Category: Sports

2016 Chicago Cubs World Series title promoted generational unity

The 2016 Chicago Cubs are World Series champions.
The 2016 Chicago Cubs are World Series champions.

Pigs are flying the friendly skies and the devil is doing figure eights on ice skates. The 2016 Chicago Cubs must have won the World Series title.

I’m not a Cubs fan. I feel I should get that out in the open before I dive too far into the deep blue and red ocean of emotion that is currently flooding the streets of Chicago.

I’m also not the world’s biggest Major League Baseball fan. I love the sport, to be sure. I played it for many years growing up and still play men’s softball to this day. But I’m not too fond of the league or its operations.

With that said, as a resident of the Chicagoland area who has countless friends and family who are staunch, loyal supporters of the team, I couldn’t help but get wrapped up in the historical hoopla that surrounded the 2016 Chicago Cubs.

As a “fan” of the National League Central rival Milwaukee Brewers — and I use that word in quotes because “fan” is short for “fanatic”, and it’s difficult to be fanatical about a team you cannot even watch on TV from the comfort of your own home — there was part of me that did not want to see the Cubs win the title.

In fact, of the 108 years since the Cubs last won the World Series, 20-30 of those years I spent enjoying the curses, chokes and failures of a team dubbed the “lovable losers.”

But all things — both good and bad — must come to an end, and the Cubs quashed a century of futility with a stunning 2016 World Series title.

And as history was made, I sat by with a smile on my face and warmth in my heart as the final out was tallied in extra innings in Cleveland.

You see, it’s not the team or its players that I was cheering for and I don’t particularly feel good for them as a fan of a rival team. I also don’t feel a sense of satisfaction for the thousands of Cubs fans who traveled to Cleveland to watch Game 7 — and likely paid a boatload of money they really couldn’t afford to lose that probably would have been better spent elsewhere.

I couldn’t care less for the local celebrities who crawled out of the woodwork to show their faces in front of the cameras in “support” of their hometown team.

I also have little empathy for Millennial Cubs fans because they’re not exactly long-suffering fans. They weren’t around the last time the Cubs appeared in the World Series and certainly weren’t a gleam in their great-grandparents’ eyes in 1908 when the Cubs last won it all.

And the 2003 Steve Bartman incident in which the poor guy’s life was thrown into shambles? … likely perpetrated by angry, drunken Millennials for no good reason other than their pride and egos took a hit.

Generational unity is a wonderful thing

Instead, I am thrilled for elderly Cubs fans, those who might be part of the Greatest Generation, who survived the Great Depression and lived through World War II. I’m happy for the Baby Boomers who know the true definition of a “baseball curse” and not some passed-down folklore used as bait for a “woe is me” attitude. I’m even pleased for the Gen-Xers who might have sat on their fathers’ laps or crowded around the ol’ television set to watch a game as a family.

But most of all, I have thoroughly enjoyed the sense of generational unity that has brought Cubs fans together, both young and old and everyone in between.

Those who know me best are well aware of my affinity for unity. In today’s society, it too often feels like everyone is only out for themselves in this world, where entitlement and lack of ownership has taken the place of responsibility and accountability.

And sadly, unity only seems to show itself following some kind of national tragedy.

So, when something positive and uplifting like the 2016 Chicago Cubs comes rolling around, it brings me great joy to see a content, elderly Cubs fan sitting in the stands next to a zealous, boisterous college student or an innocent, wide-eyed little boy with an oversized ballcap and a glove.

As I scrolled through my Facebook news feed or watched incoming tweets via my Twitter account, the only consistency of what I saw was the inconsistency of the demographics I’ve read from and about.

Heartwarming tributes to grandparents who were lifelong Cubs fans before recently passing away. Emotional cries of joy from fans who lived through Cubs curses. And yes, even random outbursts in ALL CAPS with six exclamation points from “fans” who likely weren’t paying attention as recently as two months ago.

These are the people who make up a community and a family that spans across several generations and brings them all together if only for a brief moment in time.

The 2016 Chicago Cubs are World Series champions. History has been made, truly. But I’ve enjoyed what’s transpired off the field even more than what’s happened on it.

A poorly planned protest promotes self prior to the point

American Flag

I firmly believe in the concept that a person who pokes fun at the foibles of his own kind is not inherently doing anything wrong, so long as the jab is done in good nature. I believe this is an act in humility and an open acknowledgement of fallibility.

For instance, a white person can poke fun at things that certain white people do. Likewise, black people can do the same about black people. Same goes for men and women. I’m Polish, so I can jokingly poke fun at the stereotypes of my heritage in the same manner that a blonde can laugh off naiveté.

With all that said — and not to digress too much — allow me, as a 10-year player in football, to take a jab at some of the current NFL players who are choosing to protest the national anthem.

These “meatheads” must’ve been hit in the head one too many times if they think their protests are being handled in the correct way.

(Yes, with the increased awareness of concussions and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, I shouldn’t make jokes about getting hit in the head, but I’m being lighthearted about it, so sue me.)

I believe in the United States Constitution, its original intent, and the need for America to preserve and protect the rights declared in the sacred document.

For example: I hate guns, I hate the misuse of guns, I hate the idea that private American civilians feel they need to own guns. But I love our Constitution and our Second Amendment to it permits the authorization of possessing said guns.

Similarly, the First Amendment to our beloved Constitution gives us our greatest freedoms of all, including the one I will be discussing in this post: the freedom of assembly, which covers one’s right to protest.

I don’t believe in protesting. Protesting does more to bring awareness and recognition to one’s cause but it seldom — if ever — changes minds or gets things done. But protesting is protected by our Constitution, thus, I tepidly accept the right of protesters to promote their cause, even if I may disagree with its effect.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick created waves in recent weeks, not just throughout the NFL but outside the sports world as well, when he infamously sat down during the National Anthem as a means to protest “social injustice” in our country.

When asked after that first game why he did that, Kaepernick said:

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

I have a big problem with that for so many reasons. Let’s run down the checklist.

1) The idea that Kaepernick is protesting the flag and the country is richly ironic. The United States is the greatest country in the world for so many reasons, among which includes the opportunity to be gainfully employed. Kaepernick doesn’t want to show pride in this country, and yet it’s a country that has allowed him to have one of the world’s best jobs, attain celebrity status, and earn millions of dollars, which puts him among the Top 1% of the world.

…how dare this country oppress him! That’s hypocrisy any way you slice it.

2) Kaepernick’s intended target is way off … kind of like his passes. I recognize that there is anger and hatred going on in this country. I recognize that there is still racism in our civilization to this day. I recognize that for a lot of minorities, opportunities still seem more difficult to obtain than for whites.

But for cryin’ out loud … it’s not the country’s fault! It’s individual citizens’ faults. The country does not endorse oppression; it embraces freedom and opportunity for all. But if a racist business owner denies employment for a minority, that’s his wrongdoing, not the country’s. The country does not encourage discrimination. In fact, I think this current administration — led by a black man, mind you — is promoting more equality than any administration in history.

Stop blaming the country for the actions of its citizens. Start blaming the citizens instead.

3) Protesting on an NFL sideline does more to draw attention to one’s self than the cause. Remember what I mentioned earlier: the freedom of assembly — and thereby the right to protest — gives people the ability to draw attention to a cause that they care about. But if your protest says more about you and draws more attention to yourself than it does the cause you’re promoting, then you are not doing it correctly.

One of the principles of Kaepernick’s protest was police brutality, which has been a hot topic in the past few years after the media has reported several incidences of white police officers killing — sometimes — unarmed black civilians.

That’s a fair concern. I don’t think any person — regardless of whether they are in a position of authority or not — should discriminate against other human beings.

The problem I have with this target of protesting is that all police officers have been unfairly lumped in together as being racist and bad humans. I’m disgusted by this notion because I think the vast majority of police officers are good and decent human beings.

Do not let the negative actions of a few parts define the whole.

And as it pertains to Kaepernick — and other NFL players who have joined in protesting the National Anthem — protesting the anthem isn’t exactly drawing attention to police brutality. What do policemen have to do with an NFL game?

Wouldn’t Kaepernick’s time be better served by protesting outside a police station that employed an officer accused of committing a hate crime? That’s an example of attention being drawn to the cause, not to an individual doing the protesting.


Let me conclude this post by saying this: I recognize Kaepernick’s right, as well as the right of any other human being, to protest whatever cause they feel is important. But you’re not doing yourself any favors by putting your crosshairs on the United States of America, a country not responsible for the actions of a few. A country that does not endorse, encourage, promote or permit under law the oppression of any of its citizens. Nor are you doing yourself — or your cause — any favors by drawing more attention to yourself than what it is you’re fighting for.

And that’s my biggest problem with Kaepernick. It’s not his cause that is the problem. It’s his actions that are misaligned and misguided. He can correct that by stopping the protest against a country that has given him so much and instead focus on individuals that are truly responsible for the “oppression” that he’s railing against.

Something tells me he won’t change that.

Warriors break Bulls record: Stunning and unfathomable

The 1990s was a good time to live in Chicago, particularly if you were a Chicago Bulls fan.

His Airness, Michael Jordan, was in the prime of his basketball career and helped lead the Bulls to six championships in a span of eight years. And, some may argue, that if Jordan had never retired for two seasons, the Bulls would have won eight titles in a row.

But for as magical as the two separate three-peats were, one shining moment stuck out more than any other in the course of those six seasons. And that was their 1995-96 championship season when they set the NBA record for most wins in a regular season with 72.

I remember that season very well, and I knew the team was in for a special year in the summer prelude. The Bulls front office boldly pulled off a trade with the San Antonio Spurs for the enigmatic troublemaker, Dennis Rodman. The hair-dyed, multi-tattooed former Detroit Piston “bad boy” was just the missing piece the Bulls needed to fill their power forward position — a guy who would play defense and grab rebounds.

As a brash teenager, I confidently predicted the Bulls would win the championship on the very day they acquired Rodman. That seemed all but inevitable given that the team already had the greatest player of all time in Jordan, and one of the best No. 2 players ever in Scottie Pippen.

No, the question wasn’t whether the Bulls would win their fourth title of the 90’s … it was how quickly and by how much.

Little did I or anyone else expect at the time that the Bulls were destined for the record books. The Bulls destroyed their competition and went on to win 72 regular season games, with just 10 losses.

That was a record I didn’t think would ever be touched. To only lose 10 games in a season seemed impossible, as if you were playing a video game on “rookie mode” — the easiest competition level, for those of you unfamiliar with the video game lingo.

Several teams since that year had tried, but just couldn’t come close. The Los Angeles Lakers teams of the early 2000’s with Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone, and Gary Payton couldn’t do it. The Miami Heat “super team” of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh flirted with the notion but didn’t have the prowess. And none of the great San Antonio Spurs teams of the entire millennium up to this point could manage to top 70 victories.

Then something strange happened. A team from Oakland, California, which played an up-tempo West Coast style of play, started shocking the NBA landscape with ridiculously high shooting percentages and better-than-expected defense. The team was led by little 6-foot-3, 190-pound (soaking wet) Stephen Curry, a player who could go down as the greatest shooter of all time.

To think that a player of Curry’s stature could win the Most Valuable Player award and destroy opposing players who are bigger and stronger than him just seemed outlandish.

But alas, the Warriors have done it. They have won 73 regular season games and not only beat the greatest-team-of-all-time’s record, but they now hold the distinction of being the only NBA team in history to lose single-digit games in the regular season.

And that … is … amazing.

Even though I said it before for the Bulls, I now say it again for the Warriors: I don’t see any other team coming close to touching that record for a long time — if ever.

Part of me is bothered that the Bulls’ record is broken. As a fan of the team, of course I wanted them to live in immortality. There’s a banner that hangs in the United Center, where the Bulls play, proudly displaying “72” in honor of that record-breaking season in ‘95-96. I’d hate to see that banner come down, or worse — think of how that number is only second-best every time I look at it.

But then there’s another part of me that realizes change is inevitable in this world, and sports are no exception. Records — not rules — are made to be broken, and what the Warriors did this season was remarkable. But the Warriors winning 73 games does not take anything away from the greatness of the Bulls in the 90s.

Sure, there will forever be comparisons between the two teams and the question of “which team is better?” will be asked for a long time. My belief, of course, is that the greatest player of all time gets the benefit of the doubt. And there’s also some part of me that believes if the Bulls had it all to do over again, knowing that they would need 74 wins to hold the record — they would do just that.

So, why does it bother me that the Bulls’ record no longer stands?

I think part of the reason is the pride factor. Every sports fan wants to support a winner. A champion. A team team that defines greatness.

But in my moments of clarity — usually late at night, such as the time of this writing — I realize that sports pride is just foolish.

For starters, I had absolutely nothing to do with the Bulls’ success in the 90’s. Fans want to feel like they’re part of something special, which is why they use first-person possessive pronouns when referring to their favorite teams. But I didn’t step onto the court that season. I didn’t help them win 72 games. I had nothing to do with it.

Secondly, pride is a sin. To look so fondly upon a sports team for some kind of ego boost or self-satisfaction is just plain wrong.

With a level head, I’ve come to the realization that I’m more stunned by the manner in which the Warriors have won games this season than I am saddened or angered by the Bulls’ fallen record. I’m also relieved by the notion that this Warriors team is mostly — if not completely — comprised of good men with normal egos.

Could you imagine the feeling if the arrogant LeBron James held that record? I’d be devastated.

Instead, the Warriors are a team of talented, hard-working players who win as a team. They focus more on the names on the front of their jerseys than the ones on the back.

Kudos to them. They broke the “unbreakable” record and they deserve the recognition.

Aaron Rodgers: ‘Not worthy’ of Michael Jordan comparison

Humility is a very appealing quality in a person, and I have a much bigger level of respect for Aaron Rodgers after seeing him exhibit that trait.

Not to be confused with a Green Bay Packers fan — I’m a diehard Chicago Bears fan — it’s in my innate genetic makeup to dislike the Packers’ starting quarterback. But I respect his ability to play the game because he has put up unrealistic statistics consistently throughout his career.

As a result of his dominance, Packers backup quarterback Scott Tolzien compared Rodgers to the greatest basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan.

“I mean, to me, it’s like watching Jordan in his prime,” Tolzien said of Rodgers. “He’s at the top of his game. He makes it all go.”

I, of course, scoff at any and all comparisons of current basketball players to Jordan. Can you imagine my response to that when a football player was compared to him?

But when Rodgers was asked about the comment, his response was filled with humility and grace.

“I’m not worthy of that comparison,” Rodgers said.

No, Aaron, you’re certainly not. But you’re worthy of my respect.

Tim Tebow surprises cancer patient

There are many in the football community who don’t like him, but I’m one of Tim Tebow’s biggest fans.

My assumption is that those who do not like Tebow are disgruntled about all the media attention he gets. And it’s true, he receives an abundance of attention for a quarterback who just can’t keep a job in the NFL.

With that said, I wouldn’t mind him getting more attention for the kind of person he is and, more specifically, for his strong Christian faith.

That could also be a reason why he has a lot of detractors.

For you see, every time Tebow approached the lectern for a post-game press conference during his playing days, he began his comments with: “I just want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” For Tebow knows, like all Christians do, that we are nothing without God’s blessings, and we are condemned to eternal death if not for Jesus’ sacrifice at the cross.

But in today’s world, I guess we aren’t allowed to offer a thank you without it offending someone.

Another gesture that probably rubbed people the wrong way is that Tebow frequently prayed before, after and even during games. Apparently the sight of a man humbling himself, dropping to his knee, and communicating with his heavenly father is such an offense to others as well.

Tebow has an incredible backstory and an ongoing legacy of serving those less fortunate than him and spreading the word of God. You can read more about his life on his Wikipedia page.

Here’s just one example of the kind of impact he has on others. This video is so touching.

God cares about what his children care about

There’s been an ongoing feud between Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers since last year’s NFC Championship game, and it has to do with God.

Rewind to last January when the Seahawks defeated the Packers, Wilson told Sports Illustrated’s Peter King: “That’s God setting it up, to make it so dramatic, so rewarding, so special. I’ve been through a lot in life, and had some ups and downs. It’s what’s led me to this day.”

Rodgers responded to that quote by saying: “I don’t think God cares a whole lot about the outcome. He cares about the people involved, but I don’t think he’s a big football fan.”

Rodgers does have faith, though, as he said this before Super Bowl XLV media day: “I just try to follow Jesus’ example, leading by example.”

So, does God truly care about football? Does he have anything to do with the outcome in games every Sunday?

Here’s where I stand on this issue:

I agree with Rodgers in that God doesn’t care about the outcome of a particular game because he loves all his children and isn’t a “fan” of one team more than another. However, for those who might claim that God doesn’t care about football at all, I tend to disagree.

God cares about what his children care about, as long as it isn’t idolatry. If his children place a greater emphasis on football than on him — for example, if they choose to skip church on Sunday and stay home and watch pregame coverage — that doesn’t sit well with him. Football will become a form of idolatry if it is held in higher esteem than God is, and I do believe we have a problem with sports as idolatry in this country.

However, if a Christ-loving man succeeds in his occupation and is happy about it, God will rejoice in his happiness as well. And to me, I believe Wilson is crediting God for blessing him with talent and good character and he is thanking God for those blessings and gifts. God puts us in situations that test our character and resolve. We go through trials and tribulations in all forms and we grow and develop from them.

It seems silly to think God would care about something like football. But if he is front and center in our life, it’s not wrong to think he takes joy in our pleasures, especially if we preach his goodness in those times, something players like Wilson and Tim Tebow do.

High School Offensive Lineman: 7 feet tall, 440 pounds

Yikes! I played offensive guard and middle linebacker my freshman year of high school before beginning my kicking career. Let me just say, if I had to line up opposite this guy, it would have hastened my switch to kicker much quicker!

Tip of the cap to the women’s U.S. soccer team

I used to love playing soccer when I was younger. I played for roughly 10 years from the time I was about six years old all the way through my sophomore year in high school. Since then, my interaction with the sport has been extremely limited.

Sure, I’ve caught a game or two, here or there. I watched a couple of World Cup games for the men’s U.S. team in the past dozen years, but I admittedly have not followed one bit of the women’s team’s action.

Given the special significance of this weekend, as our country celebrated its birth and independence, I can’t help but feel patriotic and proud of the U.S.’s women’s team for beating Japan and becoming World Cup champions.

America is proud of you, ladies. Job well done!

Hawk-ey in Chicago is dynastic

Sitting in my living room last night, feet extended on the chaise — chaaaaaise — with my MacBook perched atop my lap, I watched the Chicago Blackhawks complete the improbable feat of winning their third Stanley Cup championship in six seasons. To say we were witnessing history is a bit clichéd and dramatized, but it’s true. For a team to win so many titles in a short period of time in a salary-cap era is very rare.

Three is a magic number, and not just in a weird Schoolhouse Rock sort of way. In professional sports, when a franchise wins its third championship in a short period of time — and that period of time isn’t clearly defined — the word “dynasty” enters into discussion. But what exactly is a dynasty?

By definition and throughout history, a dynasty is a ruling family, one which has control over its domain for a prolonged period of time. But typically, those dynasties are ones that do not lose control throughout their durations. I’m no history buff, but usually a governing body that loses control will not regain control at a later date. The Ming Dynasty of China ruled for 276 consecutive years. I’d hardly call Grover Cleveland — the only U.S. President to serve two nonconsecutive terms — a dynastic ruler. And even if former Florida governor Jeb Bush wins the 2016 U.S. presidential election, I would not refer to the past three decades as a Bush Dynasty in the history of American culture.

Sports dynasties are a bit different. A team need not win consecutive championships to be considered a dynasty, at least in my opinion. Feel free to disagree. If a team is a perennial championship contender and wins three titles in a small window, that certainly qualifies them for dynastic rule.

Who are the other recent sports dynasties? We’ll keep it in hockey for now. The Los Angeles Kings were 2012 and 2014 Stanley Cup champions and have a chance to enter that conversation if they can win again in the next two years. In fact, the last four hockey champions in descending order are the Blackhawks, Kings, Blackhawks, Kings. The Detroit Red Wings won three titles from 1997 through 2002. Led by “The Great One,” Wayne Gretzky, the Edmonton Oilers dominated in the 80s, winning five titles between 1984 and 1990. The Oilers Dynasty was preceded by the New York Islanders Dynasty, which won four consecutive Stanley Cups from 1980 through 1983, and the Montreal Canadiens Dynasty which won four consecutive championships from 1976 through 1979. Prior to that, the league was fairly watered down with anywhere from the Original Six teams to 16 teams. It’s hard to be a dynasty with less competition.

In the NBA, the Miami Heat recently had a chance to be a dynasty but, let’s face it, LeBron James is not as good as Michael Jordan. Instead, the San Antonio Spurs added a fifth title to their dynastic reign over the last 15 years. The Los Angeles Lakers won three consecutive titles at the beginning of last decade and also five championships in eleven years. And, of course, the most powerful dynasty since the Lakers in the 80s and the Celtics in the 60s was the Jordan Dynasty of the 1990s, when His Airness won two separate three-peats and six titles in eight years.

In baseball, the San Francisco Giants have won three World Series in the last five years. The Boston Red Sox are a bit more of a stretch, having won three Series titles in a span of ten years — this coming after the Curse of the Bambino allegedly prevented them from winning a title in 86 years. And the New York Yankees won four championships in a five-year span from 1996 to 2000.

The Chicago Cubs, meanwhile… no chance at a dynasty.

In the NFL, dynasties are a little more difficult to come by, because it’s a league full of parity and the only sports league that gives legitimate hope to a team that is awful one season to be able to rebound in short order and be competitive again soon — unless you’re the Cleveland Browns.

The New England Patriots own the most recent dynasty in the NFL, winning three Super Bowls in a four-year span last decade. The Dallas Cowboys won three titles in a four-year span the decade before that. The San Francisco 49ers won three titles in the 1980s and the Pittsburgh Steelers won four Super Bowls from 1975 through 1980.

So, where do the Blackhawks rank in the history of dynasties? Too difficult to even begin to slot them. They’re not as dominant as, say, the Bulls, Lakers, Celtics, Cowboys, and Steelers of their eras. But given that they play in a salary cap era when it’s more difficult to sustain success, I’d say their accomplishments are more impressive than some of the recent baseball dynasties. And even though the Spurs have been so good for so long, I’d say three Stanley Cups in six seasons is more impressive than five NBA championships in 15 years (however, the Spurs did win three titles in five years from 2003 to 2007).

There may be no clear, indisputable king of all dynasties, but it makes for good sports chatter.

In the meantime, Hawks fans, savor the times we live in now because greatness doesn’t last forever, and it could be a long time before the Bears, Bulls, Cubs or White Sox reign atop their respective leagues.

“How’s your bracket?”

If you’re a fan of college basketball, chances are you’ve been waiting for this month to come for a long time. And if you’re not a fan, you still might be one of the millions who tunes in to follow the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament.

The widespread popularity of March Madness has grown so rapidly over the years in large part due to the explosion of social media. This practice of printing out the 64-team tournament and penciling in your projected winners — or completing it all online — has become quite the fad. I think the concept of sharing predictions with others and tweeting about the crazy game action as it unfolds has sucked in the most casual observers.

Why is it called March Madness? Simply put, it’s craziness. There are several games going on at once and most of them come down to the final few minutes, if not the final play of the game. Upsets — where a lower-seeded team will unexpectedly beat a higher-seeded one — often run rampant and leave fans in shock.

I typically fill out at least one bracket every year just for the fun of it, even though my prognostication skills aren’t anything to brag about. If you’ve never tried it before, you should. Most office pools are won by these casual observers who don’t really pay much attention to what goes on. You could be in for some big bucks!

So, get ready for a couple weeks of hearing the most popular question often used in small talk during the month of March.

“How’s your bracket?”