IncrediBulls define team mentality

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IncrediBulls define team mentality

For years, they have defined the team mentality that weve come to know the Bulls for.

Their contributions throughout the United Center often go unnoticed by most as the LuvaBulls and Matadors receive most of the notoriety, but aside from the actual team, there might not be a more important factor on game night than the IncrediBulls.

The roster goes 15 deep, including the likes of Terrance Grady, Morris Brent, Joe Alexander, Mitchell Mangoba, Ernesto Sanchez, Michael Turner, Ashlee Bodden, Darrel Dupit, Pegie Diaz, Eric Wackerfuss, Carlos Ayala, Deborah Byczkowski, Dagoberto Soto, Tom Niemiera, and Shawnkesse Jackson.

Its a team built on energy, enthusiasm, personality, creativity, teamwork, professionalism and showmanship. Aside from the energy aspect, teamwork is arguably the most essential aspect of the squad.

There are plenty of things that we have to do out there on the court, in the stands that involve more than just one person, says 10-year vet Ayala. We have to communicate with one another as far as running a sling-team where were swinging the t-shirts. We all have to be perfectly coordinated, two people holding the sling, one person slinging and we have one person whos technically showing the shirt to the crowd of what were going to be tossing them. Its very important. Its a lot of teamwork. Just like in any other workplace, you have to be able to communicate with everybody and work to be on the same page.

The t-shirts, arguably the item in which theyre most linked with and the ultimate souvenir for fans lucky enough to have one flung, thrown or cannoned their way during a break in play.

To casual observers, it may look just like a group of individuals scrambling around, but its all coordinated with timing.

Its knowing where youre supposed to be when youre supposed to be there, says Wackerfuss, an IncrediBull for five years. It goes along with teamwork. If you have a timeout that lasts about a minute-and-a-half, when you hear the horn go off, when the timeout is over, you know thats your signal to get off the court, so you dont disrupt the game and, god forbid, have the team get assessed a delay of game penalty because of something we caused. Its really an important issue to make sure that were in the spots that we need to be in, in order to both rev up the crowd and not disrupt the game.

From the 300 level to the ground floor, they keep United Center faithful engaged through wins, bouts of lack of energy and are still expected to draw the crowds reaction during a loss.

Its not all rah-rah either as any member on the Bulls will tell you that they have the best fans in the world and their tenacity on a nightly basis is a direct correlation to the crowds energy.

The energy that we bring to the crowd allows the NBA players to have the energy on the court, says four-year member Turner. I kind of feel without us amping the crowd up; it doesnt give players that energy. Thats just my personal opinion. Our energy feeds the crowd and that feeds the players.

Being an IncrediBull is only a part-time, seasonal position as there is no true job security with tryouts being held every summer for new potential members.

In any job, there are those days where you simply just dont have it in terms of energy and you have to coast throughout the day. That isnt a luxury that the IncrediBulls are afforded.

All of us have other jobs aside from this during the day, says Diaz, a five-year veteran. Sometimes we can have a stressful day at work but as soon as we get to the United Center, we have to leave everything outside and turn into a different person. Were here to make people happy and to get the crowd pumped up and screaming.

Their duties extend beyond the confines United Center as they also lend their time to charity and community events, represent the organization at special events and promotional engagements.

No matter what theyre called on to do, its never too much as each member has an undying love for the franchise and city which Ayala sums up perfectly.

10 years ago when I got this job, I had a friend who told me hey, the Bulls are looking to hire people that are going to be fun, energetic, throw a couple of t-shirts into the crowd, run a couple of contests and you get paid for it. Are you serious? That was a no-brainer for me. If they would have said its for free than I would have probably still done it. I was here every single game my rookie year. It was a couple tough years after the Jordan era, but Ive been a fan of sports my whole life and going back to the first six championships the Bulls had. To be in the same building, see those banners; why wouldnt anybody want to do that? If youre a fan of the Bulls, why wouldnt you want to be in my position? I feel like Im one of the lucky 13 people on this squad that get to do what we do.

Interestedin being a member of the IncrediBulls? Be sure to stay tuned to Bulls.com for tryout infomation.

At Cubs' White House visit, President Obama touts Michelle Obama's Cubs fandom, shouts out Jose Cardenal

At Cubs' White House visit, President Obama touts Michelle Obama's Cubs fandom, shouts out Jose Cardenal

Unlike her husband, Michelle Obama hasn't made a big deal out of her baseball fandom over the past eight years.

But as President Obama mentioned while he honored the World Series champion Cubs on Monday at the White House, it turns out the First Lady is a pretty big Cubs fan and watching the Cubs win the World Series meant an awful lot to her.

"It is no secret that there's a certain South Side team that has my loyalty," the president said. "So I can't claim that I have the same visceral joy of some in this White House. But FLOTUS is a lifelong Cubs fan, and I will tell you ... in the eight years that I've been here, we've hosted at least 50 teams. Football, baseball, basketball, soccer, you name it. Michelle has never come to a single event celebrating a champion until today. She came and shook hands and met with every one of these members of the Cubs organization and told a story about what it meant for her to be able to see them win. She remembers coming home from school, and her dad would be watching a Cubs game, and the bond and the family, the meaning that the Cubs had for her in terms of connecting with her father and why it meant so much to her. And I almost choked up listening to it. And it spoke, I think, to how people feel about this organization and that it's been passed on generation after generation. It's more than just sports."

And one ex-Cub even got a special invite to the White House so the First Lady could meet her all-time favorite player. That was former pitcher Jose Cardenal, once famous for his large afro. According to President Obama, his wife used to try and wear her hat over her afro just like Cardenal did.

So while President Obama was presented with a lifetime pass to Wrigley Field, perhaps it's Michelle who will get more use out of it.

Check out more from the president in the video above.

Big Ten poll update: Northwestern on the verge of top 25 in coaches, AP polls

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USA TODAY

Big Ten poll update: Northwestern on the verge of top 25 in coaches, AP polls

Northwestern ranked? Hey, it could happen.

In a year when folks are talking about the Wildcats perhaps finally receiving their first-ever invite to the NCAA tournament, the team is also about to crack the top 25.

Northwestern was the de facto No. 26 team in the coaches poll and the de facto No. 30 team in the AP poll when both sets of rankings were released Monday.

After beating Rutgers on the road and pummeling Iowa at home, Northwestern is 15-4 overall and 4-2 in Big Ten play.

The Cats have one game this week, against Ohio State on Sunday, and should they win they could put themselves to have a number in front of their name come this time next week.

The last time that happened? Well, at least in the AP poll, Northwestern hasn't been ranked since 2009, and prior to that, you have to go all the way back to the 1968-69 season.

Elsewhere in the conference, Maryland re-entered the top 25, No. 25 in both the AP and coaches polls. The Terps stand at a somewhat quiet 16-2 overall and 4-1 in league play after wins last week over Indiana and Illinois.

Wisconsin was the No. 17 team in both polls, keeping its place in the coaches poll and moving up a spot in the AP. The Badgers scored a blowout win over Ohio State last Thursday and are 14-3 overall and 3-1 in conference play this season.

Purdue was ranked 21st in the AP poll and 22nd in the coaches poll. After a loss to Iowa, Purdue dropped four spots in the AP and three spots in the coaches. The Boilers are 14-4 overall and 3-2 in the Big Ten.

Minnesota, which lost twice this week to Michigan State and Penn State, fell out of the top 25 in both polls.

Northwestern was the only Big Ten team also receiving votes in the AP poll, while Northwestern, Indiana and Minnesota also received votes in the coaches poll.