Que Sarah, Sarah

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Love It Or Hate It...Cubs Intervention

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


By Sarah Spain
Love of Sports Correspondent

The 2008 Cubs season is starting to play out like a daytime talk show.

One the eve of the 100th anniversary of the team's last World Series win, a century's worth of family history has been dug up and rehashed. Decades of scandal and shame have resurfaced, threatening to ruin the family name. Former patriarchs have been remembered for their failures and cautiously forgiven as the current clan seeks liberation from the past.

But just when Joe Cub Fan thinks the show is over, Crazy Uncle Lee and Cousin Moises show up to tell their side of the story as well.

This month, Lee Elia and Mosies Alou, two former members of the Cubs family, have both chosen to comment on the highly publicized outbursts that forever cemented their places in franchise lore. One is a player who waited far too long to absolve a fan; the other a former coach with a whole city of fans to answer to.

Earlier this month, Alou, now with the Mets, told a reporter he never would've caught the now-infamous flyball deflected away from his glove by overzealous fan Steve Bartman in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS. The Marlins went on to score eight runs that inning and eventually won the series, four games to three.

Bartman, at the time just a 26-year-old fan who reached for a foul ball out of instinct (along with a handful of others, mind you), became the scapegoat for a team always looking for another goat to blame. The diehard Cubs fan, now living the life of a recluse, will forever be named as one of many Cubs curses.

Meanwhile, Cubs shortstop Alex Gonzalez, the professional baseball player who miffed the sure inning-ending double play ball that came his way a few pitches later, has always been just a footnote. Bill Buckner wants to know who does his PR.

That fateful night, after the game, Alou said "I timed it perfectly, I jumped perfectly. I'm almost 100 percent that I had a clean shot to catch the ball. All of a sudden, there's a hand on my glove.''

Now, four and a half years after he threw down his glove, stomped his feet and instilled in all of Wrigley a familiar sense of dread, Alou is singing a different tune.

"Everywhere I play, even now, people still yell, 'Bartman! Bartman!' I feel really bad for the kid," he told Associated Press columnist Jim Litke.

"You know what the funny thing is?" he continued, "I wouldn't have caught it, anyway.''

A day late and a dollar short, Moises.

On April 29, 1983, more than 20 years before Alou's glove-throwing fit of rage, then-Cubs manager Lee Elia went on an epic tirade that makes Jim Mora's "playoff" speech and Mike Gundy's "I'm a man! I'm 40!" proclamation seem tame.

After a particularly frustrating 4-3 loss to the Dodgers that dropped the team to 5-14 on the season, Cubs fans threw garbage at Keith Moreland and Larry Bowa as they left the field. That incident, paired with the constant booing directed at the team, incited Elia in a way even he can't explain.

"For that one moment, somebody triggered something," Elia said. "I'd already built up all my frustrations prior to walking into that locker room. And it just came out. I don't think the Hulk could've come in there and stopped me once I got rolling."

Radio man Les Grobstein was waiting for Elia after the game that day. The spontaneous outpouring of anger and insults caught on Grobstein's tape recorder is still one of the most memorable rants in the history of sport.

Elia blasted Cubs fans and the city of Chicago in a three-minute, 11-second rip that contained no less than 33 iterations of the "F" word. (You can hear the entire uncensored clip here — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uv23pqH9iG0 - but I don't recommend listening at work)!

Elia got into it right off the bat, screaming: "I'll tell you one (bleeping) thing, I hope we get (bleeping) hotter than (bleep), just to stuff it up them 3,000 (bleeping) people that show up every (bleeping) day. Because if they're the real Chicago (bleeping) fans, they can kiss my (bleeping bleep) right downtown – and print it!"

He further admonished the fans, saying: "The (bleepers) don't even work. That's why they're out at the (bleeping) game. They oughta go out and get a (bleeping) job and find out what it's like to go out and earn a (bleeping) living. Eighty-five percent of the (bleeping) world is working. The other 15 come out here."

Today, exactly 25 years later, Elia's back in Chicago promoting a different message. Just like Denny Green, who is seeking to trademark his memorable "They are who we thought they were!" phrase, Elia is hoping to cash in on his anger.

For $89.95, fans can buy a 20-second recording of Elia expressing his love for the Cubs along with a CD-ROM of the original, unedited rant.

Elia's new message?

"I'll tell you one thing - it's time the Cubs get hotter than hell this season and [stick it to] the rest of the baseball world. The 40,000 fans who fill this ballpark everyday and work hard for a living are no nickel dimers. They deserve a championship. They're real Chicago Cubs fans. And print it."

The recordings come with a display case and an autographed baseball that reads: "Lee Elia … AND PRINT IT!" Ten percent of the sales will go to the Chicago Baseball Cancer Charities.

So, what to think of these Johnny-come-latelys? Will revisionist history help clear Bartman's name, or should we resent Alou's better-late-than-never pardon? Will Elia's new message win over spurned Cubs fans or will he forever be remembered for his creative use of the curse my mother called the "50-center"?

Perhaps the only way to truly move on would be to invite Alou and Bartman to throw out the first pitch together at Wrigley, after which Elia will do a spoken-word version of the National Anthem. Following the game, Dr. Phil can hold an informal intervention at Murphy's Bleachers where all the members of the Cubs family, past and present, can be heard and forgiven.

Alex Gonzalez, the floor is yours.

Brief Chicago Bears Draft Preview...

Thursday, April 24, 2008


Responses by Sarah Spain, questions by Paul M. Banks

So give me a quick synopsis of three potential players who are likely to hear their names called at 14 on draft day, and tell me why they would fit in with Chicago's system….

I have absolutely no doubt that the Bears will take an OT in the first round. Jake Long and Ryan Clady will be gone, so I'm giving you two, not three guys. Barring any crazy trades or swaps, the Bears will take one of these two players at 14…

Chris Williams of Vanderbilt - Proven LT who is versatile enough to play LG, too. The Bears are still trying to figure out where and how their current guys fit in, so a flexible guy like Williams would give them options.

Jeff Otah of Pitt - Big bodied, strong LT with limited experience but a huge upside. Also versatile enough to play RT.

My favorite player in all of college football, Rashard Mendenhall, is the consensus 2 running back on everyone's draft boards. some mock drafts have him gone by the time the Bears are on the clock, others forecast him as the Bears pick and most have him as 15 picked by Detroit. So do you take the local product and hope to generate excitement even though you need someone to block for him, or do you let him go to the Lions and possibly burn you badly twice a year?

Gotta let him go. As I said in the Sports Bank draft preview, even Tom Brady couldn't succeed with our old-ass offensive line protecting him. Same goes for a running back. No protection = no production. Would love to see him in a Bears uniform but there's no way the Bears pass on a first round OT.

This is a very weak draft at QB, a Bears need, but the Bears also have glaring needs at WR, OL and RB. Which of these needs do you think they'll address first and with whom?

Sounds so good I'll say it again: Bears will take an OT first and it'll be Williams or Otah. After that, I see them taking an RB–that position is solid deep into the second and third rounds.

Your pick to be Mr. Irrelevant?

The actual 2008 Mr. Irrelevant? No clue. MY 2008 Mr. Irrelevant? Cedric Benson.

Love It Or Hate It...Danica Patrick’s Big Win

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


By Sarah Spain
Love of Sports Correspondent

This past weekend, Danica Patrick finally quieted all the naysayers by nabbing the checkered flag at the Japan 300.

After four full seasons of racing, Patrick finally took first, making her the only female ever to win an IndyCar race.

The 26-year-old Wisconsin native was relieved to get No. 1 under her belt, saying: "I don't let people dictate how I'm supposed to feel or what I'm supposed to do, but it's nice not to have to answer any questions about when and how and why it hasn't happened."

Patrick's had to answer a lot of those questions throughout her career.

Her rise to popularity has been largely due to the near non-existence of female racers — both in the NASCAR and IndyCar series. The novelty of a competitive woman driver's added both intrigue and controversy to a sometimes overlooked sport. Patrick's successes, including a fourth place finish at the Indianapolis 500 that helped earn her Rookie of the Year in 2005, paired with her sex appeal, have put her in the spotlight since Day 1.

The petite, pretty brunette has often drawn comparisons to Anna Kournikova — a winner in the media, but never on the court. Many have complained that Patrick's spread in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition and racy GoDaddy.com ads have taken focus off her sub-par racing career. Others claim her good looks and marketability have afforded her more attention than her talent deserves.

The truth is, if Patrick were masculine and unattractive she would get just as much flak - or worse, be ignored entirely. Her good looks and media savvy have helped her get sponsors that might have otherwise rejected the idea of taking on a female driver. At the same time, she's had to work to get skeptics to see the competitor behind the glamor.

Women athletes are derided for showing intensity and competitiveness and often ridiculed for the strength and athleticism for which male athletes are praised. If you're pretty, you're soft. If you're butch, you're hard to market. Patrick has a rare combination of skill and beauty — enough to win a man's race on the track and win his heart off it. For some, this combination is threatening.

In 2005, Formula 1 President Bernie Ecclestone famously told the media (and then Patrick herself) "I've got one of these wonderful ideas that women should be all dressed in white like all the other domestic appliances."

Fellow driver Ed Carpenter also took the low road early in Patrick's career, commenting: "I think Danica's pretty aggressive in our cars. I mean, you know, especially if you catch her at the right time of the month, she might be trading plenty of paint out there."

Patrick's largely ignored sexist commentary, knowing that angry reactions to people like Ecclestone and Carpenter would only result in even more unfair negativity. Mainly, being labeled the "B" word.

When Patrick got in the face of opponent Dan Wheldon after a race last year, members of the media and the general public alike all jumped to label her whiny and bitchy. When male racers come to blows after a collision or an assumed indiscretion, they're generally seen as passionate and intense. When she got involved, many viewed her complaints as a silly outburst by a sore loser.

Despite it all, Patrick's finally gotten that elusive first win and will most likely find herself back in the winner's circle again soon.

Late Saturday night, Patrick was again faced with the challenge of revealing her femininity in a male-dominated inustry. Before she got out of the car to celebrate, she first wondered whether to show the world her joyful, relieved tears.

"I didn't expect to get emotional, but that's what was lying underneath and how much blood, sweat and tears has gone into getting that first win out of the way," she said. "I was embarrassed with all the photographers there and took the helmet off to cover my face. Then I said, 'Screw it, this is how I feel, and this is what sports are all about.' Crap, that's history, dude!"

Danica Patrick beatin' up on the boys and looking good doing it … Do you Love It or Hate It?

Love It Or Hate It...The Avery Rule

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


By Sarah Spain
Love of Sports Correspondent

This just in: acting like an asshat now grounds for a penalty in the NHL.

Sunday night the obnoxious and infantile antics of New York Rangers forward Sean Avery caused the on-the-fly creation of a new NHL rule.

During Game 2 of their first round playoff series, Avery set about screening Devils goalie Martin Brodeur in a most unusual way. While his teammates battled for possession and took shots on goal, Avery planted himself directly in front of the goalie and shimmied back and forth, waving his stick in Brodeur's face in a move reminiscent of the African Anteater Ritual.

In order to grasp the absurdity of Avery's machinations, you really have to see the clip. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bb4WaZMVtyE&eurl=http://www.kuklaskorner.com/index.php/hockey/comments/avery_fronts_brodeur/)

Not only did Brodeur try to shove Avery away throughout the play, but the refs also gave him a warning. In fact, even his own teammate, Chris Drury, tried to get him to lower his stick. While screening the goalie in hockey is common practice, doing so with one's back to the puck is not. It goes against everything a player is taught to turn his back on the action, especially in the crease, where he might miss out on the opportunity for a deflection or a score off a rebound.

While the Rangers didn't score during Avery's dancing on ice routine, Avery himself put in a goal just a few minutes later. The Devils went on to win the game, but plenty of players and coaches around the league took exception to Avery's agitating.

Devils coach Brent Sutter said, "It's definitely not going to be accepted in this league. That's something you see in a bush league."

Devils forward John Madden added: "It was childish. We are trying to sell this game and you see stuff like that going on. I don't agree with it at all."

Even teammates of Avery took offense. Rangers backup goalie Steve Valiquette said: "It's not in the spirit of the game. It worked and it's effective, but it's a gentleman's game, much like golf. I wouldn't have been happy if it had happened to me. I probably would have reacted a little differently. Sean would have been picking his teeth up off the ice if it was me."

The reigning NHL MVP, Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby, chimed in, noting: "I don't think you can do that, something should be called on something like that."

Well from now on, something will be.

Monday, just one day after Avery's antics, and right smack in the middle of the 2008 playoffs, the NHL released a brand new interpretation of the rules to be put into place immediately.

Colin Campbell, the league's senior executive vice president and director of hockey operations, said in a statement, "An unsportsmanlike conduct minor penalty will be interpreted and applied, effective immediately, to a situation when an offensive player positions himself facing the opposition goaltender and engages in actions such as waving his arms or stick in front of the goaltender's face, for the purpose of improperly interfering with and/or distracting the goaltender as opposed to positioning himself to try to make a play."

The addendum will forever be known as "The Avery Rule."

Avery's been known throughout the league for years for his unsportsmanlike behavior. In fact, he was voted the "Dirtiest Player in the NHL" in a Players Poll posted on SI.com just six days ago. The timing is glorious.

The negative response to Avery's tactics Sunday is similar to that which plagued Alex Rodriguez during a Yankees/Blue Jays game last year. A-Rod was heavily criticized after shouting at Toronto third baseman Howie Clark while he tried to catch a pop-up. A-Rod didn't violate anything in the rulebook, but many believed his tactics to be immature and underhanded.

For the layman, Avery and A-Rod's juvenile behaviors equate to heckling your golf buddy during a big putt or charging the net just before your opponent's serve in a tennis match. Neither act is against the rules of the game, but if you have to stoop that low to win, the victory is pretty hollow.

Some believe Avery was just doing whatever it takes to win. The fact that players and commentators alike had never seen anything like Sunday night's display does point to a sort of creativity and ingenuity on the part of the Rangers forward. Even Brodeur had to admit the play nearly worked.

"It was a great play," Brodeur said. "I couldn't see anything. It was just luck that both their shots went wide."

So, do you Love or Hate Avery's unusual tactics? Is he creative or childish? And is it right for the NHL to alter the rules right in the middle of the playoffs?

And what about Avery's mohawk and glasses look?

And do you Love or Hate the fact that this guy has dated babes like Elisha Culbert and Rachel Hunter as well?

These are a few of our favorite things...

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Our Favorite & Least Favorite Announcers

By Paul M. Banks, Sarah Spain, David K.

I got this email awhile back and I figured it was time to give the people what they asked for, even if this article is pretty lacking in Anti-Mariotti vitriol.

Enjoy the website. How about dedicating a section to the ramblings of one Jay Mariotti. We the fans of Chicago need a voice and our opinions matter.
Just a thought.
T. Noonan

Paul M. Banks’ most favorite announcer: Harold Reynolds

I really miss pre-2005 Baseball Tonight on ESPN. "It used to be about the music man!" Seriously, before the 4 letter network brought out retards like Jeff Brantley and slobs like John Kruk to dumb the show down, it really was my overall favorite program on television. It used to be more about substance and statistics and it was perfect for baseball nerds like me, much like College Basketball Tonight is at its best when you have Steve Lavin and Doug Gottlieb working together showing off their b-ball wonkiness. Of course, that show is in decline too. ever since they brought in Digger Phelps to water that program’s analysis down. Harold Reynolds had a great delivery and he was so smooth that he almost made obsessing about stats look cool. Kind of like what Lav and Gottlieb do with RPI, SOS, etc. I also had to pick Reynolds out of sympathy for what happened to him. We don’t know why he was really canned after just signing a 6 year extension, and on the surface it seems kind of unjust. He filed a $5 million dollar lawsuit against the network because he apparently gave an "inappropriate hug" at a Boston Market. Pretty expensive platonic act there, it doesn’t sound like Reynolds is Eliot Spitzer or anything. We don’t know exactly what he really did, but it sounds like Bristol may have had an ulterior motive. Apparently, Bill O’Reilly, Woody Paige and others have done much worse acts along these same lines and they have not been punished, so the double standard looks wrong and potentially racist to me.

Also deserving of props: Steve Stone, Lav, Gottlieb, ERIN ANDREWS!!!, Bill Raftery, Dan Patrick, Brent Musburgher, Tom Jackson (especially considering what he has to put up with for a partner), Wendy Nix, Shannon Spake, and Stacey Dales because her powerful hotness has the ability to make me pay attention to women’s college basketball, something I would never normally do.

Paul M. Banks’ least favorite: Chris Berman

This is a difficult choice. I don’t understand why Stephen A. Smith feels the need to scream at us all the time. I can’t figure out why Skip Bayless is to sports what Ann Coulter is to politics…just adopting ridiculous positions on topics that no sane person actually believes strictly for the purpose of…..as Oscar Wilde once famously said "it’s better to be talked about badly than not talked about at all." Still when you criticize people in show-business, you only trash those on a level above you, never those who do smaller numbers than you. (Of course, a certain Milwaukee radio morning team felt the need to violate this rule and take a stab at me a couple months ago, but I’m gonna be the more professional man here and refuse to respond to that…then again terrestrial radio is dying and the internet is burgeoning, so maybe the space between them and myself is not as wide as I think it is?)

Therefore, I’m going to assail someone on the biggest stage, which goes to show you just how overrated he truly is. Making fun of "Boomer" Chris Berman’s stupid nicknames and references to rock music that no one under the age of 60 understand is one thing, but if I have to hear his retarded "THE GGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG MEN" one more time, I may have to boycott watching ESPN forever. Of course, another reason I picked "the Bermanator" is the hilarious "You’re with Me, Leather" story. It is just hysterical how an anecdote about this debauched old man picking up road trim took off and I highly recommend reading Will Leitch’s "God Save the Fan" for the best retelling. The chapter includes a picture of this bloated and bloviating blowhole from Bristol surrounded by strippers. The way Berman, a supposed family man, behaves when he’s traveling and away from his wife is just disgusting.

I should probably mention what an awesome website Deadspin.com is. This is that fantastic picture of theirs…that’s also in Leitch’s kick-ass book.

Honorable mention: well, we could be here awhile, but off the top of my head Stu Scott, Jeff Brantley, Stephen A. Smith, the ESPN producer who thought it was a good idea to give Rush Limbaugh a chance to spew his racist garbage on NFL Live a few years ago, the entire cast of Around the Horn and First Take, Jemelle Hill, Shannon Sharpe, Terry Bradshaw, Bill Walton, Jeanne Zalesko’s nostrils, the way that the never blinking Rachel Nichols likely got her plum job (she’s Diane Sawyer’s daughter-in-law)

Sarah Spain’s Favorite:

I’m guessing we’re talking current media members, so that eliminates my all time fave, Harry Caray. As for people still living and working Kenny Mayne is hands down the best. Mayne’s deadpan delivery, acerbic wit and respect for the intelligence of his viewers are the reason Sunday night Sportscenter is heads and tails above the other broadcasts. Mayne doesn’t walk you through a joke and point to the punchline, he just puts the funny out there and moves along. Some of his best one liners of all time are on the website http://www.sportscenteraltar.com/. A few of my favorites are: "We’re gonna show it again, cause we have editing equipment." "But we all know that games aren’t played on paper…they are played by little men inside our TV sets." "He hit it over some fencing they had set up in the outfield." "He hit it into a hole in the ground." The "Mayne Event" is one of the funniest things on TV—I love it so much I did a mini "Spain Event" for my hosting reel. Mayne even translates his bits to a mainstream, family-friendly gig like Dancing With The Stars. I never watch the dancing, I just watch the results show to see Mayne’s hilarious "Dancecenter" segments.

Honorable Mention: The baseball announcer (whose name I can’t recall) that reacted to a sure home run ball caught at the wall with: "You gotta be dry shaving me!"

Sarah Spain’s least favorite: Steven A. Smith

The guy is annoying, abrasive and apparently unable to control the volume of his voice. YOU’RE WEARING A MIC, YOU DON’T HAVE TO YELL, STEVEN! He makes everything a race issue and rarely takes the time to back up his controversial opinions with fact. He’s a piss-poor writer who jams every sentence full of as many superfluous three-syllable words as possible, a habit that makes for some of the worst syntax I’ve ever read. For example, when discussing how bad bloggers are for the world of sports, he wrote this little gem: "I respect the journalism industry, and the fact of the matter is …someone with no training should not be allowed to have any kind of format whatsoever to disseminate to the masses to the level which they can." Just rolls right off the tongue, doesn’t it? Of course, just a few short months after dissing bloggers, Smith started–you guessed it–a blog.

His show, Quite Frankly, was about as successful in the ratings department as Smith was at the 2006 NBA draft. If you’re still not convinced that Smith is a complete prick, check out this video of him clowning one of the few people in the world who actually watched his show.

Honorable Mention: Rachel Nichols, Walt Frazier, The "Boom goes the dynamite" guy.

David K.’s most favorite announcer: Jay Bilas

Bilas is the best studio analyst in all of college basketball and even all of sports. And unlike other announcers, the former Dukie transitions so smoothly from the set to courtside when he is called on to be a color commentator. I have always said Bilas is the best at what he does for two reasons; 1) Bilas is efficient enough in explaining what and why something is happening in the game where the average fan can understand what is taking place while at the same time, 2) teaching die-hard basketball fans (like I consider myself to be) something new about the game or a player every single time I watch. Plus, he does all this with feeling the need to have a "schtick" like Dick Vitale or Billy Raftery or Digger Phelps. Bilas calls it how he sees it without having any bias towards either bench and he isn’t afraid to criticize or praise a team, player, or coach without having to do so in an over-exaggerated manner or while holding a highlighter that matches his tie. He is concise, to the point, extremely articulate, and doesn’t feel a need to scream in order to get his point across.

Other favorites: Doug Gottlieb, Harry Caray (RIP), Greg Anthony, Thom Brennaman

By the way, am I the only one here that is completely shocked Paul M. Banks didn’t pick Erin Andrews as his favorite announcer?

David K.’s least favorite announcer: Stuart Scott

While anybody who does Pac-10 men’s basketball games on Fox Sports Net finishes a close second, Stuart Scott gets the dubious honor of being my least favorite announcer, and not just because of his smack eye. When Scott first came up on SportsCenter, I’ll admit that I was a big fan. He was the king of hip clichés like "cooler than the other side of the pillow" (which Wikipedia claims he ripped off from a former 49ers announcer) and "BOOOOOOO-YAHHHHHHH." (A phrase that has now been seized from him by CNBC’s Jim Kramer…in the opinion of Paul M. Banks) It’s almost as if Scott brought a sense of street-cred to SportsCenter that was never there before. But like Chris Berman, Dickie V., and other "schticks" in the business, Scott too quickly became a tired act. Only thing is, nobody has apparently told him this because he continues to try and be the "hip black guy." He plays a big part in why I refuse to watch SportsCenter anymore. Being in "the biz," I feel that people who have a "schtick" to their on-air personality wear out really fast because it is hard to keep up a creative style without taking it a step too far and/or annoying the hell out of viewers. Scott should learn from this. "Hugs and hand pounds."

Others I can’t stand watching: Berman, Linda Cohn (because she once used the phrase "Shakin his Tailfeather"), Woody Paige, Shannon Sharpe