Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Can we forgive athletes who stiff the president?

Posted By on 02.14.17 at 04:46 PM

New England Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount, right, is among the Super Bowl winners who've said they won't go to the White House to meet President Donald Trump. - AP PHOTO/ELISE AMENDOLA
  • AP Photo/Elise Amendola
  • New England Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount, right, is among the Super Bowl winners who've said they won't go to the White House to meet President Donald Trump.

Mitch Albom questions the ancient tradition of championship sports teams visiting the White House for a photo op with the president.

Actually, it's not ancient at all, says the Detroit Free Press's Albom in a column published in Tuesday's Chicago Tribune—in its present form it dates back only to the era of Ronald Reagan. Some athletes think it's a big deal to go, others that it's a big deal to stay away. "Perhaps," writes Albom, "it's better to drop this tradition altogether."

Amen to that. My beef is with the way Albom looks around for someone responsible for the quarrelsome state of this silly ritual, and lays blame where some sportswriters always lay it—on the athletes themselves.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Looking for certainty in allegations against the Wash U. men's soccer team

Posted By on 12.28.16 at 11:21 AM

Washington University in Saint Louis recently suspended its men's soccer team. - VIA WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY FACEBOOK
  • Via Washington University Facebook
  • Washington University in Saint Louis recently suspended its men's soccer team.

America has shown itself capable of electing a president who's black—but not yet capable, even eight years later, of electing a president who's a woman. Of course, Hillary Clinton wasn't running against a mere John McCain or Mitt Romney; her bad luck was facing an opponent with the rare gift of reminding the electorate by word and deed, and on virtually a daily basis, that women have no more worth than men allow them.

It's obvious now that this attitude is still widely shared. An interesting story broke earlier this month in Saint Louis, my hometown: Washington University suspended its men's soccer team. Details have been sketchy since then, but we know the university judged comments the men's team made last year in an "online document" about members of the women's soccer team to be "degrading and sexually explicit." Last Wednesday night the women brought these comments to the university's attention; the men's team was promptly suspended pending an investigation.

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Friday, November 4, 2016

The Cubs' World Series win was inevitable

Posted By on 11.04.16 at 04:18 PM

The Cubs celebrate after the last out Wednesday night. - ELSA/GETTY IMAGES
  • Elsa/Getty Images
  • The Cubs celebrate after the last out Wednesday night.

If there's one thing we've learned in this title town of ours, with 12 major championships since the Bears last won the Super Bowl 30 years ago, it's that, in hindsight, victory always seem inevitable. Of course Scottie Pippen is going to lead a bunch of scrubs to start a comeback from a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter; of course Michael Jordan is going to push off, just a smidge, and hit a game-winning basket at the buzzer; of course A.J. Pierzynski is going to steal first base and trigger a rally and the White Sox's starting pitchers are going to throw four straight complete games and Paul Konerko is going to hit a grand slam and Juan Uribe is going to make a catch diving into the stands; of course the Blackhawks are going to rally from a 3-1 deficit in games against the Detroit Red Wings, and of course Patrick Kane is going to bury a disappearing puck in the net in overtime. Of course: it had to happen.

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Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Cubs’ World Series magic temporarily transformed Wrigleyville from hellhole to happy place

Posted By on 11.03.16 at 04:48 PM

The people of Wrigleyville almost felt like one big happy family during the World Series. - MATT MARTON
  • Matt Marton
  • The people of Wrigleyville almost felt like one big happy family during the World Series.

While strolling south on Clark Street, I stopped momentarily to peer into the window of one of the neighborhood's sports bars to see what baseball feat had prompted a deep roar from the thousands packed into Wrigleyville on Wednesday night.

I stood shoulder to shoulder with a pair of Chicago cops clad in yellow vests who were doing the same—craning their necks to see a TV inside replaying the Cubs' Javier Baez hitting a home run. The officer on my right, a fortysomething woman with a gruff Chicago accent, nodded her head toward me: "You seein' this? Unbelievable, right?"

"Unreal," I replied. "Are we dreaming?"

"If it is, I don't want to wake up," said the officer on my left, a burly Latino man with a laugh that made his bushy mustache quiver.

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The morning after the Cubs won the World Series

Posted By on 11.03.16 at 12:57 PM

Cubs fans celebrated outside Wrigley Field early Thursday morning. IS THIS LIFE??? - SCOTT OLSON
  • Scott Olson
  • Cubs fans celebrated outside Wrigley Field early Thursday morning. IS THIS LIFE???

Part of being a lifelong Cubs fan is that you never bother to plan what will happen when the Cubs win the World Series, because you're too busy worrying about other, more likely possibilities. Like what to do if you're in a plane crash, or your house burns down, or, I don't know, a sea of angry merpeople storms Loyola Beach.

Last night I was pretty sure the world would end in the ninth inning with the score tied, two men out, and Aroldis Chapman facing down Jason Kipnis. But when Kipnis came up to bat against Chapman, there was only one man gone, so I started to think maybe the world wouldn't end after all.

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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Flying the W: Scenes from Wrigleyville during the Cubs' World Series home games

Posted By on 11.01.16 at 05:12 PM

  • Paul Boucher

Freelance photographer Paul Boucher has been on hand to capture the exuberant energy of Cubs fans—and vendors looking to cash in on that energy—outside Wrigley Field as the Cubs competed in the World Series for the first time in more than 71 years.

Before you tune into game six, check out his photos from Friday's home game against the Cleveland Indians.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Why I'm rooting for Jason Kipnis in the World Series

Posted By on 10.26.16 at 04:32 PM

Cleveland Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis - JASON MILLER/GETTY IMAGES
  • Jason Miller/Getty Images
  • Cleveland Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis

If I'm going to root for one player above all others during the World Series, it won't be one of the Cubs. And I mean no disrespect to the Cubs. 

To explain, I have to start with the story of the 2007 trial of newspaper magnate Conrad Black. The CEO of Hollinger International, which owned the Sun-Times and London Telegraph among other papers, a member of Britain's House of Lords, and a hobnobber with international elites, Black is the reason the trial made headlines, although he wasn't the only defendant. Grandiose and imperious and incapable of taking seriously the obligations of corporations to shareholders, Black was one of four Hollinger executives who stood accused of defrauding their investors. The feds argued—and the jury agreed—that Black, his business partner David Radler (publisher of the Sun-Times), and two others pulled a fast one when Hollinger sold off most of its newspapers; they signed noncompete contracts with the new owners as a way of funneling some of the proceeds directly to themselves, when that money should have gone to the company.

There was one other defendant. Mark Kipnis, the corporate counsel, didn't make a dime from the sales, but he'd drawn up the noncompete contracts, and the feds threw him into the pot. There's nothing improper per se about a noncompete contract, and even Radler—who pleaded guilty and testified for the prosecution—told the jury that Kipnis had simply been doing the legal work he'd been asked to do. But the state did its best to make his role seem sinister. 

"If there is a document to be signed to complete this scheme, you'll see that Mark Kipnis has a pen," said a prosecutor in his opening statement. Like the others, Kipnis was convicted of fraud.

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How to remove Joe Buck from your life [UPDATED]

Posted By on 10.26.16 at 02:37 PM

The most hated man in baseball - SLAVEN VLASIC/GETTY
  • Slaven Vlasic/Getty
  • The most hated man in baseball

Because I am too cheap to pay for cable, last night's World Series game between the Cubs and the Indians was the first one all season I've been able to watch on TV in the peace and comfort of my own living room. Usually it's my custom to listen to Pat Hughes and Ron Coomer on the radio, WSCR (670 AM). Though I still miss the original Ron—Santo—Pat's voice never fails to comfort and soothe me, even when the Cubs are irrevocably losing.

Still, the prospect of being able to see one of those Javy Baez saves for myself was seductive. But halfway through the first inning, I started to feel depressed. It had something to do with Corey Kluber's string of strikeouts, but mostly it was the Fox announcing team.

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Monday, October 24, 2016

Scatter my ashes at Wrigley Field

Posted By on 10.24.16 at 12:55 PM

The iconic ivy beckons at Wrigley Field. - CHARLES REX ARBOGAST
  • Charles Rex Arbogast
  • The iconic ivy beckons at Wrigley Field.

If Saturday night's baseball game had been an ordinary game, we might have said it was settled in the first inning, when a double, a single, and a dropped fly ball put the Cubs up 2-0 against the Dodgers, and the pitcher who'd shut them out the last time, Clayton Kershaw. Already the Cubs had one more run than they'd need.

But this wasn't a game, it was a quest, and it began in 1945; that's the last time the Cubs won a pennant, and not many people around then are alive now. Or it began in 1908, the last time the Cubs won a World Series. That team's fans have all left the earth, along with most people who even remember them.

Failure so enduring isn't easily dispelled by good fortune. The Cubs scored again and then again, and I felt a threshold was crossed with the fourth run. It's the one that diminished the haunting precedent of the sixth game of the 2003 NL Championship Series, when the Cubs were sailing along with a 3-0 lead and had their ace on the mound, but disaster struck and the Cubs lost 8-3. (And the next night they lost the seventh game.) As the last few LA batters took their cuts, and the TV cameras scanned the stands, the score by now 5-0, some Cubs fans sobbed but others looked braced and fearful. But suddenly the game was over, ended not by disaster but by a double play.

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Cubs fans should enjoy the postseason misery

Posted By on 10.20.16 at 04:18 PM

Javier Baez strikes out during the Cubs' loss to the Dodgers on October 18. - HARRY HOW/GETTY
  • Harry How/Getty
  • Javier Baez strikes out during the Cubs' loss to the Dodgers on October 18.

On Wednesday at this time, I posted a message on Facebook I called "an open letter to Cubs fans from a St. Louis fan." A lot of people liked it, and I think that's because my message, boiled down to its essence, was I feel your pain.

My God, what pain there was to feel! The Cubs had just been shut out two games in a row. They trailed the Dodgers two games to one in the National League Championship Series. Is this how the magical 2016 season was going to end—as just another memorable disaster?

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