Saturday, February 27, 2010

Off to Bulls-Pacers

...5$ balcony seats should be required for all basketball games. Will have a full report after game. Here's hoping D-Rose does something sick...

Brian Westbrook wants to be a Bear

ACSS reporter Derek Wilson is out on assignment and has heard that Brian Westbrook wants to be a Bear. He will provide more detail when he can.

Fodor posted this last week about liking the Bears getting Westbrook. He is a very good running back, but has been hurt for most of his career. Having a lighter load might help him stay healthy which is what he would do on the Bears team with Forte getting the primary amount of carries.

So what do you think, should the Bears reach out to Westbrook?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Noffke's Mission Accomplished

That's right folks. I set this dumb goal a long time ago and I finally accomplished it. I wanted to be in Stewart Mandel's Mailbag, and wanted to have my question answered in one of Bill Simmons chats.

In 2008 I accomplished my Mandel goal. Scroll to the bottom of this post and I am Steve from Chicago.

The coolest thing about writing to Mandel is he responds to your e-mails even if he doesn't post them in his mailbag. I have written him 3 or 4 other questions that I was curious about, like what does the HD stand for in Penn State's Spread HD offense, and he will write a personal e-mail in response. Real cool guy and one of my favorite sports writers.

The second part of my goal got accomplished today. I know it's a long chat, but in there you will find this

Steve (Chicago)

What's Worse. A staute built to Bud Selig, or the NBA championship trophy being named after Larry o'Brien?

Bill Simmons (2:00 PM)

The Larry O'Brien trophy. By the way, I tweeted this yesterday but I'm saying it again... I think the Selig statue should have smaller statues of baseball players roiding up in front of it while the Selig statue looks the other way. And I think it should be blacked out every Saturday afternoon during baseball season.

Amazing! This is right up there with befriending my neighbor Minnie Minoso. I am way to proud of this and yes I am a huge nerd.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

New Olympic Sports for 2014

I was just thinking about this, and I have a couple of proposals to spice things up a little bit for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Bobsledcross - Just like skiiing and snowboarding, bobsledding involves going down a hill at high speeds. And just like those two sports, it's a whole lot more exciting watching four competitors race each other at the same time, dodging and whatnot.

So I think it's time for a straight up bobsled race - let's take the sport back to its roots.

Hockey - Would be much better in outdoor arenas, like what the NHL does every year. Also, is there any way to make women's hockey more exciting/relevant? How about allowing checking, like the boys? It's only fair.

Snowmobiles - Because, let's face it, they are awesome.

(and with that, I have the record for Most Videos in a Post. Sweet, sweet, victory.)

NFL Combine Starting Now!

It's another one of my favoritest times of the year, along with the NFL Draft, the NBA Draft, March Madness, and New Years Day college football.

Forty-five minutes north of Bloomington, almost every decent NFL prospect is gathering in Indianapolis to be interviewed, weighed, measured, evaluated, worked out, and ogled by the cabal of creepy old men we know as "general managers" and "scouts." Stocks will rise, stocks will fall, and Mel Kiper Jr...

...won't sleep for days.

Four IU football players are making the trip; tackle Rodger Saffold, who was impressive at the East-West Shrine game and has seen his stock rise, defensive ends Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton (Kirlew projects as a LB, Middleton projects as an underachiever), and safety Nick Polk (ask Shark what he thinks of Polk in the NFL).

I'm a little surprised not to see Matt Mayberry's name on the list, or Ray Fisher for that matter! Still, every year non-combine invitees make rosters around the league. One side note: With all that defensive talent, how were we so godawful on defense last year?

Northwestern, meanwhile, is sending three players to Indy: QB Mike Kafka, corner Sherrick McManus, and defensive end Corey Wootton, who projects as a 1st-2nd rounder.

Last year, really stepped their game up with awesome coverage of the combine on their website and TV channel. Just great TV if you've got nothing to do at four in the afternoon. You can peruse their highly informative website here, and celebrate the fact that you're not paying ESPN Insider rates for the exact same information.

Tiger Swings Trading

This will excite business nerds like myself out there. I found the above picture and this intresting article on It's amazing the power of Tiger.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Julius Peppers = A Chicago Bear?

According to the Bears are in pursuit of him. Man, wouldn't that be amazing? I really think he is the kind of guy that can help turn this defense around. We have been really missing a consistent pass rush the last few years, and someone of his caliber could generate said rush. The secondary would be immediately improved and maybe we could see the Bears crack the top 10 in defenses again. Perhaps he could also help out the Bulls during the offseason!

Oh yeah, and one more thing... 6 posters this week: Mark, Steve, Dan, Derek, Tim, and Myself equals an all-time new high for posters in one week. So, in the short span since Steve's post we've already broken the most comments mark and amount of posters to make a post in one week. What other records are there that we can break?

Shamu Kills a 3rd Person

A story has emerged on CNN about "Shamu," the killer whale's stage name. Apparently, it killed a trainer today. This is the third life that this Shamu has taken (All whale's at Seaworld are Shamu on stage, otherwise they have real names). My question is this: Why the hell is this whale not dead? Apparently the first person was hiding in the park at night and jumped into the cage. Okay, fine, I'll let that pass on sheer stupidity. But then the whale kills a 20 year old who slips into the tank and this lady. What the hell? You could have saved at least one person's life by executing the damn whale when you had a chance!

If a person kills two people it's likely they are going to be executed. So why in the hell are we not applying that principle to a freakin' (censored for audience) whale? Because it's wild, it doesn't know better? If this had been a great white shark, or any shark for that matter, it'd be dead. Which makes even less sense seeing as how (1) they aren't as smart as whales; and (2) they are more dangerous than whales. I understand Killer Whales are a dangerous species, but not as dangerous as a human being. So, lets put this thing out of its misery before we lose anymore lives when someone slips.

I bet you're asking yourself why is this in a sports blog? The answer is simple: Hunting Whales is a sport in my book!

Olympic Hockey

I, like many people, have caught Olympic fever and have watched very little outside of skiing hockey and my personal favorite curling. However, Last night during the Canada Germany hockey game, I saw the most impressive thing I have seen all Olympics.

What a laser. At first I thought the announcer was nuts but overall impressive shot.

I also liked that after they reversed the call they sounded the horn. Nice touch.

Weekday Watch: Olympic Hockey Quarterfianls

Today is the Quarterfinals round for Olympic Hockey and there are tons of great games all over the place. (All Times Eastern)

USA vs Switzerland (3 PM)

The United States already beat the Swiss 3-1, but Swiss goalie Jonas Hiller has been play better since them. The USA should win, but shouldn't take the Swiss too lightly

Who I want to win: USA
Who I think will win: USA

Canada vs Russia (7:30 PM)

A lot of people predicted this would be the Gold Medal game and feel that these teams are still the best two this year. I think this will be the match of the tournament. The NHL's two biggest young stars are going at it (Sid the Kid and Alexander the Great). If you enjoyed USA vs Canada, please turn this game on, you'll love it. SI's Mike Farber does a great job breaking the game down more in depth here.

Who I want to win: Tough choice, but Canada
Who I think will win: Canada

Czech Republic v Finland (10 PM)

Each of these teams finished in second place in thier respective groupings. Each have a handful of NHL players. Both teams have played in Gold Medal games before (Czech '98, Finland '06). Each team has the potential to get back there.

Who I want to win: Czech Republic
Who I think will win: Finland

Sweden vs Slovakia (Midnight)

Two Blackhawks will be playing for Slovakia which is a team many had a possible suprise team in the tournamnet. Sweden has been playing well and not lost yet, so it will be a tough chore for Hossa and his friends.

Who I want to win: Slovakia
Who I think will win: Sweden

Enjoy some hockey today, and turn on Russia vs Canada, trust me you'll love it.

One intresting statistic I found on to close.

10.6 -- Canadian viewers, in millions, that watched the U.S.-Canada game Sunday on CTV, the most-watched sports program in Canadian history, according to CTV. The previous record of 10.3 million viewers watched Canada beat the U.S. in the gold medal game at Salt Lake.

Westbrook Released: You Know the Deal

Rather than pay Brian Westbrook the 7.5 million they would have owed him in 2010, the Eagles released their former All-Pro running back today.

There has been talk of the Bears going after a running back in free agency to pair with Matt Forte. Obviously, LT has been the focus of much of this. BUT - In a Mike Martz offense, nobody would be a better change-of-pace back than Westbrook.

The Bears would have to be crazy not to try and get the Villanova grad on board for next year, along with Torry Holt, who has repeatedly said he wants to come to Chicago. Please, Jerry Angelo. I had mixed feelings about Tomlinson. But Westbrook has been in timeshares his whole career. I know he has been banged up repeatedly, but when he's healthy, this is one of the league's finest RBs, and easily the best pass-catching back in the entire league.

An upgrade over Kevin Jones and Garrett Wolfe? A team guy, a class act, and a great addition to the locker room? This is a no brainer.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Scott Cochrane: Talking the Talk

For a second straight season, one of Alabama's best pro prospects is making news for all the wrong reasons. Remember Andre Smith (pictured above) looking like Homer Simpson on a treadmill last season? ("I'm disgusted, yet I can't look away... it's like a lava lamp!")

This is the man responsible for the flab : Alabama's strength and conditioning coach, Scott Cochran.

"I'm tellin' you to take it! That's all ya need to know!"

Uhh, thanks Coach. Because if we all listen to you, we'll end up looking like Terrence Cody?

...if I'm an NFL team, that's the kind of girth I want out of MY first-rounder! How does a strength and conditioning coach keep his job when his guys end up looking like they ate Rolando McClain ?? Speaking of which, has anybody seen Rolando lately?

White Sox Start Spring Training turns Non-Story into Story

The White Sox starting spring training and since it’s early in camp, there really is nothing to talk about. The reporters want to report something so we have a story that really isn’t a story dominating the White Sox headlines.

“Ozzie Gullien Names Mark Buehrle Opening Day Starter”

This is a story? I mean, this is as close to the biggest no brainer there is in Chicago sports. Mark Buehrle is the face of the franchise (no offense to team captain and close runner up Paulee). He’s the longest tenured White Sox, he’s the player who catches every ceremonial first pitch (when he’s not pitching), has a perfect game, no hitter, multiple all-star appearances and has made the playoffs 3 times (2000, 2005, 2008) with a World Series ring. So yeah, that’s the guy I want starting opening day for me.

Another reason pitching Buehrle opening day makes sense is setting up the leftie then righty rotation. In my opinion the White Sox top three pitchers are Peavy, Buehrle and Danks with Floyd being a close 4th. If the White Sox throw Buehrle (lefty) first, Peavy (rightie) second, that means they can throw Danks (leftie) 3rd and keep the alternating leftie, righty intact.

Another reason I find this a non story is who really cares who pitches the first game. Each pitcher if they pitch healthy will pitch roughly the same amount of games. I’d be more concerned with who is going to start game one of the playoffs.

The good news about this story though is it seems Peavy and Buehrle are getting along great with each other and teammates. Pitching Coach Don Cooper discussed starting Peavy first at Soxfest. Three days after the discussion, Peavy turned it down saying it was Buehrle’s team and he deserves the start. After Ozzie announced Buehrle as the opening day starter, Buehrle said if it were up to him, Peavy would start because of his dominant stuff. Apparently nobody wants to start opening day, but it’s good to see the players respecting each other and getting along after only being teammates for a short time.

I always appreciate hearing stories about the White Sox, but there are some other story’s that interest me a little more right now. How is Beckham looking at 2nd base? How is Jordan Danks progressing (Yes John’s brother)? Is Tyler Flowers going to make the big league team this year? Is Dayan Viciedo playing good enough defense so he can make the big league roster? Those are the questions I want answered. But I guess I’m being hypocritical as I am talking about this non-story just like everyone else.

Hoosier Football Attendance Figures Growing

The NCAA has released the final 2009 football season attendance figures and as expected the list contains the likes of Michigan (1), Penn State (2), and Ohio State (3). In all the Big Ten had 7 schools rank in the top 30 in total attendance figures for the season (Wisconsin (15), Michigan State (19), Iowa (21), and Illinois (29) were the other 4 in case you were wondering – and I’m sure you were). The full NCAA release can be found here.

All you Hoosier fans can stop looking for Indiana on that list of top 30 numbers – they aren’t on there and most likely won’t be for quite awhile (unless the NCAA starts allowing booze to be sold in their stadiums). I’m a realist and I know that it takes awhile to grow a fan-base that has never experienced winning.

Where you will find Indiana on that list is #3 in “2009 Division I football Largest Average Attendance Increase From Previous Year”. In 2009 Indiana’s average attendance jumped from 31,782 to 41,833 – A per game increase of 10,051. For a perennial cellar dweller coming off of a 3-9 season you don’t usually see numbers like that.

You’d like to think that those numbers correlate to a winning season for the Hoosiers, however the 2009 season will largely be looked upon as a 4-8 catastrophe that saw the Hoosiers once again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory on a few occasions (The 28-3 blown lead at NW I watched in person comes to mind). Those 41,833 fans no doubt were disappointed in the Hoosiers 2009 season, however, there were glimpses of where this young team is headed (Hint: Up…). There will be more to come on this once spring football starts up.

The winning vs attendance argument has been going on for years at IU and has largely been a chicken vs egg situation.

Enter Fred Glass…AKA “Freddy Good Times”.

Glass has taken the approach of “if you build it (and make it really fun) they will come”. Prior to the 2009 season IU opened up their brand new addition to Memorial Stadium and unveiled some new marketing strategies to get people in the door and according to those NCAA numbers – it worked. Glass preached a brand new “Gameday Experience” that included making the games more family friendly as well as offering students significantly discounted tickets.

Glass has come under fire in the past for retaining Bill Lynch and saying “Contracts need to mean something at IU” as well as moving a 2010 home football game against Penn State to Fedex Field for $3 million. I think that he is a guy who understands the big picture. Rome wasn’t built in a day…and IU football success will not be either. The attendance figures are a nice start – now it is up to Lynch and his players to work on that elusive winning part.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Naperville: Home of Champions

According to ESPN Naperville is the home of champions! That's right all you Evanston or Arlington Heights natives out there, Naperville is a champion.

On top of this, we can't forget that Naperville is also one of Stephen Colbert's hometown hero towns.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

United States vs. Canada Tonight

So tonight is the highly anticipated matchup between the United States and Canada in men’s hockey. I have heard some people call in the biggest game in sports. Those of you who know me know that I disagree with that statement. I believe that the United States win over the Soviet Union 30 years ago tomorrow is one of the best moments in US sports. It had more meaning 30 years ago and still would if there is an upset tonight.

I don’t see tonight’s matchup anymore than just a game between border rivals where both teams are made up of NHLers and for bragging rights for teammates that are on opposing sides. A factor that downplays the importance of this game is the fact that each team makes the medal round anyways, so the US could lose this game and still have a chance at a medal - just means they won’t get a bye. In fact the network doesn’t see this as an important game as they will be showing the ever so popular Ice Dancing on its primary station.

Seriously………..Ice Dancing?

You will have to tune in on MSNBC to watch this game. While I believe anything can happen I don’t see the United States pulling this out. The offense and defense have looked out of sync both games so far so goalie Ryan Miller must have a great game to have a chance. Canada is coming of a shootout win over the Swiss the other night so they will look to have a better performance. So enjoy tonight’s game if the US wins they get a bye, and if they lose then they don’t get a bye no big deal.

To steal something from Steve-

Who do I want to win: United States
Who do I think will win: Canada-A

EDIT: US Wins! I was delivery driving, but apparently I missed an awesome game. -MF

Minnesota Runs Hoosiers Out of the Barn: What Now for Indiana?

It's rough being an Indiana fan at the moment. Actually, I'm guessing it's pretty rough being on the team too. After losing another yawner tonight at the Golden Gophers' venerable venue, IU's skid stands at eight games.

Where do I start with this team? A month ago, Crean and the Hoosiers went on the road and beat Penn State 67-61 to even their record at 9-9 (3-3 Big Ten). Things were looking up, as Indiana had its third chance of the season at extending a winning streak to three games with lowly Iowa coming to town.

As they say, that's why they play the games. Indiana's players came out cocky and left with their tails between their legs. They shot less than 36 percent from the field and failed to hit a single three. They were outrebounded 39-23 by a Hawkeye team that nobody will ever mistake for contenders.

Since then, we have seen some heartbreak in a pair of painfully close losses to NCAA Tournament teams Illinois and No. 4 Purdue. And, more recently, we have seen a team that has simply lost the ability to keep games close.

In its last five, this Indiana team has lost by margins of seventeen (twice), twenty-eight, fourteen, and twenty-three. They haven't scored more than 61 points since taking Purdue to the wire on February 4.

There are a couple of reasons for the current skid, and none stand out more to me than Indiana's inability to share the ball. They haven't managed more than eleven assists, total, in any of the last five games. Minnesota got twenty-three tonight. What's the point of starting both Jeremiah Rivers and Jordan Hulls if neither of them can play point guard effectively?

Verdell Jones is averaging almost as many (3.3) assists per game as Rivers (3.8), and Hulls averages fewer than two despite starting most of Indiana's games in the Big Ten schedule.

But Indiana is not bad at all in several categories. They're fourth in the Big Ten in rebounding, and second in free throws made. Even Jeremiah has gotten his act together of late at the line, significantly improving his percentage since sinking a clutch pair to almost topple the Illini, way back at the start of this losing streak. And turnovers are down this season by almost six per game, a noticeable improvement.

With only four games left before the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis (I got my ticket! See you in the balcony, baby), can Indiana hope to reach ten victories? Here's what they need to do to steal a win as the calendar ticks over into March:

1) Balance the scoring load. Verdell Jones and Christian Watford have been IU's only real scoring threats this season. Against Minnesota, Devan Dumes scored twenty off the bench, but no other Hoosier managed more than ten. Guys like Jordan Hulls, Tom Pritchard, Derek Elston, and Bobby Capobianco have got to get into the offense with more consistency, and their point guards need to get better at finding them open looks.

2) Play better defense. When you struggle to score like Indiana does, you're not going to win any games giving up seventy points or more. Whether in man or 2-3 zone, Indiana has got to get more aggressive. Jeremiah Rivers, in particular, must accept the assignment of taking on and shutting down the other team's leading scorer every single game. Overall, the Hoosiers must establish some kind of defensive identity, or they're just going to keep getting walked over.

3) Go with two guards to start games. Starting both Rivers and Hulls means you have at least one point guard playing out of position. Hulls can shoot the three like a SG, but is severely undersized and not much of a threat to drive. Rivers can defend the 2, but is not a threat to score.

Meanwhile, playing three guards leaves Christian Watford and Tom Pritchard outmatched inside against bigger teams, and doesn't allow Watford to create like the swingman he is. He needs to be able to move around, not be stuck in the post.

So why not go with a two-guard lineup, as Tom Crean has pondered in the past? Bring either Rivers or Hulls off the bench, and start Capobianco or Elston at the 4. This, at least, would give Indiana a physical presence to start games, and not many Big Ten squads can match up with a frontline going 6'8", 6'9", 6'9". Play to your strengths (rebounding) and not to your weaknesses (assists, turnovers, scoring).

With home dates against Wisconsin and Northwestern, and road games at Purdue and Iowa, the Hoosiers face four teams that have already beaten them once during the last disastrous month. The current scheme isn't working, and it's not because IU doesn't have the talent to compete with the best of the conference - taking Purdue and Illinois to the wire proves that they do, even without star frosh Maurice Creek.

Tom Crean has got to earn his money and make some changes, or Indiana fans will be left with serious doubts as to the progress of this epic rebuilding project.