Is The Window Closed For The Bulls Title Hopes ?

By Lamar Battle

Home loss against the Cavs in a game that saw the Bulls seemingly quit.

The Bulls lost in six games to a Cavalier team akin to a wounded animal. Starting power forward Kevin Love was out for the playoffs and starting point guard Kyrie Irving was seriously hampered with an injured ankle.

Could the Bulls finally get past long time foe ( and soon to be G.O.A.T.) Lebron James 53120-derrick-rose-chicago?

No !

What seemed to happen was a Bulls team that literally gave up and accepted defeat in front of the home faithful. The once vaunted Chicago defense started taking on water and the players suddenly appeared to forget how to score.

Did coach Thibodeau fail to make the needed adjustments for victory?

Former Bulls coach( as of today) Thibs was the subject of a season long feud with Bulls General Manager Gar Forman and team V.P. of Basketball Operations John Paxson.
Coach Thibodeau was undermined in front of his team from the start of the season ( key players were approached and told the coach does not have teir backs) establishing him as a lame duck coach.

To be fair, Thibs was accused constantly of overworking his players ( possibly contributing to key injuries) and perhaps suffering from a lack of offensive creativity in his play calling.

There were adjustments that could have been made on offense.

But, there is a flip side.

What if the Cavalier game was lost in January when a players mini mutiny almost cost coach Thibs his Job? Bulls players were harping on each other for not working hard enough while simultaneously complaining that that the coach was working them too hard.

What if coach Thibodeau lost his team at that point ( in January) when, after calling for a team practice he was over ruled by John Paxson who suggested instead that the team have a meeting where players could voice their concerns.

These were indeed uncharted waters for the Bulls, an organization that always seemed to avoid the type of coach killing players that always popped up on mediocre teams.
Bulls management has always suffered through acrimonious relationships with their coaches but players rarely if ever got themselves involved.

One thing is certain, when a coach loses his platform as the leader it doesn’t matter much which offensive and defensive schemes he employs.

What if the Bulls lacked the personnel to compete against the Cavaliers of the world ? Pau Gasol was old, Joakim Noah, Kirk Hinrich and Taj Gibson were getting old and unlike the Cavaliers, Spurs, Blazers, Warriors and Rockets the Bulls possessed only one player who could create for himself and others, ( Derrick Rose).

The NBA is a players league that is changing as we speak. Teams are trending towards 3 point shooting, speed, length and athleticism.

Maybe, just maybe the Bulls were running the sets best suited for their personnel?

What if any moves need to be made by the Bulls to rebound ?

The team has rights to the 22nd pick in this years draft so don’t expect much help there.
The team has immediate needs in rebounding and shot blocking ( for those of us who caught Tristan Thompson’s one man destruction of the Bulls front line).

Basically, playing time has too be found for young players like Tony Snell, Nikola Mirotic’ and Doug McDermott.
Picking up a tall scoring back up point guard would also be a step in the right direction and as hard as it may seem, tough decisions have to be made regarding Hinrich, Noah and Gibson.

This all leads us to the question?

Is the championship window for this current Bulls version closed ?

Answer: How long before LeBron James turns forty?

You don’t Get Punished for Cheating…You Get Punished for Getting Caught Cheating !

New “D’s Corner”…

Look, Tom Brady cheated!

I’m sick and tired of all of the pundits trying to generalize, parse words or use semantics when describing what is obvious to any non-nut! The NFL found MORE than enough evidence against Tom Brady to determine that he played a HUGE part in having the balls used in the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts deflated. PERIOD!

Ok, most athletes and or coaches (hell, teams and organizations) do whatever they can to gain a competitive edge against their opponent…

Examples: A particular MLB team leads the league in stolen bases so let’s have our grounds crew ‘water down’ our infield so as to limit their traction on our field making it harder for them to steal against us or this NFL team has some of the worst fans on earth so let’s ‘pipe in’ crowd noise to make it harder for the opposing team to hear plays being called because we can’t generate that noise organically ourselves or one (or more) of the players on a particular NHL team has their sticks ‘curved’ beyond the league limit because it allows them to control the puck better or an NBA coach asks one of his players to ‘intentionally’ knock a cup of soda out of his hands onto the court to gain an additional timeout…I could go on and on but you get my point.

And you know what? As a former high school, college and semi-pro baseball and football player I didn’t then nor do I now have a huge problem with it. It’s called trying to gain a competitive edge any way you can. It’s been going on since the beginning of all sports and will never stop.

He, like most QB’s in the NFL likes his football’s a certain way which I understand but in at least this case (and I’m sure other cases) the football’s didn’t meet regulation inflation (hey, that rhymes). Anyway, is it the ‘worst’ thing you can do in the NFL? Of course not!

When I played baseball in high school I was a ‘student’ of the game (thank mom’s for that) and I learned how to steal the other teams ‘signs’…this ability I was able to acquire was then and is still now in all levels of baseball considered cheating. My attitude was/is if you’re dumb enough to ‘tip off’ your signs I’m dumb enough to steal em’. I saw it as no more than ‘gaining a competitive edge’.

Those who label cheating as cheating no matter the severity will never ‘get it’ and will ask that the perpetrator be punished to the ‘full extent of the law’ and those who feel like me and know it’s simply ‘part of the game’ will never look at it as ‘truly’ cheating.

All that being said…do you REALLY want to know why the NFL punished Tom Brady with a four game suspension (pending appeal)?

Mainly because he got caught (the preponderance of evidence was overwhelming) but here’s the REAL reason for the severity of the punishment…Tom Brady and that ‘smug-ass’ and ‘arrogant’ attitude of his and the way he went about trying to be ‘above it all’ as if to say…”do you know who I am?”!

I learned a lot from my parents and one thing I distinctly remember my dad saying to me was…”know when the jig is up”!

You’ve been busted, you’ve been caught, give it up. Admit what you did and ‘move on’! Not Tom Brady…he decided to basically ‘double-down’ and come very close to Ryan Braun-ville by trying to implicate two team employees (and why would the Patriots suspend both these guys before the league could get to them if ‘nothing’ happened?) and have them take the fall. That I don’t respect and neither did the league and this is one time where I’m with the league. He deliberately went out of his way to ‘stall’ the investigation as best as he could and then refused to cooperate in any meaningful way even after knowing…”the jig was up”!

And of course, after last year’s Ray Rice debacle (by the way, you will NEVER see him in the league again) the NFL wants to make sure that punishments are doled out properly and also, don’t forget ‘Spy-Gate’…the Patriots have a ‘history’ of (getting caught) cheating therefore, you get (what some deem as harsh) the four game suspension.

Do I hate the Patriots? You damn right I do…do I feel sorry for them? Not in this life! But (as I’ve stated in these pages before) I also hate the Yankees, Packers, Notre Dame, Duke, etc…etc…however, I can hate a team and STILL respect what they’ve accomplished and how they go about winning in which case I still respect how the Patriots simply win!

But the Patriots to me ‘major in the minor’…in other words, they cheat when they really don’t have to. They win primarily because they have more talent than anyone else and a better coach than most…that’s the only competitive edge they need. They don’t win because they cheat. ‘Spy-Gate’ and ‘Deflate-Gate’ really had nothing to do with them winning Super Bowl’s. So you might ask…why did they cheat? Same reasons Barry Bonds, Roger Clemons and Alex Rodriguez cheated…paranoid, arrogant, greedy and stupid to use a few adjectives!

None of them needed to…they all would have been Hall of Famer’s (Brady will get in for the NFL) anyway because they were extraordinary and superior talents…just not always in the ‘up stairs department’ if you know what I mean! They all got caught and are now paying a price for it (Bonds, Clemons and Rodriguez the ultimate price…no Hall of Fame…probably ever).

I’m about to tell my age now but they remind me of Richard Nixon back in 1972 ‘bugging’ the Democratic Headquarters at the Watergate Hotel (for those of you too young to know or too old to remember…the term ‘Gate’ e.g. ‘Spy-Gate’, ‘Deflate-Gate’, ‘Bounty-Gate’, etc…when speaking on any major scandal derives from the Water’gate’ break-in in 1972) when Nixon wound up winning 49 of 50 states in that year’s election anyway! What the hell do you care what’s in the Democratic Headquarters? Of course, we all know what happened after that…Nixon was ‘forced’ to resign…not because he was the ONLY President to ever cheat in office but because he was one of the few to get ‘caught’ cheating while in office! Nixon got greedy, paranoid, arrogant and…well, you get the picture!

The only thing worse that cheating when you don’t have to is getting CAUGHT cheating when you don’t have to. Think back to your school days, if you truly practiced and studied for a test and knew you knew the answers why would you cheat? That makes no sense right? In essence, that’s what Brady (and the other aforementioned players and Nixon did…cheat on a test they already knew the answers to). More often than not, we get caught doing wrong when we get greedy and the cheating is unnecessary (ever wonder why ‘greed’ is one of the seven sins?).

So the next time you hear someone say while defending Brady or the Patriots, “well they all cheat” just tell em’…”yeah, but they don’t all get caught”!

Daryl Wren

Are The Chicago Bulls Soft ?

When did things start to change?

Chicago Sun-times columnist Rick Telander suggested that he resembles a big rusty anchor. The person of note is one Zaza Pachulia, starting center for the Milwaukee Bucks. Blog co-conspirator A.J. suggested that up to game two of the NBA playoff series between the Chicago Bulls and the Milwaukee Bucks the Bulls were more or less having their way.

Only after an incident during game two when Zaza hit Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic’ in the back of the head only to follow later with another elbow to the head during a scrum did this series actually become a series.

Of course this could be a bit of a stretch to suggest that this incident was the catalyst for a Milwaukee resurgence but after it happened the Bucks took the Bulls to triple overtime and then defeated them twice prior to game six scheduled for Thursday night in Milwaukee.

During the Buck victories Zaza Pachulia could be clearly seen literally taking the ball right out of the hands of Bulls players after rebounds.

The Bulls have tough players I mean Derrick Rose is from Chicago’s Englewood community and others like Kirk Hinrich, Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler back down from no one.

But it wasn’t until game three where 161 pound back up point guard Aaron Brooks landed a punch in the chest of Bucks guard Jarryd Bayless that I was reminded that he may have been the first Bulls player since former center Bill Cartwright to fire off a retaliatory foul for his team.

Now a team does not have to be well versed in the art of hand to hand combat to win a championship but it was interesting to see Nikola Mirotic’ approach Aaron after the punch to offer comfort, support and probably thanks.

Intimidation is and has always been a part of sport and teams normally address it by maintaining focus and execution however the Bulls now have a hungry, well coached and motivated team in their way.

The Answer ?

The answer is no, the Bulls are not a soft team . They have historically been a defensive oriented team even during the halcyon years of Micheal and Scottie.
These Bulls are known for a physical brand of defense which includes fighting aggressively through screens and chucking cutters coming through the lane.

What may be lacking is the need for time spent together during this injury ravaged season. That is one of the reasons Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau kept stressing the need for increased practice time.
Injuries to key players have played a part in inhibiting the progress needed to improve defensively.

The team, as it currently stands is engaged in a bit of a dog fight with a young, long, athletic and suddenly awake Milwaukee Bucks team and the Bulls may have to take advantage of their experience by controlling game tempo and by exploiting their size advantage.

In the meantime:

Bucks guard Middleton is a deadly shooter, stay home on defense !

Forward Giannis Antetokounmpo must be kept out of the lane as he and point guard Micheal Carter Williams are poor outside shooters. Play off of them and step up high to cut off dribble penetration when they drive.

Center Zaza ( the aforementioned anchor) Pachulia is not a shot blocker and should be challenged off the drive…If you dare.

And finally the Bulls might want to send in a big man to follow Rose or Brooks as they attack the lane. Drive and dish opportunities along with lob passes should result.

The Bucks collapse their entire defense at the first inkling of dribble penetration. The Bulls guards should pass out to shooters where the resulting second or third pass rotations should lead to wide open shots.

Next up? The Cavaliers and Vader.

BO DON’T KNOW

New “D’s Corner”,

“Bo DON’T know”!

Look, I hate all things Duke, if there was/is a “I Hate Duke” club I could be the Chairman!

That being said, I have always respected their program for doing what they do best (to my chagrin) which is win! They’ve now won a total of five NCAA basketball championships under Mike Krzyzewski since he took over the program in 1980 with countless amounts of Runner-Up, Final Four and Sweet Sixteen appearances. Duke won their 5th title Monday night beating Wisconsin in Indianapolis 68 to 63 but I’m not here to talk about Duke because what they did (see above) is “old hat’!

Naw, I’m saving my rant for Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan who (prior to Monday night) I’ve always liked and who’s team I rooted for but then again (see above) I would root for escaped convicts if they were playing Duke so that’s not really a good litmus test. In reality I had no ‘dog in the fight’ but I tend to lean towards the ‘underdog’ whenever such a situation resides so Monday night was no different. After building (what I thought was) a sizeable lead against Duke late in the second half Wisconsin was four minutes away from glory but Duke being Duke went on a 12 to 5 run and put the game away. So ‘dummy me’ expected after the game a while obviously upset coach over losing probably the biggest (and maybe last of this magnitude…he is 67) game of his life a well thought out, mature, contrite and conciliatory concession response from Coach Ryan once the media came calling. Especially, after the comments over this past weekend by Kentucky player Andrew Harrison towards Wisconsin player Frank Kaminski (saying “F” him and calling him the “N” word) and the media backlash Harrison (deservedly so) received. And while Harrison did apologize (which Kaminski accepted) some of Kentucky’s players were also ‘called out’ (deservedly so again) for NOT shaking hands after their loss to Wisconsin and showing ‘poor sportsmanship’.

But what we got instead was a sore loser coach showing ‘poor sportsmanship’ who spent the entirety of his time with the media after the game ‘whining’ about the referee’s (who were bad…for BOTH teams) and the NCAA system of ‘Rent A Player’ or ‘One and Done'(which is really more on the NBA than the NCAA)!

Huh?

Coach Ryan went on to boast how Wisconsin doesn’t do ‘Rent A Player’s’ and how he “likes to build from within (sic)…it’s just the way he is”! Oh really? So are you trying to tell me coach that if you had a chance to sign a Jabari Parker or a Jahlil Okafor knowing you’d probably only have them for one year you wouldn’t take em’? You can ‘miss me’ with that one coach! Duke didn’t create this process (I can’t even believe I’m defending Duke right now), the NBA stipulates that college basketball players must be 19 years of age and ONE year removed from high school in order to enter the NBA draft. Sounds more like an NBA thang versus a NCAA (or Duke) thang! I remember a time when Coach Krzyzewski himself hated this process (anybody remember the William Avery, Corey Maggette and Elton Brand years?) but guess what he did once it became the ‘lay of the land’? He adapted and accepted it for what it is (like it or not).

So since Coach Ryan wanted to come off like he runs such a ‘pristine’ program I decided to do a little homework on his Wisconsin program to see just how ‘above it all’ his program REALLY is. But what I found was while he’s done great things with his players ON the court for the last 14 years at Wisconsin (multiple Big Ten championships and NCAA appearances) his success rate for his players OFF the court reads a little sumpthin like this…they have the lowest graduation rate for Black players (ZERO…ZERO?) and the third lowest overall! They have historically graduated less the 50% of their players (Black, White or other…) for years!

Based on those facts he should take a page from Coach Krzyzewski, Coach John Calipari of Kentucky and coaches from other top programs who have learned how to exploit this process…hell, at least they ain’t lying and pretending that it’s something different than what it really is! Why not adopt these coaches philosophies Coach Ryan? It’s not like your graduating your players anyway! I think the Coach Krzyzewski’s and Coach Calipari’s of the world would prefer to call it…’Won and Done’!

I guess Coach Ryan was right when he says they don’t do ‘One and Done’ at Wisconsin…sounds more to me like he prefers ‘ALMOST Won…and DUMB’!

“D”

FOR SALE: NBA Head coach.

New “D’s Corner”,

FOR SALE: One of the top coaches in the NBA…asking price…NOTHING!

I have been and will always be a Chicago Bulls fan for as long as I live (1966 and counting…), that being said I can’t remember being more angry at ‘my’ team than right now and here’s why…

The Bulls have had a total (so far) of twenty two head coaches in their illustrious almost fifty year history and save for a few (Johnny ‘Red’ Kerr, Dick Motta, Jerry Sloan, Doug Collins, Phil Jackson and now Tom Thibodeau) most of them have been in a word…TERRIBLE!

I ain’t no mathematician but six out of twenty two with one of them (Sloan) having his best coaching years in Utah don’t put you on the ‘credit’ side of the ledger that’s for damn sure.

Instead of going waaayyy back down memory lane I’ll just list the coaches we’ve had since we won our last of six championships (all under Jackson)…Tim Floyd, Bill Berry, Bill Cartwright, Pete Myers, Scott Skiles, Pete Myers (again), Jim Boylan, Vinnie Del Negro and now Thibodeau.

Are you kidding me? I count seven terrible coaches who had no coaching success before we hired them and none after they left. So now after finally striking ‘gold’ with a coach in Thibodeau (who won Coach of the Year his first season as head coach) who has led the Bulls to the playoffs each year he’s been their coach and only taking one ‘healthy’ squad (the 2011 team which went all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals) into said playoffs (this season’s litany of injuries notwithstanding) the word is he may be out after this season. Rumored to be replaced by former Bulls player and current Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg (who has a better chance of joining the “Un-Magnificent Seven” I listed above before ever becoming a coach like Thibodeau). Why?

The ‘company line’ is because he plays his players too long during games which also leads to injuries. Supposedly, the players are too tired by the time the playoffs start. In other words a coach who’s been in the NBA for over twenty five years never learned how to manage player minutes.

What?

Yeah, the reason we’ve not won a championship isn’t because your star player (Derrick Rose) has been hurt for the last three years (missing the playoffs the last three years save one game in 2012) it’s because the best coach you’ve had since Jackson (by far) doesn’t know how to manage his player’s minutes. This from a coach who was an assistant under quite a few NBA coaches (Bill Musselman, Jerry Tarkanian, John Lucas, Jeff Van Gundy and Doc Rivers) to name a few. Now you’re telling me he never learned how to manage player minutes under NONE of these coaches? Of all of the injuries sustained by Bulls players over the past four years I can’t think of one that was due to players playing too many minutes. Can somebody please tell me when this new era of NBA players need rest during the season? Call me ‘old school’ but I don’t remember players like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Jerry West, Julius Erving, Charles Barkley, Rick Barry, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, etc…having to take time off during the season (unless injured) because they were tired…are you kidding me?

To only pick out current Bulls management John Paxson and Gar Forman (current VP and GM) would be unfair only because Bulls management (despite some of our successes) has been bad pretty much for the last almost fifty years and counting!

We won six championships in eight years (1991, 92, 93 and 1996, 97 and 98) and granted it would once again be unfair to not give the previous management (Jerry Krause) some credit but let’s face it, having arguably the greatest player who ever played the game (in Michael Jordan) was your equivalent of “the BIG joker” (for you “Spades” players like me). Thibodeau should be getting a contract extension not being threatened with possible termination. These rumors have been going on for a while now (several years) so if they aren’t true or if the Bulls really want Thibodeau as their coach long term why haven’t they squashed them yet?

Let’s keep it real…whenever a good coach is rumored to be fired (Jim Harbaugh, Doc Rivers, Mark Jackson) it’s never just one thing or what’s being told or leaked by players and/or management. It’s usually granular, grainy, you know, something fine but course at the same time.

Sometimes, it can be as simple as coach and management not getting along either personally, philosophically, or both but usually, it’s deeper than that. Rumors of Tom Thibodeau being fired started almost as soon as he was hired and I can’t understand why. He currently has a .637 winning percentage in the regular season for his last five seasons. Once again, I ain’t no mathematician but a .637 winning percentage is practically winning two out of every three games last I went to school. He’s done more with less (Kyle Korver, Nate Robinson, DJ Augustin, CJ Watson, Marco Bellineli, etc…just to name a few) than any coach I can recall. All I listed were average players (at best) before ‘Thibs’ got a hold of them and ALL went on to sign huge contracts and one (Bellineli) won a championship with other teams after they left him because he made them better players.

No, he has not won a title yet (who could when their best player has been almost non-existent for the last three years) however, NO COACH could have done a better job with the hand ‘Thibs’ has been dealt these last few years and we are closer to winning a title WITH ‘Thibs’ than we would be without him. If Bulls management makes this move Thibodeau will have a gig before he walks out of the door…there are teams who will ‘fire’ their current head coaches just to hire ‘Thibs’…what are the Bulls thinking?

In the end, I don’t doubt that Thibodeau, Paxson, Forman and the players want to win…it just appears that maybe all of them have a different view of how to do that. And if Bulls management feels that strongly that ‘Thibs’ isn’t the coach to get them to the next level maybe it’s best for all parties move on.

We may never truly know what caused this rift between ‘Thibs’ and current management but I do know this…based on Bulls history…if they do decide to fire him or let him walk/resign we better hold on to our pictures of those championship teams we had because it’ll be a long time before we find another Tom Thibodeau! And I’ll go out on a limb a say this, I bet whichever team ‘Thibs’ goes to (I’ll put early money on Cleveland) he’ll win an NBA title long before the Bulls ever do! I’ll put up my paycheck (which is starting to look more like a bill) on that!

Hey, Fred Hoiberg’s #3 Iowa State team was just eliminated in the first round (Thursday) of the 2015 NCAA Tournament by #14 UAB so he might be available now…no time like the present right?

With his team’s performance Thursday it sounds like he’s the perfect fit to be the next head coach of the Chicago Bulls!

NOTE: RIP Jack Haley 1964-2015 (Chicago Bulls 1988-89 and 1995-96)

“D”

D is a regular contributor to thestartinglineup.net

Rules or Hypocrisy ?

New “D’s Corner”…

Rules or Hypocrisy?

The Jackie Robinson West team was recently stripped of its Little League U.S. Championship by the governing body of Little League International due to residency violations!

Before I delve into this situation I would like to share a story with all who read this column about a personal and similar situation I experienced before I give my take on JRW!

In 1974 I played on a Little League Softball Team called “The Fulton 49ers” that played in an organized Block Club League (ages 13-17) out of the Garfield Park Chicago Park District located on the West Side of Chicago.

The name “49ers” is distinctive because in order to play on this team you had to live in the 4900 block of Fulton St. in Chicago on the West Side. I lived however, in the 5000 block of Fulton St. and technically was ineligible to play on that team. Excuse my lack of modesty, but because I was the best player on that team and I grew up playing with all of the members of that team I was allowed to play simply by one of the mothers of the Block Club board listing me as ‘living’ at her address.

Our 1974 team went 0 and 14 that year so NOBODY cared where any of us lived because we ‘stunk’! Fast forward one year later…1975…our coach on the 1974 team resigned and we got a new coach…the late, great Ernie Terrell (RIP)!

Yes! THAT Ernie Terrell, the famous boxer who fought and lost to Muhammed Ali in the Houston Astrodome in 1968 (with Ali shouting “say my name” because of Terrell’s insistence on calling him “Clay”)! However, Ernie Terrell was our coach ‘in name only’ (he dated one of the women on the Block Club board at the time). Because we were so bad the previous year the league wanted to kick us out and replace us with another Block Club team ‘in waiting’ but because his name carried ‘weight’ he was needed to grant us at least one more year.

However, our ‘real’ coach was a gentleman named Bob Johnson and he was a great coach for us because he really took time with us and loved the game. But because we were so bad the year before most of the 1974 team quit due to lack of interest. Bob was somewhat new to the neighborhood so he asked me (I was the team captain) to ‘recruit’ us some new players since I grew up in the neighborhood and knew pretty much everybody. And I did, I loved recruiting and I went around the neighborhood and recruited the best players (all within the age range and within a two block radius) I knew…guys like (I’ll use their nicknames) “Tony Rome”, “Jethro Bodine”, “Bay-Bay”, “Pompeo”, “Baptiest” and a few others…and guess what?

We went from 0 and 14 in 1974 to 17 and 0 in 1975 and won the league championship! Now, EVERYBODY cared where we lived? Why?

Easy, because we won the damn championship after going winless the season before. Why care now? Winning does that…it brings scrutiny, second guessing, jealousy, envy, you name it (see the New England Patriots and “Deflategate”). But what it also brings are those who now want to get religion and make sure YOU played within the rules (even if they didn’t) those are usually the losing teams who could care less about themselves and everybody else who also may have also broke the rules.

I went out at 15 years old (I’m not blaming the adults) and put together the best team I possibly could and my only rules concern was everybody meeting the age requirement (you can’t have any 19 and 20 year old’s on your team…THAT to me was cheating). Plus, since most of the 1974 team quit there weren’t enough boys left in the 4900 block of Fulton St. to field a team…I HAD to ‘go outside’ of the block. However, I still knew I was breaking the rules but my attitude was “I’m sure all the other teams players don’t live on their respective blocks” so if everybody else is doing it…well…you get my point. Is it still breaking the rules? ABSOLUTELY!

I would love to close this column with some fantastic moralistic act on my part but I can’t and I won’t! I willingly broke the rules by recruiting players I knew didn’t live in the 4900 block of Fulton St. and I realized there may be consequences but I/we (because the Block Club board knew) were willing to take that chance.

So at the end of the day while most teams in the league whispered about us nothing ever came of it. We received our championship trophy at an outdoor ceremony from former NBA forward Mickey Johnson who at that time played for the Chicago Bulls. We were never stripped of our title and I’m (as you can tell) still proud of what we accomplished as a team some forty years later.

Why didn’t the league or any other team investigate and/or turn us in? Probably because I was right in my assumption that they were doing the same thing so if ‘we’ go down they ‘all’ go down. This is where the hypocrisy comes in.

Back to JRW…did they break the rules? It appears they did according to the rules set forth by the Little League International governing body. Was it wrong? Absolutely! Should they be punished? Yes! Should their punishment be this severe? I say no!

These rumors had been floating for months (many say JRW had been breaking the rules for years) and at one point the Little League International governing body deemed the matter closed. However, they received so much increased and intense pressure from various coaches (here in Illinois and Nevada) and apparently from an investigative reporter from DNA Info Chicago who had ‘new’ information to share that they had no choice but to re-open the case hence their decision.

If many knew JRW had been breaking the rules for so long why wait until AFTER JRW won the Little League U.S Championship to get religion?

Now it comes out that Evergreen Park, IL Little League VP Chris Janes (who brought the majority of these allegations AFTER JRW beat one of his teams 42 to 3) ALSO tried recruiting players he knew didn’t meet residency requirements for a team in his league…talk about hypocrisy!

Look, rules are rules (no matter how dumb) and if they are broken there should be consequences but sometimes, when you have a rule that’s almost unenforceable it’s time to examine the rule not necessarily those who may be breaking it. Stripping these kids of their title I feel is a punishment that doesn’t fit the crime. They earned that ON the field!

Taking the title away from these kids does absolutely nothing but hurt the kids. They played on the team they were told they could play on by adults who we assume knew the rules. If anything, punish the adults…not the kids!

Am I to believe that every player on every team in the Little League International governing body met the residency requirements? Unless you can tell me the ONLY team that didn’t meet residency requirements was JRW you can miss me with that!

JRW, you know ‘in your hearts’ no matter what, YOU are champions! They can take the trophies and wins but they can’t take what you did and what we and the rest of the world saw you do!

So here’s to you Jackie Robinson West…oh, and by the way…Happy Black History Month!

D

D can be seen also on thestartinglineup.net

Mr. Cub (1931-2015)

New “D’s Corner”…

Mr. Cub! (1931 – 2015)

We lost not only a Chicago sports legend recently with the passing of “Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks but we also lost a baseball legend.

For anyone growing up in 1960’s and early 1970’s Chicago it was hard ‘not’ to grow up a Cubs fan. Why? Because the Cubs were synonymous with Chicago sports culture at that time. WGN Channel 9 was their station and showed ALL of their games even when it had to ‘bump’ the ever so popular ‘Bozo’s Circus’ which was deemed sacrilegious to many children growing up at that time.

The Chicago Cubs were Wrigley Field, Jack Brickhouse (it is sacrilegious in my opinion to associate Harry Carey as ‘the voice’ of the Cubs when we growing up in that era know who the ‘true’ voice was and is) calling the games and of course, Ernie Banks.

I used to always feel because of Ernie’s infectious personality, smile and friendly demeanor his baseball skills were often overlooked.

How about we unravel his pedigree…

Ernie Banks was born in Dallas, Texas in 1931 as the oldest of 11 and legend has it he was not very interested in baseball as a child and had to be bribed into playing by his father who played for black semi-pro teams in Texas. Eventually, young Ernie decided to ‘pick up’ the sport (along with basketball, football and track) and was noticed by none other than the great ‘Cool Papa Bell’ and eventually signed by the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro American League.

Ernie signed with the Chicago Cubs in 1953 and spent 19 years (1953 – 1971) in the major leagues (all with the Cubs), he was their first black player, he made the All-Star team 11 times, he won back-to-back MVP’s (1958 and 1959), one Gold Glove and of course hit 512 home runs in his illustrious career. He was voted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame on his first ballot in 1977.

After Ernie retired in 1971 he became a coach for the Cubs for a few years. Once he retired completely from the game Ernie became active in the Chicago community by founding a charitable organization, the owner of the first ‘black owned’ Ford dealership in the US and made an unsuccessful bid for Alderman in Chicago. In 1999, he was named to the MLB All Century Team and in 2013, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama for his contribution to sports.

Ernie was always known for the famous catch phrase…”let’s play two” because he so loved the game of baseball he always wanted to play two games a day.

We lost Ernie on January 23rd of this year and while he is no longer here with us his legacy will live on in Chicago and baseball lore forever!

He was given the unofficial nickname “Mr. Cub” and not only did he earn it but it’s very safe to say that no other Cubs player will ever be referred to by that moniker!

Ernie, you will never be forgotten and the next time we “play two”…we will ALWAYS think of you!

Sleep well “Mr. Cub”!

D

Daryl Wren can can also be found on Thestartinglineup.net