5 Questions with...Tribune's Brian Hamilton

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5 Questions with...Tribune's Brian Hamilton

Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2010

By Jeff Nuich
CSN Chicago Senior Director of CommunicationsCSNChicago.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 weekly 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 guestone of the rising stars on the Chicago Tribune sports staff whos daily task this time of year is covering the most loved and most hated college football team on the planet: The Notre Dame Fighting Irisha New Jersey native who now calls Wrigleyville his homehere are 5 Questions withBRIAN HAMILTON!

BIO: Chicago Tribune sportswriter Brian Hamilton was assigned to the Notre Dame beat in July 2007. Since joining the Tribune in September 2005, Brian has covered everything from the Illinois high school cheerleading championships to the WNBA to the Final Four to Super Bowl XLI to the Winter Olympics to the Blackhawks' Stanley Cup run, nearly all of it without embarrassment. In the summer of 2006, he wrote a profile of a plucky, under-the-radar recruit named Jimmy Clausen, giving the kid an infusion of much-needed publicity.

Prior to arriving at the Tribune, Brian spent six years scraping permafrost off his notebook while working in Minnesota at the St. Paul Pioneer Press and mainly covering college football, basketball and the NBA's Timberwolves. This after attending one of the best schools for journalism in America, Northwestern University, and taking full advantage by majoring in English and creative writing while dropping his one journalism class after two weeks.

Brian grew up on the north side of Westfield, N.J., and now lives in Lakeview.

1) CSNChicago.com: Brian, college football fans across the country are still talking about that wild finish to the Notre Dame-Michigan State game a couple Saturdays ago, in particular, the non delay of game call in OT that many Irish fans felt was grossly mishandled by the officiating crew. What was your take on that controversial moment and do you think that kind of loss hurts the Irish coachesplayers mindset going forward (they werent very competitive at home against 9 Stanford this past weekend)?

Hamilton: Well, if it hurts them moving forward, then Brian Kelly has no shot at teaching this group of players how to win, because that means they aren't buying into one of his core philosophies, one that most coaches have: Leave a loss behind after 24 hours. So I don't expect it to have much carryover. Unless, of course, they keep losing close games again and again and again, and then you can start talking about a cumulative effect. But for the near-term, I think they're fine mentally.

As for the call, someone with way, way more free time than I have broke down the sequence frame-by-frame. And the conclusion was that between the stadium play clock not the clock on ESPN's graphic -- hitting :00 and the snap of the ball, there was merely a fraction of a second of time. Like so small that it's not humanly possible for an official to take his eye from the clock, move it to the snap and determine the snap was late. But I'm of the same mindset as Brian Kelly regardless: If the Irish line up differently or two of them simply don't get run over by Michigan State players, it's moot, because they'd probably have prevented the touchdown anyway.

2) CSNChicago.com: The arrival of Brian Kelly as head coach this season is widely considered one of the best moves the ND football program has made in yearsnot only for the short term, but more for the long-term potential success of the program. With all the hype and great expectations associated with Kellys hiring, will anything short of a national title in, lets say, 4-5 years be considered a failure?

Hamilton: I'd alter that a bit and say that anything less than contention for a BCS bowl within three years probably would be a disappointment. While there are some veterans on this team, there is a lot of talent among the underclassmen, too, and the starting quarterback began this season with three years of eligibility. And the 2011 recruiting class contains two significant top 100 defensive line recruits in Stephon Tuitt and Aaron Lynch that, in a couple years, should be pretty formidable. Assuming those guys stick with their commitments, of course.

In other words, they have some guys who will fill some holes that have plagued Notre Dame for years. But a national title run may require some luck, or some real affection for the college game from guys like Michael Floyd and Kyle Rudolph. At this point, it's absurd or delusional to think that one or both won't seriously entertain the thought of the NFL after this season. If they come back, the Irish should be a BCS team next year and anything less would be a disappointment. If they don't, the bar gets reset a bit lower for 2011.

3) CSNChicago.com: Recently, Notre DameNFL legend Joe Montana debunked the Rudy myth involving the diminutive, yet determined ND walk-on Daniel Rudy Ruettiger stating the crowd wasnt chanting RUDY, RUDY! at the end of that Georgia Tech game and that his teammates were only playing around when they carried him off the field. Your opinion: sour grapes on Montanas part or, since movies do take liberties with real life stories, is he probably right about this one?

Hamilton: This shocked me exactly zero percent, considering that even the most mature college upperclassmen are still college kids. They certainly have the capacity for compassion, but they also have a perhaps even greater capacity for humor and good, old-fashioned, no-harm-no-foul needling. If what happened was what Joe Montana says what happened, and you're shocked by it, you're also the type of person that's stunned to learn college kids sleep late, skip class and occasionally enjoy a frosty adult beverage.

On top of that, was what Montana said really all that bad? Was it really all that mean? I didn't see it that way, but then I'd take "Hoosiers" over "Rudy" pretty much any hour of any day.

4) CSNChicago.com: Youve traveled around the country visiting some of the nations best college football stadiums for a number of years now. In terms of fan atmosphere, facilities, playing field, etc., whats your favorite stadium to visitand least favorite?

Hamilton: Before I get assailed by emails from SEC or Big 12 fans, I will remind them that my college football writing career has involved two teams: Minnesota and Notre Dame, a Holtz-ian itinerary that has sort of restricted my stadium visits. That said, of the places I've been, nothing sticks out more in my mind than a Wisconsin game at Camp Randall Stadium. The press box literally shakes before the fourth-quarter, when the crowd goes nuts to House of Pain's "Jump Around. It's a huge place, the crowd is insanely into it and it's always electric.

Other highlights? There is nothing like the view at the Rose Bowl. Gorgeous place to watch a game, although Lewis & Clark made it to the Pacific Ocean in less time than it takes to get to your parking lot there. I wish Notre Dame would schedule a home-and-home with Iowa, and play Washington at Washington every year. Ohio Stadium (The Horseshoe) is just impressive, period. Notre Dame Stadium, for the record, is not the best but not anywhere near the worst place to work a college football game.

The worst? Well, I'm pathologically jealous of all Minnesota writers who get to watch games at TCF Bank Stadium, as six years of Metrodome home games for the Gophers felt like weekly visits to the fifth circle of hell. And I'm gonna get killed for this, but if I never cover another game at Penn State, I'll be thrilled. Atmosphere is great, but it's impossible to get to and the press box is antiquated at best. The accommodations in State College? My last hotel room there didn't have a WINDOW. No joke. It takes ages to fight through traffic and then tailgaters curse at you for driving to your assigned parking spot. Repeat: ASSIGNED parking spot. Way, way too much hassle for one day or night of work.

5) CSNChicago.com: Name your top three favorite local establishments that you consider to be hidden gems in our fine city (provide a brief line or two on why you like each one).

Hamilton: After several false starts, we finally made it to A Tavola (2148 W. Chicago) and we were not disappointed. Absolutely no better place to go for an exceptionally warm, cozy atmosphere, great service, wine and food. Brown sage butter gnocchi? Yes, please.

It's not really "hidden" at least not when my friends from New Jersey visit and make a point to go but I enjoyed The Bristol (2152 N. Damen) the couple times I've visited. Nothing like killing the annoyance of a table wait with an upstairs anteroom essentially dedicated to drinking.

And, again, not exactly hidden, but I have yet to go wrong with the brisket & gravy at Southport Grocery (3552 N. Southport). And other sources familiar with eating breakfast with me have yet to go wrong with the bread pudding pancakes there.

BONUS QUESTIONCSNChicago.com: Anything you would like to plug Brian? CSNChicago.com readers want to hear about it

Hamilton: Well, I'd hope that everyone would attend my upcoming charity fundraiser at Sunda, benefitting my two favorite causes: Saving the Midwest Aboriginal Muskrat, and getting Lauren Conrad to hook up with Devin Aromashodu.

Seriously, though, just click on the many posts from me and my Tribune colleagues at ChicagoBreakingSports.com, and follow my Twitter account: @ChiTribHamilton. And also, if you see Teddy Greenstein around, just yell "PLAYOFF!" in his face really, really loud. He loves that.

Hamilton LINKS:

Chicago TribuneCollege Sports

Chicago Breaking SportsNotre Dame

Brian Hamilton on Twitter

Todd Frazier's late RBI single lifts White Sox past Blue Jays

Todd Frazier's late RBI single lifts White Sox past Blue Jays

The White Sox haven’t had much success with runners in scoring position of late. Todd Frazier hasn’t had much all season long.

But Frazier’s two-out RBI single in the eighth inning Friday night broke a tie and the White Sox held on for a 3-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays in front of 27,196 at U.S. Cellular Field. The victory was the fourth in five games for the White Sox, who improved to 37-37. Frazier’s hit was the only one with a runner in scoring position in 14 tries for a team that entered the game hitting .245 in those situations. He finished 2-for-4.

Though Frazier has provided the White Sox with plenty of thump, he’s had a trying season with runners in scoring position. He entered his eighth-inning at-bat with Jesse Chavez just 9-for-61 with two home runs and 23 RBIs with runners in scoring position, including a third-inning ground out. But Frazier got a 1-1 fastball from Chavez and ripped it into left field to put the White Sox ahead and end a frustrating night for the offense, particularly the bottom of the order.

The White Sox had left a man in scoring position in all but one inning up until that point. They tied the game at 1 in the fourth inning on an RBI groundout by Avisail Garcia and pulled ahead in the fifth on a solo homer by Melky Cabrera, who went 3-for-4 against his former team.

Prior to Frazier’s single, Cabrera grounded out to first as Edwin Encarnacion made a spectacular stop and fell down in foul territory. Tim Anderson, who doubled and went to third on a fly ball, didn’t advance on the play. But Frazier made it all moot.

Carlos Rodon had another strong outing, though he surrendered the lead right before he exited.

Rodon struck out eight and tamed a red hot offense for 5 2/3 innings. The left-hander fell behind 1-0 in the second inning and looked as if he may be in trouble before escaping the jam with a strikeout of Junior Lake to strand two. That began a stretch in which Rodon retired 11 of 14 batters and allowed the White Sox to rally for a 2-1 lead.

But Rodon couldn’t hold it, in part because of a sixth-inning balk call by first-base ump Angel Hernandez that earned pitching coach Don Cooper an ejection. Rodon hit Michael Saunders to start the sixth and he advanced on the balk and tagged up on a fly out to center. The extra 90 feet became critical when Kevin Pillar’s infield single tied it. Todd Frazier made a diving stop on the play at first base and Rodon took one too many steps to tag first base just behind the slide of Pillar.

Rodon allowed two earned runs and six hits with two walks.

The White Sox bullpen picked up the slack. Matt Albers, Nate Jones and Zach Duke combined for 2 1/3 scoreless innings to get the ball to Robertson. Robertson then pitched out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam for his 19th save in 21 tries.

Sky: Delle Donne's 31 points not enough in loss to Liberty

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Associated Press

Sky: Delle Donne's 31 points not enough in loss to Liberty

NEW YORK (AP) — Not even a broken nose could slow down Tina Charles.

She had 21 points and 13 rebounds to lead New York to an 80-79 victory over the Chicago Sky on Friday night for the Liberty's sixth consecutive win — their longest streak in six years.

"I do what my teammates need me to do," Charles said. "I know how much my team relies on me especially not having (Epiphanny Prince) here."

Charles was sporting a clear mask after she broke her nose Wednesday in a double-overtime win over Atlanta.

"It was the first time in my life that I had to wear a mask," the reigning AP player of the week said. "The situation is what it is. It's a contact sport and injuries do happen. I'm just happy that the Hosptial for Special Surgery and our medical staff was able to give me the mask so I could play tonight."

Charles leads the league in scoring and rebounding and had 12 points in the first half to help New York build a 50-40 halftime advantage.

Sugar Rodgers added 13 points for the Liberty (10-4), who are third in the AP power poll. It's the first time since 2001 that New York has won 10 of its first 14 games.

The Liberty led by 11 midway through the fourth before the Sky rallied to 78-77 with 2:24 left. Neither team would score again until Sugar Rodgers hit an acrobatic backdoor floater with 39.5 seconds remaining. Elena Delle Donne answered with a tough pullup nine seconds later.

Chicago let New York run down the clock on its next possession before Charles missed a hook across the lane. Delle Donne got the rebound setting up one final chance for the Sky with just over 2 seconds left, but her jumper from the wing missed.

"Couple things went wrong and we didn't run it to the way we were supposed to," Delle Donne said of the last play. "Things got a little crazy and had to throw up a desperation shot. We wanted more of a post up and that just didn't happen."

She finished with a season-high 31 points to lead Chicago (6-8). Cappie Pondexter added 20 for the seventh-ranked Sky, who have dropped four of five.

Both teams wore warm-up shirts in honor of Orlando club shooting victims. The Liberty donated $10,000 to the OneOrlando fund that was set up to support the victims' families and survivors.

Contreras helps Cubs end 4-game skid by beating Marlins

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USA Today Sports Images

Contreras helps Cubs end 4-game skid by beating Marlins

MIAMI - One week into his major league career, Chicago Cubs super-sub Willson Contreras says he's simply trying to contribute and enjoy himself.

So how much fun is he having?

"A lot," Contreras said, practically shouting the words. "A lot."

No wonder - he's batting .412 with three homers, and the latest helped the Cubs break their longest losing streak of the season at four games by beating the Miami Marlins 5-4 Friday night.

Contreras hit a two-run homer in a four-run first inning, and his RBI single in the seventh put the team with the best record in the majors ahead to stay.

Manager Joe Maddon said Contreras' contribution as a reinforcement for the injury-hampered Cubs has been indispensable.

"It's like oxygen - it's absolutely necessary," Maddon said. "The life he has brought to the group is absolutely necessary. He's different in all the best ways."

While Contreras again excelled as a reinforcement, the NL Central leaders endured another setback when second baseman Ben Zobrist left the game after he was hit by a pitch that bruised his left ankle. X-rays were negative, but Zobrist said he'll likely miss at least one game.

Four pitchers held the Marlins to two hits, including Justin Bour's grand slam.

Each team scored four runs in the first inning, when Kris Bryant and Contreras homered for the Cubs. It was the first time in the majors this year that both teams scored at least four runs in the first, according to ESPN.

Despite the early onslaught, both starters settled down before departing with the score still 4-all.

The Cubs' Kyle Hendricks pitched five innings and allowed only one hit - Bour's slam. All four runs were unearned because of an error by shortstop Addison Russell.

"That was the most grinding of a one-hitter," Hendricks said. "It was a weird game."

Miami's Tom Koehler gave up six consecutive hits in the first but still pitched six innings.

Trevor Cahill (1-2) threw a scoreless sixth. Hector Rondon retired all four batters he faced for his second four-out save in a row, and his 13th overall.

Mike Dunn (0-1) retired only one of the five hitters he faced in the seventh, walking two and hitting Zobrist.

"I can't remember the last time I went out there and couldn't throw anything over the plate," Dunn said. "I didn't give the team a chance."

Dunn also allowed a one-out run-scoring single by Contreras, who has eight RBIs after seven games in the big leagues.

"He looks like an established big league hitter," Hendricks said. "He just hits balls hard. It's really fun to watch. To be that young and come up and do it, it's unbelievable. And we need it right now."

Contreras started at catcher and moved to first base late in the game. He's expected to be in the lineup again Saturday, although he's unsure where.

"I don't know if I'm going to play left field or first base; I caught a few flyballs in right field today," he said. "So I'll be ready, man."