Frankie O's Blog: Tax Break

Frankie O's Blog: Tax Break

Friday, April 15, 2011
Posted: 9:58 a.m.

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

Its always fun to take a break from doing your taxes. As usual, I keep asking myself why I ALWAYS wait to the last minute. Why? Because there is so much going on and Im easily distracted either at home or work. At home I worked my daughters track meet as a volunteer timer Thursday. (Like I had a choice!) Standing outside for two hours on a nice Chicago April day, I start to daydream about somewhere with slightly warmer temperatures, like in Minsk! Honestly! Wind chills in April? I dont know how they did it, but those little tax deductions gave it their all as they braved a head-wind that was bending trees. Its always great to be around the youngsters though, in any weather, as you can see what competing means to them. Since I spend most of my waking hours talking about, and contemplating the effects of, professional athletes and their endeavors, on and off the field of play, its always great to re-connect to the reason I care so much.

The top story at the bar, obviously, is the 1 seed of the NBA playoffs, the shocking Chicago Bulls. Its not that what they are doing right now is surprising us. But who saw THIS coming? D-Rose is awesome, we all knew. But who is this new coach? Is Boozer going to be more than a consolation prize? Two straight years of 41-41 and a quick playoff exit told us there was some talent here, but in the NBA where ascension seems to take forever, most had modest hopes. Of course now many will tell you that they saw this coming and all I can say is, really? Really?!(Thought so! Wheres Troy Polamalu?)

Beating out the Celtics, Heatles, Lakers and Spurs for the leagues best record is mind boggling. But everybody in the bar is drinking the kool-aid (not to mention the Titos!) and keep asking me how far they can go. As much as I want to say that we should hold on, who wants to doubt this team? Not me. But remember, they now have a target, not to mention a Sports Illustrated cover jinx to deal with, and its all up hill from here to go 4 rounds to get to the promised land. I have a feeling that this is going to be a fun ride and I think this is the time that Derrick Rose will catapult himself to the next level. Well all be watching, and thankfully, well be watching him enter the national consciousness on the court, not answering questions from Jim Gray.

The NHL playoffs are one of my favorite passions. This still even after the amount of pain that I had to deal with last year. The best part about them is that they are unpredictable. Sure, every now and then the favorite will win it all, but usually its a wild ride with outcomes that no one could see coming. Thats why I was amused by the Tribune Newspapers hockey experts picks for the 1st round of the playoffs. Eight series and she went with the chalk in all of them. What? Not one upset? In a sport that is annually full of them? And her headline is More drama on way? What drama? You picked all of the favorites! Way to go out on a limb and give us some insight.

I look at this year and its like throwing darts at a board. As usual, there are some great matchups from the start. I think the Blackhawks can play with the Canucks and better yet, can get in Roberto Luongos head. Although with the stuff he has going on up there, is that really hard to do? Theres no crying in hockey! Why not? Ill take the Hawks! Ill also take Pekka Rinne and the Preds to beat the Ducks. Things get really interesting in the Eastern Conference. I think every series will go seven games, so flip a coin on any one of them. And if I was going to make a wager, I would take the dog in all four. So that means that Johnny Vegas, thank you, would only take the favorite in 2 series. I cant wait to see whos right!

For something else that makes me scratch my head, theres the Barry Bonds trial. What I do not understand is: If you dont have the guy who injected him willing to cooperate, how are you going to prove perjury beyond a reasonable doubt, when he will not talk about his usage issues. If you ask anyone in the bar, or Jeff Brantley, they will tell you that of course he was on roids. Duh! But, proving it in court? When he uses the deny, deny, deny defense and knowing there had to be at least one star-struck juror, how did the feds expect to win when their entire case was he said-he said? Whether his obstruction of justice conviction sticks or not, which it probably wont, does not matter to fans. We all know what he did. Its written on the billboard that is his forehead.

And for something else that I dont understand, there is Josh Hamilton. His battle with addictions and magical Home Run Derby in 2008, have made him a feel-good story. His undeniable talent made him last years AL MVP. What I dont think any of us saw coming was his petulant tirade towards a coach after he got injured playing baseball. If you are on 3rd base, and the batter hits a pop-up, that the catcher and 3rd baseman chase after, the only thought in your head is whether you can score. Thats how Pete Rose played. Thats how Chase Utley plays. Gamers. When you see an out-of-shape pitcher standing oblivious on the mound, not even considering covering home, do you really need a base-coach to tell you to RUN? I know I would have been yelling for him to go and thats what his 3rd base coach, Dave Anderson, told him to do. That he was out in a bang-bang play is not the point. The point is that you let your opponent know that you are there to play old-fashioned hard ball, all day long! The 3rd baseman and catcher had to make a perfect play to barely tag him out at the plate. That he decided to slide head first, was that his coaches fault? I know guys fall in love with that slide, but wouldnt a feet-first hook slide have been more appropriate? The fact that he was injured did not make it a stupid play, it made it an unfortunate one. When players make it known that bustin it on every play is not how they want to play, I find that stupid.

And that brings me back to the frigid youngsters. Not to be too over the top, but it really was cool (no pun!) to be that close to kids just giving it there all, because they could. I know that they are just games, but they tell us everything we need to know about someone else and ourselves. As we enjoy the playoff season there will be plenty emotion and effort for us all to marvel at, hopefully the lesson hits home.

And just because:

SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE

The legendary eatery named after the famed former Chicago Cubs announcer Harry Caray, a must-visit spot for all endlessly tortured Cubbies fans to revel or drown their sorrows, is now selling their premium draft pints for 6.66.

Adam Engel making the most of his opportunity with White Sox

engel.jpg
USA TODAY

Adam Engel making the most of his opportunity with White Sox

Adam Engel is making the most of his second opportunity with the White Sox.

Engel had his best game of the season in Thursday’s finale against the Minnesota Twins, where he went 4-for-5 with three singles, a double, and two RBIs in the White Sox 9-0 win. He became the first White Sox outfielder with a four-hit game within their first 11 career MLB games since Harold Baines (10th game) on April 20, 1980, according to CSN stats guru Chris Kamka.

"Some days you hit it, some days you don’t," Engel said. "Yesterday was the day that I hit it.”

After nearly a five-hour rain delay, the White Sox came out hot right from the get-go on Thursday. In fact, by the time Engel was ready to bat for the first time, the White Sox were already leading 4-0 and Twins starter Nik Turley had been yanked from the game.

“It was awesome,” Engel. “(The) team is winning, getting some hits. It’s a great feeling. Obviously the goal is to try and help the team win.”

[Vivid Seats: Buy your White Sox tickets here]

Engel made his major league debut on May 27 and then was optioned back to Triple-A Charlotte on June 9. His wife Jaime had a child on June 12, and almost a week later, he was recalled again by the White Sox to replace an injured Leury Garcia.

Engel, who's hitting .344/.382/.406 entering Friday's game, will look to keep his hot streak going with his wife and newborn in attendance.

In Saad’s case, re-acquiring Blackhawks alumni is beneficial

In Saad’s case, re-acquiring Blackhawks alumni is beneficial

* “Don’t look to the past anymore. It’s great to think you can recapture the magic with former players but years go by and times change.”

The sentences you see above were written by yours truly after the Blackhawks were unceremoniously eliminated from the first round in April. And for the most part, I stand by the message. The Blackhawks kept going back to their alumni well for solutions but, for the most part, it wasn’t working. But there’s always an exception to the rule, always one asterisk that can be applied in every situation (as we’ve done here).

In this case, that exception is Brandon Saad.

This isn’t someone who played with the Blackhawks five or more years ago. This isn’t a player who’s in his 30s. This isn’t a player who’s at the end of his career. This is a player in his prime, a 24-year-old who has a whole lot of game remaining and a whole lot of familiarity with this group, especially captain Jonathan Toews.

By the way, anyone else struck by the irony that the same Saad deal that the Blackhawks couldn’t afford two years ago is now one that fits perfectly, and will be really beneficial in two seasons when they don’t have to worry about trying to re-sign Artemi Panarin, who will be an unrestricted free agent?

Anyway, back to revisiting the past. General manager Stan Bowman admitted that he was hoping to bring Saad back into the fold at some point, although talks for this particular deal didn’t heat up until the past few days.

“Certainly it was a tough move a couple of years ago to have to make that trade [of Saad to the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2015]," Bowman said. “Today my conversation had a much different tone. Brandon’s coming back and that chemistry is there right away and intensity and the way he plays. His all-around game is second to none.”

Saad said he wondered if he’d end up with the Blackhawks again at some point in his career.

“The day I was traded I talked with Stan and you part ways, but it’s a small league and there are always opportunities. It was definitely a thought in my mind possibly ending up in Chicago,” he said. “I didn’t think it’d happen this soon but that’s just the way it happened. It’s exciting to be back somewhere I’m comfortable, somewhere I know and an organization that’s had success.”

Yes, the Blackhawks went back to their alumni well. But instead of getting an aging veteran they’ve reacquired a kid in his prime. Every situation can come with an asterisk. This is one exception that will turn out well for the Blackhawks.