The end of one year and the beginning of another really do stir reflection and resolution. And sports really don’t matter in the scheme of life. Really. I swear.
All right, who am I kidding? Sports do matter to me and a millions of others. Life is sports and sports are life. It’s not like when a player steps between the lines he or she enters virtually reality and the rules of life are suspended. Or that when we go to work the lessons we learned from sports about teamwork and commitment are thrown out the window. But we do need to have our priorities straight. Sports get a bad name when a dad sits on his ass alone in the basement watching his team lose its 60th game of the year when his kid has been asking him for hours to have a game of catch in the backyard.
In fact, I’d argue that having your priorities straight makes watching sports more enjoyable and participating in sports more successful.
So as I reflect on 2014 and resolve to do some stuff in 2015, here’s a mix of what people call “real life” and “sports,” though we know it’s all mixed up together.
Reflection: Our family welcomed our third child to the world this year. This was by far the biggest event, ahead of even the Jon Lester signing (crazy, I know). She’s smart and funny. After going through the infant-to-toddler stage — which is not easy — with two other kids not that long ago, I find that I’m enjoying this one a lot more. Maybe I’m just used to never sleeping.
Resolution: I’d like to be a better father to all the kids. The way I look at it, I’m the manager of the team (or my wife is the manager and I’m the third-base coach, something like that). Unlike many pro teams, we don’t get a chance at rebuilding. We have to win now AND devote our resources to player development. There’s no tanking for a higher draft choice. This is the team we’ve got and we’re going to kick some ass. I’m not bad at being a dad now, but we can all always get better. When three kids are screaming for something all at the same time and what they want is the most important thing they’ve ever wanted ever (like a glass of milk), and I have slept four hours every night for a week, what am I going to do? Can I find the patience to meet their needs while teaching them valuable lessons about teamwork and caring for others? I’m gonna try.
Reflection: I figured out that as a little bit older dad for the age of my kids, I’ve got to be in decent shape to keep up with them. I want to be able to really take it to the hoop when my 4-year-old gets old enough and big enough to square me up and take me on. So I’ve been working out like I haven’t since freshman football at Fenwick High School. And it seems to be working.
Resolution: Keep it up. Dragging my ass out of bed in the morning to go to the basement and sweat ain’t easy most days, but it feels good afterward. So I need to just do it — or whatever other dumb cliche I can think of.
Reflection: My wife had a tough year. She had her third child in four years — making her the best Director of Player Personnel anywhere. As she points out, she’s been pregnant FOREVER. And she kept her high-stress job despite wanting to leave many times. She’s exhausted physically and mentally. Dick Vermeil had nothing on her.
Resolution: To be a better husband, I need to help my wife get to a better place. She’s smart and driven, so I know she’ll get there more than she even believes she’ll do it. I want to help. I need to be a trainer, a co-owner, a cheerleader, a maintenance man — definitely the grounds crew. I want to be there and do that, even if I’m beat or frustrated or distracted. This is another “just do it.”
Now let’s talk Chicago sports.
Reflection: The Cubs turned a corner. Young talent started to arrive and the kids looked GOOOOOOOD. Then the Cubs went out and got a legit manager in Joe Maddon and a frontline starter in Lester. As Theo Epstein pointed out, the Cubs are leaving the rebuilding phase and entering the competing phase.
Resolution: Keep my shit together. Imagining the Cubs being good, really good, contender good, gets me a little nutty. Don’t get me wrong, I’m going to enjoy the ride — pitch by pitch — but I don’t want to keep one eye on the big picture. “It” (and you know what I mean) might not happen this year. Might not happen next year. But “it” is going to happen.
Reflection: Carmelo Anthony choosing the Knicks over the Bulls was great for Chicago. Not having Melo hogging the ball allowed Jimmy Butler to become one of the best two-way guards in the league right now. If the Bulls had to pay Anthony, they wouldn’t have brought over Nikola Mirotic, who looks like a super sub. They might have had to trade Taj Gibson, who is in many ways the motor of this Bulls team.
Resolution: Don’t get too impatient with Derrick Rose. He doesn’t have to be who he was for this team to succeed. What he does need to do is cut down on shooting 3-pointers. Derrick, they’re giving you that shot for a reason. You kind of stink at it. You don’t have to drive every time, but step up and take the mid-range J. You’re really good at that. See, I’m lecturing. I need to let this season play out, let Rose find his way after missing so much time due to injuries.
Reflection: The Blackhawks are the most consistent winning team we’ve had in Chicago since the Jordan Bulls. They can be counted on year after year to compete for a title. They are fun to watch, and the players are easy to root for.
Resolution: Just enjoy it. This is the easiest Chicago sports situation I have. I’m virtually assured of experiencing the nailbiting, screaming joy of playoff hockey. The West is loaded, so winning the Cup will be far from easy, but I know that these Hawks will give it their all. That’s a rare and beautiful thing in sports.
Reflection: This is the worst, most unlikable Bears team in my lifetime. I know that’s a bold statement, but c’mon. The defense is putrid. The offense has plenty of big names and virtually no big plays. I’m sorry, but I’m convinced that Jay Cutler can’t play a starring role in a Bears Super Bowl run. He’s not that kind of leader. Now, I’m not saying to get rid of him because NFL QB is the hardest spot in professional sports to fill successfully. But I am saying that the defense has to be a Bears defense again — i.e. dominant. That also means they need some strong leaders on that side of the ball. And the Bears have to be able to run the football. Then and only then can I live with pouty Cutler throwing for 270 yards with two TDs and an interception in Bears wins.
Resolution: Get used to the Bears not being THE BEARS for a while. When you say “the Bears” or “Da Bears” images of Ditka, Payton, Butkus, Sayers, McMahon, Hampton and other greats pop into your head. You think hardnose football on frigid days. You think Chicago pride. All of that is besmirched these days. The coach was an offensive guru from Canada. The QB is sullen. The top WR is kind of nutty (and not in a McMahon good way). The defense is statistically the worst in franchise history. It’s like we traded in a 1969 Pontiac GTO muscle car for a Yugo. We’re going to sputter along in the slow lane for a while.
Reflecting on it all, 2014 was a good year. Added one beautiful baby, subtracted 10 pounds of beer gut, added proven stars to Cubs potential greatness, added Derrick Rose back to the Bulls mix, subtracted one Bears coach who didn’t cut it.
One thing 2014 didn’t have … a championship. No doubt that’s on the Cubs’, Bulls’ and Blackhawks’ 2015 resolution list.
You can reach Patrick at Cubs Fan Therapy.