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posted: 1/1/2013 1:56 PM

Editorial: When the business of sports affects fans

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The Daily Herald Editorial Board

It's days like this that remind that sports is big business.

After failing to lead the Bears to the playoffs for five of the last six seasons, Lovie Smith was shown the door on Monday.

Love him or hate him -- or merely wish you'd known what went on behind that sphinxlike visage -- odds are pretty good you have a strong opinion about Lovie and the job he did in Chicago.

He produced above-. 500 teams, on average, and took the Bears to the Super Bowl, but the Smith-era Bears won only three postseason games in nine years. And despite Devin Hester's remarkable opening-play kick return for 6, the rest of that game is best not remembered.

Lovie was always a player's coach -- an even keel guy, at least in public -- who didn't air his team's dirty laundry. He was loath to call players out. Many of us appreciated that. But at the same time, his lack of emotion drove many of us crazy.

Some fans will say Lovie's firing was way overdue -- we'll leave that to our sports columnists to haggle over -- and some will view this as throwing the baby out with the bath water, a casualty on the cusp of the Brandon Marshall dynasty.

We're reminded today that professional sports isn't really about what we, the fans, want. It's a business.

The premature end of this season could also mean that we've seen the last of Brian Urlacher in orange and blue. Or Israel Idonije. Or capable Urlacher replacement Nick Roach. Or Pro Bowl defensive tackle Henry Melton. Or D.J. Moore.

All become unrestricted free agents in March.

All are solid players, some exceptional. And all susceptible to the whims of contracts and salary caps and the like. Because while their posters may be on our walls and their stats committed to memory, in the end it's a business to them, too.

Take A.J. Pierzynski. One of the best-hitting catchers in baseball ... and no longer a member of the White Sox. Torn from our breasts to play for the Rangers. While he left for a fatter contract, he surely calmed some fans by buying a full-page newspaper ad as a love letter to the city of Chicago for making him feel at home for eight years.

The post-Stanley Cup disintegration of the Blackhawks was difficult to bear -- so many personalities and key players cast aside to satisfy salary cap regulations. Hockey fans are in a funk once again -- this time because of the ongoing strike and the growing possibility that there will be no 2012-13 season.

Perhaps on this New Year's Day it's best today to step back from the business of sports and do what we do best: cheer.

There are a couple of bowl games today you may have heard about. Northwestern is considered an even-money bet right now versus Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl. And the big underdogs -- the Huskies of Northern Illinois -- play Florida State in the Orange Bowl, so cheer on your team. Unless you attended Florida State.

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