AL HAMNIK: Winning Chicago teams more important than winning personalities

2013-08-26T17:30:00Z 2013-09-03T22:20:07Z AL HAMNIK: Winning Chicago teams more important than winning personalitiesAl Hamnik Times Columnist nwitimes.com
August 26, 2013 5:30 pm  • 

A professional sports team is often identified with its coach or manager.

When that individual is as dull as a butter knife, his team had better be kicking butt and taking names or be swallowed up in the national malaise.

The worst scenario is a boring leader and irrelevant team leading to fan apathy.

To be fair, it is difficult being upbeat, even funny, when your teams are a smoldering dumpster fire.

Chicago baseball is that, with its Cubs at 55-75 and White Sox 54-75 entering Monday night's action.

It's sad enough managers Dale Sveum and Robin Ventura lack the charisma and spunk of predecessors Lou Piniella and Ozzie Guillen. That's just their nature and you can't blame them for it.

But a vibrant city like Chicago needs colorful leaders for its sports teams, don't you agree? We need guys whose sound bites are treasured, who avoid tired cliches, who have the occasional temper tantrum, who are candid, and who don't treat every player like an adopted son.

Dale Sveum is a great guy, probably more suited as an assistant coach who doesn't have to play footsie with the spotlight. It's difficult to tell when he's happy or angry, and maybe that will change with a better product.

But for now, he doesn't come across as being interested.

He could be gone when the Cubs finally are front-page worthy. Rumors have Sveum serving only as a temporary bandage until the rebuilding is done, then a big-name manager being brought in.

Robin Ventura is a great guy, a former White Sox standout, but he took the job as a favor to team owner Jerry Reinsdorf and even turned down an extension.

The Sox are a wreck and must rebuild, too. If your heart's not really in it, do you have the patience needed to wait out this ordeal?

Ventura also is boring. Every pre- and post-game chat with media sounds like a press release. Nothing he says or does is inspiring. Grumpy pitching coach Don Cooper does a better job motivating while sitting in the dugout shadows.

Chicago is a strong media market, yet you seldom if ever see TV or radio commercials involving Sveum and Ventura.

C'mon, guys. Sell something. Cars. Chicken wings. Pizza. Aluminum siding. Anything.

Or are both managers that boring?

You rarely hear either as featured radio guests on ESPN 1000 or The Score. Their teams stink, but they still have opinions on the state of baseball, drug testing, or the future of their respective franchises.

Or are they too boring for their own media outlets?

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is duller than white bread, but his teams are constant challengers in the NBA.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville could own Chicago if hockey didn't have its own select fan base.

And that brings us to the Bears, by far the city's most popular team. New hire Marc Trestman, however, is not your typical snarling, moody NFL coach.

He's actually kind of geeky, like a college professor or an accountant. And upbeat? The world is his rose garden.

Trestman could be the victim of identity theft and would be more concerned that his players were properly hydrated at today's steamy practice.

He doesn't want to make commercials. He's too focused on winning a championship. This guy, we'll have to watch.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com

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