Ambivalence about Chicago 2016 Olympic Decision


By Paul M. Banks

As someone who blogged for the Chicago 2016 Channel, in an effort to help bring the games here, I should be a person who’s fairly certain about what they wanted the outcome to be. On the eve of the big 2016 Olympic announcement, I wasn’t really excited. But I felt like more like the main character in my favorite film “Eight Men Out.” 1919 Chicago White Sox pitcher, and World Series fix participant Eddie Cicotte is alone on the day before he pitches again. He ruminates about everything that’s happened during the crooked Series, and can no longer decide what side of the graft he’s on anymore. Lefty Williams asks him, “what do you think you’ll do tomorrow?”  And he responds that he doesn’t know.

Whether the announcement was Chicago or not, I’ll feel the same- conflicted. Sure, I had a nice little paycheck for what I did, but that quickly dried up months ago. I think the process jaded me, they really had the wrong ideas about how to utilize my talents, and I’m not sure the money was actually worth putting up with the message control, horrible communication and lack of organization and structure they had. It was mostly done through a consultancy firm with a name that always evoked Orwellian eeriness to me.

And what about the cause? The emotional let down of this group making promises to really plug and promote the work of myself and my team, and never come even remotely close to doing so made me less excited about the bid as I went on. If anything, it decreased my enthusiasm for the committee’s efforts, because I started to really question what the committee was doing.

Despite all the hard work we did, they never included us in any of the special fundraisers, parties etc. Sure we got to attend a Michael Phelps press conference at the Hilton Towers, but that was still rather closed off, as we didn’t even get to ask him a question and the person asking him the questions was tp professional journalism what the Pittsburgh Pirates are to winning baseball games.  Despite what they said, they really seemed to want us to be nothing more than PR hacks. The PR profession is mandatory and warranted, but don’t ask a free-thinking journalist to do that job.


It ended up more an exercise in showing us how far we are away from the inner circle than a chance to bring us closer to it. And that’s a poignant metaphor for what’s really going to happen if the Olympics actually came here. This would not have been for us, the people of Chicago. The money to be made, the rewards to be distributed they always go to a very small number of business and political elites. I’ve read all the economic impact studies, I’ve researched the arguments, pro and con for hosting an Olympics. I’ve even interviewed lots of people involved with the 2002 Salt Lake City games. With all the contradicting data, I arrived back at the same truth before I started that gig:

the Olympics are going to be a wonderful boon to a small, select group of economic elites. And meaningless, or a hindrance to everyone else. 
I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get a media pass or even tickets to the games. For the big announcement, I’m actually out in the suburbs. I worked and helping with the bid, yet I was not invited to anything special for the big day. Since the gig ended, I’ve moved on to other things, and more rewarding, better fulfilling and self-benefiting projects. I have lots to think about other than 2016. So I guess I do now know how I’ll feel about the bid: apathy. I’ll have closure about anticipating the 2016 decision long before it’s even announced….And now that it is, meh. Who Cares? The Blackhawks begin their season in one hour.

Whitecaps, Wind, and Waves – Losing my Triathlon Virginity


By Paul M. Banks

The Sea was angry, my friend. That was my first thought getting into Lake Michigan to begin my portion of the Chicago Triathlon Relay. My second thought, as I entered the cold 63 degree water (still an upgrade from the ridiculously unseasonable 58 degree air temperature) “Why the hell did I sign on for this again?” And why did I not seriously train for this? Well, it is the world’s largest triathlon, with 9,000 participants, and a couple of them are looking about as wide as they are tall; so if they can do it, I can do it. Besides it will make for a good story when the Olympics arrive in 2016.

I had three goals for my first ever organized swim race/triathlon.

1.) Finish – Do not drown.

2.) No hanging on the safety rope alongside the Monroe Harbor course. No doggy paddling or loafer stroke either. The only time I will break from forward stroke progressive motion to tread water is when I have to recognize and deal with any unforeseen hazard which will inevitably cross my path.

3.) Don’t worry about competing or time – but finish ahead of somebody at least.  It’s .93 miles (1.5 km) from Balbo to the Shedd Aquarium and back to Randolph street. And I didn’t want to be like Bill Murray’s character in “Stripes.”dsc02810

“I noticed something, Soldier, you’re always last.”

“I’m pacing myself, Sir.”

WOW, that water is COLD! I can’t believe people are swimming parallel to the Chicago Yacht Club without a wet suit today. This thing is a life saver, and helps me deal with the near whitecap conditions and 6-8 foot waves. When I swim laps at Palos Pool or Turtle Splash in Aurora, there are none of these waves to be found. And the choppy waters are leading me into swimming a much further distance on this day than I need to. Too often I find that the waves have turned me around, and my route is getting more than a bit circuitous. dsc02818

Speaking of which, a spectator on the shore has to inform me that I have over-swum the turnaround as my misanthropic strategy of swimming away from people has worked too well. If that sounds a bit strange, let me explain.

The organizers start you off in different waves, and the beginning is a hot mess as everyone is just bunched up on top of one another. That can be a bit frightening as you enter water that is 15-20 feet. But as long as it’s way over your head, 20 feet might as well be 20,000 feet. The object of the game is to stay above water, so actual depth doesn’t matter.

But that cold water is actually refreshing once you’re used to it and you get into a groove. And with a safety rope, and ever vigilant volunteers in row boats along the entire course, it’s easy to just relax, chill and stay focused on the exercise at hand. At least it is for me – until I look up and see somebody dry has to jump in to save one of the tri participants about 2 feet in front of me. That’s a bit disheartening, seeing someone pulled from the race directly in your path. Especially when the water is so dark you have zero visibility. The Red Sox victory song, “love that dirty water,” is about Boston, but it might as well be about Lake Michigan. I don’t have one of those aqua ipods yet, so I have to put songs into my head to keep going. Thinking about “Dirty Water” reminds me of the Dropkick Murphys’ cover of the Stendalls’ BoSox paean. Which then makes me think of “I’m shipping up to Boston,” and that upbeat Gaelic Punk ditty gets me moving faster again. And it is right at that moment that I look on shore and finally see my girlfriend Lisa, who I coincidentally met on a plane to Boston last November.dsc02815

Seeing her, and the sign she made is an inspiration. She wrote (in The Sports Bank colors no less) “Go Paul” “Go Bill” and “Go (name omitted to keep Soxman’s identity a secret)” with a little Olympic event style picture of each of our respective race legs today. Obviously, this sign is a big hit with the crowd at large and the added boost I am looking for. “I finally, found you,” she says. No doubt a big burden was lifted given how concerned she was for my well-being early this morning. I focus back on the swim, as she follows my path on land.Out of the corner of my eye, I catch her using her cell phone and think, “Watching this by myself would get a bit boring; I guess I would get on my cell phone too.”

But she’s not my only cheerleader here; every Triathlon participant hears numerous encouraging phrases from strangers at every turn. As we head into the home stretch, I hear “just 400 more yards” from one of the race volunteers. “That’s a really good passing day for Juice Williams, so not too much more distance.” I think.

And then during the final lengths, Lisa yells to me, “You’re almost there, that’s it, the orange thing.” So I look at her and say, “That’s it, the buoy?” Now for a little trash talk and show time. I yell out, “Time to turn on the afterburners” and start sprinting to the finish. All the while thinking in my head, one of my favorite lines from the movie “Spaceballs,” “Prepare the ship for Ludicrous Speed- GO!” The crowd on shore erupts in laughter from this.spaceballslarge026xd

At the end, more volunteers help you out of the water and then direct you to the ¼ mile run (although to me at this point, it was more of a light jog) to the finish line where you meet your relay team mates. I have to do something flashy at the end, so I yell, “Let’s go again! Let’s swim two today,” echoing the most famous phrase of another Banks, Mr. Cub himself. But given how hard this seemed at the beginning, my feelings are more along the lines of Kevin Garnett at the 2008 NBA Finals, “Anything is possible.”

Especially so for Bill Corcoran, who takes the chip to go ride back into a 15-20 mile headwind on Lake Shore Drive. Good luck with that. But he’s an animal. He’s doing the bike part of the relay after already getting up at 4:45 AM to do the entire triathlon individually. Yes, he’s back for more. Needless to say, his time was the best of our team.dsc02821

But I’m even prouder of “Bruce Wayne-Parker,” the man behind the Soxman mask. He overcame a lot of adversity earlier this year to do this, and it’s his first ever 10K (6.2 miles). Sure he’s done quite a few 5Ks, but this is a whole different ballfield. When we all meet up at the finish line, the picnic is one of the summer’s biggest highlights. With our little medals that say “Finisher,” I will treasure always.

My three goals: done, done, and done. The sea was indeed angry that day. But there was nothing but happiness on shore for our group.

Pressing Social Issues in Sport Part 2 of 3


Paul M. Banks has an exclusive interview with Dave Zirin discussing the past, present and future social issues at the heart of sports

Sportswriter Dave Zirin is the author of four books and a column, “Edge of Sports,” appearing on Sports Illustrated’s website. He is the host of XM satellite’s weekly show, Edge of Sports Radio.

There’s been a lot of buzz here in Chicago regarding the second city’s bid to host the 2016 Olympics. I was a part of that- writing for the 2016 Olympic Channel. I must admit much of my work ended up as little more than cheerleading of the city and the bid, but now it’s time to hear the other side: the case against the bid. Zirin told me about Olympic drawbacks during our exclusive interview.

“The Olympic slogan is ‘faster, stronger, higher,’ but it really should be ‘something wicked this way comes’ because when the Olympics come to a city, whether it’s Beijing, Atlanta, Athens, Greece there are certain things that follow, certain as night follows day: promo_ali

One is the absolute bankrupting of municipalities, horrible debt is accrued. The second is a serious attack on public housing to make way for facilities. And the third is a national security crackdown that makes life for poor residents in a given community very hard.

Now you think about those three components:  graft, corruption and debt, gentrification, and police misconduct than you think about a city like Chicago. If you have a governor that hasn’t been indicted or imprisoned I’m not sure what their name is. {Before Pat Quinn, we are indeed 4 out of our last 5 in our governors ending up criminals}     With all due respect, graft is just a fact there.

Secondly, the police torture cases that have taken place- it’s the reason {former Governor} Ryan commuted the death row, it’s because all of the cases of torture that emerged from Jon Burge, the infamous police officer, and it’s also ground zero for gentrification when you think about the Taylor projects or Cabrini Green that have been torn down and condoized. So you have all that in Chicago already, so people have to ask themselves, when they think do we want the Olympics? So if we all agree that graft, debt, police misconduct and gentrification are problems anyway, do we really want to take all those components and then put them on steroids?”


That’s something all Chicago 2016 proponents should consider because as F. Scott Fitzgerald once famously said: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” I’ll try. We then moved on to asking him about a topic that I recently discussed with Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, the NBA’s one-and-done rule, and the chance to amend it.

“I think it’s insane that someone can be 18 and carry a gun in Iraq, yet not get a paycheck in the NBA. That said I think the whole one-and-done mentality that forces people like Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant, who are obviously NBA ready, to spend this joke year in college makes a mockery of college institutions. I would like to see a rule where, you can declare after high school and go directly to the NBA, or if you go to college, it’s a three year commitment to stay in college to your junior year. That way the school gets the benefit of having you there, you get the almost enforced benefit, because it’s really hard to stay somewhere for three years and coast, even in the shady environment that does exist.  So it compels people to try and get an education.

There are some other things I’d like to see as well. I’d like to see something that takes college sports out of the gutter, because that’s where it is right now, and it’s created an entirely illegal economy where athletes are paid or women on campus are presented to them as objects, it’s profoundly unhealthy,” he said.

The University of Colorado’s “prostitution slush fund” comes to mind. Zirin, like myself, is in favor of some sort of financial stipend for the athletes, who generate large sums of money for their schools. Next we moved on to Mike Kryzewski and Jerry Colangelo politicizing Team USA basketball.

“Jerry Colangelo by all accounts is a brilliant sports executive,
and anybody who doesn’t think so look at what Robert Sarver has done to the Phoenix Suns, you’ll see how impressive Colangelo is. Mike Kryzewski, even a Maryland guy like me has to admit, Mt. Rushmore basketball coach, one of the five best in NCAA history. That being said, their actions with regards to the ’06 team were disgusting. As a way to sort of psyche up their players, many of whom were very young, they brought in vets who were missing limbs and said to the players, ‘this is why you’re playing basketball.’ And I have nothing but respect for what the vets have been through and if it’s a thrill for them to meet these players then great, but actually exploiting what I thought was an illegal and immoral war to say ‘this is why you need to win a gold medal,’ to me is not about veterans and sacrifice and service, it’s about a political agenda, and they did it with a lot of publicity and fanfare,” Zirin said before continuing: coachkrzyekski1

And I’ve talked to Etan Thomas about it. Thomas is someone who actually goes to Walter Reed, unlike Coangelo or Kryzewski, and interacts with people who’ve been hurt and speaks to the troops, so I give Etan all the credit in the world on this. And he thought it was disgusting and said so on the record. Colangelo much more than Kryzewski is someone who has a demonstrated record of using sports to advance his political agenda. Theme nights, the presidential prayer team, he put a lot of money, millions of dollars behind calling for people at different points, to drop to their knees and pray for George and Laura Bush. This was on radio stations across the country. And think about the key word ‘team,’ selling politics as sports.”

When I attended the National Association of Basketball Coaches Dinner honoring Colangelo with the inaugural “Court of Honor” award in Chicago, they did actually hold prayer time for all party guests. Zirin spoke more about Coach K.

“Mike Kryzewski got into a lot of hot water for holding a big fundraiser, for I believe it was Elizabeth Dole in his on-campus residence at Duke University which is against the policies of the college. He also recently, when Barack Obama did his bracket said on ESPN, ‘Obama should worry about the economy and not the NCAA tournament.’ Do you think he would have said that if McCain was in the White House? It’s an honor that John McCain has us losing in the Sweet 16 he would have said. So that’s who Coach K is.   So there’s enough of a political track record with Colangelo and Coach K to look very skeptical at them bringing the troops in and telling the players, this is why you need to win the gold.”

Team USA, College B-Ball Celebrities Descend on Chicago

By Paul M. Banks

Last week, the International Olympic Committee visited Chicago to further evaluate the city’s 2016 Olympic bid. This week, Team USA basketball’s most prominent leaders, along with other basketball celebrities from around the nation, will visit Chicago as the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Foundation holds its inaugural “Court of Honor Gala” at Union Station.

The Tuesday evening Gala celebrates the achievements and contributions of Jerry Colangelo, chairman of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns and managing director of the USA Basketball senior national team from 2005-2008.

Colangelo, a Chicago native and University of Illinois graduate, assembled the 2008 U.S. Olympic team, coached by another Chicagoan, Duke University coach Mike Krzyzewski, who will speak at the Gala. Krzyzewski guided the “Redeem Team” to Olympic gold in Beijing this past summer.

Chris Bosh of the Toronto Raptors, a member of the Olympic team, will also speak at the event and former Duke star and current ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas will serve as master of ceremonies. I had an exclusive with Bilas at the NABC’s ESPN Zone mixer on Monday night.

“It’s going to be one of those rooms with all the people who have been great doers in the game of college basketball. I think the biggest development we’ve had over the last 30 years in USA basketball is when Jerry Colangelo took over as Executive Director and formed a real program that we can now build on. We’ve had so many great coaches and players over the years in USA basketball, but we haven’t had the structure to give them the tools they need to be as successful as they can be.

I think the program put in place by Jerry Colangelo, working with Coach K and everybody at USA basketball- that was a big home run they hit in Beijing, but it was also over a three-year period. What they did the three years before was perhaps more important: with the structure, organization, how they choose the team, the commitment that all the players made, it wasn’t just a commitment for the summer, it was a three-year commitment,” Bilas said.

Krzyzewski will also lead a group of some of the nation’s top collegiate coaches in the NABC Foundation’s Ticket To Reading Rewards (TTRR) program. The coaches will visit Chicago middle schools to visit with students and the TTRR program, a reading incentive program that encourages Middle School students to read books outside the classroom and obtain rewards for reading.

In addition to Krzyzewski, coaches scheduled to participate include Jim Boeheim of Syracuse, an assistant coach with the 2008 Olympic team; Mike Brey of Notre Dame; Jeff Capel of Oklahoma; Tom Izzo of National Runner-up Michigan State; Bill Self of Kansas, the 2008 NCAA champion; Tubby Smith of Minnesota; Kentucky’s recent hire John Calipari; and Bruce Weber of Illinois.

The Week in Review Late March


By Paul M. Banks

-Wow! Last week, I missed compiling a Week in Review for the first time in the site’s year history; obviously I was crazy busy (this phrase translates into “wicked busy” in New England English) for that to happen. I’ll recap a lot of what kept me so occupied, and remember it was my Christmas Eve and Christmas Day- otherwise known as the first two days of the NCAA tournament. In honor of March Madness, I’m going to end each item with a catchphrase of our favorite b-ball announcer Bill Raftery.

-On the first day of March Madness I gave a presentation entitled “Sports Media in the Post-newspaper Landscape” at Roosevelt University on Michigan Avenue. It was part of the Scholastic Press Association’s Annual Conference. I was up against some heavy hitters (As Kanye says “really heavy hitters, 87 go-getters, two hoes like John Ritter”) from Fox, CBS, the Trib etc. in my time slot, so I was I really proud to have a full house in my room. And thank you Lisa for making that awesome power-point presentation that dazzled everyone………“ELEVATED!…..with the KISS of the glass”

-I also took part in my first ever parade on the 14th, marching with Da Bus Chicago Bears Football Club. I’ll let Da Bus founder Tim Shanley describe the experience.

“WHAT A DAY!!! A sun-splashed, blue sky day that had temps close to 50 degrees brought out a large festive crowd of over 400,000 people to celebrate the 54th downtown St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Saturday March 14th 2009. Da Bus and it’s crew are celebrating 20 years of tailgating in ’09, and this was the perfect way to kick-off the year long festivities. From the time that Da Bus lined up as float number 36, practically front row, you knew it was going to be a special day. Da Bus, and its crew, marching down Columbus Drive in front of 400,000 people, is a surreal experience in itself. The crowd was loud and enthusiastic and it was hard to hear someone from just a few feet away.

As we strolled past the ABC7 Chicago television camera perched about 20 feet above Columbus Drive, the camera scanned our entire crew, and it also zoomed in and stayed focused on Da Bus. The easiest way to find this video is to google abc7chicago and click on the video link. Scroll down and click on the St.Patrick’s Day Parade, Part 2. Scroll back to the top of the video page. Put your pointer on the video screen to be able to see the time-line.The video is 19.24 minutes long, and Da Bus and its crew come on at the 18.15 minute mark. That is a great download for those of you who were there to celebrate with us, and to get seen on television right in the middle of a huge event taking place in the heart of Chicago.”

-Look for the detailed story behind Da Bus and my interview with founder Tim Shanley as we get closer to the NFL Draft……………….”ONIONS!!!”

-On Saturday my “Tom H to tha Izzo interview/Michigan St. preview was featured on Ball Hype (still not too late to “hype it up” by clicking on the link Tonight the Jayhawks will “see hoop dreams deflate like the true feen’s weight”

-It’s no secret that the “Bracket of Bad” from 670 The Score’s Boers and Bernstein show helped inspire TSB’s “Douchebracket.” In their bracket, “People who use Blue tooth while not driving” was the champion, beating out such noteworthy competitors as Sarah Palin, David Spade’s TV shows, and books by coaches. My pick though would have been Chicago potholes.

-Seriously, every time I drive anywhere in this city it’s like playing a game of Frogger to avoid the giant craters that are EVERYWHERE! Even in the rich, white neighborhoods. I’ve lost two tires in the past nine months due to how shitty the streets are and how undeniably broke this city is. And we want to host the Olympics? HA HA HA!…………”Earl CLARK BARRRR!”

Are you kidding me? I know our 2016 bid was a joke even before a crazy winter created swiss cheese streets to complement the do nothing public transit system, but now I expect us to finish 4th out of the 4 bid cities!…….”

-I have another new and emotional heckler for my work on NBC. Thank you “Jimmy” You helped my Hawks-Sharks preview become the most viewed and 2nd most commented story of the day on NBC’s sports page. Why don’t you come over here and start criticizing the posts. Peter Christian would love to see you in the comment threads.

-Yes, we all got sick of ESPN reminding us that President Barack Obama filled out a bracket- and then we got sick of how bad his bracket is doing. But Coach K. had to voice his complaint about Obama filling one out. I’m sure the Duke leader’s issues/concerns have nothing at all to do with the fact that Coach K. uses state-money to hold Republican fundraisers where he espouses his ultra-right demagoguery. Or with the way he used Team USA basketball as a tool to promote American military hegemony…Nice job in the Nova game too!………“SCOTTIE on the MONEY!!!”

-How come everyone they showed on TV representing VCU during their first round loss to UCLA was…how can I put this delicately? Disgusting white trash? Even their cheerleaders looked nasty with too much spray tanning action and big hair like they just tried out to be in a Bon Jovi video.

-On the flip side, the cameras sure loved those hotties by the Utah state bench! Good lord I was sort of half-hoping the Aggies could eliminate Marquette so we could see more overtly gratuitous shots of those gorgeous blonde mormons as the tournament progressed. SHORRRT-Y! (that’s not a Raffteryism by the way)

-I know both of these Big Ten ballers have seen their teams eliminated from the postseason (Ohio State and Penn State) but it’s still not too late to recap the “text message of the week” from Paul Schmidt

“Take it to the hole, big man” starring Dallas Lauderdale and Tailor Battle. True, it will have more penetration than any movie in history…….”And Schmidt comes out- in the MANTMAN!”

-By the way, did I mention there’s no way in hell our city’s getting the Olympics in 2016?

-Remember in 2006 when Ozzie guillen called A-Rod a hypocrite? Well in Oz’s words “now I look like genius.” As if we needed any more reason to doubt A-Roid’s integrity, he was caught with his pants down with Eliot Spitzer’s madam.

-Yahoo! the web’s fourth highest page in traffic has a news section that is a PATHETIC JOKE! Actually, it makes pathetic jokes look like Walter Cronkite. Here are some of the month’s featured news stories it deemed most important by placing in the prime location on their homepage: Katie Holmes gets a new haircut, Danica Patrick’s tattoo airbrushed out of a picture, Rachael Ray not apologizing for FHM spread she did 6 years ago. I’m considering dropping Yahoo mail, so I can bypass this worthless excuse of a “news” page altogether. You’re dead to me!

-Last week everyone was talking about Comedy Central’s The Daily Show: specifically the episode where Jim Cramer of CNBC’s Mad Money received a harsh dressing down from host Jon Stewart. Despite how the interview was marketed, this was not a “feud,” this was a coming-to-Jesus moment for Cramer and an Edward R. Murrow confronting Joseph McCarthy type moment for Stewart. The interview reminded me of a line in “Goodfellas.” The main character, played by Ray Liotta, laments after his guy gets whacked at a time they thought he was getting made: “there’s nothing we could do. He was a made guy, we had to just take it.” Cramer did as well.

Read more about these last two topics at the Washington Times here…….“CARROTS!”

-It’s no surprise that the Chicago Luvabulls got bounced (and lost very badly at that) in the first round of the Dance team bracket. Looking at that group I can obviously tell that they were assembled by someone who is definitely not attracted to women…..”the ball was humming my friends”

-This march madness really brought out the country music lyrics in all of us. Watching Illinois I thought to myself “Pour me something strong and tall make it hurricane before I go insane,” A couple days later Marquette and their promising season were dismissed so at least I knew that “I got friends in low places where the whiskey drowns and the beer chases my out blues away- and I’ll be ok”……..”ATTACKING the TIN!”

-I know I’ve moved this segment around a lot, and I’ve been told by some that it’s their favorite bit. I think it’s found a new home on late Thu/early Friday. If you enjoyed this segment then…..“Send it on Jerome!”