A lovely September Sunday produced a perfect storm of sports in Chicago. The PGA tour made its belated stop at Lemont's Cog Hill for the event once known as the Western Open, while the Indy Racing League pulled into the Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet. The U.S. soccer team welcomed defending World Cup champs Brazil for a hastily arranged friendly at Soldier Field. Less exotically, the White Sox continued their series against the Minnesota Twins at Sox Park. And that wasn't all. The first-place Cubs were away at Pittsburgh, and the Bears opened their season in San Diego. Beautiful weather notwithstanding, I had no choice but to stay indoors and turn on the television.
The day began just after noon with the Cubs taking a two-run lead against the Pirates, but newly reacquired Chicago starter Steve Trachsel (once a bum, always a bum) gave it right back in the second inning. The only good thing about Trachsel's performance was that he slowed the game to a crawl with men on base, which allowed me to check in on Tiger Woods, outfitted in his trademark fearsome red-and-black for the final round at Cog Hill, and the Sox, beginning what looked to be a long afternoon against the Twins' Johan Santana and his coat-hanger shoulders.
Back in Pittsburgh, Chicago center fielder Jacque Jones turned a fly ball into a two-out, bases-loaded triple, and Freddy Sanchez had to be thrown out at the plate to avert an inside-the-park grand slam. That put the Cubs down 6-2, with the tied-for-first Milwaukee Brewers already up 8-1 in Cincinnati, but at least it ended the inning in time for Woods's birdie putt on the third hole. That left him a shot behind leader Aaron Baddeley, who was wearing scarlet and black himself, but accessorized with a white belt and shoes. The Sox drew first blood on a run-scoring hit by Alex Cintron, but his two-out error led to a game-tying unearned run off Jon Garland.
At Cog Hill, Woods tied for the lead with a birdie on the seventh hole, and seconds later Baddeley failed to make a sand save and Woods was in front all alone. Hitting his next tee shot to the center of the fairway, he twirled his club on the follow-through--as ominous a sign as the twitch of a tiger's tail. He stuck his approach and made the birdie putt. At Sox Park, another two-out error by Cintron led to a three-unearned-runs homer by Jason Kubel that put the Twins up 4-1. The game in Pittsburgh was becoming a disaster for the Cubs. The starting lineups were announced at Soldier Field, with Ronaldinho and Kaka playing for Brazil and Landon Donovan and former Fire star Demarcus Beasley for the U.S. They started their engines at the Chicagoland Speedway.
Steve Stricker went ahead at 19 under at Cog Hill. As the Bears kicked to the Chargers, Kerry Wood came in and gave up three runs as things only got worse for the Cubs. Garland stayed in and things only got worse for the Sox. The Bears' defense held, but Devin Hester failed to field the punt--no excitement there. Woods and Baddeley also moved to 19 under, Woods pumping his fist. Cars ran around the Chicagoland Speedway, and guys trotted back and forth at Soldier Field.
Rex Grossman had his neck yanked and the Bears gave the Chargers good field position, but the defense held and Alex Brown blocked a field goal try. Someone scored for the U.S.--but there are few replays in soccer. The Cubs' day ended in a 10-5 loss, and they dropped into second place. Time for a Diet Mountain Dew.
Woods went ahead at 20 under. Brazil tied it 1-1. Joe Nathan shut down the Sox to save the Twins' 5-2 win, and the TV watching got a lot easier. Grossman led the Bears downfield after a Mike Brown interception as the first quarter ended. The Indy cars went round and round. I tuned in the soccer game and nobody scored. Robbie Gould kicked a field goal to put the Bears up 3-0.
Brazil's Robinho executed a nice baseline run with a step-over dribble, but then took a dive and the referee waved a card signaling crybaby. At intermission it was revealed that U.S. players scored both goals, one on themselves. Then ESPN2 showed NFL highlights, proving what sport really matters to U.S. viewers. Stricker fell off the pace. Woods hit a par five in two, giving him an eagle putt. He burned the lip but got his birdie to go two shots up. The way the Bears were snuffing the Chargers and LaDainian Tomlinson, there might be more scoring the rest of the day from Brazil and the U.S. at Soldier Field. Maybe I'd even see some of it. It turned out the U.S. goal had bounced off Carlos Bocanegra on a corner kick, an ugly score, while the own goal for the Brazilians came on a rebound after a magnificent run upfield. Grossman got away with an ill-advised lateral to Cedric Benson, but the Bears punted.
Woods rattled in a long birdie putt at 16 to get back a two-shot lead and was pumping his fist again and pointing at the cup. The Bears got the ball back with good field position, but Grossman threw an interception at the goal line. Brazil scored, and U.S. goalie Tim Howard injured his hand on the crossbar trying to block the shot. The Bears broke up a long San Diego pass, and defensive coordinator Bob Babich went as wild on the sideline as a peewee football coach. Grossman fumbled, but Adrian Peterson swooped in to save his ass. The Indy cars went round and round.
Woods stuck it seven feet from the pin on 17 but missed the putt to remain two up. The Bears punted and took a 3-0 lead into halftime. The U.S. scored, but Ronaldinho answered, curling in a free kick from just outside the box to make it 3-2 Brazil. Woods drove 355 yards down the middle of the fairway on the final hole. The Indy cars slowed to a Sunday-driver pace under a yellow flag in the final laps. Woods parred in to finish with a 63 at 22 under. When racing resumed, leader Scott Dixon ran out of gas and had to wait for the tow truck as Dario Franchitti cruised in to win. With the Chargers driving, Nathan Vasher was called for roughing the passer. Ronaldinho took the rest of the day off. Vincent Jackson's catch converted a third down into a San Diego first and goal, even though Mike Brown's tackle removed his helmet. But Tommie Harris beat the snap across the line and got away with it, forcing a fumble and preserving the lead. Nobody caught Woods, and the Brazilians added another goal to win 4-2.
Just as the dust began to settle, the Chargers' Mike Scifres dubbed a punt so badly it bounced off the Bears' Brandon McGowan in the middle of the coverage to give San Diego the ball back. Tomlinson threw a touchdown pass on a halfback option and it was 7-3 Chargers going into the fourth quarter. Peterson converted a third and ten with a nice run on a draw, only to fumble a couple of downs later. The Bears' defense softened, Mike Brown got hit with a clothesline block, and Tomlinson scored on the next play--14-3. The Bears moved it into San Diego territory but then were stymied on three straight runs and gave it up on downs. Alex Brown's face-mask penalty helped the Chargers run out the clock. And somewhere up there in the blue, the second-place Cubs were flying home to play the Saint Louis Cardinals Monday.
So let's check the scorecard. Six hours, six channels--Woods, Franchitti, and the Brazilians all win, ho hum, while the Cubs, Sox, and Bears lose. Maybe I should have taken my daughter out to play miniature golf.
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