Shots Anyone?

Shots Anyone?

Friday, December 11

Its the holiday season, and what does that mean? Work holiday parties where everyone wants to celebrate to the max. Well, remember, these are your work mates, not your family, and theyll remind you of everything you did. And as always heed the advice of a seasoned professional behind the bar, especially if hes starting to resemble St. Nick.
VILLAINS WANTED: Its easy to bash Notre Dame Football these days for any number of reasons. So easy in fact that it gets kind of boring. When you root for someone, I guess it would make sense that you root against someone else. Having gone to Penn State in the eighties, the school that was most fun to root against was the Fighting Irish. They were an easy target, and because they were usually good, beating them meant something. Now what does it mean? Heres hoping that their new coach can come in and have a little success (not too much!), so I can get riled up again. I mean, how can you develop any venom towards Boise State, T.C.U or Cincinnati? Cmon N.D., get your act together!

GO CATS!: As a sidebar to the N.D. coaching search, Im just glad that it did not include Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald. Im a big fan of Coach Fitz. He doesnt strike me as one of these coaching carousel kind of guys. When he talks of his passion for his school and commitment to his players, I believe him. In fact, he fires me up! He would have been just the answer for Notre Dame. Thank goodness they didnt ask the question. I know Ill start my New Years Day watching the Wildcats and hoping they get that elusive second bowl win against Auburn in the Outback Bowl.

ITS OVER! ITS ALL OVER!: Of course since I mentioned Penn State, youd be right to assume Im a Joe Paterno fan, and that Ive been paying attention to what has happened in Tallahassee. Ive always wanted Joe to own the college football wins record, but if Bobby Bowden would have gotten it, what are you going to do? The guys a winner, and their battle to see who would own the record was amazing. Consider that they both are 65 wins past the old record, held by Bear Bryant, and not only that, the next active guy, Frank Beamer, is 155 wins behind Bowden! Ive been asked a million times about how long I thought that Jo Pa should coach, and Ive always answered, as long as he wants! Joes done it the right way and built the P.S.U. program in to a perennial power, he can leave when hes done. Think they didnt want the record, or keep an eye on each other? Bowdens famous line about the record when asked about a few years ago was that he checked the obituaries everyday! This would be a war of attrition and the last man standing would win. That man is Paterno. Im just glad that Joe didnt win because of wins taken away, rather, that it was because of the results on the field. I cant wait for win 400 next year.
WHERES THE BUS?: The 2 things that Lovie said he would do while he was coach was to get of the bus running, and beat the Packers. You can ask Brian Urlacher about how that running thing is going. As far as beating the Packers, hes 7-4 including two season sweeps in six seasons, not bad, especially considering what the Packers had done to the Bears in the decade before his arrival. But, I cant remember a Packer week that had this little enthusiasm. In my 15 years living here, Ive learned to dislike the team from the north in the oldest rivalry in the NFL. You could always tell Packer week at the bar, since the conversation got a little livelier. Its fun making fun of Packer fans! But when your most despised rival comes to town and it elicits only yawns, maybe its time to look in the mirror. I, along with Bears fans, have a bad feeling about this game. Lets hope Im wrong, the cheddar-heads dont mind giving back the abuse.

NVL: One of the things that should be understood about fan-hood is the act of tough love. Showing ones displeasure about a team that you root for is not wrong, its part of being a fan. In fact, if you care, and theyre bad, its un-avoid-a-Bull. The events of the last week have me thinking about our old friend Stormin Norman. I cant tell you how many times, when discussing the Bulls, the phrase, What do you think Norm would have said? has been uttered. I can only imagine his reaction after the shoe-tying incident in last Saturdays Bulls game. I cant think of it without smiling. Bulls fans miss you Norm.

DONT TOUCH THAT STOVE!: Something else not garnering a lot of interest at the bar is Chicago hot-stove talk. Dont get me wrong, its a baseball bar and well always have lots of baseball talk, but there doesnt seem to be a lot of feeling that anything significant will be done. On the Southside, thats understandable due to last seasons Peavy and Rios deals, and the earlier acquisition this off-season of Mark Teahen. The Northside is being held hostage by you-know-who, again. If you ask any fan, ANY, they say just eat the contract and move on. Theyve had enough and so should the Cubs. I understand the benefit of maxing out every deal, but some deals have benefits that arent as easy to calculate. Like taking a 400 lb. weight off your back, you cant imagine the relief. The weight of expectation on this franchise is NEVER going to go away. Its time to concentrate on the many other things that must be done to fix this team for a hopeful run at a 2010 title, and you cant start until that first step.

Marcus Kruger 'pretty close' to returning for Blackhawks

Marcus Kruger 'pretty close' to returning for Blackhawks

Marcus Kruger has been sidelined a little longer than the originally expected three weeks with his right hand injury. Not that any missed time is enjoyable.

"I wanted to get back there probably a few weeks ago but unfortunately I couldn't," said Kruger, who suffered his injury on Dec. 30 against the Carolina Hurricanes. "I tried to listen to the doctors and do everything I can instead to be ready when I get cleared. That's my mindset."

Kruger is close, but not quite there, as the Blackhawks prepared for Sunday night's game against the Vancouver Canucks. Kruger skated with his teammates for the first time since being injured but wasn't among the line rushes. The center took faceoffs on his own at the end of practice. Kruger pronounced himself, "pretty close," to returning. Coach Joel Quenneville said the Blackhawks will see how Kruger is over the next few days. The Blackhawks play again Tuesday and Thursday before heading into the All-Star break this weekend.

The Blackhawks have missed Kruger's versatility and especially his play on the penalty kill. The Blackhawks' kill has been fine through Kruger's absence but he nevertheless is a big part of it when he's healthy.

"We have a lot of options and when he's out everyone gets a more important role, whether starting or faceoffs. And we have a rotation of five guys who are in there most of the time. But he definitely absorbs the most responsibility when he's playing in that area," Quenneville said of Kruger. "So it's nice you get to try some other guys and you get deeper as you go along."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

One of the players who's emerged in Kruger's absence is Tanner Kero, who filled his third-line center void. Kero and linemates Vinnie Hinostroza and Marian Hossa clicked on the dads trip, coming up with big plays and points in the Blackhawks' victories over Colorado and Boston. As of now, Kero appears to have the hold on third-line center.

"I don't see too many things that would change his positioning because he really helped himself," Quenneville said.

Kruger said he's fine if that means returning to fourth-line center duties. Regardless, he'll help bolster the Blackhawks' forward lines. The last step is likely contact, which Kruger got a little of – outside of faceoffs – in Sunday's skate. Kruger's had to wait a little longer than expected on his injury but he's getting there.

Cubs, White Sox react to tragic deaths of Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

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AP

Cubs, White Sox react to tragic deaths of Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

The sports world woke up to some tragic news on Sunday morning.

Former major leaguer Andy Marte and Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura were both killed in separate car accidents in the Dominican Republic within an hour of each other, according to multiple reports. A Royals representative confirmed the death of 25-year-old Ventura.

The Cubs and White Sox took to Twitter to give their condolences:

Ventura was a member of the Royals from 2013-16 and won a World Series title in 2015 with Ben Zobrist and Wade Davis, who the Cubs acquired this offseason for Jorge Soler. Ventura also played with White Sox pitcher James Shields in 2013-14.

Marte, 33, played a majority of his seven-year career with the Cleveland Indians. He was teammates with Todd Hollandsworth (Atlanta 2005), Kerry Wood (Cleveland 2009-10), and Miguel Montero (Arizona 2014).