5 Questions with...Tribune's Luis Gomez

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5 Questions with...Tribune's Luis Gomez

By Jeff Nuich
CSN Chicago Senior Director of Communications
CSNChicago.com Contributor

Want to know more about your favorite Chicago media celebrities? CSNChicago.com has your fix as we put the city's most popular personalities on the spot with everyone's favorite 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 guest ... you know the guy that gets invited to all the cool club openings and gets to interview tons of film/TV/music celebrities when they come to town? Well, this is that guy. His About Last Night and About This Weekend celebrity media columns are a must-read in the Chicago Tribune for just about anyone who wants to know the inside scoop on the very latest celeb appearances happening here in Chicago ... a man who gets very little sleep with all those late nights, but definitely wouldn't trade it in for anything else, here are 5 Questions with ... LUIS GOMEZ!

BIO: Luis Gomez is the celebrity media columnist for the Chicago Tribune, penning the popular About Last Night and About This Weekend columns. His celeb interviews can take place anywhere from hotels, backstage or even on the red carpet, plus he provides readers with details of exactly where they hung out while they were in town.

Gomez parents were born in Colombia, but Luis was raised in the Chicago-area in Highland Park. Following his graduation from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2003, he interned at the men's magazine FHM in '04. In 2005, he joined the Tribune sports dept. and extensively covered the MLS Chicago Fire, along with the entire 06 World Cup in Germany. He became the Trib's celeb columnist in 09 and hasn't looked back since.

1) CSNChicago.com: Luis, hope you're not too groggy from your latest celeb reporting adventures to be in the 5 Questions with spotlight this week. Here we go ... your About Last Night & About This Weekend columns are a lot of fun to read, especially for those of us who don't get to see Hollywood's finest up close and personal on a regular basis. Naturally, you must get inundated with requests to cover events/celebs when they're in town. How do you decide which ones to cover that would be of greatest interest to your readers?

Gomez: When I first started this job, I went to everything I could, but I burned out after a while. Now I'm more selective. I choose the events and interviews that I think Tribune readers will find interesting. I take into account whats popular at that moment (why else would I do all these Twilight interviews?!) and which celebs have a local angle (if Common, Jeremy Piven or Kerry Wood are hosting a charity event, Ill probably cover it).

Every now and then, Ill pick interviews I find interesting, like when I interviewed Michael Kenneth Williams because I'm a huge fan of The Wire. I should point out that the colder months in Chicago are a different story. Fewer celebs are here, which means I cant be as selective.

2) CSNChicago.com: There has to be at least one or two celeb interviews you conducted where in your mind you were saying to yourself, I cant believe Im actually interviewing (THIS person). Very curious to know who those people were.

Gomez: That thought rarely crosses my mind during the interview. Im usually too busy thinking about the next question or my tight deadline. For example, Johnny Depp is my favorite actor, but I was too busy thinking about how I needed to file my story in less than an hour when I interviewed him at the Public Enemies premiere in Chicago. It usually doesn't hit me until after the interview.

In 2007, I interviewed Dan Marino, my childhood idol. I wore his jersey for days at a time as a kid and had a life-size cut out of Marino in my bedroom throughout college (how that wasn't a deal breaker, I'll never know). I figured if ever I was going to get nervous during an interview, Marino would be it. But once the interview started, all I thought about were my questions and his responses. I was even pretty nonchalant about the whole thing on my drive home as well. It wasn't until I got home and checked my email that the moment really hit me: His last name was my password.

3) CSNChicago.com: Sports fans may know this fact about you, but many others may not: you changed your last name from Arroyave to Gomez. Why the surname switch?

Gomez: While growing up, most people mispronounced my first name (its Luis, not Louis or Lewis) and nearly everyone mispronounced my last name. By taking my Mom's last name, I solved the latter issue. I also now hear more people pronouncing my first name the correct way. I'm guessing its because they know Gomez is a Latino last name, so they realize my first name is likely pronounced the Latino way.

4) CSNChicago.com: As big of a city as Chicago is, which includes a roster of some huge stars from here, we have very few celebrities that actually live here. Truth be told, our local celebrities really do tend to be the professional athletes from our teams here in town. With that said, who was/is your favorite former or current Chicago pro team athlete that you really have a good time hanging out with after hours?

Gomez: The only Chicago athletes I hang out with outside of an interview setting are past and present Chicago Fire players. But when it comes to hanging out during an interview, I've had a good time with Kerry Wood. I think it's because Wood reminds of the good old days when I used to be a huge Cubs fan (I was crushed by the Cubs playoff collapse in 2003 and never recovered). He's also pretty easy going and doesn't seem to take himself too seriously. Plus, he's a guy's guy. And considering I often interview teeny bopper actors and reality TV stars for a living, that's a nice change of pace for this former sportswriter.

5) CSNChicago.com: We have just a couple months left of summertime partying fun Luis -- quick, off the top of your head, what three bars/clubs should we hit up before the leaves start falling around here?

Gomez: Believe it or not, I only go to clubs for work reasons (or because my friends want me to help them get in). Ive always been more of a bar guy. Here are the three bars where you'll find me when I'm not working:

Innjoy: Not only do they play 80s and 90s music, but they also have slam dunk contests and WWF matches from that era on the TVs.

Merkle's: If I'm in Wrigleyville, I'm at Merkle's. They play sports with volume (which is never a given at sports bars) and have great wings. I also like the atmosphere on Friday and Saturday nights.

The State: Best place to watch football. Tons of TVs. Tons of eye candy. And it doesn't hurt that its a University of Wisconsin bar.

BONUS QUESTION! CSNChicago.com: Anything you'd like to promote Luis? Tell us ... CSNChicago.com readers want to hear about it.

Gomez: You can read my celebrity interviews and sightings on my blog, which only features celeb news that is Chicago-related ... if you want national celebs news, you can watch Entertainment Tonight. And if you want to hear about celeb sightings and filming in Chicago as they're happening, follow me on Twitter.

Gomez LINKS:

Chicago Tribune ... Luis Gomez About Last Night blog
Luis Gomez on Twitter

Scott Darling takes the reins for Blackhawks in Corey Crawford’s absence

Scott Darling takes the reins for Blackhawks in Corey Crawford’s absence

It’s an interesting working life, really, this backup goaltending gig.

Most of the time, you’re in hurry-up-and-wait mode. But now and then something bizarre happens – like the starting goaltender needing an appendectomy on the road – that thrusts you into the No. 1 spot for a time.

Scott Darling has been here, done this before, though, and he did it well. And considering how goaltending has been the backbone of this team’s performance this season, the Blackhawks are confident he can handle the job.

Darling gave the Blackhawks a chance again on Sunday night, his 30-stop performance keeping them within one goal in what was ultimately a 2-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets. Darling started his second consecutive game – Crawford was diagnosed with appendicitis prior to the team’s game in Philadelphia, where he had his operation. An interesting turn of events, for sure, but Darling will do what’s necessary in Crawford’s absence.

“Obviously you don’t want it to happen this way. But there’s not too many other ways it can happen so it’s an exciting opportunity for me,” Darling said following Sunday’s game. “I mean I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know how long Corey will be gone or what the game plan is. But I’m excited to get a few more starts than usual.”

Darling had a whole three games of NHL experience in December of 2014 when he subbed for Crawford, out with a lower-body injury at that time. That worked out just fine – he won three of his first four starts and came up even bigger in the Blackhawks’ first-round series against the Nashville Predators that postseason.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Coach Joel Quenneville said Darling has handled the extremes well.

“I think that’s what it’s all about in that role: you’re ready to play once every four or five games and then all of a sudden you’re playing every night and it’s a different job description, workload, pressure. But the expectations when you do get it can be different,” Quenneville said. “Some guys handle it the same way, going every fourth or fifth game and don’t change a beat. I think Darls did exactly that. He had a good demeanor, had a good approach, was patient as he always was. I think that helped a lot. He played some critical games for us in the playoffs, handled it the same way and that’s how you’re hoping they handle it.”

Darling is expected to get most, if not all, of the workload while Crawford’s out. Lars Johansson was recalled on Sunday and will serve as backup, but he has no NHL experience – then again, Darling didn’t have much a few years ago, either.

But Darling isn’t taking anything for granted during this stretch.

“I’ve gotta win some games to have the right to get those minutes,” he said.

Maybe, but the Blackhawks also have to give him some help. The goaltending hasn’t gotten a ton of that from the Blackhawks, who have sputtered offensively most of the season. No matter who’s in net, the Blackhawks need to start producing more.

For now, Darling is the man. He’s rolled with the backup-gig demands before and should be fine again. And if the Blackhawks can help him out some, they shouldn’t miss much of a beat without Crawford.

“He’s played great. I thought he played great again [Sunday],” Duncan Keith said. “He gave us a chance, and you know, more than a chance to win. He stopped breakaways and made big plays all night. We’re lucky to have him as a goalie we can look to when we’ve got a guy like Crow out.”

Bears Grades: Offense ignites to end 1st half, puts up season-high points vs. Niners

Bears Grades: Offense ignites to end 1st half, puts up season-high points vs. Niners

With less than 2 minutes to play in the first half the Bears had gained a total of 45 yards, and had zero pass completions (2 attempts) and zero points . By the end of the half they had 115 yards, Matt Barkley had completed 4 of his last 6 passes and the Bears adjourned for halftime with a 7-6 lead.

For the second straight week Barkley engineered a comeback, this time for a win, and running a two-minute offense that, curiously perhaps for an inexperienced quarterback, seems to suit Barkley even more than the offense run a normal speed. More than one player said that 70-yard drive to finish the first half was a tipping point, on all sides of the football.

The turning point “was that two-minute right before the half,” said right tackle Bobby Massie. “Everybody just executed, did what we needed to do and drove right down the field. Then we come out after the half and drove right down again. It was good.”

More than just good for the offense. “I think that really spurred both sides of the ball to be motivated to finish the game strong,” said Barkley, who got the Bears into the end zone twice in last Sunday’s Tennessee game, and nearly a third, within the final 10 minutes, running 35 plays over the span of those minutes.”

This time the result was the highest point total (26) this season and scores on four out of five possessions beginning with that hurry-up score to end the half.

Quarterback: A-

Once again Barkley was beset by dropped passes, although nowhere near the avalanche of them that defeated him against the Tennessee Titans. Barkley shook off the conditions and poor start to complete 4 of 6 passes on the final drive of the half, for 64 yards – the entire passing production for the half.

Barkley followed a shaky first half with a solid second, completing 7 of 10 passes for 128 yards and zero interceptions, a significant key with the 49ers unable to do much of anything against the Bears defense. Barkley effectively convinced coaches that he could operate in the adverse conditions with passing and not simply handing off to Jordan Howard.

“I thought [the way] he handled the two-minute drive before the half, we had to open it up some and throw the ball,” said coach John Fox. “I thought he executed outstanding.”

Barkley finished with 11-of-18 passing for 192 yards, no touchdowns but no interceptions and a passer rating of 97.5.

Running back: A+

In a game that demanded effective rushing, Jordan Howard delivered a statement game, his fifth in the last eight with 100 rushing yards and 115 total yards of offense.

Howard rushed for 3 touchdowns, giving him five on the year, and carried 32 times, an average of 3.7 that belies the overall, which involved the chemistry of the run game, now averaging 4.4 yards on the season . “He’s fun, man,” said guard Eric Kush. “We block our butts off to try to give him something. Even if it’s not the prettiest block, we try to finish our blocks and give him a chance.”

Howard displayed power inside as well as burst on the Bears’ outside-zone runs that exploited the San Francisco edges. He carried 10 times in the first half, then 22 in the second.

“I’m definitely ready to be that workhorse,” said Howard, who now has 883 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns despite not starting until game four. “Even though they might know the run is coming, they still have to stop it.”

Receivers: B+

Josh Bellamy, replaced in the starting lineup by Deonte Thompson after his drop-laced game against Tennessee, had perhaps one the streakiest game of the Bears year. Bellamy again suffered with drops that included lost TD catches, but Bellamy rebounded to match his career-best 4 catches against Tennessee but with 93 yards and a long of 31 and others of 24, 22 and 16 yards. Bellamy also was handed the ball on an end-around for 12 yards.

All of this despite two egregious drops, one of a potential TD ball with Bellamy two steps behind his defender. “He came up to me and said, ‘Keep feeding me,’” Barkley said. “I’m not going to stop giving those guys the ball… .I’m going to keep coming back to them for the rest of the year.”

Cam Meredith remained in the starting lineup and caught 3 of the 4 passes thrown to him, with Thompson and tight end Daniel Brown catching 2 each.

Offensive line: A

With the adverse weather conditions expected, coaches made a specific challenge to the offensive line to take over this game against a struggling San Francisco front. Guard Josh Sitton was active but still limited with an ankle injury, so coaches stayed with Eric Kush at left guard and were rewarded with some consistent blocking in the run game. Kush executed combination blocks and worked to the second level. Kush and Charles Leno repeatedly dominated the San Francisco left side as the Bears pounded with the run and never let up in the snowy conditions.

“With the conditions, you had to run the ball,” Leno said. “The O-line just tried to come together, not worry about the record and win one week at a time.”

The result was another 100-yard rushing day for Jordan Howard, with 3 touchdowns, and 142 rushing yards, high for the season. “Today the offensive line got great push like they always do,” Howard said.

Barkley was sacked once, in the fourth quarter, on a breakdown in one-on-one blocking by tight end Daniel Brown.

Cody Whitehair going down in the fourth quarter with a leg injury was a blow, but Whitehair was able to return later in the period. The Bears had Sitton dressed and part of field-goal unit, and Sitton came in at right guard and Ted Larsen moved over to center.

Coaching: A

The obvious overall effort and preparation of a 2-9 team for a game of virtually no import to the season was noteworthy, as the Bears again played with intensity and efficiency throughout, including recovering from first-half gaffes on special teams that put the Bears down 6-0.

The defense schemed for 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick by staying almost exclusively in a 3-4 front, utilizing three down-linemen and two outside linebackers to pressure Kaepernick and with the speed to thwart his runs. The result was the worst game of Kaepernick’s career, with 20 rushing yards and 4 passing, vs. 25 yards lost to sacks.

The offense held to a run-based mindset and plan, even when the 49ers turned two special-teams mistakes into field goals for the first two scores. The 49ers also relied primarily on man-to-man coverage, committing an extra defender to run defense, but the Bears were willing and able to challenge downfield knowing that the San Francisco pass rush was hampered by the field conditions.

“Props to Dowell[Loggains, offensive coordinator] and the whold coaching staff for getting us ready and making adjustments like that during the game,” Barkley said.

Special teams was again mistake-prone with mental breakdowns compounded by physical mistakes.