Super Sunday! Super Memories!!

Super Sunday! Super Memories!!

Friday, Feb. 5, 2010
7:30 AM

Time for my favorite holiday: Super Bowl Sunday. Honestly, does it get any bettor? Oops, Freudian slip, I mean better. Besides Thanksgiving, is there any other day of celebration that we all can agree on? And, theres no tryptophan haze to deal with. Not to mention, for some folks, its not a mandatory family holiday, so many awkward situations, like with Uncle Tommy, can be avoided. Just food, friends and football.

Its the one day of the year that for most of my life, I can remember exactly where I was and what happened that day. (Forget about birthdays. Too many!) My first memory goes back to Super Bowl IV. I just remember part of that game though, it would be years later when I would realize the joy of just keep matriculating the ball downfield boys! and what the 65 toss power trap was. My first full-game memory is of Super Bowl V and Jim OBriens kick to beat the Cowboys. Even as a 9 year old, it was fun to watch Dallas lose, and almost forty years later, its still fun. Good times.

The game with my first official rooting interest was Super Bowl XI when the Raiders beat the Vikings. In my neighborhood, since the Eagles where awful for all of our young lives, guys would pick other teams to root for in the playoffs. Nearly all of them rooted for the Dolphins and Steelers, convenient for them, since those two teams won four consecutive championships. Of course I took a more tortured course (REALLY?!) and rooted for the Oakland Raiders. The Immaculate Reception game against Pittsburgh was especially tough. To fight the whole game and finally take a lead and then lose on a fluke 4th and 10 play with 22 seconds left was hard to take, especially knowing the ribbing I would take at school the next day. (An 11 year old has his priorities!) It only took 4 more long years until the Raiders had their revenge and won the Super Bowl. (The day after that Super Bowl, I could not wait to get to school!) It was made better by the fact that my parents took me to my first NFL game that year and I got to watch the Raiders pound the Eagles 26-7. I think that the fact that the first time I saw the Eagles in-person I was rooting against them explains a lot about me, what I dont know but Im sure that you can figure it out!

The next game of major significance for me was January 25, 1981. Eagles vs. Raiders! Do the ironies in my life ever stop?! Dick Vermeil coming to the Eagles was the start of a golden age of Philadelphia football in which the Eagles actually had 4 consecutive winning seasons and won 3 playoff games! To understand the implications of that statement, I suggest that you que your Netflix to INVINCIBLE and enjoy the show! For some reason, back then, you could not buy mass quantities of liquid refreshments on Sundays in Pennsylvania, so a venture over the Commodore Barry to New Jersey was required. We were on our way back over when Jaworski threw the first of his three picks to Rod Martin in their personal game of catch. Ugh. That was a long night, most of the other problems in the world where solved though. We had a lot of refreshments! (And another thing!)

Like the rest of the country, Philadelphia was caught up in Bears fever during the 85 season. That was a team of which no one has seen the likes of which before or since. That they put a 44-0 beat down on Americas Team made them even bigger in our eyes. But there was something else that made these Bears a fan favorite. I got to explain this to Steve Mongo McMichael at a Cubs-Phillies game this past summer. Noticing that he shot a razor glare at me because I was in a Cub fan V.I.P. area wearing a Phillies jersey, I couldnt help being myself when we were introduced. You know we loved your 85 team in Philly, I told him. You guys liked our personality? he asked wearing a satisfied smile. Nope. Not that. I replied, It was cover, cover, cover! You guys were a lock! Thats why everyone in the rest of the country loved you! He didnt seem to like that much and the smile went away. Too busy still living in 1985 I guess. Oh well, it is what it is. (One note: The house party I was at the night of that game lasted well into the next morning. Can you say parlay?)

Over the next 20 years, just about all of the games included me working or being with people that I got off of work early to watch with. The day has evolved from just a house party day to a party day. In the eighties and early nineties, Super Bowl Sunday, meant a slow work night for us in the restaurant business. No more, especially since I began working at 33 West Kinzie Street almost 15 years ago. In fact, I moved to Chicago on Super Bowl weekend exactly 15 years ago. Drove all day Friday and Saturday, enjoyed the game at a family party on Sunday, then went looking for a job on Monday. Ive only not worked at Harrys during the game once since then.

You guessed it. It was the Eagles next visit to the game after the 2004 season. That was the year that the danger of having hope kicked me in the face. Part of why I living here so much is that all of my family and friends here were so excited for me. I had large groups of friends join me downtown to watch the playoff games before I started work and then they followed me to Harrys when I started my shift to continue the fun. They were interesting nights. I had a chance to go to the game, but that didnt seem right. I needed to go back home to truly feel the emotion and share it with people who felt exactly as I did. My weekend started with my first appearance on Chicago Tribune Live with Dan Jiggetts. (And the celebrity life of an over-weight, over-caffeinated bartender was born! Funny, on that show when I mentioned to 85 Bear Otis Wilson my theory about his team, he laughed out loud.) Then it was an early flight on Sunday with the wife and kids to Philadelphia. The buzz in the airport was incredible. It was like the city was about to burst. Having four generations in the house to watch the game made it seem right, we would endure this together.(And I said endure before the game was ever played, because I know better) (I took a tape of my TV appearance for whoever wanted to enjoy it. What I enjoyed was answering Why are you on TV? thirty times , with no good answer. Honestly! A bartender on TV?!)

After McNabbs first interception, a familiar feeling came over the room as we all shot glances at each other, saying, here we go again. The flight home on Monday was not as fun, although the walk through a depressed city was kind of cathartic, time to leave it behind. Of course, as the plane was about to pull out, a fueling truck was stalled underneath us and would delay our departure. Travelling anywhere with a two-year-old is never easy and doing the math of the flight in my head led me to believe this was not a good sign. (Kids only have so many consecutive good minutes in them!) For the flight, my wife was in a group of three seats with the kids and I was across the aisle. Not very far, but it seemed like miles. After 45 minutes, we were off. As we were preparing for our descent into Midway, Im thinking, that wasnt bad. I mean, I only got about six dirty glances from my wife as the kids took all of her attention as I sat there reading my papers and enjoying snacks, bullet dodged!. Then it happened. My son, strapped into his car seat, lost his mind. Not the usual, I need attention because Im bored lost. No, I mean, top of his lungs, I cant take it anymore lost. As my wife desperately looked over for help, I gave her the, Do I know you lady? look. Not funny! Cmon honey, thats called gallows humor, Im in a state of depression. Still not funny. (To her!)

For my Bear brethren, the 2006 season was quite a ride. The bar rocked all year for the games, and the city was usually giddy on the days in between, with hope of what was to come. (Didnt anybody watch the Shawshank Redemption?!) But I was not a kill-joy, out-loud anyway. I reveled with them, always thinking, I dont feel good about this. (Well, maybe a few people knew that I agreed with Dennis Green.)That Super Sunday was fun at the beginning. We had three 85 Bears at the bar and Notre Dame All-American and nineties Bear Chris Zorich to share in the fun. Then there was Hesters return and the place was up for grabs. ( Zorich is one big dude! He was behind the bar and I was introducing him to all of the regulars. One of our marketing people took a picture of the two of us together. As Chris moved down the bar, I asked if I could see the picture. Oops, it didnt take.

I went down and explained Chris and told him about the picture and asked if he would come back down to my end of the bar to take another. No problem. Then, as these were standing with our arms around each other, and me feeling very small, Bridget, whose taking the picture, starts fumbling with the camera. After what seemed like 5 minutes of awkwardness with us still man-hugging, I turned to Chris and whispered in his ear, I paid her to do that. We laughed about that the rest of the night, although, I think his was nervous laughter. It was a joke! Not that there is anything wrong with that! Then someone handed Jim McMahon a microphone, and like the game, everything went downhill.

So as I get ready to spend another Super Bowl behind the bar at Harrys, I know that no matter what, its going to be a day I always remember. Its all about the game (and the end of the 96-hour pre-game show) and who we enjoy it with. A Super Sunday indeed! And if anyone reading this knows Chris Zorich, please let him know, Im still behind the bar! (Wink-wink!)

Butler trade presents more questions for futures of Mirotic, Wade, Rondo

Butler trade presents more questions for futures of Mirotic, Wade, Rondo

Lauri Markkanenn will be a Chicago Bull once the trade between the Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves is finalized sometime Friday when the trade call is sent to the NBA, as he’s the first domino to fall in what could be an interesting offseason to come.

A stretch-shooting big man from Arizona who shot 42 percent from 3 last season, Markkanenn is a native of Finland who’s more of an offensive threat rather than a defender and rebounder at seven-feet tall. He averaged 15.6 points and 7.2 rebounds for Arizona and has been regarded by many scouts as the best shooter in the draft.

With the Bulls bringing up the rear in that category, one assumes he’ll add a level of versatility if he can see the floor—which brings the Bulls to some offseason decisions they’ll have to make once free agency begins and even before. Markkanenn conceivably brings Nikola Mirotic’s future into question, as Mirotic is a restricted free agent this summer and Mirotic was on the trade block by the Bulls for the better part of last season as he had an underwhelming year trying to fill the role of a stretch-shooting big man.

But officials with the Bulls say Mirotic is still a priority for the Bulls and because he’s restricted, they control the process of his free agency. Mirotic shot 41.3 percent and averaged 10.6 points and 5.5 rebounds, as the Bulls still consider him an asset for the present and future as they’ll play a new style of basketball next season.

One would think Mirotic will command a salary at least around $10 million as the NBA’s salary cap will balloon to $99 million with a luxury tax line of around $119 million.

Rajon Rondo’s future has yet to be decided, as the Bulls acquired a point guard in Kris Dunn they’ve long eyed and presumably one they feel will be their future at the position.

Bulls officials stated they’ll wait until next week before making a decision on Rondo, but one wonders if they’ll go full youth movement, especially with wanting Dunn to succeed after a rocky rookie year in Minnesota and already having Jerian Grant and Cameron Payne under contract for next season.

Rondo has a $3 million buyout the Bulls can exercise that will make Rondo a free agent or they’ll pay Rondo $13.3 million next season.

[MORE: After trading Jimmy Butler, Bulls select Lauri Markkanen] 

And then there’s Dwyane Wade, who opted in to his deal of $23.8 million for next season. Wade came to Chicago for a number of reasons, notably the salary and chance to play with Butler. With Butler gone and the Bulls changing their direction of the franchise, one wonders how Wade sees himself next season and how the Bulls see Wade with their young players.

Unless Wade wants out, the Bulls are headed into the free agency period thinking he’ll be back next season, and considering the Bulls have to spend up to 90 percent of their salary cap, his money helps them keep their books afloat, even as Butler’s affordable max salary exits and the controlled rookie-scale salaries of LaVine, Dunn and Merkkanenn enter Chicago for a future unknown

Jose Quintana turns in stellar outing as White Sox crush Twins in series finale

Jose Quintana turns in stellar outing as White Sox crush Twins in series finale

MINNEAPOLIS -- Guess who’s back?

Jose Quintana turned in the kind of game on Thursday afternoon that reminds you why he has been one of baseball’s top pitchers the past few seasons. Working with a swing-and-miss curveball and another shocking barrel of run support, Quintana waited out a near five-hour delay to produce a stellar outing. Quintana struck out nine batters in 6 2/3 scoreless innings as the White Sox avoided a sweep with a 9-0 victory over the Minnesota Twins in front of 27,684 at Target Field. Jose Abreu, Todd Frazier and Matt Davidson all homered for the White Sox, who finished with 18 hits and a 3-3 mark on their road trip.

After making several baby steps in his past few starts, Quintana ran wild in the series finale against a Twins team that he has always struggled against. While he worked deliberately, Quintana never got into trouble facing a team against whom he was 6-8 with a 4.28 ERA in his career.

The left-hander used a nasty, biting curveball along with sharp fastball command to keep Minnesota hitters off balance. Quintana struck one batter in each of the first five innings before he picked up steam. He struck out two batters each in the sixth and seventh innings and is averaging a career best 8.97 strikeouts per nine innings this season.

He struck out Miguel Sano three times in three trips and never allowed a man past second base in a 113-pitch effort. Quintana allowed five hits and walked none.

Quintana has a 2.25 ERA in his last four starts as he’s allowed 19 hits and six earned runs in 24 innings. He has walked eight and struck out 24.

[MORE: White Sox will give Tim Anderson freedom to make mistakes

The White Sox offense made it all much easier for Quintana for a second straight start. Six days after they produced an early four-spot for Quintana against Toronto, the White Sox scored five times and knocked Minnesota starter Nik Turley out in the first inning.

Showing no signs of malaise after a 290-minute rain delay, Abreu and Frazier each blasted two-run homers off Turley to put the White Sox up 4-0. With two outs and Turley gone, Adam Engel singled off reliever Buddy Boshers to make it 5-0 in the first.

The White Sox continued to add on for Quintana as Kevan Smith and Engel each singled in runs in the third to give the 2016 All-Star pitcher a seven-run cushion. Engel finished with four hits and Smith tied a career high with three.

Davidson increased the lead to 8-0 in the fifth inning with a 427-foot blast off Craig Breslow, his 17th homer. Davidson also singled, doubled and walked. The White Sox scored once more in the seventh when Tim Anderson (two hits) doubled in a run off Breslow.

After they produced 22 runs of support for Quintana in his first 13 starts this season, the White Sox have scored 20 in his last two.