I’m obviously a die-hard football fan if you haven’t noticed, so I just realized the NBA tipped off recently. I know a large contingency of people are really excited about this season’s engaging story lines such as the return of Derrick Rose, the new look Brooklyn Nets, and the rest of the league trying to prevent a Heat three-peat. I’m only really following along with my hometown Bulls for the moment, because we all know the NBA season doesn’t really matter until April.
So I’m following the Bulls from afar, all while watching as much Blackhawks hockey as humanly possible and keeping my finger on the pulse of the Cubs managerial search. This, along with work, being a husband and father, and cramming as much football down my throat is pretty much how I fill my week.
People outside of Chicago know the athletes the City of Broad Shoulders revere and hold dear: Jordan, Pippen, Payton, Toews, Kane, Sandberg, Thomas. These are household names for even the least educated out-of-towners. I wanted to introduce people from outside of Chicago to the lesser known Chicago sports heroes. The little guys who came up big in the most pressure packed situations are the guys I love and remember (and can giggle uncontrollably at their complete randomness).
Most of us who either loved or hated the Chicago Bulls of the 1990s can remember the major supporting cast members of the six title teams: Pippen, Grant, Rodman, Kukoc, Kerr, Paxson. The list goes on. The guys you might not remember are the Dennis Hopsons, Bison Deles, and Jud Buechlers of the world who logged minor minutes during those championship runs. My favorite minor cast member is, and always has been Bobby Hansen.
Hansen was a 6’6″ shooting guard from the University of Iowa who had his best statistical success as a member of the Utah Jazz in the late 1980s. He shot 32% from three point land over his nine year career, averaging 6.9 points per game in 19.2 minutes a night. He was never an all-star, and the only highlight I bothered to look at was the night he broke Michael Jordan’s ankles with a cross over and missed this lay-up.
The Bulls acquired Hansen early on in the 1991-92 season and he appeared in 66 games with no bigger appearance than Game Six of the 1992 NBA Finals. The Bulls trailed 79-64 at the start of the fourth quarter and Phil Jackson decided to start the decisive quarter with a lineup consisting of Scottie Pippen, Scott Williams, Stacey King, B.J. Armstrong and Hansen. A very unorthodox move proved brilliant as the Bulls moved the ball around the key and B.J. found an open Hansen in the corner for a three that started a 12-2 over three minutes to close the gap to six points, which the Bulls would eventually overcome and win the second of six championships over an eight year period.
What makes Hansen a Chicago sports hero? He retired after the 1992 Finals, going out on top. His 3.2 ppg and 75% shooting from beyond the arc (OK, he was 3-4) in the Finals proved valuable in this Bulls run. If the Bulls hadn’t gone 72-10 four seasons later, the 1992 team probably would have been considered the greatest of the Bulls dynasty. Plus, look at his chest hair.
Gary Gaetti is the poster child for 1980s major league mustaches. He was the greatest player on the Minnesota Twins RBI Baseball roster (let’s avoid the argument for Kirby Puckett or Tom Brunansky here. I will debate you into the ground). After manning third base for the World Champion Twins in 1987, Gaetti would become a journeyman, playing for the Angels, Royals and Cardinals before being signed by the Cubs in August of 1998.
Gaetti provided stability for the Cubs as they went 13-11 in September and forced a one game playoff for the National League Wild Card against the San Francisco Giants, a game I attended as a sixteen year old. In fact, Gaetti’s fifth inning HR off Mark Gardner broke a scoreless tie and sparked the Cubs to a 5-3 victory before eventually being swept by the Atlanta Braves. Sure, he went 1-11 with four strikeouts in the NLDS, but as Cubs fans know, all Cubs suck once they reach the playoffs.
Gaetti will always be remembered as a Chicago hero by me because his play in 37 games down the stretch during that 1998 season. The Cubs hadn’t been to the playoffs since 1989 and when players do special things to get the Cubs to the playoffs, those acts are considered heroic.
Huet is not a Chicago Sports hero because of anything he contributed on the ice for the 2010 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks. He is heroic because his terrible goaltending led to coach Joel Quenneville handing the starting goaltender job to rookie Antti Niemi and the Hawks never looked back. If Huet hadn’t sucked so bad (he gave up seven goals in his final NHL game to the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets), Niemi probably isn’t the starting goalie in the playoffs and we probably don’t win the cup. Plus, he was French.
The Ultraback is one of my favorite Bears of all time for his contributions to a bad era of Chicago Bears football. He started his career as a fullback before coach Dave Wannstedt realized that Harris was his best tailback. The Wannstedt era was not known for it’s greatness, as the Bears made the playoffs once and went 24-40 in his six seasons.
My personal favorite game of Harris’s career was November 24th, 1996 (my first Bears game), where Harris out rushed future Hall of Famer Barry Sanders on the way to a 31-14 Bears victory. Not many Bears outgained Sanders in his time with Detroit, as he went for 100 yards rushing in ten of nineteen career meetings with the Monsters of the Midway. I even called a radio pregame show in 2002 to tell Harris how much I appreciated his effort that day.
Here are my Week 10 Fantasy Football Plays/Stays. I nailed it here last week with Eddie Royal and Josh McCown as Plays and Vincent Jackson as a Stay, so let’s keep the momentum going:
Shonn Greene, RB Tennesse Titans
Greene has missed much of the 2013 season, but returned last week to the dismay of Chris Johnson owners. With Greene promised to tote the rock fifteen times (provided the game situation played out correctly), Johnson’s already plummeting value was prepared to hit rock bottom. Fortunately, the game situation played out optimally, and the Titans ran the ball like crazy all over a St. Louis defense that is allowing the third most fantasy points to running backs.
The situation gets sweeter this week as the Jacksonville Jaguars (allowing the most fantasy points to opposing running backs in 2013) come to LP Field to get (likely) their ninth spanking of the season. You have to figure if the Titans can run it thirty two times against the Rams, there might be forty carries to go around this Sunday. Start Greene with supreme confidence in a game that could feature plenty of garbage time. I expect 70-80 total yards and a score for Greene this week and would likely start him over fantasy dumpster fires like Ray Rice. PLAY
Andre Johnson, WR Houston Texans
Don’t chase fantasy stats, people. Yes, we all loved what we saw from rookie Case Keenum on Sunday night. One would have to figure that Johnson will be the focal point of the Arizona Cardinals coaching staff coming off their Week 9 bye. The Cards have allowed only four WR touchdowns at home this season, two of them by Calvin Johnson. Only two WRs have gone over 100 yards receiving on Arizona this year, one of those being Calvin Johnson.
Andre Johnson has been an elite WR in this league for a long time, but he is not Calvin Johnson elite. Arizona will be up to the task this week, and although benching Andre3000 outright isn’t a highly recommended play, if you have great matchups to exploit, I say roll with them. Johnson will likely get you an unspectacular 75-80 yards this week. Safe, but not likely to tilt your matchup in your favor. STAY
Doug Baldwin, WR Seattle Seahawks
With Sidney Rice out for the season with a torn ACL and Percy Harvin’s grandfather hip taking it’s sweet time healing, Doug Baldwin is an extremely capable fill in with an exploitable matchup. The Atlanta Falcons have allowed the eighth most fantasy points to opposing WRs, including four 100 yard games and seven touchdown catches to WRs at home (eleven total).
The Falcons don’t generate much of a pass rush, and shifty QB Russell Wilson should have plenty of time to electrify outside the pocket. Baldwin received ten targets last week in Rice’s first absence, turning it into six catches for 75 yards and a score. I’ll go bold and say Baldwin not only bags another score this week, but gets you 90-100 yards. PLAY
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