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

It’s World Series or bust for Cubs while carrying Aroldis Chapman’s baggage

It’s World Series or bust for Cubs while carrying Aroldis Chapman’s baggage

Aroldis Chapman is the ultimate baseball mercenary for a team that hasn’t won the World Series since 1908. The Cubs say they are going into this with their eyes wide open, knowing the superstar closer comes with off-the-field baggage and plans to cash in as a free agent this winter.

For all the talking points about being good neighbors and family friendly, the Cubs care about money and winning, which makes them just like any other professional sports franchise.

Chapman behaved in Yankee pinstripes, handled the New York market and performed with game-over efficiency, going 20-for-21 in save chances. The Cubs wanted a lefty with a 105-mph fastball and a 15.2 strikeouts-per-nine-innings-pitched career rate, making a 4-for-1 trade by rationalizing that they would rather be with Chapman in the playoffs than against him.

So the Cubs – and not the first-place Nationals or even-year Giants – had to deal with the bad optics and the lost-in-translation moments before Tuesday’s 3-0 loss to the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. Chapman did not make a good first impression while getting questions about domestic violence and the 30-game suspension Major League Baseball imposed to start this season.

But if Chapman gets the last out in October, does it even matter if he’s a good guy?

“Ugh,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Was Ty Cobb wonderful? I mean, I don’t know. All these different people that I’ve read about – something happened with (the Sox) in, what was it, 1919?

“At the end of the day, I’m here to get to know him on our terms – me and him. (And) he’s been a great teammate from everybody I’ve read or discussed (it) with.

“That’s the lenses I’m looking at it through right now.”

[RELATED: Hector Rondon says Cubs had to take chance and close Chapman deal]

Chapman joined a team that began the day with a 98.8-percent chance to make the playoffs on the Baseball Prospectus odds report and a 56-1 record when leading entering the ninth inning. This is all about what Chapman can do in October and how his presence can help the Cubs survive three postseason rounds.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch highlighted that the Cardinals haven’t scored a run off Chapman since September 2011, back when Tony La Russa managed a World Series team.

“Again, he did do his suspension,” Maddon said. “He has talked about it. He’s shown remorse. And then everybody else has their right to judge him as a good or bad person.

“That’s your right. But I know there are times where I’ve been less than perfect. I think we’ve all been less than perfect in particular moments that nobody’s ever known about. 

“I want to get to know Aroldis. I think he can be a very significant member. And he’s got the potential, yes, to throw the last out of the World Series. And if he does, I promise you, I will embrace him.”

[MORE: Cubs make business decision to look beyond Chapman's domestic violence suspension]

Inside baseball’s conservative bubble, Maddon has to be the game’s most liberal manager, a hands-off, big-picture guy who lets his players run the clubhouse. The Cubs believe his positive vibes and presence will help Chapman’s transition.

“I’m probably the most non-judgmental person you’ve ever met,” Maddon said. “I don’t go in that direction. I do get upset sometimes when people jump to conclusions without knowing everything.

“(Gather) all the information for yourself and make your own opinion. Draw your own conclusion, as opposed to maybe hearing one thing and then all of a sudden jumping on a negative bandwagon.

“I want to get to know him, get to understand him, have good conversations with him. And then, maybe at that point, I could draw some conclusions. But never having been around him, it’s very hard for me to do that.”

Chapman’s Wrigley Field debut will be electric, the triple digits lighting up the huge video board. At that point, the focus should shift back onto baseball. But the equation doesn’t change in a bottom-line business. There is only one outcome that will truly make Cubs fans happy with this deal.

“They expect me to come here, do my job and try to guide us to the World Series,” Chapman said through coach/translator Henry Blanco. “Especially in this city, they haven’t won a World Series in a long time, so they want me to do everything I can to help us win.”

How Joe Maddon helped inspire James Shields' gem over Cubs

How Joe Maddon helped inspire James Shields' gem over Cubs

Joe Maddon's mere presence may have hurt the team he manages Tuesday night.

As the Cubs invaded U.S. Cellular Field for the final night on the South Side of this Crosstown series, Maddon's current team was tasked with facing one of his old friends.

James Shields pitched for Maddon in Tampa Bay for seven years and the veteran right-hander took the hill for the White Sox Tuesday night, spinning a gem — 7.2 shutout innings allowing four singles and four walks.

After the game, Shields — nicknamed "Big Game James" by some — credited Maddon for his outing.

"I get amped up every game pretty much. But I always want to get amped up in front of my old manager," Shields said. "I have a lot of respect for Joe. He helped build me into who I am today. 

"I always want to go out there and show him, especially being 34 years old, that I’ve got this thing."

Maddon certainly noticed.

The Cubs manager admitted "that's what he looks like" when talking about Shields' outing.

The Cubs had pursued Shields in free agency prior to the 2015 season and came close to deal before the right-hander opted to sign with the San Diego Padres for four years and $75 million.

Part of the reason was Shields' competitiveness and desire to finish every game he starts.

"During the first part of the game, I went up to [John] Lackey and I said Shieldsy went to John Lackey Junior College at some point in his life," Maddon said. "I said I used to compare Shieldsy to you all the time back in Tampa Bay, whenever James would [refuse to come out of a game].

"So Johnny giggled about that. Very similar guys — highly competitive, believe they can beat anybody on any given day. You gotta love that about him. He's very good."

White Sox likely will place 2B Brett Lawrie on disabled list

White Sox likely will place 2B Brett Lawrie on disabled list

The White Sox will "probably" place second baseman Brett Lawrie on the disabled list before Wednesday’s Crosstown game at Wrigley Field, manager Robin Ventura said.

Lawrie initially was diagnosed with a tight left hamstring July 21 against the Detroit Tigers, causing a firestorm of speculation he had been traded when he was removed from the game. He was initially considered day-to-day after undergoing an MRI on Friday, and manager Robin Ventura said before both Monday and Tuesday’s games against the Cubs he could’ve been available in an emergency. 

But Lawrie suffered a setback sometime Tuesday, and with two games under National League rules at Wrigley Field requiring more bench pieces, Ventura didn’t want to head to Clark and Addison short-handed. 

“It just seemed like he was going backwards today, during the game, of his knee,” Ventura said. “There's no way you can go over there and play the National League rules with nobody on the bench.”

[MORE: Shields picks up bullpen as White Sox top Cubs again]

Infielder Carlos Sanchez was removed from Triple-A Charlotte’s game Tuesday night and is expected to replace Lawrie on the White Sox roster. 

Lawrie is hitting .248/.310/.413 with 12 home runs and 22 doubles over 94 games this season. 

Tyler Saladino has done well in his short stint in the starting lineup since Lawrie’s injury, going 4-15 with a walk. His walk-off single on Monday netted the White Sox their third win in what now is a four-game winning streak, the team’s first since May 6-9.