Chicago Tribune from Chicago, Illinois on August 4, 2006 · Page 4-1
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Chicago Tribune from Chicago, Illinois · Page 4-1

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Friday, August 4, 2006
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123456 B OURBONNAIS—It’sthe football equivalent of the frivolous lawsuit. The NFL says, sternly, that it will be watching centers closely this season to make sure they don’t wiggle their fingers before each snap. Insists that said wiggling might lure defensive linemen offsideand thus is an unfair competitive advantage. Warns centers they could get a false-start penalty if they do it this season. The league won’t admit it, but this is the Olin Kreutz Rule. Until a few days ago, the Bears center wiggled his left hand before every snap. If he isn’t famous for it, he should be. It was a very cool ritual. It added a certain tension to the proceedings. It was the gunfighter itching for the draw, and it really deserved its own theme music, something signaling impending violence. Maybe the whistling theme from “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” Or “The Good, the Bad and the Wiggly.” But, yes, the country is safe now. We all will sleep a little better knowing Kreutz’s hand has been tied, won’t we? No more wiggle room for Olin. Thank you No Fun League. What’s next? No more blinking? And the NFL wonders why people paint a picture of an organization obsessed with stamping out even a hint of uniqueness and individuality. Kreutz calls the new focus “petty.” “The only problem I have with it is it seems personal, like it’s just for me,” he said after practice Thursday. “When the defensive lineman moves his fingers, is he trying to draw me off? It makes no sense to me.” If you have seen the five-time Pro Bowl selection play over the past eight seasons—and apparently the NFL hasn’t until recently—then you know he grabs the ball with his right hand, gets in his stance and wiggles the fingers on his left hand. He says he doesn’t know why he wiggles and says it’s not something he does consciously. It’s like the Nike slogan. He just does it. And he’s having a tough time stopping. “If it’s a rule, obviously I have to work on it,” Kreutz said. “But this is my ninth year in the league. It’s not something you just stop doing. It’s not like I’m grabbing somebody by the facemask or doing a different kind of block. I’ve been moving my fingers since I was in high school. Now all of a sudden it’s illegal. “It almost seems like they have nothing to do.” He’s right. You would think the NFL would be busy trying to minimize all the bad calls we get to watch over and over again during those interminable instant-replay reviews. But no. As it does every year with every team, the NFL sent a team of officials to the Bears camp recently to instruct the players and coaches on any new rules and interpretations. “One of them kept yelling at me,” Kreutz said. “I was like, ‘Hey man, give me a break. I’ll try to stop.’ I hope we’re not in an important game this season and I move my fingers and they flag me.” If there’s any group more into the details than NFL officials, it’s NFL coaches. So now Kreutz has the eyes of his own coaching staff on him to make sure he’s not wiggling. He said referees began asking him about his habit last season, which Kreutz interpreted as pressure from opposing coaches. “Just because a few defensive coordinators complained about it, now it’s illegal for me to do,” he said. “I’m not the only guy in the league who moves his fingers, I promise you. When a D-lineman gets in his stance and kicks his leg, is he trying to draw me off? “How many rules are you going to make? Where are you going to stop? Is there supposed to be completely no motion? A defensive lineman can’t shift?” What we’re headed for is robotic football, the Jets being replaced by the Jetsons. Nobody can move without the NFL watching. Certainly no one can celebrate without the league critiquing every dance move. Now the NFL is down to legislating fingers. Maybe it’s the last frontier. Wave goodbye to your trademark wiggle, Olin. I tell Kreutz I hope the NFL isn’t cutting Samson’s hair here. I hope his ability isn’t tied into wiggling fingers. “I hope not,” he said, laughing. “I hope the wiggly fingers aren’t key to my game or else I’m screwed. Maybe I’ll just tape them all together so they won’t move.” He smiles, but it’s clear he doesn’t think much of this is funny. “If you understand it, let me know,” he said. rmorrissey@tribune.com hed tag with dummy text. Rick Morrissey In the wake of the news 20022003200420052006 51 46 59 61 56 WRIGLEY FIELD 20022003200420052006 34 15 38 17 37 14 34 13 40 10 UNITED CENTER 20022003200420052006 36 32 35 39 53 U.S. CELLULAR FIELD 20022003200420052006 50 53 52 54 56 SOLDIER FIELD Scarborough Research measured the percentage of Chicago consumers who watched one of the five major sports teams on television or in person or listened to a game on the radio during the last year. Team percentages for the last five years: Fans’ flames # Percent of interest KEY Note: Data sampling from March to February for each year. Figures for 2006 are through February. dddd ccc ccc SOX APPEAL By David Haugh | Tribune staff reporter A Bear market it remains. And the Cubs can still lay claim to being the most lovable baseball team in town despite this year’s losses. But Sox appeal in Chicago has spread more quickly than a trade rumor, proof coming in a national survey that suggests the White Sox could become the most popular sports team in the city sooner rather than later if recent trends continue. “If I were to show you a graph or a trend line, you’d see the Cubs’ and Sox’s [popularity] is almost identical,’’ said Howard Goldberg, senior vice president for Scarborough sports marketing. Indeed, according to data collected by Scarborough Research, a syndicated firm numerous professional sports teams use, 53 percent of Chicago consumers watched a Sox game on television, attended a game or listened to one on the radio last year, during their World Series-winning season. The Cubs and Bears enjoyed 56 percent penetration in the market, while the Bulls stood at 40 percent and the Blackhawks lagged behind at 10 percent. The Scarborough poll measured interest of 4,182 people from March 2005 through February 2006 and adequately represented the passion of Chicago sports fans, said Goldberg, who grew up in Chicago. His confidence level in the survey is “95 percent.’’ The difference of 3 percent between the Sox and the Bears and Cubs makes it a statistical dead heat in the race to be the city’s most popular sports team. “No question this proves the gap has narrowed,’’ Goldberg said. Just two years ago, for example, the same survey exposed a gap of 24 percent when the Cubs were at 59 and the Sox 35. It was a 22 percent difference a year later. The spike in Sox popularity marked a 14 percent increase from the previous Mad about you: Maddux allows no hits in 6 innings in Dodger debut but pulled W ait a minute.Brian Urlacher is giving up golf to play football? Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around? Perhaps we had it wrong all along. Golf, the most dangerous sport there is. The Bears middle linebacker disclosed that despite being a solid 6- or 7- handicapper, he is putting his clubs away. He says golf takes too much of a toll on his back and hamstrings. It defies logic. During an average football game, Ur- lacher gets into collisions that would send the average golfer to the emergency room, if not worse. Yet a 5- iron leaves him in pain? Then again, the golf swing isn’t a natural motion. The twisting and rotation subjects the back to a tremendous amount of torque, especially if a 260- pound linebacker is wielding the club. Urlacher said he probably swings too hard and has poor fundamentals. Here’s what that means in BEARS TRAINING CAMP PLEASE SEE URLACHER, PAGE5 Golf too rough for big bad Bear? Experts understand why Brian Urlacher is quitting the game to avoid back woes, writes Ed Sherman BACK PAGE Í Draft picks enthused at being in the mix for playing time; Berrian aims at No. 2 receiver job. By Paul Sullivan Tribune staff reporter The six-year cold war between the Cubs and former first baseman Mark Grace ended Thursday when Grace led Cubs fans in the seventh- inning stretch during Game 2 of the doubleheader with Arizona. Despite playing 13 years at Wrigley Field, Grace admitted he was “nervous” for the first time since he was a rookie. “It’s a day I’m glad finally happened,” Grace said. “With the amount of years I spent here and the things that we accomplished together—the Cubs and myself—I think this Back in good graces Tribune photo by Phil Velasquez Former Cub Mark Grace acknowledges the crowd after singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” Thursday at Wrigley Field. Former star, Cubs improve relations after 6-year freeze INSIDE Í Rookie helps Cubs gain split. PAGE 4 PLEASE SEE GRACE, PAGE5 SECTION 4 FRIDAY AUGUST4,2006 PLEASE SEE FANPOLL, PAGE5 INSIDE FRIDAY SPORTS

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