Archive for the ‘Bears’ Category

Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team

When the Bears shift location of their preseason practices and scrimmages, you truly know that autumn is near. On Thursday, the Bears broke Training Camp in Bourbonnais, and packed their bags for heading north to Halas Hall. It’s there, in the posh suburb of Lake Forest where the Bears will finish up the second half of their 2009 NFL preseason. The immediate focus will be on prepping for the preseason home opener versus the New York Giants on Saturday night.

This practice game will feature three Bears stars: Matt Forte, Tommie Harris, and Greg Olsen, who did not play in the preseason opener. “We want them to have a good series before they come out. Our history has been, for the most part, that in the second game the guys will play into the second quarter,” Lovie Smith told the media following the final practice session at Camp Bourbonnais.

The final session downstate featured a cutesy switcharoo. Many players switched jerseys with each other. Watching quarterback Jay Cutler dropping back and throwing passes while wearing Brian Urlacher’s number was a unique, if not bizarre experience. Usually #6 Cutler wearing Urlacher’s #54 was a great show of solidarity, and should make people forget what ex-teammate and current Minnesota Vikings receiver Bobby Wade claims Urlacher allegedly said about Cutler.

Lovie spoke about Cutler and Urlacher bonding through jersey sharing. “They kind of look alike, big stature, but that’s a tradition with our players right now, a lot of energy in camp. There’s nothing like the last day of training camp…I can still tell who Devin Hester is, some of the little skill guys even in a lineman number, you can still feel good about who he is,” Lovie said of the chicanery and tomfoolery.

So far this preseason has been industry standard. You’ve seen…

1. The multitude of really dumb fans reading too much into preseason gamesbears-logo.jpg (i.e. idiots who now think the Cutler deal was a waste just because he looked terrible during the glorified practice in Buffalo last week).
2. Desperate sportswriters hyping up anything at all in order to manufacture something to talk about out of a non-story (Cutler’s Saturday night comments about Devin Hester were still being discussed on sports talk radio today.)

3. Position battles that might not sort themselves out until when games actually have significance. (Other than Hester, who’s going to play Wide Receiver?)

Expect more of all three between now and when the season kicks off in northern Wisconsin September 13th.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times, Walter Football.com and The Sports Bank

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Dave Leonard, NBC5 Street Team, (Video) In this day and age of ringtone rappers, one-hit wonders, and soft-core sex-laden R&B, it’s like a breath of fresh air when a hidden gem can shine through all the filler. With a small selection of songs in commercial radio’s playlist, consumers sometimes are force-fed a daily dose of “microwave music” where the supply often overshadows the demand. Quality soul music is more abundant than one may think…you just have to “listen”. Julie Dexter is here to fulfill that demand. The world-renowned, Birmingham, England-bred, singer/songwriter displayed her dynamic range at a rare showcase this past weekend at the new “it” spot, julie dThe Shrine (located at 2109 S. Wabash). Julie Dexter’s vibrant style and jazzy vocals exude soul and her followers came out to support her. The showcase presented by IGM Entertainment had a record crowd turn out to hear the UK songstress perform favorites such as “Ketch A Vibe” and “Faith” off her 2002 album, “Dexterity”. The very popular jazz group, Zzaje, backed the intimate performance at The Shrine. Dexter, who has shared the stage with soulful legends such as Sade and modern heavy-hitters like Jill Scott, Eric Roberson, and Amel Larrieux kicked off her set with a tribute to another legend that inspired her by the name of Michael Jackson. She later transitioned to a jazzy bebop version of Beyonce’s “Déjà vu” that would have made the best “scatters” proud. After paying homage to other greats, Julie Dexter gave the crowd what they came to see…a one-hour set spanning her decade plus career from her first EP, 2000’s “Peace of Mind” to 2005’s “Conscious”. It’s not too late to get familiar with this classically trained musician who writes, arranges, composes and produces her own music. “The Julie Dexter Collection” drops this fall. Do yourself a favor and “Ketch the Vibe”. www.juliedexter.com

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D.C. “Fete Select TV” Crenshaw, NBC Chicago Street Team

Three weeks a go the buzz was humming about Market, the new West Loop sports bar that was opening on Randolph Street.  Chicago White Sox GM Kenny Williams is supposedly part owner of the new venue along with two other Chicago restaurateurs.  Unfortunately, on opening night the restaurant was serving food, but not beer, wine or cocktails, due to the lack of a liquor license.   However, last week Market received the green light from the city and is making up for time lost by serving great cocktails to complement their terrific food.

Market is a multi-faceted restaurant and sports bar that offers guests traditional American classics with an aesthetic flair by Chef Joe Rosetti.  The menu boasts a variety of appetizers, salads, specialty sandwiches, pizza, burgers and main dishes.  Chef Rosetti’s cuisine is definitely above average  compared to other recently opened luxury sports bar in the city.  The “Mac and Cheese Muffins” and “Popcorn Shrimp” are must have starters.  Their braised beef and BBQ pulled pork “Sliders” are not only very tasty, but plentiful.  Sanwedges to try are “The Body Builder”, piled high with oven roasted turkey  and “The Strip Club”, consisting of Chile rubbed chicken and peppered bacon.  If you like turkey burgers, then try “The Herky”, served with avocado and thick cut turkey bacon and truffled fries.  Folks are raving about the “Mustard and Maple Glazed Salmon” main dish and the giant chocolate chip dessert served warm a la mode style.  There really isn’t a dish that is not worth trying at Market and you will forget that it’s supposed to be bar food.

Market’s main dining room is sports bar chic and has a casual vibe.  The first floor features 20 42′ inch flat screen televisions and one 92′ inch projection screen.  They have three outdoor places to eat and drink, including the Beer Garden, Rooftop Lounge and Sidewalk Cafe.  The summer months should make this a great place to hang and enjoy great weather and food.

Market is located at 1113 W. Randolph in the West Loop.  The restaurant opens for lunch at 11 am.  Log onto www.marketbarchicago.com for more information.  Watch Fete Select TV on www.efete.net for an inside look into the newest and hottest restaurants in Chicago.

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rebecca_1Rebecca Taras, NBC Chicago Street Team

Mike Ditka and Mikayla Sweeney

Mike Ditka and Mikayla Sweeney


Bright lights and big dreams came to life during the 22nd Annual Wish Ball last Saturday. More than 700 guests filed into Chicago’s Union Station – and not to take a train. The space was transformed into an area ripe for bidding, eating, drinking and dancing. Honorary Chair Mike Ditka, former head coach of the Chicago Bears, was on hand to greet guests and show his support for the Foundation. Also on the scene were six “Wish Kids,” sporting big smiles and their Sunday best.

Before the seated dinner, guests perused the silent auction items while making their way through a mini Taste of Chicago, sampling bites from the Park Grill, cibomatto, Blue 13, La Madia, Morton’s and Mike Ditka’s. Emceed by Peggy Kusinski of NBC 5 Chicago, the night included a special show by performers from The Second City and Barack Obama – um, that would be our very own Street Teamer Reggie Brown!

Peggy Kusinski (NBC 5 Sports) and Reggie Brown (NBC 5 Street Team)

Peggy Kusinski (NBC 5 Sports) and Reggie Brown (NBC 5 Street Team)

The live auction raised some serious cash for the Foundation with enticing items such as a private dinner party at the winner’s home, prepared by Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard ($10,000) and an opportunity to race a Ferrari 355 Challenge race car ($12,550). At the end of the evening, guests enjoyed dancing to the Bluz Brothers Band and sampling sweets from a dessert table donated by the Affina Hotel.

Proceeds from Wish Ball 2009 will benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Illinois, helping to grant nearly 150 of the 700 wishes the Foundation will give this year to Illinois children facing life-threatening medical conditions. This event is made possible by support from generous sponsors, including sponsor GATX Corporation and Platinum Sponsors Baxter, Macy’s, PotashCorp and Unum. Since being founded in Illinois in 1985, the Foundation has granted more than 8,000 wishes. For more information, visit  www.wishes.org or call 312.602.WISH.

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rebecca_1Rebecca Taras, NBC Chicago Street Team

It may only be Wednesday, but it’s not too early to start thinking about what you’ll be doing this weekend. Even though the current economic climate has kept many wallets closed rather than open lately, you may want to consider taking a gamble on spending – literally.

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s 5th annual Casino Chicago Hold Em’ Poker Tournament will be held this Saturday at the Chicago Marriot Downtown Magnificent Mile (540 N. Michigan Avenue). The largest charity gaming event in the Midwest cfflogo11couldn’t be pulled off without a little help, so thanks to the new 500 million-dollar Horseshoe Casino and Larry Roesche Family Auto,  this successful fundraiser can continue.

Doors open at 6:00 pm with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, which will be served throughout the evening. The first round of the poker tournament and all games including blackjack, roulette and craps will begin at 7:00 pm. The winner of the tournament will earn a spot in the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas this June. Previous winner Jerry Azumah (former Chicago Bear) will be back in the hot seat to defend his title, among other notable Chicago influencers like Richard Roper.

You don’t have to play to enjoy the open bar, food stations and live piano music from Mike Stuionsky of the Red Hed Piano Bar. Tickets range from $500 for tournament players and non-player guests, to $100 for Casino guest tickets only.  Which ever route you take, you can’t lose, as your contributions help those with cystic fibrosis win the game of life.

For tickets visit: www.cfholdem.com

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D.C. “Fete Select TV” Crenshaw, NBC Chicago Street Team

Finding a good place to watch the big game can sometimes be a challenge.  The challenge is finding a place that has a good crowd, plenty of televisions, but most importantly great food and drinks.  Chicago has a lot of those places to choose from, but if you just head a little north of downtown, O’Donovan’s Pub & Restaurant is the place to be.xmas-20081

O’Donovan’s, located in the North Center neighborhood, can attract a large crowd.  However, the venue is spacious enough for everyone to get a table or a seat.  The food tastes much better than the average pub in town and the cocktail specials are just what you’re looking for in this economy.  Their menu consists of burgers, sandwiches, paninis, wraps, soups, salads and a variety of appetizers.  But they also have hearty entrees such as “Prime Rib”, “BBQ Baby Back Ribs”, “Brick Chicken” and “Chicken Marsala”.  The mashed, baked and au gratin potato side dishes alone will have you salivating.  O’Donovan’s has weekly drink specials.  Depending on the day, you can enjoy five dollar martinis, five dollar champagne cocktails, or half off a bottle of wine.  There is also a thirty cent wing and two dollar burger and fries night.  Their Sunday brunch features an all you can eat buffet for $13.95 that includes an omelette and waffle station.  O’Donovan’s Easter brunch will increase to $15.95 per adult and $7.95 per kid.

A nice touch that also adds a little entertainment to O’Donovan’s is Al James the magician.  Al provides ‘table-side” magic for guests that includes card, coin and rope tricks.  He creates images with balloons for kids, which makes the restaurant family friendly.   O’Donovan’s outside cafe and beer garden makes it the perfect hangout place during the summer months, which keeps north-siders coming back again and again.

 O”Donovan’s is located at 2100 W. Irving Park Road.  For more information or to make brunch reservations call (773) 478-2100 or log onto www.odonovansbar.com.  For more restuarant reviews and to get an inside look at the newest and best Chicago restaurants, watch Fete Select TV on www.efete.net.

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team When the downtown St. Patrick’s Day parade kicks off Saturday at noon, many Chicagoans will be reminded why this is a Bears town first. One place they’ll be sporting blue and orange in lieu of green is “Da Bus,” a renovated old school bus celebrating the Chicago Bears. I’ve been on Da Bus, which features a shrine to and autographs from pretty much every Bears Hall of Famer you can name. The tailgate surrounding it is THE place to be when pre-gaming for the Bears at Soldier Field.

Da Bus, kicking off its 20th season of tailgating with its annual placement in the parade, is proud to hook up with the Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, a charity that takes care of underprivileged children. Da Bus, along with a float from country radio station US-99, will be joined by the kids from The Mercy Home for Boys and Girls in their march along the parade route.dabus

I’ll be hitching a ride as well and earlier this week I spoke with bus owner/developer and Bears superfan Tim Shanley. “Da Bus is float number 36 this year, which puts us back on television. Both WGN and ABC are covering this event, so don’t forget to hit the record button before you leave the house on Saturday,” Shanley said.

For those looking to get “Irish,” Shanley’s crew and I will be hitting a parade afterparty at a hotel bar downtown. “Da Bus will supply sandwiches, bottled water, Pepsi and 7-UP for the duration of the parade, and we will start to really celebrate when we park at the Hilton near Kitty O’Shea’s, which will be celebrating the day with Irish music and plenty of cold beer,” Shanley proclaimed.

This weekend go green and also GO BEARS!

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times and The Sports Bank

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank All season long quarterback Kyle Orton and rookie tailback Matt Forte have carried the Chicago Bears offense. Given how the team’s wide receivers unit is arguably among the worst in league history, they’ve had to. Orton headed into Thursday a respectable seventh in the NFC in touchdown passes with about twice as many td tosses as interceptions. Overall he’s been a pleasant surprise; especially given how much the mistakes of his wide receivers have ruined his statistics. (One of his interceptions Thursday night came off the hands of Rashied Davis, who has struggled mightily with drops all season.) orton-beard

However, this game was one of Orton’s worst in 2008: he completed 24 of 40 for just 172 yards, no touchdowns, two picks and a 49.2 rating. For most of the season Orton has done a good job consistently finding Forte, the team’s leading receiver as well as tight ends Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark, the team’s third and fourth leading receivers. Versus New Orleans the trio had just 85 combined receiving yards averaging an awful 5 yards per catch. Matt Forte struggled on the ground too, accruing just 34 yards on 11 carries. He came in as the league’s 7th leading rusher and a league-leading 39% of his team’s offensive production.
The Bears compensated with defense as they harassed the league’s leading passer, Drew Brees into a first half with a QB rating as low as Orton’s. Chicago also lived on their special teams as Danieal Manning returned the opening kickoff 83 yards for a touchdown and set up the second with a 52-yarder early in the second quarter.

Forte was upstaged by Saints tailback Pierre Thomas. The University of Illinois and south suburban Lansing product had 22 carries for 87 yards and a touchdown- career long 42 yarder; also adding a TD catch and 59 yards receiving. Thomas loves playing near his roots- last year he became the first rookie ever to gain 100 yards both rushing and receiving in the same game against the Bears.For more Chicago Sports Analysis and discussion.

For my Washington Times.com blog “Chicago Blue State.”

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80901585JD011_CHICAGO_BEARSPaul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank The Chicago Bears entered the season desperate for a #1 wide receiver to emerge. In week three, Brandon Lloyd appeared to be that guy with 124 yards and a touchdown: (The sole 100 yard effort by a Bears wide-out this season. Unfortunately, Lloyd strained his posterior cruciate ligament in week four and we didn’t see him again until Sunday when he had two catches for 17 yards. He was expected to be out just 2-4 weeks, but missed a month and a half instead. It has been insinuated that the Bears coaching staff was extremely fed up with Lloyd’s slow convalescence. Although nothing’s on the record, his Bear teammates allegedly don’t have high regard for his attitude and supposed lack of toughness.

Lloyd’s budding R&B singing career–“She All Mine,” his collaboration with Bobby Valentino, is a current top 50 hip-hop chart single- and comments about not wanting to take the field until he’s absolutely 100% gave ammunition to critics and resurfaced the negative reputation he received while playing for Washington. This late in the season, almost no NFL player is truly 100% healthy. Given how much money players make each game, it seems ridiculous that Lloyd would say and actually mean such a thing. Could there be another reason for his slow return? Would that reason due to an injury or off-the-field matter?

One thing’s for sure, he wasn’t held back due to the Bears having a stellar wide receiving corps. Since he’s been gone, only one Bear: Rashied Davis has resembled a bonafide NFL starting wide-out. One of the first features I ever wrote was a Daily Illini piece about Brandon Lloyd in 1999 as he was poised to break the University of Illinois record for receiving yards by a freshman. (his record was broken by Arrelious Benn last year). Since then I’ve followed his career arc quite closely. Lloyd’s now thought to be on his last chance. When his former college Head Coach and current Bears Offensive coordinator Ron Turner played the cronyism card and brought him into camp, conventional league wisdom had already given up on him. Under those circumstances, you would expect Lloyd to approach his job with something extra to prove, and not display a relaxed effort towards returning to work! So something here doesn’t add up. Either there’s another hidden factor here or someone (either Lloyd or the coaching staff) sold the Bears passing game and the team’s chances short.

For more Chicago Sports Analysis and discussion.

For my Washington Times.com blog “Chicago Blue State.”

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank If there’s one thing we’ve observed during the first half of the NFL season, it’s that parity reigns. You would think the league was run by socialists the way the wealth is currently spread around: 22 of the league’s 32 teams are within just three games of being .500. The Tennessee Titans’ 21-14 win over the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field was another reinforcement of established parity as a slightly-better-than-average team, the 5-4 Bears ended up just 60 yards and one possession short of the league’s sole undefeated team the 9-0 Titans.

In this Titanic struggle, Tennessee’s awful and 30th ranked pass defense looked very serviceable as the embattled Rex Grossman was unable to exploit this weakness, finishing the game with an ugly 4.7 yards-per-attempt and 64.4 passer rating. “It’s always tough when you have three-and-outs. You need to be able to get some first downs to get to the rest of your game plan. We had some nice drives. We had some things working, but too many three-and-outs,” the backup QB said.desclark

The Chicago Bears run defense certainly brought their A game, holding the Tennessee Titans, who entered as the third best rushing attack in the NFL, to -5 rushing yards on 13 carries (-0.4 ypc) in the first half. It was the lowest rushing total allowed in a half by the Bears since allowing -9 rushing yards in the first half at New England eleven years ago. For the game, Chicago held Tennessee to 20 rushing yards on 29 attempts (0.7 ypc).

“I was very impressed with the Bears front 7 and their approach. They forced us out of the run game and Kerry did a great job with the football today. We overcame a lot of issues and problems and still found a way to win against a good football team. I’m pleased to come in and find a way to win. I’m impressed with both teams,” said Titans coach Jeff Fisher, currently the NFL’s longest tenured at his position.

Unfortunately, the Bears defense did not remember the Titans aerial attack as Kerry Collins shredded the Bears for nearly 300 yards en route to completing almost 75% of his passes. The 5-4 Bears next begin a three-game road trip in Green Bay for a pivotal game with the 4-5 Packers.

For more Chicago Sports Analysis and discussion.

For my Washington Times.com blog “Chicago Blue State.”

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank As our beloved monsters of the Midway head into the bye week with seven games down and nine to go, they are a very pleasant surprise. Chicago is in first place in the NFC North and the presumptive favorite to stay there after edging past their biggest division rivals, the Minnesota Vikings by a wildly unexpected 48-41 score today at Solder Field.

Starting Quarterback Kyle “Captain Neckbeard” Orton explained what today’s big win means to the team. “4-3 now, 2-0 in the division. It was a critical game at a critical point in the season for us heading into the bye. But first place in the NFC North and we’ve got a week and a half now to get better throughout the bye week,” Orton said.

The fourth year signal caller from Purdue has truly gotten better each week and developed into a solid NFL starting QB, guiding the Bears to the third highest scoring offense in the league and 28 points per game, and that average was computed before today’s nearly 50 point outburst. I must admit was a big cynic of this group back in the preseason, even more so after first round draft choice #14 overall Chris Williams went down. Who could have predicted that Josh Beekman and John St. Clair would fill in so well on an especially depleted left side of the line?

One thing I was right about was that Lovie should (and would) go with Orton as the starter and that his play would make us all forget about Train Rex Grossman. Kyle has made Bears games exceedingly fun to watch this season, ramping up the passing game as the air above the Lakefront on Sundays is now seeing the most action it’s seen since Meigs Field was still in existence. Orton had thrown for 280+ yards (and no interceptions) in his last three games. He gave a very descriptive quote today about if he though the team’s prolific offensive production was surprising.

“I don’t think a whole lot of people were expecting it to this extent at the start of the season. But we’ve got a bunch of guys out there who really make plays. We’ve got two tight ends that really play well for us. Matt Forte, obviously, makes play after play, and the receivers are doing a great job when they get the ball in their hands. Marty Booker turned on the jets and had a huge touchdown for us this game. It seems like everybody is stepping up when their number is called.”


For more Chicago Sports Analysis and discussion.

For my Washington Times.com blog “Chicago Blue State.”

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank
-The Weber Ultimate Tailgate, located on the Southeast lawn (outside Gate 6) of Soldier Field, is free and open to the public. The Tailgate will open two hours prior to kickoff for the first four regular season home games: September 21 vs. Tampa Bay ; September 28 vs. Philadelphia ; October 19 vs. Minnesota and November 2 vs. Detroit. Fans will be able to enjoy music, receive autographs from Bears alumni players (this week Otis Wilson and Dan Jiggetts will be appearing), and compete in a variety of football skills competitions. Festivities start at 5pm Sunday.

-Dennis McKinnon to Host 2nd Annual Celebrity Golf Tournament And Pre-Event Party “Dance Da Shuffle” at Excalibur Nightclub. 640 N. Dearborn 6-11 PM on Sun Sept 29th.

For the second consecutive year, a local charity is benefiting from former ’85 Chicago Bears wide receiver Dennis McKinnon’s passion and hard work. McKinnon, the Illinois One Family One Child (IOFOC) foundation, Empress Casino, Chandler’s Chophouse, Signs By Tomorrow, Hunt Media & Management and Project 85 are partnering to bring fans the second annual celebrity golf outing “Dennis McKinnon’s Old School Open.”

Proceeds from the outing, silent auction, and dinner will benefit the IOFOC, an organization meant to raise money for underprivileged youths. “I’m extremely proud to have my name and several of my former teammates behind such a great cause,” McKinnon said. “Everyone who comes out will make a big difference in the lives of kids.” The soiree will also be a Bears game watch party, as the Monsters of the Midway take on the Philadelphia Eagles at 7:15.

-The golf outing, formerly known as the Bad Pants Open, is set for an 11 a.m.
shotgun start on Sept. 30 at Schaumburg Golf Club located at 401 N. Roselle Road.

Although the name has changed, the concept has not – players still embarrass themselves, wearing the worst golf outfit they own topping it off with their “old school” jersey. Besides McKinnon, other 1985 Chicago Bears are slated to appear and participate in the event include – Willie Gault, Richard Dent, Dave Duerson, Jim McMahon, Steve McMichael, Emery Moorehead, Matt Suhey, Otis Wilson, and Jim Covert.

For more Chicago Sports analysis and discussion click here.

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Marcus Riley, NBC5 Street Team (video)

Ain’t no party like a Flirty Girl party cuz a Flirty Girl party … well, you know the rest.

I’m not a big fan of watching football in public settings other than the stadium itself. It’s kind of hard to pay attention with so much going on around you, the seats are usually uncomfortable, and quite frankly, I’d rather walk to the fridge for a cold one instead of saddling up to the bar and paying for an overpriced one.

I may have to change my philosophy this Sunday when the Bears square off against the Eagles on the Sunday Night Football game on NBC. That’s because the gals over at Flirty Girl Fitness are throwing a huge viewing party and an after-party to boot. If you haven’t been over to their West Loop location — and guys, those opportunities can be few and far between — this is a pretty good excuse to get over there.

Tickets are $20 ($25 at the door), and they’re offering free beer between 6 and 7 p.m. According to the Web site, there’ll be lots of oversized screens, a “super sexy Flirty Girl Halftime Show full of pole dancing and coyote ugly, five cash bars, outdoor patio and valet parking.

The after-party takes place across the street at Bon V with current and retired players. All in all, another example of why I love football season!

Click here for more information.

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank  On Friday afternoon, Bears cornerback Charles Tillman spoke candidly at Children’s Memorial Hospital. The topic was the three trying months that he just spent watching his infant daughter, Tiana, battle a critical heart condition. “I heard that when life hands you disasters, and tragedy and bad things, it also hands you a gift of energy,” Tillman said at the beginning of his time at the podium. Tillman spent most of his summer days and nights at the hospital, forcing him to miss portions of both the off-season program and training camp. However, he did play in all four exhibition games.

In May, Tiana was diagnosed with a form of cardiomyopathy, a heart enlarging and weakening condition. A transplant was required, but until another heart was available a unique and cutting-edge device called the Berlin Heart was implanted in Tiana.

“We knew the Berlin Heart would extend the patient’s life significantly, and in this case, it also strengthened the child for transplantation,” says Jeffrey G. Gossett, MD, attending physician for the Division of Cardiology. Tiana is the first patient in Illinois to undergo this procedure. The Berlin Heart is widespread in Europe, but has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The Bears defensive back is very thankful for the procedures performed by the Children’s Memorial team. “I’m so grateful for what they did; they did a very noble thing,” Tillman said. Tiana underwent a heart transplant last month and was released from the hospital on Monday. Today, she’s at home recovering and the prognosis is very good. “She’s smiling and kicking and cooing, all that stuff 6 month olds are supposed to do,” Charles said.

A few years ago, Tillman started the Cornerstone Foundation aiming to help chronically ill children. On this afternoon he spoke about his organization raising more awareness about organ donation and another area of great significance to him. “Basically my foundation is headed in a new direction, and we’re going to be there to provide cardiomyopathy research,” Tillman said.

To learn more about becoming an organ donor go to DonateLifeIllinos.org.

For the full detailed version of this story click here.

For more Chicago sports discussion go here

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank

“Statistics are like bikinis: what they reveal is provocative, what they conceal is vital!” I forgot who made that wonderful quote, but it certainly applies to Saturday night’s Bears preseason loss in Seattle. Starting quarterback Rex Grossman was sacked and intercepted just once. However, those numbers don’t tell us how he spent most of the night running for his life behind a severely damaged orange and blue line in front of him. Pressure off the end led to his lone INT and the constant Seahawks rush forced him into making (almost exclusively) short check down passes. This yielded two more revealing and indicative statistics: an awful less than 5 yards per pass attempt, which was a component of a dreadful 44.9 passer rating. Obviously, this performance contributed

to Kyle Orton being named the starter for the season opener. First round draft pick Chris Williams missing at least half of the season is very damaging, because it’s actually a loss of two projected starters. John Tait has to remain at left tackle (where Williams was penciled in) instead of shifting over to right tackle which would have been an upgrade from last year at both positions. Terrence Metcalf is also recovering from surgery, meaning John St. Clair and Josh Beekman, neither of which are truly NFL caliber starting linemen, are now going to see a majority of time on the field.

So what can the Bears do to fix their offensive line problem? Re-sign Fred Miller, who cut last season? Play more “double tight” sets with the Tight Ends staying at home more to block? I spoke with starting tight end Desmond Clark after the final full-pads practice in Camp Bourbonnais. “I don’t think you’re going to see us change anything; I don’t think we’re going to be doing anything different from what we did last year. I think our offensive line will protect just as well as any other offensive line. I don’t see any reason that the tight ends will have to stay in any more than we usually do,” Clark said.

For more Chicago sports information and discussion click here.



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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank

This fall #22 Matt Forte will try to continue the legacy of Chicago Bears tailbacks such as Walter Payton, Gale Sayers, Red Grange and Neal Anderson. You’ll notice that last year’s starter, 2005 #4 overall Draft choice Cedric Benson isn’t on that list. Cedric the Entertainer’s less-than-entertaining off the field antics led to his dismissal from the Monsters of the Midway and opened the door for Forte, a second round (44th overall) pick out of Tulane. I had an exclusive chat with Forte after Wednesday’s night’s practice in Bourbonnais and asked him how his running style has been described.

“I would say it’s unique. It has a lot of stuff to offer, quickness, speed, power, agility and the toughness to pound the ball out every game,” he responded.

His backup will be the familiar veteran Adrian Peterson. (No, not that Adrian Peterson, the Minnesota Vikings’ NFL record setting rusher nicknamed “Purple Jesus”) Behind Peterson will be the man who put on quite an amazing show at this particular practice, the diminutive Garret Wolfe. The 5’7″ “third down back” is entering his second year out of Northern Illinois University. Last year’s Bears unit ranked 30th out of 32 NFL teams in rushing yards per game. So there is obvious reason to believe that the autumn of 2008 should see a tremendous improvement. Benson was a colossal bust when you consider how the last running back drafted this high by the Bears was “Sweetness” himself, Walter Payton.

Perhaps Forte can make the fans forget about Benson and remind them of the glory days instead. “They have a great history of running backs here, Hall of Famers, and hopefully I can add to that,” Forte concluded.

For more Chicago Sports Discussion and Fun go here

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The Sports Bank, NBC5 Street Team

From sports talk radio to internet comment threads to discussions held at sports bars, the Cubs’ Alfonso Soriano is a hot topic. Whether it’s positive or negative, depends on the week, or sometimes the day. Last Wednesday night, the Cubs leadoff hitter was a hero and local deity after driving in the winning run with a walk-off single. A week from this past Sunday he was a goat and pariah after he dropped a routine fly ball during the final inning of a loss at Pittsburgh. Oh the polarity! Does this experience seem familiar? It should, because of the season Bears quarterback Rex Grossman had in 2006. When Grossman was good, he was phenomenal, setting Bears franchise passing records and leading the NFL with seven 100+ passer rating games. “Bringing Rexyback” was even the September NFC Player of the Month. However, when he was bad, he was an abysmal “Train Rex,” producing five games with a sub-50 passer rating. This included a 0.0 in the season finale. If you’re unfamiliar with this statistic, let’s just say that you could take a random QB out of a Chicago Social Club flag football league, put him in the NFL and he would really have to try to screw up to get a 0.0 passer rating. Rex was like Forrest Gump’s description of life and a box of chocolates: you never now what you’re gonna get. 

2008 Soriano is currently the Cubs version. During his injury-plagued April, he hit .192 with just 2 HR and 5 RBI. He just finished a May (.339, 10 HR, 29 RBI) that might earn him an MLB player of the month award. And I thought the girls I dated in graduate school were unstable. So is the real Alfonso Soriano…an oft-injured $136 million dollar mistake who insists on hitting leadoff despite his subpar on-base percentage and perhaps the worst defensive left-fielder in the game today? Or is he the most exciting bat in the Cubs lineup, a powerful slugger capable of carrying a team for a whole month like he did during September of last year’s division title season? The correct answer is d.) all of the above. Grossman and Soriano are described by many different adjectives, just not “predictable.”

For more Chicago sports analysis and discussion click on “The Sports Bank” in the “Blogroll” on the right hand side of the page or simply go here.


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