Mike Nadel: Man bites dog, law bites man

Mike Nadel

A couple of months ago, I urged restraint upon hearing of the dogfighting accusations against Michael Vick. I said we should wait for a verdict before we condemn the Atlanta Falcons quarterback as a sick, twisted, cowardly jerk who gets a kick out of torturing defenseless animals.

Well, the verdict is in: Vick has declared himself guilty. He deserves all the jail time he'll get.

Training dogs to fight? Electrocuting or hanging or drowning them if they don’t serve his needs? What a pig.

This is where I normally would say that the entire idea of prison is to rehabilitate criminals and that Vick should get another chance to play in the NFL someday.

Right now, I don’t have it in me. I’m too repulsed.

Sick Mr. Vick was just one of the many subjects featured the past few days in my blog, The Baldest Truth (www.thebaldesttruth.com). Excerpts from a few more items follow. Oh, and for those curious about what kind of woman would be crazy enough to marry me, be sure to check out my Aug. 16 entry!

JUST WONDERING

Maybe Bears coaches do consider Rex Grossman a leader, but it always makes me wonder when the quarterback is not named a team captain.

FINE START

Of course.

As soon as I pick the Cubs to win the NL Central -- citing Ted Lilly and the bullpen as primary reasons -- Lilly gets lit up by the Cardinals, the first reliever allows a home run on the only pitch he throws, and the Cubs lose.

I still say the Cubs are the team to beat.

And I guess St. Louis proved it by promptly beating them.

THE LIST

Top five items on Tony La Russa’s Genius-At-Work List:

1. He has decided to bat the his pitcher seventh because that’s bound to be even more of a smashing success than batting the pitcher eighth has been.

2. He is planning to rest Albert Pujols for the next year and a half so the Cardinals slugger will be ready for the 2009 All-Star Game at new Busch Stadium.

3. He is trying to make sure the Cards finish with exactly 83 victories. Hey, it worked last year!

4. He will use the DH in place of his catcher in next season’s interleague games.

5. The next time the Cardinals get into a beanball war with an opponent, he’ll send Rick Ankiel out to pitch.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

"I’d like to thank God. Without him, I’m nothing, I’m screwed." - Carlos Zambrano, after signing a $91.5 million contract extension with the Cubs.

SPORTS ILLINI-STRATED

The folks at Sports Illustrated, infatuated with the talent Ron Zook has brought in the past two years, foresee a serious upgrade in the Fighting Illini’s fortunes.

In its college football preview issue, the mag is calling Illinois the 51st-best team in the nation (just behind Navy, just ahead of Maryland and only nine spots behind Notre Dame), has the team going 4-4 in the Big Ten (7-5 overall) and sees the Illini playing in the Dec. 31 Insight Bowl in Tempe, Ariz.

Linebacker J Leman is listed as one of the conference’s "Players to Watch," receiver Arrelious Benn is being called the "True Freshman to Watch" and SI also gives props to tailback Rashard Mendenhall and QB Juice Williams.

Of "Coach on the Rise" Zook, SI says: "The influx of talent since Zook took over in late 2004 has been nothing short of amazing. Plus, he has a year or two before Illini fans start to get impatient."

This is some pretty heady stuff for a team that lost last year’s homecoming game to Indiana, also lost at home to Ohio -- that’s plain, old OHIO; no State attached -- and managed the dubious distinction of finishing 11th in the Big Ten in each of Zook’s first two seasons.

The Illini did play better as last season progressed, and they obviously have upgraded their talent. Still, most of that talent is very young, and any fan expecting a winning record practically is begging to be disappointed.

Better to expect a more modest improvement -- say, 5-7 -- and then be pleasantly surprised if the lads do better.

As for Zook having "a year or two" before fans start getting impatient, I’m thinking "a year" is closer to the truth than "or two."

FOREVER YOUNG (IF ONLY)

Even knowing that my daughter Katie will have a great junior year and that the fine folks at Lawrence University will take care of her, I still had to wipe away a tear as I drove away from her dorm Saturday.

We try our best to raise them right and we’re so proud when they grow up to be wonderful young adults. Nevertheless, part of us wishes they still were little so we could protect them and teach them and hold them close.

You know, the next time I see Katie, I think I’ll tie her shoelaces, wipe her face with a wet-nap and hold her hand when we cross the street -- just for old time’s sake!

Mike Nadel (mikenadel@sbcglobal.net) is the Chicago sports columnist for GateHouse News Service.