Paul Hornung: The Handoff Didn't Work

 

News of the death of Paul Hornung, sometimes called the Golden Boy of 1950s and 1960s football, brings to mind my first encounter with him at WBBM-TV, the CBS-owned station in Chicago. (Hornung died Nov. 13 in Louisville. He was 84.)

In something of a coup, Channel 2 general manager Edward Kenefick, who played football at Notre Dame, added Hornung to the station’s sports staff after he retired from his stellar career at Notre Dame and the Green Bay Packers. Next, he talked retired Notre Dame coach Frank Leahy into joining Horning to do Sunday night critiques of Chicago Bears games. It was a bold move into new territory that didn’t please the Bears.

Hornung couldn’t type and knew nothing about television production. Neither did Leahy. They needed a producer-writer to pull it all together for them. Somehow, I have no idea how, I was picked.

One problem: in those days I knew as little about football as they knew about TV.

On launch Sunday the three of us sat in a conference room watching the Bears game. While the two of them talked football – “It’s a third-down game” -- and shared Notre Dame memories between plays, I took notes. Every so often Hornung would turn to me and say “we will want that play.” Duly noted.

Obviously, this didn’t work. Mercifully, by the next week I was replaced by another producer (Bob Harris), who understood the game and appreciated the legends he was working with.

Together they put launched a Sunday night success – a hit with fans if not the Bears.


Angela Park (1979-2018)

We were shocked today to learn of the death of Angela Park, my personal trainer for years.

Angela, 39, was struck August 9 while bicycling to work by a truck in Greektown. She leaves behind husband Gene – a college sweetheart -- and two children, ages 8 and 3.

For seven years, Angela patiently coached me from being petrified to put my face in the water – I had not done any swimming in 50 years – to a point where I can now do a water workout.

Angela was an exceptional triathlete who qualified at the national level for Ironman competitions. One such effort, at an event in Madison, Wis., took here 11 hours, 50 minutes. The last woman to qualify in her age group, but she had the grit and passion to hang in there. She also coached triathletes, starting at Chicago Athletic Club locations and then branching out on her own where she advised some candidates virtually – as far away as Singapore.

We mixed the water sessions with weeks of strength training and breaks, mostly for travel but one for the birth of her younger daughter. During the workouts we enjoyed comparing new restaurant experiences and detailing our travel adventures. A former Chicago Public Schools teacher, she shared what it took to get their older daughter enrolled in an excellent public elementary school in the city.

She always brought to the session a great, infectious attitude. We took a break in February, while I battled the flu and then had to wait for stitches from a surgery to come out, without specific plans to resume workouts. I was thinking of contacting her when this happened.

According to police reports, Angela was headed north on Halsted Ave. when a dump truck turned right in front of her near Madison St. The driver was ticketed for striking a pedestrian in the roadway.

A friend recalls how she was a stickler for safety using Halsted, which has a clearly marked bike lane, instead of side streets. And she always wore a helmet. One was found at the scene.

At times I would arrive for a workout as she pedaled up. She was always wearing a helmet – and big smile. Ct-1533934353-ofqctrql2d-snap-image


Weekend Sports: Stories you didn’t find anywhere else

A compelling reason to take in an Iowa women’s basketball game is Megan Gustafson. The 6-3 center from Port Wing, Wis. (on the shore of Lake Superior), is impressive to watch on TV, but simply awesome to see on the court

Elaine and I got to see her in action Sunday, when the Hawkeyes visited Northwestern University. Despite being double- and triple-teamed Gustafson scored, rebounded and found open teammates. Against the Wildcats she had an “average” game: 25 points, 16 rebounds. With her junior year far from over, Gustafson has netted 1626 points and pulled down 901 rebounds at Iowa.

This week she was selected Big Ten Player of the Week for the eighth time this season – a Big Ten single season record.

The DePaul Blue Demons – Chicago’s women’s basketball powerhouse – marked two milestones on the road over the weekend.

In a victory Friday over Butler (86-68), coach Doug Bruno notched win number 700.  A passionate advocate for women’s basketball, he coaches an entertaining fast-paced game with lots of 3-point shooting. They call it “DePaul Ball,” and we’ve been hooked on it since 2006. Twenty-win seasons and NCAA tournaments are routine for DePaul. The team has made the Sweet 16 four times, most recently in 2016.

Two days later in a close win over Xavier (73-72), senior Amarah Coleman tallied 1000 points in her college career (including a year at Illinois). That puts her in an elite club of 36 Blue Demon players.

More interesting than the number of points is the bumpy road Coleman traveled to reach that mark.

Out of high school she accepted a bid from the University of Illinois in what proved to be a turbulent season for the program.

Coleman transferred to DePaul as a sophomore. An off the bench player the first year, she now admits to being stubborn and at time butting heads with Bruno. But by her junior year, she had figured things out and become an important starting guard/forward. She’s fast, agile and can hit a three. This season she’s averaging 12.2 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.

And she now knows what comes after DePaul – playing overseas for as long a she can.

A second reason for attending the Iowa-Northwester game was to watch Makenzie Meyer. The sophomore is the Hawkeye’s starting point guard. Her basketball awareness was readily apparent Sunday.

I’ve followed her because, in addition to both of us attending Iowa as undergraduates, we have one – and only one – other thing in common: We are both graduates of the Mason City (Iowa) High School – just 55 years apart.

Today, Mason City – a modest-sized school that graduates about 275 students a year -- has a successful girl’s basketball  program, including a state championship. Last year, three MCHS graduates played on women’s teams in the NCAA tournament – Iowa State, Drake and Creighton. (Iowa got an NIT bid.)

The girls in my Class of ’61 could participate in golf and tennis. Period.

A half-century later, Meyer represents how things have changed. High school girls can now dream of going to college on an athletic scholarship at a Division I school and playing on a big stage, like Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.

Just like the boys.


For Sky's Allie Quigley, persistence pays

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Chicago Sky guard Allie Quigley was named a member of the WNBA All-Star team Tuesday -- a big reward for dedication, toughness and an unwillingness to quit that was a long time coming.

This season she ranks fourth in the WNBA in points per game (16.4) and third in 3-pointers (hitting 42.7%).

What’s amazing is her nine-year journey from being a standout shooting guard at DePaul University – she’s still third on the school’s all-time scoring list with 2078 points – to this week’s recognition as one of the WNBA’s best.

The transition from college to pro is not easy. Quigley was no exception. During her first four years in the NBA, starting in 2008, she played for three teams in a grand total of 35 games – the league’s season runs 34 games – averaging fewer than 10 minutes and 3 points per game.

Many women would have given up.

But Quigley, who continued to enjoy a successful career in Europe, chose to hang in there.

In 2013 Pokey Chatman invited her to try out at the Sky’s training camp. Quigley made the team and got minutes in all 34 games – and a lot of encouragement from the coach. Chatman once praised Quigley’s work ethic by calling her a “gym rat.”

Her determination paid off in 2014 and again in 2015 when she was named the league’s Sixth Woman of the Year.

But last year, for whatever reason, while still playing in every game, she got fewer minutes and scoring slipped to 9.5 points per game.

Some women might have decided to call it a career, satisfied to have the back-to-back Sixth Woman awards as the highlight of an eight-year career.

But Quigley went back to Europe and enjoyed another successful season.

Meanwhile, the Sky lost their star player, Elena Delle Donne, fired Chatman and hired coach Amber Stocks who decided Quigley deserved a starting role. Quigley certainly has not disappointed.

It took nine years and a lot of persistence and toughness, but Quigley now can put All-Star on her resume.

After her selection was announced Tuesday, Quigley made her own statement on the court that evening leading the Sky to a 94-83 victory over the Seattle Storm. She scored a team high 25 points, including six 3s – matching her career best from long distance.


The story behind buying this T-shirt took a second unusual turn Saturday.

Allie-Back-to-BackOn an impulse, I purchased the Allie Quigley Sixth Woman T at a Sky game this summer. Her name is tied to our interest in women’s basketball. The first sample Elaine and I got was a DePaul University home game during Allie’s freshman year.

Earlier this month, we attended a preseason game mostly because the visiting team, St. Francis, is coached by Allie’s younger sister, Sam, who was a point guard at DePaul.

During the halftime break a man approached from behind: “Nice T-shirt.”  When I turned around, he added: “I’m dad, Don.” The conversation continued in the stands where I met mom, Christine. And Don took a picture to send to Allie, who’s playing in Turkey. Fun.

Saturday I decided to wear the T-shirt a second time to a DePaul game. As I took my seat, a woman sat down beside me and said “I like your shirt.” It was Allie!

She was taking a break from playing overseas and attending the game with her parents. We had a brief conversation – about basketball, of course – and Turkey, which Elaine and I visited in 2012. She assured me she feels safe. All in all, a very pleasant experience.

The DePaul women did not disappoint. After a slow start, in their first real test of the season, the No. 20 Blue Demons got their fast-paced, lots-of-triples game going, rolling over unranked Northwestern University 89-66.


Cubs Need to Understand the Neighborhood

Two stories in Crain's publications layout the disconnect between our community and the team's owners.

Wrigley Field is part of Lake View – along Lake Michigan and about four miles north of Chicago's Loop. In the 40 years since I moved into the neighborhood, it has risen from middle to upper-middle class.

It's the epicenter of teardowns in Chicago – some 300 over the last five years – as one story documents. Century old one or two story fame "cottages" are being torn demolished and replaced by three-level single family homes costing three times as much. On the low side, a developer may pay $600,000 to clear a 25X125' lot, and sell the new house for $1.8 million.

The buyers are moving here for the short commute on Chicago's L trains or buses to jobs in the Loop. Initially they may be attracted by the neighborhood's vibrant nightlife. Later, they may stay for the good public schools in the neighborhood which can get their children into top notch high schools. Owning a second car may be optional. And there's the beautiful lakefront almost at their doorsteps.

While these homeowners may go to a Cubs game on occasion, they are not buying expensive homes because of the Cubs -- and the too often rowdy crowds the team attracts.

The same is true for renters. Of seven units we own within walking distance of Wrigley Field, it's rare for someone to mention proximity to the ballpark as a major reason for moving into the neighborhood

Lake View's biggest conflict is with an elitist family with ties to Omaha, Neb. The Ricketts own the biggest tract in the area. They call it Wrigley Field.

When this family, worth billions, decided to buy the Chicago Cubs, they initially tried to get Chicago and Illinois taxpayers to pay at least a big portion of the bill. When that failed, they said they would foot the bill for updating the old ballpark, but they needed some concessions from the city. Initially, some were reasonable, some less so. Compromises with the community and broader city were made. But the Ricketts keep coming back for more – more night games, more concerts, vacated sidewalks, a beer garden -- to make this rich family even wealthier.

In the latest move, the Cubs organization says it is necessary to close two thru streets that run alongside the ballpark. Addison Avenue is an important east-west street that, among other things, provides access to a district police station, Lake Shore Drive, and a busy L station. Clark Street -- so old is was once an Indian trail – cuts a diagonal linking Lincoln Park to Edgewater.

The team contends this is necessary to meet new Major League Baseball security guidelines – and don't dare question that assertion, "father knows best." Don't raise the likelihood these standards can be met in other ways.

The idea, as Crain's columnist Greg Hinz puts it, reflects a new level of arrogance.

Fortunately, our local alderman, Tom Tunney (44th), has rejected the idea, and has Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The Ricketts family needs to get real. Their business is in an increasing affluent area of well-educated homeowners. We don't need the noise, traffic congestion, drunks and criminal elements. We understand 80,000 of us living in just over three square miles requires give and take.

For the Ricketts family, it's all take, no give.


Forget the score, UConn and DePaul Women Both Win

DePaul hosted UConn Wednesday (Dec. 2) in a hard fought, exciting game.

No Surprise, the #1 Huskies bested the #23 Blue Demons, 86-70. In it’s four previous games this season UConn, winner of the NCAA Final Four the last two years, cakewalked over its opponents by 40 or more points.

So in a way, DePaul won by making the visitors earn this win. The Blue Demons trailed by only three at the half (44-41) and nine at the end of third quarters (65-56).

More significant, we fans got a chance see an always exciting team suddenly get deeper, especially in the front court. In late November, the NCAA granted immediate eligibility to two women who left the University of Illinois. They were among a group that exited the school in the midst of a scandal and lawsuit over the treatment of players.

Now DePaul is taller in the front court and 10 deep, playing into the team’s fast-paced style. In a move that initially unnerved Huskie players, Blue Demon coach Doug Bruno rotated in five subs to replace the starting five in the first quarter – as he continued doing throughout the game.

Sitting in the stands we got a glimmer of hope that this may be a year for the Blue Demons, who have made the Sweet 16 three time since 2006, to go further.

After the game, Bruno called UConn a juggernaut on its way to another Final Four appearance. But thanks to parity, the other three slots are up for grabs. And, he concluded: “Tonight was a chance for our players to prove we can be one of those three teams that fights its way to Indy.”

Wow! I don’t recall him ever talking like that.

We’ll keep the date open.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


A Basketball Star Wants to Spread the Word about Lyme Disease

Unfortunately, this franchise maker is at a big disadvantage. Elena Delle Donne plays for the Chicago Sky in the WNBA, and women’s professional basketball doesn’t fly very high on the sports radar.

Maybe, based in part on a personal experience, I can in a modest way help spread the word about Lyme Disease.

Delle Donne caught national attention in the spring of 2013 when she led the University of Delaware to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Women’s Basketball tournament. The 6’ 5” guard/forward was the second player picked in the WNBA draft, and helped lead the Sky to their first winning season and the best record in the Eastern Conference. (They were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, but that’s another story).

This year Delle Donne and the team picked up where they left off, winning five of their first six games. She averaged a team leading 21.2 points per game. In June, Delle Donne suffered a recurrence of what is often called Chronic Lyme Disease syndrome. She missed 17 of 18 games – half a WNBA season – and the team went 5-12 without her.

Delle Donne believes she contracted the disease, a bacterial infection caused by the bite of a deer tick in 2008 but wasn’t aware of it. That’s not unusual. Deer tick bites are often missed, and when symptoms show up later, the disease is difficult to diagnose and there is no definitive treatment.

For Della Donne, the symptoms flare up periodically causing fatigue, muscle aches, migraine headaches and, this time, tremors. She went back to Delaware for rest and treatment.

And she is frustrated. Delle Donne told a local reporter for The News Journal:

"This has been a five-year fight and, unfortunately, there's no cure so, at this point, it's going to be a lifetime fight . . . It's just really frustrating to know how far behind we are with this disease."

Until more funding is devoted to understanding the disease and developing an effective treatment, it’s more important than ever for people who might come in contact with deer ticks to be vigilant.

It’s wise to wear clothes that cover arms and legs, tuck pants into socks and use a healthy dose of DEET insect repellent – basically steps taken to avoid mosquito bites.

After outdoor activities, check your body – especially under skin folds – and, as the saying goes, cover each other’s back. Doing just that led to my wife Elaine spotting a deer tick in the small of my back. The center was dark with a red ring around it. She removed the tick, we preserved it and I scheduled appointment with my primary care physician.

Since we spend a good deal of time during the summer in Wisconsin – a prime deer tick state – I had done some homework and knew antibiotics would kill the bacteria if treatment began in two to three weeks.

I saw my primary care physician no more than four days after being bitten. She prescribed doxycycline for 10 to 14 days, and sent the specimen to a lab which confirmed it was a deer tick (we’re at day eight). A following DNA test of the tick confirmed it was not carrying the Lyme disease. No need to continue the medication, although just to by safe, I took it for 10 days.

Case closed.

As for Delle Donne, she rejoined the team July 31. Coming off the bench, she scored an average of 15 points during the first three games (as of this writing), helping the Sky win all three in their push to make the playoffs. 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Go Blue Demons!

The DePaul University Blue Demons play in the sweet 16 this weekend – for the third time in eight years.

Oh, sorry, this is the other NCAA basketball tournament -- for women!  And for the record, the only Illinois team – men or women – to get an invitation to join the March Madness.

After getting off to an uneven start, the Blue Demons are on a roll. They’ve won 18 of their last 19 games. Their current nine game streak included winning the Big East conference and Big East tournament titles.

Last weekend, the no. 7 seeded Blue Demons outdueled Oklahoma, 104-100, in the highest scoring NCAA tournament game played in regulation time. In the second round, DePaul upset no. 2 Duke on their home court, 74-65.

Under coach Doug Bruno – the Duke win was the 600th of his career – DePaul plays a run-and-gun game with lots of full court pressing that forces a lot of turnovers (Duke had 21). They also shoot a lot of 3s, and sank 14 against Duke.

After the game, the Duke coach said a mere 74 was allowing too many points – DePaul routinely scores 80 or more points – and marveled at the number of three’s, some of them lofted from well behind the arch.

This fast-paced game is the way women’s basketball should be played, and we are fortunate enough to have discovered the women’s game in 2006 when, on a lark, we walked to their home court. We were hooked.

Saturday the Blue Demons take on the no. 3 seed, Texas A&M. Unlike in the two previous sweet 16 appearances, the DePaul team is healthy, permitting Bruno to freely rotate a core of seven women. A win would mean the first ever elite eight appearance by this amazing team.

Go Blue Demons!

 

 

 


The Boston Marathon Blasts

This time it’s personal, in a way that 9/11 and the Oklahoma City acts of terrorism were not.

I don’t know anyone who was injured Monday, or for that matter entered in race. And I was hundreds of miles away when the blasts went off. Nevertheless, as a runner who has experienced three Boston Marathons, it struck home.

All day Tuesday I was angry, upset. In a funk. I could not overcome a bad case of writer’s block.

 

My first trip to Boston, in 1981, was not to run but to work. A field producer for NBC News in Chicago, I was doing part of a story for Nightly News about the thousands who had no hope of winning, but were winners nonetheless.  My focus was on a cardiac rehab patient who’s recovery had gone so well that he was able to run a marathon.

I took it all in: the atmosphere, the party along the race course, the start and the finish. At the finish line I had an elevated position roughly 100 yards form the finish line, trying to pick out the subject of my story in an endless wave of runners. A similar position Monday would have been midway between the blasts on the opposite side of the street.

I arrived in Boston a 10-mile-a-week jogger and returned to Chicago determined to some day run that marathon. Boston is the only U.S. marathon with rare exceptions to have a qualifying standard. You have to be reasonably fast to gain entry. That’s what makes it the Olympics for the great mass of serious runners.

Thanks to meeting a runner who became my coach and friend, I ran my first marathon that fall, and the next spring, a race fast enough to qualify for Boston.

The next two trips, in 1983 and at the 100th in 1996, were icing on the cake. Rewards for hard training and determination. I ran both under less than ideal conditions, but I finished. Today they’re beside the point.

That first trip to Boston was a life changing experience. Running became a central part of my lifestyle. Not only does it keep me fit – physically and mentally – I worked hard enough to regularly earn age group medals at Chicago area races for three decades.

Now, 32 years later, someone or some group has attacked my very being. And I’m pissed.