Category Archives: ChicagoSportsWeekly

Weaknesses on Offensive and Defensive ends Prove Fatal for Missouri

This goes out to all Missouri basketball fans:Image

Mizzou’s most recent loss to the Louisville Cardinals revealed many weaknesses on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor. First of all, the Tigers failed miserably when it came to attacking the Cardinal’s press and zone defenses. They tallied a whopping 22 turnovers, nine of which came from the preseason SEC player of the year Point Guard Phil Pressey. If the tigers ever want to contend with the big dogs, he is the guy that must be on point to make that possible. When you individually tally almost the same amount of turnovers that the opposing team has for the entire game, there is no way you can win a ball game.

The Tigers shot 45.1% from the field, which isn’t bad considering they shot under 30% from beyond the arc. But what is more concerning is their lack of discipline at the line. I can’t tell you how many times Center Alex Oriakhi got fouled after making a bucket, but failed to make the free-throw. They shot a dismal 52.6% from the line, a stat which closely resembles that of Dwight Howard’s 49.2% from the line. To be honest, both are so pathetic, and without a doubt must improve if Missouri is serious about making it father than the first round of the tournament come March.

The energy on the floor for Tigers in comparison to that of the Cardinals was so low. It seemed like it was just a bunch of guys standing around, and until Alex Oriakhi made the pair of dunks late in the second half, no one really seemed into the game. Part of the reason was the lack of disciple on behalf of Guard Earnest Ross, who provides most of the energy on the court for the Tigers. Early in the game, Ross turned the ball over on the offensive end, and quickly committed a foul on the other end of the floor, which led to a three point play. His lack of discipline forced Head Coach Frank Haith to sit him. He finished the game with only one field goal and one steal. This game showed how important he is to the team and without him, there is no way Mizzou will contend with any of the teams in the Top 25.

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It Ain’t the Year…Again

by Brad Shulkin (ChicagoSportsWeekly)

God, there is so much to make of the Cubs this season. Will they be contenders in a Central Division that lacks a lot of power, especially with two of the best hitters in baseball, Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, leaving their respective teams to get more money? It’s very hard to say at this point in time, but I would’t bet on it. The Cubs are young, but not rebuilding, with guys like Alfonso Soriano and Marlon Byrd filling holes in the outfield until the younger guys can make the move up to the big leagues. Actually, on second thought, they are the holes, especially Soriano and his glove, which I am convinced has a giant hole right in the middle of it. But Cubs fans, don’t worry, he has shown great promise this Spring. Didn’t that happen last year as well?

Let me take some time to point out something that needs to be pointed out. For the first time since I was born, a little over 18 years ago, the line “THIS IS THE YEAR” has yet to be used. Maybe it’s Epstein’s aura in Chicago, or maybe Cubs fans finally realize that any team with Alfonso Soriano just can’t win. Or maybe it’s Carlos Zambrano, whose move to Miami sparked huge expectations for a championship this year. God, I always knew Carlos was special. Being a fan for all my life, I still can’t fully understand the makeup of a Cubs fan, sitting at Wrigley day in and day out, rooting for their team that no matter what, will still continue to lose.

Over the past few years, I have really seen first hand at what the Cubs organization is all about. But when the Ricketts family was forced to bring in the all-star crew of Epstein and Jed Hoyer, I knew that it was bad. It says a lot about an organization when the top headlines for the year surround all-star front office men, and not all-star talent on the field. I absolutely won’t be betting on the Cubs to even make the playoffs, even with the new rule, which sends two wildcard teams to the post season.

Now lets get serious.  I really like what the Cubs are doing on the player development side. I have said this for years, but until the Cubs revamp their minor league system and start from scratch, they will never win a World Series. Up until this year, they had one of the worst player development systems in the league, destroying young talent by sending them up to the big leagues to early in their careers. But now under the management of Theo, the system is starting to take shape. Ultimately structure was lacking, and I give the Ricketts family a lot of credit for bringing in the best guy to fix the problem.

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First Baseman Anthony Rizzo

In terms of the Cubs ability to compete on the field this year, I would say not a chance. A lot of this year will be dedicated towards experimentation to see which players are at the level to play in the big leagues. Although Theo and Jed have said that they are not in a rebuilding mode numerous times, I still can’t buy it 100 percent. I think that to create a proven winner that will contend for numerous years to come, they need to experiment with the players they have and see which ones are big league ready.

One guy I would watch out for this year is Anthony Rizzo. The Cubs recently just sent him down to the minor leagues, but we all know at some point in the season, he will be back up. The cubs acquired Rizzo in a trade with San Diego, with the goal of making him their first baseman of the future. He has the potential to be a big force in the big leagues, but hasn’t shown it quite yet. Although his big spring did help his cause, hitting .364 including five hits in 10 at-bats against lefties, he has to prove that he can do this on a consistent basis. If Bryan LaHair should struggle in the big leagues, Rizzo will absolutely get the call later in the year.

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The Story of Linsanity

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February 10, 2012 · 9:47 pm

Chicago Blackhawks President, CEO John McDonough reflects on career

Q: Where did you go to college and what kind of student were you?

A: “I went to Notre Dame High School in Niles, Illinois and St. Mary’s University in Winona, Minnesota. I was a bad student. I think my grade point average at Notre Dame was a 2.3, and I think I was 311 out of 356 in my class. When I went to college, I didn’t get much better.”

Q: What changed for you in between college and getting a job with the Cubs in terms of your life goals? What got you motivated to do something with your life?

A: “I had a conversation with my mom. She was very much into academics, and I didn’t do so well in either high school or college. She always preached courtesy, etiquette and relationships. I got a really good job out of college working for Avis Rent-a-Car in the corporate sponsorships and sales department. She said to me, ‘I hope you take your career seriously because I think you have a lot of potential.’ She really encouraged me to do something with my life.”

Q: If you could give yourself and the organization a grade for the past four years, what would it be?

A: “I would give our grade in the last four years an incomplete. We have a long, long way to go, but I think we’re heading in the right direction. Our goal is consistent excellence and in order to reinvigorate this franchise, we have to do everything we can to earn that commitment and allegiance from the fans. It is going to take time. It’s not going to happen in two years or three years. The fact that we’ve sold out 152 games in a row, we’ve won the Stanley Cup, all of our games are on television and we have a good, young team, I think has heightened the awareness and profile of our team.”

Q: Why did you ultimately decide to take the job with the Blackhawks?

A: “I think in the back of my mind, I did grow up a big Blackhawks fan, and I think this franchise needed improvement. I’ve always felt that this was a franchise that if I could play even a micro-fractional role in helping become relevant again, I’d like that challenge. And out of the blue, it just happened. I met with the owner of the Blackhawks, Rocky Wirtz, one Saturday afternoon about four years ago, and we had a conversation that lasted five hours long. Within half an hour, he said to me, ‘I’m going to lose all my leverage when I tell you this, but I want you to run the Blackhawks and I don’t have a plan B.’ His honesty and candor really peaked my interest. At the age of 54, I really wanted to figure out if I could reinvent myself. I had been with the Cubs for 24 years and that was something I never envisioned leaving. I absolutely envisioned retiring with the Cubs.”

Q: When you were with the Cubs, what did you think of the Blackhawks?

A: “The Blackhawks had really struggled on the ice and at the gate, and they weren’t doing well. They were more of an afterthought in the Chicago landscape. That was really troubling for me because I grew up a Blackhawks fan following Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita.”

Q: How did it make you feel when the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup?

A: “It was a euphoric feeling that I never thought I would ever be able to feel. I wanted it so badly for it to happen with the Cubs, as I do now. It was a relief more than it was a celebration because I wasn’t sure if I would ever see it. For us to have a parade with two million people in attendance, you really sense how big this was. But, it wasn’t this fulfillment that now all our work is done. If anything else, you felt that the key was in the ignition, you started the engine and now lets go. I think more than anything else, we want our fans to be proud of the direction that we are headed and that we are committed to winning.” 

Q: When you first came over to the Blackhawks, what changes did you feel immediately had to be made?

A: “There was a meeting that I had after my introductory press conference, and the message that was sent to everybody was the pace is going to be swifter, the expectations are going to be higher and I need to have everybody on board. I could see in a number of people’s eyes right away that they were not going to be on board with this way of doing business. We needed to change the way that we were perceived, and we needed to change the way that we perceived ourselves. The Blackhawks is an Original Six franchise in the greatest sports city in the country and we needed to project that we were that. There had to be a seismic cultural change and at the same time, there had to be a lot of energy behind it.”

Q: How did it make you feel to be standing on that stage with two million people cheering for the Blackhawks?

A: “It felt like I was in a movie. I couldn’t believe it. It’s hard to wrap your mind around the fact that two million people were there. It was the biggest sports parade in the history of Chicago. As far as you could see there were people cheering and chasing the bus. It was awe-inspiring, it was amazing and it was frightening. There will be times when I’ll be working out, or I’ll be at home or out to dinner, when it’s like, ‘Wow, we won the Stanley Cup.”

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College athletes are amateurs, not professionals

by Brad Shulkin (ChicagoSportsWeekly)

In an era where the multibillion-dollar industry of college athletics is growing at an astronomical pace, the meaning of amateurism is soon to be a thing of the past. In 2009, the average athletic department took in $32.9 million according to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), with 100 percent of that coming indirectly from the players. So now you are probably wondering, how much of that $32.9 million do the players receive for their service to the school?The answer is nothing. The big question that has plagued college athletics is should college athletes get paid to play? Should they receive compensation for all the money they make for their alma maters? The problem with giving in to the players demands and paying them  is that the aura of college sports would never be the same. Give them the money, and all that sense of alma mater, dedication, and loyalty is gone. Colleges would become financially and economically unstable by paying unproved athletes to play for their school. Therefore, although college athletes are essential in the financial success of the school, they are still amateurs and should not get paid to play.

If the NCAA decided to allow their players to receive some type of compensation, there would be no way for any of the schools in the country to even afford to pay each and every player at the school. Mark Murphy, Director of Athletics at Colgate University, said, “Right now, what they are getting in return for their athletic participation is a free education.” And he is exactly right. Each year, the NCAA dispenses roughly $1 billion in athletic scholarships each year and only 2% of the players actually score big money in the NBA. Most people who have gone to college and have seen the beautiful campuses throughout the country would say that the economy hasn’t hurt the schools at all. But, if you are one of those people who hold that perception, then you have been proven wrong. The average athletic department took  in $32.3 million in 2009, according to the NCAA. It spend $45.9 million. The remainder came from support from the college and student fees. Only seven of the 120 FBS athletic departments were profitable from 2004-2009. There are over 2,000 four-year colleges and universities in the United States alone. Some are larger than others, while some focus on academics rather than athletics. The problem with paying players here is directly related to the enormity of the college football market. Take the example of Alabama verse Boise State. Just by looking at the number of students who attend the college, you can tell who will bring in more money, no matter who has a larger number in the win column. In this case, Alabama football is going to make more money in an 8-5 season than Boise State will make in a 13-0 season. By paying athletes to play, you are making it unsustainable for smaller market teams, who can’t afford to pay each and every player on campus. The question of profitability wouldn’t be a question any longer. Athletic departments would have to give all profits from a successful season to players, instead of keeping it for them to help strengthen the program for the future. And out of that, new problems arise: should men get paid more than women? Should the basketball team get paid more than the baseball team? All of those questions are going to have to be answered and either way, there are going to be some very unhappy people. If you decided to pay each player on campus a different amount, you are running the risk of entire teams going on strike because of the desire to have more money. The saying, “Money is the solution to all of your problems,” may not be in this case.

In fact, too much money may result in collegiate athletes destroying the phenomenon of NCAA sports. It was last year that Butler once again became the underdog team of the tournament by upsetting #1 seeded Pittsburgh in the third round. Not only was the ending the most memorable part of the game, but the range of emotions coming from the fans as their team took and lost the lead at different points during the second half was also remarkable. What makes college sports different than anything else is the aura. The die-hard alumni, dressed, and sometimes painted in the school’s alma mater is like no other. But, would paying college athletes get them less interested in the game and more interested about who is making the most money on the team? If players were to get paid, all of the uniqueness of college athletics would be gone. Players would have no association to the school, other than their contract. To be honest, the die hard fans would posses more drive and loyalty to win the game, than the actual players would. But, with contracts come agents, and if the players aren’t satisfied with the amount of money they are receiving, possible holdouts could occur. And you know what that means. The possibility of no collegiate sports could actually be a real thing. And guess what, in that case no one would be making a single dollar.

Even before a player reaches the collegiate level, the effect of paying players will be felt. If colleges decide to pay athletes during their college career, it would be the end of high school recruiting. No longer would colleges have any power over who comes to their school, but instead the power would lie in the athlete’s hands. Whoever can offer him or her the most money for them to attend will be the winner. In this scenario, smaller market teams would have absolutely no shot at recruiting top talent because of one simple fact: money. Instead of there being a top 25 ranking system, there would be a top 5, all of which have tons of money to sway any of the top talents to their school by a swipe of a pen. College is supposed to be a time where you work hard to try and earn the paycheck that comes with getting drafted. Is giving athletes money now in college going to spoil the kids and make them not want to work as hard? If you do pay them, how can you be sure that they are spending the money wisely? Dr Watkins believes that athletes should get compensated for their work, but the money shouldn’t be available until they are 25, to ensure they they spend it wisely. Everyone knows the next step after playing college is to enter the draft. The monumental day when your name gets called to the podium to shake hands with the commissioner is in some respects a dream come true. By paying them now, it would be detrimental to the college atmosphere and ultimately to the future of the players.

If college athletics stayed on the same path it is currently going today, there would definitely be some very unhappy players. By giving in to their demands and paying them some type of compensation, you are reassuring the point that the players have to power to do anything they want. For this issue to be resolved, the NCAA needs to tell the players that they are in control and if the athletes are unhappy with not getting paid, then they don’t need to play at all. This is not only going to show the school which players are there for the right reasons, but also. who is there because they are hoping to get drafted into the first round to get that million dollar paycheck. College athletics is a huge part of the social life of America, from grandparents and fathers, to sons and even future generations sitting in the stands, cheering for the school they have cherished for generations. By not paying the players, the NCAA is reestablishing that it isn’t an honor for the players to wear the jersey with the school’s name on it, but instead, it is an honor for the jersey to be on the player. So many people across the world would do anything to play sports in college, and would do it without getting paid.

Opposing Argument

Certainly everyone understands that college sports are a big business, not just an extension of the school. Everyone from the head coach to the athletic director is getting rich off a winning season, except for the people whose labor creates the value. Thousands of college football players across the country, many of whom are black and poor, end up playing for free because they can’t pursue a career in the NFL until they play college ball. In a survey conducted by the NCAA, the results stated that the majority of college athletic participants labeled themselves as an athlete rather than a student. The NCAA has the claim that they athletes are merely “amateurs” engaged in sports during their free time, but, if they are really playing during their free time, they why aren’t they allowed to work while in season? Under the current system, college athletes face more financial difficulties than any other students do. The practice and travel schedules of most high profile collegiate players are busier than the average run of the mill college student, so the ability to hold a job is next to none. They put in more hours a week training and practicing during a season, than some full time employees who make lots more money. According to an interview with Dr. Boyce Watkins, a long time advocate of college athlete’s rights, these guys are no longer amateurs, but instead, professionals who deserve the same rights as every other one. With the ad revenues for March Madness exceeding the ad revenue from the Superbowl and World Series combined, Dr. Watkins said in response to how much money the coaches are making, “It would be very hard to tell a player that you just bought a new mansion and car, while their mother is getting evicted from her home.” Many believe that the solution to all this discussion is to pay the players and give them a salary that corresponds to their value to the university. Lets take former University of Connecticut basketball star Kemba Walker for example. Last year in the NCAA tournament, he single handedly carried the Huskies to the National Championship game. Nearly missing a triple-double in the first round, and scoring 33 points in the next, Walker showed that he is indispensable to the University of Connecticut. So, while the school is cashing in on their basketball team’s success, the players are working their buts off for absolutely nothing. “You get paid for what you are worth,” Dr. Watkins said.

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