What Are You Looking At?

What Are You Looking At?

Thursday, October 15th

Its baseball playoff season once again and decisions have to be made. Decisions for Chicago fans that is: Do I watch? Or is it time for the Bears and Hawks?!! Well, for me, its not so easy to let go. (Besides the point that I have a team in the hunt, not to rub it in.) As one that is VERY used to his team leaving EVERY dance early, I have been faced with this decision, like clockwork, four times a year for about 25 years now, thats what having a sports affliction will do to you. Now, as much as Ive been disappointed by the performance of the team I root for in each of the four major sports, I cant help but watch how those sports are performed at the highest level. Besides, like reading a book or watching a TV show, once Ive invested the time, I always have to know the ending! People always ask me which of the 4 is my favorite and I tell them that its hard to choose, thats like asking me which one of my kids is my favorite. Well, with the kids, it depends on the day, and with the sports, it depends on the time of year. (teasing!) This time of year presents itself with so many options (a thankful distraction to the oncoming of the 7 months of winter!), you sometimes have to choose.

Like me missing the Hawks five-goal comeback the other night, since I was watching a playoff baseball game, the Monday night football game (a tradition like no other!) and doing social studies homework with my 10 year old. There is only so much of Frankie Os attention span to go around! (unlike his waistline or hat size!) But, as usual, my sports priority at this time is baseball. The American pastime. The playoffs provide us with the ultimate reality show. Drama, agony, more agony (sound familiar?) then someone gets voted off the island until only one remains. Im addicted. Go figure! (And winter cant really start until baseball is over, can it?) Another reason I watch, and this is for Cubs and Sox fans, I want to know if these teams are really that much better than the team I root for. So far, the answer is: Yes and Yeesssss!! By watching OUR team for most of the year we can become narrow in our focus, seeing them play against the highest level of competition only occasionally. If they have a decent series in these match-ups we feel they can compete. But the thing all teams have to prove is if they can play at that level for a long stretch, against teams that are equally as good. Thats called exposing your flaws. The teams that are left are here for a reason: Theyre good! And not just at one thing. From the front office on down, this final four belongs, on every level. The main thing that I have taken from this years teams is their incredible balance in every phase. These teams have all been put together by the front office with balance (although, given an open checkbook I could have put together the New York team!), are managed with balance (no surprise that 4 of the best are here) and, most importantly, perform on the field in all phases of the game (power, speed, pitching and defense define each). These teams dont beat themselves, take advantage of opportunity and, as witnessed by all four mounting huge comebacks against elite closers, never give up. This combination is hard to beat.

As an example of something that I see from these teams, that I dont see from the Chicago teams, is something that I witnessed in that Monday night Phillies game. Facing a 2-run deficit and the probability of having to return to Philly for a game 5, the at-bats they had against Huston Street were like watching a how-to video. Not afraid to take pitches, working the count, fouling off tough 2-strikers, the Phillies batters put themselves in a position to succeed. Rollins got a single after being 0-2, Utley worked a full count walk, and then, Howard did not miss a 2-1 fastball to tie the game. My favorite at-bat though was Jayson Werth. With a 2-2 count, and having fouled off a tough low and outside 2-strike slider, and KNOWING that Street was going to keep throwing 2 strike sliders, he adjusted his swing (cut it down, not trying to do too much) and plopped a low and outside slider into right field to score the game-winning run. Now those were professional at-bats, when it mattered most. Now I ask: When was the last time you consistently saw that on the Northside? (I can just envision Soriano taking the same approach!)

So as Chicago embarks on a, once again, too early off-season, I suggest that everyone enjoy the post-season for what it is: baseball being played at its highest level, even if it is teams that you dont root for. And while youre watching, look for clues as to what the team that you root for needs to do to get to this level, then, you can turn on a Hawks or Bear game. Summer is over.

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks win, Jimmy Butler starts All-Star Game

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks win, Jimmy Butler starts All-Star Game

Here are some of Sunday's top stories in Chicago sports:

Jimmy Butler: 'Hopefully I’m not going to get traded'

Patrick Kane leads Blackhawks to win in Buffalo homecoming

What Joe Maddon wants to see next from Javier Baez

Jose Abreu ready for 2017 after season full of 'different challenges'

Wojnarowski: Bulls-Celtics Jimmy Butler trade talks 'will loom over the entire week'

After surreal offseason, Ben Zobrist comes to Cubs camp in style as World Series MVP

White Sox rookie Charlie Tilson out at least 10 days with foot injury

Fire score five goals for fourth preseason win

Simeon beats rival Morgan Park for city championship

Former Northwestern football player Torri Stuckey now focuses on helping others

Jimmy Butler: 'Hopefully I’m not going to get traded'

Jimmy Butler: 'Hopefully I’m not going to get traded'

NEW ORLEANS — Every All-Star isn’t created equal, even by the slimmest of margins as the best 24 NBA players take their turn on the midseason stage.

So Jimmy Butler being announced among the first five as an All-Star starter had to represent some form of validation, now that he’s not a novice at the whole experience and he’s able to go through the motions of the hectic weekend without breaking much of a sweat.

But despite being a three-time All-Star and routinely mentioned as one of the game’s top 15 players or even top 10, he can’t shake the trade rumors that have seemed to follow him since this time last season.

As he finished up his All-Star experience at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, clarity was nowhere to be found—although heading to some tropical island for a couple days to actually unwind with clear water and warm air seemed to be the best therapy if he’s stressed by the uncertainty of the next few days.

“What’s Thursday? Oh, trade deadline,” Butler said. “I don’t know. I don’t know. Am I anxious? Come on, man. I don’t worry about it. It don’t bother or scare me none.”

“Hopefully I’m not going to get traded but I don’t know. I don’t control that. Control what I can control, like going on vacation.”

Surely it has to be frustrating for a guy who’s elevated his game yet again, averaging 24.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.8 steals for the Bulls in 51 games. But he refuses to let it damper his All-Star spirits, playing with some of the best players in the world and a few guys he calls friends, like DeAndre Jordan and Kevin Durant.

“Not for me,” said Butler of the potential stress. “Not saying I’m untradeable but I don’t think about that. If I’m not in a Bulls uniform, I’ll give you a hug and say goodbye to you.”

Moments after Butler made his statement in the media room, the floodgates opened for the trade market as fellow Olympian DeMarcus Cousins was traded from the Sacramento Kings to the New Orleans Pelicans for what seemed to be mere fodder, pennies on the dollar for the most talented center in the NBA.

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While Cousins is far more of a handful than Butler could be, the trade almost signals a consistent truth that always bears repeating—that short of a select few, anybody can be traded.

Even a franchise altering talent like Cousins, who was traded to the city he was physically in for All-Star weekend, and included in the package of players was a guy who hit him in the groin last week (Buddy Hield), resulting in a Cousins outburst and ejection.

Butler has made his name with the Bulls, although not necessarily on the All-Star stage, a player who values defense and doesn’t have as much flash as some of the game’s shinier players.

With a six-point outing in 20 minutes, Butler was an on-court afterthought despite being a starter for the first time.

“Six? Should’ve gone for eight,” he sarcastically deadpanned.

In a relatively jovial mood through the weekend, Butler joked about the talk surrounding him and tried to brush it off as mere chatter as opposed to the franchise not seeing enough in him to make a firm commitment for the long-term, as the Boston Celtics are always hovering.

League sources expect the Celtics to engage the Bulls in conversations for the next few days, but nobody has a great feel for what either side is truly looking for.

But as Butler insisted, he’s only controlling what he can control, which is making himself a fixture for All-Star games to come as opposed to some of the first-timers who don’t know if they’ll get back here again.

“I think I got two underneath my belt,” Butler said. “I know what they’re feeling the first time, It’s so surreal like maybe I do belong here. That’s how I was thinking. Now it’s how do I get here every year? I think that’s the fun part, that’s the challenge. A lot of those guys have done it 10-plus years, hopefully I’m one.”

The only question seems to be, which uniform will it be in because the crazy season has begun.