SUPER SIZE ME!!

SUPER SIZE ME!!

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

Thats what were supposed to be doing this week, right? Super Bowl week means everything is hyped until it cant be hyped no more. Its the ultimate American reaction to the ultimate American game. As soon as Lawrence Tynes 31-yarder in overtime crossed through the uprights, we were on the clock for Super Bowl XLVI. In fact, I believe, the ESPN pre-game show started at that very second. You gotta love em, for they are nothing if not consistent. Too bad Showtime took the Shameless title for its new show since the behemoth shows that quality whenever it can, and especially now, when the stage is as big as it gets. I dont know whats worse: The fact that theyre bludgeoning me with wall-to-wall coverage or the fact that Ive had it on in the background almost as much. Its oddly comforting that no matter what time of the day, no matter where I am, I can get the latest, most pertinent analysis of the Giants pass rush, Belichicks genius or Gronks high-ankle sprain. I mean, I need to know and I need to know NOW! Through my 46-inch plasma induced haze, I swear that they are so out of material that theyve been reduced to having every one of their on-air talent appear on every other one of their shows. Its like theres a circus Volkswagen full of TV-types at the ready next to their revolving sets as soon as the red light comes on. It makes me wonder what theyre going to do before the game on Sunday. I mean whats left? By this time, the amount of football knowledge imparted would make Mr. Creosote beg for mercy. Just one more tidbit of information, North America? Its wafer-thin!

I have to admit, though, there were two weeks when I couldnt get enough, a mere seven years ago. For just the second time in my lifetime, I had reason to care about a Super Bowl. (Notice that I didnt say rooting interest in, since we all know that is different, and almost every one of us have a rooting interest in the Super Bowl, for some of us, as long as we can remember!) Since ESPN was in its infancy during the Eagles first SB in 1980, we were all spared the wall-to-wall stuff before the game even though the game was no less hyped where I lived. That was two weeks of bliss. It went by so fast, almost as fast as Ron Jaworski threw the game away. Stop throwing to Rod Martin! Hes on the other team!

By 2004, the ESPN machine was gaining incredible traction, and the They need more! credo was on full display. Not only that, the brand new Comcast SportsNet Chicago broadcast Daily News Live from its sister station in Philadelphia the week preceding the game. Now thats what I call a displaced Philly fans best friend! And if you can believe it, a red-bow-tie wearing bartender made his debut on Chicago Tribune Live the Friday before the big game on CSN Chicago, regaling Dan Jiggetts and 85 Bear Otis Wilson with his reasons for an impending Birds victory. (That was what is known as writers embellishment. The truth is, I was so caffeinated and nervous, I opened my mouth and the words came flying out in staccato bursts, as far from regaling as you could get. I did get my affinity for the team from Philadelphia across though. I think.) This was going to be the greatest football game of my life. The suffering was going to be over. And like those first minutes after you buy what you are sure is the winning lottery ticket, for two weeks I was able to dream a little dream. Hype was my friend!

Well, we all know how that turned out. And, as we all know as well, dreams die hard. Very hard. Im not saying that Im bitter. Other people will say it for me! I dont ask for very much. Just one! Thats all. I remember when the Rangers ended their 54-year schneid in quest of Lord Stanley in 1994. There was a guy in the stands after the game who held up a placard that said, Now I can die in peace! At the time, watching on TV, I was amused. Now, I can relate. The Eagles have never won a Super Bowl. EVER. The last NFL title was before I was born. Yes its been that long!

So what Im reduced to, again, is being a spectator. Youd think Id be used to it by now. What are you going to do? I was born on the wrong side of the state for sports. But what really gets me now are the teams that are playing. Everyone wants to know who I like in the game. I cant even fathom picking one or the other. For a guy from Philly it doesnt get any worse than this. Root for New York? What? As any NFC East fan knows, thats not going to happen. Its bad enough the other three teams in the division have 11 Super Bowl wins to the Eagles goose egg, I dont know if I can take a dirty dozen. I need the Eli face!

But wait. That would mean being on the side of the team from Boston. Yeah, Boston. You know the town where the teams win so much (7 major titles in the last ten years. Ugh.) that the fans really believe that its their right. They make New York obnoxiousness seem quaint by comparison. Do we really want to go there? I dont!

So I will seek solace the way only I can, for I know, theres one good thing thats going to happen on Sunday. Somebody is going to lose. It has to happen. If I havent learned anything, at least I learned that, and I did it the hard way. And speaking from that experience, the closer you get, the worse it hurts.

So, Ill be at the bar, and a good time will be had by almost all. Well cheer for our wagers (not for cash, of course, just for yucks) and wonder in amazement about the amount of money spent for commercials that are not funny! Then, on Monday, Ill go online to newspaper sites in one of two cities and read about despair and the heartache of hopes and dreams dashed at the altar. It wont erase the futility of being a fan of a team that hasnt fulfilled its promise, but as I read some of those all too familiar stories, Ill know that at least for a day, for me and the fans of the unfortunate city, well have something in common. I guess misery does love company!

Have a very safe and merry Super Sunday!!

Will Likely a two-way starter on Terps' Week 1 depth chart

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Will Likely a two-way starter on Terps' Week 1 depth chart

We heard Will Likely would be utilized on the offensive side of the ball this season, but we weren't sure in what fashion.

Well, first-year head coach DJ Durkin apparently has big plans for the All-Big Ten defensive back, who was listed as a starter on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball when the Terps put out their Week 1 depth chart Monday.

In addition to being the No. 1 starter at nickel back, Likely is also listed as a co-starter at one of the wide receiver positions.

And while Maryland's depth chart didn't list starting return men, you'd have to figure Likely will be the featured player there, as well.

That's quite the workload for the guy who returned to College Park for his senior season.

Of course, there's little doubt that Likely is Maryland's best player. Durkin is going to make sure he gets the most out of Likely this season.

The Terps open their season Saturday against Howard.

Adam Eaton shakes off bruised forearm, returns to White Sox lineup

Adam Eaton shakes off bruised forearm, returns to White Sox lineup

DETROIT -- He’d already made out the lineup card for Monday, but Robin Ventura wanted to check in on Adam Eaton.

It’s not often Eaton voluntarily leaves a game as he did Sunday.

So even though the preliminary report was that Eaton was cleared, the White Sox manager held a 60-second conversation with his outfielder before the opener of a three-game series against the Detroit Tigers. As he suspected, Eaton, who left in the fifth inning of Sunday’s win with a bruised right forearm, reported he felt fine.

“I was waiting around to see what he felt like, but yesterday he couldn’t grip anything,” Ventura said. “Today it’s good enough for him to play. He’s been able to battle through some stuff, and he can play with pain, so I’m going to let him do it.

“You know it takes a lot for him to come out of a game, and it takes a lot for him to show up the next day and not be in it. There’s very few times he has come in and said he couldn’t go. It would have to be pretty bad for him to not be in there.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Eaton -- who is hitting .276/.359/.412 with 11 home runs and 45 RBIs -- joked he normally plays at about 75 percent for most games. He suggested that number dropped by one percent after Taijuan Walker hit him with a pitch and caused swelling in the fourth inning. Eaton stayed in the game until the bottom of the fifth and later had X-rays of his forearm taken, which proved negative. He said he didn’t have much strength in the area on Sunday, but it wasn’t an issue on Monday.

“Nothing broke, nothing major just a lot of swelling,” Eaton said. “I don’t like to leave games at all. It’s no offense to anybody else. But if I’m in the game I want to stay in the game. I don’t want to be Wally Pipp’d. It has always been my mindset and still is. I couldn’t really raise the bat up all that efficiently and we had a healthy Shuck. Let him go up there and compete. I hate coming out of the game, but sometimes you have to. I respect (Ventura) for getting me back in there right away and I guess, trusting in me that I’m all right and good enough to play.”

One reason Eaton pressed to play -- he’s not ready to give in. The leadoff man knows the odds are heavily against the possibility of a White Sox postseason berth. But isn’t ready to concede just yet.

“We’re not out of it until they say we’re out of it,” Eaton said. “There’s been teams down seven or 10 games and the last month of September have won 20 something games and forced a one-game playoff and gotten to the playoffs and been hot at the right time and made a good push. We’re not counting ourselves out and we want to continue to play good baseball.”

After 'year off,' Mike Denbrock ready to develop Notre Dame's next crop of WRs

After 'year off,' Mike Denbrock ready to develop Notre Dame's next crop of WRs

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame faced a similar question in 2014 it faces now: Who’s going to catch the ball?

Two years ago, Notre Dame entered the season having lost 70 percent of its receptions, 74 percent of its receiving yards and 78 percent of its receiving touchdowns from the 2013 season. The answer to the question turned out to be a guy who only had six catches as a freshman the previous year — Will Fuller.

Notre Dame might or might not have another breakout candidate like Fuller on its roster this year. But there’s a constant between 2014 and 2016: wide receivers coach Mike Denbrock.

The Irish are without Fuller (62 catches, 1,258 yards, 14 touchdowns), who became a first-round pick of the Houston Texans after turning pro earlier this year, along with Chris Brown (48 catches, 597 yards, four touchdowns), Amir Carlisle (32 catches, 355 yards, one touchdown) and Corey Robinson (16 catches, 200 yards, one touchdown) at the receiver position.

Add in the losses of running back C.J. Prosise (26 catches, 308 yards, one touchdown) and tight ends Alize Jones (13 catches, 190 yards) and Chase Hounshell (one catch, six yards), and Notre Dame has to replace 82 percent of its 2015 receptions, 87 percent of its receiving yards and 84 percent of its receiving touchdowns this fall.

“It’s like starting over,” Denbrock said. “Last year was kind of a little bit of a year off for me, quite frankly. I mean, I had guys that had heard me say the same things for three years and had kind of got used to being out there in the fray and doing it. Now it kind of regenerates itself and we start all over again, which for me is kind of exciting.

“I love the challenge, I love the dynamic of the group. I love their attention to trying to do things the right way, we’re just a little bit inexperienced and we’re learning how to do things the right way.”

Denbrock is in his fifth year coaching Notre Dame’s wide receivers (he spent 2010 and 2011 as the Irish tight ends coach and helped develop Tyler Eifert there, too) and has overseen that regeneration of a receiving corps after the losses of three go-to options in Michael Floyd, T.J. Jones and Fuller. And while an offense requires all its units — quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, tight ends and offensive linemen — working together to succeed, it’s worth noting Notre Dame’s passing S&P+ rankings since Denbrock took over the Irish receivers:

2012: fifth

2013: 15th

2014: 13th

2015: eighth

Even if you might view some of those rankings as a bit bullish — like 2012’s, which seems high for a year in which Notre Dame deployed a conservative run-first offense — they’re solid evidence of Denbrock’s success in developing reliable pass-catchers.

“He's someone that doesn’t take anything less than what you can give,” redshirt junior receiver and captain Torii Hunter Jr. said. “He expects you to give 100 percent all the time. He just wants you to max out your potential, whatever it may be. And I’m grateful for the type of coach that he is because he never lets us get away with half-done.”

Of course, it helps that Notre Dame has recruited exceedingly well at the receiver position over the last few years. Jones, DaVaris Daniels, Corey Robinson, Fuller, Hunter, Corey Holmes, Equanimeous St. Brown, Miles Boykin, C.J. Sanders, Chase Claypool and Javon McKinley were all Rivals four-star recruits, while three-star recruit Chris Brown developed into a rock-solid player and fellow three-star prospect Kevin Stepherson impressed during spring and preseason camp (he's expected to play against Texas despite his arrest earlier this month).

While coach Brian Kelly said he’s “concerned” and that all those inexperienced receivers — St. Brown, Sanders, Boykin, Holmes, Claypool, McKinley, Stepherson and ex-walk-on Chris Finke — are “suspects,” he has an immense amount of trust in Denbrock. The two have coached together for 16 non-consecutive seasons, with Denbrock serving as both an offensive and defensive coordinator, a tight ends coach, a wide receivers coach and an associate head coach. Denbrock, too, has coached offensive line and linebackers at various stops in his 30-year coaching career.

“He knows the offense and the system and he knows what I look for and what I'm trying to do, and so it's a great relationship because I don't have to micromanage him,” Kelly said. “All I have to do is kind of say, this is the direction I would like to go, and he's off and running.

“So any time you have that, and a longstanding relationship with somebody that knows exactly where you want to go, it allows to you do so many other things and it allows me to help coach some of the players at a level, a grass roots level that sometimes the head coach doesn't get a chance to do.”

There’s been some inconsistency with players during practice in August, but that’s to be expected with such a green group.

“He’s on us hard,” St. Brown said. “He knows he has to be harder than ever because we have a young group of receivers.”

But why should 2016, even with all the uncertainty surrounding that position, be any different? There’s that saying that you should never bet against a streak. And Denbrock is on a pretty good streak.

“I just think you gotta be very consistent and very demanding with what you ask them to do and not let their youthfulness be an excuse for not playing at the level they should play at,” Denbrock said. “They get it, they understand it, and they’re growing.”