It’s Time The Illini Erect Statues Honoring Butkus, Halas

Fox Cable Networks at the Cable Show 2008Tuesday’s column from CBS Chicago

(CBS) With only three winning seasons out of its last 12, the current reputation of University of Illinois football doesn’t have much going for it. But the enduring reputation of the Illini’s football past? Well, that’s golden.

Although, right now, only part of it is bronzed.

And it’s time for that to change.

Last month at, popular Illini blogger Robert Rosenthal wrote: “There are two. Two sides to Memorial Stadium. We call them East and West. Your seats are in the West Main or maybe they’re in the East Balcony. A few years ago, the west side became the (Red) Grange side. A statue, outside the walls, dead center on the 50, memorializing the greatest college football player of all time. That’s the Grange side.

“It’s time for a Butkus side.”

He’s right — it is. But while there are two sides to Memorial Stadium, Illinois actually boasts three football immortals, and all of them – George Halas included – deserve their statuesque due.

This coming Sunday, prior to its season opener against SMU, Baylor will celebrate the grand opening of its new 45,000-seat McLane Stadium by unveiling a statue celebrating quarterback Robert Griffin III. It was only three years ago that Griffin – now with the Washington Redskins – won the 2011 Heisman Trophy for the Bears, and already the guy has a statue in Waco. I’d say that’s a premature honor.

Conversely, Illinois’ own pigskin honors are running behind, considering that it’s been 50 years since Dick Butkus played his last down in Champaign and 95 years since Halas won Rose Bowl MVP for the Illini.

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These three guys give Chicago its character

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


By Dave Wischnowsky

Unlike Los Angeles and New York, where the streets teem with famous faces, Chicago doesn’t have celebrities strolling down every block.

But it does have its characters.

Just this past Monday afternoon, while walking across the Wabash Avenue Bridge downtown, I enjoyed the rare treat of happening upon two such Windy City characters standing within just feet of each other.

Nicknamed “The Walking Dude” and “Fashion Man,” this pair – along with Wrigleyville’s omnipresent Ronnie “Woo Woo” – form a triumvirate of eccentric local legends familiar to many Chicagoans. Now, the next time you’re in the city, they can be familiar to you too.

‘The Walking Dude’

WalkingDudeHis name is unknown, and so is his background, his age or his purpose. But “The Walking Dude” – or “The Walking Guy,” as he’s also known – has been silently roaming the streets of the Loop and River North for decades. Once recognizable for his dark flowing locks, thick mustache and ever-present sport coat, “The Walking Guy” has now gone gray – and on Monday was without a jacket. But Chicago’s ambling enigma still walks and walks and walks, same as ever.

In 2006, a brief mockmuentary entitled, “The Walking Dude, A Dudementary,” was posted on YouTube. In 2010, a Facebook page was established in his honor. And around 2011, I actually once heard him speak to a convenient store clerk.

It was as if I’d heard the voice of a Yeti.

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5 Thoughts On The Illini Basketball Schedule

illiniFriday’s column from CBS Chicago

(CBS) Its first game doesn’t tip off until November, but the picture of the 2014-’15 Illinois basketball team became clear this week.

Or, at least, the picture of the Fighting Illini’s schedule did.

On Thursday, the Big Ten unveiled this coming hoops season’s conference slate, filling in the blanks behind the Illini’s previously released nonconference games. With the full array of games now available for public consumption, I chewed on it overnight and had a few thoughts.

Road warriors – and home sleepers

Before the Big Ten season even begins at Michigan on Dec. 30, Illinois will have already traveled a whopping 8,338 miles all over the map with games in Las Vegas (against Indiana State and Baylor or Memphis), Miami (against Miami), New York (against Villanova), Chicago (against Oregon) and St. Louis (against Missouri).

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Mork from Ork and other famous Chicagoans

From the Saturday, Aug. 16, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

mork_350_092712The WISCH LIST

By Dave Wischnowsky

Today, Chicago is home to 2.7 million people. Over the decades, it’s been the birthplace of many more – some of them quite famous, although their Windy City roots may not be as nearly well known as they are.

Earlier this week, when the news broke that beloved comedian and actor Robin Williams had died from an apparent suicide, it came as a shock. But what also came as a surprise to me was that Williams was born in 1951 at St. Luke’s Hospital in Chicago, a fact that, if I’d ever known it, I’d long since forgotten.

Curious, I did some digging this week about other famous actors who hail from Chicago, and here are a few of the most interesting ones.

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Reality Of Cubs’ ‘Plan’ Is Taking Too Many Hits

Chicago Cubs v Colorado RockiesToday’s column from CBS Chicago

(CBS) When I was a kid during the 1980s, there were few TV shows I enjoyed more than the “A-Team.”

And during each week’s episode, there were few moments I enjoyed more than when, after pulling off yet another improbable mission, Hannibal – the A-Team’s cocksure leader – would inevitably chomp on a cigar, flash a toothy grin and utter the phrase, “I love it when a plan comes together.”

Someday, I’d love to hear Theo Epstein – the Chicago Cubs’ Hannibal, if you will – say those same words while he puffs on a celebratory stogie following a World Series championship at Wrigley Field. But if Epstein does pull off his own improbable mission by winning it all with the Cubs, what exactly will “The Plan” have truly entailed?

Because right now, it’s being misrepresented.

As the rebuilding process on Chicago’s North Side has slowly unfolded since team president Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer joined the Cubs following the 2011 season, fans have heard reference to “The Plan” time and time again.

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Chicago’s British café and grocer is a jolly good time

From the Saturday, Aug. 9, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …


By Dave Wischnowsky

On Wednesday afternoonspencers, the cheapest round-trip flight I could find online from Chicago to London would have set me back about $2,500.

Instead, I found walking to Southport Avenue in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood to be much more economical – and nearly as British.

Now fully settled into its new location at 3755 N. Southport Ave. a few blocks south of where it originally opened in 2012, Spencer’s Jolly Posh is a British and Irish grocer and café that’s unlike any other establishment in Chicago – and about as close as you can come to enjoying Jolly Old England without actually traveling across the pond.

“The other location was something we fit ourselves into,” Jolly Posh’s British proprietor Nick Spencer, 36, told me on Wednesday while comparing his original shop on Irving Park Road to the larger one he moved into earlier this summer. “With this place, we were able to design it to fit what we want.”

And as the Brits might say, it’s a proper fit. Not to mention, a delightfully unique and delicious one.

Seven years ago, Spencer moved from England to New York for love. In 2009, after marriage, he and his wife relocated to Chicago to be closer to her family. Looking to change careers upon his arrival (he had previously worked in risk management consulting), Spencer was struck by a desire to provide Chicagoans – and ex-pats from the UK – with authentic British meats, goods and experiences (such as a regal afternoon tea) that were difficult, if not impossible, to find in the Windy City.

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By Not Yet Naming QB, Beckman Making A Smart Call

BeckmanFriday’s column from CBS Chicago

(CBS) He’s already been compared to Tom Brady. He’s already been projected as the Big Ten’s leading touchdown passer for 2014. And he’s already become the biggest name on the University of Illinois football roster without even playing a game.

But Wes Lunt hasn’t yet been named a starting quarterback.

That he hasn’t is actually one of the more savvy decisions that coach Tim Beckman has made during his Illini tenure.

With an unsightly 6-18 overall record – and a downright brutal 1-15 mark in the Big Ten – following his first two years in Champaign, Beckman’s job security hangs in the balance as he prepares his team for its season opener against Youngstown State at Memorial Stadium on Aug. 30.

While it may well be desperate times during training camp for Beckman, he’s not behaving like a desperate coach. If he was, then he surely would have already named Lunt – the strong-armed 6-foot-5, 228-pound redshirt sophomore transfer from Oklahoma State – as his starting quarterback.

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To Redeem Image, Groce Needs To Seal Deal

GroceToday’s column from CBS Chicago

(CBS) Down at the University of Illinois, John Groce doesn’t have a coaching problem.
But as the Fighting Illini basketball coach preps for his third season in Champaign this fall, he does appear to have something of an image dilemma.

Earlier this summer, when an ESPN panel released its list of the top 50 coaches in college basketball, Groce didn’t make the cut, while six others from the Big Ten did.

After two up-and-down seasons with the Illini, that omission couldn’t be considered a huge surprise. However, the fact that Groce was also left off ESPN’s list of 25 additional “coaches who just missed” was.

After all, included among ESPN’s top-50 list were Minnesota rookie coach Richard Pitino at No. 49 and Iowa’s Fran McCaffery at No. 33, despite the two having respective Big Ten records of 8-10 and 30-42 that are no more impressive than Groce’s 15-21 conference ledger. Fellow Big Ten peers Tom Crean of Indiana and Matt Painter of Purdue were listed in the “just missed” category even though both coaches missed the postseason completely last year.

The secondary list of 25 also included a bevy of mid-major coaches with relatively slim resumes, but Groce – who led Illinois to the NIT last season, won a NCAA Tournament game with the Illini in 2013 and boasts a Sweet 16 appearance from his days as coach at Ohio – was snubbed completely.

I’m guessing in large part that’s because he was snubbed so badly on signing day last year.

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Warm up to fun in Chicago throughout August

BudFrom the Saturday, Aug. 2, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …


By Dave Wischnowsky

Summers are cool in Chicago.

These days, that’s both figuratively and literally.

One year ago, we experienced an unseasonably brisk June, July and August, and this time around both June and July have followed suit.

Now, perhaps August will break the trend, but whether the weather truly gets hot or not, summer is still the best time of the year in Chicago. And this month offers plenty of opportunities for you to find fun.

Bud Billiken Day Parade
Aug. 9

In 1929, Robert S. Abbott, founder of the Chicago Defender newspaper, came up with the character of Bud Billiken, named after the Billiken – the guardian angel of all children, according to Chinese legend.

He then launched a parade named after his brainchild, which has since grown to become the nation’s second largest parade and a fixture in Chicago’s African-American community.

Focused as always on the message of “Back to School,” this year’s parade begins at 10 a.m. at Martin Luther King Drive and Oakwood Boulevard in the city’s Bronzeville neighborhood and continues south to 55th Street at Washington Park, which is the site of a celebratory picnic.

For more information, visit

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Rose Puts The Ball In His Own Court

Chicago Bulls v Portland Trail BlazersFriday’s column from CBS Chicago

(CBS) When it comes to the Chicago Bulls’ championship hopes this coming season, there’s no player more important to the franchise than Derrick Rose. That would be the case even if Carmelo Anthony were joining him in Chicago this fall.

Anthony won’t be, of course. And according to Sun-Times writer Joe Cowley’s revealing interview on Thursday with a surprisingly candid Rose, that’s apparently just the way the Bulls star wanted it.

Even if the Bulls didn’t.

After speaking with Rose this week about the long-rumored rift between his own camp and the Bulls, Cowley wrote that, “Tensions hit a peak when Rose, who has a five-year, $94.8 million contract, seemed to blatantly resist helping build the roster in a new NBA where stars increasingly double as recruiters. The latest example was the Bulls’ pursuit of free agent Carmelo Anthony.

“Looking back, it’s clear Rose wasn’t all that interested in teaming with Anthony, who chose to return to the New York Knicks. Rose was much more aggressive in the Bulls’ pursuit of free agent Pau Gasol, not only asking for the veteran’s phone number, but giving a hard sell to the big man on joining the Bulls.”

Beyond all the hubbub about the supposed sniping between Rose’s handlers and the Bulls’ brass – all of which Jerry Reinsdorf attempted to dismiss via statement Thursday night – what struck me as the most significant insight from the Sun-Times story was that Rose apparently isn’t against recruiting.

Rather, it seems he was against recruiting Carmelo Anthony.

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