Cubs Sign Fujikawa
The Cubs signed Japanese free agent closer Kyuji Fujikawa to a 2-year $9.5mil deal. The 32-year old right-hander posted some gaudy and entirely meaningless numbers while pitching for the Hanshin Tigers. Though they lack the nickname appeal of the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, the Hanshin Tigers possess a long-suffering quality that will make Fujikawa feel right at home on the South Side. Fujikawa’s former squad is also cursed; not by a goat, rather by a Colonel. Yes, Colonel Sanders. I have a new favorite Japanese baseball team. I must say, the move surprises me a bit; I really thought someone else would make Fujikawa a better offer. The Cubs now have nearly $20mil invested in the closer position; Carlos Marmol might not want to book tee times in Mesa just yet.

Wild NFL Weekend
Let’s cover the biggest NFL event of the weekend, the murder-suicide of Jovan Belcher – middle linebacker of the Kansas City Chiefs. There’s so much wrong with the story, apparently Belcher fatally shot his girlfriend/baby mama, then drove to the Chiefs practice facility (basically on the grounds of the Arrowhead Stadium complex), had some kind words for his GM and coach before fatally shooting himself in front of them all. The NFL (and the Chiefs) decided to press on and play Sunday’s game at Arrowhead against the hapless Carolina Panthers; because we can’t skip a game between those two teams. The Chiefs hung Belcher’s jersey in his locker before the game, and a few Chiefs players made somewhat troubling comments about how they were playing for Belcher, etc. I guess they missed the part where their former teammate MURDERED THE MOTHER OF HIS CHILD!!! That’s not honorable; in fact, it’s so dishonorable it overshadows anything else he might’ve done in his life – anything. I will never understand the knee-jerk reaction that some people have to remember the best things about a person when they die. Some people haven’t earned that – Belcher chose to kill his child’s mother and then commit the ultimate cowardly and selfish act…nothing else he did in life matters.

In a clumsy halftime soliloquy during the SNF game, Bob Costas chided the public that gun control is the answer to such situations. He parroted Jason Whitlock’s sentiment that, “if he [Belcher] didn’t possess/own a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.” Because apparently now murder can only occur with a firearm – I would bet Fred Goldman could give Whitlock and Costas at least one other method by which a star NFL player might’ve chosen without access to a gun.

Now for the games, the Bears gave control of the NFC North back to the Packers. Collapsing down the stretch, the Bears lost (in OT) a very winnable home game while the Packers took care of business against the Vikings. It’s right back to a dead heat for the division, and the only consolation for the Bears is that the 49ers also lost, meaning that the #2 seed in the NFC is still attainable.

There is real intrigue for the next Jets game. Trailing the Arizona Cardinals 3-0, Rex Ryan benched the wholly ineffective Mark Sanchez. Sanchez’s favorite receivers were all wearing red on Sunday, which wouldn’t be a problem except the Jets still haven’t incorporated it into their color scheme. The stats for this game are a joke, the Cardinals were 0-15 on 3rd down. They punted 10 times. Sanchez’s QB rating was 21.4, only slightly better than the 28.0 that the Cardinals’ Ryan Lindley posted. The real hero of the game was 3rd stringer Greg McElroy…who threw 5 passes for 29 yards en route to a 7-6 victory for the Jets. That’s an unbelievably low threshold for success. No telling whether Tim Tebow will be healthy enough to inject his name into the conversation for next week. Even though they’re certain to miss the playoffs, expect to hear a lot about the Jets for the remainder of the season.

NCAA, Bowl Season
Bowl bids have been handed out. The real news is that the highest scoring team in the nation will NOT be playing in a bowl game. Louisiana Tech has declined an invite to the Independence Bowl to face off against state rivals, UL-Monroe. LA Tech is putting their own spin on the snafu, but essentially they were taken by surprise that OU was kept out of the BCS and the domino effect went decidedly against them. They reacted poorly and got left standing when the music stopped.

The total number of bowl eligible teams exceeds the total number of bowl bids available by exactly 2 – largely thanks to teams like Ohio State, Penn State, etc. who posted bowl eligible records, but are currently ineligible due to sanctions. That means that every other 6-win team, including 6-7 Georgia Tech; Louisiana Tech and Central Michigan are the two eligible teams that missed out on a bowl.

Which brings me to a final point about the NCAA. Rampant school ineligibility is quickly rendering conference championship games irrelevant. Wisconsin finished 3rd place (and BARELY bowl eligible) at 7-5 before their Saturday beatdown of Nebraska. Similarly, Georgia Tech finished in a 3-way tie atop their ACC division; a tie they wouldn’t have normally won, but since Miami and North Carolina were ineligible for postseason play, GT faced off against FSU for the right to the ACC’s BCS bid. Oh, and Georgia Tech wouldn’t even be eligible for postseason play but for a special exemption from the NCAA. At 6-7 they should not be eligible under new rules this year, but the NCAA – probably perceiving the difficulty they might have in filling bowl slots – had already granted a waiver for GT. Two great examples of how super-conferences are ruining college football’s regular season. Take me back to the days where conference were small enough you always played every other team in your conference.

The Seven-Week Holiday
If you’re like me, it can sometimes take a lot of creativity to make it through the 50-day celebration that has become Christmas. It’s not that I’m anti-Christmas – quite the opposite. I just don’t think I need seven non-stop weeks of Frosty, Rudolph, Santa, Bing Crosby, and fruitcake jokes to ‘get in the spirit.’ There’s not another holiday that we celebrate for more than a weekend; Thanksgiving to New Year’s is a bit overkill. So today enjoy Festivus.

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