5 Questions with...Tribune's Phil Rosenthal

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5 Questions with...Tribune's Phil Rosenthal

Wednesday, April 28, 2010
By Jeff Nuich
CSN Chicago Senior Director of Communications
CSNChicago.com ContributorWant 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 weekly local celeb feature entitled "5 Questions with..."Every Wednesday 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 ... one of the most respected media writers in the nation whose columns and blogs for the Chicago Tribune are a must-read for anyone wanting to know the very latest in the continuously evolving media landscape ... he's a Chicago-area native, a devoted husband and father, plus, he's one of those guys who is usually the smartest person in the room ... here are "5 Questions with...PHIL ROSENTHAL!"BIO: Phil Rosenthal, the Chicago Tribune's media columnist, has been a working journalist since 17, when he talked his way into a regular freelance gig with the Waukegan News-Sun while still in high school.As he earned his journalism degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Rosenthal covered sports, spot news and media for The Capital Times in Madison, Wis. He spent 11 years at the Los Angeles Daily News, first as a sports writer, then a television critic and ultimately as a columnist whose work was nationally distributed by the New York Times News Service. He returned to his hometown and joined the Chicago Sun-Times in 1996, serving as deputy sports editor, sports columnist and television critic. He moved to the Chicago Tribune in 2005.Highlights of his career include modeling swimsuits for Sports Illustrated supermodel Vendela, getting a manicure from Lorena Bobbitt, smoking cigars with Jack Paar and introducing his mother to Johnny Carson.Rosenthal is virtually certain no one actually reads biographies all the way through, and would congratulate you for making it this far.An award-winning journalist, he once saved the life of one of his three brothers and was kicked off his high school newspaper. He was an extra in the Oscar-winning movie "Ordinary People" and, although it appears he wound up on the cutting-room floor, he did get paid and fed and can claim to be just two degrees from Kevin Bacon. Rosenthal is married and has two young children, who don't yet read his column but recognize his picture in the paper. They are not yet embarrassed to be related to him.Rosenthal Field in north suburban Lake Bluff is named for Rosenthal's late father, a former youth baseball coach and elementary school board member, not him.Phil Rosenthal's media column appears Wednesday and Sunday in the Chicago Tribune, and as events warrant. His "Tower Ticker" blog provides media updates 247 at chicagotribune.comphil. Well, it's available 247. He does sleep, although not as much as he would like.
1) CSNChicago.com: Phil, with the ongoing expansion of the digital media world, especially with social media outlets, there has certainly been a big change in recent years on how consumers gather their information. When it comes to true local journalism mainstays such as the Tribune and Sun-Times in our town, do you feel that younger readers are still relying on these publications for their news and -- a follow-up question -- do you think that all major newspapers across the country will one day will band together and truly figure out a way to monetize their news and information on the Web?
Rosenthal: I don't know if banding together is the answer. I'm not even sure it's legal. But monetizing content is the great unsolved mystery for traditional media, and obviously the clock is running on that. My own sense is there are two kinds of news, regardless of whether we're talking print, digital or any other media platform, even those that may not exist yet. One kind of news is the sort everyone and anyone can provide and it will be fast and free or very cheap to the consumer as a result. This would be breaking news, press conferences and other public happenings. The other is proprietary, unique because of what it says or the way it's said. It gives the consumer a deeper, more nuanced understanding of what has happened andor what will happen, so people value it enough to pay a premium to get it or at the very least will come to it in consistently large numbers. That's easier described than produced, obviously. As for where people get their news, I think everyone relies on the Tribune and the Sun-Times for at least some of their local news, even if they never pick up a copy of either paper or visit their Web sites. That's because the two organizations play such a huge role in informing not only their readers, but other sources for local news in this market.

2) CSNChicago.com: With Oprah leaving broadcast television to start up her OWN network and a new talk show, not to mention Conan O'Brien heading to TBS later this year, do you think these are smart career decisions by these two media giants and do you think their following will remain at a high level with their move away from broadcast TV?Rosenthal: As you know, most cable channels not only get ad money, they get money for every single household they reach from the cable and satellite providers that carry them whether anyone actually watches or not. Obviously, a big audience or a resolutely loyal audience that would perhaps leave a provider if it were to drop a favorite channel can get more money per household out of that provider. That's part of the calculation in TBS signing Conan and Oprah partnering with Discovery Networks on the Oprah Winfrey Network. Not everyone has cable, so it's harder to get as big an audience. But they also don't need to reach as big an audience to be a financial success. Cable channels still reach enough viewers for them to remain part of a national conversation. For Conan, it means the freedom to do what he wants the way he wants, which should serve him well. As for Oprah, she will profit even from shows she has little to do with. And if any of those other shows break out as hits on OWN, there's always the option of moving them to broadcast TV later.
3) CSNChicago.com: You spent 11 years away from Chicago during your time in L.A. and covered the sports scene there for a while. Is it true what they say that no one really cares about sports in that city (especially being the No. 2 market without an NFL franchise)?Rosenthal: No. They do care about sports in L.A. A lot. First off, they've had enough success that they don't need to tolerate losing, and often don't. What they have that Chicago doesn't -- and often gets lost in discussions about L.A. sports -- is two major universities with major sports programs in USC and UCLA. Take football, for example. I looked this up. Both teams had off years last season, but on a single afternoon last September when they each played at home, UCLA drew almost 56,000 against San Diego State and USC drew more than 84,000 against San Jose State. And that night, the Dodgers drew more than 53,000 against the visiting Padres. So clearly there are plenty of sports fans and not everyone was at the beach or the mall. When it comes to the NFL, for a while when I lived there, the league had two teams in the market. I was a Rams beat writer for a season. But the Raiders returned to Oakland and the Rams went to St. Louis and now it's been 15 years without a team. I'm not sure it's missed that much at this point. Even in Chicago, most NFL fans watch games on TV, not in person. Plus, without a team in town, they have more and better viewing options. The weird thing there is that the early games all kick off at 10 a.m. That takes getting a bit of used to.
4) CSNChicago.com: When you came back to Chicago in the mid-90s, you covered the Bulls during the second three-peat run (1996-98). What "non-game" Bulls memory stands out to you most during that frenzied time period in our city?Rosenthal: I was just talking about this with somebody. One non-game memory that stands out is of walking along with Michael Jordan as he played in a celebrity golf tournament near Lake Tahoe on the day in 1996 he accepted a one-year, 25 million deal to stay with the Bulls. Outside the ropes there was this mob of people following him, as they always did. But here you also had people on nearby hotel balconies with binoculars. You had people anchoring their jet-skis on the lake, craning their necks. Dozens of kids in Jordan jerseys jockeyed for position in the crowd. One family I met said they drove four hours just to get a glimpse. He was playing in a threesome that day with the Denver Broncos' John Elway and Pittsburgh Penguins' Mario Lemieux, who was the NHL's MVP at the time, and they might as well have been invisible. Nobody cared about them, just Michael. During that Bulls run, we all talked about how it was like covering a rock star. But it's all a little surreal looking back.
5) CSNChicago.com: As someone who handled TV critic duties for many years in both L.A. and Chicago, what would you say is the most "under-appreciated" show in TV history and why?Rosenthal: There are so many that immediately come to mind, but I'd have to go with ABC's "Police Squad." It was canceled in 1982 after only four of its six half-hour episodes aired and then went on to spawn three movies. The common belief as to why it failed is viewers didn't pay close enough attention to get or even notice the jokes. Isn't that the definition of "under-appreciated?" "The Richard Pryor Show" lasted just four episodes in 1977 because NBC didn't appreciate what Pryor and his staff wanted to say and do.A show I'm sure deserved to be a hit was 1995-99's "NewsRadio." NBC boss Warren Littlefield and I used to go round and round over whether the network was giving the show enough support. He kept renewing it despite the fact it didn't draw much of a crowd, but it didn't have the benefit of one of those hammock slots between Thursday-night hits that propped up shows such as "Caroline in the City," "Suddenly Susan," "Veronica's Closet" and "The Single Guy."
BONUS QUESTIONCSNChicago.com: You're a proud father with two kids ... what's the best parental advice you have for any "dads-to-be" out there?Rosenthal: When in doubt, ask your wife. Chances are, she knows. We're big believers in Dr. Marc Weissbluth's books on the importance of establishing good sleep habits for your kids. It's not always easy or convenient to follow the guidelines, but you would be stunned how effective they are. I mean, our kids never went through the terrible twos. Oh, and you might want to encourage your sons and daughters to become White Sox fans, even if you're not. It's easier to get tickets and there's a lot more for the kids to do at the ballpark.
Rosenthal LINKS: Chicago TribunePhil Rosenthal columnsChicago TribunePhil Rosenthal's "Tower Ticker" blogPhil Rosenthal on FacebookPhil Rosenthal on Twitter

Veteran outfielder Peter Bourjos eyes role with White Sox

Veteran outfielder Peter Bourjos eyes role with White Sox

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- As he surveyed the landscape this offseason, Peter Bourjos thought he and the White Sox would make for a good fit.

Adam Eaton had been traded and Austin Jackson departed via free agency, leaving the White Sox with Melky Cabrera and several young players to man a thin outfield. Bourjos, who lived in Chicago until second grade, pursued the White Sox and last month agreed to terms on a minor-league deal in hopes of earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Last season, Bourjos, who was born in Chicago, hit .251/.292/.389 with five home runs and 23 RBIs in 383 plate appearances for the Philadelphia Phillies.

“I always liked playing in Chicago,” Bourjos said. “It was a good fit and then spring training is here. I have two young kids. So packing them up and going to Florida wasn’t something I wanted to do either.

“We definitely look at all those options on paper. Evaluate what might be the best chance of making a team and this is definitely one of them. It seems like a good fit on paper.”

If he’s healthy enough, Charlie Tilson will get the first crack at the everyday job in center field. Tilson, who missed the final two months of last season with a torn hamstring, is currently sidelined for 10 days with foot problems. Beyond Tilson, the White Sox have prospects Adam Engel and Jacob May with Cabrera slated to start in left field and Avisail Garcia pegged for right. Leury Garcia is also in the mix.

But there still appears to be a good shot for Bourjos to make the club and manager Rick Renteria likes his veteran presence for the young group. Bourjos has accrued six seasons of service time between the Phillies, Los Angeles Angels and St. Louis Cardinals.

“Bourjy has been around,” Renteria said. “He knows what it takes. He understands the little nuances of major-league camp and how we have so many players and we want to give them all a look. We want to see Bourjos, we want to see him out there.”

Bourjos, who turns 30 in March, has an idea what he wants to do with his chance. A slick defensive outfielder, Bourjos wants to prove he’s a better hitter than his .243/.300/.382 slash line would suggest. He said it’s all about being relaxed.

“Offensively just slow everything down and not try to do too much,” Bourjos said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself and it hasn’t translated. I think last year I got in a spot where I just tried to relax in the batter’s box and let everything go and what happened happened. I had success with that.

“I now realize what that feels like and it doesn’t work. Just take a deep breath and be relaxed in the box and good things are going to happen.”

Why Brett Anderson called Cubs fans ‘f------ idiots’ and loves the idea of pitching at Wrigley Field

Why Brett Anderson called Cubs fans ‘f------ idiots’ and loves the idea of pitching at Wrigley Field

MESA, Ariz. – On an October night where you could literally feel Wrigley Field shaking, Brett Anderson fired off a message on his personal Twitter account: "Real classy cubs fans throwing beer in the Dodgers family section. Stay classy f------ idiots."
 
The Cubs had just clinched their first National League pennant since the year World War II ended, beating Clayton Kershaw and playing as close to a perfect game as they had all season. Anderson kept up the entertaining commentary during the World Series, previewing Game 7 – "We can all agree that we're happy it's not Joe West behind the plate tomorrow" – and tweaking his future manager: "Aroldis (Chapman) might puke on the mound from exhaustion." 
 
In another generation, a veteran pitcher might walk into a new clubhouse and wonder about any awkwardness with a hitter he once drilled with a fastball or some bad blood from a bench-clearing brawl. But overall today's players share the same agents, work out together in the same warm-weather offseason spots and understand the transient nature of this business. When pregame batting practice is filled with fist bumps, bro hugs and small talk between opponents, it becomes trying to remember what you said on social media. 
 
"I'm kind of a sarcastic ass on Twitter," Anderson said Monday. "I kind of sit back and observe. I'm not a huge talker in person. But I can kind of show some of my personality and candor on some of those things.
 
"You look at stuff (when) you get to a new team. I'm like: ‘Wow, man, did I say anything about anybody that's going to piss them off?' But I think the only thing I said about the players is that Kyle (Hendricks) looks like he could have some Oreos and milk after pitching in the World Series. 
 
"But that's kind of the guy he is. Just the calmness that he shows is something that we can all try to strive for."
 
Anderson essentially broke the news of his signing – or at least tipped off the media to look for confirmations – with a "Wheels up to Chicago" tweet in late January. The Cubs guaranteed $3.5 million for the chance to compete against Mike Montgomery and see which lefty can grab the fifth-starter job. Anderson could max out with $6.5 million more in incentives if he makes 29 starts this season. 
 
After undergoing surgery to repair a bulging disc in his lower back last March, Anderson made three starts and didn't earn a spot on the NLCS roster.  
 
"I obviously wasn't in the stands," Anderson said. "Supposedly from what I was told – it could be a different story – but there was just some beers thrown on where the families were. I'm going to stick to my family and my side.  
 
"I wasn't calling out the whole stadium. (It wasn't): ‘Screw you, Cubs fans.' It was just the specific (incident) – whoever threw the beers on the family section. Everybody has their fans that are kind of rowdy and unruly.

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"That just happened to be a situation. But you like those people on your side. I played in Oakland, and they had some of the rowdiest fans. In the playoffs, it seemed like ‘The Black Hole' for the Raiders games.
 
"You have your bad seeds in every fan base. When people are rowdy and cheering on their team and have one too many beers, the next thing you know, you're throwing them.
 
"Just visiting (Wrigley), it's a fun crowd, because it's such an intimate setting and you feel like they're right on top of you and it's so loud." 
 
Imagine the matchup nightmare the Dodgers could've been if their pitching staff hadn't been so top-heavy and manager Dave Roberts could've confidently gone to someone other than Kershaw, Rich Hill or closer Kenley Jansen. The Dodgers had made Anderson the qualifying offer after a solid 2015 season – 10-9, 3.69 ERA, 180-plus innings, a 66.7 groundball percentage – and he grabbed the $15.8 million guarantee. 
 
Anderson turned around and did the knock-on-wood motion at his locker, saying he felt good after completing a bullpen session with catcher Willson Contreras at the Sloan Park complex. Anderson is a Tommy John survivor who's also gone on the disabled list for a stress fracture in his right foot, a broken left index finger and a separate surgery on his lower back.
 
"Yeah, it's frustrating," Anderson said. "When I'm healthy and able to go out there and do my work, I feel like I'm a pretty good pitcher. I don't think I've ever been able to put everything as a whole together in one season. I've had some good spots – and some good seasons here and there – but hopefully I can put it all together and have a healthy season and do my part."
 
The Cubs are such a draw that Shane Victorino signed a minor-league deal here last year – even with more than $65 million in career earnings and even after a fan dumped a beer on him while he tried to catch a flyball at Wrigley Field in 2009.   
 
Anderson wanted to play for a winner and understood the organization's pitching infrastructure. He saw his pitching style as a match for the unit that led the majors in defensive efficiency last year. He was even intrigued by Camp Maddon and the wacky stunts in Mesa.  
 
"It's obviously an uber-talented group," Anderson said. "(It's also) seeing the fun that they're having. I'm more on the calm and cerebral side, but I think doing some of the things that these guys have in store for me will hopefully open me up a little bit and break me out of my shell. 
 
"'Uncomfortable' is a good word, especially for me. You don't want to get complacent. You don't want to get used to rehab. You want to go out there and do new things and try new things and meet new people and have new experiences. All things considered, the Cubs offered the best mix of everything."