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!!

Cubs down to only one All-Star starter in voting update

Cubs down to only one All-Star starter in voting update

The Cubs are down to only one starter in next month's All-Star Game in Miami: reigning MVP Kris Bryant.

Jason Heyward lost his grip on the final starting outfielder spot to Marlins star Marcell Ozuna in the latest All-Star balloting update released by the MLB:

That may be for the best, as the Cubs are currently banged up (Heyward. Ben Zobrist and Kyle Hendricks are on the disabled list) and slogging through a season where they've hovered around .500. So maybe four days off in a row would be beneficial for the defending champs.

Heyward is 29,270 votes behind Ozuna and Zobrist is 118,248 votes behind Heyward. It appears as if Washington's Bryce Harper and Colorado's Charlie Blackmon are sure things for the top two outfielder spots in the NL.

Bryant is only 58,082 votes ahead of Nolan Arenado at third base. Anthony Rizzo trails Ryan Zimmerman at first base, Javy Baez comes in well behind Daniel Murphy at second base and Buster Posey has more than twice as many votes as runner-up Willson Contreras at catcher.

Addison Russell is third among shortstops. Kyle Schwarber — despite being demoted to the minors last week — is eighth among NL outfielders.

It's a far cry from 2016, when the Cubs made up all four infield spots in the NL starting lineup.

Voting ends in four days. Fans can head to MLB.com to vote.

If Nationals are playoff preview, what should Cubs do at trade deadline?

If Nationals are playoff preview, what should Cubs do at trade deadline?

WASHINGTON – Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio has perspective after sitting through the darkest days of the rebuild, the sign-and-flip cycles and moments like “Men Playing Against Boys,” the way ex-manager Dale Sveum once sized up the team during a 2012 series against the Washington Nationals.

Bosio trusted future “World’s Greatest Leader” Theo Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer and the rest of a growing front office would deliver talent during the 101-loss season that led to the Kris Bryant No. 2 overall draft pick and the Ryan Dempster/Kyle Hendricks buzzer-beater deal at the trade deadline.   

So while Bosio is a hardened realist who understands the banged-up Cubs haven’t played up to their potential, he also knows these are first-division problems. 

“If Theo and Jed can find a way to make our team better, you can bet they’re going to do it,” Bosio said. “But at the same time, they’re not going to sacrifice our future. They know that the team (here has) a lot of holdovers from the World Series club. There’s a lot of holdovers from the team that went to the National League (Championship Series in 2015). We’ve been through that. And when it comes crunch time, we produce.”

With that in mind, a look at where things stand five weeks out from the July 31 trade deadline as the defending champs begin a potential playoff preview on Monday at Nationals Park:

• If Max Scherzer flirts with another no-hitter or a 20-strikeout game on Tuesday, the questions will start all over again about adding a hitter. Javier Baez even let this slip over the weekend after a win over the Miami Marlins: “Pretty much not having a leadoff guy right now is kind of tough.” But shipping Kyle Schwarber to Triple-A Iowa is not necessarily the start of an offensive overhaul.

“Our focus is going to be on pitching,” Hoyer said. “I would never say never to something like that, because I don’t know what’s going to present itself as we get closer to the deadline. I will say this: When it comes to our offense, I really do see it as these are our guys. We’re as deep with position players as any team in baseball. These guys have performed exceptionally well. Most of these guys have won 200 games over the last two years.

“We believe in them for a reason. We don’t have rings on our fingers without all these guys.”

• With Jake Arrieta and John Lackey on the verge of becoming free agents, the Cubs feel like they should start working on their winter plans this summer and begin remodeling the rotation. The 38-37 record makes you wonder how ultra-aggressive the front office will be to win a bidding war for a frontline starter, but the Cubs are only 1.5 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers, a first-place team for now that was supposed to be rebuilding this year.   

But the Cleveland Indians got to the 10th inning of a World Series Game 7 with Trevor Bauer, Josh Tomlin and Ryan Merritt making nine playoff starts combined, because they had Corey Kluber and a dynamic bullpen.

The primary focus will have to be on the rotation, but adding another high-leverage reliever to work in front of lights-out closer Wade Davis would shorten games and help preserve Carl Edwards Jr. (170 pounds) and Koji Uehara (42 years old).   

“At some point, you’re going to assess your own team,” Hoyer said. “Sometimes strengthening a strength can work. You see teams that sometimes have a good offense – and add another good hitter – and all of a sudden we’re going to beat you in a different way.”

• Without making this summer’s blockbuster deal for a closer – the way the Cubs landed Aroldis Chapman – Washington risks wasting Bryce Harper’s second-to-last season before free agency and another year of Scherzer’s $210 million megadeal.

Six different Nationals have saved games for a 45-30 team and the bullpen ranks near the bottom of the majors with a 4.88 ERA. Can’t blame that on Dusty Baker, who has notched more than 1,800 wins as a manager and guided four different franchises to the playoffs.

But it won’t be easy to find a quick fix for the Washington bullpen or Cubs rotation. The American League opened for business on Monday with only three of its 15 teams more than three games under .500, and one being the White Sox, who are (obviously) not seen as a realistic trade partner for the Cubs.

“The American League is incredibly jumbled up,” Hoyer said. “That’s why a lot of deals don’t happen this time of year, because people are still sorting it out. The next five weeks of baseball will determine a lot of that. Some of those teams that are in the race now will fall back.

“There’s a lack of teams right now that have a true sense of sellers. I think there are a lot of teams right now that are close enough that they’re not going to admit it that they’re going to be sellers. That five weeks will determine a lot about who ends up on which side of the fence.”