I’ve been in St. Louis the past few days and while there I enjoyed some fantastic bar-b-que.  I only mention this as it gives me an excuse to mention the fact that I attended the St. Louis Rib Fest last spring which for some inexplicable reason is still in the top 10 Google searches that lead people to this website.  Either a lot of people want to know about this festival (that I personally found a wee bit lacking) – or – the St. Louis Rib Fest has no idea how to e-market themselves (they don’t even have a website for it apparently).  Regardless, once more for good measure: St. Louis Rib Fest. 

I actually made the drive down to the Arched City and thus was assaulted with more St. Louis sports talk radio than I ever thought I would have to endure.  More so than having to listen to a bunch of jamokes chatter about a handful of teams that I could really care less about, it pains me to say it but I actually found myself feeling… jealous?!  For being a city that only hosts three of the four major sports you’ve got to admit, St. Louis is in the midst of a nice little run right now.  The Blues are the top remaining seed in the Western Conference and have two (TWO!) goalies that both would start over anything the Hawks could suit up right now; the Cardinals are the reigning World Series Champions who lost the best player in the game and haven’t missed a beat – you know if that happened to any of our teams we’d tank for the next five years while we recovered; and the Rams are at the top of the NFL Draft and collecting additional picks like they’re going out of style.  Basically Eff those guys right?  They should just go back into their muddy holes on the bank of the river and wait for these hillbillies to pull them out with their forearms.  Also for the record if you ever get a chance to listen to a St. Louis Cardinals radio broadcast I’d encourage you to do so.  They had a guy call the first two innings that sounded exactly like Billy Bob Thornton in Sling Blade.  Based on this website I think it had to be Mike Shannon because once the top of the third arrived John Rooney took over the reigns and a much more polished product was produced.  I hope they do this every game. 

With that said, I wanted to catch up quickly with the state of things here in Chicago’s sporting culture.

Chicago Blackhawks – I’m just not emotionally equipped to talk about it right now.  The wound is too fresh.  It’s too soon… it’s too soon…

The White Sox – I honestly must say that I’m very happy for Phil Humber and his perfect game.  He seems like a genuinely good guy that had one of those few and far between days in life where everything just fell into place.  I don’t mean for that to come off like I’m saying he got lucky or anything condescending like that either.  His stuff that day was absolutely filthy and he deserves every accolade that he has received.   He definitely was the most impressive starter that Sox had last year and I was surprised that he was essentially forgotten about this offseason and almost overlooked this spring to the point that he was the fifth starter coming into the season.  I get the sense that he won’t be referred to as a fifth starter any more from this day forth.

The Cubs – Let’s all take a deep breath and remind ourselves that we knew what we were getting into this season ok?  There was never a point that you should have talked yourself into thinking the Cubs will be good this year since Theo took over.  We knew this was coming.  I’ll take it as a win if the team uses the next 130+ games to develop an identity as a scrappy team that plays the game the right way, takes an extra base, doesn’t beat itself, and in essence becomes the team that no one else wants to play.  I foresee a number of one run games in their future and a victory will be measured in their ability to start coming out on the positive side of those scores more often than not by August or September.  I’ll also take this opportunity to say that Breet Jackson and Mike Rizzo need to stay in Iowa until June at the earliest and I think with Raphael Dolis and James Russell there may be some usable pieces being developed for a legitimate bullpen in the next few years.  These baby steps are the successes that I’m counting this year.    

The Bulls – More to come on them in the coming days as the playoffs get under way.  I’ve got a two word primer for you however: Sleeping Giant.  Well, as much of one as the #1 overall seed in the league could be.

Da Bears – I’m writing this after the Bears have already invested the 19th pick in the Draft on Shea McClellin, a undersized defensive end from Boise State meaning he’s built an impressive résumé playing against inferior Western Athletic Conference competition.  I was all for drafting the best available defensive end but this is not the guy I would have picked.  Quite frankly he’s probably not in the top five of guys at this position that I would have taken.  Primarily because I don’t even think he’s a defensive end to begin with.  It was pretty much consensus that while a fast riser on draft boards of late, Shea’s place in the NFL was one of an outside linebacker in a 3-4 system.  Guess what system the Bears don’t run?

Well he’s our undersized defensive end now and Phil Emery has made his first impression (as far as the draft is concerned) with the fan base.  The primary reason that Phil Emery was hired as the Bears new GM due to his reported prowess in the draft room.  Jerry Angelo was significantly… cough… lacking in this department.  Emery comes from the Patriots school of football operations where he worked with the best in the business and proceeded move on to work under Thomas Dimitroff in Atlanta and then Scott Pioli in Kansas City.  The interesting thing is that I truly believe Shea McClellin would have been an excellent draft pick for the Patriots, Falcons, or Chiefs.  He’s that kind of versatile player that you can move around and have fill any number of positions on the field.  It’s just that those are not the kind of players that particularly fit the Bears – as we’ve known them under Lovie Smith’s regime.  With this pick we may be witness to a change bigger than any of us may have expected under. 

Emery took this job with the understanding that he has complete creative control of the team with the one caveat being that he cannot fire Lovie Smith before the 2012-13 season.  When given this rule set, an individual can make one of two choices – he could have either, A) read it as Lovie has the real power here and I better get on the same page with him ASAP, or B) I’m going to do it my way and Lovie has a year to get on board with me or next off season I’ll start looking for a head coach who will. 

A more passive man would opt for option A whereas a badass would take option B by the balls and run with it.  We may have our very own Clint Eastwood here ladies and gentlemen. 

I say this but do not mean to imply that drafting Shea McClellin was a slap in the Cover-2′s (and in turn Lovie’s) face.  What I do think however is that Emery is taking a stand and saying that versatile players like Shea McClellin are the trend that successful teams are following right now and we’re going to do what successful teams do starting… yesterday.  It’s kind of how baseball teams have adopted sabermetrics over the past fifteen years.  You either accept evolution and change or you die on the vine while others pass you by.  I guarantee that while Chicago fans groaned when Roger Goodell made his announcement at the podium, the only rooms full of more audible disgust were in Green Bay, Baltimore, New England, and Pittsburgh.  This is a good thing in theory.  All of those teams are successful and remain at the cutting edge of the league, and all of them were rumored to be big McClellin fans who were set to pick after the Bears.  I imagine for the rest of the league it was like Theo Epstein’s comments about watching the Cubs draft unfold in baseball last summer from his seat in Boston, where he said, “Hey, they get it, they’re finally getting it.” 

I can’t sit here and say that I know Shea McClellin is going to be a success.  I can’t even say that I wanted him or that I was in favor of the pick.  My frame of reference is one of reacting to whether he will fit into a defined role in the Bears 4-3, Cover-2 base defense and I don’t honestly believe that he will.  But maybe, just maybe, my perception of who this team is and how they operate is going to start to change, because they are going to start to change, and it all may begin with this pick on a Thursday night in April.  Now that could be a change I could believe in.