The Bears 2017 Remains Unclear

The 2016 Chicago Bears season was chock full of injuries, poor performances, losses, and ultimately disappointment. It’s difficult to pull the good out of a 3-12 season, but there were certainly flashes of what could be the future of the Bears. But how bright will that future be–what can we expect out of the Bears next season? As it turns out, the future might not be so clear.

 

Is Howard the Answer?

When the Bears spent a fifth round pick on Jordan Howard last year, expectations were somewhat muted. He was the tenth running back taken in the draft, falling behind the likes of CJ Prosise, Kenyan Drake, and Tyler Ervin, among others. Howard outperformed every single one, with the exception, of course, of Ezekiel Elliott. While Drake, Prosise and Ervin combined for a total of 356 rushing yards, Howard went off for 1,313 and 6 scores on the ground. Next year, the Bears will be forced to determine if Howard’s explosive rookie year was a fluke or the real deal. My inkling says it’s the latter.

 

Healthy Players

What do Bobby Massie, Kyle Long, Kyle Fuller, Kevin White, Josh Sitton, Eddie Goldman, Mitch Unrein, Alshon Jeffery, Leonard Floyd, Pernell McPhee and a number of others have in common? All missed time for the Bears this past season due to a combination of injuries and suspensions. Next year, most of these should become non-issues. With White and Jeffery back to full health the receiving corps will be back to full health, giving whoever is under center a few strong targets.

 

Cut Cutler

Cutler’s time in Chicago may be winding to a close. After seven years of a strong arm that was seemingly best suiting for throwing interceptions and missing targets, it’s time to end the Jay Cutler era. The issue that cutting Cutler won’t clear up is the lingering question of who will start under center in his absence. Neither Matt Barkley nor Brian Hoyer are ideal replacements. The 2017 free agent class is also less-than stellar. The possibility for a trade remains–New England’s Jimmy Garoppolo and the oft-injured Tony Romo are often cited as trade candidates for teams in search of a QB this summer.

 

The 7 Best Things To Come From The Cubs’ World Series Win

Holy Cow!!! We did it! That is, after over 100 years of trying and failing, the Cubs managed to land the World Series title and we, they’re loyal fans, were able to witness it together. I tell you, never before had I wanted so badly to be in Wrigley Field for a game! Fortunately, I had my dad and the rest of our Chicago transplant family to keep me company all the way down in Florida.

The last time the Cubs won the World Series was in 1908. The last time the Cubs appeared in the World Series was 1945. It’s been over 108 years since we won and over 71 years since we’ve made an appearance. Not only did we take the Series, but we did so with the best regular-season record in the MLB. Wow.

But the magic of November 2, so greatly exceeds just that night. It spreads into a number of moments that have happened and will keep on happening until the Cubs get their next World Series title. Looking back on that fateful night, I’ve put together a list of some of my favorite moments.

 

Bill Murray

For whatever reason, there’s no other figure that looms quite as large in the Chicago spotlight as Bill Murray. He’s our funny guy, our comedian, but he’s also our guide, our mentor, our guru, our patron saint. Getting to watch Bill Murray’s reaction to the Cubs game was almost as good as getting to watch the Cubs win in and of itself.

Afterward when Ben Zobrist won MVP of the year, Bill started honking the horn of the MVP’s prize:

In what just might be my favorite interview ever, a drunk Bill Murray spoke with a drunk Theo Epstein in the Cubs locker room. And they sprayed each other with champagne.

I’m so glad I got to watch the Cubs win the World Series, and I’m so glad that Bill Murray was there to make it even more magical.

The Parade

The city threw a massive parade, which more than a million people attended. How cool is that? Check out the photos! It’s pretty crazy.

Chicago Cubs rally

Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune

The Cubs on SNL

The Saturday after the Cubs made history, Rizzo, Ross, Fowler, and honorary Cubbie Bill Murray made an appearance on SNL. Although these guys didn’t crack to many jokes themselves, they did do a funny rendition of  “Go Cubs Go.” If anything, their performances were a little awkward and they’re singing was a little strained, but the whole entire bit was made more endearing because of it. It was a ton of fun to see them on the SNL set. A truly surreal moment. Almost as surreal as the next one.

Hamilton and the Cubs

I’ll be honest. I don’t know too much about “Hamilton”, other than that it’s been a big success and very influential to a number of people. The play originated in New York, but recently started a run in Chicago. The day after we clinched the Series, the cast sang “Go Cubs Go”. Even with little knowledge of “Hamilton”, it’s just great to see such a big, internationally renown play celebrate the Cubs. The fact the actors are singing the song in 18th century garb is an added plus.

Apparently, the Chicago Cubs have their own musical in the works.

Awards Awards Awards

Jason Heyward won his fourth Golden Glove Award, Anthony Rizzo won his first Golden GloveAward, and Theo Epstein won The Sporting News MLB Executive of the Year. Boom!

This Song

Looking through Cubs highlights online, I randomly came across this video. I was totally blown away. The song, written and performed by Katie Day, is beautiful on its own. But what really carries the tune to a whole other level is the video, which combines footage from SnapChat, the news, and more of people reacting to the Cubs win all across the world (but mainly in Chicago).

The Community

All of the above is great, but what really makes the World Series such an unforgettable event is the people in our lives. I’ll never forget being able to watch Game 7 with my Dad and the rest of the family, and how after so many years we were able to witness the impossible together.

What was your World Series win like? Were you with friends or family? Did you watch the game solo from a bar in the middle of nowhere? Did you end up just streaming from your laptop while your living mates caught up on West World? Whatever your story is,  I’d love to know. Feel free to drop me a line in the comments below.

An Ode to Kerry Wood

If you were to catch a Cubs Game at Wrigley Field sometime in 1998 or sometime between 2000 and 2008 or sometime between 2010 and 2012, chances are that you had the opportunity to catch the amazing Kerry Wood doing what he does best: pitching. Nicknamed Kid K (a play on his first name and the letter used to statistically denote a strikeout), Kerry Wood was a force to be reckoned with. His renown as an adept pitcher would often cause crowds of fans to launch into boisterous chants of “Kerry, Kerry, Kerry”. In some games, you could even see fans expectantly counting Kerry’s strikeouts with big “K” cards.

Kerry Wood "K" signs - Daily Herald

Daily Herald

It all started when in a 1998 game against the Houston Astros. It was a rainy, drizzly day. For the Astros, it must have felt a heck of a lot rainier. Kerry pitched a 20-strikeout game, with no walks. The Astros only got one hit in the whole freaking game. And this was Wood’s fifth MLB start. To this day, Wood’s 20-strikeout performance is unprecedented (barring the Roger Clemens’ record). As the saying goes, the candle that burns twice as bright, burns out twice as quickly. In August of that same year, Wood was on the disabled list with elbow trouble.

Still, Kerry Wood’s performance against the Astros and other teams was more than enough to earn him the title of National League Rookie of the Year.

The Chicago Cubs' Kerry Wood leaves the field pumped up after getting out of a jam in the 12th inning against the Brewers.

Daily Herald

In 2000, Wood returned to active duty. In his first game back, fate put him once again against the Astros. Wood didn’t disappoint. He managed to hit a two-run homer and pitch 6 great innings. Unfortunately, the year-plus on the bench had taken a toll on his form. He did alright, but it definitely was not nearly as head-turning as his 1998 season.

2001 was a rough year for Kerry, but a good year for the Cubs. Then, 2002 was a good year for Kerry, but a rough year for the Cubs. In 2003, both entities seemed to be aligned. On top of having a great season, Kerry managed to get the Cubs to the National League Championship Series. But in Game Seven, Wood fell into a downward spiral. It seemed that everything he threw was getting hit to the outfield. The loss wasn’t entirely his fault, but he definitely took a lot of blame on his shoulders, something that has endeared him to a lot of Cubs fans to this day.

Kerry Wood - MyCubsToday.com

MyCubsToday.com

He stayed with the Cubs till 2008, after which point he moved onto the Cleveland Indians and eventually the Yankees. He then came back in 2011-2012 with the promise of being a Cubs for life. Although he never re-achieved his 1998 glory. Kerry Wood stands out as a great pitcher and a die-hard Cubbie, among the ranks of Ernie Banks, Aaron Aronson, and (despite his unpopularity after the doping scandal) Sammy Sosa.

Tony Angiuli

An Ode to Sammy Sosa

In 1998, Chicagoans from all walks of life had their eyes on one sports figure. “Slammin” Sammy Sosa was a baseball player of epic proportions. When Sammy Sosa first signed on with the Cubs through a trade with the Sox back in 1992, there wasn’t too much fanfare about him joining the roster. By the end of the 1993 season, people knew Sosa as a force to be reckoned with. By 1997 he had earned a reputation as a home run hitter. In 1998 he had a famous home run derby with St. Louis’ Mark McGwire and stoked the flames of one of Chicago’s greatest sports rivalries.

Sammy Sosa up to bat for Chicago Cubs - Tony Angiuli

Even, all the way down in Florida I felt the pull of his influence.

Although I was born in Chicago, I moved with my family down to Florida when I was four years old. I was 6 years old when Sosa started playing for the Cubs. Although I watched games with my family, I had more important things on my mind, like my studies at pre-school and playing with toys.

But it seemed that as I grew up, Sosa grew to be a larger and larger figure in my life. For starters, if I try really hard, I can recall a lot of fanfare about Sammy Sosa being a 30-30 player (30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in a single season) in 1993. Something that’s a bit easier for me to recall is when Sosa again managed to be a 30-30 player in 1995.

Before long, I was glued to the TV whenever a Cubs game would come on. My favorite baseball player, and even sports player in general, was Sammy Sosa. He was hitting an average of 30-40 home runs a season and for anyone who watches baseball, home runs are the equivalent of advanced pyrotechnics. They’re feats of super human strength. Particularly if you’re a kid, home runs are soooooo cool.


Metropolis could keep their Super Man. Chicago had Sammy Sosa.

In 1998, a super villain emerged to counter Chicago’s super hero (maybe super rival is more accurate, but in the melodrama of a child’s perspective on sports, McGwire was a villain). The two competed to see who could get the most home runs. At first McGwire had the lead, but it eventually became a grueling back-and-forth. Although both ended up beating the previous home run record 0f 63, McGwire landed 70…while Sosa only scored 66. It was a tough blow, but we still had hope.

In 1999, Sosa and McGwire again went head to head. Again, McGwire took the lead with 65, while Sammy Sosa trailed behind by 2 with 63. But trailing behind by 2 was a lot better than trailing behind by 4. Things were getting better. It was only a matter of time before our hero Sosa would win!

In 2000, Sammy managed to net the highest amount of home runs in the league. His total of 50 was not nearly as head-turning as his previous score, but it was still impressive achievement, especially so, because it beat McGwire’s total of 32 HR.

In retrospect, I realize these home run match-ups were just as lucrative for the wallets of the baseball clubs as it was for the spirits of fans. But there’s no way that they can take away from the sense of investment that I, my family, and so many other baseball fans felt.

Although Sammy Sosa still performed well, his career slowly wound down in the next several years, with the coup de grace being the cork-bat scandal that he was found not guilty of. Then in 2005, he suffered a back injury that really took its toll on his play, and by that time it seemed that Sosa was ready to move on. When he was traded to the Orioles in 2005, it was a blow, but it was something that seemed at that point inevitable.

Sammy Sosa was more than an amazing player, he was a figure that united a team and a city around him.