Why

Why

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

Its the one of the Five Ws that Im having a hard time getting past. In this desensitized world we live in, it sometimes takes a lot to get all of our collective attentions but the events of last Friday were over-the-top. I was behind the bar when I saw the first headline on TV. Worst fear is what comes immediately to mind.

Needless to say, I was a little distracted for the rest of my shift. As more detailed information came out, I could not think of anything else. Unfortunately for me, the end of my shift meant that it was time to go on Chicago Tribune Live. Upon walking into the Comcast SportsNet studios, there was a palpable tension. In the wake of the events, talking sports on TV seemed a little insignificant, to say the least. It was agreed that we would acknowledge the tragic events, but then we would respectively move on. As sometimes happens on live television, it didnt exactly go as scripted. In fact, there was no script.

Being someone who is still a TV novice, I often take in everything going on around me like a tourist. One of those is reading the teleprompter that host David Kaplan is reading off of to see how much he adheres to it or how he summarizes what is in front of him. On this occasion there was no script, since the teleprompter went down. No worries, pro that he is, Kap just started talking, expressing his feelings in a thoughtful, heartfelt way without as much as a half-second delay. That was impressive. Especially since as it went around the panel for us to weigh in and it came to my turn, I thought I was going to lose it. Its weird sometimes when emotion will hit you and when Kap turned to me for my chance to speak it was hitting me in a giant wave. As soon as I started thinking about my kids, I couldnt stop thinking about the little ones from Sandy Hook Elementary School and the horrors they had faced and how now, their parents must deal with it.

As the father of a 1st grader, and two others that are not that far removed, I kept thinking about my kids school. Life offers a lot of cool circumstances. One is being around your young children and their friends. There is not an easier environment to get a smile than when you go to visit your child in their 1st grade classroom. It is a very special place. What the hope is that it is as safe as home. I remember the very first time my now teenager went to school. The bus that picked her up was the most intimidating machine ever made. How would they take care of her? What would they do if she was upset? What would she do without her parents? From my subsequent visits, I realized that it was a perfect place for any of my kids to be, or anyone elses for that matter. It is the start of what hopefully is a wonderful journey. And it is full of all of the wonder and innocence that you would expect.

For 26 families of those who inhabited Sandy Hook, either students or those who worked there, that innocence was shattered.

I cant describe how sick that makes me feel.

So, as much as I love and look forward to being on CTL it was a hard place to be. Quite honestly, who cares?

I could not wait to get home and hug my kids. And yell at my teenager to clean her room. I needed something normal to deal with something beyond comprehension.

The sense of loss was profound, bordering on overwhelming.

Judging from the immediate reactions, everyone feels this way. Im sure as we move on things are going to be politicized, arent they always? But if this doesnt wake people up to some of the problems we face as a society, what is going to?

That line of thought can get me going, but this is neither the time nor place.

What this is a time for is an appreciation of what we have and our responsibilities to those around us. At some point isnt this what lifes all about?

One of the interesting benefits of being a parent is that it enables your heart to open up to other children and families in a way you never imagined. When I look at my kids friends, or when families come into the restaurant, it usually brings a smile, mostly one of happiness, or if things go awry, one of commiseration. Been there, done that. The feeling comes from the fact that they remind me of how lucky I am. And that is never more so than now.

As is usually the case when Im down, something will happen to me at work to help change my outlook.

Sunday night was as dreadful as you would expect. Thats always the case after a Bears home loss and the masses come in afterward, especially more so when victorious Packer fans are sprinkled in. Cant they just go home? I know they have a sense of wonderment with our newfangled indoor plumbing, but enough is enough!

Anyway, for some reason, all concerned seemed a little more engaged in the experience than usual.

Whatever. Its the holiday season I guess. I usually dont bother easy, but this was beginning to become a chore. I couldnt wait to get done and go back home to see my sleeping angels.

For most of the night I had three guys in Bears jerseys, two younger, one older, sitting in front of me watching the Sunday night football game. They werent shy about their consumption, but were harmless and having a good time. After a couple of hours in, the guy about my age shared with me that the two others were his sons. Thats pretty cool I thought and said. He had brought his sons up in Chicago but they had all subsequently moved to different parts of the country. They got together once a year for a Bears home game minus any female influence. They were all flying out Monday afternoon, but for now I felt as though we were watching a game in one of their living rooms, and I was now in on it, a willing audience for all the little things that they were goofing on each other for. Thats what guys do, especially when youre related.

I just thought this was the neatest thing.

An important thing.

It reminded me of sports trips I have taken with my father and someday want to take with my kids. Memories that last a lifetime, and now I was part of theirs. In my emotional state I kept telling them how cool what they were doing was. I could tell by dads smile he knew exactly what I meant.

For many families in Connecticut that simple joy is no longer possible.

Blackhawks notebook: A busy draft, free agency and RFAs

Blackhawks notebook: A busy draft, free agency and RFAs

Eight draft picks in about 3 ½ hours. It was a busy Saturday for the Blackhawks, and when general manager Stan Bowman talked that afternoon about the team’s Day 2 haul, he came prepared.

“I have my little cheat sheet,” Bowman said of the paper on which he had written the Blackhawks’ eight newest prospects.

After a few days’ worth of moves the Blackhawks focused on the future, taking nine players over two days at the NHL Draft. It was a successful weekend for the Blackhawks, who hosted the draft for the first time and built up assets, especially on the blue line. Five of the Blackhawks’ nine selections were defensemen.

“One of the things we talked about was looking at the market. There’s a high value on defensemen. We’re not necessarily looking at the draft but our team this year and over the next couple of years; those are the assets that are valuable around the league,” Bowman said. “Look at the trade Calgary made [for Travis Hamonic], defensemen are a valuable commodity. That was a priority coming in and we were able to accomplish it.”

What comes next

The Blackhawks got what they wanted at this weekend’s draft but the focus will soon shift, as free agency opens on July 1. It remains to be seen what the Blackhawks will have cap-wise come a week from now. Currently, according to CapFriendly.com, they’re $1.445 million over the $75 million cap. It’s doubtful the Blackhawks apply the long-term injured reserve tag on Marian Hossa during the offseason. It’s possible they could still trade Marcus Kruger to gain some space. Bowman said, one way or another, “there will be some movement.”

“We’ll bring some players in, I don’t know how many, what position or what level,” he said. “This is where there’s a lot of activity, the couple weeks in the middle of June until the middle of July. That’s when the most changes happen. We’ll go to work, now that we’re past this.”

Wait for it

The Blackhawks also have to decide whether or not to qualify restricted free agents Dennis Rasmussen and Tomas Jurco. Bowman said that’ll be decided by Monday.

“I’ve had discussions with both agents,” he said. “I don’t have an answer right now but we’ll have that worked out in the next day and a half.”

Mark Buehrle describes the 'amazing feeling' of having jersey number retired by White Sox

Mark Buehrle describes the 'amazing feeling' of having jersey number retired by White Sox

Mark Buehrle might need time to process everything that took place Saturday afternoon when he was surrounded by friends, family, teammates and fans, showered with gifts and overwhelmed by emotion.

The White Sox officially retired the number of one of the most popular players in team history in front of 38,618 at Guaranteed Rate Field. A banner covering Buehrle’s No. 56 was unfurled during an afternoon ceremony that makes the left-hander one of 11 players in club history whose number has been retired. Surrounded by fellow honoree Frank Thomas among many others, the always humble Buehrle -- who won 161 games in 12 seasons with the White Sox -- said afterward he’s not sure he belongs in the club.

“It doesn’t make sense,” Buehrle said. “It’s going to take time. I don’t know if it’s ever going to sink in and realize there it is.

“Amazing feeling. Can’t really put it into words how you feel. I wasn’t actually as nervous as I thought I would be once I was up there. But obviously glad it’s over with and it’s a special day.”

Buehrle’s list of dignitaries included Thomas, managers Ozzie Guillen and Jerry Manuel, Cliff Polite, Scott Podsednik, Jim Thome, Joe Crede, Jon Garland, John Danks and hitting coach Greg Walker.

White Sox play by play man Hawk Harrelson emceed a ceremony that lasted 30 minutes. Included were speeches by Thomas and White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper as well as an unveiling of a series of gifts. The team presented Buehrle with a new truck, a baseball collage put together by Ron Kittle, a four-seat All-Terrain Vehicle -- much to the enjoyment of his duck hunting club seated on the 400 level -- as well as the flip-through-the-legs ball from Opening Day 2010. Club chairman Jerry Reinsdorf also spoke during the ceremony, dropping in a series of one-liners.

“I’ve never seen him upset,” Guillen said. “I’ve never seen him overreact. Day in and day out he was the same guy. That’s what makes him so special. His teammates loved him.

“Buehrle did something: outsmart people. People don’t have stuff like him they think I’m smart, I can do this and fake it. Buehrle just grabbed the ball and threw it.

“To survive for so many years and have your number retired, there’s not that many people up there.

“It’s amazing with the stuff he had. I’ve seen a lot of better pitchers with better stuff. You don’t see too many guys with the same heart.”

Buehrle said Friday that he anticipated he’d be an emotional wreck for the event. The man beloved by the public isn’t much for public speaking. Throw in all of his friends and family present and Buehrle just hoped to get through his own speech. He said the sight of seeing his number unfurled almost put him over the edge.

“Emotions and trying to breathe deep and don’t start crying, tearing up,” Buehrle said. “I was trying to hold my emotions together. But just looking up there and seeing that. I can’t put it into words.”

When it was his turn to say the words, Buehrle spoke the way he pitched: tidy and efficient. Wearing a suit and sunglasses in case he teared up, Buehrle spoke with his wife and children at his side. Aside from his family, Buehrle said he avoided naming names during the 4-minute, 19-second speech because he had too many people to thank for the journey from 38th round draft pick to all-time great.

Buehrle said he wouldn’t be able to pick out his favorite part until he watches the ceremony again later.

“When I watch it back in a couple hours and realize what happened and what really went on,” Buehrle said. “It’s kind of hard to hear out there, but it’s just everything. I had Frank Thomas and Jim Thome behind me. They’re here for my day. It doesn’t make sense to me.”