Wednesday, August 31, 2011

McCaskey to Speak to Bishop Perry's Father and Son Conference at Marian Catholic High

Chicago Bears Senior Director Patrick McCaskey will be presenting on sports and faith at Bishop Perry's Father and Son Conference on September 10, 2011 at Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights, Illinois from 9:00 a.m. to noon. The event will include a reflection by Bishop Joseph Perry, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago. MC for the program will be Andrew Lyke, new Director of the Archdiocese of Chicago Office for Black Catholics. This event is co-sponsored by Catholic Men of Chicago Southland, Young Adult Ministry of the Archdiocese of Chicago, and Office for Black Catholics of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

McCaskey is the author of a new book called Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout published by Sporting Chance Press.

Marian Catholic High School is located at 700 Ashland Avenue Chicago Heights, IL 60411-2073.

For more information and to register contact Catholic Men of Chicago Southland.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

McCaskey to Speak to Hibernians



Chicago Bears Senior Director Patrick McCaskey will be speaking on Sports and Faith to the Ancient Order of the Hibernians Chicago Division #32 on October 5 at 7:30 p.m. at the Edgebrook Golf Course, 6200 North Central, Chicago. McCaskey is the author of a new book, Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout published by Sporting Chance Press.



Facts and Thoughts on Lance Briggs



On the heals of the Kruetz departure, there is a lot of media coverage being given to Lance Briggs who is reportedly looking to renegotiate his contract. In Kruetz case, he was simply negotiating a new contract and didn't come to terms. In Briggs case, he wants a new contract although he is currently under contract through 2013. Most of the information forthcoming on Briggs is not coming directly from Briggs--so just how serious an issue it is, is unknown.

Linebacker Rankings

One way to look at player's value is to look at rankings. I do not know all of what goes into these, but I believe they represent some kind of discipline and perhaps they cross validate themselves in some way.


ESPN's Linebacker rankings:

1. Patrick Willis, San Francisco 49ers
2. James Harrison, Pittsburgh Steelers
3. DeMarcus Ware, Dallas Cowboys
4. Clay Matthews, Green Bay Packers
5. Ray Lewis, Baltimore Ravens
6. Jerod Mayo, New England Patriots
7. Brian Urlacher, Chicago Bears
8. LaMarr Woodley, Pittsburgh Steelers
9-10. Tamba Hali, Kansas City Chiefs
9-10. Jon Beason, Carolina Panthers
---------
13. Lance Briggs, Chicago Bears

http://espn.go.com/blog/nfcwest/post/_/id/35956/power-rankings-top-10-nfl-linebackers

About.com List

1. Patrick Willis, SF
2. Lawrence Timmons, PIT
3. Jerod Mayo, NE
4. Paul Posluszny, BUF
5. Jon Beason, CAR
6. Ray Lewis, BAL
7. Brian Urlacher, CHI
8. Chad Greenway, MIN
9. James Laurinaitis, STL
10. D.J. Williams, DEN
-------------
22. Lance Briggs, CHI


(http://football.about.com/od/cheatsheets/a/bl_cheatLB.htm)


NFL.Com Fantasy Football Rankings

1. Patrick Willis, SF
2. Jon Beason, CAR
3. Jerod Mayo, NE
4. James Laurinaitis, STL
5. Lawrence Timmons, PIT
6. Paul Posluszny, BUF
7. DeMeco Ryans, HOU
8. Stephen Tulloch, TEN
9. Ray Lewis, BAL
10. Curtis Lofton,ATL
------
20. Lance Briggs, CHI

http://www.nfl.com/fantasy/story/09000d5d81faccdb/article/2011-fantasy-linebacker-rankings-115

Valuing a Linebacker is Complicated

There are two basic types of linebackers (middle and outside) and other variations on those (strong and weak side). Much of how the linebacker plays his position also depends upon the defensive formations. In some defenses a certain type of player may be more valuable than others.

There are many other contributing factors as well-- a big one is the other defensive players around the player. A strong defensive line with a powerful pass rush might give a linebacker more opportunities.

A very poor offense will impact how the defense plays--how long they are on the field and the number of tackles that need to be made, etc. A very good offense that grinds the time out with a strong running game will mean less time on the field for the defense. A very good passing offense that moves down the field quickly may provide more time on the field for the defense.

The middle linebacker generally gets the most attention of the linebackers and is considered the most highly skilled linebacker position. The middle linebacker is also considered to be the defensive quarterback who directs the defense on the field. Fans are familiar with Brian Urlacher waving and shouting directions.

Brian Urlacher plays the middle for the Bears and has received more attention than Lance Briggs. However, the Bears defense historically gets a lot of attention in Chicago, Briggs has many fans. I'd have to think that Briggs is one of the most well-known Bears, at least to Bear fans. Many articles have been written singing the praises of the "unsung" hero Briggs, which makes me wonder if the reporters who write these things read anything other than what they themselves write.

Briggs is an outside linebacker--he is 30 years old and a 9 year veteran. He's made the Pro Bowl 6 times. He is not rated particularly high in the above rankings and he is ranked 92 on the NFL's Top 100 List voted by his peers. But the Pro Bowls are significant and Briggs was listed on a couple different top five outside linebacker lists that followed the 2009 season in which Urlacher was hurt and Peppers had not come to Chicago yet. Now on a defense that includes Julius Peppers and Brian Urlacher, there has to be a bigger dispersion of attention. Someone coming into Chicago to play may be impressed by any number of defensive stars today.

Bear Thoughts on Briggs

Many believe that Briggs has not slowed down and continues to be one of the best run defenders. He is known as a hard physical hitter. Not only do Bear players give Briggs high marks, but the coaches have called him underrated and as good as it gets at his position. He had 89 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 2 interceptions in 2010. Statistically, it was not one of his best years, but with Urlacher healthy and rested, and Julius Peppers fetching 54 tackles, it's understandable. Briggs stepped up big when Urlacher was out in 2009 and had 118 tackles.

Salary Considerations

Football contracts are complicated and there could be some contract provisions that change the numbers here. We don't actually know what Briggs or the other players discussed actually took to the bank. According to Spotrac (http://www.spotrac.com) when Briggs originally signed with the Bears in 2003, he signed a 4-year $2.06 Million deal. Briggs was a third-round draft pick and that may have made a big difference in money.

In 2007 Briggs signed a 1 year $7.206 million franchise tag deal according to Spotrac. Briggs current 6-year contract signed in 2008 runs through 2013 and pays him an average of $6 Million a year. In 2008, his base salary was $805,000 with a $666,667 signing bonus and a miscellaneous $4 Million bonus. In 2009, his base salary was $3.145 Million with a $666,667 signing bonus and a miscellaneous $5,000,000 bonus. In 2010, his base salary was $1.1 Million with a $666,667 signing bonus and a miscellaneous $5 Million bonus. This year his base salary is $3.65 Million with a $666,667 signing bonus and a miscellaneous $250,000 bonus. In 2012, his existing contract calls for a base salary was $3.75 Million with a $666,667 signing bonus and a miscellaneous $250,000 bonus. The last year of his existing contract calls for a base salary of $6.25 Million with a $666,667 signing bonus and a miscellaneous $250,000 bonus. There is some suggestion in the media that Briggs would like the Bears to swap his 2013 base of $6.25 Million with this year's $3.65 Million.

Assuming the bonus money worked out and the numbers are accurate, Briggs has been paid $35,632,668. If Briggs could fulfill his obligations under the existing contract, he would be paid another $11,833,334 for the two-year term. Thus, if nothing changed, Briggs would have made $47,466,002 during his years with Bears through 2013.

Other Linebackers

There is some pretty big money going towards linebackers these days, but most of it appears to be on the new young guys in their mid-20s.

Young Guys at the Top of the Their Game

Patrick Willis (age 26) who many people feel is the top linebacker, signed a 7-year $53.51 million extension with San Francisco that pays him on average $7,644,286 a year.

Lawrence Timmons (age 25) signed a 6 year $50 million extension with Pittsburgh that pays him on average $8,333,333.

Jon Beason (age 26) just signed a 5 year $50 million extension with Carolina that pays him an average of $8,556,333 front-loaded with a $20 Million signing bonus.

Some Others

Barrett Rudd (age 28--former second round draft pick) signed a 1-year deal with the Tennessee Titans for $5 Million. Rudd played for Tampa last year and had 118 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 1 interception.

Derrick Johnson (age 28--former first round draft pick) signed a 6 year $36.475 million contract with Kansas City in 2010 that pays him an average of $6,079,167.

Terrell Suggs (age 28) Signed a 6 year $62.5 million contract with Baltimore in 2009 that pays him $10,416,667 on average. In 2010, he had 68 tackles, 11 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and no interceptions.

Ray Lewis (age 36) Signed a 3 year $22 million contract with Baltimore that pays him an average of $7,333,333 a year with a club option to continue each year through 2015. Lewis had 139 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 2 interceptions in 2010.

James Harrison (age 33) signed a 6 year $51.75 million extension with Pittsburgh in 2009 that pays him an average of $8,625,000. In 2010, Harrison had 100 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 6 forced fumbles and 2 interceptions.

Chad Greenway (age 26-former first round draft pick) signed a 1-year $10.091 million franchise tag deal with Minnesota. He had 144 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble and no interceptions.

Briggs and the Bears

It might be difficult for the Bears to deal with the Briggs request. It looks like they want to focus on Matt Forte for right now. In the Bears case and in every case, there is a market value for each player. While there are some young players signing larger contracts than Briggs who have not proven their worth over the long haul, the veteran contracts vary quite a bit. The bottom line is that in terms of value, there is no clear cut objective answer. Strictly speaking from a market value proposition, I don't think Briggs has a strong case for a raise based on other salaries offered to comparable players because it's almost impossible to say who those comparable players might be.

My Opinion

In terms of value to the Bears team, i.e., what they lose when Briggs is not playing, there appears to be a big drop-off when he is off the field. That may be due to lack of experience and development of other players, or it could be a drop down in talent. In any case, the Bears look to be a far different team defensively when Briggs is not on the field in my opinion. If the Bears want to make Briggs happy this year by changing the existing contract by front-loading $3 Million more that is written into the contract for a later payday, that may not be a bad move if it works to stabilize the team.

On the other hand, whether Briggs would be happy with that single move or not, is another question. I think the situation is one that is not likely to be settled quickly or easily because I believe that once a formal offer is made, there is the counter-offer and on and on. In today's economy, when huge sums are being batted around by players, I think the press at least seems to be looking at the owners side of things and some of the coverage seems a little more balanced than it would be in past.

This one could go down to the wire, like the Kruetz situation, where both parties just get tired of negotiating. Hopefully, if intense negotiation goes on, it will happen after this season when the Bears win the Super Bowl--I think we need Briggs for that.

In the near future, I think the Bears will be drafting a first round linebacker. I don't think they wanted to make it a priority this year (offensive line needs and lack of draft picks) and it also made sense to keep Briggs and Urlacher on an even keel. There seems to be great chemistry between the two veterans. I think things will change when another top gun is brought into camp.


Copyright 2011 Sporting Chance Press

Monday, August 29, 2011

Patrick McCaskey to Speak at St. Peter's in the Loop


Thousands of business people walk right past St. Peter's in downtown Chicago in an early morning fog on their way to work each day. But over a million visitors a year turn into this quiet place--this church chiseled out of a wall of urban rock. It might seem unbelievable in today's religious climate, but St. Peter's draws Catholics from all over Chicago for Confession; Many hop on trains and buses from all over the city and the suburbs to get there. The Franciscans who serve St. Peter's are known for their special kindness and counsel in the Confessional. The church also has a steady stream of events and initiatives that serve its mission.

On September 7, 2011 Chicago Bears Senior Director Patrick McCaskey will be speaking at St. Peter's on Sports and Faith (the subject of his book with Sporting Chance Press) from 12:10-12:50 in St. Clare Auditorium on the lower level of the church. St. Peter's in the Loop is located at 110 West Madison Street.

For further information or questions on any St. Peter’s program, call Carolyn Jarosz, 312-853-2376.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Bears Still a Mystery After Titans Game


The Bears played their third 2011 preseason game Saturday night and lost 14-13 to the Tennessee Titans. After beating the Bills (10-3) in their first game, the Bears lost to the Giants (41-13) and now the Titans.

The Giants game was scarey because of the score. The Titans games was somewhat reassuring. In the preseason, a game that is lost by a point means about the same as a game that is won by a point. The differences in how the teams play their starters, the risks the veteran players take or don't take, the game plan focus on evaluating talent, and other factors make it next to impossible to tell anything from a close game.

The Tennessee Titans are led by Matt Hasselbeck this year and both he and Cutler had similar success.

Hasselbeck was 12 of 22 (545) for 135 yards.
Cutler was 13 of 21 (.619)for 170 yards.

The one pass completion difference between Cutler and Hasselbeck makes a pretty big difference in percentage because of the relatively low number of passes.

Bears second string QB Caleb Hanie was 9 of 18 for 107 yards. Hanie was fun to watch; he was letting it fly, but he had an interception that led to a Tommie Campbell 80 yard touchdown run. I always like a backup quarterback who looks like he can beat the big teams--someone who can throw passes of various distances--someone who has big-play ability. Hanie seems to be one of those guys.

I was never a fan of backup who is all ball control--throwing short dinks that are just like runs. I was never a fan of an offense that is out there just trying to not make mistakes.

Reminders of Hanie in the NFC Championship Game

In last year's NFC Championship game, Cutler was hurt and was replaced by Todd Collins--both QBs had no success and the offense had been completely ineffective.

Third stringer, Caleb Hanie came in and since the Bears were behind by two scores, it was clearly a game where a ball control QB wasn't going to do much for them. The Hanie-led Bears pressed all the way down the field and scored on a 1-yard run by Chester Taylor. Green Bay 14-Bears 7.

A few minutes later, Hanie showed his inexperience and threw an interception to defensive tackle B.J. Raji who thundered 15 yards into the end zone. Green Bay 21- Bears 7.

Hanie's Bears bounced right back and the third string quarterback connected with Earl Bennett for a 35-yard strike with less that 5 minutes to play. Green Bay 21-Bears 14. Rodgers was beginning to sweat.

As ineffective as the Bears had been in the first half, Hanie gave them life and it was the Packers who were getting stuffed in the second. With less than 3 minutes left, Hanie was leading the Bears back. The Bears ran a third down end-around play that failed and put them in a desperate fourth down situation on the Green Bay 29. Hanie threw a pass in the center of the field that was picked off by corner back Sam Shields as Bears receiver Johnny Knox was trampled on the play.

There was no Joe Montana moment for the Bears and no Brett Fahre moment for the Packers. But Hanie showed some steel.

Back to the Titans Game

Once again, it looked like the Bears defense missed Lance Briggs. They just don't look the same without him although the score was relatively low. But it's always hard to tell how the Bears defense will shape up. The Bears D often seems to have another gear that they let out of the bag just as you start to write off the season.

Offensive Line or QB Worries

There has been a lot of talk about the offensive line of the Bears and it has looked better the past two games. But trying to figure out just how the Bears will play this year is pretty much impossible for me. The offense was relatively poor last year and certainly that should improve.

Yet, at the end of the day, my biggest worry is with Jay Cutler; not that I think he will do poorly, it just looks to me the quarterback is so vulnerable to getting whacked--especially after he throws the ball. Cutler took an absolutely bone-crushing hit on Saturday that was squeaky clean, but it was one of those where the tackler has the QB's body in a vice grip and lifts him up and then falls on top of him burying him into the turf. And it's only preseason!

Hold onto your hats...or should I say, Bear Down.

Copyright Sporting Chance Press.



Saturday, August 27, 2011

Peyton Manning Shines on Sidelines



We all know that kids are influenced by professional athletes. Peyton Manning is one of those players who kids have looked up to for a long time. Manning's NFL jersey sales are still in the top ten. Last night the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers beat the Indianapolis Colts 24-21. The Colts were playing without Peyton Manning, who is still recovering from neck surgery. Manning's May 2011 surgery was his second in the last couple years--said to be nothing major--and minimally invasive.

Manning has never missed a start in all his 13 seasons. He has led his team to one Super Bowl victory, two AFC Championships, and 11 playoffs. But fans are a little nervous. Without Manning the Colts are...well they are just not the Colts. In good and bad times though, Manning is someone you want your kids to look up, because he is good man. Like all sports heroes, he is not a saint, but he is a good role model for kids.

At Sporting Chance Press, we write and publish books that bring out the good in sports. I have been talking to various Christian churches and schools to promote our latest book, Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout by Chicago Bears Senior Director Patrick McCaskey. Christian church and school leaders believe athletic training ought to be turning out kids who are not only stronger physically, but stronger in their faith. These leaders can rest a little easier when they see positive role models come from the ranks of professional athletes--and there are many of them.

Last night on TV, Peyton Manning said some great things when interviewed on the sideline.

1. Manning was asked about his injury and he talked about the great effort that his trainers and weight coaches were giving him. He lauded the folks who were giving him a hand.

2. He said he would play the first game if he could help his team. “I've never missed a game in my entire football career due to an injury since I was 13 years http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifold, and I sure don't want to start Week 1 of this season. But that's my goal,to be out there to play and, not just play, but to play competitively. I want to be out there to help my team win and if I'm able to do so, I'll be out there."

3. Manning was also asked by CBS sports reporter Sam Ryan, about his friend Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt, who was recently diagnosed with dementia. He responded that he had talked to her that day and that he was praying for her every day--"we all love her" and "we are pulling for her."

Here's the TV Interview.

Patrick McCaskey's Calendar: Upcoming Presentations and Book Signings

September 7, 2011: Saint Peter's in the Loop, Chicago, Illinois

Patrick McCaskey will present on Sports and Faith from 12:10 - 12:50 p.m. St. Clare Auditorium. McCaskey will be signing copies of his book Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout following the presentation.

St. Peter's in the Loop
110 West Madison Street
Chicago, Illinois 60602-4196
(312)372-5111

September 10, 2011: Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights, Illinois

Patrick McCaskey will be presenting on sports and faith at Bishop Perry's Father and Son Conference on September 10, 2011 at Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights, Illinois from 9:00 a.m. to noon. The event will include a reflection by Bishop Joseph Perry, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago. MC for the program will be Andrew Lyke, new Director of the Archdiocese of Chicago Office for Black Catholics. This event is co-sponsored by Catholic Men of Chicago Southland, Young Adult Ministry of the Archdiocese of Chicago, and Office for Black Catholics of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Marian Catholic High School
700 Ashland Avenue Chicago Heights, IL 60411-2073

For more information and to register:
http://cmcsarchchicago.wordpress.com/activities/


September 15, 2011: Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House in Indianapolis, Indiana

Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House is offering an evening with Patrick McCaskey on September 15, 2011. McCaskey will offer his personal witness to faith as a Christian athlete, husband, father and businessman from 6:30-9:30 p.m.

Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House
5353 East 56th Street
Indianapolis, Indiana 46226
(317) 545-7681

September 20, 2011: The Bookstall at Chestnut Court, Winnetka, Illinois

Patrick McCaskey will sign copies of his book, Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout at the Bookstall at Chestnut Court from 7:00-8:30 p.m.

The Bookstall at Chestnut Court
811 Elm Street
Winnetka, IL 60093
(847) 446-8880

September 29, 2011 at John Paul II Newman Center in Normal, Illinois

On Thursday, September 29, 2011, Patrick McCaskey will offer his Sports and Faith presentation to the students at the John Paul II Newman Center in Normal, Illinois from 7-9 p.m. McCaskey will talk about his personal experiences with many inspirational athletes, coaches and others whom he has known and with whom he has worked.

John Paul II Catholic Newman Center
501 South Main St.
Normal, IL 61761
(309) 452-5046

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Bears' Coaches Make a Lot of Sense

Bears fans and the press can't help but analyze the Bears looking for a sense of how good they might be this year as we move towards the season. But preseason is always a little rough and tumble--and there priorities are not just focused on winning in the preseason.

A high number of quarterback sacks in the first preseason game against Buffalo gave some people nightmares. On the other hand, the veteran coaching staff shared some good insights on the Giants game.

Head Coach Lovie Smith was not happy with the Bears' performance, but after the dust settled, he did say there were some positives. Smith was especially unhappy with the Defense and Special team play.

Most fans are more concerned with the offense and want to know how it will perform this year. It was Mike Martz who was asked about the offensive performance in the Bears Giants game and his responses were instructive. My thoughts in ital.

1. The preseason is not so much focused on any one game each week. Game preparation is much abbreviated. The focus remains on seeing players in game situations and then responding accordingly. In other words, game plans are not the focus.
2. The offensive line is improving remarkably and the coaches will expect no less from them with each new game. Lovie Smith and Jay Cutler praised the line improvements as well. Smith would have liked the Bears to finish much better. The offensive line sets the tone for the offense and it should be much better than last year, but it must get much better if the Bears are going to make a run at the top teams.
3. Roy Williams is fine, but much is new to him. Cutler says Williams will play his role well and his performance depends upon the game plan and what the defense will give the Bears. Williams was a good acquisition and he is making progress, but the coaches are not expecting a superstar.
4. Johnny Knox is a much improved player and is still growing--he will keep getting better. Don't write off Knox--he is young and relatively inexperienced, but he continues to improve.
5. Dane Sanzenbacher, rookie wide receiver from Ohio State has great work habits and has come a long way. He can be used in three different positions. Sanzenbacher is a positive and valuable addition, but he's a rookie.
6. This year Jay Cuttler knows the offense and he can give other players more instruction. Now he can read and react--he's playing exceptionally well. If the line holds, Cutler and the offense will be much improved. Cutler should be much more aware of things going on around him.


Sporting Chance Press Talk is the official blog of Sporting Chance Press where we like to see the positive in sports. We see many positives as the Bears get closer to the season opener against the Falcons on September 11, 2012.

Schools, Libraries and Service Clubs Should Celebrate Merkle Day to Fight Bullying


Sporting Chance Press author and journalist Mike Cameron is busy every year as we approach Fred Merkle Day, September 23rd. Cameron has done much to redeem Merkle's reputation. Today, the Merkle story is even more poignant as it provides proof of how bullying can greatly injure the innocent and their families. In Merkle's case, bullying took the form of scapegoating (often sports bullying does)and also hurt the smartest and strongest of athletes. Merkle's story needs to be advanced in schools because it makes the following points:

1. Innocent people are hurt by bullying.
2. Even strong and intelligent people can get hurt.
3. The effects of bullying can last a lifetime.
4. Bullying can hurt more than the person being bullied.
5. Bullying is cowardly and totally unfair.

Sporting Chance Press's Public Bonehead, Private Hero: The Real Legacy of Baseball's Fred Merkle tells the complete story of the number one sports scapegoat of all time, Fred Merkle. On September 23, 1908, 19-year old Fred Merkle was the youngest player on the New York Giants--slotted into the lineup at first base to replace a wounded veteran. The pressure was on when Merkle came up to bat in the bottom of the ninth with the score tied 1—1. With two outs and Moose McCormick on first, the youngster rifled a single to right field easily advancing the slow-footed Moose McCormick to third. Shortstop slugger Al Bridwell, up next, whacked a low liner that knocked the second base umpire down on its way to shallow center field. As McCormick crossed the plate with the “winning run,” Merkle turned from the base path and raced towards the clubhouse. Modern fans know that even if a team scores on such a play, the runner should advance to the next base and tag it to avoid a force-out. The score is nullified on the force out. Unfortunately for Fred Merkle, in 1908 this rule had not enforced when the winning hit traveled to the outfield. September 23 however, was different.

The fallout from that game was a complete and unceasing character assassination on the part of the press. It didn't take Facebook or other Internet tools to unfairly vilify Fred Merkle. It was done by professional newspaper men and then by fans. Merkle was Christened "bonehead" and no one let him or his family forget it. When Merkle died almost 50 years after the "play," his obituary referred back to it. Now over 100 years later, there is hardly a week that goes by without someone unfairly pointing to Merkle as one of the biggest screw-ups in sports--they still don't understand the context of the game and the ruling that was made that day.

Mike Cameron has a presentation that covers Merkle's life and historic 1908. It's a wonderful historic program that is a great for libraries, schools and clubs. If you are looking for a program that is historically rich and timely, this is it. If interested, please contact lmj.norris@gmail.com .

More on Public Bonehead, Private Hero.

Now's a Good Time to Book Nicolette House




There are less than 900 days before the start of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. The 2014 Games will be hosted in Sochi in the Russian Federation. It will be the fist time the Winter Games have been hosted by Russia. The Soviet Union hosted the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow.

The host city Sochi has a population of 400,000 people and is situated in Krasnodar, which is the third largest region in Russia. We all know how time flies and skating fans will be watching the various competitions for the next two years that lead up to the Olympic competition.

Now is a good time to book ice dancer, figure skating instructor and Sporting Chance Press author, Nicolette House for a presentation. Nothing helps energize and inspire students more than a positive role model making a personal appearance. In Nicolette's Figure Skating and Writing Program, listeners get many strong positive messages. Students get a first hand glimpse of what it takes for a young athlete to compete. Nicolette talks about the importance of discipline in practice, the need to respect authority and communicate with Mom and Dad, and the necessity of a healthy diet to be at one's best. Nicolette also talks about how she came to write her book: Maddie Takes the Ice, a compelling figure skating story for ages 8-12 that is an America's Battle of the Books selection for 2011.

Nicolette's presentation is suited for elementary and middle/junior high school audiences and parents. It is a fun "show and tell" program that offers an up close and personal look at a positive role model for students. Nicolette is a figure skater and coach. Her mother, Ilona House is a former professional skater who coached Nicolette and has coached in Chicago and the northwest suburban area for many years.

Nicolette House is a four-time U.S Figure Skating gold medalist. Skating since the age of three, she went on to compete in European, World, and international ice dance competitions with her skating partner Aidas Reklys. Along with her Aidas, the author recently created After Dark (2010) and Military Time (2011) skating shows featuring several top international skaters. Ms. House is a recent graduate of DePaul University.

Like her Figure Skating and Writing Presentation, Maddie Takes the Ice keeps readers attention with plenty of drama and social interaction--life lessons included. More on Maddie Takes the Ice.

If you are interested in having Nicolette speak at your school or library, please let us know at lmj.norris@gmail.com.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Dan Duddy Named Sports Faith International's 2011 Virtues of Saint Paul Winner



Sports Faith International is a Chicago-area initiative that honors exceptional athletes, coaches and sports administrators who live exemplary lives. Patrick McCaskey, Senior Director of the Chicago Bears and author of Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout is Chairman of SFI. Halas Hall, headquarters of the Bears hosts the SFI awards ceremony.

Coach Dan Duddy, the Head football coach of Monsignor Donovan High School was named the 2011 Virtues of Saint Paul Award winner. Duddy includes a steady diet of prayer, Bible study and Mass for his players in Toms River, New Jersey. Coach Duddy's team participates in a "virtue camp" each year before the season. The camp last a week and its held in a rustic no-frills location where players stay in cabins. Concentrated practice, fellowship, study and prayer are included. By the time the season starts players are well prepared physically, mentally and spiritually. Former players remember the coach and his camp with great fondness.

Duddy helps to build the faith of his players, and helps them to integrate faith into their daily lives. Duddy also offers his services in presentations and a mentoring program to others outside the Monsignor Donovan community--as seen at coachvirtue.com.



Katie Rodden, Sports Faith International Female Athlete of the Year for 2011



Sports Faith International is a Chicago-area initiative that seeks to honor exceptional athletes who live exemplary lives. Patrick McCaskey, Senior Director of the Chicago Bears and author of Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout is Chairman of SFI. Halas Hall, headquarters of the Bears hosts the SFI awards ceremony.

By so honoring young athletes who are actively involved in their faith, the SFI program helps establish a strong sports and faith connection with young people. The program brings athletes from the professional, college, and high school level together in a setting that is normally reserved for the pros. The program helps affirm the positive contributions that athletes who live their faith make.

This years honorees included Katie Rodden, female athlete of the year for 2011. Katie was a cross country and track runner from Archbishop John Carroll High School in Radnor, Pennsylvania. Katie was all county first team in cross country and District 12 champ. She was also all county first team in track and she was county Meet runnerup in the 3,200-meter and District 12 champion in the 1,600 and 3,200. She placed seventh at state in the 1,600.

Katie interview at Philadelphia Catholic League Meet in 2011.



Sports Faith International Honors Athletes; Encourages Others by Example





Sports Faith International is a Chicago-area initiative that seeks to honor exceptional athletes who live exemplary lives. By so honoring young athletes who are actively involved in their faith, the program helps establish a strong sports and faith connection with young people. The program affirms that athletes and other kids can also become contributing members of their church--it's cool.

This years honorees included Holy Spirit Preparatory School senior Mike Agrippina as its 2011 Male Athlete of the Year. Mike maintains a 4.53 GPA, was his basketball team’s captain and chaplain at the Atlanta school. He led his team in points and rebounds for three straight years. The young scholar-athlete also served as president of the school’s National Honor Society and Battalion Commander of the Joint Forces Corps of Cadets.

Agrippina's BB highlights.

Mike Agrippina is pictured above with Chairman of Sports Faith International, Patrick McCaskey who is the author of Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout published by Sporting Chance Press.

Sports and Faith in the Classroom


I have been talking to various Christian churches and schools to promote our latest book, Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout by Chicago Bears Senior Director Patrick McCaskey. Many administrators tell me that they believe their sports programs ought to do a better job of including a faith component in their Christian settings. In short, they believe athletic training ought to be turning out kids who are not only stronger physically, but stronger in their faith.

People talk about the bad behavior in sports and they say there is no doubt that Christian programs ought to be doing much better. However, there are many good programs that don't get credit. At Sporing Chance Press, when we were working with Patrick McCaskey on Sports and Faith, we were surprised to find that several of the original founders of the NFL were devout Catholics. They were not saints by any means, but they got down on their knees and routinely gave thanks for all they had. They did what they could for other people when the business finally got off the ground after decades of surviving one financial crisis after another.

Surprising NFL Owners

The Maras (Giants), the Rooneys (Steelers) and the Halas-McCaskeys (Bears) are still deeply involved in many good causes and you could write a daily story about how they are "giving back" to the community. There are many other owners, coaches, and players who provide superb examples for kids--but Christian educators believe that they need to do a better job of publicizing the good while understanding that sports heroes are human beings. However, often, devout people shun publicity.

Legendary coaches and renown Christians like Tom Landry, Tony Dungey and the Bears own Lovie Smith have made their mark on the game, but few kids know how huge a part faith has played in the careers of these quiet leaders.

Examples are Key

If teachers want to instruct their kids on sports and faith, a good starting point is to provide examples of those faithful sports figures who give back daily. Educators can review the examples presented in Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout and other books.

Personal Touch

Mr. McCaskey makes presentations at many schools and churches on the topic of sports and faith. McCaskey grew up in a great sports family and his example provides a terrific witness to faith to young people. He also connects strongly with fathers who often need more encouragement to lead their children to church and the Bible. If you'd like to invite Mr. McCaskey to your school or church, write lmj.norris@gmail.com .

Here are few Christian fundamentals that are expressed in Sports and Faith:

1. An athlete's talent comes from God.
2. Performing well gives praise to our creator.
3. Careers can end in seconds--a higher power is in control.
4. Life can be disappointing, but we need to accept what God gives us.
5. We need fellowship and church.
6. We need to read and study the Bible.
7. We need to live Christ-centered lives.
8. We need to use our gifts and hone our skills.
9. We need to require good Christian behavior from our children.
10. We need to live up to our responsibilities in passing down our faith.



Photo of Sports Illustrated cover with noted Christian athlete, Tim Tebow.

Monday, August 22, 2011

10 Commandments of Baseball: A Great Way to Start a New School Year


At Sporting Chance Press we publish books that help people become their best--to improve their "game" in life. We are proud of our accomplishments in the few years we have been in business. As students begin a new year in school, teachers may want to take a look at Joe McCarthy's 10 Commandments of Baseball as a means to inspire students and get them on the right track.

Perhaps unlike any other sport, baseball has principles of behavior and courtesy that are part and parcel of its underlying standards of behavior. Despite all the bad behavior (especially from parents) that we see at baseball games, there is a wonderful code that has been passed down for 90 years in good programs. Most kids, and sadly, most adults, have never heard of the Code's creator, Joe McCarthy. McCarthy is legendary in the annals of baseball, having coached three of the most storied teams--the Chicago Cubs, the NY Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. He is also the most successful baseball manager in history, still holding the highest winning percentage of any Major League Manager.

McCarthy's 10 Commandments of Baseball:

1. Nobody ever became a ballplayer by walking after a ball.
2. You will never become a .300 hitter unless you take the bat off your shoulder.
3. An outfielder who throws back of a runner is locking the barn after the horse is stolen.
4. Keep your head up and you may not have to keep it down.
5. When you start to slide, S-L-I-D-E. He who changes his mind may hav to change a good leg for a bad one.
6. Do not alibi on bad hops. Anyone can field the good ones.
7. Always run them out, you can never tell.
8. Do not quit.
9. Do not find too much fault with the umpires. You cannot expect them to be as perfect as you are.
10. A pitcher who hasn’t control, hasn’t anything.

Teaching Opportunities

Here's a just a few ideas on how the Commandments point to life principles and ideas that can be promoted to students.

1. Nobody ever became a ballplayer by walking after a ball.
Students have to hustle at all times. If you want to get the most out of your educational opportunities, you need to hustle in all life pursuits including school.

2. You will never become a .300 hitter unless you take the bat off your shoulder.
You've got to take some risks. Just like in a game you need to swing the bat, in school you need to raise your hand and contribute. You need to volunteer and aggressively pursue your goals.

3. An outfielder who throws back of a runner is locking the barn after the horse is stolen.
This quaint expression means that you need to make the right play not take unnecessary risks or try to be the hero all the time. Respect the roles of those around and don't be afraid to get help from others who offer support.

4. Keep your head up and you may not have to keep it down.
No one likes to be humiliated. Pay attention, be alert, concentrate in everything that you do and you won't embarrass yourself.

5. When you start to slide, S-L-I-D-E. He who changes his mind may hav to change a good leg for a bad one.
Being indecisive can hurt you. Make your best decision and follow it through. Don't second guess yourself.

6. Do not alibi on bad hops. Anyone can field the good ones.
Don't make excuses. If you do make a mistake, admit it. Then, try to learn the difficult and you'll find that you are ahead of the game.

7. Always run them out, you can never tell.
See things through. In sports athletes are taught to continue to exert effort until the very end of the play. Often things happen to turn a situation around when many think it is hopeless.

8. Do not quit. Even in defeat there is much to learn, but failure only comes in quitting.

9. Do not find too much fault with the umpires. You cannot expect them to be as perfect as you are.
You might think you know more than those in charge, but make respecting authority a habit--it is one that will serve you well in the long run. Those who have learned to accept authority do much better in sports and life.

10. A pitcher who hasn’t control, hasn’t anything.
In pitching control is everything. There are many stories of pitchers who threw very fast who could never win games until they controlled their pitchers. Athletes and all of us need to have self control--it is simply one of life's imperatives.

If you want to reach students, talk about these Commandments in class-how they are important in sports. Students will be happy to give you a lot of input on sports figures they know or their own experiences that will show the practical utility of these principles. Then ask students to expand their thinking--how would these commandments apply to school and life for them. It's one way to point kids towards behavior that can help lead to success.

The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles for Success in Baseball (and Life) is a thoroughly fun read that is accessible to fans from 10 to 100. It is a paperback that costs $20--special quantity discounts available for schools. The book is published by www.sportingchancepress.com.


Photo: Virginia Smoot is running it out, but being tagged out by Mabel Harvey who is playing heads up ball. --Library of Congress Photo 1925.

Upcoming Presentations and Book Signings for Sporting Chance Press Author Patrick McCaskey


September is a busy month for author and Chicago Bears Senior Director Patrick McCaskey. There are several scheduled events that provide opportunities to meet and hear the author.


September 7, 2011: Saint Peter's in the Loop, Chicago, Illinois

Patrick McCaskey will present on Sports and Faith from 12:10 - 12:50 p.m. St. Clare Auditorium. McCaskey will be signing copies of his book Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout following the presentation.

St. Peter's in the Loop
110 West Madison Street
Chicago, Illinois 60602-4196
(312)372-5111



September 10, 2011: Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights, Illinois

Patrick McCaskey will be presenting on sports and faith at Bishop Perry's Father and Son Conference on September 10, 2011 at Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights, Illinois from 8:30-11:30 p.m. The night will include a reflection by Bishop Joseph Perry, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago. MC for the program will be Andrew Lyke, new Director of the Archdiocese of Chicago Office for Black Catholics. This event is co-sponsored by Catholic Men of Chicago Southland, Young Adult Ministry of the Archdiocese of Chicago, and Office for Black Catholics of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Marian Catholic High School
700 Ashland Avenue Chicago Heights, IL 60411-2073
Phone: (708) 755-7565


September 15, 2011: Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House in Indianapolis, Indiana

Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House is offering an evening with Patrick McCaskey on September 15, 2011. McCaskey will offer his personal witness to faith as a Christian athlete, husband, father and businessman from 6:30-9:30 p.m.

Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House
5353 East 56th Street
Indianapolis, Indiana 46226
(317) 545-7681

September 20, 2011: The Bookstall at Chestnut Court, Winnetka, Illinois

Patrick McCaskey will sign copies of his book, Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout at the Bookstall at Chestnut Court from 7:00-8:30 p.m.

The Bookstall at Chestnut Court
811 Elm Street
Winnetka, IL 60093
(847) 446-8880

September 29, 2011 at John Paul II Newman Center in Normal, Illinois

On Thursday, September 29, 2011, Patrick McCaskey will offer his Sports and Faith presentation to the students at the John Paul II Newman Center in Normal, Illinois from 7-9 p.m. McCaskey will talk about his personal experiences with many inspirational athletes, coaches and others whom he has known and with whom he has worked.

John Paul II Catholic Newman Center
501 South Main St.
Normal, IL 61761
(309) 452-5046

2011 Sports Faith International Award Presentations Posted: Chicago Bears Senior Director, Patrick McCaskey Honored




Sporting Chance Press author Patrick McCaskey was one of many honored this year by Sports Faith International, an initiative that recognizes exceptional athletes who lead exemplary lives. McCaskey received this year's Light of Christ Award presented by philanthropist Tom Monaghan, former owner of the Detroit Tigers and founder of Domino’s Pizza Inc. Patrick McCaskey who is the grandson of Chicago Bears founder, “Papa Bear” George Halas, is one of the team owners and serves as a Senior Director. He is the author of Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout.

2011 Sports Faith International Highlights.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Rod Marinelli Lauded

At Sporting Chance Press, we like to look at the positive people in sports. Bears Defensive Coordinator and Assistant Head Coach Rod Marinelli has come a long way after the lows he experienced in Detroit a few years ago. I can remember watching him coach the really bad Detroit Lions in 2008. Detroit had five losing seasons before Marinelli arrived and he was unable to turn things around. The Lions were so bad for such a long period of time, you had to wonder if Marinelli could recover his reputation or if his NFL career was over. In his last year, the Lions went 0-16. At one point, 15 of the Lions starters were on injured reserve. As bad as it got, I remember that the TV announcers still seemed to have plenty of good things to say about Marinelli.

Generally, before a coach gets a Head Coaching job, he has made his mark on a very good team. This was certainly true in Marinelli's case. Marinelli proved himself in a successful ten-year stint as defensive line coach in Tampa Bay (1996-2005) including duties as assistant head coach for the last four of those. It was the remarkable Tony Dungy who pulled Marinelli out of Southern Cal where he was defensive line coach, and brought him to Tampa. Coincidentally, Lovie Smith was also joining the organization at that time. According to Dungy, both Smith and Marinelli had "all the qualities I was looking for--strong character, mental toughness, strength, passion and commitment to teaching the fundamentals."

When Marinelli joined the Bears in early 2009, although he had a few extremely difficult years in Detroit, he had received high marks for his time in Tampa. Marinelli had 14 NFL seasons under his belt--mostly good. In Detroit, mental toughness had certainly been needed. If you go further back in Marinelli's life, you find that he also did a tour of Vietnam and no doubt that experience strengthened him.

It could not have been easy however for Marinelli. The Bears defense includes a number of the best players in the NFL and it must have been difficult to gain their respect after Detroit. The 2009 season was no cake walk for Chicago Bears coaches anyway.

I find it especially enlightening to hear people talk about the value of NFL coaches who are good at teaching the fundamentals. According to Dungy in his book Quiet Strength, Marinelli became convinced that the most important ingredient in a good pass defense was a defensive line that put pressure on the quarterback each and every play. A defensive cannot consistently succeed with blitzes and it would be impossible for defensive backs to cover all the variations of pass patterns--consistent pressure was key.

According to the Bears web site, Marinelli's first coaching job was Rosemead High School-his alma mater. He attended college briefly before going to Vietnam and when he returned stateside, he earned All-America honors at California Lutheran.

Marinelli is certainly a defensive specialist. He began coaching at the college ranks in Utah State in 1976 where he stayed for six years and then did a one year stint as offensive line/special teams coach in 1982. He coached the defensive line at the University of California from 1983-91 including two season as assistant head coach.

Lately, there are more people singing his praises and it seems to be consistent. “I think he’s the best,” Julius Peppers was quoted as saying today. “I’m a little biased. But you can go around the league and ask a lot of people that would say the same thing. He’s a great teacher, great motivator and we all learn from him every day.”

From most accounts, the defensive wheels are rolling pretty well for the Bears this year. As new players move through the system, Marinelli's skills at coaching the fundamentals only become that much more valuable. I'd like to see him have a nice long run with Bears.

Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout by Patrick McCaskey and other fine books.

10 Commandments of Baseball and the Power of Metaphor


I guess I wasn't surprised when a friend told me that her minister was using baseball as a metaphor for life both spiritual and temporal in his sermons. Our book, The 10 Commandments of Baseball certainly plays on the sports-life metaphor. Of course, as the author points out in the book, "The 10 Commandments of Baseball are no match for the original 10 Commandments for those of us traversing this earth."

Yet, metaphors are important and powerful in teaching and parenting. They run throughout both the New and Old Testaments. I am no Biblical scholar, but for me "The Song of Solomon" would be downright embarrassing if you don't look at it as metaphor. In the New Testament, Jesus uses many parables so it should be no surprise to anyone, either lay or religious, to understand the power of the metaphor, especially when it is well constructed and relates to things that are well known and vital to the audience.

The beauty of something like the 10 Commandments of Baseball is that depending upon your audience, you can direct them from baseball principles to life principles and in church or other religious venues, you can direct them to religious principles.

Why not start with life principles or religious principles you may ask? Well, I think that's certainly one way to operate, but at the same time, in certain audiences, especially younger ones, you have to begin with things that they see, touch, feel, smell and taste. There is nothing new, original, liberal or conservative about using metaphors.

If you talk to kids today about faith, you realize we live in a cynical age--perhaps even more that the 60s and 70s, when many people thought that most everything was irrelevant. Today, so many kids are taught by at least one parent that religious practice is just not practical. So it's not a bad starting point to talk to kids about something that is vital in their physical world and then move towards principles. You have to get their attention first.

Kids like to excel in sports. That seems to be something that we find easy enough to instil in our kids. How are they going to do well? Certainly they need to understand and abide by certain principles first. It was legendary baseball manager Joe McCarthy who penned baseball principles back in 1921--here they are:


1. Nobody ever became a ballplayer by walking after a ball.
2. You will never become a .300 hitter unless you take the bat off your shoulder.
3. An outfielder who throws back of a runner is locking the barn after the horse is stolen.
4. Keep your head up and you may not have to keep it down.
5. When you start to slide, S-L-I-D-E. He who changes his mind may hav to change a good leg for a bad one.
6. Do not alibi on bad hops. Anyone can field the good ones.
7. Always run them out, you can never tell.
8. You will never become a .300 hitter unless you take the bat off your shoulder.
9. Do not find too much fault with the umpires. You cannot expect them to be as perfect as you are.
10. A pitcher who hasn’t control, hasn’t anything.

In The 10 Commandments of Baseball, these principles are interestingly explored and illustrated. The author also extends the discussion to talk about how these principles are also metaphors of life lessons. Adults trying to teach children can easily extend these further to spiritual principles as well.

For example, in our book, the author talks at some length about Commandment Number 10. "A pitcher who hasn't control, hasn't anything." The book discusses how some of the greatest pitchers started out wild, but once they got control, they were unstoppable. An expanded discussion talks about the need for athletes to practice self control-- both on and off the field. Athletes who become addicted to drugs and alcohol ruin their chances in competition. Taking it one step further, we see that a person who has no self control is spiritually bankrupt.

If we want to instruct young people then, one can see the power of metaphor. If you a child buys into the 10th Commandment of baseball at practice, the next step is obvious: just as you achieve success in sports by learning control, that same self control will serve you in other ways. The young person learns the lesson at the ground level and then having the learner apply it to other areas of their life should be natural. Gradually, they can see how the religious principles they are learning are indeed practical and relevant.

Sports principles, symbolized by the weather vane shown, can remind or lead us to life and spiritual principles that give our life direction.

Copyright 2011 Sporting Chance Press


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Patrick McCaskey to Speak at John Paul II Newman Center in Normal, llinois


On Thursday, September 29, 2011, Patrick McCaskey will offer his Sports and Faith presentation to the students at the John Paul II Newman Center in Normal, Illinois. The event will last from 7-9 p.m. McCaskey, who has recently published a book called Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout , will talk about his personal experiences with many inspirational athletes, coaches and others whom he has known and with whom he has worked. His new book chronicles those experiences. Students will also have an opportunity to meet the Bears Senior Director and obtain signed copies of his work.

John Paul II Catholic Newman Center is located at 501 South Main St. Normal, IL 61761. Phone: (309) 452-5046

Holy Family Books and Gift Shop Carries Patrick McCaskey's Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout



The list of bookstores, gift shops and other places where you can buy Patrick McCaskey's Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout continues to grow.

The newest addition to the growing list is the Holy Family Books and Gift Shop at Holy Family Parish at 2515 Palatine Road in Inverness, Illinois. You can contact the store at 847-907-3414.


Sports and Faith is also available from the publisher's web site www.sportingchancepress.com.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Big Z Breaks Baseball's Commandment Number Ten



The modern baseball fan may never have heard of baseball's Joe McCarthy, but they know Carlos Zambrano of the Chicago Cubs.

Zambrano was the darling of Cubs fans and no wonder, he chalked up eight winning seasons in a row. His 2004 season 16-8; 2005 14-6; 2006 16-7; 2007 18-13 and 2008 16-7 made up an especially impressive run. Like a lot of baseball stars, not to mention dust kicking managers, Zambrano's temper has been on display from time to time. Unfortunately, Zambrano has taken things to an extreme that has him hot water.

After Z had lost control more than a few times right in front of the TV cameras, he went in for some anger management classes last year. Were they effective?

Last Friday, when the Atlanta Braves got the best of Z, he blatantly threw a couple pitches right at Chipper Jones and was summarily thrown out of the game. This was probably not a smart move, but what happened after that took things from bad to worse. According to Cubs manager Mike Quade as reported by the AP:

“I’m really disappointed. His locker is empty. He walked out on 24 guys. I don’t know where he’s gone or what he’s doing. He’s talking about retiring … but I can’t have a guy walking out on 24 guys.’’

The Cubs have placed Zambrano on something called the "disqualified list," which tucks him into a no-play - no play mode for the next 30 days. The team has been struggling this season and in my opinion, Big Z has not made things easier for Cubs management or his teammates. Under his current "disqualified status," he will lose more money in a month than most of us make in a lifetime.

Friday's antics did not sit well with Cubs GM Hendry, who apologized to the Braves for his player's actions on what was deemed a night to honor legendary Braves manager Bobby Cox. Ironically, although Cox is one of the winning-est managers in MLB history, he holds the record for being tossed out of more games than any other manager in history.

It's not unusual for athletes to show red every now and then, but it's rarely useful. There is an old axiom, "A pitcher who has no control, has nothing." In fact McCarthy used this principle as his Commandment Number Ten.

It was Joe McCarthy who penned the baseball Commandments back in 1921--see The 10 Commandments of Baseball,which happens to one of our books at Sporting Chance Press. McCarthy's baseball commandments have quietly made their mark on the game of baseball for 90 years now from T-ball to the MLB although most people are not aware of their origin. Self control is certainly an important quality for athletes and a must for a pitcher. Someone should have sat down with Big Z when he was Little Z and talked long and hard about this.

The Commandments are a simple list of principles that may seem self-evident to those who were coached well in Little League:

1. Nobody ever became a ballplayer by walking after a ball.
2. You will never become a .300 hitter unless you take the bat off your shoulder.
3. An outfielder who throws back of a runner is locking the barn after the horse is stolen.
4. Keep your head up and you may not have to keep it down.
5. When you start to slide, S-L-I-D-E. He who changes his mind may hav to change a good leg for a bad one.
6. Do not alibi on bad hops. Anyone can field the good ones.
7. Always run them out, you can never tell.
8. You will never become a .300 hitter unless you take the bat off your shoulder.
9. Do not find too much fault with the umpires. You cannot expect them to be as perfect as you are.
10. A pitcher who hasn’t control, hasn’t anything.

I am not sure if anger management is going to help Big Z get past his issues. It might actually be more instructive to have him coach some young kids and see how silly you look when you lose you composure. Even an angry 10-year old pitcher isn't much good to his team. I think it might be better for Z to look externally, maybe he needs to think about other people more and that might help more than self-analysis which is as they say "all about me."


Copyright 2011 Sporting Chance Press

Chicago Bears Helping Keep Kids Fit


The Chicago Bears First and Goal Program features Bear Mascot Staley DaBear and seeks to educate kids on the benefits of living healthy. At Sporting Chance Press, we believe programs like this can make a difference. To jump start the program at a particular school, school administrators can book a personal visit and show by Staley and his MC. During the show, kids are taught the 4 downs to scoring a healthy touchdown in the game of life.

The 4 downs are as follows:

1st Down: Eat Healthy
2nd Down: Drink Plenty of Water
3rd Down: Get Plenty of Rest
4th Down: Keep Physically Active

When a school takes on the program, for 6 weeks, students chart their progress on very simple charts--one chart per week--signed by parents and turned in at school. Every student who finishes Staley’s Fitness Challenge is entered into a grand prize drawing and receives: A Letter of Honor from Staley and a special Chicago Bears Health Award commemorating the accomplishments of each challenger.

A huge trophy is awarded to the school that has the highest percentage of students competing the fitness challenge. Staley, along with some special guests, will visit the winning school.

More information on the program is on the Staley page of the Bear's web site.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Kreutz the Gladiator Leaves Chicago

One of Chicago's most beloved gladiators is gone. Chicago Bears fans, teammates and management were sad to see Olin Kreutz leave the team this summer after rejecting the Bears final offer of a reported one-year $4 million contract. Unless “you are in the room” as they say, you never know what really goes on in these negotiations, but no deal was reached. He will be missed perhaps more for the intangibles than the tangibles he brings to the team at this point in his career. Nevertheless, sports contracts are about performance, risks and rewards on the playing field—and the Bears best offer was turned down.

I have thought that the most difficult thing for management is cutting players—at least ones that have been loyal and hard-working. I suspect the most difficult thing for a player is when he is cut. The Kreutz-Bears negotiation was one of those situations where there were offers and counteroffers, but none consummated in a deal—in a sense both parties walk away.

It could not have been painless for either side, but I think in the end each side was able to walk away with its head up. I know these things are complicated—players have agents and owners have accountants, lawyers and managers—it can’t be simple.

When it was announced that Olin Kreutz and the Bears were parting company, I felt more than a little inadequate in my knowledge of the pro-salaries and the going rate for Centers. I did a little digging, but football contracts are complicated and perhaps the bare facts of the contract that can be gleamed by the public can be misleading—just part of the picture.

I also looked briefly at what seems to be going on in the rest of the league. There were several centers on the move this year.

This posting is what I found, but it by no means would qualify as comprehensive research. I make no judgments here about the Bears or Kreutz.

First, in the context of the negotiation, it might be helpful to review the offensive rankings for 2010.

NFL Offensive Ranking for 2010 by NFL.com


1. Indianapolis Colts
2. San Diego Chargers
3. New Orleans Saints
4. Houston Texans
5. Green Bay Packers
6. Dallas Cowboys
7. Denver Broncos
8. Washington Redskins
9. Philadelphia Eagles
10. New York Giants
11. New England Patriots
12. Detroit Lions
13. Cincinnati Bengals
14. Pittsburgh Steelers
15. Atlanta Falcons
16. Miami Dolphins
17. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
18. San Francisco 49ers
19. Seattle Seahawks
20. Baltimore Ravens
21. St. Louis Rams
22. New York Jets
23. Oakland Raiders
24. Buffalo Bills
25. Tennessee Titans
26. Minnesota Vikings
27. Jacksonville Jaguars
28. Chicago Bears
29. Cleveland Browns
30. Kansas City Chiefs
31. Arizona Cardinals
32. Carolina Panthers

The Bears were ranked near the bottom on offense in 2010 and many writers pointed at the offensive line. Few people blamed Kreutz for this and most gave him credit for holding things together. The Bears' Jay Cutler’s quarterback rating was somewhere near the middle (16th according to ESPN), but he was sacked the highest number of times in the NFL—52 compared with 40 for Joe Flacco of the Baltimore Ravens, the second highest sacked quarterback last year.

I think with the Bears poor offensive showing, that most every position on the offensive line was on the table. While there were a number of writers who suggested that Kreutz was nowhere near the top of his game, there were several reports that the Bears wanted to sign Kreutz because he was the anchor on the offensive line and one of the leaders in the locker room.

Still, there were some inklings several weeks ago that Kreutz and the Bears may not get a deal consummated because the Bears center was in the waning years of his career and it is often difficult for both sides to agree to terms in such circumstances.

Kreutz was known as someone who would played at the highest level of intensity. He is a man's man and played hurt without complaint. In a negotiation, a player may well remember the blood, sweat and tears left on the field year after year. A player and his agent may look backward as well as forward. Some may even count on media and fan influences to pressure a team to make a deal with a popular player. Alternatively, a football club may look more at the potential risks-rewards of making a new deal.

When negotiating a new contract, like anyone in a high profile job, I suspect a professional football player looks around at his peers to try to get a sense of his worth in the market. Who knows what information Kreutz may have seen and how that impacted his thinking?

In one exit interview given to Peggy Kusinsky of NBC, it appeared that after the dust settled, Kreutz took the high road with his parting of ways with the Bears and did not seem bitter. I think that’s good and I think more of him because of it.

Movement at Center and Salaries

It can be complicated to discern value for an offensive center. I think one of the complicating factors is the fact that in some cases offensive guards can and are successfully moved over to the center position. Salaries also seem to be all over the map.

The Bears were not the only team to see movement in the center position this season. The NY Giants released center Shaun O'Hara who had been considered one of the finest centers in the league a few seasons ago and signed ex-49er David Baas to fill O'Hara's post. SF media indicated that the 49ers wanted to keep Bass, but like Kruetz signing, it didn’t happen.

San Francisco 49ers signed center Jonathan Goodwin formerly of the New Orleans Saints to a reportedly three-year, $10.9 million deal to replace Bass. (I found salary information available from Spotrac that I used for this posting).
It was New Orleans that signed center Olin Kruetz formerly of the Chicago Bears to replace Jonathan Goodwin. According to Spotrac, Kruetz is getting $2 Million in his one-year deal—just half of what the Bears reportedly offered. It’s been suggested that larger contract offers may have been turned down because Kruetz was only interested in certain teams that had the right fit and perhaps offered a potential Super Bowl opportunity.

The Chicago Bears signed center Chris Spencer formerly of the Seattle Seahawks to replace Olin Kreutz. However, the Bears have moved veteran guard Roberto Garza over to start at center--at least for now. Spencer is not being replaced as such at Seattle at least at the time of this posting. The Seahawks Max Unger was injured last year, but in 2009 had moved over from guard to center for the final three games.

Kansas City Chiefs Casey Wiegman signed a new one-year contract for $2.5 million this year. Wiegman owns a consecutive snaps streak of over 10,000, which started in 2001. He has been a yeoman center for the Chiefs. He had played for the Bears for a few seasons along with a few other teams before settling in KC.

Jason Brown looks solid for the St. Louis Rams. According to Spotrac, Brown’s contract called for the following: 2009: $4 Million; 2010: $5 Million; 2011: $4 Million; 2012: $5 Million; 2013: $6.2 Million.

Ryan Kalis of the Carolina Panthers had a three-year $3.5 Million contract that seems by most standards to have been a deal for his team. He is considered one of the finest centers. Coming into the 2011 season, he agreed to a one-year deal that pays him an incredible $10 Million according to Spotrac, but there are a lot of contributing factors to this contract that involve complex rules. He has been “franchise tagged” by Carolina and both sides are working towards a new contract extension this fall.

Center Joe Berger at Miami is in the last year of a $2.5 Million three year contract that according to Spotrac called for $375,000 signing bonus and the following: 2009: $675,000 2010: $700,000; 2011: $800,000. Berger, however, faces much competition for his spot on this year’s roster including that from rookie Mike Pouncey who was selected 15th overall in the draft.

Jeff Saturday is a Pro-Bowl Center for the Indianapolis Colts. Saturday is in the last year of a $13.3 Million contract that according to Spotrac included a $7.45 Million signing bonus and the following: 2008: $3 Million; 2009: $1.95 Million; 2010: $1.95 Million; 2011: $1.95 Million.

Matt Birk, who is in the final year of a 3-year $12 Million contact is one of the highest rated centers in the league. Birk who plays for the Balimore Ravens, is recovering from surgery, but is only expected to miss the preseason. Birk had played in Minnesota under a 7-year deal from 2001-2007 for a reported $21 million.
Andre Gurode of the Dallas Cowboys is a four-time pro-bowler who according to Spotrac extended an existing contract in 2007 to one that pays him $30 Million through 2012. His contract included a $10 Million signing bonus and the following: 2007 ; $600,000; 2008: $2 Million; 2009: $2.4 Million; 2010: $3 Million; 2011: $5.5 Million; 2012: $6.5 Million.

Alex Mack center for the Cleveland Browns was a first round draft pick in the 2009 draft. He signed a five-year $12.5 Million contact that is guaranteed at $8.3 Million and includes $2.8 Million in incentives.. According to Spotrac the contract calls for 2009: $816,000; 2010: $700,000; 2011: $774,000; 2012: $1,303,00; 2013: $1,932,000.

Nick Mangold of the NY Jets is considered by many to be the best center in the NFL. He began his career in 2006 and according to Spotrac in 2010 signed a 7-year $54.075 Million extension that includes $22 Million in guarantees, a $6.373 Million bonus in 2010; a $9.724 Million bonus in 2011; a $3 Million bonus in 2013; a $2.645 Million workout bonus along with the following salary amounts: 2010: $ 959,400; 2011: $2,260,800; 2012: $2,334,700; 2013: $3,008,600; 2014: $3,032,500; 2015: $3,456,400; 2016: $3,880,300; 2017: $4,304,200.

Green Bay center is Scott Wells. Wells is in the last year of a 5-year $15 Million contract that included a $2 Million signing bonus, $5 Million guaranteed and payments as follows: 2006: $6.8 Million; 2007: $510,000; 2008: $740,000; 2009: $1.5 Million; 2010: $2.25 Million; 2011: $2.75 Million.

Dominic Raiola in his tenth year with the Lions has been a steady player at center. According to Spotrac in his tenure with the Lions he received a 4-year $2.7 Million contract for 2001-4 that included $1.3 Million in bonuses. His 2005-2009 contract called for $17.5 Million including a $4.35 Million signing bonus and his 2010-2013 contract calls for $20 with a $9 Million guarantee and pays $4.680 Million in 2010; $2.4 Million in 2011; $3.4 Million in 2012 and $4.05 Million in 2013. Raiola was named team captain five-straight seasons from 2006 to 2010.

In Minnesota, three players will be vying for the starting position at Center including veteran John Sullivan, Jon Cooper and promising rookie Brandon Fusco. Sullivan is in the last year of 4-year $1.8 Million contract and Jon Cooper is in the final year of a 3-year $1.215 Million contract.

A Jumble

There is no doubt there is lot of money being paid to centers these days, but like other contracts, it’s complicated and the duration and variation in terms make it difficult to sort out. Some of the money is guaranteed, some is not. The various bonuses add great complication. One way and by no means a perfect way of sorting out the top paid centers is simply to look at their annual salary for 2011. In the Spotrac list for 2011, they have placed Olin Kreutz $2 Million between the 13th and 14th highest salaries for centers for the year. If he would have taken the $4 Million offered by the Bears, his 2011 salary would have been ranked 4th. But this method does not take into account bonuses, which can sway things considerably for top centers whose contracts are laced with those. As noted above, Nick Mangold receives a $9.724 Million bonus for 2011--this demonstrates the problem with just looking at salaries.

How much did Kreutz make playing for the Bears?

According to Spotrac, his first contract included the following: from 2002-2007, a six year $23 Million contract that provided a $7 Million signing bonus and the following salary: 2002: $525,00; 2003: $1.5 Million; 2004: $1.5 Million; 2005: $2.5 Million; 2006: $12,444,444; and 2007: $1.5 Million. In 2008, he was given a $17.5 Million three-year contact. If these numbers are accurate, Kruetz made over $40 Million with the Bears. If Kreutz was looking for $4.5 Million as was reported in some articles, such a contract would have paid him above his average annual take over his Bears career. If reports of the $4 Million offer that was left on the table are accurate, the Bears were willing to pay him just under his average annual take over the years.

Again, for those of us who were not a party to the negotiations, there is no way of understanding what went on and what motivated each party. It may seem like a sad end to a long Bears career, but Kreutz looks like a strong guy who is smart, healthy, wealthy and still a young man by non-football standards. He is not the first player or the last to change teams in his final season or two.

Copyright 2011 Sporting Chance Press

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

How the Bears Became the Bears


As the publisher of Patrick McCaskey's Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devout and the Devoted , we like to take a look at some of the more interesting Bears history here in this blog that is also mentioned in the book.

Before what we know of as professional football, there were semi-pro teams that were starting to draw a large fan base. When someone like Jim Thorpe would play in a game put on by these teams, attendance soared and there was money to be made. Some teams developed though company sponsorship so athletes might land a company job and have an opportunity to play for the company team.

An ambitious George Halas played football and baseball for the University of Illinois. When WWI drew America into war, Halas joined the service. Fortuitously, the recent college player was pegged as a recreation officer at Great Lakes Training School--a far cry from the active duty he sought. His service at the Training Center gave Halas a second chance to play football with the greats of the day.

After the war, Halas, who was an excellent baseball player, was signed by the NY Yankees. He loved the game of baseball and it was an established professional game decades before football. Nevertheless, after he signed on and played minor league ball, it was obvious that he needed more time to improve his hitting for the big leagues. Frustrated with the minor league seasoning that was still ahead of him, he quit baseball and sought the promise of a career elsewhere--time moved fast in those days at the dawn of the "Roaring 20s."

Halas saw that there was money to be made in football even at the semi-professional level and he was also impressed by how players who continued after college just kept getting bigger, faster, stronger. It was obvious by the level of the semi-pro play, that most athletes did not reach their peak potential in football until after college.

A dream job came along for George Halas. Staley Starch Company in Decatur, Illinois wanted him to become athletic director for their sports programs while joining their management training program. Halas also saw an opportunity to form a league of teams to improve the organizaton and structure of the game--and to take advantage of the game's increasing popularity. Ralph Hay the most successful car dealer in Ohio and owner of the Canton Bulldogs football team was thinking the same thing and had already worked to establish an association of a few Ohio teams. A call went out to several teams and on September 17, 1920, a meeting took place at Hays dealership in Canton that established the American Professional Football Association, the group that most scholars view as the first professional football league. In 1922, the APFA changed its name to the National Football League.

Halas ran the Decatur Staleys in that first year under the ownership of A. E. Staley. In 1921, the economy drooped and Mr. Staley thought it was not prudent to operate a sports team with funds that were needed to pay employees and run his company. He worked out an arrangement where he would seed money to Halas to get the team off to a start with the condition that Halas retain the Staley name in 1921. In that year, the team played as the Chicago Staleys in the windy city. Halas brought along a partner in the venture, Edward Dutch Sternaman, an acquaintance from his University of Illinois days who would stay with Halas in the early days.

When it was time to select a new name, Halas who was quite fond of the Chicago Cubs and an admirer of William Veeck Sr. who ran the team, was originally attracted to the name "Cubs." But after further consideration, it was decided the name should be the "Bears"--a name that seemed more fitting for men who were the larger rough and tumble sort who played football. Halas would also go on to use University of Illinois colors and bring in University of Illinois coaches to help him periodically during his many years at the helm of the team.

The Bears now pay homage to the Staley roots of the team by using the name Saley itself for the popular Bears' mascot: Staley da Bear. According to the Bears site, Staley has been the mascot since 2003.

There is little that resembled the professional football of today with the sport in in the first several decades of its existence. At first it met with resistance from purist who thought anything professional teams were demeaning to the sport. In those beginning decades, pro football seemed to fall apart during economic downturns and it played its game in horrific conditions. World War II took much of any swagger it had out of it as players left for service (including George Halas) and attendance shrunk. Owners scrambled to keep things afloat with team mergers that shared coaches and players. Only the remarkable resilience and resourcefulness of the owners kept it alive. Many believe the pro game did not become a sustainable enterprise until TV revenues.

As a business it was woeful and the only two original teams that made it to present day are the Bears and the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinal started out as the Racine Cardinals--then moved to St. Louis and then on to Phoenix. The Racine Cardinals were a Chicago team not a team from Racine, Wisconsin as many believe. The Racine team was a south side Chicago team that had a strong connection with fans and players who resided around Racine avenue and thus the name.

For the Chicago Bears to have survived to the present day, it took a larger than life man, George Halas, to get them there. Halas played for 10 years and coached for 40. In some ways he still owns the team--his spirit is alive in every aspect of the team--that's why the name Papa Bear is so fitting.


Staley the Bear mugshot from http://www.chicagobears.com

Chicago Bears Give Bikes to Deserving Kids


At Sporting Chance Press, we are interested in the story behind the story in athletics. What are the good things athletes, coaches, owners and others do.

Working with Patrick McCaskey author of Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout we know the Chicago Bears are involved in many good causes and have supported many charities. Although it has been around for several years, one such program that we read about recently is the Bears training camp bicycle donation program.

Lovie Smith and his coaching staff use bicycles to get around the campus of Olivet Nazarene in Bourbonnais during summer training camp. At the conclusion of camp, those bicycles are donated to local children. The original donation of bicycles was generously made by Steve DePron at Bike & Hike of Rock Island, IL. The Bears organization has acquired the cycles for the program in subsequent years and continues to work with Bike 'n Hike.

According the Bears, they work with the Bourbonnais Police Department, Kankakee County Sheriff's Department, Bradley Police Department, and Illinois State Police to identify deserving youngsters to receive the bikes. The boys and girls range in age from 10-15 years old, represent all different ethnic backgrounds, and live in different areas throughout Kankakee County.

Bike 'n Hike continues to be involved in a myriad of charitable functions itself to acquire both bikes and helmuts for needy children.