Curses are contagious?

Curses are contagious?

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

Upon moving to Chicago some 19 years ago, one of the first things I became acutely aware of was the curse that had befallen the beloved, at least on the Northside, Cubs. Of course if you know me, you know what my reaction was: Laughter. This city obviously doesnt know anything about a jinx in spite of what Uncle Lou dubbed Cubby occurrences. 104 years? Whatever! I have almost half that with my football team alone! Although I will admit some weird things happen to them, Bartman comes right to mind, but most of what I have witnessed with the Cubs seems self-inflicted. When I think of a curse, I think of weird stuff happening out of nowhere, on a repeated, relentless basis. Like what happens to guys who wear a red bow tie for a living.

Currently Im in the middle of a stretch in my life where I just cant seem to get out of my own way, I mean at least more than usual. Speaking of which, out of nowhere on Tuesday, at six in the morning, I was startled out of my once a week eight-hour slumber by my wife who said that my presence was needed on the front porch: IMMEDIATELY! What now? A headless rabbit, thats what. Honestly?! How does something like that happen? Im really asking myself this? The real surprise is that it took this long! I mean, everyone finds severed animal carcasses on their doorsteps in the morning, right? Thats normal.

Thats also one unlucky rabbit. I should have kept his feet.

As I was trying to get back to sleep, with the vision of the disposal running through my head, I amused myself by wondering who I had ticked off to cost the poor bunny its life. Then it occurred to me that I had recently done something that I never thought I would ever do: I had publicly denounced one of my hometown teams, the Sixers, in favor of the Bulls in last years playoffs. Well you know how that turned out: D-Rose promptly blew out his knee in the first game. And for good measure Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Luol Deng were injured during the hard-fought series to ensure the Bulls demise.

Oops.

I guess I angered the basketball gods. Sorry Bulls fans. My bad.

But that should have been the end of it right?

I still follow my Fightin Phils with a psychotic passion, but I did check out on them kind of early this year when I saw where things were headed. I think that was in April. What can I say? I can only beat my head against a wall so many times and most of them are used up with my family. Give me a reason to believe, not Ty Wiggington!

So during the summer I turned most of my attention to the White Sox, and for most of the season that was a fun thing. Then the bottom fell out. Wait a second. That sounds eerily familiar. Compete all season long, to the point where even the non-believers get on board, then gag. Hold on here. Thats the Frankie O Philly team curse. You know, the one where a team is thisclose to winning and then doesnt, often losing in spectacular fashion.

Almost good enough.

And in some instances a coach is given 14 chances to torture. What is the definition of insanity again?

But the Sox thing got me thinking. But that must have been a coincidence, right? Theres no way that I could have brought my luck here is there? I couldnt have opened some weird Philly-Chicago portal like the one in the Malkovich movie could I? The Sox season could have happened anywhere, my being here was just an unfortunate happenstance.
It would have to happen more than once for someone to think this is real.

I had no effect on the Cubs. They shot themselves. Again and again. They wanted to be awful. They never allowed the fan connection that is required to rip your heart out, at least with the sober ones.

And Im not happy that there wont be a hockey season, but at least I cant be held captive by a lost-in-the-woods crazy Russian astronomergoalie. My hockey heartbreak already occurred over the summer when the Flyers offered all-star defenseman Shea Weber the second largest contract in NHL history and gave visions to Flyers fans of Claude Giroux manning the front line and Weber manning the blue line for years to come. Two all-world talents on one team. NOT! The cash-strapped Nashville Predators matched the contract offer right before they locked him out. Even when theres no season, I suffer! Whatever!

So I guess a good barometer for the Frankie O effect would be the 2012 Monsters of the Midway.

Lets see. Theyre coming off a devastating season in which Jay Cutler had led the team to a 7-3 record, but suffered a season-ending injury in the seventh win. Then without a quarterback they then lost the next five games in every conceivable fashion to shatter their once sure playoff hopes. (One could say without a competent QB they had their heads cut off. Sorry, its late.)

That kind of season can happen to anyone though. Besides, did anyone think they had a chance without a big-time receiver? I didnt think so. In a way, Bears fans were spared the agony of getting bounced within a whiff of the final prize with a fatally-flawed team. Remember 2010? That hurts worse.

Then the unthinkable happened. The Bears went out and got the wide receiver they have wanted for generations. They would finally be on par offensively with all the big boys. It was a master stroke. Brandon Marshall didnt come without risk, but hes well worth it. This could be the start of something special. Uh-oh. Of course it all depends on how an aging defense can hold up, but theres hope. Where have I heard this before?

The life I have led has taught me there is nothing worse than having the football team you root for get you close then not be able reach the summit of Mt. Lombardi. Getting there must be great. It happened here once and I hear about it every day, 27 years later. But I digress.

To be truly cursed, you need to be set up for success and then have the bottom fall out, say in consecutive years, in much different ways.

How did this years 7-1 sound? A month ago it sounded great.

Now, there are some realists here that have understood the issues of the offensive line, but 7-1? With a defense that can seemingly take away the ball from an opponent at will? This is a team that can go places, so hop on board! Ive really heard this one before and my stomach is starting to get queasy.

The true measure is that in spite of losing three out of four and guards dropping like flies, fans keep thinking that the tailspin will end NEXT week. Oh my God! Its happening here! What have I done?

As much as I want to help, I dont know if I can. And after last weeks awful home loss to the Seahawks I have a familiar feeling on how this is going to end up and its as messy as my front porch was earlier this week. For the second year in a row.

We want to analyze and theorize everything that happens, but some things in this life are just going to happen, due much to forces beyond our control or understanding. I look at where this Bears season is heading and where its come from and I want to close my eyes and yell Lookout! There has been a force unleashed here that shows no mercy and takes no prisoners.

By taking sides against my former hometown with my current one, I have obviously transferred the lifetime of suffering on an unsuspecting metropolis. It wasnt my intent, but then it never is. All I wanted was to be a part of something here. Unfortunately, its part of something where rabbits are running around without heads and pro teams are ripping out hearts.

I didnt mean for this to happen.

Im sorry Chicago.

My bad!

John Goossens' return could be key for the Fire

John Goossens' return could be key for the Fire

For much of this season the Chicago Fire have struggled not just to score goals, but to create chances.

The Fire moved out of last place in Major League Soccer in goals scored after putting in three in a loss at Philadelphia last week, but are still last place in total shots (157) and shots on target (43). For context, the team just above the Fire in shots on target is San Jose with 60 and Vancouver leads the league with 109.

In Tuesday's U.S. Open Cup victory against Columbus there was a welcome face starting in the midfield for the first time since April 16: John Goossens. Goossens made his return from a sprained LCL in Philadelphia, but came off the bench in that match.

Goossens' impact against the Crew was immediately seen in his assist to David Accam on the opening goal in the seventh minute. Goossens got control of the ball in his own half and was able to dribble forward into Columbus' third. When the defense finally closed him down, Goossens was able to weave through a pair of defenders and hit Accam with a pass. Accam did the rest of the work with an impressive finish, but it's reasonable to think no other player on the Fire is able to get the ball to Accam in that spot, at least not in the same way.

“I think he’s calm and comfortable on the ball,” Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said of Goossens. “He has actually very good offensive perception of the game.

“He was relief for us when we were building out of the back. In the moments when we had to win and have a progression in our build up he showed up and that’s very important and positive for the team.”

Goossens had a number of opportunities with the ball and the Fire’s pair of speedy forwards, Accam and Kennedy Igboananike, running in front of him.

“It was really easy for me once I get the ball behind their midfield, between their midfield and defensive line,” Goossens said. “I had all the time to turn and to look for those two fast guys. They scored two amazing goals.”

Goossens subbed out of the game after 60 minutes, which was expected given it was his first start in more than two months.

The problem so far is that Goossens hasn't been able to stay healthy this season. He hasn't played a full 90 minutes yet this season and has only made seven appearances this season.

That said, when Goossens has played he has made a difference. The assist to Accam was his third of the season. In addition, the team has performed its best with Goossens on the field. Even before Tuesday's 2-1 win, Goossens had the best plus-minus, to borrow a hockey stat, on the Fire.

When Goossens has been on the field in MLS play, the Fire have a plus-two goal differential. Of course there are a lot of factors that go into that with 11 players on the field, but plus-two is a notable difference from the Fire's overall goal differential of minus-six. The only other player on the team with a positive plus-minus is Arturo Alvarez at plus-one.

“We missed him,” Accam said. “He is one of our creative players and I’m really happy we have him back on the pitch. If we get Arturo back then we are perfect for us strikers because we need the midfielders to feed us good balls and today Goossens did that. Hopefully that will continue.”

Cubs win wild 15-inning thriller over Reds

Cubs win wild 15-inning thriller over Reds

CINCINNATI (AP) — Kris Bryant singled home the tiebreaking run in the 15th inning and the Chicago Cubs used three pitchers in left field while beating the Cincinnati Reds 7-2 on Tuesday night in the longest game of the season for both teams.

With the Cubs out of position players, relievers Travis Wood and Spencer Patton (1-0) alternated between left field and the mound in the 14th inning, which ended with Patton getting the final out. Wood then finished it off with reliever Pedro Stropin left.

Bryant's only hit on Tuesday - a single off J.J. Hoover (1-2) - snapped the tie. Javier Baez added a grand slam in the 15th, the sixth career allowed by Hoover, which is a Reds record.

The National League's top team went 1-6 last week but has pulled out of the downturn by winning the first two games of a series against the Reds. The Cubs hit five homers - three by Bryant - while taking the opener 11-8.

Eugenio Suarez singled home the tying run with two outs in the ninth off Hector Rondon, his third blown save in 16 chances, setting the game on its meandering course.

Ben Zobrist led off the game with a homer off left-hander John Lamb. Left-hander Jon Lester singled home another run and allowed only one hit until the eighth inning, when Billy Hamilton homered. The Cubs' closer couldn't hold on.

A lot of the focus Tuesday was on Bryant, who was coming off a historic performance.

Bryant became the first major league player to hit three homers and two doubles in a game on Monday night. He set a Cubs record with 16 total bases and became the youngest Cubs player to hit three homers in a game since Ernie Banks did it in 1955, also at the age of 24.

Bryant broke his three-homer bat the first time up on Tuesday, cracking it on a groundout. The bat boy retrieved it and took it to the Major League Baseball authenticator, who labeled the bat and safely stored it. Bryant flied out, walked twice, fouled out with two runners aboard for the final out in the 10th, and struck out in the 13th before driving in the go-ahead run.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Reds: RHP Homer Bailey felt fine a day after throwing an inning in his first rehab start. Bailey, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery 13 months ago, is expected to pitch again on Saturday ... 2B Brandon Phillips fouled a ball off the inside of his left foot in the first inning. He fouled another pitch off the same foot in his next at-bat and got hit in the left side by a pitch from Rondon in the ninth.

UP NEXT

Cubs: Kyle Hendricks (5-6, 2.76) is 1-5 with a 3.79 ERA in seven road starts this season. He's 4-1 with a 1.93 ERA in seven home games.

Reds: Cody Reed (0-1, 6.75) makes his third career start. In his first appearance at Great American Ball Park last Friday, he gave up five runs in five innings of a 13-4 loss to the Padres.

White Sox offense struggles in front of Quintana in shutout loss to Twins

White Sox offense struggles in front of Quintana in shutout loss to Twins

The White Sox haven’t had many big hits in their last dozen games.

The White Sox never seem to deliver any timely knocks in Jose Quintana starts.

Those two forces collided in a 4-0 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night in front of 22,072 at U.S. Cellular Field.

Quintana allowed two Brian Dozier home runs, including a decisive three-run shot in the sixth inning, and dropped a seventh straight decision. His offense finished 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position as Kyle Gibson twirled seven scoreless innings.

Outfielder Melky Cabrera also left the game early with a sore left wrist.

“We didn’t do nothing as hitters,” third baseman Todd Frazier said. “We have to find a way. We had an off day. Everybody was nice and relaxed coming back. We’re professionals here as hitters. We have to find ways to get guys in.”

The White Sox didn’t have many shots against Gibson.

They butchered those that they did.

No opportunity was bigger than the third inning, which began with singles by J.B. Shuck and Tim Anderson in front of the team’s 2-3-4 hitters. But Gibson delivered and the White Sox failed yet again.

Down 1-0, Adam Eaton couldn’t move the runners over as he flew out to center. Jose Abreu followed suit and flew out to center before Cabrera — who left in the top of the seventh and is listed as day-to-day — popped out to second.

One inning earlier, Brett Lawrie was stranded in scoring position when Gibson got Avisail Garcia to chase a two-strike pitch off the plate and in the dirt. It was more of the same in the fifth when Eaton flew out to center with a man on second. And again in the seventh when Shuck flew out and Anderson grounded into a fielder’s choice with two aboard.

“It started out well,” manager Robin Ventura said. “You get them on there. Any time we seemed to get something going against Gibson, he just really started going soft and using your aggressiveness against you. I think that's part of what played into it. He had a very good changeup, he used his curve when he had to. He went a little bit backwards. Any time we got into an aggressive count, he just took a little off. We couldn't get anything going against him.”

The team’s effort was the continuance of a nasty trend.

The White Sox are 12-for-98 (.122) with runners in scoring position in their last 12 games. The lengthy slump dropped them from hitting a formidable .260 with RISP, which ranked in the top half of the league, to below .240, which ranks in the bottom third.

That the performance arrived with Quintana on the mound should come as no surprise.

Whereas the White Sox scored 25 runs in Quintana’s first seven starts, they’ve relapsed into their old non-scoring selves whenever he takes the hill. Over his last nine starts, Quintana has had nine runs of support.

The left-hander said the lack of support isn’t something he focuses on because it’s out of his hands.

“I don’t have control on the runs,” Quintana said. “I say the same every time. But I don’t have control, man. I try to keep going. I try to be better next time and keep going. Next time be better out there, better outing and better everything.

“I never think about that. I just try to pay attention and do my job, focusing on throwing the ball well and that’s it.”

Quintana made two mistakes in seven otherwise solid innings.

Dozier’s solo homer to leadoff the second inning gave the Twins, who improved to 25-51, a one-run lead.

Eduardo Nunez then led off the sixth inning with a single and stole second base. He advanced to third on a passed ball. Quintana then walked Joe Mauer and Dozier made him pay when he got enough of a 2-1 curveball low and in to drive it out for a three-run homer and a 4-0 lead.

Quintana — who is 5-8 despite a 3.18 ERA — allowed six hits, walked one and struck out eight.

“I’m sure inside he’s frustrated,” Frazier said. “I would be too. He’s a competitor, gives it his all. One bad pitch.”