Chicago Bears

Just living the dream

Just living the dream

Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2010
4:34 PM

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

I just want to start off with a thank you to everyone who helped me with the raffle for F.I.R.S.T. and those who bought a ticket or made a donation. The final tally should be a little over 3000. Thats awesome!

Also awesome was the help of the Notre Dame athletic department in ensuring a wonderful experience for the winner and his entourage. One of my bar regulars (go figure!) was the lucky person. (I wont reveal his name here, but some do refer to him as, Shoe Alan.) That he was able to enjoy the game with his son made it even better for me.

They sent me pictures from their time on the sidelines and finished off their long day with a beverage at the bar, with whom I would think would be their new favorite bartender. How cool is that?!

As for myself, I had my own pretty cool experience last week. For just about as long as I can remember, Ive been going to the Thursday round of the Western Open. Of course when it was the Western, the tournament was played over the July Fourth weekend and drew huge crowds. That Tiger always played here, since he liked the course and liked hanging out with M.J. and taking his money in golf wagers, added to the excitement.

For the last three years the tournament has been moved to September, had a name change (The BMW Championship) and Tiger? Well, weve gone over that enough, but he still gets your full attention when you see him with a driver in his hand. Now usually, I like to walk the course once, eat a pork chop sandwich on fourteen, (you can smell them all over Cog Hill!) then pick a spot to hang out to watch the featured pairings come through, most times by the sixteenth green.

Ive had a lot of fun over the years, maybe even more since the changes have been made. One thing about the September date is that it isnt nearly as hot. For a big man lumbering around miles of hilly terrain, this is no small consideration. The other immediately noticeable thing about the September date, especially on a Thursday, is the size of the crowd. It has to be a third of what it was when it was held during the summer. And, for whatever the reasons, this year was the smallest gallery Ive ever seen following Mr. Woods.

As a golf fanatic, it doesnt get any better than to be able to get up-close to one of the top seventy in the world, walk the course with them, and see them do what they do. Or does it? One thing Ive never done too often, at any tournament, is to sit at eighteen for an extended length of time. Its always too crowded number one, and number two, since Im a commoner, I dont get to sit in the fancy-shmancy seats with the hoidy-toidys! Well, stop the presses!

Due to the largesse of another one of my regulars, (I wont reveal his name here, but some do refer to him as, Greek George.) I was able to enter a world that I could heretofore only dream existed. Its known as a luxury box. Whoa! We decided that before we walked around the course, we would see what the life of the privileged had to offer. It offers many, many things! After climbing stairs that reached to the heavens, we reached our destination. Inside, giant white leather furniture abounded, some of which conveniently surrounded large flat-screen TVs. On which if you were, say, a fan of the baseball team from the southside, you could watch their afternoon game while not missing the action on the green at 18. Thats because right outside the glass doors, were 5 rows of comfy, movie theatre style seats, overlooking the green.

After sampling one of each of the 20 food items being served, twice, and watching the Sox stumble to the end of the most disappointing 7-3 road trip ever, it was time to focus on golf. The fancy seats were no more crowded than the course below, which offered an ideal vantage point, without sacrificing comfort. Do I sound like I belonged? The next perk was something I did not expect but took full advantage of. Because who should be sitting in the seat one in front and one over from me? None other than Mr. Cub himself, Ernie Banks! Now Ive known Ernie for several years due to his frequent visits to the restaurant. And much like with Harry, many times as Im walking past his table, I seem to invariably find myself stopping by to hello, then get to meet a new cast of characters, and soon become engrossed in an entertaining conversation.

Ernie, like Harry, always seems to be surrounded by interesting people, and more to my amusement, is always surrounded by people doing or saying interesting things. This is due to the fact that Ernie, like Harry, is so approachable. But when people get close, they then realize who they are talking to and will say about anything in their nervousness. Always the gentleman, Ernie greeted all comers, even those who did not root for the Cubs (who always were harassed by the peanut gallery!) or those who might have been a little young to know who he was. The one constant though, and this is something that always come up when I talk to people about their Harry remembrances at the bar, is the connection that existed.

Everyone always has a story about a prior meeting that a loved one had before and the subsequent effect that prior encounter had. Or it was simple as someones father had been a big fan and they felt compelled to just say hello. Neat stuff. Turns out Ernie is a big golf fan, hes locked in, and especially a fan of Tiger. We sat discussing each group as they came in and what they needed to do depending on their approach shot. Soon enough, the beverages were flowing, the conversation was all over the road and we had watched about 13 groups come home.

Could 4 hours really have gone by? Since theres no one left on the course, I guess were not going to be doing much hiking today. The time just flew by, and it would soon be time to go back to the house and punch in. As I was on my way home, reflecting on what had just happened, I just laughed and thought to myself, well thats something you dont get to do every day! Then I laughed even harder when I thought that next year, Im going to be sitting in the same spot. Ive seen how the other half lives, and I like it!

Bears: Where does Kyle Fuller fit with Prince Amukamara back?

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USA Today Sports Images

Bears: Where does Kyle Fuller fit with Prince Amukamara back?

Prince Amukamara (ankle) is expected to make his 2017 regular season debut against the Pittsburgh Steelers after being a full participant in practices Thursday and Friday (he wasn't listed on Friday's injury report). But that leads to the question: What does defensive coordinator Vic Fangio do with Kyle Fuller?

Fuller acquitted himself well in starts against the Atlanta Falcons — in which he helped limit Julio Jones to four catches on five targets — and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bears signed Amukamara to start opposite Marcus Cooper, but Fuller has at least earned the opportunity to keep his job — or a job — on Sunday. 

And it's worth noting that both Fuller and Amukamara are in contract years, so both should be motivated to not lose playing time going forward. 

“I was pleased with the waay Kyle played overall,” Fangio said. “There's obviously some plays he'd like to do over and play them a little better, but overall I thought he did a good job. I like where he's at right now.”

Fangio didn’t play Fuller as a nickel corner in 2015. But if the Bears want to get their best defensive players on the field could Fuller force his way into a nickel role with Amukamara and Cooper as the outside guys? 

That’s an especially pertinent question given Pittsburgh’s explosive trio of receivers: Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and JuJu Smith-Schuster. 

“No matter where a receiver lines up, it’s not going to be a down to take off,” Amukamara said. “We’re always going to have to have our ‘A’ game.”

Avisail Garcia's 'big head' isn't getting in the way of defensive improvements

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USA TODAY

Avisail Garcia's 'big head' isn't getting in the way of defensive improvements

Avisail Garcia's "big head" almost cost the White Sox on Friday night. At least, that's Reynaldo Lopez's humorous theory. 

With the game on the line and the Royals' tying run dashing for the plate, Garcia slipped a bit before making a clutch recovery to nail Whit Merrifield. The craziness continued after the tag as Narvaez caught Lorenzo Cain drifting off first base to seal a win. 

"I was watching the game on the TV here," Lopez said, "and then when I saw the hit from Cain, and I saw that Avi fell down because he has a big head, I was concerned but at the same time I saw that his throw, he has a good arm and he made a very good throw." 

Just your average 9-2-4-6 double play to end a game on the South Side, right? 

"Obviously, when he slipped we took a little gasp," Renteria said. "But we were talking about his body control to be able to maintain himself enough to get up and make the throw that he did. Unbelievable. It's pretty exciting finish to a ballgame that kind of got a little ugly early on."

Ugly is an apt way to describe the first few innings. Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada both made errors in the Royals' six-run third inning, and Lopez capped it off with a wild pitch that allowed Eric Hosmer to score. But it went from an eyesore loss to an overzealous "we could make noise in 2019" rebuild win from there, and Garcia's defense -- of all things -- played a significant role. 

Garcia's outfield assist in the ninth was his second of the game. The first, an absolute strike to cut down Alex Gordon in the sixth, didn't involve a slip, though. 

And while much has been made of Garcia's breakout year with the bat, he believes his defense is hugely improved, too. 

"I think 100 percent," he said. "I just try to get better every day with hitting and defense. That’s baseball so get better in everything."

He has 12 outfield assists on the season, up from five a year ago. And despite his overall fielding percentage being down, his strong arm may give him a stronger defensive reputation. 

"Since last year, he's always had an excellent arm," Renteria said. "I think his accuracy is something to be pointed out too because as off balance as he was, he's made some throws to the plate that have been really spot on."

Renteria attributes Garcia's accuracy to the outfielder putting in extra time with Daryl Boston. 

"(Boston) has those guys throwing, and none of you guys are out there watching them work, but they'll throw quite a bit to the bases, especially second base," Renteria said. "They'll get deep and they'll work on doing that, so that's just a part of their routine."

The evolution of Avi carries on.