Bobby Loesch (@bobbystompy):
With the Blackhawks dead and the Bulls, well, dead, I can't help but think where we go from here as Chicago sports fans. College football is about 100 days away, and while that can be our gateway drug to the Bears opener, we're faced with the prospect of nothing on Chicago's (major) sports horizon except -- gulp. big gulp. -- baseball. And as someone who's seen the Cubs in person (twice) and a dozen Sox games on TV, it's not a prospect I'm ready to face. Outside of Harper and Hamilton, the game hasn't really grabbed me.
So what about sports without a local focus? There's the remaining part of the NHL and NBA playoffs, right? I'm pretty much out on the NHL playoffs unless the Kings or Coyotes make some noise in the finals, but the NBA playoffs have me riveted, particularly the Western conference. It's kind of nice to watch these games without thinking what it 'means' in the context of Chicago's title chances. Instead of getting nervous as KD, Russ, and Harden dominate the Lakers, we can just marvel at their on-court genocide. On the other side of the conference semis, I look forward to the Spurs dismantling the Flop City Clippers. I've never felt more confident about an NBA series outcome in a long, long time. The East might be weak, but the C's and Heat are fun, and that should be a decent series as long as at least some of the key players stay healthy.
After NBA wraps, we should be pretty close to the summer Olympics. I bet those'll be fun. Though USA Hoops definitely has lost some luster with no D-Rose* and no Dwight Howard on the team. Just a month ago, I remember thinking this group could be better than the original Dream Team. Now? Nah. Plus Spain loses Rubio. God, injuries suck. But still, we'll have those dudes. And Phelps. And Usain Bolt. Should be pretty tidy.
And though no one else is, I'm a tennis guy, so we've got the French and Wimby on the horizon, too. Maybe life's not so bad.
(* - Is it possible or even probable Rose won't be the starting PG on the 2016 Olympic team? Has his international window closed before it ever fully opened? Maybe life is so bad.)
Ricky O'Donnell (@TUP_Ricky):
Since no one else will, I suppose I can defend local baseball for a minute. I mean, it's still pretty uninspiring, but the Cubs and White Sox are each *much* easier to take in this season than last season. Last season was waterboarding. The White Sox were "All-In", a supposed contender in the A.L. that never got its head above .500, much less threaten for even a division title. The Cubs were straight up hopeless. This year? Local baseball is a lot less repulsive.
The Sox are back to doing Sox things, which means they'll stay around .500 all season and make a vague push to win the division in the last two months. I'm not allowing myself to get too excited quite yet, but it certainly seems like they'll at least keep my attention. That's a very underrated quality in a baseball team, given that the season is 18 years long. Adam Dunn is back to being Adam Dunn: hitting .240 with a great OPB, a bunch of homers and a ton of strikeouts. Do you realize he already has more homers this year than last year? That's remarkable. It's also nice to see Alex Rios and Jake Peavy rise from the grave. I was ready to write off South Side baseball this year, but seeing all three of those guys turn in major comeback seasons has been pretty fun. All three are off to great starts. Will it last? Who knows, but each has a proven track record. And have you seen the A.L. Central? The Detroit Tigers are under .500 and the Cleveland Indians are leading the division! Right, right....don't get excited quite yet. Still: the Sox are kinda fun.
The Cubs were described to me by a friend as the "easiest bad team to watch, ever". They don't make dumb mistakes. They're great at pitching, defense and base running. Problem is, the Cubs can't hit at all. But it's still nice to see shortstop Starlin Castro develop into a true star. The ascent of first baseman Bryan LaHair has been the top story in Chicago baseball through two months. Who knows if LaHair will be able to keep it up, but his production thus far has been relatively amazing. And with Theo, the Cubs aren't so hopeless anymore. This is a throw-away season, no expectations. That's got to be a nice, stress-free feeling for Cubs fans.
Aside from that, I'm definitely all-in on the West of the NBA Playoffs. I love the Clippers, love the Thunder. I think I'm rooting for the Thunder. More than anything, I'm rooting against the Heat. It's nice to have common enemies.
I'm not a huge Olympics guy, but I'm sure I'll get into it when it's closer. The Rubio injury was a huge bummer for me. I think I might have rooted for Spain over the USA if Chris Paul was named starting point guard over D. Rose. I guess that isn't a concern now, and Rubio getting hurt really sapped a lot of my enjoyment out of the entire tournament. It'll still be fun, though.
What are you looking forward to, Z?
Z.W. Martin (@ZWMartin):
During the first round of the NHL playoffs, my roommate had a few friends in town. They happened to be Canadians and, like all Canadians, loved hockey. The weekend turned into one large discussion of how our cultures differed. Guns, alcohol prices, weed and hockey were the things we primarily discussed. At one point I proclaimed: "If the Blackhawks lose, my hockey playoff viewership will decrease by about 80%." I have been true to my word. Playoff hockey is still fun, exciting and intense to watch even if you don't have a horse in the race. It's just that I won't go out of my way to view it anymore. If it's on, I'll watch.
The NBA playoffs? I haven't watched a second of it since the Bulls' exit and probably won't watch another until next season. The NBA without the Bulls is like watching The Rolling Stones without Mick Jagger. Sure, there's still good music being played, but without the frontman, it's just three guys playing the same three chords over and over again. The NBA, to me, is very boring. I will actively change the channel if it's on my TV.
As you both know, baseball is kind of my life. I can honestly say I've watched more non-Chicago MLB games than Cubs or White Sox contests. I fall asleep to 'Quick Pitch' every night and try to watch as many games on MLB Network or even -- gasp -- ESPN that I can. I like to watch teams that I am not intimately familiar with. It makes me a better fan/coach/writer/annoying-guy-at-bar.
This is my favorite time of the year for baseball. The Chicago sports landscape isn't bogged down with needless updates from Bourbonnais. Right now, the only teams in Chicago that are ACTUALLY PLAYING are baseball teams. Use this time to learn about your local teams. About the sport you may have neglected. It's great. Really. I promise. Go to a game. (Tickets are STILL available for Friday's White Sox/Cubs game.) Experience what you've missed. Trust me. It will be worth your time.
As for the Olympics... I'm actually really excited, but for selfish reason. It's the only time of every-other-year that I can be a true asshole. A REAL American and not feel bad about it. It's also pretty cool to watch sports you don't normally get to view. Basketball in the Olympics is whatever to me because I get to see basketball at the level or better every night for what seems like eleven months of the year. The niche sports, the swimming, the running, whatever, are the true joy of the Olympics. I will really get into a truly stupid sport and I can't wait.
Plus, the Commies at the IOC have deemed baseball a non-Olympic event for some reason, so I really have no sport in the fight and will just enjoy the entire experience. It's seriously something to look forward to, even if you are an un-American, Nihilistic hipster like Ricky.