Friday, February 22, 2019

The Big East Women's Basketball Tournament

The Big East Women's Basketball Tournament is coming to Chicago's Wintrust Arena March 9-12 and I will be "On the Beat" as always. I wrote an early preview of the tourney for the Patch at The Big East Women's Basketball Tournament Comes to Chicago. I also wrote several stories on Big East women's basketball for Global Traveler.
I had my first up close look at collegiate women's basketball at last season's tournament. The championship game saw DePaul beat Marquette. As exciting as it was to see my alma mater DePaul win in their home city, that game was only a small part of the excitement of the tourney.
That weekend launched me on a mission to cover and watch more collegiate women's basketball this season. The first step in that goal was Marquette's Media Day last November. I got to meet and talk to the coaches and the players.
Right from Coach Carolyn Kieger's opening statements, you could see Marquette was on a mission this season. She talked of high expectations. She stressed that the seniors needed to lead like last year's seniors. The others needed to step up their game to fill supporting roles.There was a real calm determination to her speech, but there was also the fun element.
She talked about wanting the players to experience all of this. That really hit home with  me, because I always try to soak in my moments. I always try to appreciate the special moments I have, like standing on Marquette's court interviewing this great team.
As of this writing, Marquette is meeting all expectations. Sitting in first place, they were undefeated until dropping a game last week. Still, they remain the team to beat, despite DePaul being the defending champs.
Of course, you can't count out DePaul. They sit in 2nd place and seem to be improving. Coach Doug Bruno isn't ready to concede the league title just yet.
Of course, there are other teams who might have plans for that title, too. The Big East isn't a 2 team league. Butler, Providence, Villanova and the others are all capable of putting a run together.
I am really looking forward to the tourny. It's going to be a weekend of great basketball, elite athletes, drama and entertainment.
You can go to BigEast.com to get all of the latest news and the tourney info. I hope to see Wintrust packed with basketball fans!
Carolyn Kieger and me in Milwaukee, WI-November 2018.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Eat, Drink and Be Murray at Murray Bros. Caddyshack

After a day of watching collegiate softball at the Dome in Rosemont, Jim and I chose the nearby Murray Bros. Caddychack for our dining pleasure. I wrote about it for Global Traveler at Eat, Drink and Be Murray.
I had heard about Murray Bros. Caddyshack long before it actually opened late last year. It was highly anticipated by fans of the classic movie and Chicagoans in general, including me.
At last year's Wizard World, Kato Kaelin introduced me to Mike Avella, the GM of Murray Bros. Caddyshack. My interview with him can be found at On the Beat With Mike Avella.
It took me a little too long, but I finally did make it to Murray Bros. Caddyshack and I caught up with Mike. When I asked him about business, he stated, “Business is great only because of the great customers who come in and try us. We’ve been successful because we treat locals like they are locals, and everyone is a VIP.”
More importantly for this hungry reporter, I asked him about the shark tacos on the daily specials list. Mike said they were fantastic and in fact, would be placed on the main menu because of their popularity. That sold me and I always wanted to try shark.
The meal consisted of 3 big soft shell corn tacos filled with chunks of shark meat and jicama, accompanied by a large saucer of refried beans and another saucer of rice. All was delicious. The shark taco was bursting with flavor and textures. The refried beans were excellent, not the usual paste you get elsewhere.
Jimmy got the shrimp. It looked very good and he enjoyed it.
Murray Bros. Caddyshack was a good lunch choice. It isn't really a sports bar, but there are several big screen televisions. There is also a nice amount of Caddyshack memorabilia, without it being overrun by it.
Go to MBCShack.com for more info on Murray Bros. Caddyshack restaurants. If you're ever in the area (Rosemont or Fort Lauderdale), stop in to "Eat, Drink and Be Murray."
Mike Avella and me in Rosemont, IL-February 2018.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

HeroTV 2019 Episode 2: Paul Erickson Nerd Parodist

The newest episode of HeroTV 2019 is airing on Comcast. You can also watch it at HeroTV 2019 Episode 2: Paul Erickson Nerd Parodist. PL Myers and I welcome my old friend Paul Erickson into the Comcast studios for a half hour of fun we call an interview.
I have known Paul for many years, having met him on the comic con circuit. I believe Contributor Extraordinaire Matt Parker actually first noticed Paul and asked for an interview. To be honest, noticing Paul at a comic con isn't hard. He is usually dressed as a hobbit. Fortunately for all involved, Paul was casually dressed for the HeroTV interview, but I digress.
At that first meeting, I learned that Paul was a Tolkien parodist, hence the hobbit garb. Paul was promoting The Wobbit A Parody (Of The Hobbit), his parody book obviously based on LOTR. Going the extra mile, Paul manned his booth (shared with fellow author James Finn Garner, the subject of a future HeroTV interview) dressed as a hobbit, engaging all who meandered down the aisle. He certainly engaged us.
That was the start of a friendship which has seen us both grow. No longer "just" a Tolkien parodist, Paul is now the "world's foremost nerd parodist" as he has expanded his parodying to include Star Wars.
I have had the pleasure of interviewing him several times since the first encounter. I am always happy to spread the word on his latest projects. He in turn has included me in a few of his famous panels at comic cons. They truly have been some of the most fun I have had at the cons.
Fast forward to present day and I suggested Paul (and James) to PL for our HeroTV show. Impressed by his body of work, PL immediately agreed. Paul brought his "A" game as he talked to us about how he started writing parodies, comic cons, his influences, dressing as a hobbit, future projects and more.
I am always extra proud when a HeroTV interview is someone I brought to the table. I was happy to give Paul some extra exposure and to add him to our growing list of fascinating interview subjects.
The best interviews always seem like a fun conversation. If you know Paul and have ever talked to him, all conversations are fun and this was no exception.
Watch the interview at the link above. Also, check out Paul's work at NerdParodist.com. If you get the chance, by all means, see him at a comic con, where he is in action at his best!
Thanks to my HeroTV co-host for inviting me to join the legendary show. Thanks to Paul for his time and consideration. Also thanks to Paul for a lot of entertainment, but I am still waiting for that meatball sandwich (inside joke).
PL Myers, Paul Erickson and me in Elmhurst, IL-February 2019.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Happy Birthday Sam

Today is my niece Sam's birthday. I am sure her husband Kyle and their pooches Timber and Tris are treating her extra special today and I send birthday greetings to her.
Sam is simply the best. She's caring, smart, courageous, adventurous, funny and more, all rolled into a young lady. I am so proud of her and admire her greatly. She is much more in control of her life than I was at her age.
Her wedding was probably the funnest wedding I have ever attended. From the awesome first dance right to the very end, it was just a blast.
Sam is also responsible for me coming out of Marathon retirement (for which I am eternally grateful although mildly annoyed at the residual pain LOL). Running the Marathon with her (or actually a couple hours behind her) was one of the coolest experiences I have ever had.
Happy birthday, Sam! I love you and I hope you have a great day and a fantastic year!
Sam, Kyle, Timber and Tris in Michigan-May 2018.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Friend Encounters: Luke Bryan and Brittany Cervantes

Friend Encounters is a weekly series in which I feature friends who have met celebrities.

Brittany Cervantes was a star softball player at the University of Kentucky. She is the only player in the school's history to hit at least 10 home runs in all four seasons and her name is all over the Kentucky record book. After graduation, she spent 5 seasons with the Chicago Bandits, before being traded to the Scrapyard Dawgs. The Dawgs dropped out of the NPF after the 2017 season. She was the NPF Offensive Playor of the Year in 2015 and the Cowles Cup MVP in 2016.
Luke Bryan is one of the most popular musicians. He started mostly as a song writer, before branching out on his own and achieving massive success.
Brittany was attending a Kentucky Wildcats football game, when she ran into Bryan on the sidelines. Bryan was wearing a Georgia hat (the opposition), but that didn't deter Brittany. I guess she forgives him for that transgression.
I miss Brittany in Chicago. She was one of the most popular Bandits and she was always good for a fun interview. She is currently an assistant at Kentucky, where you can follow her at UKAthletics.com. You can also follow Brittany at @Cervantes1127 on twitter.
Brittany Cervantes and Luke Bryan in Lexington, KY-November 2018.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Celebrity Jersey Cards #414 Erin Rohac & Linda Le

This is a weekly series in which I create virtual trading cards for celebrities wearing sports jerseys.

A native of California, Erin Rohac became one of the Anaheim Ducks Power Players after her mom suggested she try out. Rohac is quite an athlete, competing in kick boxing, triathlon and more, including hockey o course. She has a Master's Degree from Cal Fullerton University and also has a full-time job in the business world. Rohac wears an Anaheim Ducks jersey, along with pants, gloves and skates, for her Celebrity Jersey Card.
Born in Okmulgee, OK, Linda Le rose to stardom as a top cosplayer. She is also a model, artist, internet personality and more. She is also known as Vampy Bit Me or Vampy from her cosplaying. Le earned her Celebrity Jersey Card by repping the San Jose Sharks. The #23 hs been worn most recently by Barclay Goodrow .

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Happy Birthday Louie!

Today is Louie's birthday. I'll be sure to call him and wish him a Happy Mike Smrek or Dan Neal or Dustin Byfuglien. Perhaps I need to go outside of Chicago to get a star befitting Louie. How about Mike Webster? It seems 52 isn't a great number in sports, but I am sure it will be for Louie.
The sports uniform number birthday game is something Louie and I have done from the beginning. Back then, I was Bill Buckner (22) and he was Mick Kelleher (20). That's a lot of years and we have done a lot over the years.
We worked literally side-by-side at Lerner for 17 years and now run our own distribution company, along with working for Global Traveler magazine. I couldn't ask for a better work partner or friend.
I have been on a lot of trips with Louie, but last year, we experienced a first. Louie finally joined the Boys of Summer trip with the rest of our buds. It was great to finally have Louie with us (although younger Jason missed this trip...one day, we will all go together).
We learned a lot about Louie on the trip, mostly from the picture below. Who knew Louie had another business? Was this the reason he agreed to join us? I'm sure this brought a big laugh to his wife Effie when We posted it all over Facebook.
Anyway, happy birthday Louie. Enjoy your day my friend!
Louie Atsaves in Denver, CO-Summer 2018.

Friday, February 15, 2019

ABC7's Alan Krashesky and Kathy Brock at Chicago Auto Show 2018

The Chicago Auto Show is here through February 18. Along with the cars and auto-related products, there are lots of local celebrities at the show. Leading up to the CAS, While I am enjoying this year's event, I am recalling some of my favorite moments from last year's show.
ABC7 Eyewitness News staffers made many appearances at last year's CAS. Alan Krashesky and Kathy Brock reunited for one such appearance.
A native of Philadelphia, PA, Krashesky has been with ABC7 since 1982. Currently, he co-anchors the 5pm newscast with Cheryl Burton. Krashesky has co-anchored newscasts that have been consistently ranked #1 in Chicago.
Born in Washington, Brock joined ABC7 in 1990 as a co-anchor of the morning newscast with Krashesky. Over the years, Brock also teamed with Chicago news legends Floyd Kalber and Ron Magers, before rejoining Krashesky in 2016. Brock retired from ABC7 in May, just a few months after the CAS.
It would have been really cool if the ABC7 setup was like a real news desk. The pictures with the newscasters would have looked like a legit broadcast. I guess that is asking a lot though.
Still, it was fun meeting and talking to the various pairs of ABC7 newscasters. These folks have brought the news into our homes for so may years. They are almost like family.
Krashesky and Brock were very popular at the CAS. Fortunately, I had great timing and was able to get to them very early in their appearance. They were very gracious with all fans though, staying ebyond their scheduled slot to meet everyone there.
Go to ChicagoAutoShow.com for more info. You can also follow the Chicago Auto Show on Facebook and the Chicago Auto Show on twitter for updates, scheduling and more info. You can also follow these two at @KrasheskyABC7 and @KathyBrockABC7 on twitter.
Alan Krashesky, Kathy Brock and me in Chicago, IL-February 2018.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Checking In With the DePaul Women's Basketball Team

When I last saw the DePaul women's basketball team, they suffered a frustrating loss to Seton Hall. Having just seen Marquette easily beat this Seton Hall team, it didn't look good for DePaul.
In the post-game media session, DePaul coach Doug Bruno expressed frustration, but not resignation. He credited Seton Hall with a great effort and acknowledged Marquette as the team to beat in the Big East. Bruno went on to say that DePaul needed to find it within themselves to get back on track and in the Big East race.
Last Sunday, I saw DePaul dig very deep and show lots of heart, despite losing to Marquette at home. It was a very different Bruno in this post-game session. The frustration was replaced with excitement and pride. This is the team that won the Big East title last year. This is the team that could win it again this year.
My coverage also appears on the Patch at DePaul Women's Basketball Team Shows Heart in Loss. Today though, I want to talk about the heart I saw from DePaul.
While they lost to Marquette, they showed plenty of talent and guts. Every time Marquette seemed on the verge of putting away the game, DePaul came back, chipping away at the lead. DePaul actually tied the game with about 2 minutes left. In the end, Marquette was just a bit better and secured a 93-87 victory. 
Marquette coach Carolyn Kieger preceded Bruno in the post-game media session. She was quick to praise DePaul's effort. She knew that despite the win, her team faced a big challenge. Fortunately for the Golden Eagles, last year's Big East Player of the Year Allazia Blockton returned from an injury which saw her miss several games. The first place Golden Eagles just got a bit better.
Marquette (11-0) is still undefeated in 1st place in the Big East. DePaul (7-4) sits in 3rd place, .5 games behind 2nd place Butler. DePaul is in for a tough challenge in their quest to repeat as Big East champs, but Sunday's game certainly was encouraging.
Speaking of the Big East championship tournament, it will once again be held at Wintrust Arena March 9-12. I went to last season's Big East tournament as something interesting to cover. Of course, I got interesting stuff for stories, but I really loved the action. I decided to do more coverage this season. These young women are elite athletes and the action is basketball at its best. I am really looking forward to this year's Big East tournament.
You can get more info on the Big East tournament at Big East Championship Central. I'll be there "On the Beat" and reporting as always.
DePaul Women's Basketball Team in Chicago, IL-February 2019.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Celebrity Jersey Cards #413 Sande Charles & Amanda Vanderpool

This is a weekly series in which I create virtual trading cards fro celebrities wearing sports jerseys.

A graduate of Arizona State University, Sande Charles is an on-air reporter for the MLB Network. She has also covered ASU football, NCAA Division 1 basketball as well as other sporting events. Charles earned her Celebrity Jersey Card from her time with the Los Angeles Kings.
California native Amanda Vanderpool was cheerleader on ice for the Anaheim Ducks, which is how she earned her Celebrity Jersey Card. She has also been a casting recruiter for several networks. She is the Founder/CEO of Upwardly Mobile, which offers digital strategy, social media marketing, content production and more.