5 Questions with... Neil Steinberg

5 Questions with... Neil Steinberg
April 24, 2013, 9:45 am
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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, it’s 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 week’s guest: one of the most respected columnists in the nation whose voice on a wide range of local & national topics have earned him both critical acclaim and public respect…he’s been a fixture at the Chicago Sun-Times for over a quarter-century and is the author of seven books, not to mention his numerous appearances in a variety of national publications and countless media interviews of the years…let’s get to it already -- here are “5 Questions with…NEIL STEINBERG!”

BIO: Neil Steinberg began writing for the Chicago Sun-Times in 1984, and joined the staff in 1987 as a feature writer. He became a columnist in 1996, and his column runs four days a week in the news section.

Steinberg has written for a wide variety of publications, including The Washington Post, The New York Daily News, Forbes, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated, Details and Men's Journal.

Steinberg is also the author of seven books, his latest, "You Were Never in Chicago," was published last fall by the University of Chicago Press and will be honored at an upcoming ceremony by the Society of Midland Authors.

Steinberg was born in Ohio and graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in 1982. He lives in Northbrook with his wife and two sons.

1) CSNChicago.com: Neil, our nation experienced another frightening setback with the recent bombing incident at the Boston Marathon. Its heart-wrenching moments like those and countless others that truly expose how vulnerable we are. In your opinion, will it come to the point when our cities have no choice but to significantly increase the level of law enforcement officials at ALL major events?

Steinberg: No. When I go to a sporting event and see hordes of officers in black, wearing jump boots, with machine guns hanging off their chests, I don’t think, “Golly, I’m much safer now.” I think, “Geez, I live in a police state.” There were a ton of cops standing around the finish of the Boston Marathon, and yet what could they do before the bombs went off? We can’t pad the world, and if we tried, there are always soft spots — we can’t police every Little League game and high school football practice. We have to remember, these are still rare events, and not turn our society into a fortified camp because of them.

2) CSNChicago.com: You wrote a brilliant obit regarding the recent passing of one of the true giants in journalism history, your long-time friend and colleague Roger Ebert. What will be your lasting memory of this media titan who attained well-deserved, world-wide popularity over the years?

Steinberg: Roger spoke every spring at something called the Council on World Affairs, in Boulder Colorado, a symposium where experts from all over came to talk about what they loved. The time I went, he was going over Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita,” almost frame by frame, stopping to provide commentary, to talk about the composition of the shots, why Fellini made the choices he did. It ran for days and was fascinating. I remember, years later, seeing the movie without Roger’s commentary, and it wasn’t at all interesting. I realized then just how deeply he knew this stuff, how he grasped this movie and thousands of others, almost on a molecular scale. There was a reason he was so good. He worked hard, and knew a lot, and had a big heart.

3) CSNChicago.com: Speaking of great journalists, you will be honored by the Society of Midland Authors during its annual awards ceremony on May 14 here in Chicago for your recent standout book, “You Were Never in Chicago.” Ebert said: “In this wonderful book, Steinberg weaves a poetic mosaic of his life and the life of Chicago—past, present, real, imagined. Like many of its citizens, he came here from elsewhere, drawn by its brawny allure. He lives in Chicago and Chicago lives in him.”

There’s no question you’re a gifted storyteller…and, naturally, newspaper columns can’t always provide you with the luxury of expressing your entire mindset of thoughts. Has it ever crossed your mind to give up the newspaper column and focus your skills solely on writing books?

Steinberg: No, my books don’t sell all that well, and while I could theoretically survive just on their income, it would be a mean existence and my children would hate me. The newspaper pays well and is fun, and I can’t imagine quitting. Now being fired, on the other hand, that I can conjure up all too easily...

4) CSNChicago.com: Of course, I have to throw in a sports question here Neil. What was the most memorable sporting event you’ve ever attended and why was it so special to you personally?

Steinberg: Grant DePorter, the owner of Harry Caray’s, once asked me if I wanted to throw out the first pitch before the Cubs/Sox Crosstown Classic on the 3rd of July. “God no,” I said. “But I know somebody who does...” My son Kent, then 7, took the mound, in a little Cubs uniform, and drilled one over the plate. The moment is in my new book. I thought my heart would burst. So that’s the most memorable. As far as professional sporting events, I saw Henry Aaron hit his 703rd home run against the Expos in Montreal. That was thrilling. And I walked 18 holes with Arnold Palmer in Montego Bay, Jamaica, and while Palmer was a cranky old coot, the course was lovely. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to golfing.

5) CSNChicago.com: If you could sit down and interview one past or present individual in the history of mankind, who would it be and what would be the first question you would ask?

Steinberg: That’s a toughie. Beyond the obvious (“So Jesus, tell me about your dad...”), I’m an enormous fan of Homer, of whom absolutely nothing is known, and I’d want to ask him, “Tell me about composing the Iliad.” A geek choice, I know, but there you go.

** BONUS QUESTION…CSNChicago.com: Anything you’d like to promote Neil? Tell us…CSNChicago.com readers want to hear about it.

Steinberg: Since you asked…my latest book, “You Were Never in Chicago” is doing very well — the University of Chicago Press just announced that the book is in its third printing and, five months after being published, is still is getting attention and reviews. True, the New York Times panned it on the front page of its Sunday Book Review on April 21, but the review was so artless and mean-spirited, it only boosted interest in the book, while embarrassing the critic and the Times. I’m very proud of that book — it is my whole life, personal and professional, and the city, wound up in one big ball. There’s a bit of sports in it — I sit with Michael Jordon while he gets dressed before a Bulls game, take my older son to his first Cubs game, and there’s that pitch with my younger kid. Chicago is an amazing city, and I hope the book captures some of it.

Steinberg links:

Chicago Sun-Times/Neil Steinberg official page

Neil Steinberg of Facebook

Neil Steinberg on Twitter