Two of the best: Fred Mitchell, Phil Hersh say farewell to Chicago Tribune

fredmitchellHershEvery day, it seems my Twitter and Facebook feeds are filled with farewell columns from old friends leaving their newspapers after decades of fine work. It is yet another depressing commentary about the state of the industry.

Two of the best said goodbye to the Chicago Tribune Sunday: Fred Mitchell and Phil Hersh.

Both sportswriters were mentors, role models, and trusted teammates to me. As a young reporter, I remember being dazzled by Hersh’s exceptional talent. His profile of Jim McMahon was one of the best stories to ever grace the Tribune’s sports pages.

As for Mitchell, I can recall my old sports editor Gene Quinn citing one of his ledes as an example of simple, concise, yet elegant writing. After the Cubs lost Game 5 to San Diego in the 1984 NLCS, denying their fans the pennant everyone thought … Continue Reading

Dave Wannstedt: Unlikely media star; ‘I just get caught up talking about football’

WannstedtExcerpts from my latest column for the Chicago Tribune:


Dave Wannstedt is walking down Michigan Avenue on an overcast November morning after finishing his regular Tuesday morning sports radio appearance. He ducks into a store to get a cup of coffee even though he already appears to be fully caffeinated.

Wannstedt always gets amped talking about college and pro football. Above everything else, his rapid-fire, high-energy broadcast persona makes him completely engaging. Must-listen radio. Mike Mulligan, co-host of WSCR-AM 670’s “Mully & Hanley Show,” says, “It is the best segment on our show.”

The on-air version of Wannstedt is a stark contrast to how Bears fans remember him.

“I always was protective with the media,” Wannstedt said, in explaining why he didn’t reveal that outgoing side during his days as Bears coach from 1993-99 and later as head coach … Continue Reading


Is Peyton Manning next? Players Tribune becomes new outlet for superstars to announce upcoming retirement

KobeDavid Ortiz, Steve Nash. Now Kobe Bryant.

Clearly, there is a trend developing. The Players Tribune has become the new outlet for the megastars to announce they are calling it a career.

Ortiz did it with a video on the site. Then last night, Bryant broke the news on The Players Tribune that he will be taking his victory lap this year, assuming he can stay healthy.

Of course, Bryant has more than a passing interest in The Players Tribune. He invested some money in the endeavor and is listed as the editorial director. Soon, he will have plenty of time to vet those stories.

Many other big-name athletes will take note and ask for their agents to arrange for the same set-up with The Players Tribune when it comes time to say goodbye. It is going to become a … Continue Reading

Thanksgiving flashback: No. 1 Nebraska vs. No. 2 Oklahoma in 1971; Best Turkey Day game ever

As we prepare to settle in for too much football and way too much food, I thought I would flash back to the best Thanksgiving Day football game ever. And it didn’t come courtesy of the NFL.

On Thanksgiving Day 1971, No. 1 Nebraska played No. 2 Oklahoma in what also might have been the best college football game ever. Definitely in the top 5. Check in around the 1:10 mark for Johnny Rodgers’ sensational punt return.

And it always is good to hear the voice of Chris Schenkel, one of the all-time greats.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Also, since this is a big week for rivalries, Richard Rothschild of selects the best showdowns of the last 50 years.… Continue Reading

Sport Media Friday: ‘Brave’ vision for ESPN’s Undefeated; Play bad, ratings up for NFL

Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sports media:

Kevin Merida discusses his plans for ESPN’s The Undefeated with Richard Deitsch.

RD: What is your vision about what this site should be?

KM: The Undefeated should be vibrant, soulful, smart, cool. And brave. Not predictable, not ideological, and never boring. The subject material is certainly there. Sports/race/culture is a rich mix that will keep on giving. We talk about The Undefeated as a site. But I see it as more than ‘a site,’ which is really a desktop concept in a mobile age of sharing content and discussing it online. We want to do the work that people will talk about and remember and share with their friends—long form, short form, provocative, engaging commentary, visually driven journalism, revelatory reporting, and all the rest. But ultimately we want

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MLB liked my idea: Sunday afternoon openers on tap for ESPN

MLB logoYes, I am taking credit for this one.

In March, I did a column asking why MLB didn’t take advantage of the Sunday in between the Final Four semis on Saturday and the national championship game on Monday.

I wrote:

MLB has scheduled 14 openers on Monday, and all but three are at night. Many of those fans will be working or commuting home during those games. It never made sense to me that this glorious day always is on a weekday.

Here’s a way to remedy the situation: MLB should schedule a grand Opening Day festival on the Sunday between the NCAA Final Four semifinals on Saturday and the title game on the following Monday. Start with noon games in the East and go through ESPN’s Sunday night telecast.

Technically, there will be an opener on Sunday night, as … Continue Reading

My reviews of Carlton Fisk, Nick Saban biographies; Posnanski book on Watson-Nicklaus

Carlton FiskAn excerpt of my sports book roundup for the Chicago Tribune’s Printers Row book section.


Pudge: The Biography of Carlton Fisk by Doug Wilson, Thomas Dunne, 358 pages, $26.99

Carlton Fisk takes center stage every fall. During baseball’s postseason, there are multiple replays of his iconic homer in the sixth game of the 1975 World Series. It ranks as one of the game’s most memorable blows and was Fisk’s defining moment. Yet there was much more to Fisk’s Hall of Fame career. Doug Wilson’s book details how the catcher seemed to defy age, still squatting behind the plate at 46. He writes how it started with an old-school New England work ethic that he brought to the Midwest when he came to the Chicago White Sox in 1981. As was the case with Fisk’s career, the book is … Continue Reading

Chris Dufresne, Bill Dwyre among those taking buyouts at LA Times

Best wishes to a couple good guys and excellent journalists.

Here is Chris Dufresne’s Facebook post:


Well, my dream of being paid by the LA Times on June 17, 2016, will come true. That date will be the 40th anniversary of my hiring on June 17, 1976, just a week after high school graduation. There was one short interruption in 1981, where I left transportation for a “real” job at the Fullerton Trib before getting hired back in same calendar year, as you see from my start date in Editorial on Dec. 29, 1981. I was awarded continuous service which is why I will be leaving with five more years than Bill “Kid” Dwyre.

My five years on the loading docks were fantastic, even the bundles that fell on my head. At lunch I would sneak up to … Continue Reading

Reporter on covering Steve Kerr: Not many coaches can discuss Arabic dialects and motion offense

Enjoyed this observation in Richard Deitsch’s post on today. He asked beat reporters what it is like to cover the Golden State Warriors.

Not surprisingly, Steve Kerr, a former member of the media, gets it. But it goes even deeper according to Ethan Strauss, who covers the Warriors for ESPN.

Praising Kerr might sound like an affront to journalistic objectivity, but I think he’s objectively great to deal with. There aren’t many coaches with whom you can discuss Arabic dialects one second, and motion offense the next. Kerr was raised by academics, so he’s inclined to share and educate — more than most coaches, I think. Kerr’s a Popovich disciple, but his public persona stands in contrast to Pop’s opacity. That’s the difference between an academic background and a military background, I suppose.

And here’s another observation from Strauss … Continue Reading

Sports Media Friday: Gumbel rips coverage of sports; Yours truly on Sports-Casters; Skipper on shutting down Grantland

Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sports media:

Not sure what got into Bryant Gumbel, but he did a takedown of sports coverage in an interview with Neil Best of Newsday.

“Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” was viewed when it premiered on HBO 20 years ago as a vital addition to the mostly barren landscape of sports journalism on television.

All these years later, with so many more outlets for such work available, is Gumbel pleased with how the genre has evolved?

Sports media

Um, no.

“I wish I could say, boy, there’s a lot of folks doing it now and we’ve really taken a serious look, but I’d be lying,” Gumbel said Wednesday at a dinner in Manhattan to celebrate the show’s 20th anniversary. (It premiered on April 2, 1995.)

“I still think so much

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Cubs aiming to launch their own TV network in 2020

Cubs logoAs expected, the Cubs officially announced WSCR-AM 670 as their new radio outlet for 2016 yesterday.

However, during an appearance on the station, Crane Kenney, the Cubs’ president of business operations, dropped a bombshell. He said the Cubs will launch their own TV network in 2020.

“2019 is our last year with Comcast, so we’ll move over and launch our own channel in 2020,” Kenney said on the “Mully & Hanley” morning show.

Now there had been plenty of speculation that the Cubs would go this route after their deal with Comcast SportsNet expires in 2019. But this marked the first time that the Cubs said definitely that they will air their own games.

At the GM meetings, Theo Epstein even hinted at the possibility that the Cubs could launch sooner than 2020. It likely would mean them getting out … Continue Reading