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

Sports Business: NBA players intern at Google to prepare for life after basketball

Sports Business: NBA players intern at Google to prepare for life after basketball

There are many different ways professional athletes choose to spend their offseason — from traveling and relaxing, to practicing and preparing for the upcoming season.

For a group of NBA players, they decided to spend this offseason as interns at one of Silicon Valley's most powerful companies, preparing for life after basketball.

C.J. Watson, Wilson Chandler, Dahntay Jones, and D-Leaguer Moses Ehambe were among the players who interned at Google's headquarters last week, getting a crash course in how a tech giant operates. It's a smart decision by the seasoned veterans, as the average NBA career lasts less than five years.

This opportunity was part of the NBA's "Career Crossover" program, which the league launched in 2011 to help players prepare for their "second life" after basketball — something very few players plan sufficiently for.

In fact, in 2009 Sports Illustrated reported that 60 percent of former NBA players are broke five years into their retirement, and even highly-paid superstars like Allen Iverson, Latrell Sprewell, and Scottie Pippen have run into tremendous financial trouble after their playing days were over.

"One of the top priorities in regards to player development is talking to guys early and often about the importance of thinking about what you are going to do career-wise after the ball stops bouncing and your playing career is over," said Greg Taylor, the NBA's senior vice-president of player development, via VICE Sports.

Watson, Chandler, Jones and Ehambe spent their time at Google learning about how the company builds their products and makes money, as well as discussing platform analytics and YouTube.

The tech industry has been the top choice from NBA players in career discussions, leading the league to partner with companies such as Google and Facebook for offseason opportunities for players.

Just a short time spent preparing for life and a career after basketball will go a long way for these athletes, and who knows, maybe they'll be back at Google next offseason, or at the end of their time in the NBA.

Read the full story from VICE Sports here.

Rough first camp day for Kyle Long, Bears No. 1 draft pick Leonard Floyd

Rough first camp day for Kyle Long, Bears No. 1 draft pick Leonard Floyd

BOURBONNAIS — The first day of 2016 Bears training camp was one with players not in full pads as the team eases players into the rigors of the most intense practice stretch of the football year. “No pads” may suggest less grueling, but Thursday saw the Bears finish practice with two of their last four No. 1’s departing early with health issues, even as last year’s top pick was finally back on the field where his rookie season effectively was closed out.

Outside linebacker Leonard Floyd left practice early on a trainer’s cart, while guard Kyle Long finished his day in a walking boot. Neither situation was initially considered dire, but both were in disappointing contrast to the excellent first day of wide receiver Kevin White, whose 2015 season had ended with a stress fracture in his left leg.

[MORE: Bears' first round pick Leonard Floyd leaves practice with illness]

The feeling that swept over the practice fields on the Bears’ first day of practice in Bourbonnais was a mixture of shock and disbelief: Floyd, the Bears’ No. 1 draft choice, was leaving the field on a cart, typically one of the more ominous ways a player can exit a field. After Kevin White’s season was lost last year to a stress fracture suffered in practice even before training camp, the prospect of another Bears No. 1 pick going down before even a first practice in pads was one scenario that organization could hardly have contemplated.

Fortunately, Floyd was down with what he described as a “stomach bug” that had bothered him earlier in the week, and the rookie was expected to be practicing on Friday — subject to trainers’ OK.

“I’m feeling good right now,” said Floyd, who had tried to talk his way back onto the field initially. “What happened today was I’ve been a little under the weather the past couple of days and the trainers knew that. They told me to go out and give it a shot today and then they shut me down.

“I really was begging them to let me go back out there. They told me to shut it down and shut it down tomorrow. I’m basically just trying to get back healthy and get back out there ... because I don’t like to sit out. They recommended that I take it easy today. They didn’t want me to injure myself further.”

[SHOP: Gear up for the 2016 season, Bears fans!

Long left practice late with a calf issue, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport.

Long has started since day one as a rookie in 2013 and missed only one game over the span of three NFL seasons, all ending with his selection to the Pro Bowl.

Bulls: Jimmy Butler says he no longer wears a chip on his shoulder

Bulls: Jimmy Butler says he no longer wears a chip on his shoulder

The biggest thing on Jimmy Butler—next to his haircut—has likely been the golden nugget-sized chip on his shoulder he proudly wore on his journey from non-entity to All-Star and Olympian.

However, Butler claims that invisible attribute that has taken him to unforeseen heights is gone as he’s two months away from leading a Bulls team that has undergone the most significant roster overhaul in his career.

Perhaps it’s a tacit admission about changing his leadership style, but it’s certainly a change on face value.

“I don’t think I have a chip on my shoulder anymore,” Butler said at USA Basketball practice at the United Center Thursday, one day before an exhibition against Venezuela. “I don’t think I have too much to prove like back in the day. That doesn’t mean I don’t work hard or anything. I just think I go about things a little differently.”

He didn’t actually specify how he’ll do things differently but perhaps the quest for validation that has driven him to insatiable heights and a few questionable moments on the way is over.

With Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose dispatched to New York, followed by the surprising additions of ring bearers Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo, perhaps he’s feeling more secure about where he ranks on the team masthead.

“I think I have to catch up with them, with the winning mentality,” Butler said. “I think I can learn a lot from those guys. D-Wade, multiple championships. Rondo bringing in his intensity.”

[SHOP: Buy a Jimmy Butler Team USA shirt]

Wade and Rondo have the championship receipts that Butler doesn’t have, so Butler feels he’ll learn more from them as opposed to worrying about the on-court fit that on paper, doesn’t seem to be ideal.

“I don’t do the analytics and numbers. D-Wade has put the ball in the basket for a number of years,” Butler said. “He’s a great player because of the way he can score. I don’t think you can call him a non-shooter because he can shoot the ball.

“Rondo, call him what you want but he’s effective at what he does. Same thing with myself. You gotta be able to knock down shots.”

Before those new acquisitions, Butler had to deal with the belief he had Rose shipped out as a mark of some type of organizational power, as the two were never fully able to maximize their partnership on the floor to the tune of playoff success or even chemistry.

Then, in a stunning turn of events that seemed to indicate his fingerprints couldn’t be on much of anything, Butler had to endure trade rumors of his own the next day during the NBA draft.

He hasn’t spoken many times this offseason with the exception of summer league and an ESPN media tour in Los Angeles, but the proverbial scars are there and he addressed the rumors.

“That has nothing to do with me, I don’t move guys,” Butler said. “People are gonna think what they’re gonna think. I don’t let it bother me. I know where I stand, I know who I am. It’s one more thing for people to talk about. I don’t pay too much attention to it.”

[MORE: Bulls release 2016 preseason schedule]

He has spoken to Rose since the trade, as Rose attended an USA Basketball game in Los Angeles and the two chatted during the contest. And he exchanged texts with Noah after Noah broke the bank for a $72 million deal with the New York Knicks in free agency.

“We’ll always have love for each other because we’re always teammates, we’ve been in the trenches together.”