Spring Break is good for all

Spring Break is good for all

By Frankie O

Hello again everybody! Sorry I havent been here for a while, it was time for me to once again play Clark Griswald and take the family on a spring break adventure. Hard to believe, but break time just kind of snuck up on me this year. This whole winter without Arctic Circle weather has my timing all off. March Madness came out of nowhere, and was gone before I could work up much enthusiasm. I rooted against Kentucky the entire time, and that was fun, but to no avail. The salt in the wound was the fact that I had Kansas and Kentucky in the final game and if K.U. had won, I would have celebrated along with them. Teased once again! Just like when I didnt win the 656 million Mega Millions jackpot. Like most of the people I talked to at the bar, I was buying tickets all over the Chicagoland area. Just 2 dollars here and there, but I guess they add up. Judging by the lines I stood in, I wasnt alone. (I have several different people-watching environments that amuse me to no end, as we all do, but I might have found a new favorite. Watching the interactions of all types of people waiting in line, then getting their chance to buy the golden ticket was priceless.)

That Friday at the bar was one of the few times in memory that the conversation wasnt dominated by sports talk. It was a day of speculation of what one would do with that much cash, and oddly enough, sports never entered the discussion. I found this ironic since there is hardly a time now when we talk sports and money isnt mentioned.

As with any trip, planning is a must. You cannot go on the road without the essentials, and for me that meant a new phone. This because I found out in the week before we left that my iPhone 3 was yesterdays news for keeping up with my roto baseball addiction. What?! Im not going to bore you -- at least at this time! -- with the early trials and tribulations, of which there are many, that have befallen my two teams, but being able to deal with them anytime, anywhere is a non-negotiable! I might have taken a while to get on-board the technology revolution, but Im in knee-deep now. (Or, is that in over my head?) I want information, any information, to be on my person 247 so I can access it whenever the mood strikes, or, more importantly, when I can sneak away for five minutes. Say hello to a proud new iPhone 4S owner. I cant wait until I can figure this thing out! At least I have a new woman in my life, Siri. And like the rest of them, she cant give me a straight answer. This forces my kids to ask who Im yelling at, their mother or my new cell-phone-wife. (Im just kidding, I would never yell at Siri!)

Of course, the funny thing is, that after I went to the trouble, and expense, to acquire my new traveling companion, the news it (she) gave me about my baseball teams was nothing I wanted to know. I find myself being like some managers, maybe one that you know, in that I just keep saying its early, way too much time left to panic. And like those said real managers, while I want to believe the words coming out of my mouth, I realize that Im just whistling in the dark.

As I was getting the car ready for the trip, late at night after getting home from work, I couldnt help but notice the large, illuminated orb in the sky. Typical, nothing like starting a vacation under the watchful eye of a full moon, right? And the fact that I would return to work on Friday the 13th thats not a cause for concern either, is it? Where I sit, I would expect nothing less. I laughed as I reminded myself of this as we sat in over-night construction for two hours outside Sandusky, Ohio. Wheres Tommy Boy when you need him?

While something like setting up my e-mail accounts made me want to pull my hair out, I soon was able to find one of the immediate benefits of my 4G -- HD phone: Masters.com. Im one of those who think that there cannot be enough Masters on TV. It takes forever for the network coverage to start. Well, at Masters.com there are as many as seven live streams and they start when the golfers do. How cool is that? And say youre watching the kids and theyre insistent on what they want to watch on the only TV, having a hand-held option comes in, dare I say, handy. Go ahead kids. Watch whatever you want because Daddy loves you! (And his phone!) And the great thing is that you can take your Masters coverage anywhere. Thats right, you heard me, anywhere!

The hype leading up to this years tournament was, I thought, very appropriate. There were a lot of great story lines and most of the top guys were playing very well at the same time. Unlike watching team sports, I usually have more than one rooting interest when watching golf. There are a bunch of guys that I root for and seeing any one of them doing well is cool. Cooler yet would be seeing a bunch of them in contention, together. Im always rooting for the Tiger vs. Phil, and while that was not going to be, at least Phil was in the final group on Sunday and hes as exciting as there is at Augusta. Couple that with the fact that no one except his family, and even them Im not so sure of, expected 54-hole leader Peter Hanson to remain on his perch, and this had the makings for another memorable Masters.

Having been to Augusta National, I agree that while spectacular on TV, that medium still doesnt give the golf course its due in regard to how overwhelming the surroundings are. But as a fan, I want to be watching the final round on TV because I want to be able to watch the whole story as it is being told. Being able to sit back and watch every shot of the leaders on Sunday is how I like to experience a Major. For this years Masters I was pretty much able to do that. From Louis Oosthuizens double-eagle on 2, all the way to Bubba Watsons 150 yard snap-hook from the woods to 10 feet on the second playoff hole, (10) I was on the edge of my seat, or enjoying Easter dinner, or both. It was as exciting a golf tournament that you could ever watch, let alone one that was played on the best course in the world. The best part was trying to explain what a double-eagle was to a room full of people more focused on dinner than I was, if you can imagine that.

The next day was spent downtown in Philadelphia, but not at the Phils opener as some might expect. I took the opportunity to take the kids into the city for the first time that any of them could remember. Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell were naturals to show the history. Tony Lukes was also a natural, to eat amazing, authentic cheesesteak and soak up some of the Phillies pre-game vibe. But next was about THE fictional hero of the city Im from, Rocky Balboa. First we cruised through the neighborhoods and outdoor Italian market that Rocky made so famous. After which there was only one place to go, the place he made most famous of all: The steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum. I had not been there in years but thought the kids would get a kick out of it. And even though they didnt have any idea who Rocky Balboa was, through the wonder of YouTube, they found out all they needed to know about the steps. Watching them run up and then mimic the triumphant Rock at the top was something I wont soon forget. What a blast. I guess theres a reason why places become ultimate destinations, their charm cannot be denied.

It was then time to head back home and to get ready for all the spring calendar has to offer in the world of sports. Baseball has started and even in spite of rampant pessimism of fans on both sides of town, there are going to be storylines to follow all summer long. But the main focus right now has to be on the playoffs: The ones in hockey that are already off to a riveting start and of course, the good versus evil narrative that will be the Bull vs. Heat. For a fan, this will be non-stop, every night for the next two months. This is better than the gifts under the tree at Christmas, although, like Christmas gifts, some might not be happy with what they receive. But the season is going to give until it, and every player that is left standing, hurts. These are the best four-round reality shows on this earth and in June there will be only one team left standing in each sport. I cant wait to see who they are and thanks to my hiatus, Im as ready as the players to get on with it. While Im pretty confident that the Bulls and Heat are going to meet again, and I cant wait, there is another rematch out there that I dont know if Im ready to handle again. It always happens when you least expect it, so Im watching out for a meeting in the NHL Finals of a 5 and 6 seed, the ultimate reality show for yours truly, Flyers-Hawks. Can you imagine? Thank goodness Im rested up, lets watch and get ready, its going to be an interesting ride.

IHSA Football Playoff Pairing Show Saturday on CSN

IHSA Football Playoff Pairing Show Saturday on CSN

The IHSA Football Playoff Pairing Show returns to CSN for the sixth-straight year on Saturday night at 8 p.m.

The Playoff Pairing Show, also streaming live on CSNChicago.com and IHSA.tv, will reveal the brackets and first round matchups for all 256 playoff qualifiers across eight classes.

"The IHSA Football Playoff Pairing Show' continues to be one of the most highly-anticipated events in the state of Illinois and we couldn't be prouder to once again showcase two-straight hours of live, interactive coverage to our on-air and online viewers on Saturday night," CSN Chicago VP/GM Phil Bedella said. "This show is the perfect precursor to kick off our IHSA Football season, which includes four live playoff battles, along with live coverage of all eight championship match-ups."

CSN's Leila Rahimi will host Saturday's show and be joined alongside IHSA TV announcer Dave Bernhard, Kankakee Daily Journal writer and bracketologist Steve Soucie. CSNChicago.com Preps contributor Edgy Tim and IHSA TV veteran Matt Rodewald will analyze each class with media members from around the state. 

[MORE: Complete Preps coverage

In addition, the Playoff Pairing Show will feature highlights, interviews, and team and fan reaction moments throughout the "Land of Lincoln" from numerous playoff pairing parties.

The IHSA Playoff Pairing Show is a precursor to CSN's live coverage of the 2016 IHSA football postseason. CSN will air one live playoff game during each of the first four rounds and carry all eight state championship games on Friday, Nov. 25 and Saturday, Nov. 26.

Viewers are urged to visit CSNChicago.com's channel finder to find the exact channel locations in their area.

Bears Grades: Defense wears down under assault from Aaron Rodgers and Packers

Bears Grades: Defense wears down under assault from Aaron Rodgers and Packers

GREEN BAY, Wisc. — It was a bright spot, a small one on an otherwise dismal night of losing to the Green Bay Packers. But it was at least something.

After struggling for months to stay healthy and gain NFL weight, Leonard Floyd finally played like the ninth-overall pick of an NFL draft.

The rookie outside linebacker collected a sack in the first half, then exploded past Green Bay right tackle Brian Bulaga as part of stunt with fellow linebacker Willie Young on the third play of the second quarter for a second sack of Aaron Rodgers, one that came with a strip of the football and recovery in the end zone.

"We had a great play called,” Floyd said. “Willie came down and picked the guard for me and I looped around and the play was done and I made it. It felt great [to get a touchdown], but at the end of the day I wanted a win."

That was one of the very few bright spots as the Packers piled up 311 yards through three quarters, at times using wide receivers Randall Cobb and Ty Montgomery as running backs because of injuries. The drumbeat continued with touchdowns on three straight Green Bay possessions in the late third and early fourth quarters.

The defense has allowed 23 or more points in five of seven games this season, with the Packers rolling off consecutive touchdown drives of 85, 84 and 57 in the second half as the Bears were limited to 2:49 time of possession in the fourth quarter.

“It helps when you’re playing [defense], to actually have a little bit of a break,” head coach John Fox said. “Unfortunately in the second half, I think that probably caught up with us a little bit.”

The defense had its fullest complement of personnel yet this season, with outside linebackers Floyd and Pernell McPhee both active (McPhee for the first time this year following offseason knee surgery), in addition to starting cornerbacks Bryce Callahan and Tracy Porter, both of whom were injured during the Jacksonville game. It was not enough.

[BEARS GRADES: Quarterback woes take offense to new low in loss to Packers]

Defensive line: F

The interior of the line was quiet for most of the game, with wide receivers lining up as running backs averaged more than five yards per carry. Cornelius Washington had the only hit by a defensive lineman on Rodgers as the line rarely collapsed the pocket with center-push or even kept him in the pocket.

Linebacker: B-

Floyd started after two games inactive and a zero stat sheet vs. Detroit. He struggled too often getting disengaged from Green Bay left tackle David Bakhtiari at the outset before breaking through with second effort for his first career solo sack. That was topped by the strip-sack and recovery for a touchdown in the third quarter. Floyd had a third hit on Rodgers and a tackle for loss.

"It is very tough,” Floyd said. “He gets the ball out pretty quickly. You just have to keep rushing every snap. He is at his best when he is scrambling around playing backyard football."

McPhee was a welcome addition to a slumping defense, even in his limited capacity (19 snaps). McPhee was not credited with any tackles but was surprisingly fast off the ball initially, and got penetration to alter running lanes and some pressure on Rodgers, although he appeared to slow somewhat, not unexpected considering how limited he has been throughout the year because of the surgery.

Sam Acho provided some edge pressure with two hits on Rodgers and a pass deflected. Jerrell Freeman had a quarterback hit and delivered a game-high 13 tackles.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Secondary: D

The secondary was forced to cover long into plays because of absent pressure on Rodgers but the coverage had its own problems with an offense that threw 56 times but was never intercepted. Three Green Bay receivers totaled double-digit receptions: Davante Adams (13), Cobb (11) and Montgomery (10).

Cre’Von LeBlanc started at corner as the Bears opened with six defensive backs, and delivered a goal-line stop in the first quarter, stuffing Montgomery, who was used as a running back because of injuries to the Green Bay backfield. LeBlanc finished with seven tackles and a hit blitzing Rodgers.

Porter matched up with Jordy Nelson and allowed the Green Bay wideout just one catch on four targets through three quarters. But breakdowns were deadly, allowing the Packers to stage their two longest scoring drives of the season in the second half. The second came when Porter and safety Harold Jones-Quartey both covered the same man in the end zone early in the fourth quarter, leaving Adams alone for his second TD catch of the game.

Adrian Amos interfered with Nelson to give the Packers a 44-yard penalty pickup in the first quarter. De’Vante Bausby had a number of solid plays despite a lack of meaningful pressure from the front. But Bausby had two holding penalties on the Packers’ second fourth-quarter scoring drive.

"There were a lot of penalties out there.,” Bausby said. “We had a good scheme and plan, but we just didn't finish in the second half as a group. Facing Rodgers is a challenge, but I felt like our play calling was excellent. We just didn't finish."

Special teams: B

Connor Barth converted from 39 yards to tie the game in the second quarter. It was Barth’s seventh in his last eight attempts. Pat O’Donnell turned in another strong night punting, averaging 43.8 net on five punts. Coverage helped keep three of those inside the 20.