Random News: It's a wonderful...sports town

339985.jpg

Random News: It's a wonderful...sports town

Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2010
10:10 AM
By Joe Collins
CSNChicago.com

Guys will stop at nothing to quote lines from movies. If you get a couple of them together at a bar, you can count on them flashing back to films of yesteryear. It's like clockwork. With my group of friends, the quotes usually start with Back To The Future, Ghostbusters and Goodfellas. That usually segues into The Blues Brothers, Airplane, The Naked Gun and The Godfather. One night, thanks to some free beverages and a friendly bartender, we even started quoting lines from Uncle Buck. Hey, it happens.

But it's nothing like how we quote "It's A Wonderful Life."

Despite the heavy Norman Rockwell'ish feeling and extra syrupy ending, we always seem to make reference to this 1946 Frank Capra classic at some point of the night. It's probably a slight man card violation...but we don't care. Some movies just need to be quoted. We'll even compare bar patrons to characters in the movie. For instance, the guy that is celebrating his 21st birthday always seems to get the "Mr. Gower" tag. The bouncer is always Mr. Potter. The clueless server that gives you the wrong burrito at 4am gets pegged as Uncle Billy. And so on.

I caught the annual mid-December airing of this movie on Saturday. I figured it was time to take the references one step further: if the legends of Chicago sports could star in "It's A Wonderful Life," who would get the key roles? I can't bring myself to compare Mary Bailey to a Chicago sports figure and I won't dare do the same with Mr. Gower. But even still, there are far too many connections between the Chicago sports world and the characters in "It's A Wonderful Life." Let's meet a few of them, shall we?
Nick The Bartender Kenny Williams
Tough. Aggressive. In charge. (especially the Pottersville version of Nick). In the movie, George and Clarence were not able to hang with the crowd at Nicks. In baseball, no general manager can hang with Kenny Williams. The Sox GM has repeatedly tossed other GMs into the snow with his persistently clutch way of signing free agents and making improvements.

Martini Ozzie Guillen
Lovable, loyal and funnywith an effervescent personality. Has a temper too, but he is better known for his good vibes.

Mr. Welch (guy that punches George at Martinis) Bill Laimbeer
Enough said.

Ma Bailey - Virginia McCaskey
The matriarch of the biggest sports family in Chicago, much in the same capacity that Ma Bailey oversaw one of the biggest families in Bedford Falls.

Pa Bailey - George Halas
Yeah, I know that Virginia is George's daughter. We're going to have to look past a few of the anachronisms to make this work! But again, this role just seemed too obvious.
Sam Wainwright - Dennis Rodman
He was annoying, unpredictable and a complete goofball. But you can't deny the fact that he was successful everywhere he went. He made others frustrated and some were a little jealous of his stardom-- but hey, he took complete advantage of the opportunities that were given to him.
Violet Bick - Cade McNown
Nothing more than a big tease.

320 SycamoreThe Bailey House - Wrigley Field
Some would want to live there. Others wouldn't live there if they were a ghost. Regardless, it's a landmark with sentimental value.

Bert The Cop - Dick Butkus
No other guy could lay down the law like Dick Butkus. He was the ultimate enforcer. If you were stupid enough to punch Dick Butkus in a game, you had to be sure you could outrun him to avoid the wrath. George decked Bert while leaving a club and was lucky to escape Pottersville alive.

Ernie The Cab Driver - Scottie Pippen
Both were always comfortable playing the sidekick. Ernie was happy to assist drivers getting from point A to point B in Bedford Falls. Pippen, second on the all-time Bulls assists leaderboard, was always happy to find Jordan for a wide-open three or baseline jam.

Mr. Potter - The New York Yankees
Henry F. Potter was the evil empire and dark cloud that hung ominously over Bedford Falls: "The richest...and meanest man in town." Chicago sports fans, along with most fans west of Jersey City, despise the evil Yankee empire. I bet if Potter was running the show in Gotham, he would already be trying to lure Cliff Lee away from the Phillies.
Harry Bailey - Jonathan Toews
The ultimate hero. Harry got the Congressional Medal of Honor for saving lives in World War II. Toews won a gold medal in the 2010 Olympics and was the Conn Smythe Trophy winner for the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks. Both were honored with grand homecoming ceremonies after their respective victories.

Clarence - Ron Santo
I was originally going to put Santo in the George Bailey spot, but after watching the movie on Saturday--and given the recent news of Santo's death-- I couldn't think of a better guy to play the guardian angel of Chicago sports. Yes...yes, I know I'm tip-toeing on being cheesy here (psssh....like the rest of this column hasn't been cheesy), but there are too many mannerisms that Clarence and Ron both shared. Both had great stories to tell and were full of life.

George Bailey - A Cast Of Characters
Try limiting this to just one character. No shot. It's impossible. You can call Michael Jordan George Bailey for being "the richest man in town." Derrick Rose could get a similar nod for being successful in his own backyard. Paul Konerko could relate to George's victory too. Patrick Kane sprinted down the ice after his Cup-winning goal just like Mr. Bailey did down main street towards the end of the movie. Mike Ditka saw the highs and the lows of Chicago sports just like George did with the ups and downs of Bedford Falls. Bobby Hull, Ray Meyer and Johnny Red Kerr could tell you the same thing. George Bailey never conquered the world as he had hoped, just like Ernie Banks and Billy Williams found out with not being able to bring a World Series to Wrigley, but they found they could still change people's lives forever just the same. These George Baileys did the big things and little things right and the people have Chicago would stand in line for hours to thank them for all that they've given the city.

Just imagine if all of these George Baileys were never born.

Or something like that.

Todd Frazier's late single lifts White Sox over Mariners

Todd Frazier's late single lifts White Sox over Mariners

The White Sox offense showed a bunch of late life on Thursday night.

Todd Frazier had two hits with runners in scoring position, including the game-winner, as the White Sox topped the Seattle Mariners 7-6 at U.S. Cellular Field. Frazier’s one-out single in the ninth inning off Nick Vincent scored Adam Eaton as the White Sox won for the fourth time in five games. Frazier’s game-winning hit was his first since June 2015 and the fifth of his career. It and a game-tying, two-out, two-run single in the seventh helped Frazier shake off a game in which he struck out three times in his first three at-bats.

“You learn something,” Frazier said. “You take the last at-bat and throw it away and just keep on going. Unfortunately, it took me three times to do that. To come up clutch today felt pretty good.”

Frazier leads the club in home runs and RBIs.

Similar to his teammates, however, Frazier has lefty plenty of chances for more damage on the table. He entered Thursday hitting .159 with runners in scoring position for a team that ranks 18th with runners in scoring position (.255).

While Frazier struck out with runners on the corners in the first inning, he succeeded in his next two tries. He picked up Jose Abreu in the seventh after the slugger struck out against Steve Cishek. Frazier sat on a slider and ripped a 2-0 pitch into left field to drive in Eaton and Tim Anderson, whose one-out RBI double made it a 6-4 game.

Then in the ninth, Frazier came through again. Eaton’s bloop single to center got things going before Anderson bunted him over. Vincent walked Abreu to get to Frazier, who singled to left again.

Frazier was previously 17-for-17 with five doubles, four homers and 42 RBIs with runners in scoring position.

“These are the best ones,” manager Robin Ventura said. “You can't rely just on the homer. There's more to his game than that. You have to be able to knock in runs when you're not hitting them over the fence. He can use the other side of the field. I think he can level it out somewhat and get some hits. Just put it in play more because you don't know know what's going to happen.”

[MORE: Rick Hahn denies rift in White Sox front office, holds off on plans for 2017]

David Robertson found that out in the top of the ninth inning when his outing was delayed for several minutes by a trio of fans who ran onto the field. Robertson worked around the delay and a one-out walk to keep the score tied at 6.

Down 2-0, the White Sox scored three times in the first inning to briefly take the lead.

Abreu and Avisail Garcia both singled in runs and Dioner Navarro had a bases-loaded sacrifice fly.

White Sox starter Anthony Ranaudo pitched well after a slow start and then ran into bad luck in the sixth inning. What looked to be a surefire double play ball kicked off Ranaudo’s glove and combined with an Anderson throwing error led to a three-run inning that put Seattle ahead 6-3.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Ranaudo allowed six earned runs in 5.1 innings.

The White Sox were 6-for-11 with runners in scoring position.

“That’s just part of it,” Robertson said. “I guess that happens some times.

“Everybody played hard. They didn’t give up at all tonight. We pitched well enough to win and had timely hitting. A few things went our way, a couple errors that really ended up giving us a few runs. A few things went our way and it was great to pick up a win.”

Jay Cutler, Dowell Loggains face deepest test yet in Bears' third preseason game

Jay Cutler, Dowell Loggains face deepest test yet in Bears' third preseason game

Third preseason games come with added significance simply because it is the one practice game in which the starters play the closest to a full game prior to the start of the regular season. But for the Bears, Saturday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs is potentially far more important for another reason.

The Kansas City game looms as something of a new tipping point in the one relationship that must function above all others for immediate success of the franchise:

The working relationship/bond between offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains and quarterback Jay Cutler.

The two-plus quarters that Cutler is expected to play will be the longest yet trial by fire for his trust in Loggains. The latter has been a coordinator previously in his career, but with less time and success in the position that most of Cutler’s previous list of coordinators.

And few of those relationships survived, let alone flourished once Cutler lost faith or belief in their messages, whether under an avalanche of sacks, poor play selection or design, or whatever.

Cutler put up the best season of his eight-year career in 2015 with Loggains as his position coach. Adam Gase was the coordinator, Gase came in with credibility from having worked with Peyton Manning in Denver. The credibility traced to not necessarily what Gase might have taught Manning, but rather because of what Gase undoubtedly LEARNED from Manning.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Saturday’s test will be far short of the ones the regular season holds, when Loggains’ offense has been scouted and schemed for. But after a stretch of “quizzes” for Cutler-Loggains, this is a “test.”

Buy-in with Loggains?

Loggains has traction with Cutler – for now. Cutler was consistent in his compliments of Loggains last year, but it was Gase ultimately in his ear on game days. Indeed, the entire offense believed in Gase: “When I’m in the huddle…and we get a play call,” offensive lineman Kyle Long said at the time, “there’s never a time where we look at each other and think, ‘Oh [darn].’”

The NFL reality is that Loggains, who has stressed an even stronger commitment to running the football (Long and associates love that), has to earn, or re-earn that gut-level trust.

Most of all, from Cutler.

The lurching start to the preseason – the Bears’ 22-0 home loss to Denver, in which the offense with Cutler netted 13 yards in 10 plays, two of them ending in sacks of Cutler – was test No. 1. The Cutler-Loggains relationship appeared to emerge intact.

“We talked,” Cutler said. “We talked a lot about that game. I think the major point for us was, ‘Let’s not panic. Let’s not hit the fire alarm and put guys in a panic.’

“Because it was the first preseason game and we watched the film and a lot of the stuff that went wrong was because of mistakes… . So it was a matter of just kind of cleaning that stuff up and just going back to work. Which I thought we did a really good job of offensively [at New England]. Hopefully we can do that this week, too.”

Tough warm-ups

NFL schedule-makers did Loggains and the Bears no favors. Their first three preseason opponents – Denver, New England, Kansas City – were all top-10 run defenses. Meaning: The Bears are working to establish Loggains’ run-based offense right into the teeth of three of the NFL’s best at stopping that.

[RELATED: Rookie class making much-needed impact from Bears]

The Bears want to run. But just consider: What if they can’t run against a monster Chiefs front that includes Jaye Howard and Dontari Poe and which held the Bears to 3.3 yards per carry, tied for their second-lowest of 2015, in their meeting last season?

Which then tasks Loggains with getting the offense to the right solutions, and those traditionally have not been – and should not be – solely found in Cutler’s right arm. The Bears streamlined and simplified Cutler’s decision-making last year, by design, and it was the right strategy, minimizing a Cutler weakness.

But now Loggains is front-and-center in those decisions. And Cutler has never appeared to suffer from an excess of patience through his career, even the new, more mature Cutler.

And not only WHAT Loggains tells Cutler, but also HOW he tells him, will matter. Gase was generally quiet; that worked. Loggains is very expressive, which Cutler said he now appreciates.

“He sets the tone every day,” Cutler said. “There’s never a gray area. He sets the tone, sets the standard, and if you don’t live up to that, meet those expectations, he’s going to be vocal, he’s going to let you know.

“As a player, that’s all you can ask for: A coach telling you how to do it, and when you don’t do it, you expect him to push you and help you achieve those goals.”

Preseason game No. 3 will be the biggest test yet for the synchronicity that is there now but needs to stand up to inevitable failures.

Illinois lands Huntley DE Olalere Oladipo

Illinois lands Huntley DE Olalere Oladipo

Illinois added another important in-state piece as Huntley three-star ranked defensive end Olalere Oladipo (6-foot-4, 235 pounds) announced his college decision Thursday night to the Fighting Illini.

"Illinois has a great staff, is close to home," according to Oladipo. "Illinois felt like a nice fit for me."

Oladipo is also the second verbal commitment Illinois added Thursday as the Fighting Illini added a commitment from Miami (Fla.) Central four-star ranked wide receiver Carmoni Green (6-foot-1, 178 pounds).

Oladipo is now the sixth in-state verbal commitment for the Fighting Illini Class of 2017. Oladipo joins St. Rita OLB Marc Mondesir, Auburn OT Verderian Lowe, Marian Catholic QB Cameron Thomas, Chicago Brother Rice WR Ricky Smalling and Bolingbrook ATH Kendall Smith.

Illinois now has 11 known verbal commitments total in the Class of 2017.