- Jon Greenberg, Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- The snow is still Garrett Wolfe-high on my block and every pixilated image of Jay Cutler in shorts and a cardigan, sourpuss-ing his way through life, just makes me angry. Mostly because he gets to wear flip-flops outdoors and we're stuck here with wet socks, lamenting the Packers' win in the Super Bowl.
Football won't be back until August, hopefully, but there's plenty of sports moments to look forward to in Chicago before the Bears (hopefully) return to training camp.
Here are some important dates to consider:
Feb. 14, 17: Pitchers and catchers report! It's not exactly a moment worthy of thrill, but it is that age-old sign that winter is ending and spring is around the corner. The Cubs report on the 14th and the White Sox three days later.
Feb. 15: Some would-be Cubs commentator starts worrying about Matt Garza's pitch count.
Feb. 18: Ozzie Guillen goes on a rant about Will Ohman's predilection for playing country music in the clubhouse. Oney Guillen tweets that country music is for [expletives] and [expletives]. White Sox cancel Country Music Tweet-up.
Feb. 19: A day before Derrick Rose takes the national stage in Los Angeles, his alma mater, Simeon Career Academy, takes on Benet Academy in the City-Suburban Showdown at the UIC Pavilion. Simeon sophomores Jabari Parker and Kendrick Nunn bolster an undefeated team against Northwestern-bound David Sobolewski's squad.
While every Chicago hoops fan should check out a City League game once a year, if they can find out the times and locations of said games, which are seemingly scheduled like raves, this event isn't shabby either.
Feb. 20: Rose isn't just our Most Valuable Chicagoan anymore. He's been buttressing a once-provincial MVP argument all season, and his first All-Star Game start in sunny Los Angeles should be a boon to a promising career.
It will be interesting to see how Rose interacts with fellow All-Stars, most notably the Heat and Celtics who populate the roster, but I'm really looking forward to the introductions. Rose has already said he won't do any kind of goofy dance, like LeBron James and Dwight Howard do, mostly because he doesn't want to embarrass himself. I'll be in Vegas this weekend and I'm looking for a sports book that will take my bet that he does the "robot."
Feb. 20: Also, the Chicago Blackhawks, still battling for a playoff spot, host the Pittsburgh Penguins at 2:30 p.m. on NBC. The "Madhouse on Madison" will be rocking and the Blackhawks will pull out a 3-2 win in overtime, exciting their fans, new and old. ESPN Chicago's Jesse Rogers will break down the game the next morning on ESPN 1000 to the 25 listeners who still care.
Feb. 24: The Heat return to the United Center and, most likely, so does Joakim Noah, who has been out since mid-December after thumb and hand surgery. The Bulls have actually gained ground in the Eastern Conference without Noah, but they have no chance at making it out of the second round of the playoffs without the big man.
When the two teams last met at the United Center, James missed the game and Dwyane Wade wondered why the home fans would cheer him hitting the deck. Chris Bosh also made news by criticizing Omer Asik's wild stallion hustle.
This could be a playoff preview and there's no love lost between Noah and James. Noah also has made some dry comments about Bosh's flirtations with the Bulls.
March 18-20: The NCAA tournament returns to the United Center and it's a good thing because once again, our college teams range from disappointing (Illinois, Northwestern) to invisible (Loyola, Chicago State) to horrible (Illinois-Chicago) to really horrible (DePaul).
If Northwestern makes the tournament for the first time, it will be the biggest sports story in this town since Cutler took the stairs at Mastro's.
In a perfect world, I'd like to see my Ohio Bobcats run the table in the MAC tournament and get slotted here, so Chicagoans could see local D.J. Cooper play the point. I'd also love to see underdog Vermont, whose star forward, Evan Fjeld, sports the sharpest mustache this side of Da Coach himself.
April 1: White Sox open season at Cleveland. I'm predicting 45 degrees, 45 fans, 45 expletives from Ozzie Guillen about how cold it is, how few fans are there and how [expletive] Cleveland is, in general.
April 2: Callers flood the air on local sports talk radio after Adam Dunn strikes out twice and hits two home runs. "He needs to take more pitches!"
April 10: Blackhawks' regular season ends with a home game versus the Detroit Red Wings. Maybe this game decides the team's playoff fate. Or maybe, if the Hawks' Stanley Cup hangover continues, most of you can officially stop pretending you care about hockey until the fall.
May 1 or thereabouts: James leads the Heat into a second-round series with the Bulls. It will be hyped as the biggest sporting event in Chicago since ... the Bears hosted the Packers. Let's hope this one goes better. One thing's for sure, with the Heat in town, local nightclub receipts will skyrocket.
June 17-19: The New York Yankees come to Wrigley Field, which means the possible return of wayward son Mark Prior. The marketing geniuses at the Cubs mark the occasion with Towel Night. Larry Rothschild gets booed six times, earning his 20,000th boo at the park. "I couldn't have done it without Mark," he says later.
June 20-22: The White Sox host the Cubs at the Cell. Last year, Carlos Zambrano went crazy in the dugout and raged his way to a suspension and anger management class. The year before that Milton Bradley threw a dugout fit and got booted by Lou Piniella.
The easy pick to get tossed this year would be Garza, but I'm going with reserve outfielder Fernando Perez, who will toss his helmet in the stands in anger and get the hook from Mike Quade. Perez won't be mad because he struck out but, rather, because a fan looked like the editor of the Kenyon Review, which rejected his newest prose poem, "Reflections of Crane Kenney."
July 1-3: Cubs vs. White Sox at Wrigley Field. Winner gets BP Cup. Or is it loser gets BP Cup? I can't keep this straight.
July 22-24: Cubs offer their 15th new ticket plan of 2011 for the three-game set against the Astros. Buy five tickets in the upper deck, get a statue.
July 30 or thereabouts: Will the Bears report to training camp or will they be locked out? Will Cutler address why everyone hates him? And will this be the start of the 8-8 season we all predicted in 2010?
One thing's for sure, at least it will be warm again. Now if you'll excuse me, my car is buried under five feet of snow.
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.
Plenty to keep Chicago sports fans busy until the Bears hit training camp.