5 Questions with...Tribune's David Haugh

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5 Questions with...Tribune's David Haugh

Wednesday, Aug. 11, 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 top sports columnists in the city whose passion for Chicago sports and no-holds-barred opinions have made him a must read in the Chicago Tribunehes a mainstay panelist on Comcast SportsNets Chicago Tribune Live whos still waiting for the Jay Cutler era to beginhere are 5 Questions withDAVID HAUGH!

BIO: David Haugh came to the Chicago Tribune in February 2003 after spending 10 years as sports columnist at the South Bend Tribune. David spent his first two years in Chicago as the Bears beat writer before branching off into an enterprise role and then back as the Bears columnist from 2006-08. Before the 2009 season, Haugh became the Tribunes 17th In the Wake of the News, columnist. He grew up in North Judson, Ind., a one-stoplight town barely bigger than the fictional Hickory in Hoosiers. But Haugh played football, not hoops, in college at Ball State University where he was an All-Mid-American Conference safety. After receiving his Masters degree at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, Haugh took his first job at the South Bend Tribune where he was when the Chicago Tribune came calling. He and his wife, Allison, have a son, Blair and two dogs.

1) CSNChicago.com: David, its been an interesting 2010 baseball season on both sides of town so far. The White Sox JuneJuly surge surprised many fans with their unbelievable 25-5 run, while the Cubs have had a rough one to say the least, which even includes manager Lou Piniella calling it a career after the season. With the July 31 trade deadline now past us, give us a grade for both teams on the moves they made and how those moves will affect them in the short and long term.

Haugh: The Cubs flunked 2010 overall, so the Ted Lilly and Ryan Theriot deal wasnt enough to change that. I get that the Cubs wanted something for Lilly, but trying to re-sign him for a two-year deal to give the 2011 staff an ace would have been a better strategy. Dont talk to me about Lilly re-signing as a free-agent; that sounds like Cubbie fantasy. Theriots future may have been sealed after he took the Cubs to arbitration last spring. Blake DeWitt is a nice player, but not sure that warrants a celebration. A 135 million payroll resulting in a fifth-place team, so far, makes the Cubs one of the National Leagues biggest disappointments.

Meanwhile, if you are looking for a grade, the Sox came in with a solid B-plus in the Daniel Hudson for Edwin Jackson deal. Jackson represents an upgrade with experience down the stretch and Don Coopers track record makes me think he can help Jackson regain the form that helped him win 27 games the past two years. Hudson will be a good starter for years, but the Sox are in a pennant race for which Jackson is better-suited. And, no, Im not going to whine about missing out on Adam Dunn or Prince Fielder. I like the way the Sox play according to Ozzies aggressive style.

2) CSNChicago.com: Speaking of changes, the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks had to make some very difficult decisions this off-season by letting some key players leave due to the NHLs hard salary cap. However, the core of this team is still there and they should hopefully pick up right where they left off. What are your thoughts on the moves they made and do you think this re-tooled roster can bring the city another championship?

Haugh: I didnt like it at first when they fired Denis Savard in 2008. I wasnt sold on letting Martin Havlat go in 2009. I wondered about elevating Stan Bowman to GM that summer too. So skepticism is natural, but the Hawks have proven in the past two years they deserve the benefit of the doubt when it comes to personnel decisions. After having spent an hour hearing Stan Bowman detail all the various factors out of his control that forced his hand due to the salary cap, I think I have a better understanding and appreciation what he did. The core remains in tact with Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith, among others, and the new players whose names we dont know how to spell yet may one day make us wonder who Ben Eager or Brent Sopel were. I think the Hawks will miss Byfuglien more than any of the nine players that left, and wish they could have found a way to keep him. But Im not exactly sure how theyd have done that or who else could have gone. Admittedly, my first reactions to many of these moves were emotional and knee-jerk I didnt like them. After a little time and examination, its a little easier to see. I think they still will contend with the best teams in the Western Conference, depending on health.

3) CSNChicago.com: Its hard to believe the Bears regular season starts up in just a few weeks. From what youve witnessed so far in training camp, do you like what youve seen from an offensive standpoint under new offensive coordinator Mike Martz and do you think the mere presence of Martz will have a positive performance impact for Jay Cutler this season?

Haugh: Cutler cant be worse than he was his first season in Chicago.right? I expect his efficiency to improve, his numbers to impress and his comfort level to increase. Hes still in my book a top 15 quarterback in the NFL, with the raw ability to slide into the top 10. The talent needs harnessing and perhaps Martz can do that. But the offensive line must protect Cutler, and thats something I am less certain about this season. Under pressure, how will Cutler react? If the line can improve the key to this season then Cutler will flourish and Matt Forte will resemble the guy we saw in 2009. Fortes burst and quickness in training camp has been one of the most positive developments. I also believe the wide receivers are better, as a group, than what many critics think. The key starts with the five guys up front.

4) CSNChicago.com: Name your favorite sports book (fiction and non-fiction) youve ever read and tell us why youre such a big fan of each one.

Haugh: The best sports fiction book I have ever read, without question, was North Dallas Forty, by Pete Gent. It was based on Gents experiences as a Dallas Cowboy and later made into a movie, but the book did a tremendous, vivid job of story-telling and was written in a way that grabbed the attention of any aspiring writer which I was when I read it as a teen-ager.

As for non-fiction, I think the books that have the biggest impact on writers are ones they read when theyre young. Im not young anymore and nothing ever topped The Bronx Zoo, by Peter Golenbock as far as a sports non-fiction book for me. It was a behind-the-scenes look at the 1978 Yankees World Series team and I remember sneaking it into my bedroom because I wasnt yet a teen-ager and knew my parents probably didnt appreciate me reading a book they thought was my older brothers. But the reporting, the humor, the storytelling, the description was really outstanding and the book probably was one of the first things I remember sparking my interest in sports writing.

5) CSNChicago.com: Its been about a year since you were given the prestigious In the Wake of the News sports column in the Tribune, following in the footsteps of a number of journalistic giants including Ring Lardner, David Condon, Bob Verdi, Bernie Lincicome and Mike Downey among others. What did that honor mean to you personally and, a follow-up question, how often do you directly respond to e-mails and letters from readers that are absolutely livid about something you wrote?

Haugh: The day I left the South Bend Tribune after a decade of working at a newspaper I really loved, a good friend gave me Ring Lardners biography. Lardner also began his career at the South Bend Tribune and eventually worked his way to do the same job Im doing today. Thats still very hard for me to comprehend so I dont think about it that much. I only know of David Condon what Ive read in the archives and his prose has withstood the test of time. I used to walk across the Ball State campus on Mondays just to go to the one spot in Muncie I knew got the Chicago Tribune just to read what Bernie Lincicome and Bob Verdi wrote after Bears games. Working six years with Mike Downey, one of the most generous, thoughtful guys I know who wrote with an even better sense of humor, was one of my highlights in Chicago. Thats a long way of saying that I am very familiar with the guys you mentioned who held this role, and the ones you didnt, and consider it a true privilege to represent the Chicago Tribune. Every day I feel responsibility to meet a standard set by writers whose work and talent I always have respected and admired. Its motivation. Theres not a single day that passes when I take this job for granted. Since I was old enough to set goals, this is the job I always wanted. Its what I wanted to be when I grew up. So I guess contrary to some of the e-mail I receive, Im all grown up now.

Nice segue, huh?

I respond to most e-mail. I thank the readers, viewers or listeners who have kind things to say and the ones who disagree or criticize, if they do it in a professional, civil way, Ill respond to them too. The essence of sports -- and sports journalism -- is rigorous debate. I respect peoples right to disagree with me as much as I respect my right to express my opinion in print or on the air. Its when the tenor of the response changes that I dismiss or ignore feedback. The Internet has empowered many people who use the Send, button or public forums as means to release whatever pent-up frustration may be building in their troubled lives. I get it. Those letters are pretty transparent and arent worth the time. Readers can offer helpful story ideas and feedback and I have built some nice rapports with those folks who do. The negative stuff goes with the territory and you learn pretty quickly how to handle it and if you dont, this is the wrong business for you.

BONUS QUESTIONCSNChicago.com: Anything you want to promote David? Lets hear about it

Haugh: I have a good time filling in on ESPN1000 whenever needed and enjoy the regular Tuesday and Friday hits with "The Afternoon Saloon," at 3:25pm. And Chicago Tribune Live is as spirited as ever with David Kaplan as host because, let's face it, it's fun to see someone on TV be that wrong that often. As far as charities, my wife and I belong to As Good as Gold (Golden Retriever rescue) and support the Humane Society and the Huntington's Disease Society of America.

Haugh LINKS:

Haughs In the Wake of the News Tribune sports columns

Haugh on Facebook

Haugh on Twitter

Blackhawks will consider breaking up Artemi Panarin, Patrick Kane

Blackhawks will consider breaking up Artemi Panarin, Patrick Kane

Saturday morning’s potential lineup looked different for a few reasons. First, there were more familiar faces, thanks to players trickling in after their World Cup of Hockey work.

Second, Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane weren’t on the same line. While part of that is because the Blackhawks are still short a few players, it’s also an experiment that could carry over into the regular-season.

Kane was with Nick Schmaltz and Artem Anisimov and Panarin was with Vinnie Hinostroza and Richard Panik and they’ll see how that works starting Saturday night against the St. Louis Blues. Granted, this is only part of the change. The main gist is to give Jonathan Toews, who hasn’t joined the Blackhawks for camp yet, a good playing partner on that top line. Still, it’s a first look coach Joel Quenneville would like to take.

"It’s definitely a thought process and we’re saying ‘Let’s have a look at it in camp," Quenneville said. "And maybe we can have a different look or something to think about, at least, going into the season with Johnny and Kaner being on different lines and having more balance on both lines."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

The Blackhawks struggled with finding the right combinations, outside of that top line, last season. Panarin did play with Toews for a few games but the combination didn’t click as well as the Panarin-Kane one, and that second line of those two and Anisimov was quickly restored. This season the issues facing the Blackhawks’ forward depth are obvious, so it’s worth another look to see, once Toews gets here, if he and Panarin can get something going.

"[It’s] more so about having balance on both lines and having more depth and scoring throughout the lineup," Quenneville said.

BRIEFLY

- Niklas Hjalmarsson, Marcus Kruger and Brent Seabrook will also play vs. St. Louis.

- Quenneville said Duncan Keith (knee) is progressing well and, "we’re hoping that he can get a [preseason] game in or so."

- Scott Darling is slated to play the entire game against the Blues.

Bears formula for beating Lions is basic

Bears formula for beating Lions is basic

Talking about what the Bears can do to defeat the Detroit Lions suddenly has a vague feel of irrelevance, since the downward spiral of the 0-3 start raises far broader questions and doubts than one game. But in point of fact, it IS about one game. More on that later.

Earlier in this week your humble and faithful narrator laid out three foundation points upon which the Bears could begin building a way out of the abyss. Nothing has changed in the meantime other than a few injury designations, and there is zero reason to dwell on those because the solution is about as simple as things can get. And they extend beyond Sunday’s game against the Lions.

“You’ve just got to keep improving,” said Brian Hoyer, the presumptive starting quarterback Sunday against Detroit and until Jay Cutler’s injured right thumb is sufficiently healed. “Nobody’s going to feel sorry for us. Everybody has injuries. It’s unfortunately part of the business so everybody just has to step up.

“And not only the guy himself has to step up, the guys around him have to step up. That’s just the nature of the beast.”

Which gets back to those three “turnaround” elements, because those comprise the basic formula for the Bears to overcome the Lions and themselves. Consider these the proverbial “three keys,” tailored to the immediate game at hand.

Unleash a defensive “village”

The Bears have not proved themselves capable of winning enough one-on-one matchups pretty much anywhere on the field, any side of the football. An alternative exists on defense, however: Swarm to the football, something that was axiomatic with Lovie Smith defenses but evaporated under Marc Trestman/Mel Tucker and has not developed under John Fox and Vic Fangio. It is also the only realistic way the Bears can have a dominant defensive game, which is the only realistic way the Bears can win a football game.

The Lions were never a particularly fun matchup for Chicago defenses when they had Calvin Johnson. In beating the Bears the last six times the teams met, Detroit averaged 29.3 points per game. Without Megatron the Lions are averaging 27 per game this season. Meaning: Things haven’t necessarily gotten any better since the Big Fella called it a career.

In place of Johnson, the focal point of the Detroit offense has become wideout Marvin Jones, No. 2 in the NFL in receiving yards and averaging 22.7 yards on his 18 receptions. Equally concerning: Jones has picked up first downs on 13 of those 18 catches.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

“He's made some big plays,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “He's had some big ‘chunk’ plays, a 73-yarder last week, I think he had a 50-some yarder in another game. He leads the [NFC] in receiving yards and [is No. 2 in] average per catch. They've got a lot of weapons.”

The problem with that is that the Lions are predominantly a three-receiver offense, another team that will schematically force the Bears out of their base 3-4 and into nickel. The Bears intercepted a Houston Texans pass on the first possession of the season. They have not intercepted one in the 34 opponent possessions since then.

Detroit doesn’t run the football overly well (101 yards per game), but if the Bears cannot force quarterback Matthew Stafford to throw toward Jones or Golden Tate before he wants to, an undermanned secondary has no chance.

The defense no longer has a shutdown corner, even one must-account-for pass rusher or an established all-around game-changer. Jerrell Freeman is the best player on a struggling defense. The solution is a form of flash-mob flying to the football, second and third men in stripping the ball. One tackler or pass rusher has proved insufficient.

Take it on the run

It is far from any sort of exact correlation, but all six of the Bears’ wins last season came in games where they rushed more times than their opponent. A seventh win escaped them when Robbie Gould missed a kick against San Francisco. Only the Lions in Week 17 rushed fewer times than the Bears and won.

The Bears are not only among the NFL’s worst rushing teams (70 yards per game, 30th), but also its least busy, with 53 total attempts through three games. The total is mystifying because the Bears led the Texans through three quarters and the Eagles for most of two, making the reasoning that the Bears were trailing and forced to throw very difficult to understand.

The Lions allow 5.1 yards per rush, worst in the NFL. They are without top pass rusher Ziggy Ansah. If the Bears cannot run on this defense (allowing 28.3 ppg.), the issues are far deeper than feared and the philosophies and play calling of coordinator Dowell Loggains will come under even more scrutiny than they already have.

“I was pretty disappointed as well [after 15 rush attempts at Dallas],” guard Kyle Long said. “Just execution, and sometimes it’s not execution. It’s just you’ve got to beat the guy across from you and we haven’t done that enough.”

Win one play…then one drive…one quarter…one game

The Bears cannot get back to .500 Sunday afternoon. Barring a 28-point outburst, they cannot win the Detroit game in the first quarter. They led Houston and Philadelphia in first halves and lost.

To his credit, Fox has kept the target small, and simple. Because it is.

“It’s execution and it’s execution in all three phases,” Fox said. “Whether it’s the first half or the second half, they’re two equal times. And you have to put a complete game together and we have not done that through the first three games.” 

And the winner is...

“View from the Moon” erred in Dallas by going against its first impression and pick back early in the offseason, that the Bears would lose to the Cowboys, which they did. The Bears have done little to suggest that they are poised to go on any sort of upswing, but the Lions inspire not a lot to suggest that they are an NFC North power. The preseason pick stays:

Bears 17,  Lions 14

View from the Moon 2016 record: 1-2