Tag Archives: Chicago

Taking stock of my fan portfolio

Every once in a while I like to take a look at my fan portfolio. What’s that, you say? It’s the teams that I’m invested in, and their stock goes up and down just like the market.

The big difference between my fan portfolio and my meager investments in the stock market is that I won’t sell my allegiance to my teams. Once I bought in I was stuck with them — for mostly good, but sometimes bad.

So let’s take stock of my teams and how I’m handling my investment:

Cubs: Bull market. Everyone is buying on the Cubs after they signed Jon Lester. The Cubs are obviously my single greatest emotional investment as a fan, and I’d love to agree with some publications that pick the Cubbies to go to the World Series, but I’m afraid that too many people are overvaluing their stock at this point.

I’m taking a cautiously optimistic approach. To be honest, my portfolio lives and dies with my gigantic investment in the Cubs, but I’m not going to max out my contribution at this point. I want to see how the kids play, how the rotation comes together before I start recommending the Cubbies to everyone and anyone.

Bulls: Bear market. What is going on with the Bulls? A team that has lived in the top 3 in defense during the Tom Thibodeau years is now around 19th. What? I was so fired up early in the season when the offense appeared to be worthy of their defensive prowess. I bought in big time that the Bulls could cruise to the Finals out of the East.

Now I’m not so sure. The sample size of defensive struggle is now significant. Derrick Rose looks like the D-Rose in stretches and then settles for 3 after missed 3.

This season has really become disappointing. So I’ve been quietly redistributing my emotional assets, hedging a little on the Bulls’ success this season.

Blackhawks: Bull market. Where has a chunk of my Bulls investment gone? To Kane-Toews and Co. Now, they aren’t exactly the Apple of fan investments right now. A 6-8 stretch doesn’t scream “all in,” but I feel like confident in upping my investment while they’re stock is down because I think they have a better chance of paying dividends later than the Bulls do.

The Blackhawks this season look like a veteran team doing just enough in the regular season to secure a good playoff position. Then they’ll turn it up a gear in the playoffs — a San Antonio Spurs model.

Maybe I’m being overly optimistic, but if my fan portfolio is going to flourish I’ve got to look for deals. I think the stumbling Blackhawks are a good buy right now.

Bears: Not just a Bear market, but a 10-foot ferocious grizzly Bear market. The Bears’ stock has fallen so far that a change of management was necessary.

Heading into last season the parts appeared to be there — especially on offense — that most Bears fans upped their investment significantly. The Bears might have some issues on defense, but they could outscore anyone. They would be entertaining and successful. It felt like investing in the new Star Wars movie.

And we all took a bath. Last season’s Bears were the 1929 stock market crash for fan portfolios. The collapse came out of nowhere and hit very, very hard.

Like all my teams, I’ll always hold a significant stake in the Bears, but I’m not buying right now — not until I see if John Fox is the man to turn around the once blue-chip investment.

In summary, my portfolio is looking pretty good. The Cubs could blow up into something really big, and the Blackhawks can pay off big every year. The Bulls are down, but that doesn’t mean they’re out. And the Bears are at least taking significant steps to right the ship.

It’s a good time to be emotionally invested in the Chicago sports scene.

You can reach me at Patrick@CubsFanTherapy.com.

Rose misses 20 shots and Bulls win?

If you told me before last night’s Bulls-Warriors game that Derrick Rose would miss 20 shots, commit 11 turnovers and have only one assist, I would have groaned and planned to go to bed early. Good thing I didn’t.

Rose’s stat line has to be one of the weirdest in recent memory, yet the Bulls still found a way to win in overtime. This is one weird, but intriguing, Bulls team.

Rose made 13-of-33 shots, including a 4-of-12 mark on 3-pointers. But, he nailed the game-winning jumper — which was not a 3 — with seven seconds left in OT. Call it ice water in the veins, swagger, hubris, a short memory, nuts … whatever. Rose believes he’s still the man and he backed it up Tuesday night. What would have been wailing and gnashing of teeth over the missed shots and turnovers became a whisper. He shut up the critics.

The Bulls, who were struggling not that long ago, have beaten the Spurs, Mavs and Warriors in less than a week. The Warriors entered the game with a 19-game home winning streak and were 14-0 against Eastern teams. The Bulls came to town a put a wet blanket on streaking in San Francisco.

The Warriors game was the first of a six-game road trip that could go a long way to showing everyone what the Bulls are made of. They have to pound the Kobe-less Lakers, show the upstart Suns they are not among the elite, somehow slow down NBA scoring leader James Harden and the Rockets, corral suddenly hot Anthony Davis and the Pelicans and finally exact revenge for the Magic’s beatdown of the Bulls in Chicago.

This Bulls team has been so inconsistent that I can see them lose to the Lakers and Magic and beat the rest. They seem to play to the level of the competition, which might be fine in the playoffs but not now, while they’re trying to improve their conference standing.

Mostly, it will be interesting to see how Rose develops on this trip and down the stretch of the season. Can he put it all together? Be clutch and reduce the turnovers and increase the shooting percentage? He’ll have plenty of practice. Teams will continue to give him the 3 to guard against his amazing driving abilities. They’ll continue to send waves of players at him when he breaks down his defender, trying to force him to find open teammates.

In a perfect world he hits just enough 3s to bring the defense out so he can zip around and through it. I’d like to see him take four 3s a game, not 12. We’d all like to see him recognize double teams and find the open man, leading to easy baskets. The Bulls have some shooters now to make defenses pay.

The only thing we can say is “we’ll see.” This Bulls team is taking a curious route to being elite. We only care that they get there.

You can reach me at Patrick@CubsFanTherapy.com.

Bulls kind of a mess but can clean up

The Bulls are kind of a mess. Yeah, that’s a bold statement about a team that’s fourth in the Eastern standings, but ask yourself: Would you feel real confident if the playoffs started today?

The Bulls have lost five of seven games, and inconsistent defense is a big reason why.

The Bulls led the league in opponents’ points per game last year at 91.8. This year they are 15th at 99.5. Since the goal of basketball games is to score more points than your opponent, that task is made much tougher if you give up a bunch of points. Right? Right.

Interestingly, the Bulls’ point differential is up this season — to 2.8 from 1.9. So they are outscoring the opposition but not by a lot. The Warriors lead the league in the stat at 10.9. That’s crazy. The next team is Atlanta, which just beat the Bulls, at 6.7.

What’s frustrating is that the major complaint about the Bulls last season was that their offense, well, sucked. The return of Derrick Rose, the emergence of Jimmy Butler, the addition of Pau Gasol, it’s all added up to a MUCH better offense. If the Bulls were playing defense in any way like last season, they’d be in the top three in differential and wouldn’t have crappy losses to Boston, Brooklyn, Utah and Orlando on their resume. But that’s not where they are.

They gave up 121 points to the Magic, for crying out loud. Orlando would have needed two games against the Bulls last season to equal that number.

The Bulls can probably get by with this uneven defensive effort during the regular season. In the East, they can hang around the fourth of fifth seed. But what happens come playoff time when every possession is critical? It could be ugly.

So what’s the deal? Injuries appear to be playing a big part. Joakim Noah is a shell of his defensive self after offseason knee surgery. It’s clear that he’s key to the Bulls’ defense with his ability to guard the rim, switch onto smaller players and clog passing lanes. His decline is felt even more because Rose still isn’t moving well enough on defense (though he still has burst on offense) to hang with quick point guards. When Rose gets broken down it puts pressure on the rest of the defense, and they are often not responding.

Gasol has held his own on defense, but he’s not moving off his man to stop others. Butler is a great defender, but one man can’t guard five, and he sometimes gets beat as his team’s defense completely breaks down around him.

Kirk Hinrich used to be a defensive stalwart that could come in and help stem a tide, but he’s lost a major step. Taj Gibson is still an elite defender, and there have been many games when the second unit comes on and eats into deficits that Bulls’ starters let get out of hand.

Can Tom Thibodeau turn this around? I think he can, and I think Noah’s latest ankle injury could be the key. Let the guy rest and get completely healthy. Gibson has been starting at power forward with Gasol at center. Keep that going. Mike Dunleavy will mostly start at small forward, but I’d consider starting Nikola Mirotic at the 3 once in a while if the matchup is favorable, creating a big frontline.

Thibodeau won’t have the luxury of wholesale substitutions with all the injuries — including to first-round pick Doug MCDermott. He’ll have to be smart about matchups and — this might be hard for him — he’s got to play everyone he’s got. That means Nazr Mohammed sees minutes. E’Twaun Moore needs to play 10-15 minutes a night. Tony Snell can’t go from starter one night to invisible the next.

Noah’s injury gives the Bulls a chance to start working much harder on defense, to not overly rely on their big man. It gives Thibs a chance to gain some trust in his bench. We could be looking back in a month saying how this was the time that the Bulls faced their greatest challenge of the season and they answered the bell.

Or we’ll say NOT responding to this challenge led to them being knocked out of the playoffs way too early … again.

Ding ding! Start fighting through this Bulls.

You can reach me at Patrick@CubsFanTherapy.com.

Emotional, Rational battle over Lester

Unwrapping the Jon Lester present this morning left me feeling like the kid from “A Christmas Story” — you know, the movie that TBS plays on a loop for 24 hours around the holidays.

Ralphie gets the present he wanted the most, a Red Ryder BB gun. As he unwraps it, he looks like a bubbling volcano of joy. But he tries to keep it cool as his dad explains to him how to use it. That crazy-making tumult of irrational emotion and rational thought is where I sit today. Let’s take a look inside the mind of a crazy Cubs fan:

Rational: I’m not completely surprised by Lester choosing the Cubs. I had bought into Theo Epstein’s plan to start building from the ground up — assemble a core of young talent and then spend money to fill in the missing pieces. A frontline starter was a gaping hole, so the Cubs loosened the purse strings to fill it. Epstein is just following the plan he established from Day 1.

Emotional: Ha! Take that doubters. Suck it. I told you Epstein would spend money, but he wasn’t going to do it like Hendry — throwing money at the many holes in the Cubs operation. Sure, now you’ll all get on the bandwagon. Where were you when Theo and Co. were making shrewd move after shrewd move to build a sustainable contender? You were bitching about losing Samardzija, that’s where.

Rational: Cubs fans should definitely temper expectations. Lester is a huge addition. Miguel Montero is an upgrade at catcher. They landed arguably the best manager in baseball in Joe Maddon. But the Cubs are still a very young team that will experience some growing pains. Can Javier Baez make consistent contact? Can Jake Arrieta duplicate his breakout season? Can Jason Hammel bounce back from his debacle in Oakland? There is reason for optimism, but we need to chill.

Emotional: Cubs win! Cubs win! Cubs win! Get used to it because we’re going to hear that a lot this year. Vegas made the Cubs one of the favorites to win it all next year, and those guys know what they’re doing. Right? Right? Kris Bryant is gonna tear it up. Jorge Soler is the man. And Theo’s not even done making this team better. I’m not saying the Cubs win the World Series this year … but I’m saying the Cubs could win the World Series this year! Will a doctor give you a prescription for Valium to battle unbridled optimism?

Rational: Lester had the best ERA, WHIP, FIP, SO/BB, you name it, year of his career. I’m always wary of guys who get paid coming off a career year, especially when that season is like eight years into a career. It’s unrealistic to assume that he improves upon those numbers. And it was just a couple of years ago that he went 9-14 with a 4.82 ERA. If he plays to his career averages, Lester is still an ace, but he’s not Clayton Kershaw. The Cubs still have question marks in the rotation, though Theo takes a realistic view of the roster and makes moves accordingly.

Emotional: Can you imagine how good Lester can be in the NL after spending almost all of his career in the AL East? Ha. Ha. I pity the fools who think he’s not one of the true studs in the game. And postseason, don’t get me started. The Cubs just have to get to the playoffs and they’ll trot out a No. 1 starter who has the third best postseason ERA OF ALL TIME. All time. That’s a long time.

Rational: The Cubs will be greatly improved. No doubt about it. The Cubs did play over-.500 ball for the last few months of the season last year, and that was without a Lester and with Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo missing chunks with injuries. The bullpen was solid. The offense started clicking. Arrieta and fellow starter Kyle Hendricks were revelations. The Cubbies should be right in the mix to win the Central, and as we saw last year with Kansas City, once you get into the playoffs these days anything is possible. Realistically, though isn’t 2016 a better bet to really contend? The youngsters will have another year under their belts. Theo gets to see what holes remain this year and really fine tune.

Emotional: Wait till next year? Forget it. This year is next year! (yells and fires Red Ryder BB gun into the air).

You can reach me at Patrick@CubsFanTherapy.com.

Thanksgiving sports column: I say ‘Stuff It!’

My old boss at ESPN, who is a golfing buddy and all-around good guy, loves to rant about the idiocy and laziness of Thanksgiving sports columns. You know the ones: “In the spirit of the day, I’m thankful for our great pitcher/quarterback/power forward/blah, blah, blah.”

Nobody is ever thankful for the poor pig who gave his life to make your football. Or the jock strap and cup — very useful sports items.

My old boss says that the Thanksgiving column “is a shitty device for lazy writers who can’t actually write a column.” He’s got a point. So how about a Thanksgiving themed, anti-Thanksgiving column?

The holiday is about food, specifically the turkey. All the beautiful Thanksgiving pictures you see show the golden brown bird sitting on a table surrounded by delicious side dishes. So American. Norman Rockwell did not paint the pregame, which is a dirty mess: Husbands and wives bickering over who’s going to pull the innards out of the uncooked turkey and who’s going to stuff the poor bastard. It ends up being my job.

So … in the spirit of the day, here’s my list of Chicago sports people/things/whatever that can just go Stuff It.

1. Jay Cutler: There is a very good chance that I will have indigestion well before eating my Thanksgiving feast this year. Cutler will do something stupendously stupid against the Lions, I’ll rant about how we’ll never win a Super Bowl with this clown and then say screw it and get another beer. So Happy Thanksgiving Jay, and Stuff It!

2. Derrick Rose’s body: Or maybe it’s his mind. Is he physically or mentally weak? I don’t really know and that bugs me. I’m going to assume he really wants to play and his body keeps letting him down. For that reason, I say “Hey Derrick’s knees, hamstring, ankles, Stuff It!”

3. Wrigley rooftop owners: Hope you like your turkey dry because the gravy train is going away. I’d feel bad about siding with a corporation over the little man, except that the rooftop owners are more corporate than the Cubs. Contract or no contract, there’s something fundamentally wrong about being able to sell the right to peer over the wall and watch someone else’s production. When I was a kid I stood on those rooftops and watched some baseball, and it was cool. I didn’t nurse a martini at the second-floor bar before heading out to the rooftop grandstands to catch a few innings of the game before making my pitch to the client I brought to impress. C’mon man. I’m happy the city sided with the team and they can do whatever the hell they want to improve Wrigley and maximize profits. So Stuff It rooftop owners!

4. The Red Sox: I’m going to proactively condemn Boston for stealing Jon Lester out from under the Cubs. It would be one thing if he was the only big signing the Red Sox made this offseason. But Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval and Jon Lester. Why don’t you just go and trade for Cole Hamels while you’re at it? Oh yeah, they might do that too. I’m still hopeful that the Cubs will get Lester. This is the new and improved Cubs after all, but the old and shitty Cubs part of me is still fearful. In the spirit of that fear, and Thanksgiving, I say “Stuff It, Red Sox!”

5. The NHL’s Western Conference: Why couldn’t the Blackhawks have been switched to the East instead of the Red Wings? They’d be happily skipping into the Stanley Cup finals for the next five years. The West is brutal and appears to be more brutal every year. In spite of that, the Hawks were a few plays away from making the finals last year, where they would have dispatched the Rangers as quickly as the Kings did. So Western Conference, Stuff It!

6. Everyone associated with the Bears defense: We can start with GM Phil Emery for putting this mess together. Mel Gibson would do as well as defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. Lance Briggs is talking about leaving after this year when most of us don’t even know he’s on the field this year since they rarely call his name. Jared Allen’s picture is on milk cartons. They suck, and it’s not real clear how they get better anytime soon. So Stuff It!

In true Thanksgiving fashion, I’m going to push back my chair and end this feast. I’m sure I could go on, but that’s the big stuff. I’ve successfully avoided the lame Thanksgiving column in which I say I’m SO thankful for Anthony Rizzo and all the Cubs young talent, Jimmy Butler, Pau Gasol, almost all the Blackhawks, Theo Epstein’s plan … oh wait, sorry.

I’ll leave you with the words of wisdom from my 4-year-old son that his teacher put on a card for me and his mom:

“I’m thankful for the whole world — except for the bad guys.”

You can reach me at Patrick@CubsFanTherapy.com.

Are Bears losing grip on city?

Chicago is a Bears town, right?

If we judge by TV viewers, the answer is “absolutely.” NFL is still king, and the Bears are an iconic franchise. But these ain’t Mike Ditka’s Bears.

Sadly, the current Bears are historically bad. They are the first real NFL team to give up 50 points in back-to-back games. Technically, the 1923 Rochester Jeffersons also did it, but since nobody had ever heard of them until the Bears’ debacle, I’m not counting them.

More Chicagoans may watch the Bears than the other sports teams, but that doesn’t mean that they have the same hold on the hearts and minds of fans that they did in years past. In part, that’s because we have some pretty good alternatives on which to focus our fanaticism. The Bulls look like a possible NBA Finals team … if Derrick Rose stays healthy (and that’s a big if). The Blackhawks are one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup for the third time in six seasons.

The White Sox struggled last season, but hey, they’ve got the Rookie of the Year in Jose Abreu. And the Cubs, ahhhh, the Cubs. For the first time in years, the hot stove is burning bright. The rebuilding process is coming to an end, and Theo Epstein promises to be a player in free agency. Dynamic new manager Joe Maddon is talking playoffs. There is a serious buzz around these Cubbies.

The Bulls, Blackhawks and up-and-coming Cubs are helping to ease the sting of a very, very disappointing Bears season. They might have to do that for the foreseeable future since the Bears are loaded with question marks. Do Marc Trestman or Phil Emery get canned? Will Jay Cutler ever live up to his franchise QB salary? This is his sixth, yes sixth, season in Chicago, after all.

So you make the call. Which Chicago team has the brightest future?

Which Chicago team wins a title first?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

You can reach me at Patrick@CubsFanTherapy.com.