Thursday, February 26, 2015

Update on Chicago Professional Sports Teams: Rose and Kane Injuries Change Championship Possibilities


For fans of Chicago's professional sports teams, the end of the NFL regular season meant that we could move on from the disappointing, messed up Bears to the winter sports teams that give us the best shot for a championship in 2015: the Blackhawks and the Bulls. Although the Bears seem to now be heading in the right direction with changes in the coaching staff and management, a championship in the immediate future seems unlikely. But the Blackhawks and the Bulls -- yes!

Unfortunately, February 24 was a crushing day for both teams. Blackhawks scoring star Patrick Kane fractured his collarbone and will be out about 12 weeks. If he is lucky and the team continues to do well, Kane could possibly be back toward the end of the Stanley cup playoffs. Even in that best case scenario, how effective would Kane be after sitting out for so long?

Unfortunately for the Bulls, guard Derrick Rose is now facing his third severe injury in his young career --  his second right medial meniscus tear. Although the extent of the damage and the prognosis are not yet known, it is likely that Rose will be out at least eight weeks.

So what does this mean for the Blackhawks and the Bulls? I am guessing that it means that Chicago will not have any sports championships in 2015. The Bulls were certainly not a sure bet to go as far as the conference finals, and without Rose they do not match up nearly as well with the better teams in the Eastern Conference. The Blackhawks still realistically have a chance to win the Stanley Cup, but going forward without their charismatic leading scorer will be difficult. The NHL's Western Conference is loaded with good teams, and the rest of the season will be a struggle.

Thankfully, baseball season is on the way! Spring training is underway, and both the White Sox and Cubs made great roster improvements in the off season and should be much better than they have been the past two seasons.

The Cubs picked up a stud pitcher in Jon Lester and have a wealth of young, promising players. The Cubs farm system is reported stocked with more talent than any other team. The White Sox picked up some key players, including pitcher Jeff Samardzija and Melky Cabrera.

My predictions for 2015:

Chicago Bulls: The Bulls maybe win one playoff series and then bow out. Tensions between head coach Tom Thibodeau and front office underachievers Gar Forman and John Paxson boil over for good and Thiodeau leaves for greener pastures.

Chicago Blackhawks: Without Patrick Kane and lacking depth on defense, the Hawks do not make it to the Stanley Cup finals. One of several teams could torpedo the Hawks run. But there is always next year.

Chicago Cubs: A much-improved Cubbies team brings excitement back to Chicago baseball. The Cubs finish around .500 and look to make a serious playoff run in 2016.

Chicago White Sox: The Sox will challenge for a division title and will battle for a spot in the playoffs. The optimist and life-long Sox fan in me predicts that the Sox will play n the post season in 2015.

Chicago Bears: New coaching staff turns things around quickly and begins to build excitement for the Bears. Unfortunately, it will take a few years to restock a poor defensive group. Bears fan will need to keep optimistic for 2016.

I hope to see a Cubs and/or Sox spring training game in Arizona at the end of March. I already have tickets for the King of Komps and I to watch the Cubs at the White Sox in August. Getting tickets to see the Sox at the Cubs or Cubs opening day vs the Cardinals? That will take some luck when single game Cubs tickets go on sale early next month.

How is YOUR city doing regarding professional sports in 2015?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Wild Poker Night at the Boat

My new home poker game has been continuing to meet on Tuesday evenings. It alternates weeks between meeting in someone's first floor apartment (nice temperature, satellite television) and the basement in an older house (cold, subdued atmosphere). Last week's game was in the apartment and a very pleasant affair except for the outcome. I had to scratch back at the end to get to where I was down only $50 -- not bad for a night when I got no cards and everything seemed to go wrong.

The cold and snow this weekend seemed to dictate staying inside, but the poker player in me wanted to play. After my last session at the Par-A-Dice river boat casino, I was tempted to remind my wife to tell me "Remember how you said you hated playing on that effing boat?" Indeed, the results at the boat are often uneven. The last trip, which I don't recall blogging about due to being busy with work, I took a thrashing, losing around two buy-ins, thus the "effing boat." However, it is the only legal place I have to play that isn't at least two plus hours away. Also, I had a slot promo offered: 12 times points, so I had something to do if my wait was long.

Unfortunately, I had forgotten that the last Sunday of the month was reserved for the monthly big bounty tournament. When I got to the boat, there were four tournament tables running and no cash tables. I headed down to the slots area and looked to find the new version of the Willy Wonka slots. Unfortunately, the players card reader was bad and would not read the info from my card, meaning that I could not get my bonus points. I decided to try some other games and had success. Unfortunately, the total time I had to wait to play poker was 2 1/2 hours.

I immediately went up about $35, then went down that same amount and stayed there for quite some time. I was not getting any premium hands and none of my small pocket pairs were improving to sets. It was very frustrating. Then, when I did get the dreaded pocket Kings, the short stack re-pop of my raise told me that I was likely against pocket Aces. Unfortunately, I was correct. The only redeeming part was that a third person came along for the ride and I extracted a side pocket from him to lessen the blow of the Kings going down. It could have been much worse.

I never seemed to get on track and do not think I ever approached being  even again as the evening wore on. And then it happened: the chance to win back some money. Two new guys sat at the table, and one said he had little experience playing poker. Based on his play, I believe him. He started out with some black chips, but eventually grabbed in his pocket for some purple chips. Before the night was over, all his black and purple chips were gone. As you might guess, everyone at the table was salivating, hoping to get some kind of hand to get into with this guy. Once you were in, the key was to call light.

I got caught calling some hands just to have a chance to double up. I did get my double up, though, and stayed about even. At some point I saw that I was about $250 down and knew I needed to make a move. It came when I got in a hand with A-7 clubs and saw a flop with two clubs. The wild guys started raising and I monkey-shoved my nut flush  draw for $200+. As expected, both other players went all in (one was kind of a shorty) and I had my chance, for we all know that clubs (or crubs!) get there every time. As expected, the turn was a club. Shazam! I was in the black for the first time since the first hour I was there.

Poker carried on for awhile, but once the crazy spewer left, almost everyone called it a night. At three handed I decided to  go home, up about $150. I was left to wonder how sweet it might have been if I had only caught a few cards when the spewer was really giving all his money away.

I in no way expected to be at the boat that long, but there was no way that anyone was going to leave when the wild guys appeared. Just another crazy poker night at Par-A-Dice. I had told cokeboy99 that I was going to be leaving relatively early, so he did not come. Maybe we'll get a chance to fling some chips together in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

60's Pop Star Lesley Gore Dead at 68


A blog reader once commented that he knew when music stars died by reading my blog. In keeping with tradition, I can not let the passing of 60's legend Lesley Gore go by without acknowledging her contribution to pop music.

Gore had a string of popular songs in the 1960's which included "It's My Party," "Judy's Turn to Cry," "She's a Fool," "That's the Way Boys Are, " "Maybe I Know," "Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows" and "California Nights." However, perhaps Gore's most unique contribution to pop music was an early feminist anthem "You Don't Own Me."

One of my favorite Lesley Gore memories was her appearance on the television show Batman. I don't know if she could have been any more adorable, playing a young girl under the evil tutelage of the Catwoman.

Gore's Johnny might have left in "It's My Party" and returned in "Judy's Turn to Cry," but I was one young Johnny that would never have left such a lovely young woman. Part of her appearance on Batman -- one day before I turned nine years old:


R.I.P.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Slaying the Dragon


Long time readers of this blog might remember that I used to play in a local poker game that I called my international home game. It was populated by people from several countries, some of whom were in the United States for only a relatively short time to get a college degree. For several reasons, I stopped playing in it about a year ago. It ended in April and never returned.

David, one of the regulars from the old home game, began a new home game in his apartment this year. This Tuesday night game has been held three times so far, and I have been at all of them. Last night was the third. At least night's game, I was finally able to get some revenge on a player that seemed to own me for some time.

Joe had always been perhaps the most aggressive player of the old home game. I have seen Joe take some horrible beats, but he always seemed to catch a card at the right time, too. During a spell of several weeks when I was card dead, Joe just rolled over me. It seemed like the hands I won from him were few and far between. Until last night.

I was the third player to arrive and seated myself in the number five seat at the nine-seat table. I often like seat five so that I can easily see the flop, turn and river cards. Joe was the fourth person to come and put his things at seat one and even sat down there. However, he got up and said that he decided to sit in seat seven instead. And just like that, Joe had position on me. I could have changed my seat, but I didn't want to look like a wuss to get position on him. And ... I just had a feeling that I would pwn him that night.

Big hand #1 came early in the session. I had bought in for $100 ($.50/$1, $1 max rake) and was dealt one of my lucky hands: pocket 6's. People were folding and I raised to $3. Joe came along. We were heads up. The flop brought a beautiful 6. Shazam! I raised $3 and Joe bumped it up to $10. I raised to $23 and Joe went all in. I, of course, called. We agreed to run it twice. The results: quad 6's and a 6's full of 4's boat. Can you say double up? Joe didn't show his hand. He rebought for $100.

A short time later I was dealt A-10 sooted and raised to $3. Joe raised to $13. I knew that Joe was capable of raising with almost anything and was pretty sure he was just trying to make me fold, so I called. We were heads up again. The flop: A-8-10! I threw out a $15 bet and Joe went all in. Of course, I called again. We ran it twice and I won both with two pair -- Aces and 10's. And again I did not see what Joe had, but I did see another $100 stack of redbirds coming my way!

I ramped up my aggression against Joe later on, which was pretty interesting. He joked about my taking his chips, but I knew he was really hoping to get some back. After all, in his mind they were really his chips, right?

As the evening went on, I took a few bad beats and basically played even-steven poker for the rest of the night. I was happy to have made a nice profit, and it was especially sweet to have gotten my profit via Joe. I am sure that he will be looking for me next time. And I will be there waiting.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Meeting Ernie Banks

Today, the city of Chicago buried one of its sports greats, Ernie Banks -- Mr. Cub. Banks had a long history in Chicago, playing for the lovable loser Chicago Cubs and later having various positions in greater Chicagoland. Banks was famous for his love of the "friendly confines" of Wrigley Field, day baseball, and his enthusiastic saying "Let's play two." Banks was likely the most beloved Chicago sports start of my lifetime.

Growing up in suburban Chicago, I watched many of Banks's games on WGN. Unfortunately, I watched his later years when his skills were diminishing as the Cubs's hopes were rising, culminating in one of the greatest disappointments of my early life: the collapse of the 1969 Cubs.

I did get to meet Ernie Banks once, however. It was quite some time ago so the details might be a little off. I think I was in about sixth grade, and my junior high basketball team was playing against a team that featured Banks's twin sons. The baseball season was long over for the Cubs (heh), and we hoped that we would get to meet Banks at the game. We were cautioned that he might not be there because of his many commitments and that even if he was, we were there to play a game and might not get to meet him.

I remember that my team won because my junior high school basketball team only lost a handful of games in three years. However, the memorable part was the Mr. Cub came over after the game to shake hands with the members of my team. He didn't look happy that his sons' team lost, but I figured that handling losses was something he had gotten used to with the mid-60's Cubs. But coming over to thrill a bunch of junior high boys? That was the kind of guy that Ernie Banks was.

One of my great baseball television memories was watching the game when Banks hit his 500th career home run. Jack Brickhouse had been enthusiastically waiting to announce that moment for some time. A funny part of the story is that Banks actually had a triple (more than one, I think) between homers 499 and 500. As I recall, there was a chance that Banks could have had an inside-the-park home run for #500, but he was held at third.

So long, Mr. Cub. You were one of a kind.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Night of Professional Wrestling: The Thursday Night Throwdown

Professional wrestling had, at more than one time in my life, been an area of interest. Growing up in suburban Chicago in the 1960's and 70's, I watched the old Bob Luce Wrestling show that featured such greats at Dick the Bruiser and The Crusher, Yukon Moose Cholak, Baron Von Raschke, Wilbur Snyder, Billy Red Cloud, The Blackjacks, Bobby Heenan ... Yes, those were some great times.

I also watched wrestling during the 1980's when Hulk Hogan, the Iron Sheik, Andre the Giant, Macho Man Randy Savage (who grew up in the town next to the town where I grew up) and many other greats were popular. However, I faded away from watching pro wrestling many years ago.

I knew that one of my former advisees was involved in the lowest of rungs of professional wrestling, so when I saw that he was going to be in a match tonight, I decided to go. When I say the lowest of rungs, I mean that. The matches were held in what is basically a huge garage type building.

The crowd was tremendous.
Action took place both inside and outside the ring.
 
It was actually quite a bit of fun, and certainly over the 90 minutes of action I got my $5 worth.
 
Years ago, I had a hidden desire to become a professional wrestling manager. I mean, in what other profession (aside from politics) could you clearly have good vs. evil, spout off a bunch of bullshit in a microphone and get paid for it? Oh, what could have been ...



Monday, January 19, 2015

Illegal Tender

Must spend immediately!
 

Just a funny little thing to start the week off today. This was a humorous gift from the King of Komps to help me celebrate my birthday, which is tomorrow. Perhaps I should change my online name to lightning37 since I will be 37 years old (sort of ... ummmm ...).