5 Questions with...Chicago Tribune's Phil Hersh

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5 Questions with...Chicago Tribune's Phil Hersh

By Jeff Nuich

CSN Chicago Senior Director of CommunicationsCSNChicago.com Contributor

January 6, 2010

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 weekly local celeb feature entitled 5 Questions with...

Every Wednesday 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 weekone of the most respected international sports writers in the country whose insight and detailed coverage of the Olympic Games is second to nonehell soon be making his trek to Vancouver to cover the Winter Games for the Chicago Tribune and the Tribune family of newspapershere are 5 Questions withPHIL HERSH!

BIO: Philip Hersh grew up in Boston but has lived in Evanston since 1977. He has worked at the Chicago Tribune since 1984 and has focused on international sports and the Olympics since 1987. For the past 10 years, the German sports publication, Sport Intern, has named Hersh among the 100 most influential people in world sports. He was graduated from Yale University with a B.A. in French and a specialization in early 19th Century French literature. Prior to joining the Tribune (prior seems like the early 19th Century), Hersh worked for the Gloucester, Mass., Daily Times, the Baltimore Evening Sun, the Chicago Daily News and the Chicago Sun-Times. His wife, Ann Roberts, is a professor of the History of Art at Lake Forest College. They have one child.

1) CSNChicago.com: Phil, with the 2010 Winter Olympic Games coming up in a few short weeks in Vancouver, what events are you most looking forward to covering and do you see the United States making a big overall statement in final medal count when its all said and done?

Hersh: My primary responsibility will be figure skating, where the men's event shapes up as the most interesting, especially for Chicago readers, since Evan Lysacek of Naperville is the reigning world champion. There is a good possibility there will be 4 men with world titles in the event now that 2006 Olympic champion Evgeni Plushenko has returned to competition after a three-year absence and two-time world champion Stephane Lambiel is back after a one-year absence. Based on strong showings at last year's world championships and World Cup this year, the U.S. team overall could easily better its performance from the 2006 Olympics. Alpine skier Lindsey Vonn is being billed as a winter Michael Phelps, but the vagaries of skiing (changing conditions, risk of in jury) are such that Vonn would do well to win one gold medal, even if she is favored in downhill and Super-G. (There are no five foot waves hitting one swimmer, but 30-mile-per-hour wind gusts could hit just one skier).

2) CSNChicago.com: Chicago-born speedskater Shani Davis will no doubt receive a boat load of media coverage at the Winter Games and millions of fans will be glued to the set to watch this brilliant athlete make his mark in Vancouver. Will anything short of at least two Davis gold medals be a disappointment for the U.S. and, a quick follow-up question, do you think Davis was out of line for calling comedian Stephen Colbert a jerk for the Comedy Central hosts tongue-in-cheek criticism of Canadians, even though Colbert helped raise over 250K for the U.S. Speedskating team?

Hersh: If this event were in Salt Lake City or Calgary, where the ice is fastest because of both altitude and superior ice-making, you could bet the farm on Davis winning the 1,000 and 1,500. But the sea-level rink in Vancouver is a bit of an equalizer, making results less predictable. Look for Shani to win at least one gold and one other individual medal; and this time, there should be no controversy about his decision not to skate team pursuit, as U.S. Speedskating officials have made it public well in advance rather than leaving him to twist in the wind, as was the case at the 2006 Winter Games.

As far as the Colbert issue, nothing Shani does surprises me. He generally goes his own way. And, as I noted in a Blog last month, I think the "jerk'' remark had more to do with a Colbert skit during the 2006 Olympics than anything recent.

3) CSNChicago.com: What are your thoughts on allowing NBA and NHL professional athletes to participate in the Olympics?

Hersh: The addition of pro basketball players to the Olympics has done more to improve the game worldwide than anything else in the sport's history. The 1992 Dream Team not only gave the world a chance to watch many of the game's greatest players in history pound the opposition, but gave players around the globe a level of excellence to aspire to. The result: U.S. pros did not win the Athens Olympics and have earned no better than bronze in the past three world championships. As for the NHL: ask most NHL players, and they will be gung-ho to play in the Olympics. The only thing that disappoints me about the upcoming Olympic tournament is that, for the first time since the NHL has taken part, it will take place on an NHL-sized rink rather than the longer, wider Olympic-sized rink. The beauty of the recent tournaments was seeing the speed and passing skills pros could display when clutch-and-grab tactics weren't as easy to execute. Hopefully, the emphasis in the NHL on having a more flowing, freewheeling game will carry over to the Olympics.
4) CSNChicago.com: Name the top three Olympic moments youve personally covered that you will fondly remember years from now?

Hersh: Number One is what I did during the Opening Ceremony of the 1984 Winter Games in Sarajevo -- particularly because of the horror that would befall that city a few years later.

In 1984 -- before cell phones, before Internet -- Sarajevo was a very exotic, remote place. It will be remembered as the last Olympics held in a place there was a true sense of uniqueness in a world becoming more and more homogenized.

In my mind's eye, I try to see the Sarajevo of Feb. 8, 1984, when a light snow was falling in the ancient marketplace downtown, a place where cultures and centuries blended into a harmonious flow. The opening ceremonies were underway across town, and I chose to spend those hours wandering the snowy stillness of the souk.

The snowflakes flickered in the streetlights, and TV sets flickered through the windows of every shop in the market. Time blurred, centuries running together in what seemed a harmonious flow. Sarajevo, then known only as the unfortunate locale where an Archduke's assassination touched off World War I, was suddenly the cynosure of the world's eyes for much happier reasons.

The transcendent image was of a city at peace with itself and the world that had come to visit for the next 15 days. Each of us would leave with a story or several about the kindness of a new Sarajevan friend-the person going in an opposite direction who turned to pick up someone waiting for a bus that was very late, the woman in the pizza parlor who joked that the picture of ice cream on her shop window was "communist propaganda," the stranger who hugged you during the awards ceremony for alpine skier Jure Franko, Yugoslavia's lone Olympic medalist in 1984.

Number Two occurred during the track competition at the Barcelona Olympics. This is how I described it in my Tribune story:

In the Olympic preoccupation with winners and losers, in the mania for counting medals, it is easy to forget what really constitutes triumph.

Derek Redmond of Great Britain showed what it was Monday night, in an exhibition that was both excruciating and exhilarating to watch.

He limped and hobbled around the final half of the Olympic Stadium track. Redmond's face was contorted with pain and tears, but he was determined to finish a semifinal heat of the 400 meters even though his chances for a medal had disappeared with the pop in his right hamstring that left him sprawled on the track.

The sight of his son's distress was too much for Jim Redmond, who had been sitting near the top row of a stadium packed with 65,000 people. He rushed down flights and flights of stairs and blew past security people who challenged his lack of the appropriate credential to be on the track.

"I wasn't interested in what they were saying," Jim Redmond said. "I don't speak any Spanish, and you don't need a credential in emergencies."

Jim Redmond, 49, is a big man who was wearing a T-shirt that read, "Have you hugged your foot today?" He caught up to his son at the top of the final curve, some 120 meters from the finish. He put one arm around Derek's waist, another around his left wrist.

"At first I didn't realize it was him," Derek said. "Then he shouted my name, and I recognized his voice. It must have been hard for him."

They moved in tandem for a few meters until Derek Redmond stopped and threw his arms around his father's shoulders and sobbed. Then they started again, doing a three-legged wobble toward the finish.

Jim Redmond let his son go for the last few steps so he could cross the finish alone. Then he threw his arms around Derek again.

Number Three was watching Muhammad Ali light the cauldron at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta:

He appeared out of the night, out of the past he shared with both the event and the region. When the light caught his dark face, caught it full, the reflection was brighter than the flame Janet Evans handed to him. It was a reflection of the possibilities the Olympics promise and rarely deliver, the possibilities for men and women to be judged by who they are and not how they look.

Muhammad Ali, the final torch bearer at the Opening Ceremony, up there on what seemed a mountaintop, the celestial mountaintop of equality that Atlanta native Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had preached about climbing. The boxer who had won Olympic gold in 1960, then threw his medal in the Ohio River after being refused service in an all-white restaurant. The man who represented the racial and social polarization of the 1960s and early 1970s when he took a Muslim name and said he didn't have anything against "them Viet Cong."

Ali, the world's best-known sports figure of the last 50 years. Ali, showing 3 billion telespectators worldwide that his nation, his native South, can rise above itself in the heat of a steamy Georgia summer night. Ali, 54, his face smooth and young and his arm wobbling from a disease of age, summing up the Olympic Century. It was the greatest.

5) CSNChicago.com: With your years of traveling the globe covering the Olympics and numerous other international sporting events for the Tribune, how many total frequent flyer miles do you think youve racked up so far?

Hersh: I've flown 1.5 million miles on United since joining Mileage Plus in 1983, plus another 300,000 or so on other airlines. Baseball writers probably more miles, but they haven't been to the places I have. Check out my most memorable trips in this Blog entry: http:newsblogs.chicagotribune.comsports_globetrotting200912my-favorite-p...

BONUS QUESTIONCSNChicago.com: Anything you want to promote Phil? Tell us, CSNChicago.com readers want to hear about it

Hersh: Follow me on my Blog, Globetrotting: http:newsblogs.chicagotribune.comsports_globetrotting and on Twitter: twitter.comolyphil

Hersh LINKS:

Chicago TribunePhil Hershs Globetrotting blog

Chicago TribunePhil Hersh International Sports columns

Phil Hersh on Facebook

Phil Hersh on Twitter

Fire fail to hold another lead at home, but reason why was different

Fire fail to hold another lead at home, but reason why was different

Holding onto leads at home has not been a strong suit for the Fire this season.

Wednesday’s 2-2 draw against the LA Galaxy was the fifth time this season the Fire have been unable to get a win at home in a match they led. In four of those, including Wednesday, the Fire had leads in the second half.

In the previous cases, the Fire dropped deep defensively and tried to simply hold onto the lead or hope David Accam could score on a one-man counter.

“I think once we’re up in the result I think we have to make sure that we kill the game off because there’s been too many times where it’s that 1-0 or that 2-1 and we’re kind of holding there and the next thing you know they’re tying the game at the end of the game,” midfielder Arturo Alvarez said. “We got to keep pushing for that third goal to make sure that we kill things off.”

The game against LA was different. The Fire had multiple quality chances to score a third goal and take a two-goal lead. One opportunity featuring Accam, Luis Solignac and an open net seemed like a sure goal as it was developing.

However, the Fire didn’t find that two-goal lead and LA managed to come back.

“I think we created a lot of chances,” Alvarez said. “We went up 2-1 and unfortunately that third goal didn’t want to go in at the right time and then LA got that bounce.”

[SHOP: Get your own Fire jersey here]

Even though the result didn’t show it, the Fire may have actually turned a corner in terms of how to play with a lead. In the win at Montreal on Saturday, the Fire scored that extra goal to take a two-goal lead, something the team hadn’t done all season in an MLS game.

Against the Galaxy, the Fire actually had more possession in the second half (56 percent) than the first half (46 percent). LA’s only shot on goal in the second half was the tying goal while the Fire put three shots on target in the second 45 minutes.

The Fire did fail to close out another match at home that they had a lead in, but the way it happened was different and maybe that’s a positive sign going forward.

“I think it’s starts from the offense,” Accam said. “If we could have scored then we could have killed the game. The defense did really well. We just need to keep finishing chances and then opponents won’t have the chance to attack us.

“I think we played one of the best games we played this season, but we need to take our chances and today I would say we are disappointed that we dropped two points at home. For me also we created so many chances that on another day we could have taken it. It’s kind of a mixed feeling for me.”

Hunter Jr., McGlinchey, Onwualu, Rochell ready to lead Notre Dame as captains

Hunter Jr., McGlinchey, Onwualu, Rochell ready to lead Notre Dame as captains

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — As Notre Dame breaks up the scar tissue from a weekend that saw six players be arrested, it named four players to an official leadership role.

Coach Brian Kelly announced four captains following practice on Wednesday: Redshirt junior wide receiver Torii Hunter Jr., redshirt junior offensive lineman Mike McGlinchey, linebacker James Onwualu and defensive end Isaac Rochell. 

“I can't think of a higher honor that I've received in my life,” Rochell said. 

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Those players, plus a group of other upperclassmen that includes quarterbacks DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire, will be counted on to lead the Irish through the fall. Those players all saw the importance of leadership last year, when Notre Dame — complete with an avalanche of leaders headlined by five team captains — was able to navigate an unprecedented string of injuries to a 10-win season and berth in the Fiesta Bowl. 

Each of these guys learned from captains and/or leaders at their position in 2015. For Hunter, that was Chris Brown. McGlinchey learned from the Martins, Nick and Zack, who combined to spend four years as Irish captains. 

“We’re going to be okay without the Martins,” McGlinchey smiled, “though it does stink without them.”

On defense, Rochell picked up plenty from Sheldon Day, a two-time captain himself who was one of the more vocal leaders on the Irish last fall. And Onwualu started alongside Jaylon Smith and Joe Schmidt for two consecutive years, with both of those players earning captaincies in 2015.

Onwualu is also the answer to a good trivia question, given he has the most starts at wide receiver (four) of any current Irish player. 

“I’ve been trying to convince (Kelly) to let me go back,” Onwualu quipped. “I want a couple more catches.” 

Notre Dame probably doesn’t have the leadership depth it did in 2015 or 2012, when rosters stocked with a good mix of vocal and lead-by-example players powered the two best seasons in the Kelly era. But all these captains are in Year 4 in the program and said they’re excited for the challenge ahead of them. 

“I’m definitely honored and blessed to be in this position,” Hunter said. 

Here’s what Kelly had to say about each player:

On Rochell: “He’s really taken over that room from Sheldon Day. Been the leader, there’s a lot of young players in that room, he’s been a great mentor. I love the way he handles himself on a day-to-day basis. Really loves Notre Dame, understands Notre Dame and is a great, great ambassador for our football program.”

On Onwualu: “Here’s a guy that has made himself into a great player for us. Started at the wide receiver position, is well-respected by all of his peers, one of our hardest workers and now has put himself in the position to lead our football team.”

On Hunter: “A guy that walks the walk and talks the talk and backs it up both on and off the field and will be a great mentor to a lot of young receivers.”

On McGlinchey: “A guy that is not afraid to speak up, speak his mind. He’s done a great job of really growing into his leadership role.” 

Notre Dame notes: No QB starter yet, McGovern wins right guard battle

Notre Dame notes: No QB starter yet, McGovern wins right guard battle

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Brian Kelly doesn’t have an answer to the question that’s been on everyone’s minds, at least until it was momentarily shoved out of the spotlight by the six Irish players arrested last weekend

Kelly said Wednesday he hasn’t decided who will start at quarterback against Texas between Malik Zaire and DeShone Kizer, though what matters more is how the seventh-year Notre Dame coach uses each player at Darrell K. Royal Stadium Sept. 4. 

It’s been eight days since Kelly informed Kizer and Zaire they both would play against Texas, and while there was initial frustration on the part of each quarterback, Kelly said he’s seen both players warm up to the idea of splitting time in Austin. 

“Since that decision, they really have embraced knowing that both of them will play and they both have to be ready,” Kelly said. “I think what I’ve seen more than anything else is a sharpness in their practice and in particular in their preparation. They know they’re both going to play. They’ve been really sharp.”

[MORE: Notre Dame announces four captains for 2016 season]

More notes from Notre Dame’s last media availability before game week:

— Kelly said both Kizer and Zaire were under consideration to be named captains. “I’m certain that they would have made very good captains,” Kelly said. But Kelly hasn’t named a quarterback a captain while at Notre Dame, though he’s only had one good candidate (Tommy Rees in 2013) before Kizer and Zaire. Wide receiver Torii Hunter Jr., left tackle Mike McGlinchey, defensive end Isaac Rochell and linebacker James Onwualu were all named captains on Wednesday. 

— Redshirt junior Colin McGovern will start over redshirt freshman Tristen Hoge at right guard against Texas, Kelly said. McGlinchey offered an assessment of McGovern, who will make his first career start in Austin: “Colin came into camp ready to play and he was on his assignments, he was kicking some ass, and that’s all it’s about for offensive linemen. He was a sound football player this camp. And it’s really exciting to see Colin step up and get ready to play. He’s very capable of doing the job, a very talented kid, ready to work and he’s got a good head on his shoulders. He’s going to do great things for us this year.”

— Redshirt sophomore defensive end Jay Hayes (ankle) practiced on Wednesday and should be ready to play against Texas provided he’s 100 percent healthy by the weekend, Kelly said. 

— Sophomore running back Josh Adams is back at practice after missing a good chunk of August with a hamstring injury. Running backs were hit in practice on Wednesday and Kelly was pleased with what he saw: “This was the first day where he looked like Josh Adams.” 

— Redshirt freshman receiver Chris Finke, who was elevated from walk-on status and earned a scholarship on Monday, is solidly the No. 2 option behind sophomore C.J. Sanders at slot receiver. Finke held off redshirt sophomore Corey Holmes for backup duties (though Holmes can be moved around to other receiver positions), as the 5-foot-9, 180 pound Kettering, Ohio native “won us over with his consistent play,” Kelly said.