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Wednesday, November 22

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Sox in Five
by Jeff Webber

At first glance, you might say that nothing better encapsulates the indignities Sox fans must go through on a daily basis than seeing their ALCS victory roundup and World Series preview written by a guy who normally writes a Cubs column. But sheath your knives, South Siders, I'm no bandwagoner. Actually, I'm a lifelong major league baseball fan who grew up without a hometown team. And so, finally moving to Chicago four seasons ago, I decided that no one could ever make me pick between the two. I've been asked to pinch-hit for my friend Steve this week, and so, love it or hate it, you're going to see that I love the Sox every bit as much as I love the Cubs. It's a Chicago baseball thing, baby.

One: Where's Your Smack-Talking Now, Old-Timers, or, Do We Even Need a Bullpen?
Funny how those grizzled old ex-major leaguers that pop up in interviews every couple of months bitching about how today's pitchers have gone soft are nowhere to be found suddenly. The Sox laying down four, count'em four, complete games in a row ought to shut those old coots up for a while. When was the last time there were four complete games in a row in the postseason? 1956. Back when you were in short pants, buddy.

Two: Sox vs. "Eventual NL Champs" My ASS... We're Playing the Astros
Sure, sure... it's entirely possible to come back from a 3-1 deficit in the League Championship Series. (Heck, Ozzie knows that... he was a coach on the Cub-Fan's-Dream-Killing 2003 Marlins.) And yeah, last year's Red Sox cameback from worse. But these aren't real good odds we're talking about here. And anyway, it's never too early to start fantasizing about Contreras vs. Clemens, Garcia vs. Oswalt, Buerhle vs. Pettite, Garland vs. Backe... And which young player has more out-of-nowhere postseason mojo, Joe Crede or Chris Burke? This is gonna be a gas, kids.

Three: Admit It: You Love That Damned Go-Go Sox Song
It's a good thing, too, because you're going to be hearing it 24 hours a day, seven days a week for the next 15-20 days. Maybe the last remaining bitter Cubs fans will be moved by its nostalgia and optimism enough that that "Chicago is proud of you" line can really and finally ring true.

Four: I Am in Love with Big Fat Bobby Jenks
We haven't seen much of the bullpen so far this postseason, but that luck can't last forever, and when we do finally see some late-inning Sox-ual healing, it's likely to be good old Lunchbox with the sagging jersey. My theory has always been that good closers are either A. cold-blooded (think Mariano Rivera's baleful stare), B. crazy (remember Randy Myers talking to himself, hopping over baselines, etc.) or C. just plain stupid (could somebody wake Lee Smith up? He's needed for an old-timer's game). Well, Angels castoff Jenks fits the bill; he's dumber than a bag of hammers. Add to that his 6'3" 270+ lb. frame and his 100 mph heat, and you've got yourselves one exciting schlub.

Five: Closed-Captioning Is the Only Way to Watch Ozzie Guillen
And last, but not least is Ozzie Guillen, one-time Sox star shortstop and current Sox skipper. This man is a character, a legitimate one-of-a-kind. (That Cars intro for him in game 4 — "You might think I'm crazy..." — was classic. Nice work, Fox Sports.) But you might never know it if you rely on the audio from a chaotic lockerroom. Ozzie's heavily-accented, rapid-fire banter is best appreciated with subtitles.

Steve returns soon, but until then: GO GO SOX!

 

Bears in Five
by Craig Aichele, Ramsin Canon & friends

With the White Sox making history, it's hard to pay attention to the fact that our Chicago Bears, who are undoubtedly the most popular professional team in Chicago, are in first place in the beyond-pitiful NFC North. Then again, it may also be hard to pay attention to that fact because the Bears in fact have a losing record, 2-3. After their impressive (kind of) win against the Vikings last Sunday, the Bears style of play is coming more into focus and we know better what we can expect against the Ravens next week. You know what we can expect? Ugly football. And now, five nuggets about the Bears that will make you look like Len Pasquarelli. Ooh, scratch that. Make you sound like Len Pasquarelli.

One. Thomas Jones Can't Be Injured
This offense needs Thomas Jones like a woman needs a man. That is, unless you're Gloria Steinem, in which case you would think that wasn't a lot. Anyway. Although Jones says his knee is just bruised, others (Lovie Smith, namely) say that he's sprained his knee. Whatever it is, I don't like it. If Jones is hurt more seriously than he says... oh no. Cedric Benson? Not good, and I'll tell you why: Benson hasn't played enough — he was a holdout in the preseason and Jones has taken the vast majority of snaps. With our line banged up, we need somebody who knows the offensive scheme well enough to be effective in passing situations. The Bears' division is crappy, and whoever wins this division will probably do so in the last few weeks, so Jones needs to be healthy all season. The Bears still have a lot of trouble generating yardage on offense, and in any game where they can't control the ball for long stretches of time means eventually the other side will start to score. Our defense can only do so much.

Two. One Way Ticket On The Fred Smoot Sex Boat
Sex boat!! Sorry. You may have heard the recent controversy about the Minnesota Vikings chartering a couple of boats to go out on Lake Minnetonka and a wild, spontaneous sex party, replete with myriad sex toys, breaking out. Did the Sex Boat scandal effect the Vikings on Sunday? The Vikings didn't have trouble gobbling up yards, moving pretty easily. And their defense, believe it or not, was actually pretty effective, holding the Bears to relatively few yards. Their problem was they couldn't convert on third downs effectively. I don't know, but I'll tell you this: if you're a multi-millionaire, high-profile athlete, and you're going to commission a sex boat to entertain half your teammates, don't pay with a credit card. What, no ATMs near Lake Minnetonka, Fred Smoot? Sex boat!!

Three. The Bears Are Unstoppable, And Mediocre, On Third Down
The Bears beat the Vikings so handily because they are the second-best defensive team on third down. Opposing teams have a pitiful 29 percent success rate getting first downs on third downs, second behind only Tampa Bay. This means that they're going to give up very few touchdowns so long as they don't turn the ball over — however, it also means they'll probably give up lots of field goals, since their meager offense can't force the opposition into bad field position, despite good special teams play by the Bears. Not only this, but the Bears offense is only converting 37 percent of their own third downs, putting them slap in the middle of the league in this statistical category. Given their low offensive production, this means occasional punts from deep in their own territory, putting enormous pressure on their defense. Unless they can come up with a few solid drives next week, expect them to have trouble against the Ravens.

Four. Baltimore ...more like BORINGmore
Ooh, that was terrible. Sorry. But seriously folks: the Baltimore Ravens have a good, but not great, defense and an embarrassingly bad offense (2nd worst in the league in scoring). Their lack of a credible quarterback means teams are stacking against the run, forcing the Ravens to try to beat teams with a short passing game. You may remember that method from such hit offensive coordinators as John Shoop, possibly the only NFL coach ever to have fans calling for his job after a 13-3 season. Couple that game plan with the Bears trying to run against a good run-stopping team and you have a recipe for snores, and probably turnovers. The style of passing the Ravens favor is dangerous against teams with athletic, quick linebackers who can take out the short passing lanes, and guess what the Bears have? I'll give you a hint: it rhymes with Rathletic, Guick Finebackers Goo Ban Jake Gout The Gort Lassing Banes. Look for the Bears linebacking corps to have a couple picks on Sunday.

Five. Lovie Smith Is Not An Ashy Crackhead
We're going to take this opportunity to send a message to EA Sports. Look. Your computer generated image of Lovie Smith leaves a lot to be desired. True, the guy has stubble. But he is not an ashy crackhead. In fact, we happen to think he's quite handsome. And he's quite a coach, too: a number of decisions he's made the last few weeks, including benching Michael Haynes for Israel Idonije, have shown impressive foresight considering this is only his second year as a head coach. So do the man a favor, and for your next edition of Madden, consider making him like, you know, not an ashy crackhead.

 

Coming Soon: Bulls and Blackhawks in Five!

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About the Author(s)

Jeff Webber is filling in this for Sox in Five columnist Steve Gozdecki. Jeff spends hours and hours every day taking in every printed, spoken, and broadcast word he can find about the Chicago Cubs, and each week till the end of the season he's boiling them down into five simple crib notes you can use to stay on top of any watercooler or corner bar Cubs discussion. Send comments to cubs@gapersblock.com.

Craig Aichele, Ramsin Canon and friends are not really friends but rather fierce competitors on the fantasy gridiron. They meet weekly to embarass each other with random football trivia at the Noble Street League HQ. This is where they write their column. Craig knows where every professional athlete went to college, and in some cases the names of their roommates. Creepy.

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