Fastest Five: First edition of 2012

In the first Fastest Five of 2012, here’s five quick topics I’m chiming in on.

1. The Bears exited the 2011 season on somewhat of a high note by beating Minnesota, finishing 8-8. It’s rather sad after a 7-3 start in the first 10 games.

And that’s where I had the Bears: around the 500 mark, missing the playoffs and placing third to Detroit and Green Bay.

My Uncle owes me a pizza, now.

We’ve heard Lovie Smith’s exit strategy (over and over again, it’s the same every year) but how much is enough from a team that clearly can not compete with the Green Bay Packers from both a franchise perspective and play on the field?

The Bears gotta face it: for right now, may be in general, the Green Bay Packers are superbly better team, no matter how many times you’ve beaten them all-time. It’s the Cheeseheads who know how to build a team and run a franchise. It’s Green Bay who drafts well. It’s Green Bay who develops well. It’s Green Bay who coaches well. It’s Green Bay winning Super Bowls. All the Bears want is to stubbornly win one way, and that way, since 1985, hasn’t worked. While, Packer fans, bleeding green and gold, are cheering with pride and glory.

The Bears don’t want to sign receivers — clearly proven by Roy Williams this season.  The Bears don’t want to pay up. Matt Forte has been your offense the last two years but the Bears want a deal themselves. Why should the Bears get a deal? What have they done?

The easy thing to do for this season is to look at when Jay Cutler injured his thumb and say that’s where the Bears season ended. You’re only half right. The team was 7-3, a playoff spot was basically assured and Cutler was having his best season as a pro.

But that’s where the Bears system failed us. They had six games to weather the storm and if they were built right, they could have managed to get to the playoffs, gotten Cutler back and tried once again to make the Super Bowl.

The boys on the field couldn’t pick up the slack. The offense was anemic. Mike Martz wasn’t calling smart plays and didn’t equip us with ways to win on offense. Hmm, Caleb Hanie as their backup? Marion Barber fumbling playoff chances? Oh wait, we can’t talk to him about that. It’s disrespectful.

You noticed Barber got off the hook rather easily? He vanished into thin air without taking responsibility. No, Marion, it’s disrespectful when you get paid millions and don’t answer questions, not when you make peanuts wanting to know why you’re running out of bounds in a game you could have won. That’s legitimate. No wonder why Dallas let you go.

And all of that falls on Jerry Angelo, who didn’t put as much depth on the field as he needed. This is what happens when you rely on one guy — Cutler, and an aging defense that can’t be on the field for 40 minutes.

Don’t forget the fact Angelo never drafts well. Never keeps those picks for that matter, too. He signs players like Roy Williams, Barber and Sam Hurd, thinking he’d catch lightning in a bottle and instead, they flop. He’s going to catch hell when he doesn’t resign Forte and he equips the Bears with similar washed up players in 2012 — that’s if he’s even here, hopefully not.

A true team will show its colors when big players find themselves on IR or when a team battles adversity. The Bears are 8-8, right?

Sure, bad quarterback. Horrible receivers. Mediocre O-line. Aging defense. Bad secondary. But enter Lovie Smith, who couldn’t get his team going, even though he patted everyone on the back and told them that they’ll get them next week.

Are they 12, Lovie? Or do you want to win? Where’s Bill Cowher? The Bears better be knocking on the CBS door.

And those Packers? The reigning champions are 14-2 heading to the playoffs, fueled by a backup quarterback who just threw for 480 yards and six touchdowns in a 45-41 win over the Lions — and that was with the team benching Aaron Rodgers to prevent the presumed NFL MVP from getting hurt, so he can be healthy in NFC playoffs.

Hmm, a team who does it right.

It’s a harsh reality for the Bears but the McCaskeys will love their money and will never learn. And if they’re somewhat competitive, they’ll continue to get paid and put a product on the field that gets the fans thinking they can actually win, and that’s good enough. And as long as they have the fans on their side, still coming to games, thinking we can win, they’re not going to change things. Welcome to the Cubs model!

I’ll call it like I see it. The Bears will be number one in my heart, but for now, they’re going to be number two, or even three now in the NFC North for a long time unless the Bears take on some sort of rennissance. Build your team right, hire the right coaches and win the damn Super Bowl, damnit.

2. A 4-1 start by the Bulls is their best since the 1996-1997 season when Michael Jordan and the Bulls began the year 12-0. I always felt that even though the 72-win team from ’95-’96 was the greatest of all-time, collectively, the ’96-’97 team was better and should have won more than 72. Then again, I know the 72-win team should have went 77-5.

Jordan was in phenomenal shape but the team had the injury bug toward the end of the season. The reigning Sixth Man of the Year Toni Kukoc missed 25 games. Dennis Rodman missed 27 games due to injuries and suspensions (kicking a cameraman) and the center position missed Luc Longely (23 games) and Bill Wennington (21) for quite sometime.

And through all the injuries, the team still won 69 games.

They were 17-1 after 18 games. Went into the all-star break at 42-6 and looked primed for at least 70 once again. Then March came and the Bulls lost four games that month. They came into March 53-7, finished 69-11. Three loses in their last four games prevented back-to-back 70-win seasons.

Based on last year’s record and a compounded 66-game season, 50 wins would seem appropriate for the Bulls and a 4-1 start gets them well on their way. Remember, after last year’s 10-8 start, the Bulls finished 62-20. That’s 52-12 record over 64 games.

3. Blackhawks president and CEO John McDonough, whom I dined next to on New Year’s Eve, wants the Hawks back in the Winter Classic, according to the Herald’s Tim Sassone.

It looks like Detroit is getting the 2013 bid and there are many teams who haven’t had a chance to participate who might want it more than the Hawks.

But from a marketing and business standard, it wouldn’t be smart for the NHL to have a team like Florida, Colorado, or any team that’s not an original six or from a top TV market in the Winter Classic.

The Blackhawks and Red Wings will draw an absurd amount of revenue. From ticket sales, advertising and everything associated with the game, economically speaking, it’s the smartest thing to do. But isn’t that what the Winter Classic is for? The Rangers and Flyers should be playing today in the game. Boston and Philly played two years ago at Fenway. Look at the teams, look at the venues. You get the idea.

That’s why the NHL should look no further than the University of Michigan and play in Ann Arbor in 2013. Give the University its cut, get over 100,000 in the building, play the rematch and make a whole lot of money in the process.

And give me something fun to watch. Hawks and Red Wings in the Big House.

4. Not sure if any of you saw this last week, but LeBron James had a dunk that should have counted. Instead, the ball went off Gerald Henderson’s head, went back through the hoop and the refs missed the call. Love the no call for obvious reasons (I hate LeBron). Take a look.

Miami still won, but that’s an awesome way to block a shot.

5. Finally, I’m finding a huge problem with guys like DeMarcus Cousins, DeSean Jackson and others who think it’s cool to earn big money, but celebrate excessively or whine all the time.

Each league has its fair share of players who have attitude problems. The sad thing is that they’re not Hall of Famers. So who are they, anyways? They are immature, whiny millionaires who need to grow up,  just play the game and realize the blessings God gave them.

When you’re making over a million dollars a year, you’ve lost your right to complain. I’m sorry. There’s people hurting out there, scraping for clothes and food but you’re unhappy about a call, the direction of the team or a decision made by a coach. C’mon, man. Really?

Cousins is 21, but really 12. Jackson has an incredible skill set. Yet, he nobody taught him manners or how to be a professional.

That’s why I was so disgusted to hear what happened in the Boston Red Sox locker room over the summer.

This will never stop. Till there’s a day where sports is no more — it will happen folks — we’re going to get athletes like LeBron James, who tells the press after Game 6 of the 2011 NBA Finals, us regular people are going to wake up with the same problems we had the day before and he, or they, are not.

And let’s hear your input on Cubs president Theo Epstein. Is Epstein there to sell tickets or rebuild a team? You hear that and more coming up in Chalk Talk, this week.


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