football


I was hoping for a Super Bowl featuring the Chicago Bears and the Pittsburgh Steelers today, but the Bears didn’t come through with a victory over the red-hot Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game two weeks ago. But that’s OK because I still have the Steelers to root for in the Super Bowl — and the Packers to root against.

Right now it’s popular to root against the Steelers because their quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, was exposed last year as the latest in a long line of law-breaking NFL players. I understand, and even support, that idea, but I’m still going to root for my favorite AFC team against the arch-rival of my favorite NFC team.

As you can see from the photo below, our 10-year-old dog Bandit will be rooting for the Steelers, too. In early January, he underwent surgery to relieve his worsening arthritis caused by hip dysplasia, and his left loin area was shaved before the surgery. Since Bandit didn’t have any hair there two weeks ago, my wife used non-toxic, washable markers to draw a Bears logo on him for the Bears-Packers game and a Steelers logo on him for the Steelers-Jets game. He will be sporting a Steelers logo again today.

Glad to see the Chicago Bears won one for Walter Payton today.

Today is the 10th anniversary of Payton’s death from a rare liver disease called primary sclerosing cholangitis. The Bears honored the late Hall-of-Fame running back during halftime of their game against the Cleveland Browns. The Bears won the game 30-6; my wife and I watched part of the game at Duffy’s Tavern in Utica before going for a walk along the I&M Canal.

I remember the day Payton died. Don Baylor was announced as the new manager of the Chicago Cubs that day, and during the press conference, Baylor asked that everybody say a special prayer for Payton.

I heard about Payton’s death later that day as I was leaving the Villa Park police station. I was there to check the weekend police reports, and a secretary asked me if I heard the news.

I also remember seeing Bruce Springsteen in concert about a week later. That concert, at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, was one of the best I’ve ever experienced live and it hooked me on Springsteen for life.

Saturday was a beautiful weather day in Indianapolis, where I am for a Society of Professional Journalists conference. After the conference ended at 5 p.m., I was pleasantly surprised to learn it was 63 degrees in downtown Indy. I read for awhile in University Park (I’m reading The 27s, which examines the rock & roll myth of death at age 27) before spending a couple hours exploring downtown Indianapolis by foot.

There are a lot of great sites to see in downtown Indianapolis (as evidenced by the 125 or so digital photos I took during my walk). I was most impressed by the American Legion Mall, where there are several war memorials surrounded by attractive federal buildings. Near the mall are University Park and the ornate Scottish Rite Cathedral.

Also worth seeing is the Indiana State House and the Indiana Repertory Theater, which are located near each other. If you like sports, you can walk just a few blocks south to see Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts. A few blocks from there is Victory Field, home of the Indianapolis Indians, the Triple-A affiliate of MLB’s Pittsburgh Pirates. You can complete the Indianapolis sports tour by visiting Conseco Fieldhouse, home of the NBA’s Indianapolis Pacers, and the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home of the Indianapolis 500 and other races.

The 100-year-old Murat Shrine Theater is another ornate building worth seeing. It is located across the street from the Athenaeum, where the SPJ conference was held.

One site I won’t get to visit during this weekend trip is the President Benjamin Harrison Home because it closes at 3:30 p.m. on Saturdays and is open on Sundays only in June and July. But I’m sure it is worth your time to visit if you are interested in history and/or politics.

When the World Baseball Classic — baseball’s version of soccer’s World Cup — debuted in 2006, I wasn’t too excited about it. It didn’t bother me when Team USA got knocked out of the tournament in the second round — spring training was under way and the regular season would be starting soon enough.

That isn’t the case this year. I think I had a change of heart about the WBC after seeing how proud the Japanese players were after their team won the inaugural tournament. I want Team USA to win it all this time.

I’ve really been into the games, especially when Team USA plays. I was bummed when Puerto Rico beat my country 11-1 Saturday. I didn’t feel bad when the feel-good Netherlands team lost to Team USA. And I was elated when I read that Team USA exacted vengeance on Puerto Rico with a 6-5 comeback victory Tuesday.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t watch Team USA’s exciting three-run, ninth-inning rally to beat Puerto Rico because the game was televised on the new MLB Network, which nobody I know gets. Dish Network delivers 145 channels to my television, but MLB Network isn’t one of them. And since ESPN was busy broadcasting college basketball games instead, many of us interested in watching the WBC elimination game were out of luck.

I’m sure I’m not the only person outraged by this. I hope sports commentators write columns about this and complain about it on television and radio talk shows the way they did when the NFL aired some football games exclusively on its network. That is probably my only hope for this not happening again. Unfortunately, I fear the mainstream sports media cares infinitely more about football than baseball.

Thanks for depriving people of watching the most exciting WBC game so far, ESPN and Major League Baseball. You shot yourselves in the foot again.

From The Associated Press:

Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle’s proposed state budget includes another option for choosing a vehicle license plate.

There’s a provision creating a special Milwaukee Brewers license plate. The revenue from the additional fee on the plate would be used to retire the Miller Park stadium debt.

A small percentage of the revenue would go to Major League Baseball, which holds the licensing rights to team logos.

There’s a special Green Bay Packers plate, but it’s the first time for a Brewers license. The team says one design option will have the team’s current “M” logo. The other will feature the ball-in-glove logo.

Illinois should do something like that to help pay down its debt. Offer vehicle owners the opportunity to purchase special Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox license plates. I’ll even offer this promotional tagline for free: “What’s your allegiance? State it on your plate!”

While they’re at it, lawmakers can approve special license plates featuring other Illinois sports teams like the Chicago Bears, Chicago Bulls and Chicago Blackhawks.

The amount of revenue raised this way would be miniscule compared to what the state owes in unpaid bills, but every cent counts when you’re desperate for money.

Now that the drama has subsided from Rod Blagojevich being kicked out of the governor’s office, I’m going to relax this weekend by listening to music, reading a book and watching the Super Bowl.

I’m almost finished reading Jonathan Alter’s The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope. I probably would be done with it already if it wasn’t for Blagogate taking up so much of my attention lately. I’ve been like a sponge soaking in all the Blagogate coverage I could find on television, radio and the Internet (primarily the online versions of the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times, but other newspapers as well) so I could write the most well-informed Blagogate commentary possible for readers of The Bread Line, and because that sort of thing greatly interests a political junkie like myself. Anyway, I should finish reading the book this weekend, so I’ll post a review of it here sometime next week.

Tonight I’m going to Champaign to see Jeff Tweedy (lead singer of my favorite band, Wilco) perform a solo show at the University of Illinois. I’m really looking forward to the show, as I’ve seen Wilco in concert numerous times, but never a Tweedy solo show.

I’m also looking forward to watching the Super Bowl tomorrow since my favorite AFC team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, is playing in it. Like President Obama, my favorite teams are the Steelers and the Chicago Bears (my hometown team). In case you missed it, on Thursday a reporter asked Obama who he hopes will win the Super Bowl.

“I wish the best to the Cardinals,” Obama said. “They’ve been long-suffering. It’s a great Cinderella story. But other than the Bears, the Steelers are probably the team that’s closest to my heart.”

I agree completely. Go Steelers!

In addition to the Steelers being part of the game, the Super Bowl also will feature a halftime performance by Bruce Springsteen, one of my favorite musicians. I don’t know what songs The Boss will play, but it might be fitting for him to perform “Glory Days.”

Anyone reading this have any predictions as to what Springsteen will play?

It is 6 degrees at 6:30 p.m. in Chicago. The temperature may drop to zero by the time the Bears-Packers game begins at Soldier Field an hour from now. Wind chills may bring the “real feel” temperature down even lower to 10-20 degrees below zero. Brrr! I’ll be glad to watch the game on television at home rather than in person at the stadium.

Despite the unbearable cold, you know some drunken, shirtless fool will be shown on TV tonight. I hope he enjoys his hospital stay while getting treatment for hypothermia.

According to WGN-TV, the coldest-ever game at Soldier Field also featured a matchup of the Bears and Packers, on Dec. 18, 1983. The game-time temperature was near 5 degrees. The Bears won that game 23-21.

UPDATE: The temperature at kickoff tonight was 2 degrees, according to WFLD-TV meteorologist Amy Freeze, who reported it on the Soldier Field Jumbotron.

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