Thursday, July 22, 2021

Nicely Done

Ryan Trembath

The new BlockClubChicago podcast recommends one of our books for summer reading...

Windy City Live

Another local show bites the dust. After ten years on the air in Chicago, Windy City Live was canceled yesterday.

I've been there for the show several times with our authors, including visits with John Landecker, Joel Daly, and Chet Coppock. They were always very nice to us, and did a good job. I understand many of the staffers have been let go. I wish them the best in their future endeavors.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Bill Schnee

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Ted Lasso

 I've never been a Jason Sudeikis fan. Someone I know who did improv with him in Chicago said he was a bit of a tool. On the other hand, I love the show Ted Lasso. It's my favorite show of the past few years. And Jason came across as a normal non-Tool in this GQ cover article.

I'm reassessing if my friend who assessed Jason is a reliable assessor of character or not.

In the meantime, I'm still incredibly excited about the new season of Ted Lasso starting up this weekend.

The Zobrist Saga

 The USA Today has a story about the increasingly odd and bitter divorce case of former Cub Ben Zobrist and his wife. Here's a taste of it...

The wife of Ben Zobrist filed court documents claiming that the former Chicago Cubs player failed “to preserve marital assets” when he took a leave of absence in 2019. 

Julianna Zobrist also claimed in court documents, obtained by the Chicago Tribune that Ben Zobrist “essentially went from the top of his game to basically giving up, which caused a massive loss in income" and that he “intentionally and voluntarily stopped working.”

She is asking for an additional $4 million to be awarded to her during their divorce trial, which is set for next month.  

“In 2019, he had a contract with the Chicago Cubs for ($12 million), but since he only played for 2 months, his salary was prorated and he only earned ($4.5 million) of the ($12 million) he could have earned,” according to the memorandum filed by Julianna Zobrist’s attorney.

 She is essentially suing him for not earning more...even though he quit because she was cheating on him with their pastor...who was pretending to be their marriage counselor...and who Ben also accuses of defrauding his charity for $6 million. Unbelievable. 

Roger Badesch

 Thanks so much to Robert Feder the mention of Roger's book in his column today...

Longtime Chicago radio newsman Roger Badesch has just released the audio-book version of his acclaimed 2020 memoir, The Unplanned Life: The Journey of Roger Badesch, on Audible. He told Eckhartz Press publisher Rick Kampfer he was inspired to write the book by a certain host on Nexstar Media news/talk WGN 720-AM, where Badesch anchors weekend newscasts. “Rick Kogan was intrigued by my stories during his WGN Radio program and encouraged me, my wife said I should do it, and I had lots of retirement time on my hands,” Badesch said.

Monday, July 19, 2021

RIP Robby Steinhardt

 He was the rarest of creatures in music, a rock and roll violinist. RIP Robby Steinhardt of Kansas. He passed away at the age of 71.

Paul M. Banks


Q&A with Eckhartz Press author Paul M. Banks

Paul M. Banks is the author of “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America”. The book is available now at Eckhartz Press. We recently caught up with Paul on the eve of his book’s release to chat with him about it.


EP: Did you happen to notice during the just completed Euros that more people were watching that tournament, and talking about it, than any previous one?

Paul: I started to realize this trend during the 2014 World Cup, when I saw an article stating “Americans are embracing watching soccer en masse…or at least embracing the idea of more often ditching work to go day-drinking.” That certainly happened here, I watched the Final at an Irish pub where I was the only England fan; it was packed with all Italy supporters! 
Which I really didn’t expect at an Irish pub, but then again of all the nations that love to see England massively fail, in all endeavors (and there are many!), Ireland would certainly be near the top of the list, so I guess it all makes sense now. But my point is that you had people looking for something to watch and do, which involves going to the bars, really getting into it. Every match in the event seemed to be a top trending term on Twitter while it was transpiring, showing that people online we’re consuming the tournament as well. Plus, the fact that ESPN carried it meant that it got a lot of promotion, because if there is anything that ESPN does first and foremost, it’s promoting events they have the broadcast rights to. 

EP: In your book you go over the reasons that the Premier League is catching on here in America, and you do it in some depth. Can you give us the Readers Digest version–maybe the top two or three reasons you think it’s catching on?

Paul: I’ll just roll with the Mt. Rushmore, and list the top 4. First is David Beckham signing with the L.A. Galaxy, making mainstream Americans aware of big name European individual footballers. Second is the trend of the big European clubs coming over here to stage their preseason tours, giving Americans a chance to see these teams play in person.Third is NBC Sports getting the Premier League broadcast rights (interestingly enough when I interviewed the man who closed the deal, he told me that he learned they had the winning bid just as New York City was evacuating for Superstorm Sandy in 2012) and presenting and promoting the telecasts just as they would any American sportFourth is our first ever American star at a big name club in a big five Euro league, Christian Pulisic at Chelsea, and the new wave of young American (apologies to David Bowie) emerging stars at big name European clubs.  

EP: The U.S. Women’s National Team is playing the Olympics and once again, we suspect the country will be following along. Tell us a little bit about your interaction with women players, and how they factor in the book.

Paul: Got to start with Alex Morgan, the face of the franchise, who I sat down with for an exclusive a few years ago at a field house on the farthest reaches of the northwest suburbs. This was not long after a photo of her in a red Manchester United shirt went viral on social media. I asked her about that, and Morgan responded by saying she has a soft spot for United because she scored the game winning goal in the 2012 Olympic semifinal against Canada at Old Trafford in extra time, sending the United States to the gold medal match against Japan. Her goal came in the 123rd minute, the latest goal ever scored by a member of the U.S. women’s team and a FIFA record.

I was also there for one of Hope Solo’s last USWNT media opps, where she lashed out at a reporter for the way he phrased his question to her after a Soldier Field friendly victory, and Olympic tune-up over South Africa in 2016. While she did have a valid point, the thin-skinned way she handled the query was great foreshadowing to the meltdown she would soon have after Sweden knocked them out of the competition and Solo was an extremely sore loser. And that was the final straw for the Stars and Stripes in regards to her. An extremely polarizing figure, and deservedly so, she never suited up for club and country again after that.

Speaking of lashing out, Christen Press’s publicist and I had a very heated phone call a few years ago, simply because I was doing my job, and brand managers don’t like it when reporters get something out there that they wanted to keep under wraps. It’s okay though, I channeled my inner Taylor Swift on that one, both “shaking it off” and keeping receipts.

EP: There are lots of bold-face soccer names that make appearances in your book. Tease us with a few of their names, and tell us a story about one of them. 

Paul: I had mixed zone exclusives with Harry Kane and Christian Pulisic, so there are one-on-ones with faces of both the USA and England franchises. For your fellow Scousers and Reds, I had a nice telephone exclusive with Liverpool’s all-time leading scorer, Ian Rush, as well. Jurgen Klopp was very snarky and funny with me in a press conference, which was great, because that’s what I was hoping he would be. Klopp did the industry standard, turn the tables and ask the reporter a question about the topic that he actually wants to talk about, and it was glorious. 

But I must mention Zlatan Ibrahimovic too. ABC 7 interviewed me that week previewing his visit with the LA Galaxy to play the Chicago Fire, and this ended up being the circus of all media circuses. He did his best Kanye West impersonation by taking FOREVER to come out, and then he only graced us (an absolute giant mosh pit of reporters) with his presence for 3 whole minutes. He was certainly Zlatan though, saying of his side’s road victory “they came with the wind, and we came with the sun, today, the sun was the stronger.” Walt Whitman would have been proud. He also made fun of how the club never sells out the stadium, saying he should come more often in order to help sell tickets. 

EP: As we were going to print, the Super League was briefly formed and then eventually disbanded and discarded. What are your thoughts about why that was such an unmitigated disaster?

Paul: In this day and age, when you have people who will politicize anything, everything from basic, physical science to what brand of coffee beans you use, here was something where we were all on the same page. We all agreed on something, as no one, and I mean no one except the owners of the clubs themselves, wanted this thing. 

Everything about it evoked the idea of the other golden rule, he who has the gold makes the rules. And then changes the rules whenever he wants to better suit his interests. At its very core, the Super League was totally anti-thetical to what we all love about sports- pure competition. And the fans stood up and spoke out against it. The proverbial “little guy” almost never wins against the wealthy elites and big business, so we should remember this victory and cherish it. Because they’ll try it again. We’re in the part of the movie where the killer shark has been sent back out to see, but make no mistake, it’ll come back towards the beach at some point. 

EP: So, the new Premier League season starts up again in just a few weeks. Do you have any predictions for who will get those Champions League spots, and who may be facing relegation?

Paul: Manchester City is still the team to beat, even though they still haven’t signed anyone this summer (spoiler alert: they definitely will splash the cash between now and deadline day). United have made the only real splash signing of the summer in Jadon Sancho, after approximately 89,347 news stories saying it was going to happen over the past two years. Given that, plus they finished runners-up last season, you know they’ll be better, as will Liverpool who are getting healthy again plus they made a key signing at their position of most need. 

Chelsea are reigning European champions, so they’ll be a factor, but we’re all still waiting for them to finally sign somebody, after spending almost $300 million last summer transfer window, at a time when most clubs were only ballin on a budget. Leicester City are quietly having a nice transfer window, so will it be enough to finally get over the top four hump, and not choke away a UCL slot again? Probably, but who is the odd man out then if they get in? 

In terms of relegation, I think Brighton have to be on notice, while Southampton has been in danger of getting the drop in a couple recent seasons. Norwich and Watford are back up, but they better bring their A game, or they’ll get sent right back down. Also, I might be nervous if I were a Crystal Palace supporter. Thankfully, I am not. 

Minutia Men

No Shame