New Chicago Sports Museum hits a home run

From the Saturday, April 12, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

hoverboardThe WISCH LIST

By Dave Wischnowsky

When it comes to museums, Chicago has almost as many as it has potholes. But oddly enough, for a city that’s so in love with its sports franchises, figures and history of both, it’s never had a museum dedicated to sports.

Until now, that is.

“The Chicago Sports Museum is going to fill a hole in this sports-crazy town,” WGN Radio and Comcast SportsNet personality David Kaplan said recently in a release promoting the Windy City’s newest sports attraction. “We have lots of great museums in Chicago, but nothing dedicated to sports. Fans are going to love it.”

I think so, too. I know that I certainly did.

Located on Level 7 of Water Tower Place at 835 North Michigan Avenue, the Chicago Sports Museum – which opened on April 2 – is housed as part of the new Harry Caray’s 7th Inning Stretch Restaurant.

It’s billed as “Chicago’s playground for sports fans,” and with an amazing array of interactive exhibits along with a fascinating array of some of the city’s quirkiest pieces of sports memorabilia from Harry Caray’s CEO Grant DePorter’s personal collection, the 8,000-square-foot museum lives up to that description.

Continue reading

Past QBs Show Lunt Could Be An Illini Savior

Saturday’s column from CBS Chicago

UI fbo mediaday(CBS) The weather is supposed to be warm Saturday in Champaign for the University of Illinois’ spring football game, but probably not as hot as Tim Beckman’s seat will be this fall if his Illini don’t make a bowl game.

If the third-year coach is to be assured of a fourth, it likely will be thanks to the strapping kid wearing the red No. 12 jersey during the 2 p.m. scrimmage at Memorial Stadium.
That would be 6-foot-5, 210-pound Wes Lunt, the strong-armed Oklahoma State transfer who hasn’t yet been formally named the Illini’s starting quarterback for the 2014 season, although from all indications it’s only a matter of time until he is.

On Friday, Champaign News-Gazette columnist Loren Tate wrote about the redshirt sophomore quarterback, “While it’s too early for comparison, there are those already mentioning Lunt in the same sentence with Tony Eason, Jeff George and Kurt Kittner.”

In the pantheon for Illini football, such as it is, that trio would be considered the gold standard of signal-callers. Asking Lunt to live up such billing in his first season playing in Champaign may be asking a lot, but if he does excel, just how much of an instant impact can a high-caliber quarterback even have on a bad team?

Well, based on past history at Illinois, perhaps a lot.

Continue reading at CBSChicago.com

Is Chicago Missing An Olympic-Sized Opportunity in 2024?

A helicopter view of downtown Chicago MaToday’s column from CBS Chicago

(CBS) Whether you were in favor of Chicago getting the 2016 Summer Olympics or not, one thing is becoming increasingly clear.

Chicago should have gotten the 2016 Summer Olympics.

On Thursday, news broke that Olympics officials have become so concerned that Brazil might not be ready to host the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro that they’ve enacted a series of emergency measures to jump-start preparations woefully delayed by “sluggish construction, labor strife and governmental chaos.”

“We believe that Rio can and will deliver an excellent Games if the appropriate actions are being taken now,” IOC president Thomas Bach said, with that discomforting “if” noticeably left hanging in the air.

According to reports, the IOC boss stopped short of ruling out the possibility that the competition might be shifted elsewhere, telling reporters, “What I can say categorically is that we will do everything we can to make these Games a success.”

If the 2016 Summer Games were to be shifted – and what a mess that would be – I think it’s safe to say they wouldn’t be shifted to Chicago. But what I’ve been wondering of late is how Chicagoans might feel if a different Summer Games – those of the 2024 variety – end up being hosted by an American city other than ours.

Continue reading at CBSChicago.com

When It Comes To Titles, Big Ten Is Final Forlorn

My April 8 column from CBS Chicago

Cleveland Indians v New York Yankees(CBS) When it comes to reaching the Final Four, the Big Ten can hold its own with any conference in America. But when it comes to actually winning championships?

Well, that’s a different story.

Twenty-five years ago, Glen Rice, Rumeal Robinson and Steve Fisher cut the nets in Seattle after leading Michigan to the 1989 NCAA Tournament title. But in all the springs since, the Big Ten has sprung only one more title on us – that by Michigan State in 2000.

Why is that? I really don’t know, and I’m not sure that anyone does.

But what I do know is that by coming up short so often on college basketball’s biggest stage, the Big Ten has spent the past quarter-century bucking the championship odds better than any organization not named the Chicago Cubs.

Consider this: In the 25 seasons since 1989, 100 teams have reached the Final Four, and the Big Ten has laid claim to 18 of them – including Wisconsin this year. That’ s second only to the ACC’s 21 qualifiers, although from its group the ACC has also produced eight champions, while the Big Ten has generated just the one.

Continue reading at CBSChicago.com

Spring cleaning my mind about Chicago sports

Wrigley_field_720From the Saturday, April 5, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

The WISCH LIST

By Dave Wischnowsky

No matter your city, no matter your state, no matter your climate, spring is universally regarded as a season of renewal during which everyone gets a fresh start.

Unless, of course, you’re the Chicago Cubs.

And then it probably just means more of the same.

At least that was the case to start this week after the Cubs opened the 2014 season in Pittsburgh by failing to post a run for nearly 17 innings.

The drought got bad enough on Wednesday night that I was wondering which team would score first in 2014, the Cubs … or the Bears.

Ultimately, the Cubs beat the Bears to that punch, but the punchless North Siders have a lineup that could make fans punchy all spring. With that in mind, I’m going to take a few swings of my own at the Chicago sports scene and, who knows, I might even connect with a few.

Continue reading

Fans Deserve Second Chance To Know Fab Freshmen

jabriparkerMy April 5 column from CBS Chicago

(CBS) Should Duke’s Jabari Parker go pro? Should Kansas’ Joel Embiid? What about Kentucky’s Julius Randle, or any of the Wildcats’ other fab frosh?

Well, if they’re sure-fire lottery picks, the answer is probably yes. You don’t gamble on that kind of money.

But as a college basketball fan, do I truly want any of them to go pro? No, I can’t say that I do. And, really, I wish that they weren’t.

Ever since high school basketball players were required to spend one year in college before becoming eligible for the NBA Draft – thanks to the NBA’s 19-year-old age limit – I’ve lamented the impact that the rule has had on both kids and college hoops.

I don’t really think it does much positive for either.

Recently, new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has indicated a desire to raise the NBA age limit to 20, essentially requiring athletes to spend two years at the college level before joining the pros. His argument is that the influx of younger players who have never had a chance to lead has had a negative effect on the league.

Continue reading at CBSChicago.com

By Claiming He Was Misquoted, Illini’s Beckman Misfires

BeckmanMy April 3 column from CBS Chicago

(CBS) For Tim Beckman, even when he’s right, it still somehow ends up being wrong.

On Monday morning after spring football practice in Champaign, the University of Illinois’ third-year football coach turned a molehill into something of a mountain when he spoke out against a recent Sports Illustrated story about the Illini.

In the article, which was posted online on March 25, Beckman was quoted in the final sentence as saying, “I want this program to get better. That’s the bottom line. And that means five or six wins.”

Personally, I didn’t have any big problems with that line or the SI article, which I found to be balanced and honest. After going just 6-18 during Beckman’s first two seasons, the program does need to get better. That’s the bottom line. And after last year’s 4-8 campaign, that would mean five or six wins, although I do think that Beckman needs six – qualifying the Illini for a bowl game – in order to survive to coach a fourth season.

In the week after the SI story went live, I didn’t see any backlash on social media about Beckman’s quote and didn’t think much of it myself. But Beckman felt a need to lash back on Monday. According to the Champaign News-Gazette, before the media could even ask a question following the end of Illinois’ practice, the coach pointed to his right wrist.

On it, Beckman apparently is now wearing a bracelet bearing the numbers “12-6-14,” which is the date of the 2014 Big Ten Championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Showing off his swag, Beckman told the assembled media that he was misquoted in the SI article, written by Chris Johnson.

Continue reading at CBSChicago.com

5 Opening Day Questions For Cubs And Sox

Miami Marlins v Chicago CubsMonday’s column from CBS Chicago

(CBS) A few weeks ago in the midst of Chicago’s wicked winter, I predicted that it would snow on Opening Day.

I don’t know if I’ve ever been happier to be wrong.

Although, I do know one thing that would be please me even more than today’s spring-like weather. And that would be if Chicago baseball actually ended up being interesting this summer.

To hope for it to be truly compelling is probably too much ask.

Last Friday, using a scale of 1-10, I asked the Chicago baseball fans among my Facebook and Twitter followers to rank their excitement level for Opening Day. The numbers varied from 10 to negative-3 (that was a Cubs fan). And before this morning, with the Cubs and Sox coming off such terribly sorry seasons, I would have said that my own excitement level is probably a 2.

But now this sunshine has me thinking about summer and my love of our national pastime, so I think I have to say my level has now been bumped up to at least a 4. Perhaps even a 5. And in honor of that, here are five questions I do have for the Cubs and White Sox as we embark upon Opening Day and play ball.

Continue reading at CBSChicago.com

 

Spring into April events throughout Chicago

Chicago-Tulips-yaminie10From the Saturday, March 29, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

The WISCH LIST

By Dave Wischnowsky

They say that April showers bring May flowers.

But apparently March blizzards do too.

Or at least that’s the case this year in Chicago, as through April 6, Macy’s in the Loop (111 N. State Street) has transformed its 9th Floor into a wonderland called “The Secret Garden” that’s bursting with an estimated 2 million flowers and exotic topiaries.

In addition to the flora, the “The Secret Garden” also offers guided tours and features a variety of cooking demonstrations, seminars by floral experts, and fashion events to put you in the proper mood for springtime.

Even if April still feels like wintertime.

For more information about “The Secret Garden,” you can visit social.macys.com/flowershow, And for more information about other events throughout the Windy City during April, you can simply read on.

Continue reading

For More Donors, Illini First Need More Wins

Ohio State v IllinoisMy CBS Chicago column from March 27 …

(CBS) Tell me, what came first, the chicken or the wins?

At the University of Illinois, something along those cracked lines of the chicken-or-egg riddle is what has to be puzzling athletic director Mike Thomas this week as he announced a new initiative to double his department’s donor base to 15,000 and its annual revenue to $15 million by 2020.

With every big-time athletic department in need of cash to compete, the mission at Illinois – which includes new donor levels, including one as high as $50,000 and one as low as $50 – appears to be a worthy one. But, nevertheless, the question remains, can Thomas really expect to make an omelet without cracking a few more wins first?

On Wednesday, Champaign News-Gazette columnist Loren Tate reported that the University of Illinois’ I-Fund – the annual revenue generated from donors to pay for the scholarships of 520 student-athletes (or student employees, if you ask Northwestern’s football team) – is lagging far behind similar funds at other major-conference schools.
According to Thomas, during the past 20 years, tuition at Illinois has tripled from $10,000 to more than $30,000 for in-state athletes, and to more than $40,000 for out-of-staters (of which there are more than 50 on the football team alone).

Continue reading at CBSChicago.com