Costa Rica’s World Cup run creates buzz for Central American Nation

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Costa Rica went to the knockout round of 16 in their very first World Cup appearance, but 2014 proved to be their most successful tournament yet.  They beat Greece 5-3 on penalty kicks in extra time to advance to the round of eight for the first time ever. And they fought extremely hard in the quarter-final round, finally being vanquished on penalty kicks. Yes, coming within inches of making the sem-finals was HUGE for Costa Rica.

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Chicago should have 2 NFL Teams Again

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By Paul M. Banks

The Chicago Bears 2009 marketing slogan, “One City. One Team” will have added significance on Sunday when a team (Arizona Cardinals) that once called the second city home returns to play Chicago’s first, and currently only, NFL franchise. And it’s true that nothing unites this city like the Bears. In summer, allegiances are split between the Cubs and Sox. In winter, neither hockey nor basketball are popular enough to draw in a huge army of fans the way football does.

These days, finance and economics are on everybody’s mind. Well, I have a business proposition to eventually create wealth and jobs (at least locally): a second NFL team. As I’ll show you, consumer demand is perfect for a second team.

Expansion Theory

Baseball may be “America’s Pasttime,” but that nickname comes from the 19th century, and today the National Football League is its passion; doing bigger television ratings numbers and earning larger revenue streams than any other sport. In a Harris sports poll done in 2008, the NFL was the favorite sport of as many people (30 percent) as the combined total of the next three professional sports: baseball (fifteen percent), auto racing (ten percent), hockey (five percent) and men’s pro basketball (four percent).

The NFL has 32 teams, the rest of the major sports leagues have 30. However, since it is doing the best business, it is should be the league most likely to expand (I know I’d have a hard time saying this in Jacksonville and Detroit) sometime within the next decade. The league last expanded in 2002 (Houston Texans) and 1999 (second Cleveland Browns franchise). Los Angeles could have a franchise again and a second Chicago team would keep the total number of teams even. Chicago currently supports two baseball franchises that maintain a spirited and profitable rivalry. The Bears have had insane profit margins and media captivity for too long, time for a little competition.

Money Talks

Last season, a friend of mine who’s a director in a Fortune 500 Accounting Firm gave me a free mid-level ticket to a Bears-Cowboys game. This was printed on the ticket:chicityskyline3

Ticket Price: $93.69
Taxes: $10.31
Club Privileges fee: $131.00
TOTAL: $235.00

Remember these Cadillac Club tickets are still mid-level. Imagine what you “get” for the $330 face value tickets! Those club privileges got you…a place to sit to watch the game on television indoors when its cold, and…well pretty much nothing. For the life of me I could not see anything worth $31.00, let alone $131.00 to be in club level. The food and drinks are just as ridiculously overpriced in the club level as they are everywhere else in the stadium.

With the club privileges fee, the $100 that it costs JUST TO GET ON the season ticket WAITING LIST, the simple existence of Public Seat Licenses that cost thousands of dollars, and the very fact the NFL can get away with charging $95 for a preseason game, (Seriously, watching Caleb Hanie-to-Brandon Rideau isn’t exactly Montana-to-Rice and NOT worthy of paying almost a C-Note!) it’s clear that demand for professional football in Chicago is off-the-charts!

You can try and blame the Bears for being greedy, but you shouldn’t. (You can blame them for being an authoritarian and secretive organization with a dysfunctional obsession for manipulating the message sent out the public, but don’t blame them for this.)  Fault for this absurd price inflation lies in the so-called “free-market.” In MBA school, I learned all about demand equilibrium; and the market here is WAY out of equilibrium here. You don’t need to be John Kenneth Galbraith or have fancy Wall Street graphs to see how consumer demand is CRYING OUT for us to return to the days when we had two football teams. And other than the Bears organization itself, everyone would be a winner in this scenario.bearreport

Cardinal Rules

At noon today the Arizona Cardinals will come back home to play in their original city. The Chicago Cardinals played in Comiskey Park from 1922-1959. Since moving on to St. Louis and later Arizona, they have yet to host another playoff game and they have not come even remotely close to contending for another championship; last winning one here in 1947. That’s what you could have said prior to last year, when they made it all the way to the Super Bowl, and were pretty much robbed of a World Championship by the referees. They seriously had a title right within their grasp, and had the officiating not been ludicrously bad, they would have had a Chicago White Sox 2005 World Series type moment; a long suffering franchise finally reaching the summit of their game.

So it’s clear that obtaining an expansion team charter is a more likely scenario than bringing the Cardinals back home. And of course, if/when that happens, the Bears will still come first in this town. Every market will still be a “bear market,” but the Bears don’t have to gouge everyone on the insane level that they currently do. There’s truly room for a second team someday soon in the second city.

Orange Juice (Williams) and Champaign

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The Juice Williams Interview/Profile Part 1

By Paul M. Banks

On May 10, 2005, Urban dictionary made “juice” the Urban Word of the Day and defined it as such “Respect and credibility on the street. A.K.A. Sauce “I can’t be seen with them – they don’t have juice.”

Sounds like another word for power, connections, a big time reputation- something a star quarterback at a large, Big Ten University would have. But University of Illinois quarterback Isaiah John “the kids call him Juice” Williams didn’t get his name on the southside of Chicago’s mean streets, or because he has juice from his teammates. (and to play the most high profile position in all of sports, having juice is a must) Williams was dubbed “Juice” by his grandmother because of his large size as a child. “I was kind of big … you know, big and juicy, I guess.” Williams nearly died at birth due to his large size of 13 pounds and 8 ounces. Today, he’s large within the Illinois and college football record book.

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He enters his senior season with 6,405 career passing yards, fifth on the Illinois all-time list. He ranks 14th on the Illinois all-time rushing list and is the first non-running back in Illini history to top the 2,000 yard career rushing mark. Juice is third on the Illinois career total offense list with 8,455 yards.

His 475 pass completions and 909 pass attempts both rank fifth on the all-time list, he’s also thrown 44 career touchdown passes, third in school history. Oh, and as you might have heard 1000 times before, he attended the same school as former Illinois and Chicago Bears legend Dick Butkus. At Chicago Vocational High, Juice was an honor student.

Former Illini QB Kurt Kittner holds a lot of the records that Juice is poised to break, and as the team’s current radio color analyst, he remains close to the program. “We’ve had a few conversations. Kurt is a great guy, he’s not too worried about me breaking the records, if I’m able to, he’s fine with it. A compliment to the type of mentor he’s been to me, he loves Illini football,” Juice said about his interactions with Kittner.

In the bigger picture, Juice realizes that these records are just numbers. Instead he wants his legacy to be something else.kurtkittner

“I want people to say that Juice was one of the best guys to ever come through here, as far as leadership, being the captain, being the playmaker, being the role model, and being a great human being, not only just around campus but around the community…helping out youngsters, being a positive influence in other people’s lives…on the field, hopefully I can say that I will be the all-time leader in passing, passing yards, rushing yards by a QB, those things would be huge.  In order to get to that point, you have to do things as a team…fulfill team goals and the individual goals will come after that.”

Williams knows that the most important thing for him to do as a quarterback is be the “field general,” to be almost James Bondlike- staying calm and composed when dire situations arise. “Keep your head…a majority of quarterbacks know that when things start going on around them, people start talking, things start to tank. It’s just the quarterback mentality to let everything go and just stay focused and go from there, once you start paying attention to everything negative going on around you, you kind of lose sight of what you’re trying to do, so I just block everything out and just go,” Williams stated.

Of course, Williams has not had this healthy attitude during his entire Illini career. At Big Ten Media Day I asked him if he ever had read some criticism of himself online and gotten offended, thinking “hey, now that’s just not true.”

“I used to do it all the time my freshman year and part of my sophomore year, but you got to get over it, if you look at it too much, you read the blogs, the newspapers, all the negative criticism it takes a toll on you…even outside of football when you’re walking around, I’ve kind of let it go and learned from it,” Juice responded.

The flow of negative press is even more constant in today’s world of Web 2.0 and social media. Juice discussed not being online with Facebook, Twitter etc. too much. “You have to in order to be happy with your life, you got to get away from that,” Isaiah John Williams said.juice2willimas

Last year, the team slipped back a big step, going from a 9-4 BCS season to a lackluster 5-7, could the added media attention and pressure have had something to do with it? Perhaps the bright lights and constant TV cameras of the Big Ten Network’s Illinois Football: the Journey have had something to do with it? “I don’t think it hurt us at all. I think that it gave us an opportunity to showcase what goes on behind the scenes within our team.  It gave guys an opportunity to go out there and represent this University well. I think it was very beneficial to the program. Unfortunately we weren’t able to get the job done on Saturdays, but I don’t think having the cameras around had anything to do with it. I keep all the copies…of course the season didn’t go the way we wanted to, but you’ve gotta have all the videos for when you get older so you can show your kids, and your grandkids and your friends.  Especially with my daughter cause I can say, ‘Hey, you were on TV too.’ You have to have that stuff around,” Juice answered.

That was 2008. In 2009 Juice will get his final opportunities at collegiate glory. “We have to do our job. You have to count on the next man to do their job, and the next guy and the next guy, and you have to do yours, and all the parts to the machine really have to come together and operate. Once you do that you know, that’s when things start happening. You start getting the rushing yards, you start getting the passing yards, but most importantly, you get the W’s.”

Despite their awful record last season, Illinois was not a bad team. Almost all their losses were by narrow margins and came at the hands of teams that eventually played in the postseason. “Anybody who plays this sport is going to lose by just one or two points a few times and you can get very upset at that. But you have to just keep your cool and learn from it,” Williams said.

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Tune in tomorrow, where I’ll post part two of this exclusive. It will feature Juice thoughts on working out with Philadelphia Eagles QB and Chicago native Donovan McNabb, his thoughts about going on to the next level, and much more.