5 Questions with...Sun-Times' Lacy J. Banks

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5 Questions with...Sun-Times' Lacy J. Banks

CSN Chicago Senior Director of Communications
CSNChicago.com Contributor

Want to know more about your favorite Chicago media celebrities? CSNChicago.com has your fix as we put the citys most popular personalities on the spot with everyones favorite local celeb feature entitled 5 Questions with...

On Wednesdays, exclusively on CSNChicago.com, its our turn to grill the local media and other local VIPs with five random sports and non-sports related questions that will definitely be of interest to old and new fans alike.

This weeks guesta Chicago sports journalism giant whose passion for the city and teams he covers is only equaled by his passion for family and lifecalling him a fighter doesnt do this man justicehis health battles have been well-documented, which include on-going bouts with both brain & prostate cancer and congestive heart failure, but there is no stopping this manhe knows he has a lot more to give to our city and has no plans on stopping nowfrom the Chicago Sun-Times, here are 5 Questions withLACY J. BANKS!

BIO: Lacy J. Banks, 67, has been a Sun-Times sportswritercolumnist for close to 40 years and a Baptist preacher for 60 years. He has preached at more than 100 different churches in the Chicago area. A native of Lyon, Miss., Banks graduated from the University of Kansas with a B.A. in French and he served three years in the Vietnam War as a U.S. Naval officer. Lacy and wife, Joyce, have been married 42 years and have three daughters and five grandchildren. Among beats Banks has covered for the Sun-Times are the Bulls (including this NBA Playoffs run as well), along with the Fire, defunct Sting, Blackhawks, Wolves, Cubs, defunct Hussle, Rush, Sky, college football and basketball and pro boxing.

1) CSNChicago.com: Lacy, so happy to speak with you, especially since there was a terrible rumor that quickly spread around newsrooms in this city that you DIED on April 20! To say it was startling to hear that is an understatement, but you wisely and quickly took to Facebook to let everyone know that you are indeed alive andaccording to your most recent Sun-Times blog postdoing thankfully well all things considered. Is it fair to call you an inspiration to cancer and heart patients out there who aspire to keep on fighting they way you courageously have over the past three years?

Banks: When I attended junior and senior high school in Kansas City, Kan., I lettered in track by running on the 400-meter, 800-meter and 1600-meter relays teams. I don't remember me ever leading off or anchoring those relay teams. I ran the middle legs, meaning I'd receive the baton from a previous runner and pass it on the next one. Likewise, I'm glad to be an inspiration to cancer survivors and to those suffering serious heart problems just as others were inspirations to me. By the grace of almighty God, I'm just passing the baton, Jeff.

Other Chicago sports legends like Wendell Smith, Gene Siskel, Jack Griffin and Dave Feldman ran on my team before me. The same with my oldest sibling, my sister Mrs. Maude Lee Banks-Burrell, and my youngest, my brother Hansel Jordan Banks. God rest their souls. There and so many, many others who have inspired me to fight. But perhaps nobody has inspired me more than my contemporary fellow cancer survivor, Roger Ebert. Look at how cancer has viciously attacked him. Yet he has soldiered on long and strong with a smile on his face and magnificent movie reviews in his soul. Now there's a real giant Jeff. There's a real hero. His afflictions have not diminished his genius in any way, shape or form. And just as his wife, Chaz, has been by his side as his main support system, so has my wife of 50 years, Joyce. Thank you, Jesus.

2) CSNChicago.com: As you well know and as someone who knows the ins and outs of this team as well as anyone, this city has very high expectations for a deep playoff run for the Bulls. In your opinion, what are the three main on-court elements that MUST happen for this team to - lets just say it - reach the NBA Finals?

Banks: First, they must continue to play the same smothering defense that powered them to the best record in the regular season. Second, their star leader and sure-shot NBA MVP, Derrick Rose, must remain healthy and maintain his stellar all-round play. Third, they must have a consistent, balanced offense that will give Rose the support he needs for the first three quarters, rather than force him to pull them out of close games to victoryfourth quarter, after forth quarter, after fourth quarter.

Even Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Bill Russell had to have help. They finally paid the price Saturday when they spotted the Indiana Pacers a huge early lead and failed to pull it out despite another heroic finish. But they almost lost more than the game. When Rose twisted his left ankle in the first quarter, it was one scary moment because that twist looked awfully ugly on video replays. Thank God that it wasn't as serious as it looked. He stayed in the game and again almost saved the Bulls in the fourth.

3) CSNChicago.com: Youve now covered two of the greatest players to ever to put on a Bulls uniform: Michael Jordan and Derrick Rose. At this point in Roses stellar early portion of his career to MJs standout early years in the league, what would you say are some striking similarities & big differences between these two NBA titans?

Banks: They are both cold-blooded killers, but with different temperaments. Jordan's emotions ran hot and heavy. But he did not let them rattle him when he had to be focused at money time, when the pressures of the game were at their maximum. But Rose? He is incredibly calm and just as confident and competent. Jordan was obviously bigger at 6-6 than Rose at 6-3, but both are outstanding finishers and Rose is a better penetrator and glass-master than Jordan. Give Rose the slightest sliver of space and he'll slice and dice opponents off the dribble no matter how much those opponents pack the paint and pelt him with cheap shots.

4) CSNChicago.com: There was a time period when there was a long drought in this city between pro team championships (1963 to 1981 to be exact). That all changed in 81 when the now-defunct North American Soccer Leagues (NASL) Chicago Sting, a team filled with huge personalities and amazing skills to match, won the Soccer Bowl over the New York Cosmos. Many younger Chicago sports fans obviously wouldnt know how big that moment truly was in this city. As a beat writer for the Sting during those years, tell us what it was like to cover that team and how they captivated Chicago at that moment in time.

Banks: The Sting was something of an unwanted child because soccer was not that popular a sport in Chicago in particular or America in general. But the ownership of Lee Stern and the coaching of Willy Roy are the main reasons the Sting gave Chicago two major-league championships. Stern, a native of Chicago, was to Chicago as an owner what Derrick Rose, also a local native, is to Chicago as a player.

Quick note of trivia: can you remember another owner or player who was born in the same city he became its championship sports hero? Magic Johnson was not born in Los Angeles. Neither was Shaquille O'Neal or Kobe Bryant. Bird was not born in Boston. Neither was Russell. Jordan was not born in Chicago. Neither was Walter Payton or Ernie Banks. Tim Duncan was not born in San Antoniobut Dwayne Wade and Isiah Thomas were both born in Chicago before bringing NBA championships to Miami and Detroit respectively.

5) CSNChicago.com: In addition to being a veteran Chicago sports journalist, youre also a man of deep faith who has helped spread the word of God to thousands of parishioners over the past six decades. With the reported decline in church goers over the past decade or so in all faiths, what can be done in your opinion to bring them back?

Banks: A miracle. A cataclysmic miracle. Like an invasion of aliens from outer space. Of course, the return of Jesus Christ performing miracle as He did in His first coming could also do it. But the bible tells us that when Christ returns the second time, He is coming back to take what's left of His church dead and alive. The bible teaches that most of mankind, as in the past, still will never accept the faith in God that Jesus authored and finished. As prophesied in the bible, these are the "last days" when people will no longer endure sound doctrine. And the real essence of Christianity, the religion of which I am a redeemed member, or any other good religion, is a faith that will make us love each other as we love ourselves.

BONUS QUESTIONCSNChicago.com: Any final thoughts youd like to share Lacy?
Banks: I am seriously concerned about the destructive direction in which America is headed. Ninety-five percent of this nation's wealth is possessed by five percent of the population. Plus, too many of our congressmen are multi-millionaires, which means they are out of touch with the sufferings of the masses. Every previous great empire was destroyed more from within than without. People became more greedy, insensitive, ignorant, unloving and undisciplined. Our government is corrupted by congressmen who are in the pockets of special interest groups that are only interested in making money at any and all costs. Mis-prioritizing has resulted in the savaging of our environment and the deadly deterioration of our infrastructure. I believe that Republicans and Teapartiers, in essence, care nothing for the poor and the middle class. And they are full of hate and anger. I can understand anger. Our growing economic woes, greatly resulting from the abandonment of American workers, through out-sourcing of jobs to cheap labor abroad, are causing people to be angry about losing their jobs, their affordable health care, their homes and their retirement benefits. But we are at our worst when we start hating each other according to race, religion, sexual persuasion, social and economic status. What I'd like to promote most, Jeff, is love (which is God) and a government that will look out for the best interest of humanity in general and Americans in particular. After all, this IS America. And we ARE Americans.

Banks LINKS:

Lacy J. Banks official Sun-Times blog - Conquering Cancer and Heart Failurewith Jesus, doctors and common sense"

Lacy J. Banks Sun-TimesChicago Bulls coverage

Lacy J. Banks on Facebook

Bears training camp preview: 3 burning questions for coaching staff

Bears training camp preview: 3 burning questions for coaching staff

With Bears players reporting for training camp Wednesday, CSN Chicago’s Chris Boden and JJ Stankevitz have been spending the last two weeks looking at three burning questions at each position group. The series concludes with Boden’ s look at the coaching staff.

1. Can John Fox find a balance between necessary snaps, and staying healthy?

Unless he’s practicing this team every day (he’s not) and hitting every day (he’s not doing that, either), a coach really can’t be blamed for injuries. That out-of-his-hands factor has kept his first two years from a true evaluation, yet every team has to deal with them. He and Ryan Pace have been particularly hamstrung (pun intended) by the fact so many key, high draft picks/building blocks and impact free agent signings (see Pernell McPhee, Danny Trevathan, Eddie Royal) have spent significant time on the sidelines. 

Fox tweaked the workout schedule in Bourbonnais with more consistent start times (all in the 11 a.m. hour), mixing in off-days and walk-throughs. Yet there are heavy competitions to sift through, particularly at wide receiver, cornerback, and safety, and projected starters must learn to get used to each other (and the offense get used to Mike Glennon) so that miscommunication is at a minimum. The Falcons, Buccaneers, Steelers and Packers won’t wait for them to get on the same page over the first 19 days of the regular season.

2. How does Dowell Loggains divide up quarterback snaps?

His starting quarterback basically hasn’t played since 2014 and is trying to master a new system, working with new receivers. All while Mike Glennon tries to be “all systems go”-ready on Sept. 10. Loggains is also in charge of developing the quarterback of the future, who never previously worked under center or called a huddle. If Mitch Trubisky isn’t the backup to start the season, Mark Sanchez, who missed all of minicamp with a knee injury, has to gain enough of a comfort level with the playbook and his receivers to slide in in the event of an emergency. These practices usually top out at about two hours, maybe a bit longer. Will there basically be two practices going on at the same time? If so, how can Loggains and the offensive assistants not overdo it for those at other positions?

3. Are Vic Fangio and Leonard Floyd tied at the hip?

The defensive coordinator still oversees all the position groups, but will focus particularly on the oustide linebackers and the prized pupil, Leonard Floyd. Fangio says he liked what he’s seen of the 2016 first-round pick this off-season, once he recovered from his second concussion. But he said all the bumps, bruises, strains, pulls, and bell-ringing didn’t mean anything more than an incomplete rookie grade. At this point, he’d probably like to be joined to Floyd’s hip in Bourbonnais, because that means he’ll be staying on the practice field, learning. “3b” in this category would be Ed Donatell sorting through a long list of young defensive backs to find the right pieces to keep for the present and future, in addition to finding four starters who’ll take the ball away a lot better than they’ve done the past two seasons.

What White Sox 'fireman' Anthony Swarzak has done to increase trade value

What White Sox 'fireman' Anthony Swarzak has done to increase trade value

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Anthony Swarzak held a high-leverage audition for a potential contender on Sunday long before the Kansas City Royals walked off the White Sox.

The nonroster invitee to big league camp continued a stellar campaign as he took over in a critical spot midgame and helped the White Sox escape with the lead. The White Sox bullpen ultimately relinquished the lead and Brandon Moss sent them to their ninth straight loss — Kansas City won 5-4 — with an RBI double in the ninth inning.

But Swarzak continues to thrive in the opportunities handed to him and could make for an interesting trade chip before the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline.

“He’s been excellent,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “He’s become for us, with (Nate Jones) going down and (Jake Petricka) going down he’s actually become a fireman. He’s come in in some of the highest-leverage situations we could possibly get. And then we use him for multiple innings.”

A free agent after the season, Swarzak has 50 strikeouts and a 2.30 ERA in 47 innings for the White Sox this season. He also has only allowed nine of 33 inherited runners to score (27.2 percent), including two on Sunday. The American League average for inherited runners scoring entering Sunday was 30 percent, according to baseball-reference.com.

All this has come in a season where Swarzak went to camp with the White Sox with no certainty of making the 25-man roster. The right-hander not only thrived in camp, he came out strong in April with 19 2/3 scoreless innings to start the season. Combined with early injuries to Jones and Zach Putnam, Swarzak’s performance helped him climb the totem pole in the White Sox bullpen from the outset. His stature has grown even more of late with the injury to Petricka as well as the trades of Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson.

“As far personal expectations, I’m right where I want to be,” Swarzak said. “More to accomplish for this year, absolutely. But I like what I’ve done so far and I like the opportunity that I have to accomplish even more.

“That’s the situation we all work so hard. That’s the situation we want and it’s why we all work so hard in the offseason in general is for situations like that.”

Swarzak took over for starter Derek Holland in the fifth inning with the White Sox ahead 4-3 and runners on the corners. He threw three straight sliders to Jorge Bonifacio and struck him out to strand the pair.

“It was huge, what he did coming in right there,” Holland said.

As significant as it was, it only held off the Royals for the time being. And as much as Swarzak has enjoyed things on a personal level, it isn’t making what the thinned-out White Sox roster is experiencing any easier to handle.

“Everything going on around here right now is pretty hard to swallow,” Swarzak said. “We’re going out there losing 8-0, 6-0, we’re up 6-0 and we end up losing. We lost a 1-0 game against the Dodgers and the next night we lose 10-1. We’re kind of losing all types of ways right now, which is really hard to swallow because as a bullpen guy we take pride in holding the lead and right now it seems like we’re not getting it done at all, any aspect of it, as a group.”

With eight more shopping days left before the deadline, chances are high that Swarzak may not be part of the current group much longer. He has already seen the departures of Robertson and Kahnle and knows his impending free agency could result in a trade elsewhere. But the veteran reliever is doing his best to keep his focus on the mound.

“It all comes back to quality pitches and getting guys out,” Swarzak said. “If you’re getting guys out, you’re going to get some attention from the league and if you’re not they’re going to close the book on you. It’s very straight forward for a pitcher, for a major league baseball player in general: Do better. Get it done and you’re going to play for a long time and you’re going to have the success that goes along with getting it done. That’s really all I’m worried about is continuing to make good pitches and hopefully get the results I’m looking for.”