Mike Nadel: Mildcats cure Ailing Illini

Mike Nadel

Bruce Weber had to be thinking: “Please? Can’t we play Northwestern again? Pretty please?”

We all know Weber’s Fighting Illini are no great shakes this season, so how bad are the Mildcats? So bad that pretty much the entire second half of Sunday’s 70-37 game in Champaign amounted to what NBA types call “garbage time.”

It really is a shame the teams won’t meet again this season. Northwestern actually might have suited up its varsity.

At least Illini fans know that no matter how bad things get, their heroes won’t finish 11th in the Big Ten.

Attention, Illini Land: Send thank-you notes to Evanston.

This was one of a variety of subjects featured in recent editions of my blog, The Baldest Truth ( More excerpts follow.

Festive Sox

I spent some time Friday at SoxFest chatting with GM Ken Williams, manager Ozzie Guillen and several players. Here are the top five White Sox quotes I jotted into my reporter’s notebook:

1. “I think I’m getting shorter, actually.” - oversized reliever Bobby Jenks, after being asked the annual have-you-lost-weight question. (He hasn’t!)

2. “Last year was the first time I have ever been on a losing team. So it was a new experience to me, and it sucked. It was miserable every day.” - catcher A.J. Pierzynski.

3. “Because I’m a funny guy, man.” - New outfielder Nick Swisher, when asked why he had been so popular in the Oakland clubhouse.

4. “It’s nice to play in Chicago? Yes, when you’re winning. This is not an easy place to play when you’re down.” - Guillen.

5. “(Carlos Quentin) has been a very special player. In our ballpark, he could turn out to be very special. Josh Fields is a special young man and he’s got a chance to do some special things in this city.” - Williams.

Awww. Isn’t that special?

Say cheese

Big news in Patriot Land! Yes, even bigger than Tom Brady’s walking boot!!

Bill Belichick was talking the other day about how he wouldn’t talk about any injury Brady does or doesn’t have, and there it was: Kind of an almost smile.

A grin. A smirk. A bemused upward curling up of the corners of Coach Stone Face’s mouth.

And he’d better not try to deny it. Belichick should know better than anybody else that videotape doesn’t lie.

Slow learner

After I asked him what’s been the problem with 2006 top draft pick Tyrus Thomas, Bulls very interim coach Jim Boylan said:

“Tyrus has to understand where he gets his work done, and that’s around the basket. When you float around the perimeter, that’s not near the basket. He’s starting to understand that. He’s been playing much better recently.”

About an hour later, Thomas got into Sunday’s game against Phoenix. Soon enough, he was popping 20-footers.

He actually made three early, which, unfortunately for the Bulls, emboldened him later. After going 4-for-5 in the first half, Thomas went 1-for-10 in the second half.

The kid doesn’t get it. And to think, the Bulls could have had either of two terrific Trail Blazers: Brandon Roy (my suggestion at the time) or LaMarcus Aldridge.

Of course, Thomas did spend some of the game at “shooting” forward alongside Ben Wallace and Joakim Noah on an all-bricklayers front line. "Somebody has to jack up jumpers," Thomas must have figured, "so I nominate myself!"

The injured Luol Deng didn’t play, and Joe Smith was slowed by a bum knee. But still ...

Why would Boylan simultaneously play three guys whose combined range is a foot and a half?

Shaddup Barry

Barry Bonds says the perjury indictment against him is noted for its “striking inartfulness,” so he wants the charges dropped.

Fair enough.

And I’m noting that his pursuit of the home-run record while on steroids also was strikingly inartful, and I want the mark returned to Hank Aaron.

Fresh air

My wife and I went to a “Marquette bar” in Chicago on Saturday to watch our Golden Warrior Eagles beat DePaul, and I can’t even begin to tell you how nice it was to take a deep breath without gagging on cigarette smoke.

We enjoyed it so much that we gladly ordered food, knowing we wouldn’t have to choke it down while getting carcinogens blown in our faces. And it was wonderful to emerge from the bar several hours later without needing to fumigate our clothes.

This was our first foray into a tavern since Illinois enacted its no-smoking-in-public law - and we’ll be happy to visit many, many establishments again.

Some bar owners feared the smoking ban would kill business. Well, this place was packed. And I’m guessing that many of the people were like me (and especially my smoke-hating wife): folks who wouldn’t have spent so much time and money at a bar had it been a smokehouse.

Congratulations, Illinois lawmakers, for actually getting one right!

Mike Nadel ( is the Chicago sports columnist for GateHouse News Service.