This is it. Time to say Good Bye.

Well it has been about a year of writing on the Fanion and the time has come for this writer to call it quits (well at least from writing on this website). Based on the feedback I received during my “vacation”, it appears that life will go on without interruption. But before I sign off, I wanted to share some thoughts on my writing experiences.

First, writing can be extremely therapeutic. Very little else compares to being able to vent your frustrations on Luol Deng’s latest pinky fracture, Lovie Smith’s mediocrity as an NFL coach, or how much I cannot stand baseball. Above anything else, writing enabled me to weather the cold Chicago months. Full pun intended.

Secondly, it seems apparent that there is little room for smart, witty and educated takes on sports (well at least on the blogosphere). The only time that an article of mine would get any play (through comments or reproductions on the Sun-Times Sports site) is when we made strong, yet often exaggerated claims on a player or team’s attributes. Claiming that Ben Gordon was too short and couldn’t play next to Derrick Rose sparked perhaps the most heated debate and attention to this site. Claiming that the MLS sucked also sparked intrigue.

Basically, claiming that anyone sucked created intrigue and attention. Which isn’t a bad thing I guess, considering what I wrote I felt to be true. Unfortunately, none of these stories and even the more accurate and more logical articles garnered much attention (granted I didn’t really try to garner attention or market the site).

But what has been made clear is that the sleazier and more exaggerated the headline the more viewers. This of course isn’t something new. Everyone enjoys watching the train wreck, or in our case, photos of hot celebrities, Orton/Grossman drinking, and the video of the ferocious tackle that broke the wide receiver’s tibia in two. That’s just who we are.

There will always be room for that sort of stuff on the internet. But, at the end of the day, I still find the blogosphere, prominent sports websites (ESPN, etc.) and traditional newspaper sites to be lacking. Specifically, I note the following:

1. To ESPN, SI, ETC., I don’t care who breaks the story first. Nor do I care that you were the first to break the rumor (that ends up being false) 5 minutes before the guy on the other network would have broken the rumor. No one cares. Just wait for it. Honestly, it hurts more that the rumor of Gasol to Bulls turns out to be false, then when hearing the fact that Gasol is going to the Lakers. We are all grown up here. Finding out that Cutler was coming to the Bears 10 minutes before it could be confirmed, isn’t going to change our lives.

2. To all Chicago Newspapers. We already watched the game, there is no reason to repeat the play by play of what happened. In addition, if we missed it, we probably found out what happened on our I-Phone, ESPN, or the 100 other websites we frequent everyday in our cubicle (actually, I have an office, but I don’t want you to feel left out). Sure, you probably have to have a recap of the game somewhere for the 90 year old who still listens to games on the radio, but for the most part, we already figured out what happened. So here is a hint, tell us something we don’t know. Like why is it that Ron Turner, who appears to have a good offensive philosophy is a terrible player caller (remember the 4th and 1 handoff to Jason McKie against Carolina?). Tell us how on earth the Bulls can expect to win a championship by fielding Ben Gordon and Derrick Rose in the backcourt. Unless, we have the Bears OL as our front court, it wasn’t happening. Mugsy Boes looked at Gordon and probably thought he had a chance to take him down in the post. Break down the intricacies of the 3-4 defense or the shitty Tampa 2? Or maybe give me a light hearted Q & A with a beat reporter and one of our favorite players. You get the point.

3. I don’t care about the following. I don’t care about Urlacher’s baby mama’s troubles. Unless, some player’s off the field issues will affect how that player plays, or if they play, I don’t care that Briggs crashed his Lamborghini (or wait, yes I do, but only if there is a photo the car after the crash). I don’t care for anything that Rick Telender or Morrissey write. Or for that matter, Fred Mitchell (what exactly is his job anyway? I never understood his articles that were one paragraph long followed by the daily sightings of random people. How does this help me?). I don’t care about your analysis of X player’s contract. Unless X player’s contract is so large that it would preclude the organization from signing another player, I don’t care. Free market principles and basic economics have dictated how much Tommie Harris will get paid. There is nothing you can say that will change this or make it relevant or interesting. When event X happened 2 weeks ago, it doesn’t make any sense to write about it today. The rumored (and may I say probably untrue) Urlacher/Cutler feud happened about a month ago. Writing a story about it today is irrelevant and boring. Also stories that tend to exaggerate the most miniscule and irrelevant sub, sub-plot don’t do anything for us readers. Maybe it is a little intriguing that Urlacher supposedly called Cutler a wimp. But writing about it like you just discovered weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, only makes it worse. Which gets me to my next point.

4. Your readers are fans. And as fans, we want one main thing from our sportswriters: writing as if you were fan of the sport you were covering. Most sportswriters today aren’t fans of the teams they write about, which is fine. But to make matters worse, they don’t seem to be fans of the sport they are covering (I am thinking about KC Johnson and basketball). Maybe they are fans, but some stupid, historic journalistic integrity/ethical code thing prevents the sportswriter’s passion or love the game to come out in their stories. Can you think of many sports writers who write from the perspective of a fan? For the most part, a lot of writers act as if they hate the sports they are writing about (I am thinking about Jay Mariotti. No that’s not fair, Mariotti is simply a terrible writer and a tabloid reporter.) (Another side bar, it sounds like JM will be returning to Chicago at the Tribune. Which can only mean one of two things: (a) people at the Tribune have no idea what they are doing; or (b) Mariotti, like the train wreck, is must read, even if we hate him). Anyway, you get my point.

Well, maybe not. Perhaps the only person that exemplifies this fan perspective writing is the Sports Guy Bill Simmons. I hate that he is a Boston fan, but love that he writes from the perspective of the fan. I may disagree with his stories, but I respect that he bleeds his teams’ colors. His stories are must read website. Morrissey, Telander, Mitchel, Pompei are not.

5. Lastly, and again just to get it off my chest. Baseball is the worst sport in the world. That’s not fair, because it’s a game. But it still sucks. Need support? The Buffalo v. Tennessee pre-season game garnered many more viewers than the highly acclaimed Red Sox Yankees regular season matchup. F’n Buffalo people!

Oh, shit, I am not done. Here is what I think about the upcoming Bears and Bulls seasons.


1. Cutler is the real deal. Olsen becomes a pro-bowler. Hester improves, but the best WR is Brandon Rideau (who probably won’t see the field unless Rashid Davis gets hurt).

2. Defense will be okay, but not great. Good passing teams will be able to rip apart our secondary. But for the most part, the defense will get the job done.

3. Bears win NFC North after a tough battle with Green Bay and Minnesota. But, they lose in conference championship game because Lovie Smith is in love with the Cover 2 and won’t blitz leaving the other team’s quarterback to rip us a part.

4. Cutler goes to pro-bowl and, in one season, becomes the best Bears QB in history of our franchise.

5. Matt Forte, if he doesn’t get hurt, goes to the pro-bowl.

6. Urlacher and Briggs get selected to the Pro-Bowl, but don’t attend.

7. If we don’t make post-season, people will soon realize that Lovie Smith is not that great of a head coach. Yet, somehow he keeps his job and they fire Ron Turner.

All right Bulls.

1. Luol Deng gets hurt and misses 30 games.

2. Derrick Rose continues his path to stardom, but still trails Devin Harris in All-Star votes.

3. Luol Deng breaks tail bone.

4. Vinny Del Negro wants the Bulls to play better defense, except that he doesn’t understand how difficult it is to play good defense when you play small.

5. Del Negro gets fired at the end of next season.

6. James Johnson is better than Luol Deng by the end of the year and if the person discussed in points 4 and 5 above were a good coach, he would play him.

7. Tyrus Thomas continues his march towards untapped potential.

8. The Bulls lose in first round of playoffs because they still don’t have a low post scorer.

9. Lebron James stays in Cleveland and Dwayne Wade stays in Miami.

All right. That’s it. Oh wait, Arsenal win the Premier League.

Good day. I said good day.



Why the MLS Won’t Become a Major League

This article was originally posted a while ago, but with the recent Beckham criticism and the new light shown on international futbol by ESPN, I thought it relevant

The 2006 World Cup garnered 17 million viewers in the US.

Soccer, or as I prefer to name it, futbol is the 2nd most popular sport in the United States. Stop! Before you go anywhere, just hear me out. Futbol is the 2nd most popular sport in the US, followed by Basketball. How you ask? Well, let me ask you the question. What would you rather do, play a pick-up game of basketball with friends or watch the current Chicago Bulls team at the family themed United Center? Would you rather play a game of flag football on Turkey Day, or watch an Indiana/Minnesota college football game? Well if you are anything like me (as in awesome), and are 35 and under, you would rather play the game than watch it. And that’s the same criteria used for my argument above. According to some random book I’ve read, Basketball and futbol are the most popularly played sports in the US. That’s pretty convincing reasoning to me that futbol is actually a widely appreciated and popular sport in the U.S.

As we know, this doesn’t necessarily lead to high TV ratings for MLS or even the NBA for that matter. More people watch and support their NFL teams than their MLS teams, including me. But that doesn’t mean that Americans are not interested in futbol. It just means they are not interested in MLS futbol. And I don’t blame them.

Popular opinion suggests that futbol will never take off in the US because fans are more dedicated to baseball, football, basketball, hockey and unfortunately, even NASCAR. Popular opinion is wrong. And so to it appears is the mindset of people running US Soccer and MLS franchises. The main competition isn’t MLB or the NFL, it’s the English Premier League, La Liga in Spain, Serie A in Italy, the Mexican leagues, and whatever they call the league in Egypt. The millions of futbol playing people in the US would rather watch a Manchester United/Chelsea game than a Chicago Fire/LA Galaxy game.

Still don’t get my point? Well, what would you rather watch: an NBDL game or an NBA game; the Arena League or the NFL; a minor league game or the Cubs’ game? Likewise, MLS is the developmental league of the futbol world. And not even a good one at that. The real feeder leagues are located in South America, Africa, the Tier 2 leagues in England, Spain, and Italy, and the youth squads of AC Milan, Arsenal and the like. The MLS is more like the Div. 3 School where maybe two or four guys make it to the big stage (playing in England, Spain or Italy). Basically, the MLS is Louisiana Lafayette and maybe, just maybe a team sitting in England might draft the Daniel Mannings and Charles Tillmans of the MLS world.

And this, more than anything that baseball or football can throw at futbol, is the reason that the MLS will always have a difficult time competing for US viewers’ attention. Still don’t believe me? The last World Cup Final (2006) garnered 17 million viewers in the United States. And that game was played between France and Italy. In contrast, according to the Baseball Almanac, the 2006 World Series had 15.6 Million viewers in games played by the Cardinals and Tigers. NBA you ask? The 2006 Finals between the Heat and Mavs garnered 13 million viewers. This isn’t to argue that soccer is more popular than Baseball or Basketball, it is not, just that futbol is actually a pretty popular sport in the US. Moreover, that the US futbol viewer is enlightened and would rather watch great futbol than MLS’s Div. 3 version.

And these figures shouldn’t be too surprising. The US is a melting pot. Almost everyone’s family at some point came from a foreign country where futbol dominated the sporting landscape. By no coincidence, the recent Mexican immigrant would rather watch Chivas play; the recent Scottish immigrant, Celtic; the recent Turkish immigrant, Galatasarey, or the recent Egyptian immigrant, Al Ahly. They may be living in the US, but satellites and sports bars allow them to see their team play even if those teams are playing thousands of miles away. Want further evidence that futbol is alive and kicking in the US? Go to Fado in Chicago on any Saturday morning and you’ll see it packed with American, English, African, and (insert nationality here) fans all watching their favorite English Premier League team. (While you are at it, grab a pint or tea and order some good Irish breakfast). Don’t even bother going to Fado during a major futbol sporting competition. During Euro 2008 (Think European World Cup, Spain vs. Germany) you couldn’t even get into Fado because it was filled to capacity.

In the end, like most people who grew up playing futbol in the States, I wish I could support a local futbol team like the Chicago Fire. But for now and the foreseeable future, I’ll stick to following Arsenal in England.


Chicago Cubs: The Implications of Selling the Cubs

This Article was originally posted in January, but the thought process still applies to the recent sale of the Cubs.

I would rather watch paint dry than watch a baseball game. Now, don’t hate me. I don’t hate you for not liking futbol (uh, wait. yes, I do). Let’s just agree to disagree. I love futbol, football, and basketball and I just don’t get into baseball, golf, and Nascar. Let’s move on.

However, I am interested in the whole Tribune selling the Cubs issue. I respect the tradition of baseball. I could see how people would get into the history of the ball park, its famous players and what the game means to Chicago and America. But, to me I’m more interested in the business side of the sport. So what does the Tribune Company’s intent to sell the team (and I assume the stadium) to a third party really mean?

Well let’s think about it like this. Assume we live in a rational world, with rational people. i.e. The type of people who are going to buy and sell a baseball team are likely pretty smart business people. They are not going to get ripped off. And the Cubs certainly won’t be selling for less (unless the current state of the Economy and lack of credit somehow hurts the buyer, but I doubt it). More likely, the Cubs will be sold for its full and fair price and maybe a little more if there are several bidders.

So what’s the fair price. I’m not an expert, but the person valuing the Cubs is likely going to look at the Cub’s cash flow historically and try to project it for each year into the future. Thus, they’ll figure out the Cubs expected future cash flow for each year from 2008 until infinity. Then, they’ll will discount each year’s cash flow to the present value and get some large number. Thus, the person buying the Cubs is going to be paying for the cash flow the Cubs will make from now until forever.

So what does this mean? Well it means that the guy paying for the Cubs is going to be paying a lot of money. But, if he’s paying exactly what the Cubs are worth (i.e. cash coming into the Cubs forever), he’s going to need to do something to make sure he makes a profit. Put another way, the new Cubs owner is going to need to find out a way to bring in more cash each year in the future (i.e. his profit/returns), then the Cubs were already going to make in the future (i.e. the amount he paid).

To belabor this point, say I sell you my lemonade stand. As smart people, we realize that in present value dollars my Lemonade stand will bring in $15 a year for 10 years (i.e. $150) dollars. You pay me the $150 and buy it. Now, in order for this to make sense you’ve got to figure out a way to make more than $15 a year for the next ten years. Basically, either you sell the lemonade for more or maybe you get cheaper lemons and thus increase your profits that way. But, if you can only manage $15 a year for ten years, well you’re an idiot. You’ve worked ten long years to make exactly zero profit.

So what does the buyer of the Cubs do to make his/her profit? You guessed it. He can increase ticket sales or somehow cut costs (i.e. pay for cheaper players). That’s probably too basic, but still pretty accurate I think. What else can they do?

1. Knock down Wrigley Field, and put up a state of the art stadium, with more seats, (likely Club), with tax payer money and fans putting up money for PSLs, all in an effort to…you guessed it make more money.

2. Start selling that $10 beer for $15 (i.e. concessions, merchandise, tickets, etc. all cost more).

3. Charge more for advertising in the stands. Most likely- corporate naming rights. Can you say “Boeing Field’?

4. Lower costs (fire some administrative people, reduce pay rolls, etc). Or you cut your highest expense- i.e. player salaries (trade your best players for cheap replacements).

You get the point. Unless the Cubs were wholly mismanaged (i.e. tons of unnecessary expenses), the new owner of the Cubs is going to need to make more money to obtain a return on his investment. Which really means that the average baseball fan will need to spend more money (tickets, PSL’s, taxes for new stadium, beer, jersey sales, etc). That, or attend games at Boeing Field, while watching less talented (hint: lost costly) players.

That’s all.



The Fanion will be on vacation, returning in mid-July in preparation for the Bears' season and the Cutler era.


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Tuesday Morning Thoughts: NBA needs Rule Clarification

A lot of NBA refereeing, some playoffs and of course, Bears Football and an update on Chicago baseball.

(Go to the 1:30 mark)

1. Several stories have been written about the NBA officiating lately. They all have been thoughtful and exposed many of the officiating problems in the NBA. The problem is that for the most part, they are all wrong. There are no conspiracies and no desire by certain referees to intentionally influence the outcomes of games. NBA referees are not so much bad officials (some are of course. Like remember that bastard referee (Hue Hollins) who called that foul on Scottie Pippen on a 3 point attempt by Hubert Davis against the Knicks in the playoffs? If not, read here), they just don’t know what a foul is anymore. Thus, I blame the higher ups in the NBA for failing to provide a clear system of what is and what is not a foul.

2. To elaborate, we see inconsistent officiating in the playoffs because the officials all have different thoughts on what is, and what is not a foul. One guy may believe that any time a European player flops to the floor that it must be an offensive foul, while the other guy believes that it was a flop.

3. And of course, the NBA doesn’t make things any easier. Perhaps one of the dumbest rule changes was adding the stupid offensive foul line near the hoop. So now, instead of referees looking to see if a player is properly positioned to take a foul, they only look at that person’s feet. As long as the feet are past the line, it’s an offensive foul – never mind that the player was moving their feet, was positioned sideways and kicked out their left arm. Even worse, when Dwight Howard (or any other player for that matter), lowers his shoulder in a defensive player, in a clear offensive foul, the referees won’t call it because both players are below the magic offensive foul line. Basically, the NBA is allowing some arbitrary line created out of thin air to decide what is and what is not a foul.

4. Perhaps most irritating about the inconsistent refereeing is what happens when a player, say Lebron James, barrels his way into the lane, out of control and lunges his body into the opposing player. Of course, the referees call the foul on the opposing player, whose only fault was standing his ground with his hands straight up. Whatever happened to allowing a defensive player to stand in his position and raise his hands straight up? Isn’t that good basketball defense? Isn’t that the golden rule in college basketball? As long as a defensive player is in position, he should be allowed to raise his hands straight up. But not in the NBA. If Lebron steamrolls into the lane, initiates contact, and it just so happens that his left arm touches your left hand (which is standing straight up) it’s a foul. Basically, some referees in the NBA have decided that no big guy is allowed to play defense. You just can’t do it.

5. Also, when a person takes 3 or more steps it’s a traveling call. For the most part, it’s not that hard to call a traveling call. You can do it, just count. One... two… three. traveling.

6. Thus, while NBA referees would have a hard time calling a tug-of-war contest, the NBA (David Stern) needs to start clarifying what is and what is not a penalty. When Lebron James barrels to the hoop and Dwight Howard stands firm and has his hands straight up, it’s not a foul (on anyone for that matter). Get rid of the stupid offensive foul line, and for god’s sake call traveling calls. What the NBA needs more than anything else is a clear set of guidelines of what is and what is not a foul. Develop some training academy putting the rules into place and invite players to the camps. Have your referees travel to each team and provide examples of what is and is not a foul (something I assume is already done). Put the game in the hands of the players and a clear rulebook, not in the hands of referees who appear to each have their own set of rules. We need robots, not politicians as referees.

7. The NBA got ½ of its dream Finals. Watching the Lakers/Denver series I just felt that both teams were on a different level than Orlando/Cleveland. Howard will have to deal with Gasol. Howard is better, but Gasol will at least make him work. I don’t know how the Lakers will guard Lewis. But, I think Odom can handle him. Like the Cleveland series with Lebron, no one can guard Kobe. Add in Bynum and Trever Ariza and I think the Lakers win in 6. And no, Hedu Turkaglu doesn’t scare me.

8. It feels like baseball is already dead in Chicago and its only June 1st.

9. Which is great, if you are me, because we can concentrate on Bears’ football.

10. Barcelona beat Man. U. Ronaldo went into his whiny/bitch mode. Messi and Eto showed why they are so great. As an aside, Fados was packed (a 20 person line formed at the door 5 minutes before kickoff), so I couldn’t watch the game there. The English was a nice substitute.

11. Huge surprise here. Lovie Smith still believes the following: Cover 2 and 4-3 defense are the best; Rod Marinelli is a genius of a coach (no mention of the 0-16 lions), he likes the WRs he’s got, and the Bears are still a running football team. If deciding on a car with better gas mileage Lovie would probably choose the Dodge Hemi over the Fusion Hybrid because as he would say, “I like the Hemi we got”.


Tuesday Morning Thoughts: We are the Champions!

1. Manchester United vs. Barcelona (Wednesday at 1:30pm Central time) Champions league final. I hope that Barcelona kicks the, you know what, out of Manchester. I’ll be watching at Fados.

2. I can’t understand the NBA anymore. There used to be a time where the best teams won their playoff games. We all knew it would be Bulls/Jazz or Lakers/Celtics or Pistons/Lakers. But not in today’s NBA. An Orlando team lead by the Turkish Jordan (sorry for that reference. It's insulting to everything Jordan) might beat the hyped up Cavaliers. The Cavs ineptitude might allow Orlando to advance to the playoffs. The same Orlando whose main scorer is Hedu Turkaglu. Even that awful 76er team that made it to the Finals was lead by Allen Iverson. Can you think of a worse team making it the Finals than Orlando? I guess Lebron isn’t the King after all.

3. Speaking of bad, do you realize that the Denver Nuggets also have a chance of making it to the Finals? Denver was so bad earlier this year, that “the trade” made Chauncey Billups seem like Isiah Thomas (the player, not coach). It’s conceivable that a team with the likes of Nene, Kenyan Martin and J.R. Smith (the all head case team), will make it the Finals. I guess Kobe isn’t the next MJ. Heck, he may not even be the next Paul Pierce.

4. So I watched my first hockey game on TV this past Sunday (Hawks v. Red Wings). Not a good game to get into hockey. Man I hate Detroit.

5. Speaking of the Hawks, there are too many teams ending with the “Hawks” nickname. It’s sort of like reading a ticker and seeing that the Sox are up 4-2 on the Yankees, except that it’s the Red Sox and not the White Sox. We got the Seattle Seahawks, Atlanta Hawks, and Chicago Blackhawks, just to name a few. The “Hawks beat Detroit” isn’t clear enough. I insist that ESPN, et. al. must use the full nick names on headlines or tickers (and even city names if necessary). Also, WNBA scores and Women’s college basketball scores should not televised.