Another month is off the calendar for the Blackhawks and the NHL: The lockout continues with no end in sight.
But at this point does anyone care? Are there fans talking around the office water cooler, lamenting the absence of the game? NHL owners and players may not like that question, but the reality is this league is in trouble when (or if) the season is restored. U.S. federal mediation was brought in last Monday, as it was during the lock-out in the 2004-2005 season, but there is no guarantee that will change this labor dispute — or that fans will fill the seats if the dispute is resolved. How many times can sports leagues go to the well with labor disputes and expect no repercussions from the ticket-buying public?
Let’s go bowling — college football bowling
The final weekend of the regular season has plenty of good story-lines. Northern Illinois is in Detroit tonight meeting Kent State for the MAC title. The Huskies are ranked 18th in the AP poll and 19th in the USA Today coaches’ poll. Head coach Dave Doeren is stumping hard to get his junior quarterback Jordan Lynch some Heisman Trophy recognition. The young man has put up some incredible numbers, but it is hard to compete against the bigger conferences and the publicity their players get week in and week out. Of course, for Doeren the more he seeks attention for his player, the brighter the spotlight on him and a future coaching job.
Northwestern has to wait to see the outcome of the Big Ten Championship game between Nebraska and Wisconsin. The Wildcats could end up at the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla. For a certain WBEZ blogger, that bowl game would be a perfect scenario, since her son’s school, Fremd, will be performing during the halftime show! NU head coach Pat Fitzgerald probably doesn’t care which bowl — he just to wants to get that elusive bowl win.
And who will Notre Dame play for the National Championship? It will likely be the winner of the SEC title game: Alabama or the University of Georgia.
Bears shuffling the O-line because of injuries
You can snicker all you want about the Bears offense line situation — they have stunk most of the season. When you didn’t think it could get worse, it did, with Lance Louis’ ACL injury sidelining him the rest of the year. Last week, Gabe Carimi and Edwin Williams were forced into action replacing Louis and injured Chris Spencer. Now Jay Cutler will probably do a bit more scrambling against Seattle on Sunday. He’ll unload the ball quicker to help the line — and try to stay in one piece. This is where a running game would be nice to help out — if Matt Forte is still bothered by his injury, Michael Bush has to step up.
A reminder to Bears fans going to the game, the Walter and Connie Payton Foundation will be collecting toys for their toy drive outside Soldier Field before the game.
Start warming up the stove for baseball news
Baseball winter meetings will be in Nashville next week, where trades, free agent signings and rumors will flow. The Cubs picked up another starting pitcher this week when they inked a one-year deal with former Texas Ranger Scott Feldman. His 6-11 record and a 5.09 ERA last year wasn’t impressive; he was a starter and reliever. In Nashville, the Cubs will be looking for some help at third base and more pitching.
The White Sox have their pitching rotation is intact; they may deal for a third baseman and some bench help. They were worn out last year down the stretch and need some stronger reserves.
Some former Sox players are coming back as coaches, Daryl Boston will coach at first base and Bobby Thigpen will be the bullpen coach. They have been working in the minor leagues for a while. Harold Baines will become a hitting assistant.
The first Baseball Hall of Fame ballot with large numbers of suspected and known steroid users came out on Wednesday. It will be interesting to see how the voters deal with this issue. Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa is on the ballot, don’t expect him or Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro to gain entry to Cooperstown. The anger by the voters will evident when the balloting is revealed January 9th.
Maybe there is hope for another former Cub, Lee Smith; he has been on the ballot 11 years. He deserves it.
And finally, if you are in the mood for some holiday cheer, the Cubs will be lighting their Christmas tree at Wrigley tonight at 5 p.m. Cub fans are hoping there will be some 2013 All-Star players under the tree. That’s a tall order for Santa Claus.