General

As Lovie Smith era begins, Illini eyes are smilin’

Lovie_Smith_Illini

From the Saturday, Sept. 3, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

The WISCH LIST

By Dave Wischnowsky

Top o’ the mornin’ to ya.

As you read this, I’m about 3,600 miles west of Illinois in Dublin (that’s Ireland, not Ohio) and depending on what time of the day you grab the paper or jump online, I’m likely enjoying a pint of Guinness before, during or after the Boston College-Georgia Tech football opener (that’s American, not European) held today at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium.

Since I’m cheering on my wife’s alma mater over in Ireland (“Go Eagles”) as part of my 40th birthday celebration, I won’t be in Champaign to celebrate the start of the Lovie Smith era at the University of Illinois.

But as luck would have it, I have plenty of thoughts about it.

Patience pays

Last December, when the University of Illinois decided to extend football coach Bill Cubit’s contract for two seasons, I was told by many an angry Illini fan on Twitter that the move was a catastrophe. It would kill recruiting, they howled. It would make the job toxic, they ranted.

I didn’t agree.

Rather, it was my opinion that the short-term stability provided by Cubit’s contract clearly offered Illinois the best long-term options. For a program still reeling from the debacle named Tim Beckman, Illinois simply couldn’t afford another multi-year mistake by giving Cubit – or any other coach – a lengthy deal when the school still didn’t even have a permanent athletic director in place.

I believed that it was highly unlikely that the best possible coach would take the Illinois job without knowing whom his permanent AD was – and equally unlikely that the best possible Illinois AD candidate would want a job where he was stuck with a new long-term coach he didn’t hire. To avoid settling, I liked how the Cubit deal bought the Illini time to hire the right AD, rather than just an AD, which could then lead to the right coach.

General

The Bridgehouse to Chicago’s colorful past

BridgehouseHomeFrom the Saturday, Aug. 22, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

The WISCH LIST

By Dave Wischnowsky

The Metropolitan Planning Council announced this week it foresees a future in which people could swim in the Chicago River by 2030.

Intentionally.

“We know people want to see rejuvenation along the riverfronts,” Metropolitan Planning Council director Josh Ellis said prior to releasing a report for which the nonprofit surveyed 6,000 people over 18 months – including real estate developers, river users and other stakeholders – to develop a vision for the future of the Chicago, Calumet and Des Plaines rivers.

“To be frank, we also know not everything is going great in Chicago right now,” Ellis continued. “What a document like this does is show that we have a vision for a future that is better than today.”

Chicago certainly has its ongoing challenges. But truth be told, even without any swimming in it, the Chicago River is already pretty great today after a long history infamous pollution. Just this month, in fact, I’ve enjoyed a gorgeous architectural cruise upon it, enjoyed a nighttime stroll along its fabulous new Riverwalk and sipped an afternoon cocktail at one of its trendy new watering holes along the water while watching pleasure boats and kayakers slide past.

And perhaps most interestingly, I also viewed the river – and its history – from a new perspective by visiting for the very first time the McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum.

Located at the southwest corner the Michigan Avenue Bridge, you’ve almost surely passed the museum if you’ve ever walked the Magnificent Mile, although you may not have realized that you can actually walk inside the tower with ornate stone sculpture on its exterior. But indeed you can – and for free on Sundays.

The McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum celebrates the Chicago River and movable bridges, of which Chicago has the most of any city in the world with 37. Beginning at river level, the museum spirals five stories up providing a one-of-a-kind opportunity to explore a historic landmark bridgehouse and learn about the history of Chicago’s iconic passageway.

On the first floor, visitors get the opportunity to view the massive gears of the city’s most famous movable bridge and then journey through each level while experiencing the often murky story of the river and its relationship with the city. At the top of the bridgehouse, you’re treated to a 360-degree view that’s unique from any other in a town filled with magnificent panoramas.

General

Recalling Chicago’s Olympics memories past – and passed

Chicago-2016.0From the Saturday, Aug. 6, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

By Dave Wischnowsky

The WISCH LIST

If Chicago had been awarded the 2016 Summer Olympics, its Opening Ceremony would have taken place on July 22. The IOC passed on the Windy City, of course, so on Friday in Rio it was the Brazilians who put on their show.

But I do still like to imagine what Chicago would have pulled off for its own Opening Ceremony. One can joke about how the theatrics would have been a revue featuring the Blues Brothers, hot dogs, deep dish pizza and Al Capone, but I doubt that our Games would have actually featured those civic stereotypes.

Rather, I imagine that the 1871 Great Fire – and Chicago’s rebirth from its ashes – would have been a focal point of our Opening Ceremony. I’d like to think that 21st-century technology could have re-created imagery of one of the most mind-blowing spectacles ever known to man: The White City of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition – a collection of massive buildings clad in white stucco, of which now only the Museum of Science & Industry still stands (sans the stucco).

I’d hope that a Chicago Opening Ceremony would have shared the story of the city’s many immigrants and its rich diversity. And, finally, I would imagine that our own global icon, Michael Jordan, would have been the one to light the flame.

Hopefully, Jim Belushi wouldn’t have been anywhere in sight.

We’ll never see any of that, but to keep you in the Olympics mood, I wanted to share a few names of Chicago Olympians from Summer Games gone by.

Adolph Kiefer

At age 98, Adolph Gustav Kiefer is the oldest living American Olympic champion – and a Chicagoan. As a 16-year-old Roosevelt High School student swimming in the 1935 IHSA championships, he became the first man to break the 1-minute mark in the 100-yard backstroke (59.8).

The next year, he represented the United States in the 1936 Summer Games in Berlin, where he won gold in the 100-meter backstroke and set an Olympic record (1:05.9) that would stand for 20 years.

General

Short on holidays, August long on fun in Chicago

AirShowFrom the Saturday, July 30, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

By Dave Wischnowsky

The WISCH LIST

When it comes to the calendar, August is an oddball.

It’s the only month of the 12 that’s without an official holiday, which probably gives it a complex. Thankfully, though, Chicago offers plenty of events to keep August – and you – plenty busy.

So, holidays or not, here are a few of the events in that you can consider partaking in next month.

Hot Dog Festival
Aug. 5-7

The Dog Days of Summer wouldn’t feel right without, well, dogs.

Celebrating the city’s love affair with the iconic encased meat, the Chicago Hot Dog Fest has that covered. The free event, held from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Aug. 5-6 and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Aug. 7, is held outside the Chicago History Museum at Clark & LaSalle.

The fest features hot dog vendors including Byron’s and Fatso’s Last Stand, along with live music, entertainment and speaking sessions.

For more information, visit chicagoevents.com.

General

Chicago’s rich history of big plans, big misses

spireFrom the Saturday, July 23, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

By Dave Wischnowsky

WISCH LIST

Daniel Burnham, the urban design visionary who in 1909 drafted “The Plan for Chicago” that would serve as the template for the future of the metropolis, famously said, “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood.”

To its credit, Chicago has never had a problem making grand plans.

But it does, on occasion, have difficulty following through on them.

Most recently, the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art slated for the lakefront imploded like the Death Star. And as we approach the 2016 Summer Olympics, it’s difficult to not think about Chicago’s failed bid to host the Games, which the International Olympic Committee instead awarded to Rio de Janeiro.

I’m guessing the IOC might like a do-over on that one.

Those, however, are just two examples of the high-profile Windy City projects that blew away before becoming reality. Here’s a dive into some more.

1992 World’s Fair

In 1893, Chicago held the World Columbian Exposition to honor the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ 1492 discovery of the New World. In 1983, Chicago and Seville, Spain, were chosen to host the 1992 World’s Fair to mark the 500th anniversary.

Seville held up its part, drawing 41.8 million visitors. But Chicago didn’t as its plan collapsed due to political bickering and questions about public funding. In 1999, Congress banned the use of federal funds for participation in World’s Fairs.

So don’t hold your breath for 2092.

General

Wisch List on CLTV SportsFeed

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 7.45.04 PMThe Cubs. The White Sox. Illini basketball. Illini football.

They all have summertime developments, and I of course have summertime opinions.

I shared my thoughts on all things Chicago baseball and University of Illinois on Sunday night when I joined host Josh Frydman live in studio for CLTV SportsFeed.

If you’d like to watch my segment, you can do so by clicking here.

General

It’s a Dickens of a time for Illini basketball

John+Groce+Ohio+State+v+Illinois+DP3HkMfySUAlFrom the Saturday, July 16, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

The WISCH LIST

By Dave Wischnowsky

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

“A Tale of Two Cities” wasn’t written about, well, Champaign-Urbana, but the novel’s opening line does apply quite well to the current topsy-turvy state of basketball down at the University of Illinois.

With injuries, arrests and losses piling up, Illini coach John Groce has had a Dickens of a time getting his program on solid footing since his arrival in 2012. But this week, an orange-and-blue beacon finally cut through the murk when 5-star center Jeremiah Tilmon, an East St. Louis native, pledged allegiance to his home state school.

The verbal commitment was a huge shot in the arm for Groce – and Illini fans – after a string of painful swings and misses with previous high-profile recruiting targets. In the fall of 2017, Tilmon is set to join fellow recruits Da’Monte Williams of Peoria Manual and Javon Pickett of Belleville East in what’s shaping up into a blockbuster class for the Illini¬ – especially if highly touted Jordan Goodwin of Belleville Althoff also jumps on board.

Thanks to Tilmon, this week might have been Groce’s best time at Illinois. But for Illini hoops we’re also still in the worst of times, and the coach needs more than recruits to save his job this season.

He needs wins.

General

Chicago’s July filled with fireworks, food and fun

Fireworks over Navy Pier, ChicagoFrom the Saturday, July 2, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

 

By Dave Wischnowsky

The WISCH LIST

Happy Independence Day Weekend, otherwise known as the 240th anniversary of the day America pulled its own Brexit back in 1776.

The United Kingdom’s decision last week to depart the EU has set off a lot of political fireworks, but if you’re looking to enjoy some traditional ones this weekend in Chicago, Navy Pier has its July 4 fireworks extravaganza set for 9:30 p.m. on Monday night.

To get the best free views of the show, you can head to the pier itself or to Millennium Park. Or you can splurge for a last-minute ticket for Navy Pier’s Freedom Fest, which features a DJ, BBQ for sale and a cash bar along with rooftop views. For details, visit chitownevents.com.

And for other entertainment options in Chicago during July, read on.

Taste of Chicago, July 6-10

On July 4, 1980, the city of Chicago blocked off Michigan Avenue between Ohio Street and Wacker Drive, anticipating a crowd of 100,000 for the inaugural Taste of Chicago. More than 250,000 showed up, cementing the Taste’s place on the Windy City’s summertime calendar forevermore.

Next week, the Granddaddy of Food Festivals returns for its 37th installment hawking many of the old standards along with six new food trucks (including Da Lobsta and Firecakes Donuts) and 11 new pop-up restaurants (including Taco in a Bag, Pork & Mindy’s, and Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken). The music lineup, meanwhile, features The Roots (July 6), Billy Idol (July 9) and the Isley Brothers (July 10).

The Taste runs from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., July 6-8, and from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on July 9-10. For more information, visit cityofchicago.org.

General

Cubs Off Base with ‘Booze Rules’ Complaints

CubsPlaza1From the Saturday, June 25, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

The WISCH LIST

By Dave Wischnowsky

Save perhaps Cleveland, Wrigley Field is the happiest place on the planet these days. So why on Earth are the Chicago Cubs crying foul?

Well, you can count the reasons over beers — and in dollars. And while I’m all for the Cubs making cash, I’m counting their complaints out.

On Wednesday, the family that owns the best team in baseball was given the authority to serve beer and wine at a sprawling outdoor plaza adjacent to Wrigley Field. But Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the City Council also slapped a list of limitations on when and how the Rickettses can do it, which has left them as frustrated as a .200 hitter facing Jake Arrieta.

General

Ferris Bueller’s Day Trip

towerFrom the Saturday, June 11, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

The WISCH LIST

By Dave Wischnowsky

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
— Ferris Bueller

Three decades ago today, a trio of truants from the town of Shermer, Ill., redefined cool, comedy and teenage angst for an entire generation by embarking upon an epic, rollicking adventure throughout Chicago.

But if you scour a roadmap of the Land of Lincoln for their hometown, you won’t find it anywhere. If you plug the city’s name into Google Maps, you’ll get bupkis. And if you ask a Chicagoan for directions to the place?

Well, whatever you get in return will be wrong.

That’s because Shermer — the hometown of Ferris Bueller, Cameron Frye, Sloan Peterson and countless other John Hughes film characters — doesn’t actually exist.

Although that hardly stopped me from visiting it last weekend.

For children of the ’80s, today is a watershed anniversary as it marks 30 years since “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” premiered in theaters on June 11, 1986. And as a child of the ’80s, I wanted to honor this momentous occasion. So last weekend, my wife Debbie and I pulled a reverse Bueller by escaping the city to explore the burbs.