teams. That means more physical demands on student-athletes and a season cutting deep into January, which would impact their educational and time demands.

But again, an expansion of the Playoff bracket has always seemed inevitable. There's too much money to be made, and at the same time fans seem to be all about that idea. People love the postseason for good reason, and the win-or-go-home nature of the NFL playoffs make those games the most-watched sporting events of the year.

Now the NCAA president is chiming in with hopes of an expanded field. So really isn't it just a matter of time?

Road Ahead: Blackhawks dealing with rash of injuries

Road Ahead: Blackhawks dealing with rash of injuries

CSN's Chris Boden and Tracey Myers have the latest on the Blackhawks in the Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland and NW Indiana Honda Dealers.

From an injury standpoint, it's been a tough few weeks for the Blackhawks.

The Blackhawks are down two key players in captain Jonathan Toews and goaltender Corey Crawford, and now may be without defenseman Brent Seabrook who sustained an upper-body injury in Tuesday's victory over the Arizona Coyotes.

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While the Blackhawks haven't had much luck on the injury front, their upcoming two opponents are in the same boat.

"You look at the New York Rangers, a very talented team, but this is what every team goes through every season. Your depth gets tested," Myers said.

Check out what else Boden and Myers had to say about the team's upcoming matchups in this week's Honda Road Ahead