Jim O'Donnell: La Russa, Kreutz and other Ins and Outs on the blazing May sports panorama
WITH THE PREMATURE SUMMER WINDS causing nothing but a surge in HVAC profits, presenting a weekend respite from the daily churn of sports and media redundancies.
A new monthly installment of An Incomplete Insouciant's Guide to current Ins and Outs on the whirring terrain:
In: Saying with great authority, "The White Sox will never win a World Series with Tony La Russa as manager." -- All of The Sleepy Senor's postgame pontificating can't hide the glaring: The team lacks consistent focus. ... In a classically run MLB organization, where does that buck stop? ... But this is a Jerry Reinsdorf sports profit center, so even a most devoted fan base is to be treated like cattle.
Out: Booing Anthony Rizzo in Chicago -- Even at Sox Park this weekend, where fate and the dictates of the conservative purse strings of the Ricketts family have placed Rizzo in the pinstripes of the New York Yankees ... he remains one of the most exemplary humans to ever play professional sports in Chicago and should forever be treated as royalty.
In: Wishin', hopin' and prayin' for any sort of break in the relentless micro-coverage of the Chicago Bears -- For Papa Bear's sake, even the hustling George Halas himself took six months off every year to count his manhole covers. ... Pre-draft, post-draft, OTAs -- thank goodness Olin Kreutz had the poi-powered insensitivity to bull rush Adam Hoge and juice the news flow around the franchise.
Out: "Grading" NFL drafts -- Once again, does the classic Phil Jackson crossover "mental masturbation" enter the frame? ... The full truth is, in The League's age of hot-heeled free agency, the annual college player sweepstakes is not the ultimate solution for elevating the short-term fortunes of even the most bottom-feeding outfit ... unless a team can find a "can't miss" at left tackle.
In: Completely unplugging from any interest in thoroughbred racing -- Nice mindset if you can get it, you can get it if you try. ... The game was at its best when it was carnivorous, nefarious and not for little boys in linen pants. ... Now its grand centerpiece -- the Kentucky Derby -- has been reduced to a rite of the American sports spring about as important as the USFL championship game.
Out: Telling starry-eyed tales of Rich Strike's longshot win in KD '22 -- OK human interest story, poor man's Seabiscuit, yahoo, yahoo -- kerplunk. ... Full truth: Winning trainer Eric Reed is a career stall mucker who campaigned a modest string at Arlington Park in 1989-90 and then bolted for easier climes. ... The colt's dream glide to first never happens if big-game cutthroats like Bill Hartack or Eric Guerin were aboard fading speedballs to gum up the path.
In: Hooking into the Chicago Wolves-Rockford IceHogs AHL divisional semifinal -- Chicago-area professional hockey hasn't been this engaging since the Blackhawks were a fully functioning operation. ... At this blue line, Andrew Poturalski and Rosemont's amazing Wolves. ... Over there, Blackhawks ace prospect Lukas Reichel and the upstreaming IceHogs. ... For Wolves fans, memories of Jason Krog and the 2008 Calder Cup. ... Another one dead ahead?
Out: Giving a gnat's gasp about anything to do with the Blackhawks -- Danny Wirtz is probably most excited about the upcoming August concert of Swedish House Mafia at the United Center. ... Pop-a-Hawk Rocky Wirtz could be in search of yet another self-exonerating "independent investigation" about something. ... Outside of the family's profit circles, who cares?
In: Quietly cheering for Max Strus as the postseason charge of the Miami Heat continues -- Two down and next stop the Eastern Conference Finals as the DePaul alum has emerged as a starting sweet spot for Erik Spoelstra. ... Who said a mid-sized fellow from Palos Hills can't be a prime contributor to a big-time team? ... Mother Deb Brinkman-Strus was a star athlete at the late, lamented Forest View High in Arlington Heights (Class of '77).
Out: Keeping the sound on for any ESPN coverage of the NBA playoffs -- Turner has the most entertaining sports studio panel in the history of American TV with Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O'Neal. ... ESPN has insightful analyst Jeff Van Gundy and then a cadre of squeakers who could have elicited every terrorist secret at Guantanamo within 24 hours of the speakers being turned up. ... Any questions?
• Jim O'Donnell's Sports and Media column appears Sunday and Thursday. Reach him at email@example.com.