Summertime scorecard: Some winners, some losers

Lou2From the Saturday, July 18, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …


By Dave Wischnowsky

Some of today’s sports figures deserve greater recognition (Lou Henson) and some don’t (Pete Rose). Some local sports executives are worthy of big kudos (Theo Epstein) and some aren’t (Mike Thomas).

And, as you might expect, I have some thoughts about it all.

Just Lou-Do it

Sometimes it seems like much of Illini Nation has forgotten that the University of Illinois’ basketball program was in existence prior to B.S.

That’s “Before Self,” not the other thing you were thinking.

But this week it was refreshing to find that an 18-year-old U. of I. sophomore who wasn’t even born when Lou Henson retired back in 1996 is leading the push on campus to honor the 83-year-old hoops legend.

Sam LeRoy – a Champaign native and a member of the 50-person U. of I. student senate – says he’ll soon introduce a resolution to name the renovated State Farm Center’s court in honor of Henson, the winningest coach in school history.

“I think the greatest impact this will have is to connect Fighting Illini fans to Lou Henson for years to come,” LeRoy told the Champaign News-Gazette about the nonbinding proposal. “I think it’s fair to say he was the single most impactful coach in basketball history, not only because of what he did on the court, but because of what he did off the court in helping to establish Orange Krush as a cheering section and as a philanthropic organization that it is.”

I couldn’t agree more. And with Henson in poor health of late, it would be wonderful to see him celebrated appropriately while he’s still around to enjoy it.

Rose and his thorns

When my brother was about 3 years old he once told our family, “Rose Pete is a jerk.” He might have not gotten the name of baseball’s all-time hits leader quite right, but the sentiment was dead on.

Pete Rose is a jerk. He’s also entertaining and endlessly fascinating. Most importantly, however, he’s a gambler who, according to the latest allegations, bet on his own team as a player. That’s baseball’s cardinal sin, although with Rose appearing this week at the All-Star Game in Cincinnati, the drums were again beating to forgive and put him in the Hall of Fame.

But here’s the thing that so many fail to understand: Rose is in the Hall of Fame. His image, name and memorabilia are all displayed prominently in Cooperstown. The same goes for baseball’s slew of PED-tainted greats. They all have all of their accomplishments recognized.

What they don’t have is a plaque, a speech or a day in the sun.

And they don’t deserve it.

I don’t think I’m a jerk for saying that.

Derby horses

This week’s revamped All-Star Home Run Derby was a blast – both literally and figuratively. It also had me imagining a future day when the National League squad could be comprised completely of Cubs sluggers with Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler. Javier Baez could even be an alternate.

Hey, a guy can dream, right?

Illini on the clock

With allegations of racism, bullying and medical negligence respectively swirling about the U. of I. women’s basketball, football and women’s soccer programs, things are a hot mess in Champaign right now.

Nothing will happen in terms of discipline or firings until the university’s internal investigations are complete, but it’s absolutely imperative for the football situation to be resolved prior to the July 30-31 Big Ten Media Days in Chicago.

Football coach Tim Beckman is notorious for putting his foot in his mouth. If Illinois forces him to face a ravenous media with the program’s fate still murky, the university is going to kick itself. Trust me.