Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Wednesday thoughts...

I noticed that in yesterday's post (Tuesday), I wrote that i would chat more with you on "Tuesday." That's what time off does to you--makes you forget what day of the week it is.

Welcome to WEDNESDAY!


NFL Draft picks not getting signed before training camp is one of the things that still boggles my mind, but at the same time, I do understand the player perspective. I am not giving any un-signed player the business here, just pointing out that most NFL training camps will open within the next week (if they haven't already), and there are a load of players (1st rounders mostly), that have yet to get the rookie contract done.

All of the years of lifting weights, and sacrificing personal time in the pursuit of reaching the pinnacle of football--all to be halted because the numbers don't add up the way the player, or in most cases the agent, would like them to. That's the head scratching side.

The practical side is this--rookie drafted in the first round, gets wants to get his deal done the way he wants it. The papers get signed. First practice out of the gate, the player suffers career-ending knee injury after an agility drill. That player now has his guaranteed money (the signing bonus, basically) to fall back on, until he can get acclimated to the real world, and get a job like the rest of us. That's the part I understand from the player perspective.

It's a never ending cycle of which should be priority one: the unproven player getting the giant contract having not proven themselves in the NFL, or the unproven player taking the first deal given to him because he hasn't proven anything yet at the NFL level. that cycle is likely going to stick around for quite a while (love it or hate it), because it appears to be a very difficult task of implementing an NFL rookie scale for draft picks. The NBA can get away with it--their draft is just 2 rounds. The NFL goes 7 rounds deep--a much different animal.

Best case scenario for all is that the 1st round pick gets the deal he (and his agent) want, and it gets signed in time for the start of camp, so he can begin the job of proving himself at the NFL level.

Congrats to the NHL for bringing the 2009 Winter Classic to Chicago on January 1. The Chicago Blackhawks will face the Detroit Redwings on the outdoor surface that will be constructed inside Wrigley Field. The venue will seat an estimated 40,000 fans, and the weather in Chicago should be ideal, down by Lake Michigan. Having grown up there, I know that a backyard rink is not a problem, so getting the NHL ice-making pros to get a surface at Wrigley should be a piece of cake.

I only have 2 issues (and one is really a suggestion). First issue is the venue. This has NOTHING to do with my die-hard allegiance the the 2005 World Series Champion Chicago White Sox, perhaps the greatest assembly of power, grace, and pitching that Major League Baseball has ever seen (ok, that was over the top, but it's my blog post, dang it). I wouldn't ask the NHL to host a hockey game at US. Cellular Field. I don't like the idea of this showcase game being played in a venue with such a low number of seats.
Think back to the 2008 version of this game, between Buffalo and Pittsburgh. 73,000 plus inside of Ralph Wilson Stadium, enjoying the snow, cold, wind...all of it. The idea behind the Winter Classic was to play hockey in massive stadiums, not broken down and antiquated ballparks like Wrigley. Wrigley has its charm--in the summer when the chants of "left field sucks," are only offset by the ivy that clings to the brick walls in the outfield. The park has character, and history (of losing--again, another Cubs jab. I can't help it), but it's because of the baseball team that has called it home. The Bears played games there during the Gale Sayers and Dick Butkus hey-day. They didn't play there long because the outfield area simply wasn't big enough for a complete 10-yard deep end zone. Imagine Arena Football, but with a brick wall instead of padding. Ouch.

This game between the Hawks and Wings BELONGS at Soldier Field. It's massive. It's updated. It's beautiful at field level. It has luxury suites (read--big bucks for the NHL). It's on the lakefront. Do you know who is to blame for the game NOT being played at Soldier Field?

Da Bears.

Citing potential post-season conflicts, the Bears refused to allow the NHL to stage this game in the facility.

I made a mention of this "potential conflict" on the air during Sports Night on Tuesday, and got a nasty-gram e-mail from a viewer. Obviously a Bears fan, and obviously someone not clued into reality. As they stand now, the Bears are NOT making the playoffs. Let me know if Chicago somehow finds a QB between today and the start of the season. If they do, I may re-evaluate that prediction. Until then, enjoy Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton (Orton is the better of the 2 by the way).

My suggestion for the Winter Classic: Have Chicago and Detroit wear throwback uniforms, much the same as the league had in the 1992 season. Both Chicago and Detroit entered the NHL in 1926, and during the league's 75th Anniversary season, the Original 6 teams (Boston, Montreal, Toronto, NY Rangers, Chicago & Detroit) wore vintage uniforms. Bring them back, Commissioner Bettman. Please.

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