Stranger in a strange land

Stranger in a strange land

Friday, June 4, 2010
2:38 AM

By Frankie O

When did everything change? That would be Monday, May 24th. While I was enjoying my Flyers win in the Eastern Conference Finals, the reality soon set in on where they were headed, on a collision course with the local heroes. This Blackhawk team has captured the imagination of all of Chicago and the nations hockey fans. I get it. Theyve captured me also, to a point, I just never thought that point would ever have to be dealt with. Well its here and the weirdness for the guy in the red bow tie is everywhere.

MONDAY 524: The Flyers beat the Canadiens 4-2 to win the Easter Conference Finals in five games. It was the Flyers 3rd playoff series win this year, in the 3rd series that they were not supposed to win. There is something about this team. They dont quit. As Ive told people at the bar many times, if you changed the sweaters of the teams, you would still like your team just as much. As soon as the game ended, I received plenty of texts offering congrats, and the obligatory trash talk. Game on! I also started getting ticket requests. Honestly? Good luck with that.

TUESDAY 525: While minding my business at the bar, I was informed that some of the Hawks were in the dining room, including Patrick Kane. Not one to be shy, I went back to say hello to the boys. Upon reaching the table, which also included Adam Burish and Brian Campbell, Kane kind of gave me a smile and asked who I was rooting for. I let them know that if was anyone else, I would be behind them all the way, like I have been for the last 2 years, but I cant quit on my team. Then I wished them luck and all of the tequila they could drink at the bar! YOUNGBLOOD! The collective response was @&&!!

I love hockey players.

WEDNESDAY 526: After much consternation, I turned down an offer from a very good friend to go to Game 2. It was a very hard thing for me to do, but a decision I felt good about. My buddy is a season ticket holder, who sits with a bunch of other season ticket holders. They have been waiting for this most of their lives. To be invited in to their party, hoping that every one of their hockey dreams was dashed, would be bad form. Now if a fellow Flyers fan had made the offer, then it would have been time to represent!

THURSDAY 527: The anticipation is starting to take over. I just want to get on with this. Its very strange for me to listen to my radio shows, read my papers and watch TV and have everyone bashing my Flyers and talking about how the Finals are going to be a cake-walk for the Hawks. For some reason, this is starting to chafe me. I guess blood is thicker than water, or should I say cheesesteaks are thicker than Italian beefs!

FRIDAY 528: One thing I notice during my day shift is a shortage of Philly fans coming into the bar for the big weekend. I do have my Philly regulars, and that helps, as we dare to dream the dream, but there is safety in numbers and all Im seeing is Cardinal fans who are remarking about all of them tall buildins.
On my weekly Chicago Tribune Live bit, I pick the Flyers in six,(What? Im supposed to back down?) and that goes over well. NOT!!
During the way home, as Im talking to my mother, I have to explain to her that I dont want any Eastern Conference Champions gear. Besides making myself more of a target, thats not the gear I want and if the Flyers lose, do I really want to wear any of that stuff AROUND HERE?! I get enough grief for wearing a red bow tie!

SATURDAY 529: GAME 1! The series finally starts, but its be careful what you wish for. The energy in the bar was incredible. Unfortunately for me, I was the only person in a room of 250 people rooting for the bad guys. Working big Chicago games during the last 15 years is something that makes me love my job as much as I do. This game though, was easily the most difficult. We were playing that Chelsea Dagger song at ear-splitting levels to celebrate each Hawk goal, and that seemed to happen about every 5 minutes. I especially enjoyed seeing folks in their new Hawks gear that they bought that day. Nothing like a true fan! Am I bitter? I dont know about that, but losing sucks, and having to get your nose rubbed in it makes it worse. If were going to lose, I hope its quick, and preferably not as excruciating as this game, which the Flyers had every chance to win. I did have two guys come in at the very end of the night wearing Flyers hats though, and at least I left knowing that I wasnt alone. Do I have any beer at my house?

SUNDAY 530: Tough to get out of bed. At my age busy nights take their toll, time to get back at it though. One good thing, I dont have to work on a game night again until Game 5, better to suffer at home. I cant believe the Hawks make the Finals and it has to be against the Flyers. When I start my shift, I see my Flyer guys from the night before. Whats your story? I ask. It turns out one of them is Flyer Jeff Carters father. How cool is that? He tells me that the boys arent down and their confidence remains high. Thank you! I needed that. How about a coldie? Then for me, I had a few other fly bys that were kind of cool. Two writers from my hometown paper (The Delaware County Daily Times) came in the bar looking to talk to me. They made a small video thats in the papers website. Check it out! I pick the Flyers in six, AGAIN! Then some radio guys came in. Well not any radio guys, but the popular hosts of the 610WIP afternoon show, Anthony Gargano and Glen Macnow. Ive been listening to and reading these guys for years. In fact Gargano came in looking for me. He is a long-time friend of Jay Marriotti and Jay has been telling both of us for years that we need to meet each other. I guess he thinks all crazy Philly sports guys should meet! Good guys!

Also in was the Kane family. Patrick often comes in with his folks and three sisters. I always enjoy visiting with them. When I went back to the table they were finishing up dessert and Mrs. Kane teased me that I was avoiding them. I would never do that! Of course I shared the inner conflict that wasis marring my life. We all agreed that Game 2 was definitely not going to be as loose as Game 1. The whole time Im wondering if my heart can take more of this.

Mr. Carter left for a couple hours, then came back to enjoy a few cold ones before we closed. I love hockey dads!

MONDAY 531: GAME 2. Spent a nice quiet day with the family, took the kids to see the new Shrek movie. Watching them react to the 3D was hilarious. Game time was spent nervously in front of the TV. I still cant understand why everybodys not a hockey fan. The action in the series has you on the edge of your seat. Well into the second period, you started to get the feeling that whoever scored first was going to have a huge advantage and probably win. I especially thought so as soon as Hossa scored. Then to follow it up 28 seconds later with Ben Eager? Really? The Flyers dominate the third period, but to no avail as Neimi stands on his head. One thing about a Philly team: They are NEVER going to take the easy route! Down 2-0? Been here before. I need more beer! And I know where to find it. It would seem that Im not alone here in my plight, vastly outnumbered, but not alone. After the game as I was taking out the trash, I was skimming through my Monday Tribune and I stumbled on an article that brought a huge smile to my face. Mad River Bar & Grille in the Lakeview neighborhood is a Philly bar. A Flyers bar! If I ever get clearance from the tower, Im there! Theyre going to love This Guy! But definitely after a win, otherwise, it would be too depressing, just like home.

TUESDAY 61: Im still trying to decide, as I open my mail, if the fact that my aunt sent me all sorts of Eastern Conference Champions paraphernalia is a good thing or a good sign. At least I know she cares. All of my co-workers cant wait to say hello and check out my mental state as I come in to start my shift. I still have faith, I tell them. They just smirk and nod their heads at me. For some reason, I dont think, they care! For the love of god, if the Flyers are going to lose, please have it end soon! Its hard to explain, well not if youre a Cubs fan, how you can go from such a positive, euphoric state to utter despair in a matter of days. Never the less, maybe some good can come from it. I played the Philly sympathy angle all night with my customers. It was cathartic and profitable at the same time. Hey! Whatever it takes, Ive got mouths to feed!

WEDNESDAY 62: GAME 3. Because of a commitment I made to my daughter 6 months ago, I had to go the Sox game instead of working my usual Wednesday night shift. I was kind of glad not to have to face all of the Hawks fans at the bar, but then again I did have to watch the Sox. Took her and her friend early so we could catch some BP and walk around the stadium. The left field stands were pretty empty when we got there, just a few others, like us, trying to get a BP home run ball. We didnt have much luck with that, but as he was shagging flies, the Texas Rangers Neftali Feliz gave in to my daughters pleas and threw her a ball. Whatever it takes! Maybe this will be good night after all. I secretly show her that under the Sox jersey Im wearing is a Flyers shirt! Her eyes grew wide. Can I tell anyone? She wanted to know. Nope. Thats our secret. Dont need daddy getting pounded in the stands. After eating a beef sandwich(good) and a grilled polish with onions(very good!) it was time to settle in and watch Gavin Floyd, once again, implode, by the tune of 6 runs in less than three innings. Wheres my phone? My phone was a little behind the live feed, which a large crowd was watching on the concourse at the top of my aisle. The loud cheers out of nowhere told me what the phone was about to. With a tie score to start the third period, I was jonesing to go to the top of the aisle, but the girls were having a great time watching the game, oblivious to the score. Oh, to be young again! Then I heard the cheer, Hawks were up 3-2 in the third. This was not good. Then in what seemed like two seconds while everyone around me was cheering, a girl says, Wait! The Flyers just scored! I love that team! As the constant drizzle started on the 56 degree night, that was my cue to head to shelter, and a flat screen! The girls sat next to some of their other friends who were at the game and had fun in the rain. That while daddy did not belie the fact of his rooting interest with the large group at the top of section 116. Then, the game was over, just as regulation was ending in the hockey game. Time for some pictures along the field and the long walk back to the car. I would let the reaction of the people around me tell me my fate. As we neared the car my phone blew up. Hopefully this could only mean one thing, and it did. This would be a fun ride home. Would you ladies want to get anything on the way home? Daddys buying! I found it much easier watching the game after I got home, already knowing the outcome. What a relief.
THURSDAY 63: A perfect day outside. The mood in the house was fun, as the kids anticipated their last day of the school year on Friday. For their father it might have been the last day of fun that I would have during the hockey season. It was a day full of hope as for what might be. Either way, I know the next week is going to be strange, I just hope its strange in a good way. Never a dull moment!

Bill Murray to conduct 7th inning stretch at Cubs-Indians World Series Game 3

Bill Murray to conduct 7th inning stretch at Cubs-Indians World Series Game 3

For the first time since 1945, Wrigley Field will play host to a World Series game.

As the Cubs welcome the Cleveland Indians into town this weekend for Games' 3, 4 and 5 of the Fall Classic, several celebrities and Cubs legends will be in attendance.

[MORE: Bill Murray makes Cubs address from the White House]

The Cubs announced on Friday that actor and comedian Bill Murray, who has been a staple at Cubs games this postseason, will conduct the 7th inning stretch during Game 3.

This won't be Murray's first rodeo singing "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" at Wrigley Field. Check out a few of his previous appearances below:

In addition to Murray, the Cubs also revealed that Chicagoland native and lead vocalist of Fall Out Boy, Patrick Stump, will sing the National Anthem, Wayne Messmer will sing "God Bless America" and Cubs Hall of Fame outfielder Billy Williams will toss the ceremonial first pitch.

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities]

Former Cubs pitchers Greg Maddux and Mark Prior and first baseman Derrek Lee are also scheduled to be at Game 3, according to ESPN's Jesse Rogers.

Tune in to CSN at 6 p.m. for Cubs Postseason Live as our crew gets ready for Game 3 and be sure to flip over to CSN immediately after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postseason Live.

Michael Carter-Williams learns on the fly, thrives in Bulls debut

Michael Carter-Williams learns on the fly, thrives in Bulls debut

Ten days ago Michael Carter-Williams was the starting point guard for the Milwaukee Bucks.

Circumstances can change quickly in the NBA, as the 2013 Rookie of the Year found out when he was traded two weeks ago for the second time in his four-year NBA career. But Carter-Williams also realized just as quickly the value in carving out a role, and he made a great first impression on his coaches and teammates Thursday night in the Bulls’ 105-99 win over the Celtics.

The 6-foot-6 guard played a crucial role in the second half in slowing down a potent Celtics offense, and he provided an offensive jolt midway through the fourth quarter that helped push the Bulls to their first win of the season.

His numbers in 17 minutes won’t jump off the score sheet – he tallied five points, six rebounds and three assists – but his impact on the game was felt on both ends, and in his three stints he cemented himself as a key part of the Bulls’ rotation moving forward.

Carter-Williamas was thrown into unfamiliar territory late in the second quarter. Isaiah Canaan was the first guard off the bench for Fred Hoiberg, but after he missed all three of his 3-point attempts and the Celtics reeled off a 14-4 run to pull within three, 43-40, Hoiberg deployed Carter-Williams alongside starting point guard Rajon Rondo.

In the 10 days since Carter-Williams had joined the Bulls, his time in practice had been spent learning the point guard position. But with Rajon Rondo playing well in the first half, Hoiberg kept his starter in and substituted in Carter-Williams, a natural point guard, into a three-guard lineup with Rondo and Jimmy Butler.

Having Rondo next to him, Carter-Williams said, helped him ease into the Bulls’ offensive sets that wound up making a difference in the fourth quarter.

“He definitely helps me out a lot,” he said of Rondo. “He’s one of the smartest guys I’ve ever talked to about basketball, he knows everybody’s position, he’s a great point guard and I’m glad I get to learn from someone like him.”

Carter-Williams’ impact was felt immediately. The Celtics missed their next four shots, with their only points coming off free throws after Nikola Mirotic fouled Jae Crowder on a 3-point attempt. The Bulls pushed their second-quarter lead back to nine by the end of the half as Carter-Williams defended both Avery Bradley and Gerald Green.

That same substitution pattern followed late in the third quarter after the Celtics used a 14-5 run to pull within a possession of the Bulls. The Celtics took their first and only lead of the night on an Isaiah Thomas 3-pointer, but with Carter-Williams again playing next to Rondo the Bulls reeled off seven straight points to push the lead back to six, 75-69.

Carter-Williams opened the fourth quarter on the floor without Rondo, though Wade initiated most of the offense. Playing off the ball, Carter-Williams continued to press defensively while waiting for his opportunity to contribute on the other end.

And when he got his chance, he made the most of it. After missing his first four attempts, Carter-Williams was left alone on the left wing for a 3-pointer that he connected on. Butler then stole an Avery Bradley pass in transition and found Carter-Williams, whose floater in the lane pushed the Bulls’ lead back 12, 93-81, with less than 8 minutes to play.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

When Thomas reeled off five quick points to pull the Celtics within five Hoiberg pulled Carter-Williams for Wade, who assisted on two consecutive Taj Gibson baskets before connecting on a 3-pointer with 26 seconds left to seal the Bulls’ home opener victory.

It was as successful a debut as a reserve point guard could have, with Carter-Williams logging the only positive rating (+3) among the five players who came off the bench for the Bulls. A 30-point first quarter allowed Hoiberg to play Carter-Williams alongside Rondo in the second and third quarters, and the results were evident, even with Carter-Williams playing a “new” position.

“I think it was tough for me because when I was first in there I was with Rondo, and so when he’s in there he runs the 1 and I play the 2,” he said after the game. “So a lot of times in practice I was learning the 1, and it’s pretty hard to learn everybody’s position in one week. So I was just looking for anybody to tell me where to go, what to do, and just try to make the best of it.”

Despite the unfamiliar spot on the floor, Carter-Williams did make the best of it. In nine minutes alongside Rondo, the Bulls’ defensive rating (points per 100 possessions allowed) was 99.1, an improvement from the 103.6 rating the team logged on the night. Carter-Williams’ individual defensive rating was 95.1, the second best number among guards behind Wade (89.8).

The numbers weren’t as solid on the offensive end, with Rondo and Carter-Williams together managing just 93.5 points per 100 possessions. But the Bulls’ surprisingly hot night from beyond the arc – 11-for-25 – allowed Hoiberg to focus more on the defensive end, where the Bulls wound up holding the Celtics to 99 points a night after they tallied 122 against the Nets.

And Carter-Williams still came up with two key passes late in the third quarter as the Celtics threatened. First he found Mirotic open for an 18-foot jumper on the left baseline. Then he grabbed a missed Wade layup and kicked it back out to Mirotic, who buried a 3-pointer in the final minute of the third quarter to push the Bulls’ lead to six heading into the fourth quarter.

“I love Michael’s game. He had a couple times where he had no idea what he was doing when I called the play, but that’s going to happen. He’s only been around the team a few days. But he played with a lot of poise,” Hoiberg said. “I like how he can get into the paint. He can get downhill. That’s something that every team wants.”

It’s an important year for Carter-Williams. In addition to him learning a new system on the fly, he’s in a contract year and said it’s a personal goal of his to cement himself as the backup behind Rondo.

With Jerian Grant inactive and Canaan sitting the final three quarters, Thursday night may have done just that. And whatever his playing time looks like going forward, or who he’s playing with, Carter-Williams is hoping to make the same impact he did Thursday night.

“I think I can really lead us no matter who’s on the court,” he said. “Whatever Fred thinks is best he’s going to do, and of course it’s a personal goal of mine to just be on the floor as much as I can.

“I was able to find my rhythm a little bit (in the second half) and just try to help the team. Defensively, whether it’s rebounding, getting steals; offensively, scoring or making the right pass or the right play.”