5 Questions with...Tribune's David Haugh


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

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Bulls physicality a new wrinkle from last season

Bulls physicality a new wrinkle from last season

College teammates Jimmy Butler and Jae Crowder made plans to go to dinner after Thursday’s game in Chicago but for a few short moments they weren’t just competitors but unexpected combatants, getting tangled up in the second quarter.

There looked to be some harsh words exchanged after Butler took a charge on an unsuspecting Crowder near three-quarter court, with Crowder putting the basketball in Butler’s chest while Butler was still on the floor, causing players on both teams to convene for some tense moments.

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas got involved and then before Butler could blink, Bulls guard Rajon Rondo joined the proceedings, as pushing and shoving ensued before technical fouls were assessed to both teams after an officials’ review.

If one wondered whether these Bulls—a team that touts itself as young with so many players having three years or less professional experience—could play with some bark and bite, perhaps the season opener provided a bit of a positive preview for the next 81 games.

Nearby, an unbothered Dwyane Wade took a practice 3-point shot, much to the delight of the United Center crowd, as observers witnessed the first sign of tangible proof the Bulls have intentions on regaining a bit of an edge on the floor.

Wade joked and took it as a sign of respect between the two teams.

“It looked like it, right? Yeah. It was a little something out there,” said Wade when asked if there was some chippy play. “Every time we play them it’s gonna be like that. Two teams finding their way in the Eastern Conference. We know we gotta see each other a lot. They never give up. They can be down 30 with 15 seconds left and they’re still gonna fight.”

The Bulls have externally preached toughness from the start of camp. Although Wade didn’t participate in that meeting of the minds, he isn’t exactly running away from such matters.
And Rajon Rondo is competitively ornery enough to have his voice hard no matter the setting.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

“It’s been a big theme of practice,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We want to play with physicality and toughness. I think it was evident on the glass tonight.”

Yes, the Bulls outrebounded the Celtics by 19, but that could’ve been a by-product of the Bulls’ crashing the offensive glass on a porous shooting night. And yes, the slightly tense moment between Butler and Crowder probably won’t be an expected occurrence.

But when’s the last time one had multiple examples to dissect to discern this team’s level of toughness—or lack thereof.

“That’s something to show that the guys are out there fighting for each other,” Hoiberg said. “That they were playing with an edge. It happens with this game. You have to be competitive.”

Competition boiled over slightly, but considering the NBA isn’t exactly UFC, one doesn’t have to do much to display a little physical resolve.

“The fact that nothing escalated was good,” Hoiberg said. “The fact that those guys are out there and playing for each other and have each other’s back, that’s a huge thing right now.”

Too many times last season, it seemed the Bulls would submit in situations like those. Not that they were particularly soft, but it didn’t appear they had the collective will to fight for one another if an altercation arose.

Half the time, they looked like they could barely stand to be in the room with each other.

“It’s people’s will to win. Not saying a bad thing about anybody from last year,” Butler said. “To tell you the truth, I study the game and put in a lot of work but Rondo studies the game a lot. Every time I’m in the gym, he’s in the gym. That lets me know, these (dudes) are going to war with you. Every day. When I hit that deck, Rondo was right there. I wanna play with guys that’s gonna play hard, that’s gonna fight.”

And it didn’t take long for Butler to realize he has at least a couple teammates willing to jump in the foxhole with him.