Saturday, March 28, 2009

Lightning doesn't strike twice...but bad news does

For those hoping CBS would have another Friday night like the one it had the first weekend of the NCAA tournament, fuh-ged-aboud-id.

That first Friday night, going back and forth between those two phenomenal overtime games (Ohio State-Sienna and Wisconsin's stunning upset win) was amazing. No commercial breaks, no awkward pauses for unnecessary free throws, seamless back-and-forth coverage. A fantastic way to end a fantastic first round.

Since then - boooorrrrrrrrinnnggggg! One-sided games. Only a few close ones (thank you Missouri). And I'm tired of 37 minutes of good basketball then three minutes of score/timeout/foul/free throws, repeat. The final three minutes can and often do take as long as the first 37. Unnecessarily. Ridiculous.

It's time to change the rules. If you can't beat the other team by playing basketball, you are allowed to cheat to beat them at the end (yes, fouling is cheating, that's why the other team gets the ball or free throws or some combination thereof). But these are deliberate fouls committed by a team that couldn't play well enough to stay in the game otherwise, so they "cheat" and catch up.

And then listening to the "expert network analysts" tell me over and over that the only way the trailing team has to make up the lead is to foul and stop the clock, well, that certainly adds a lot of insight and color to my enjoyment of the coverage. Does it turn you on too?

Let's change things and speed up everything. From now on, in this situation, you foul, you give up two free throws and the offended team keeps the ball. Then you have to (omigosh!) play basketball to get back in the game instead. If you couldn't outplay them the first 37 minutes, you shouldn't be allowed to out-cheat them the final three and steal the game. So why is it allowed?

Because it works and the rules let it work and the networks love it because it provides extra timeouts for more commercials. Well, unless you're Chris Webber and Michigan, that is. I'm sorry, but I just can't watch what was a basketball game become a free throw-shooting contest. That's not "basketball," not "pure" basketball. Free throws are part of the game. They shouldn't be the game.

Stick to excitement and hustle and hard work and you'll get results like the first Friday night of this year's tournament. Too bad UConn just knocked out Mizzou. The Tigers played the game right, but they and my argument just got knocked out. Sorry, Catherine (Mizzou, M.A. '09).

Enjoy the free throws, everybody....


I have no sympathy for the Houston Texan player who was pulled over by a Dallas cop en route to the hospital to try to see his ailing mother-in-law's final moments. He drove excessively fast and violated any other number of traffic rules, endangering himself, his passenger (his wife) and any number of other motorists whose paths he crossed.

But he's an athlete, so he gets the media's sympathy. I have to believe if he'd pulled over immediately when the officer first tried to approach him and if he'd told the officer his story, then the officer likely would've accommodated him and expedited his trip to the hospital.

Puh-leez. If that was you or me, we both know the officer involved never would've been issuing the media statement he did, apologizing for his treatment of someone driving illegally, allegedly to go see his ailing relative. I say "allegedly" because it could've been a drug dealer on the run or a robber on the lam or a kidnapper on the fly or a drunk out of control, for all the officer knew. Or it could've been you or me and we'd still be in a jail cell.

But the media played it so sympathetically for the Houston Texans' player that you'd have thought he was league MVP and a former Heisman Trophy winner. I heard no media commentary about what would've happened if the driver had just been an ordinary "Joe" like you or me. Where's "Joe the Plumber" when we need him?

Which reminds me, next time I get pulled over, I'll tell the officer I'm en route to the hospital to see my ailing mother-in-law, who does live in Dallas. I just happen to live in Chicago.


Depressingly, a good friend and former student who I helped line up a job as the most unlikely but super-effective sports writer at the newspaper where I work was laid off this week after seven years there. Seven years of loyalty. Seven years of hard work. Seven years of always-improving work. Seven years of long hours, pay freezes, pay cuts, ever-increasing workload and never a complaint. Always a good attitude and even better production. Someone who sculpted herself from a writer into a solid sports reporter.

Until last week.

The industry is suffering and no one has figured out the formula for making money steadily online. The old days of sending out reps to pick up ads and checks to go with them are long ago over. Only the strong will survive, if they figure out what the content mix is that will allow them to survive, in print or online. The other day, a friend at the health club on the cross-trainer next to me with a newspaper to peruse griped instead, "This is hardly thick enough to line my bird cage."

Please, forget all this synergy and convergence stuff. Go do good work. Build a positive attitude around the newsroom. Pays off. Sometimes.

I'll miss ya' Jen, but I love ya' and am here for ya' was nice to have a beer with you the other night. Stay strong. I'll stay on the lookout for you, in the meantime.


Grow up, Joan.

Howard Schlossberg is an associate professor of journalism at Columbia College Chicago ( and a sports correspondent for The Daily Herald ( He also serves on the editorial advisory board of and contributes to The Journal of Sports Media ( and

Friday, March 13, 2009

Hockey and High School Hoops Errors

From the "you've-got-to-be-kidding-me" department:

I see where the Illinois High School Association reinstated all-stater Jerome Richmond of Waukegan in time for the 6-foot-7 junior forward to play in his Class 4A sectional against highly touted Zion-Benton.

Interesting...he'd been automatically disqualified for that game because he collected two technical fouls in the previous game, an 80-50 win over Palatine-Fremd in the regional finals. 'T' No. 2 was for hanging on the rim on a bush-league slam dunk in the fourth quarter. With 4:39 remaining, a teammate, on a breakaway, with a huge lead at the time, popped the ball off the backboard for the trailing Richmond instead of just laying it in. Real classy, huh?

Richmond missed the high-flying dunk opportunity, but was whistled for hanging on the rim, his second 'T' of the game, an automatic ejection and disqualification for the next game. After his coach argued the call to no avail, claiming he didn't hang, the refs conferred as a group and upheld the call.

The Illinois High School Association subsequently overruled, saying it wasn't a technical because he didn't hang on the play. So, my question is, since when does a state athletic association overrule a judgment call? And should the technical free throws Fremd's Dan Bruno subsequently hit be wiped out? Should the game just be replayed from that point?

And if I was one of those refs, I'd tell my IHSA overseers where to stick their judgment. What the IHSA apparently didn't consider well enough here is that it just opened the door for every judgment call in every game of every sport to be appealed. And where are my fellow prep journalism brethren in protesting this or calling this oversight into account?

I sincerely hope that ad infinitum every coach in Illinois in every sport who disagrees with a call made by a ref subsequently takes it to the IHSA, flooding them with appeals, especially now that they've opened the door and set a precedent.

And by the way, Coach Ashlaw at Waukegan, if that's the kind of play you're tolerating from your kids, you should have gotten a technical. Memo to Bruce Weber at Illinois: Are you still recruiting this kid? Memo to Chicago Sun-Times: Are you sure he's your Player of the Year?


So I see where NHL general managers are gathering to try to curtail fighting in the game. Good luck. These guys are goons on and off the ice. Need proof?

Colleague Barry Rozner at The Daily Herald recently applauded Colton Orr of the NY Rangers for walking away from a fight he would've won by TKO when his opponent's jersey was pulled up over his head, subsequently blinding him, giving Barry pause to say not all NHL'ers are goons. Maybe so.

But they're rotten tippers. Rotten. My Columbia College Chicago students who hustle to pay their bills as servers at restaurants around the city tell me pro hockey players routinely tip 5-10 percent, if that, regardless of the amount of the bill or the size of the party they're with.

And as long as Todd Bertuzzi is earning an NHL paycheck somewhere, NHL'ers are goons. Period. I love ya' Barry and you've earned all the best-columnist awards you've received (hey, I voted for you). You are regularly out front of the competition on so many things. But you are wrong on this one.

Dead wrong. Don't ask me, ask the family that just buried a late Canadian senior amateur player. Outlaw fighting? No. Curtail fighting. Absolutely!
Howard Schlossberg is an associate professor of journalism at Columbia College Chicago ( and a sports correspondent for The Daily Herald ( He also serves on the editorial advisory board of and contributes to The Journal of Sports Media ( and

Monday, March 2, 2009

A few questions

A few questions regarding everything from covering the Olympics to looking within ourselves...

...Does anyone, ANYONE, really believe the politicians in Chicago who say they will make up any shortfall (about $4 billion) in required funding for the 2016 Olympics? Are you kidding? We all know who will make up any, the good taxpaying citizens of Illinois.

The pols here are assuring the IOC they will raise the required funds from selling naming rights to venues and other sponsorship vehicles. What about vehicles to get around to the venues? The Chicago Transit Authority is broke (and broken) and the people who run it are vastly under-qualified (but are apparently qualified to run Chicago's schools, as one of them now is doing - go figure - he can't even get kids to school on public transportation, but he can run the schools - hopefully not into the ground).

From Vancouver (2010) to London (2012) and dating back to Montreal ('76), Olympic facility budget shortfalls run amok. But we're in the catbird seat here in Illinois, huh? Sorry, not buying it.

So, where are the media? Why aren't we challenging this more vigorously? Why?

Because we want the games here. The games here are good for business and business is bad these days. We have a vested interest in promoting the games and bringing all that economic-development cash flow this way. Except it's going to flow right into Lake Michigan if we're not more careful.

We under-projected and overspent on the reconstructed Soldier Field. We did the same on the tourist-sensational Millenium Park. The media didn't come down on all this until way after the fact. After all, who cares about multi million-dollar budget shortfalls to be made up by taxpayers when there are cute, human interest photos to get of kids splashing in the wading pool on a hot summer day at Millenium Park or fans reacting to the Bears making believe they're a championship team on a crisp fall Sunday afternoon.

Must sell papers, generate ratings, not stink up relationships with athletes and coaches by doing real reporting.

Actually, our local media has plunged into the depths of overspending and under-delivering in Illinois sporting and tourism construction projects, but to no avail. The politicians don't care. And that's an all-star roster.

We are the state of Rod Blagojevich, George Ryan, Jack (and Jeri) Ryan, Otto Kerner, Dan Walker, Roland Burris and...Abraham Lincoln? Yikes! Did I really just mention all their names in the same sentence. We extort money for contracts and jobs, we run for respected public offices after dragging our significant others through celebrity sex clubs and we generate political-campaign funds by extorting money for truck-drivers' licenses that were never officially sanctioned and led to the deaths of at least one family's beloved children.

And we visibly go to sporting events in Chicago when we're supposed to be in the state capitol attending to official business. In fact, corporate campaign contributors spend as much money treating politicians to games at Wrigley, U.S. Commiscular and the UC as they do on almost any other underwriting of ways and means to achieve corporate goals.

We, the media, report on it, every so often. Now, we have to expose it, publicize it, blast it and blare it, spread it like wildfire and goose it for the greater good of the gander. If not, the usual contractors are going to get the usual contracts and do the usual piecemeal work that does the damage to the original cost projections that we promised the IOC we'd make up if there were shortfalls.

If we do get the bid (and who's to say we won't?), I propose making local-broadcasting "Monster of the Morning" Mike North chair of the organizing committee, or at least its ombudsman, keeping a watchful eye on it to keep it honest. He's as equally unafraid to blow the whistle as he is eager to look at the lighthearted side of things that keep us all laughing in the face of our dire economic straits.

But, God forbid he get such a position - he'd tell the truth.


Speaking of telling the truth, we in journalism education, especially those of us who came first from the ranks of real media, need to remember to do the same in our venerable halls and classrooms as we tried to in print and on the air. Being in the habit of telling award-winning page designers that they don't know how to teach said art and telling award-winning feature writers that the only reason they're considered good instructors is because their students think they're "great guys" is no way to run an airline, if I can borrow a cliche. People who get years and years of excellent teaching reviews on top of years and years of producing peer-recognized journalism excellence didn't build up that kind of consistency by accident. The people who think that are accidents waiting to happen.


Howard Schlossberg is an associate professor of journalism at Columbia College Chicago ( and a sports correspondent for The Daily Herald ( He also serves on the editorial advisory board of and contributes to The Journal of Sports Media ( and