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Johnny Light is cocky. He always had everything served to him on a silver platter. Ever since he was young, with his good looks, girls always gushing after him, he is always in the center of the attention. He is incredibly gifted and blessed with an athletic build.

His father inserted him into a Pop Warner football game as a quarterback and Light loved the attention quarterbacks received. He never really cared about his teammates, only about himself, and making sure he always looked good at the end, no matter the result.

In High School in Mission Viejo, playing for the Diablos, Light lived for the attention he received on Friday nights. No matter the outcome of the game, once again, it was always about making sure that he looked good at the end. Judging from how many cheerleaders he’s been with, he never failed.

When University of Southern California offered him a scholarship to play for them, Light took the offer without looking back. He knew the USC Trojans always got national attention, and he would have no problems receiving more attention across the country. He would be following the footsteps of USC greats such as Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart.

When Troy Smith’s career was nearing an end, the Las Vegas Hitmen decided it would be a good idea to start grooming his successor. During the 2005 draft, the Hitmen traded up to the number #11 spot to select Light.

Light thought he would quickly bump Smith out of the lineup and become the starting quarterback right off the bat. However, due to contract issues, Light never signed his contract until the first game of the regular season, which meant Smith had solidified his starting spot for the 2005 season at least.

During the 2006 season, Smith’s starting job was his to lose, having just taking the Hitmen to a division title with an 11-5 record, Light never had a chance to prove he was ready to start.

Light is the kind of guy where if things don’t go his way, he becomes jealous and insecure. As a result of his insecurity, he throws a fit and causes tension in the locker room.

Unknown to Smith and Light, Coach Matt Murphy saw enough of Light in the pre-season to know that he was ready to take the reins from Smith and decided that it will happen after the season, no matter how difficult it will be to confront Smith with the news.

Upon hearing of this news, Light proceeded to rub it in everyone’s faces that he was the face of the franchise and everyone better get to working for him. While his teammates hated how he presented himself, there was no denying his talent or energy that he brought to the table.

When Light got injured in the 2009 season, he was upset that it was going to be Smith that replaces him for the remainder of the season, feeling that the spotlight was taken away from him again, even though he would not be medically cleared to practice until the springtime. Light avoided all contact with the team and refused to attend the games to support their efforts.

At a hotel room in the Bellagio, both Smith and Light have a confrontation. Things get heated when both men realize they both have insecurity issues. Smith being insecure since the Hitmen showed him the door back in 2006, Light being insecure when the spotlight isn’t on him. They both learn from each other and grow to become friends.

In fact, it was because of Light that Smith was lights out spectacular in the final three games of the season after losing the first three. It was because of Smith that Light realized he conducted himself the wrong way and there’s more to life than just football.

Troy Smith is the protagonist of the film. He was born and raised in Amarillo, Texas, which is a big football town. Amarillo High School is a football powerhouse and for three years, Smith electrified spectators by being the highlight reel with his spectacular play at the quarterback position for the Amarillo Golden Sandstorm. During his high school years, Smith displayed the characteristics of a true, tough Texan. Like any other teenager playing football in a town where High School football is thought of as a religion that must be followed, Smith took advantage of the spotlight. He would be out after hours, drinking, meeting girls, and partying with his teammates. Every Friday night, when the lights come on, when that first kickoff is kicked, it’s wartime the gridiron for Smith.

He ended up going to college on a full scholarship at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, succeeding two future All-Pro quarterbacks Jim McMahon and Steve Young, who is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He red-shirted his first year, but went on to play four years as the Cougar’s starting quarterback, never missing a game. Outside of football, Smith continued to live that risky lifestyle at Brigham Young. It didn’t seem to slow him down however, as Smith went on to shatter the school’s football records, just like his predecessor, Young, did after McMahon went pro. His records stand still to this day.

1988 was his senior year at Brigham Young, leading the Cougars to the NCAA National Championship, winning the game and being the game’s MVP. Smith also obtained a degree in business and marketing, which he had hoped would be useful one day if going pro didn’t work out.

Heading into the spring of 1989, Smith had no idea what the future holds for him. Where will he be drafted? Will he ever get a chance to play? Any worries that he may have were quickly erased when the Las Vegas Hitmen, holding the #1 overall pick in the 1989 Draft, made him their choice. Smith quickly became the face of the franchise.

Smith went on to be one of, if not the best quarterbacks of all time. He has nabbed four MVP awards, three championships for the city of Las Vegas.

After the 2006 season, Smith was told his contract would not be renewed, and that he is free to go somewhere else. The Las Vegas Hitmen franchise decided that with his age (38), it would be time to go forward with his successor, Johnny Light.

Smith never played another down of football, because he didn’t want to tarnish his legacy that great ones such as Brett Favre, Michael Jordan and even Babe Ruth did by playing for an entirely different team when it was clearly time to move on. However, Smith had just won his fourth MVP label and felt he could have gone on for one or two more seasons. He didn’t feel any better even when the Hitmen had a “Troy Smith Night” and retired his number.

Smith distanced himself from football after that, until 2009 when the Hitmen came calling in light of Light’s injury. Undefeated, the Hitmen wanted a proven winner to lead the troops to another championship.

Hesitant at first, Smith took up on their offer, and although he lost the first three games in what seemed to be a colossal disaster waiting to happen, Smith brushed off whatever rust he may have to lead them to their fourth championship appearance, once again with him at the helm. They win the game, and Smith finally feels vindicated.

I am writing a screenplay for my screenwriting class.  I thought I should post it on here and let you all see it and leave me with your thoughts or comments on how to improve it.

The Best Ever

By Jeff Smaltz

Treatment February 2009

OVERVIEW:

The Best Ever is a somewhat sad, yet remarkable story of a man who has been pushed out of a football league due to his age. At 41 years old, the man, named Troy Smith, has been in exile for more than three seasons. After spending the first 17 years of his football season with a team (Las Vegas Hitmen), Smith, then 38, was unexpectedly cut from the team in favor for a younger, hot shot quarterback named Johnny Light.

During the 2009 season, Light is injured during a game midway through a season in which the team was undefeated thus far. Not wanting the season to go down, the coach Matt Murphy considers bringing back Smith to lead the team for the rest of the season.

Smith isn’t sure if he will come back for the game. He wants to prove he could play despite his age and declining production, but at the same time, he hasn’t played in three full seasons, can he still get the job done?

This movie is a combination of action, heart-felt drama, and touching moments.

CHARACTER SET-UP:

Troy Smith: The protagonist of the film. He is a former Las Vegas Hitmen quarterback who was forced away from the team to move on with the new hot-shot quarterback Johnny Light. Smith is bitter how his career ended and that bothered him for years until he has his chance for redemption.

Johnny Light: The hot-shot quarterback that started for the Las Vegas Hitmen for the past three years by taking over Smith’s position as a starter. Many of the Hitmen’s fans are fans of him, but long-time, sentimental fans still have trouble accepting how Smith’s career came to an abrupt end. However, Light has quickly become one of the top quarterbacks in the game, but that doesn’t matter to the sentimental fans. Light has yet to win a championship for the Hitmen, and he is the antagonist of the film, even though he can’t stop Smith from playing due to his injury. He is jealous of Smith’s successful return.

Coach Matt Murphy: Longtime coach of the Las Vegas Hitmen. Won 3 championships. Started out the same time as Smith. He never wanted Smith to leave, but pressure from the media and the owner and general manager forced him to make the difficult decision to move on from Smith to Light. He is the one to bring Smith back after Light’s season-ending injury.

STORY:

We meet Troy Smith first when he is seen watching a football game. We soon figure out that he used to play for that team with all the awards, photographs, and trophies in the same room. We heard the announcer saying “Oh my goodness! Light is down and could be done! This would have never happened if Smith never retired!” An angry Smith throws his beer bottle at the television and mutters “I never retired…” We see that he has become bitter and depressed about being out of football too soon.

We first officially meet Johnny Light after the game in the trainer’s room with his leg wrapped up. Then Coach Matt Murphy comes in to see if there’s any news. The team doctor comes in and announces that Light is done for the year. Both men don’t take the news well.

Later on, Coach Murphy is in the coaches’ room with all the other coaches to deliver the news. They begin to try to figure out what to do for the rest of the season with the unproven back-up quarterback they have. While there are a suggestions being flown around, one assistant coach jokingly asks why don’t they give Smith a call and see if he’ll come back for one final season, to which other assistant coaches have a chuckle about this. Coach Murphy doesn’t laugh, but is intrigued by this idea.

A few days later, we are at the Las Vegas Hitmen stadium. Smith is standing in the middle of the empty stadium, looking around. He sees a flag with the number 7, the number that the team retired in honor of him. He closes his eyes and we have flashbacks of his record-setting career. He is interrupted when Coach Murphy is riding onto the field in a golf cart. He gets off and looks around in silence for a moment with Smith. We find out that Coach Murphy did call Smith to bring him in for a visit. He proposes to Smith an offer Smith has trouble deciding whether to accept. Finish the season, and possibly win one more championship. Smith declines and walks away.

That same night, Smith is in his hotel room at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. In a phone call, he tells his wife what happened earlier and sounded upset that “now they want me back after what they did to me.” At the same time, he has that little hint in his voice that he does indeed want to come back. His wife encourages him to prove the team they made a wrong decision and to come back.

The next day at practice, with the team on the field running drills. Smith comes out of the tunnel in full pads and everyone stops to take a look. They are shocked to see a player wearing number 7 because that number was retired. Could it be him? Indeed, yes, it is Smith running onto the practice field. He takes off his helmet and stands alongside with Coach Murphy. Coach Murphy smiles and says “what are you waiting for? Get to business!” Smith smiles and takes over the snaps for the offense.

Highlights of the next three weeks which the Las Vegas Hitmen, originally 9-0, now 9-3, are shown. Smith has doubts about his comeback, but knows he can’t back out otherwise he would look bad. Coach Murphy asks him to step into his office. He explains that the season starts now, only four more games. He tells Smith to go back to his old gun-slinger ways that made him a future perennial Hall of Famer. He restores Smith’s confidence.

Over the next four games, the team went 4-0, finishing 13-3, with a first round bye in the playoffs.

It’s time for playoffs.

The Las Vegas Hitmen was able to defeat the Los Angeles Rain easily under the leadership of Troy. It’s time for the Western finals, and whoever wins plays in the championship game against the winner of the Eastern finals.

The Hitmen find out they are playing against their biggest rival, the undefeated Oklahoma Bombers. Smith has always suffered against the Bombers throughout his career. It is the 4th quarter with 2 minutes to go, the Bombers had just scored on one of Smith’s four interceptions. The score is now 34-27, the Bombers winning.

Before the Hitmen’s offense take over the field, Smith got a word of advice from Coach Murphy. “Just play it the way you can” are all the words of encouragement Smith needed. He trots on the field at the 17 yard line.

The Bombers are known for their fierce defense, putting constant pressure on the quarterback and stopping the rush. Smith throws a quick strike to a slot wide receiver for a first down. He throws a toss to the running back for a 4 yard loss. It is second and 14, with 1:38 to go, and winding down. Smith calls one of his favorite plays, which has two receivers going deep. The snap is called and he throws the ball in the air. It is intercepted by the Bombers! Smith rushes downfield to prevent the player from scoring. FUMBLE!! The Hitmen recover the ball and run downfield. The Hitmen are stopped at the 47 yard line.

The announcers are exclaiming it’s remarkable how Smith’s 41 year old body can still deliver a punishing blow to force a fumble.

There’s only 47 seconds left to play. No timeouts for the Hitmen. Smith tells his offense to play hard and fight for the ball. The snap is called, and another first down for the Hitmen. Field goal is not an option. Only a touchdown can tie this game.

Smith calls for a play action pass and successfully completes it, gaining another first down. The Hitmen are at the 21 yard line now.

Smith calls for a similar play, but a reverse route. Another completion, and they are stopped just short of the 2 yard line. There’s only 12 seconds left and it’s a live ball so they don’t have much time to figure out what play to call. Smith calls for a trick play, a fake spike to stop the clock. When the play is called, Smith rushes through the line and scores a touchdown! The Bombers fell for the play, thinking they finally had a break, but allowed a touchdown. The Hitmen are celebrating. The extra point kicker runs on the field but Smith tells him to stay off, he wants to win this game.

Coach Murphy is nervous. This has been a very unique year for him, and even though he won 3 championships with Smith, this is a very unique situation that he’s never been in or experienced.

He snaps, throws the ball to the wide-open tight end Dustin Keller and the two-point conversion is successful! The Hitmen are now winning 35-34. There’s only 3 seconds left in the game.

The Hitmen kick off the ball and are able to stop the kick returner from doing any damage, thus running out the clock, and officially winning a trip to the championship game.

After the game, Coach Murphy tells Smith how proud of him he is. Smith said it’s not over yet, there’s still one more game.

It’s time for the championship game.

Prior to the game, Smith is in his hotel room with his family. His wife tells him she never expected him to go that far, but she is glad he did. He proved his doubters wrong. He is 41 and still took a team to the championship game.

Later on, we see the team huddled up, saying a small prayer before they hit the field for the championship game.

They are playing against the New York Cold, one of the top offensive teams. To win this game, the Hitmen need to stop the aerial attack that the Cold run.

We see highlights of the game, both teams playing hard. Once again it is in the 4th quarter. The Cold have this game won, and it will take a lot from Smith to get one last touchdown in to win this game, considering how they have 80 yards to go with 15 seconds. Smith calls for an unexpected running play. He runs as fast as he can after handing the ball off to the running back and delivering a block to gain 63 yards on the play.

The Hitmen call for a timeout, leaving them with three seconds to finish this game on the 17 yard line. Smith calls for his favorite screen pass.

He completes the pass.

The wide receiver is running down the field, seemingly wide open. There is a safety who is in the area who makes the tackle. The receiver jumps in the air. He is stopped near the goal line. Is it a touchdown or is the game over?

The crowd went silent. Everyone wants to know what happened. Smith is watching the referee. None of them made any signals, but the whistle was blown to show that the play is dead. The referees are huddled up to make a decision.

Smith looks into the crowd and spots his wife, who has a tear down her cheek. She is so proud of him and that no matter what the referees decide, she knows that Smith is the winner.

Finally, the head referee walks to the center of the field to announce the ruling. He raises both arms, to signify a touchdown. The Hitmen are going nuts, running on the field to celebrate. Smith is shown stunned. He did it. His third championship, and he finally proved after all these years: he can still play at a high level.

It is later announced that Smith is the game’s Most Valuable Player. Coach Murphy walks up to Smith and hugs him, telling him how proud he is and that no matter what would have happened, he is the best ever.

A few days later, the Hitmen are holding a press conference.

Smith walks up to the podium after being announced. He announces his retirement from the game of football. No regrets, he said. He is retiring a champion, and said the team will be good hands of Johnny Lights’ after he rehabs from his injury.

Behind Smith, a curtain is lowered, showing his retired number 7 jersey in a frame. This time, for Smith, it’s the ending to his career that he’s always wanted.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: REPOSTED FROM 10/24/2007, via http://www.amazon.com/Lions-Tale-Around-World-Spandex/dp/044669861X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1236123311&sr=8-1)

Chris Jericho’s life story is truly A Lion’s Tale!

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars Jericho’s life story is truly A Lion’s Tale!, October 24, 2007

I became a fan of Jericho when he started showing flashes of turning into a heel with his post-match tantrum following a loss. I could see he had the charisma and talent to make it into a big time superstar. Then he came out with the Monday Night Jericho t-shirt (which I was unable to afford back in the day) and the Ralphus angle, I totally started to love the guy.

For the life of me, I could never figure out why WCW never gave him the chance to be the guy.

Jericho’s “A Lion’s Tale” explains the backstage politics of WCW and how WCW almost killed his passion for wrestling. Jericho should have known that WCW was bad news when Bischoff called him to fly to Atlanta to sign a contract, while only a few hours later, booker Kevin Sullivan called Jericho to tell him he needs to come in for a try-out, not knowing he was already on his way to sign a contract!

But this book is not all about WCW, in fact, WCW doesn’t even come until page 320ish, and there is 410 pages in the book. The last 20 pages or so of the book is about him joining the WWF (he calls it the WWF, not WWE, so I will be referring it as WWF too).

The book starts brilliantly with the countdown to the new millennium…. actually, sort of. The book ends the same way, but on a higher note.

The whole idea of Jericho’s book is how he developed a dream to be one of the best wrestlers ever in Vince McMahon’s WWF.

The book starts us with how Jericho developed a passion for wrestling at his grandmother’s house on Sundays, how his father took him to the matches in Winnipeg on Sundays, how he was angry when none of the famed Hart Brothers were actually training wrestlers at the Hart Brothers Wrestling Camp (upon arrival, he was about to quit when he saw all the other wrestlers who were not wrestling-material until he met Lance Storm), his stints in Mexico, Knoxville, Japan, ECW and WCW.

Jericho had a dream, he paid his dues, and he accomplished his dream.

That’s why I loved this book, it was truly A Lion’s Tale.

All of the “past” posts are collected works of my online articles or school newspaper articles that were published or will be published.  I had about 5 more articles written for ChicagoSportingZone.com.  However, the former owner of the website named Alex tried to scam me to advertise his new website (which will not be mentioned here) in exchange for my past 8 posts due to the website being converted to a forum-based website, which meant I lost all of my work.  I am very upset about this, but life is life, and shit happens, basically.

I just remembered I wrote a review for Chris Jericho’s book A Lion’s Tale: Around the World in Spandex, so the next post will be a repost of that, and after that, I am done with reposting all of my work.  Then you will see new, original articles by me.

Enjoy the site, bookmark it, check it once a week or so.  I hope to cover the following things over the next few weeks/months:

  • Review of Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling
  • Review of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Review of The Wrestler
  • Review of The GM
  • Covering the upcoming Chicago White Sox season, and possibly the Chicago Cubs.  (Not a Cubs fan, so don’t shoot me!)
  • Any thoughts on the Chicago Bears that I may have.

That’s all for now, there will be more to come, but that’s the plan I have for now.

-Jeff

Jeff Smaltz
Fighting Polymyositis

A rare disease called Polymyositis has taken a toll on Karen Smaltz’s life.  WebMD describes Polymyositis as “a systemic connective tissue disorder characterized by inflammatory and degenerative changes in the muscles, leading to symmetric weakness and some degree of muscle atrophy. The areas principally affected are the hip, shoulders, arms, pharynx and neck.”

In February of 2007, Smaltz noticed difficulty lifting, climbing up the stairs, and lifting her legs, but kept the symptoms to herself, thinking it would subside.  “My legs felt like they weighed 100 pounds each,” she said.  The next month, she finally saw a doctor, who had no idea how to explain her symptoms.  In March, Smaltz went to a different doctor, who tested her blood levels specifically looking for a muscle enzyme count, Creatine Phosphokinase (CPK) after doing a basic test in the office of having her try to resist having her raised leg pushed down.  There was absolutely no resistance. The test came back with the enzyme level of 9,000, with the normal level being 150.  She called a neurologist who had Smaltz admitted into Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, IL immediately.  An appointment for a specialist can take up to months to get, but with Smaltz’s test numbers, she needed to be treated immediately.

Smaltz stayed at Christ Hospital for five days.  They administered an MRI of her head, a chest and abdominal cat scan, mammogram, an EEG to test the nerves and a muscle biopsy on the thigh.  The tests confirmed what the doctors suspected: Polymyositis.  “I was extremely lucky, many people suffer for years before they get a definite diagnosis, and I got my diagnosis in just a few days,” Smaltz said  The reason for so many tests is that sometimes this disease is associated with cancer, and they wanted to rule that out.  Thankfully, all the cancer screenings were negative.

The cause of Polymyositis is unknown. “Polymyositis is an autoimmune disease in which for some unknown reason, your immune system decides that your own muscles are foreign bodies and attacks them,” Smaltz explained. Some victims of this disease are unable to walk at all, while others are put in a wheelchair. Smaltz is one of the few lucky ones who can still do everything on her own. “It can get really tiring when I go shopping. Because when you are fighting to keep moving, you end up getting tired when the second you get a chance to relax,” she said.

She was given an 80 mg. prescription of Prednisone immediately.  “I asked if I could go back to work Monday and the doctors just kind of laughed at me,” Smaltz said, adding “I had no idea what I was in store for.”

Prednisone’s side effects can be frustrating.  Some common side effects are weight gain, hunger, lack of sleep and getting the “round” face.  “Prednisone redistributes the fat in your body so most of it goes to your face, neck, stomach, and sometimes the back between the shoulders,” Smaltz explained.

The medicine also made Smaltz’s feet swell to the point she could not even put on a pair of shoes. They put her on a high blood pressure/water pill to reduce the swelling. Since being on this, Smaltz is able to wear normal shoes again, and does not have to worry about wearing flip flops for this winter like she did last year.

She gained 30 to 40 pounds at the beginning because the side effects of Prednisone made her hungry.  The symptom has since gone away, but the weight stayed.  “I have heard you can lose it when you are able to be completely off it, so I can’t wait,” Smaltz joked.  “It’s ironic, Prednisone stops the disease from progressing, but the medicine can also cause muscle weakness as part of its side effect,” Smaltz added

She stayed on the 80 mg. dose of Prednisone for four months, when finally she was able to start tapering.  After tapering to 40 mg. her CPK levels started to climb again.  At this point she was put on Methotrexate.  This is to suppress the immune system.

The Methotrexate took a few months to start working, but when it did, the CPK levels returned to normal again and she was able to start reducing the Prednisone again.  Every two weeks, the medicine is dropped five mg.  Right now, Smaltz is at 10 mg. a week.  At this point, the medicine is reduced to one mg. every two weeks, sometimes a month.

Today, Smaltz is looking forward to 2009. 2007 was the worst year of her life. “I was in pain all the time, I did not know what to do with my sudden free time. Any type of work was not possible, since the weaknesses prevent me from doing so much. Your concentration is also affected by the prednisone, so even reading a book or watching television is not that enjoyable anymore. I couldn’t get sleep like a normal person could,” she said. She also did not have a job, with her previous employer hiring someone to replace her. 2008 saw Smaltz take small progress in regaining some strength.

Currently, there is no cure for Polymyositis, but it sometimes can be controlled. “I am looking really forward to 2009. I am hoping with a positive attitude that I will gain more muscle strength and not have any “flares” of the disease which brings you back to square one. Flares are not uncommon. Even an infection can start the process again,” Smaltz said.

Living Hollywood
By Jeff Smaltz

Tony Farinella.  Remember this name.  Farinella, 23, is an everyday ordinary person from the busy streets of Oak Lawk, Illinois, part of the Chicago south suburbs.  Nicknamed “Tony Ocho Cinco” to his readers on the Internet, Farinella is a film critic and aspiring interviewer who already has his name and quote on the back of a DVD packaging.  He’s been mentioned by Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times, and has compiled a list of extensive interviews with various stars in Hollywood.

Farinella writes movie reviews and interviews celebrities on 411mania.com, a website devoted to movies, television, music, wrestling, and professional sports.

Around 2004, Farinella started up a LiveJournal account as a hobby and posted an occasional movie review.  At first, it was just a way for him to put his “thoughts down on paper.”  When he started publishing these reviews on his MySpace blog, he attracted attention.  People started to add him every day on their friend list.  Surprised by this, he wanted to see how far this would take him.  His increasing experience led him to acquire a role on the 411mania website.  Late in November 2006, a publicist contacted him and asked him if he would like the opportunity to interview Roy Disney, nephew of Walt Disney.  This was a big deal for Farinella because Disney was giving him an opportunity to ask him whatever he wanted.

Instead of starting off slow with lesser known celebrities, Farinella was given the task of interviewing an icon with a lot of pull in Hollywood.  He was nervous, because he wanted to make a good first impression.  “You don’t get many second chances in this business,” he said.  Once Disney started telling one of his many interesting stories, Farinella began to relax, and at the end, made a great first impression.

After the Disney interview, Farinella started getting more calls from publicists and getting more opportunities.  Farinella felt his big break came when he interviewed Sylvester Stallone.  Publicists were now calling him to set up interviews with celebrities to promote upcoming releases.  “When publicists are calling you to set up an interview in order to get free advertising, it’s a big move because it means you are going in the right direction with your future” said Farinella.

Since then, he went on to interview Stallone and Antonio Tarver who played the role of Mason “The Line” Dixon in Rocky Balboa, Larry the Cable Guy, Carmen Electra, William Shatner, Andy Dick and Dane Cook.  He’s interviewed “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Brendon and Obafemi Ayanbadejo of Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers Hall of Famer LeRoy Butler, Run DMC, Tech N9ne, and civil rights activist Bobby Seale of the Chicago 7 fame.

What is the secret to Farinella ‘s successes so far?  “Many people are getting breaks today by blogging online.  That’s how I did it, but I didn’t expect it to lead to anything because it started out as ‘just for fun’ kind of thing.”  He enjoyed this, and decided to take it further with the popularity of MySpace.  When he moved over to a real website, he got in touch with Ashish, the owner of 411mania, and started working for him.  “I have accomplished a lot in such a short time when it takes many people years and years to do.  Now is the time for me to use the networking I have built up with various publicists and friends of this business to expand my opportunities,” he said.  “I am hoping to move onto a bigger website such as MovieWeb.com or JoBlo.com or even write a small review for the [Chicago] Sun-Times.”  He wants to go mainstream at this point.  “The key is start off slow, get comfortable, gain experience, keep at it, and soon enough, the hard work and the committment will pay off.”

Disability Services
By Jeff Smaltz

Imagine being stuck in class, unable to multitask such as listening to the teacher while taking notes.  Imagine being only a lipreader and the teacher turns aound to write on the board.  These are the challenges many students with a hearing impairment face on a daily basis.  Heartland Community College and Illinois State University both provide disabilities assistance for those who need assistance.

Students who are hearing impaired students can request a sign language interpreter, a note taker, extended time on tests (in the testing center), and even assigned seats.  Assigned seats allow the students to have an unobstructed view of their instructor.

HCC and ISU’s Disability Services are similar in a lot of ways.  Both provide assistance to people who are hearing impaired, vision impaired, mentally challenged, and physically challenged.

Students with vision problems are offered textbooks in Braille.  “We also provide e-text, which are textbooks that have been converted to a PDF file or a Microsoft Word file and then students who have a learning disability or a visual impairment can use special computer software to have their textbook read to them,” said Jane Koscielak, Program Assistant for Disability Support Services at HCC.  Class handouts and other material are also converted to e-tex as needed.

Students who are mentally challenged can be provided with an aide, who helps them with their homework, and provides help if they are unable to do things on their own.

Students who are physically disabled are offered scribes, which is someone who writes as the student dictates and lab aides to assist the student in hands-on activities.

The majority of these students are offered non-distracting testing environments, extended time on tests/quizzes, and test readers.

“We also have assistive technology that students can check-out of the AT lab.  There are laptops with special reading and writing software, reading pens, tape recorders, a Franklin speller, FM systems, a talking calculator, magnifiers and much more!” said Koscielak.

Both schools provide these services free cost when the student submits documents verifying their condition.

Both schools have a 24-hour notice requirement if the student is unable to attend class.  Emergencies are understandable, but there is a limit of three.  Once the student use up three “emergency” times of skipping classes, the services will be withdrawn and the student will be required to set up a meeting with the disability coordinator to re-attain services again.

The difference between both schools is the notetaker situation.  HCC pays the student $7.75 a hour for notetaking, as long as the notetaker is qualified with at least a 2.0 GPA, have legibile handwriting, and attend classes.  For ISU, notetakers are given volunteer hours towards graduation.

“The best thing about working in disability support services is that every day is different.  Each day there are new challenges, new obstacles to find solutions for, and it’s very rewarding to see students achieve their goals when they have the accommodations that they need” said Koscielak.

Any student interested in being a notetaker should visit the Disability SupportService office in the Academic Support Center and ask to be on the list of approved notetakers.  They can also volunteer in-class at the start of the semester when the teacher announces that a notetaker is needed for the class.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: REPOSTED FROM 1/24/2008, via http://www.chicagosportingzone.com [SINCE HAS BEEN CONVERTED TO A FORUM-BASED SITE})

Quarterbacking the Bears

Article written by Jeff Smaltz.

It’s probably easier to be the President of the United States than to be the starting quarterback for the Chicago Bears. The only difference? The quarterbacks pretty much have the better salary and have less working hours. So why, since Jim McMahon in 1989, have we had 23 different starting quarterbacks, but the position, since 1992, has seen a different guy behind the center a grand total of 49 times. How many for the Green Bay Packers? Just one, it’s that old guy who just had the career of his lifetime in that legendary #4 jersey. That’s not even 20 years! I can’t go through a Chicago Bears season without seeing a list of the different quarterbacks we’ve had. So, let’s review.
1. Jim Harbaugh – decent, but never fit in here, but still managed to have good 7 year career in Chicago, setting some records.

2. Mike Tomczak – a career back-up.

3. Peter Tom Willis – okay guys, I could probably come up with 20 jokes or so relating him to the male genitalia right there.

4. Will Furrer – Will Ferrell’s cousin, maybe?

5. Erik Kramer – now, this guy was not bad at all. He is what Jon Kitna is to the Detroit Lions. A great guy to band-aid the QB position until the rookie (Cade McNown) was ready. Unfortunately… moving on.

6. Steve Walsh – If he was related to Bill Walsh, maybe he would be decent!

7. Dave Kreig – huh?

8. Rick Mirer – we gave the Seahawks a first rounder for this guy?

9. Steve Stenstrom – don’t even remember this guy.

10. Moses Moreno – see Stenstrom.

11. Shane Matthews – now, this guy could’ve been a good QB considering he had a damn good career at Florida. He crapped out.

12. Cade McNown – had the talent to make it work, but his attitude deteriorated the team, thus the McNown project was aborted from the day he set foot on a football field.

13. Jim Miller – this guy was an amazing leader for the offense, great at last-minute drives to win the games, however, he was a walking stretcher, always a hit away from injury. He could be a good coach someday.

14. Chris Chandler – when Chandler hit free agency, Chicago fans were clamoring for him, claimed him as the savior. A few concussions, a few injuries, and most importantly, too many bad games made Chicago forget how badly they wanted him. The only reason they wanted him was because he somehow beat the 15-1 Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship with a Falcons team that was not even supposed to make the Super Bowl. The team didn’t even bother to bring him back, which should’ve been a sign of things to come. (P.S. If it makes you feel any better, they’re struggling at QB too since the Vick debacle).

15. Henry Burris – great, great speed. Could’ve been a great receiver or a running back with those legs of his, however, his passing talent… Well… more like no talent at all. I’ll still never understand why the Bears cut Ken Mastrole, who showed flashes of potential with his connection to WR Kenny Christian, another player they cut during the 2002 pre-season.

16. Kordell Stewart – now, hear me out. I’ve always thought Stewart never got a fair chance in Chicago. Stuck under the John Shoop offense, which didn’t utilize his almost Michael Vick-like legs. Add in an astronomical offensive line into the mix, your #2 and #3 WRs being David Terrell and Dez White, that’s a recipe for disaster.

17. Rex Grossman – I love this guy. His upside is awesome, his deep balls are beautiful, and he seems to bring a spark to the offense. The problem? His footwork, his decision-making. I often compare his development to Brett Favre (now just hold on a moment, guys, I’m not comparing his talent to Favre, they’re not even close), because the cheeseheads in Green Bay, Wisconsin were ready to call for Favre’s heads, then-Packers head coach Mike Holmgren would bench him for the rest of the game. The Bears should’ve brought in a quarterback mogul to coach Grossman. If Holmgren can tame Favre, the Bears should’ve found someone who could’ve done that for Grossman. No matter where Grossman ends up this off-season, even if he lands back here, he will be a good CONSISTENT quarterback someday under the right coach. Hell, even Bill Walsh liked Grossman a lot…

18. Jonathan Quinn – I remember my dad coming home from work, at 5:00 PM on the dot, as always, and putting the Chicago Sun-Times on the kitchen table, to which I’ll grab it and flip to the sports section. The headline was something about the Bears signing Jonathan Quinn. My thought? “Who?” Then I read about him, how he hasn’t thrown a single pass in his NFL career. Guess what came next in my thoughts? Some profanities here and there. Watching him start for the Chicago Bears brought my mother an early Christmas gift: waking up to profanity-filled yelling and screaming. I had to go to church at the end of the season and confess my sins to the Father and beg for forgiveness. That’s how bad this guy was. He was worse than Burris in my opinion, because he played more games than Burris.

19. Craig Krenzel – now, the only thing going for this guy right now is that he has a really good job to go with his degree, he was probably the most academically smartest player the Bears ever had, and he’s using it for his own good and has a good future. On the field, not so much.

20. Chad Hutchinson – Now, in Hutchinson’s first start for the Bears, it was a great game. He played the game the way a Chicago Bears quarterback should. Smart, safe, and making plays. His stats? 18 of 30 for 213 yards, 3 TDs, no interceptions, and a QB rating of 115.0. The day after the game, everyone was buzzing, “where the hell has this guy been?” and some people even rushed to claim we finally found our quarterback of the future. The 2004 season looked like it was going to end on a bright note. He finished the season with a QB rating of 64.35 for the final four games, 1 TD, 3 INTs. He was so bad during the 2005 season, that the Bears didn’t even bother keeping this guy around after Grossman sustained what looked to be a season-ending injury in the preseason. This promoted a third string rookie to being named the starter.

21. Kyle Orton – Watching the clips of his days at Purdue on YouTube showed me his potential. Good quarterback, good arm strength, good footwork in the pocket, good reading of the receivers. He went 10-5 as a rookie QB, one of the league’s best of all time for a rookie QB, but lost his spot as soon as Grossman’s injury healed up. We went one and out in the playoffs to the Carolina Panthers (Grossman started this game, finished on fire, but the defense allowed 200-some yards receiving to Steve Smith, who absolutely torched us.) Orton finished the 2007 campaign strong, made a strong case to be considered for the starting QB spot for the 2008 campaign.

22. Brian Griese – he is way too conservative for many Bears fans’ liking. He also threw costly interceptions into the endzone, two in one game. Griese finished with a 3-3 record as a starter, and then the reigns went back to Grossman when Griese got injured. Grossman showed a big turnaround, cutting the interceptions, raising the touchdowns, and stepping up in the pocket. He didn’t look like the same Grossman that started the 2007 season. However, when Grossman went down, the reigns went to Orton, which was a wise move by the coaching staff. Where does this leave Griese? He’ll probably stick around with the Bears, he’s a career back-up like Tomczak, but don’t expect him to be a starter again unless injury happens.

Well, now we’ve reviewed. Quiz time: How many times did the Packers change their QBs when Brett Favre entered the scene? Answer: Just one. If you paid attention earlier, you would’ve gotten this. What’s the deal? We have the most players in the Hall-of-Fame (side note: good luck Richard Dent, potentially the next Bear to be enshrined in Canton), we are known for our bruising defense, and our uncanny ability to produce running backs. Why can’t we find stability at quarterback?

The Denver Broncos went through just a couple of quarterbacks between John Elway and Jay Cutler. Jay Cutler is going to have a breakout year in 2008 (along with Matt Leinart). How about the Giants? They had some stability at QB after Phil Simms, with various players such as Kerry Collins before they landed the blockbuster trade that brought Eli Manning to them. The Miami Dolphins, they are doing their quarterback situation all wrong, wrong, wrong. They give up unnecessary second rounders for guys like AJ Feely, Daunte Culpepper, and Trent Green. Now, AJ Feely, he is a career back-up and even I knew it before the Fish found out the hard way. The Vikings were planning to cut Culpepper anyway, since nobody except the Fish were interested (although the Saints were going to nab him if Miami landed Drew Brees). As for Trent Green, his injuries made him a fifth rounder at best. It’s only inevitable before Miami lands their franchise QB.

What truly frustrates me is that we have a potentially franchise QB in Grossman or Orton, yet neither is getting a real chance to prove it. It took guys like Joe Montana, Elway, Dan Marino, Favre a couple of years to grow into the system and be effective. Hell, even Peyton wasn’t the best when he first started. Grossman and Orton never got those “couple of years” chances. For Orton to be utilized the best, the Bears need to give him (and Grossman) an improved line and a running game. Also, for Orton, they need to implement the shotgun formation more often, since that’s what made him a success story at Purdue. The problem with the Bears coaching staff is that they don’t utilize their quarterback’s strengths to their fullest. When Griese started, the system was perfect for him, he’s a game manager, he doesn’t take risks, that made him effective, but without the risks, it’s hard to put up high points on the board. For Grossman, he loves that deep ball, hates the short passes, so Ron Turner needs to give Grossman more of those plays. Remember early in the 2006 season, Grossman pretty much started off the first five games with a deep bomb to Bernard Berrian for a touchdown. He played spectacular football in those games, because he had the freedom. After that Arizona game on Monday Night Football (with the infamous Dennis Green meltdown post-game conference), they switched to conservative offense, handcuffing Grossman a bit. Even in Orton’s first year in the league, he was handcuffed. If you take the handcuffs off Grossman and Orton, you may see the magic that they were able to produce at Florida and Purdue respectively.


Andre Woodson – the future of the Bears?

The mock drafts have the Bears taking Andre Woodson out of Kentucky with their first pick. (YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWNqI8kSZxY) He could be a good quarterback in the league, but why gamble on him when we have bigger needs in other positions? The quarterback is always the most difficult position to evaluate in the draft. You’ll never know who’s going to be good and who’s not. Flashback: Colts and Chargers were trying to decide Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf. I’m sure you can figure out what happened right there. The only thing I’ve got against picking Woodson is that we have bigger needs, and drafting Woodson will take us out of position to draft a top tier safety from Miami (Fla), or one of the blue-chip offensive linemen coming into this draft. I still think the best thing to do is move up in the draft to get Jake Long, sign Alan Faneca, and have a competition between Grossman and Orton. If it doesn’t work out, there’s always next year’s draft, with Tim Tebow possibly coming out.


Or could it be this guy – Joe Flacco?

Then there’s talk we may get Delaware QB Joe Flacco (YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxW_RdJjtos). Now, I never heard of this guy until a couple of days ago, but I’ve known about Woodson for quite a while. There is talk that Flacco may be this year’s version of Cutler. Cutler wasn’t supposed to be a first round pick, but his performance at Vanderbilt and at the scouting combine shot him up to the first half of the draft, forcing the Broncos to trade up to get him. From what I’ve seen in YouTube of both guys, I think Flacco has the better mechanics and more arm strength, but then again, I can’t judge them based on YouTube. See, the thing with YouTube is people edit the videos, make it seem like the guys make these plays all the time. If I had the talent, I could put down a package of Grossman’s best plays and people who’ve never seen or heard of Grossman will think he’s the next Marino. I’ve got to see Woodson and Flacco in a full game before I decide who I prefer. I prefer we didn’t draft a QB until the second or third round. Don’t panic. Tom Brady was taken in the 6th round, and Montana was taken in the late rounds as well.

I loved the Greg Olsen pick from last year, but I’ve always wondered – should we have moved up a few spots to claim Brady Quinn? Who knows, we won’t know how Quinn performs for a couple more years.

My favorite quarterbacks in the list of 22 players that I listed above are: Jim Miller, Rex Grossman, Kyle Orton, and Erik Kramer. Kramer filled the role perfectly, setting records under Ron Turner’s offense back in the day, and he was what the Bears needed in a QB at the time. Miller was the ultimate leader on his offense, and I honestly believe he would be a great motivator coach. Rex Grossman always makes me smile when I see him run on the field and take chances, which is what quarterbacking is about. Kyle Orton, now I love the guy. Check out his party pictures. He’s a guy I’d like to have at my parties down at ISU.


This guy really knows how to party! Invite me, Kyle!!! Kinda reminds me of Jimmy Mac…

Finally, we know where I’m getting at: our QB situation sucks. The problem is on the fans too – they have absolutely no patience in letting a young QB settle down and grow into his role on the team. They expect instant results, no matter what. Grossman takes the team to the Super Bowl and the fans were still calling for his head. The Packers fans did the same thing with Favre, but the team stuck with him and Favre is having an amazing year. The thing is, the fans need to back off, let the quarterback, whoever he may be, grow into his role, develop into the system, and become a leader for the team. That’s how we get our franchise quarterback – we don’t give up on them too quickly. Chicago Bears, you’ve got the history of the linebackers, the running backs, start a history of the quarterbacks, one that does not put us to shame. Now what do you guys think?

(EDITOR’S NOTE: REPOSTED FROM 1/21/2008, via http://www.chicagosportingzone.com [SINCE HAS BEEN CONVERTED TO A FORUM-BASED SITE})

Looking ahead for the Chicago Bears… Start with Alan Faneca

Article written by Jeff Smaltz.

This was a painful year for many, many Bears fans. The team was plagued with inconsitencies. Just when Cedric Benson looks good, he goes down. Just when Rex Grossman looks good after getting benched, down he goes too. Brian Griese follows a good performance with a bad-to-medoicre performance. The offensive line struggled all season long. The secondary took a big hit after Mike Brown got injured on a cheap hit from Lorenzo Neal. The takeaways that the Bears became well-known for the past two years became non-existant, in fact, we were the opposite, giving the other team the ball. The end of the season had some promises though. We saw how Garrett Wolfe can be used as a weapon, Kyle Orton has a chance to be an effective starter, the takeaways were coming back to us. It was too little, too late. If we had just two more wins, we would’ve been in the playoffs.

Heading into the off-season, there are many questions about the status of the team. Do we fire Ron Turner? How about Bob Babich? Well, apparently, it seems like both men will be staying put. Don’t expect Ron Turner to be the same next year, I expect him to be more aggressive, like he was in 2006. As for Babich, he was plagued by injuries, but I expect the defense to return to form next year. Hey, the Super Bowl curse bit us.

The team is complete and has all the necessary players to make another run for the title, but what can we do?

LEFT TACKLE: The draft is full of blue-chip left tackle players. Draft one in the first round, trade up to get Jake Long, if possible. He is this year’s version of Joe Thomas, and you saw how well Cleveland played this year. Where does this leave John Tait? Well, naturally, we return him to his natural position, which is right tackle. This means bye-bye Fred Miller, the cause of our many false start penalties.

Alan Faneca will be a good fit for the Bears

LEFT GUARD: This one is easy. Sign Alan Faneca from Pittsburgh. Give him a good 4-year deal with a club option for a 5th year. Faneca is having a Pro-Bowl season and should fit in well with our line with guys like Olin Kreutz. They both have demanding personalities and would be a scary combination. With Faneca starting at left guard, this helps groom our rookie left tackle in a rush.

CENTER: Keep Olin Kreutz. He is still one of the best centers in the NFL, although he hit his decline this year, it may just be a down year. When everyone was blaming Grossman for the fumbles, guess what? Griese and Orton had their share of fumbles, so obviously Kreutz needs to work on snapping the ball. In camp, he will work it out.

RIGHT GUARD: This is open to many players. Right guard isn’t as important as left guard since the left side protects the quarterback’s blind side. Put in Roberto Garza, Josh Beekman, or even Rueben Brown in this spot and by being between Kreutz and Tait, it will be good enough.

RIGHT TACKLE: This is John Tait’s natural position, so plug him in here. He will be rusty since the footwork for LT and RT is different, but Tait will be back to his Kansas City form. Tait has always been a good tackle for Chicago, just plugged in the wrong spot.

Okay, we just re-built the line, and we will add depth through the draft. If we can’t get Faneca or Jake Long, we can still pick up guys like Max Starks, another guy from Pittsburgh. This is actually a good year to pick up some linemen, so we need to take advantage, especially considering we are in a good situation with the cap (some $20+ million). What about the quarterback situation?

I have been thinking about this for a long, long time. I figured it out, at least I hoped I did. Sign Grossman to a one year deal with an option for two. Keep Orton. As for Griese, well, I really don’t care what we do with him, as long as he is the third string backup. Griese can be useful as a mentor, but he won’t be the QB to take us to the Super Bowl. Grossman and Orton can. In camp, we need to pit these two guys in a competition. Grossman showed his upside when he came back after being benched, playing some good games even though when we had a loss, it was blamed on the defense, not Grossman. Orton also showed his talent, although he needs to work on his accuracy with the deep ball, he can still be a good quarterback. I believe we don’t need to draft a quarterback in the draft. We had a chance for guys like Aaron Rodgers a few years back, didn’t take it. Could’ve traded up to get Brady Quinn out of Notre Dame, yet we didn’t take it. We got Greg Olsen, who will be a huge playmaker for Chicago in the way Jeremy Shockey is for the New York Giants. The point is, the Bears are set at quarterback, although the starter is unknown, I believe they have the players. At the same time, however, they need to look at who may be available. Daunte Culpepper? Maybe. Is Kurt Warner’s deal up soon? Maybe, I’d replace Griese with Warner. Could we make a trade to get Philip Rivers? It’s highly unlikely that the Chargers would ever do it, but hell, go for it, Bears! How about Chicago native Donovan McNabb? Avoid him. He’s been injured way more times than Sexy Rex, plus his contract makes it hard for us to sign guys like Faneca.

Cedric Benson, oh man. When I saw footage of Benson from his Texas days the other day, I was shocked. He was fast, he juked, had the breakaway speed, and he was skinnier! Benson put on some bulk since joining the Bears, lost some speed and doesn’t seem to play the same way he did at Texas. Everyone complains he is easy to tackle. Well, guess what? Footage of his Texas days showed he was easy to tackle there as well, but he always delivered hard hits. Trading Thomas Jones in retrospective was a dumb move, but the Bears won’t do anything about moving Benson. If anything, they’ll add depth at runningback, maybe a guy like Michael Turner (I hope not). The draft, once again, is stocked with good running backs this year, the best being Arkansas’ Darren McFadden, whom we won’t get at all unless the football gods are smiling on us.

One more position on the offense and we can move on to defense. Wide receivers!!! Too many dropped passes this year. The bomb to Hester in which he dropped the ball can’t be blamed on him since it was his first true year as a receiver. Mushin Muhammed, everyone wants to see him go, but I don’t. Take a paycut, Moose, and let the younger guys with more speed step up. Bernard Berrian hasn’t proved himself to be a true #1 go-to receiver, so the best we can do is offer him a fair deal, without overspending. If he declines, there are guys like Jerry Porter from Oakland who may be a good fit here. There’s Mike Hass, who we haven’t seen at all this year who could be our version of Wes Welker from New England. Rashied Davis has tons of speed for a slot receiver, so I think we’ll keep him as well. The receivers need to work on hanging onto the ball. What the Bears need to do is scout as many receivers in the draft. Green Bay struck gold with Greg Jennings and James Jones. There’s no reason our scouts, considered the best in the NFL, can’t find these guys. Just hang onto the ball, guys!!

Special teams: I can’t stress how much I love Brendan Ayanbadejo. If there was no Ayanbadejo, maybe Hester won’t have as many touchdowns. Ayanbadejo plays hard-nosed football and deserves to be paid for it. Not Peyton Manning-money, but good money for being the best special teams player in the NFL today. Keep Ayanbadejo, that’s all I ask for, football gods!!

Defense. No doubt the defense had a bad year. It was so bad this year that Urlacher wasn’t even close for the Pro Bowl voting. Urlacher was a BEAST in the final three or 4 weeks, but it wasn’t enough. Mike Brown went down, Mark Anderson didn’t have a year like his rookie year, Dan Bazuin ended up on IR, Charles Tillman missed time, Nathan Vasher missed a lot of time and when he did come back for that one game, he reminded everyone why they missed him. Tank Johnson was released, Ron Rivera wasn’t resigned as our defensive coordinator, we did see the rise of Trumaine McBride, and even Tommie Harris played hurt. A lot of mistakes were made this year in handling the injuries to the Bears defense. When it was clear we were not going to make playoffs, why didn’t they just put Harris and Vasher on IR so they can rehab and get ready for 2008? Then there’s all the big plays we allowed this year that should’ve never happened because we seemed to forget how to tackle. Part of the problem is Adam Archuleta, who doesn’t look the same from his St. Louis days. No wonder the Redskins gave him up for cheap. Bye-bye Arch! Lance Briggs? Let him go, we got two possible replacements in Michael Okwo and Jamar Williams. Let’s see what Kevin Payne can do at safety. We have so much talent on defense that if next year is a repeated performance, it will be a disappointment and the coaching staff will have to go. I don’t see any free agents who can come in and add a spark on defense, because we don’t really need anybody. We have a solid defense, we just had a down year, we can come back and kick some ass next year.

Now, what do you guys think?