Hockey

It seems fitting that the Hawks would get a double dose of the Avalanche this week after the city received it’s first real snowfall of the year and season on essentially back to back days. And after for the most part not really having any kind of answer for the solidly middle ground Minnesota Wild for over the weekend, this week certainly doesn’t bode well. There hasn’t really been a particularly good time for the Hawks to face the Avs over the past few seasons, but right now seems particularly bad given how things have been going in Denver for a while now.

1/24 – at Colorado

Game Time – 8:00PM CST
TV/Radio – NBC Sports Chicago+, WGN-AM 720
Frontier Psychiatrist – Mile High Hockey

When last the Hawks saw the Avs, Cale Makar was putting Kirby Dach in a covid-infested blender before burying an OT winner on his backhand from an angle few would even attempt let alone roof and water bottle. Since then the Avs have gone 9-0-1, and are 17-2-2 since the beginning of December. This run has caused them to ascend to their rightful place atop the Central and the Western Conference, and has them only two points behind Tampa and the Cats for the best record in the league, and they have games in hand on both. They’re tops in the league in scoring at 4.15 goals per game, and second in goal differential, only one behind Florida with the aforementioned games in hand. They have five players averaging over a point a game, including the prohibitive favorite for Norris in Makar. And they’ve been doing it all with a 53 share, so this isn’t exactly a fluke- nor was it ever constructed any other way. Darcy Keumper has been fine with a .913, which is more than serviceable with an offense like this. Quite simply, keeping a game competitive and not getting embarrassed right now is really all that can be asked of this Hawks team, and even that feels like kind of a reach.

1/26 – at Detroit

Game Time – 6:30PM CST
TV/Radio – TNT, WGN-AM 720
Pointes High Class of ’87 ReunionWinging It

Right now, delusional Red Wings weirdos will tell anyone who will listen that this team is ahead of schedule and they’re better than they have any right to be and they’re FUN and they’re just outside of a wild card spot. And while some of that is partially true – Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider have been the first real Wings prospects to actually jump to the show and make an impact since now-captain Dylan Larkin SEVEN years ago, the reality of the situation is that while yes, there is no one between them and the last wild card spot, there are 8 points between them and the Bruins, and 11 between the next closest team in the Leafs, with each of them having four games in hand. They also have a goal differential of -26 with Alex Nedjelkovic having a wholly respectable .926 at evens in 30 appearances. So while there are some bright spots here, there is nowhere near enough offense on this roster as presently constituted. That being said, the offense here is still getting more than the Hawks are currently (2.67 goals per game to 2.34) while having a particularly dire power play at 14.8% where only the Coyotes and Habs are worse. This game will be on TNT for obvious television market reasons, but certainly not for the quality of play. Neither of these two teams are even wacky-bad anymore, it’s just boring low event hockey from both sides as that’s the only way either can hang on for dear life against better competition. But who knows, maybe these two sub-mediocre teams may produce an entertaining spectacle on the national broadcast out of being so evenly matched. Don’t count on it however.

1/28 – vs Avalanche

Game Time – 7:30PM CST
TV/Radio – NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
Summit County Mountain Retreats – Mile High Hockey

Same as above but at Club 1901 this time. The Avs host Boston on Wednesday, which is the headliner late game on TNT after the Hawks/Wings opening act. And oh yeah, the Avs have won 15 straight at Pepsi Ball Bag Arena or whatever.

Football

Welcome back to THE VAULT, my weekly “REMEMBER THIS IRRELEVANT BEAR” article where I threaten Fels that I’ll go be a scab for Deadspin if he doesn’t let me write 750 words about Johnny Knox. For what it’s worth, he didn’t get mad when I wrote an entire article about weed so I think I’m earning the coveted “Respected Journalist” title. I’ll be angling for a press pass so I can get into Halas Hall and score some free lunch and yell stats at the players I love. I got to go to Halas Hall in early 2018 and lemme tell you, I INSTANTLY found a pic of Corey Wooton sacking Brett Favre on what would be the last play of his pro career and was high on fumes for days after.

Today we’re going to hop back into the time machine and look at the second Bears/Lions matchup of 2011. I was fortunate enough to be at this game, a Bears win (37-17). I was at this game and in a weird place emotionally, since this ticket was originally promised to a friend who beat brain cancer, only to have that cancer reemerge months later and take his life. On top of that, Bears tickets had run in my family since the early early Soldier Field days, but they were sold in 2009, so this was my first Bears game since then and also my first Bears game with friends instead of my father. My dad was in recovery for alcoholism growing up (proud of you, pops) so I never drank at a Bears game, so even though I was 25 this was my first experience with two things central to the Bears gameday experience:

1. The $9, 8oz beers at Soldier Field
2. Tailgating next to racists

For real, I was drinking in the parking lot with some friends and there were Lions fans next to us, and at one point the guy leaned in close to ask me a question, the type of gesture that coming from a stranger usually means they’re about to say something racist or ignorant. He leaned in, smelling of Busch Light and Faygo (probably) and asked me where all the black people were. He was confused when I gestured broadly at the city of Chicago surrounding us, and he specified that he was talking about people who go to tailgates and collect cans for the return deposit. I hit him with a Big Lebowski line: “obviously you’re not a golfer” and that was the end of our conversation. He walked away and I finally saw the name plate on his apparently custom Lions #40 jersey, and it read simply “Kid Rock” and everything made sense. Say what you will about Juggalos, but when it comes to hanging in parking lots with people from Michigan I’d take a bunch of face-painted clowns who will talk to me about pro wrestling over the average Kid Rock fan any day of the damn week. Shit they might even put me through a table. Woop woop.

The Bears came into this game at 5-3, looking at a potentially deep playoff run on the heels of their NFC Championship loss to the Packers the January prior. After this victory, the Bears were on a roll that would eventually be snuffed out by Jay Cutler’s thumb injury the next week and the team then dropping their next five games. Yet on this Sunday afternoon, the orange-uniformed Bears looked like a team primed for another postseason run. This team dominated the Lions in all phases of the game, scoring on offense, defense (twice!), and special teams. Matt Forte scored on the ground, Devin Hester took a punt back 82 yards, and both Major Wright and Charles Tillman took 3rd quarter interceptions to the house. Brian Urlacher almost took a first quarter Calvin Johnson fumble back for six as well, but since 2011 Brian Urlacher didn’t have the requisite amount of hair to break away in the open field, he was caught from behind.

Hester took a punt 82 yards for a score, his last punt return touchdown in Soldier Field. Earl Bennett led the Bears with 6 catches and 81 yards, and future felon and NIU alum Sam Hurd even made the stat sheet. This one was a blowout, folks. The score was 37-6 when Tim Jennings picked Stafford off for the 4th time in the game, and the frustrated frat boy grabbed a blocking DJ Moore by the shoulder pads and whipped him down, leading to a minor brawl after Moore returned the favor by getting up and absolutely trucking a kneeling Stafford.

NFL fights are almost always the most disappointing brawls in all the major sports, save the Andre Johnson/Cortland Finnegan one from 2011, which is without a doubt the Ali/Frazier of NFL fights. If that was Ali/Frazier, the DJ Moore/Matthew Stafford dust up of 2011 was like watching a World Star video. If my memory serves me right (which it may not because the tailgating and beer vendors most certainly over served me right), that got the crowd HEAVY into the “Detroit Sucks!” chants.

The Kid Rock fans were already gone when we got back to the parking lot.