Worlds Colliding

Worlds Colliding

Friday, May 28, 2010
5:50 PM

By Frankie O'

Well, its here. The day of reckoning! It was bound to happen. Ive been here 15 years now, having moved from one sports mad city to another. So far there hasnt been much conflict since that while both cities have had good sports teams, they either havent been good enough to matter or havent been good enough at the same time. Of course the Eagles did play the Bears here in the playoffs in 2001, but this city and its teams were still kind of new to me and I honestly did not think that the Bears had a chance in that game. That was the luckiest fraud of a 13 win team that I ever saw and the game and subsequent play of that team proved that out. Of course the Eagles lost the next week and have continued to torture me in many new and old ways since, but I digress. The week before and after that game were a whirlwind for me. Rooting for my Birds was never in question, but the impact that game had on this city was something that stayed with me. No stranger to rooting misfortune, I recognized the feeling of despair in the city as the local heroes had once again let them down. I was also struck by the fact that just about everyone I knew here, all of whom were Bear fans, wished me and my team well. That was kind of cool and introduced me to the minds and hearts of Midwesterners. If it was the other way around I would have been so ticked off that I would not have been able to see straight, let alone remember my manners. But time and age and many of the other things that happen in life have a way of changing that.

Which brings me to the cross-roads where I find myself: A Flyers-Blackhawks Stanley Cup Finals. It feels weird even typing that. What? As Ive accumulated my time living here, the sports fan in me has become immersed in the local pro sports scene. (Like I ever had a chance not to be!) Being behind the bar affords me ample opportunity to watch and talk about everything that is going on here. The difference about the teams here though is while I follow and root for them, I dont have the connection of a lifetime of devotion. While others are miserable about the plight of the locals, I can observe at a distance. No pain. I especially enjoy following the White Sox, the Bulls and the Blackhawks, for many different reasons, but the main one being they would never have to play a Philly team when it matters. Right? Uh oh!

The connection for me to the Flyers is that they were the first team that I grew up rooting for that won a title. Considering that I grew up in a city with a considerable chip on its shoulder,(Just about sports, I swear!) they were a team for the ages and has been loved accordingly since then. I will always be a Flyers fan. In addition to that though, Im a big NHL fan, and with that there is a certain nostalgic connection with the Original Six teams, especially if you move to one of those cities. As Ive often said, I was shocked at the level of disinterest in this team, by this city when I took residence here in 1995. Not to beat that one to death, because I have, along with many others here, I was as excited as anyone else when Rocky Wirtz took over the team and began their transformation three years ago. There is something about being around something as it is built and being able to watch it grow and prosper. I have developed a strong interest in this team and Im excited for what they have accomplished, until now that is. For as much as Ive watched and rooted, there still isnt that attachment that I have with the Flyers and there never will be. You can only have one first love. But I do understand what they mean to everyone else here. They are IT! This team has taken over like nothing I have seen here. There is an incredibly strong bond with the locals, all of them. This is a team ready to write its story that is going to be told for generations.

Of course it has to be against my team, which is on a once in a decade roll, creating a match-up that I will be dealing with for generations. In some ways I feel like I cant win, well almost. This has been a strange time for me at the bar and with my friends. We both want something very badly but getting it means the other cant have it. Its making my life awkward. Consider it Sophies Choice, with playoff beards, mullets and pucks to the face. Its cool to know that one of the two cities I care for the most is going to have a parade in two weeks. It is going to create untold joy. But as I have learned being a sports fan in two different tormented cities, its also going to create untold heartache. Either way, I guess Im going to have to put the Flyers gear away for a while, no need to rile up the neighbors, Ill accept my fate quietly. Better to be under the radar than over the top obnoxious. Have I become a Midwesterner or what? These next two weeks are going to drive me Cup Crazy, judging by what I just wrote, Im almost there. God help us all!

Jim Thome to have highway named after him in Peoria

Jim Thome to have highway named after him in Peoria

Jim Thome's name is very well-known around the baseball world, and rightfully so. 

The former White Sox slugger hit 612 home runs during his 22-year major-league career, but is equally known for being an all-around good guy.

Perhaps Thome's name is most popular in his hometown of Peoria, IL. 

Some people get a street named after them in their hometown after achieving fame. Not Jim Thome. Jim Thome gets a highway named after him.

The Peoria Journal Star reported that a portion of the Route 24 roadway at the Louisville Slugger Sports Complex will be named after Thome.

Thome's portion of Route 24 will be coined 'Jim Thome Expressway.' The aforementioned section will extend from Adams Street in Bartonville to Griswold Street in Peoria.

Thome is currently serving in the White Sox front office as the Special Assistant to the Senior VP/General Manager.

Jimmy Butler, on his future with the Bulls: 'I don't think anything's for certain'

Jimmy Butler, on his future with the Bulls: 'I don't think anything's for certain'

The Summer of Jimmy Butler Answering Rumors added another chapter on Wednesday, with the Bulls' All-Star answering questions on ESPN's The Jump with Rachel Nichols.

Butler was asked a bevy of questions about his opinion on trade rumors involving himself, the trade that sent Derrick Rose to the Knicks and whether he believes he'll remain with the Bulls.

It's been a busy offseason for Butler's Bulls, which missed the playoffs last year for the first time in eight seasons. In addition to the Rose trade and drafting Michigan State's Denzel Valentine, the Bulls reportedly dangled Butler's name in trade discussions on draft night.

And though general manager Gar Forman vehemently denied the Bulls were shopping the 26-year-old Butler, the constant rumors appear to have taken a toll on Butler's belief about his future in Chicago.

"I don't think anything's for certain, I really don't," Butler responded when asked if he believed he'd be with the Bulls next season. "I love the city of Chicago, Chicago basketball, I think everybody knows that. They drafted me, I've been here my entire career, but nothing's for certain."

Butler also admitted that the Bulls' inconsistent play that resulted in a 42-40 record - their worst since 2010 - magnified the reported rift between him and Rose.

"I can't say I was surprised by (the Rose trade). I knew it had to be one of us, to tell you the truth. Obviously I enjoyed playing with him. I came into the league when he was the MVP, I got so much respect for the guy. I have no bad things to say about him and I wish him the best moving forward," Butler said.

"Because we didn't win I think everything comes up. I think if we win there's nothing to say, we're fine, we get along together, we'd probably still be teammates to tell you the truth."

Despite the rumors, and the front office's refusal to commit to Butler, the Marquette product says his relationship with Forman and the rest is "good."

"I can't say we talk about everything because we don't but I think most of the imporant things, I get a phone call or a text message and we'll talk," Butler said. "They'll take my opinion on some things, but I'm a player."


Central Division gets major shakeup as Predators acquire P.K. Subban

Central Division gets major shakeup as Predators acquire P.K. Subban

If you’re a hockey fan and were on Twitter around 3 p.m. Central time today, you probably looked skeptical as the trade news hit.

As first reported by Nick Kypreos, P.K. Subban is heading to Nashville and Shea Weber is going to Montreal.

We can imagine your reaction because we had it too. Eyes bulged. Mouths gaped. You checked the accounts of those venerable scribes tweeting the news because the accounts had to be fake, right?

Nope, it was true. And just like that, another Central Division team will have a very different look come the fall.

Sure, the Predators lost a great defenseman in Weber. He has a howitzer of a shot that has left those brave (read: crazy) enough to block it in plenty of pain. Jonathan Toews tweeted good luck to Weber, and “thanks for leaving our division.” Yeah, Weber left an impression. His shot left a bigger one, sometimes in the colors of black and blue, and Central foes won’t miss seeing it five or six games per season. But with Subban the Predators will do just fine. Subban is a great player and charismatic individual, possessing one of those personalities of which the NHL doesn’t have nearly enough.

Welcome to another Central change. St. Louis is facing some. The Blues already traded goaltender Brian Elliott. Per Post-Dispatch reporter Jeremy Rutherford, Kevin Shattenkirk expects the Blues to trade him. David Backes’ and Troy Brouwer’s status with the team is up in the air.

Minnesota hasn’t made any big changes player-wise (yet) but did at the top, hiring Bruce Boudreau in May. The Wild have gotten to the postseason regularly lately but haven’t gotten too far – they can thank the Blackhawks for three of those exits. Minnesota probably needed a new voice.

But does hiring Boudreau, a consistent regular-season coach who’s struggled to get the big postseason victories – again, see the Blackhawks two years ago – improve Minnesota’s chances?

The Blackhawks have gone through this makeover thing just about every year, and they’ve already done it again this offseason. Andrew Shaw’s trade to Montreal, that same Montreal that just sent Subban packing, means they’ll be missing a net-front presence that Shaw brought on a steadier basis than anyone else the past five seasons. It’s not the only void they need to fill. A veteran defenseman wouldn’t hurt. Neither would another forward with some experience. They have some cap space, but will there be enough to get both?

The Subban-Weber trade is one of those blockbusters we don’t see often anymore. It’s staggering. It’s eye-popping. There won’t be anything as big as this for a while but, with free agency opening on Friday, there will nevertheless be other changes in the NHL.

The Central is already looking a little different. Imagine what it’ll look like by September.