"Comcast SportsNet Sports Awards" salutes Chicago's Sports Stars at annual March of Dimes dinner (Monday, Feb. 13)

"Comcast SportsNet Sports Awards" salutes Chicago's Sports Stars at annual March of Dimes dinner (Monday, Feb. 13)

COMCAST SPORTSNET SPORTS AWARDS SALUTES CHICAGO'S SPORTS STARS AT ANNUAL DINNER BENEFITING THE MARCH OF DIMES

24th Annual Comcast SportsNet Sports Awards to be Televised Live on Comcast SportsNet on Monday, February 13th at 7:30 PM (Pre-Show Special airs at 7 PM)Chicago Radio Legend Steve Dahl to Emcee

Chicago, IL (January 9, 2012) Some of Chicago's best-known professional athletes will take center stage to receive honors at the 24th Annual Comcast SportsNet Sports Awards presented by Navistar to benefit the March of Dimes. Over the past two-plus decades, the Comcast SportsNet Sports Awards has raised close to 8 million for the March of Dimes. The dinner will be held on Monday, February 13th, 5 9 p.m. at a new location this year -- the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers, 301 E. North Water Street. The emcee is Chicago radio legend and local media personality Steve Dahl.

The honorees chosen are top athletes from Chicago's professional teams who have made considerable contributions to their teams, as well as the Chicago community. This year's honorees include CARLOS BOOZER (Bulls), COREY CRAWFORD (Blackhawks), KERRY WOOD (Cubs), ALEXEI RAMIREZ (White Sox), LOGAN PAUSE (Fire) and EARL BENNETT (Bears). In addition, Blackhawks legendteam AmbassadorHockey Hall of Famer TONY ESPOSITO will be honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award. For the pinnacle moment of the evening, this years March of Dimes Inspirational Athlete award winner is 16-year-old TYWAUN CRAIN from Chicagos southwest side. Tywaun has persevered as both an athlete and student, despite being born with cerebral palsy.

The 1000 expected attendees for the 24th Annual Comcast SportsNet Sports Awards will also be able to participate in a silent auction featuring Chicago sports packages and Dream Day tickets, vacation packages including airfare, autographed jerseys of star athletes, tickets for Chicago sports events, golf outings, spa packages, dinner packages, hotel stays and much more. Fans are urged to visit CSNChicago.com and click on the Sports Awards link for complete event details, tickettable sales and online auction bidding.

Daniel C. Ustian, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Navistar International Corporation, the parent company of Warrenville, IL based International Truck and Engine Corporation, is the honorary chair of this years Comcast SportsNet Sports Awards. William T. Barry, Senior Vice President of Draper & Kramer is the events Chairman and James J. Corno is the President of Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

In addition to Comcast SportsNet and Navistar, other event sponsors include Four Seasons Heating and Air Conditioning, Chicagoland Speedway, Draper and Kramer, Dana Corporation, Ernst & Young, KPMG, Latham & Watkins, Office Space, Inc., Oracle, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, LLC (PwC) and Skadden.

The event will begin with a reception at 5:00 PM, followed by dinner at 6:30 PM. The awards ceremony, which will be carried live on Comcast SportsNet in HD, starts at 7:30 PM with a special half-hour preview show set to air at 7:00 PM. Tickets are 350 per person and sponsorships are available. For more information or to purchase tickets to the 24th Annual Comcast SportsNet Sports Awards, please call Rebecca Grant at (312) 596-4721 or visit CSNChicago.com.

Relentless Cubs offense knocks out Gerrit Cole in win over Pirates

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Relentless Cubs offense knocks out Gerrit Cole in win over Pirates

PITTSBURGH — Relentless is the word the Cubs keep using to describe a lineup that knocked out Gerrit Cole on Monday night with the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth inning and the Pittsburgh Pirates already trailing by two runs at PNC Park.

Relentless could also be a label for Theo Epstein’s front office, even after spending almost $290 million on free agents and even with an 18-6 record that’s the best in baseball following a 7-2 win over the Pirates.

Because the Cubs want nothing to do with the randomness of another one-game playoff and can’t take anything for granted with 85 percent of the schedule still remaining.

Not that Epstein needed a reminder, but the president of baseball operations flashed back to last year’s National League wild-card game when he flew into Pittsburgh, checked into the team’s downtown hotel across the Roberto Clemente Bridge and went running along the Allegheny River.

From his hotel room, Epstein could sort of see where Kyle Schwarber’s two-run homer off Cole flew out of PNC Park last October. Even with Schwarber recovering from season-ending knee surgery, the Cubs still roughed up Cole for six runs.

“We’ve played really well,” Epstein said, “but I don’t think we’ve completely locked in yet or clicked in all facets of the game. Our pitching staff’s really been carrying us. It’s been the most consistent part of our team yet. As it warms up here, I think the bats will get going and they’ll probably carry us for a while.

“But as far as needs that we might have, or ways that we can get better, we’re always assessing that. I think there’s lots of different ways we could potentially improve the club before the end of the season.”

The Cubs will watch Tim Lincecum’s upcoming showcase in Arizona because they always check in on potential impact players at that level. Lincecum — a two-time Cy Young Award winner who helped the San Francisco Giants win three World Series titles — is making a comeback after hip surgery.

While the Cubs should have big-picture concerns about their rotation and a farm system that hasn’t developed the arms yet, Jason Hammel is making his own comeback. Hammel (4-0, 1.24 ERA) gave up two runs across five innings before four relievers combined to shut down the Pirates (15-11) the rest of the night.

After beating up on the division’s have-nots and going 8-1 against the Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers, the Cubs should have a better idea of where they stand after Joe Maddon’s “Minimalist Zany” road trip to Pittsburgh and a four-game series against the Washington Nationals at Wrigley Field.

“There’s always the threat of somehow playing to the level of your competition in a negative way,” Maddon said. “I’m not denigrating any team that we’ve played to this point. That is not my point. But if you play teams with less-than (.500) records and maybe they’re not playing as well, you don’t turn that dimmer switch up to the full velocity. But when you’re playing really good teams, I think that naturally brings out the best in you.”

Jake Arrieta is the wild card in budding Cubs-Pirates rivalry

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Jake Arrieta is the wild card in budding Cubs-Pirates rivalry

PITTSBURGH — Jake Arrieta felt so locked in, so prepared for the biggest start of his life that he trolled the Pittsburgh Pirates on Twitter, telling their fans that the blackout atmosphere at PNC Park wouldn’t matter.

The Cubs will never forget that epic performance during last year’s National League wild-card game, how Arrieta walked the walk in a complete-game shutout. His young son, Cooper, even helped pour champagne into his mouth during that wild postgame celebration, creating another memorable snapshot.

If Arrieta is going to become a true villain in Pittsburgh — and the Cubs and Pirates are going to reach another boiling point and turn this into a great rivalry — then it probably won’t happen during the first week of May while the Penguins are still alive in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

But Arrieta’s starts have already become must-see TV, and the Pirates will get another up-close look on Tuesday night at this beautiful waterfront ballpark.

"Their fans are good," Arrieta said. "They’re passionate about their team and their guys, so it’s something that I enjoy. I don’t expect them to be my biggest fan — or a fan of me at all — but that’s the nature of fans and the fans that really support their team.

"That’s the whole point of social media — to interact. Sometimes it’s well received. Sometimes it’s not. But that was the intention there — to fire people up — and I think that’s exactly what I did."

Arrieta looked a little drained during the next two rounds of the playoffs, beating the St. Louis Cardinals (while seeming to lose his air of invincibility) before the New York Mets swept the Cubs out of the NLCS.

There hasn’t been any sort of hangover for Arrieta, the first NL Pitcher of the Month for three consecutive months after a dominant April that saw him go 5-0 with a no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds and only two runs allowed across 36 innings.

As manager Joe Maddon likes to say, the reigning Cy Young Award winner is embracing the target.

"When you’re at the top of your game, when you’re one of the teams to beat, it’s just something that comes with the territory," Arrieta said.

Arrieta’s meticulous routine and laser focus mean he doesn’t experience a flood of special memories as soon as he sees the bridges, the black and gold and the Pittsburgh skyline. Or at least he won’t admit that now.

"Well, when you bring it up, yeah," Arrieta said. "That was a neat experience, something that was huge for us as a team and for the organization. But it was short-lived.

"We moved on and had to play the Cardinals and the Mets and our season was cut a little bit short. But we’re in a better spot now this early in the season. We like where we are."

That would be in first place in the Central, with the best record in the league and no interest in dealing with the coin-flip nature of the wild card.

"When you play 162, and then you have to fight it out in one game to move on or go home, it’s a situation that nobody really wants to be in," Arrieta said. "The goal is obviously to win the division. And getting off to a hot start is the way you go about doing that. We’re where we intended to be at this point in the season."

Antrel Rolle blames Bears practice field for knee injury

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Antrel Rolle blames Bears practice field for knee injury

Antrel Rolle has been around the NFL long enough to know this is sometimes how it goes.

The Bears released the 33-year-old Rolle one day after selecting three defensive backs in the 2016 NFL Draft. Rolle played just seven games in the first season of his three-year deal, while dealing with ankle and knee injuries.

He joined 670 The Score on Monday to discuss a number of topics surrounding his release. Among his comments, Rolle blamed the playing surface at Halas Hall, the Bears' practice facility, for the knee injury that ultimately ended his season.

Rolle, still dealing with an injured ankle that had limited him early in the season, injured the knee on the final play of practice on the Friday before the Bears' game against the Denver Broncos.

As he explains:

"I was pretty much shuffling...and I tried to change direction and I slipped on the surface, and because of my ankle and because of the tape the only thing that was able to give was my knee. So my knee had to take a lot of the force and the impact, and even the doctor said it was very unsual to find a tear that I had with a non-contact injury. But it was because of all the pressure and force on my knee because my ankle couldn't really give.

"I think the surface had a whole lot to do with it. It happens.

"The facilities are good in Chicago. The fields are just not as good. I don't know the reason behind it. I don't know how the maintenance and upkeep works in Chicago. But it's real hard to maintain and just be stable under those conditions. But I'm sure they'll try to work and fix it. I always knew Soldier Field (playing surface) was bad. I just never knew that the facitlities were just as bad."

Rolle plans on playing in his 12th NFL season, and believe he's capable of much more than he showed in his limited time with the Bears. Now a free agent, Rolle said he has a chip on his shoulder and is hoping whichever team he signs with plays the Bears in 2016.

"I know who I am as a player. I know who I still am as a player and what I can contribute. It's just unfortunate that it won't be (in Chicago).

"It's all good. I'll find a way and I'll make the best of it. And whatever team i play (for), I hope chicago's on the schedule."