Tate: I'm positive I'm not negative

There are legions of rabid St. Louis Cardinals fans in downstate Illinois.

Flush with recent success — World Series championships in 2006 and 2011 — they will greet the start of a new season with great anticipation. Count me in. For years, my daily plans have frequently been constructed around the first pitch.

Here’s my question: In reading the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, would die-hard Redbird fans prefer that columnist Bernie Miklasz produce “feel-good positive” articles about the Redbirds, or would they rather read opinionated appraisals featuring perhaps the likelihood of possible trades and, where appropriate, criticisms? If Matt Holliday is striking out every other at-bat, should that be exposed and analyzed? If Jaime Garcia’s arm is iffy, aren’t the ramifications of that worth discussing?

Similarly, if you’re a Cubs fan, wouldn’t you prefer Rick Telander’s cutting interpretations over a so-called “positive article?” What would be the reasoning in trying to protect young pro pitchers who are roughly the same age as soldiers in Afghanistan?

Surely a writer’s opinion is preferable (yes, it could be off base; think of all those duped by Lance Armstrong), but it forever confuses me why some Illini fans keep reaching for a half-full glass even as the last drop is dripping out.

Optimism is fine. It is great for the multitudes. It makes the heart beat faster. But optimism should not be part of a writer’s consideration ... unless it is warranted. Like at Alabama. The Tide has earned it.

But, be honest now, where do you find optimism when your football team has lost 14 straight Big Ten games, the 10-year conference record is 24-66, the defensive unit needs a major makeover and competitors are poaching the team’s best commitments?

As a former head coach, Bill Cubit is a solid addition despite a 14-42 record as offensive coordinator for weak Missouri, Rutgers and Stanford teams. But we know full well that not even late-greats Bill Walsh and Vince Lombardi could win games here if the offensive line doesn’t improve.

And if Illini Nation is openly fearful of another late-season basketball slump — the Illini have lost 25 of 38 conference games and are 51-60 in league play since Dee Brown graduated — how would you expect a beat writer to respond? With accolades?

When John Groce talks about changing the culture, what do you think he’s talking about?

Northwestern was embarrassingly dominant here Thursday, and the Wildcats did it without their top two players (JerShon Cobb and Drew Crawford) and with a revamped lineup featuring a former walk-on from Fort Wayne, Ind., a fifth-year transfer from Louisville, two freshmen (the 7-footer hails from Romania) and a 6-1 sophomore from Naperville. They remain nameless because they played as a team.

Here’s the part that is hard for me to understand.

It’s OK and widely applauded when Groce acknowledges that “Purdue was tougher” and that “Wisconsin showed greater spirit.” His exact words last weekend were: “The thing that was most disappointing to me was their (the Badgers’) competitive spirit was better than ours.”

To me, there are few things more degrading in the world of athletics than questioning toughness and competitive spirit. But while this is acceptable for a coach to say, there are those who feel it is out of bounds for the person obliged to document the event.

Maybe that’s because we recognize a certain freedom coaches have in inspiring their athletes. The greatest coaches were often the most demanding and most critical. Maybe the biggest cheaters. And they always are looking for an edge, which includes massaging people’s brains with their words.

When Groce praised Mike Shaw at Wisconsin, I think it was less about lauding a deep reserve and more about sending a message to leaders of the squad. When Bo Ryan told Groce that Illinois was the best team Wisconsin has faced, I believe he was he setting the psychological stage for a return game Feb. 3 in Champaign.

It’s pretty hard for me to take Ryan seriously, considering his Badgers built a 34-9 lead, neutered the UI offense, dominated rebounds 43-24, made 10 treys to the UI’s two and didn’t permit an Illini starter to produce an assist.

Regardless of your fervor for the Illini, you can’t look at those results, or the outcome of Thursday’s disaster against Northwestern, and form positive conclusions about the team’s effort or ability. If you can, you are deluding yourself.

This discussion has nothing to do with media members predicting the outcomes of games. As I’ve made known to N-G staffers, who pick games left and right, I consider that silliness in the extreme. If coerced by physical threats, I’ll do it. Otherwise, no.

But there are areas where it’s important to get out on a limb. That’s our job.

— Much as I respect Jim Delany, I can’t fathom the decision to add Rutgers and Maryland to the Big Ten. From my view, everything about it is wrong, and it will have a detrimental effect on longtime Midwestern rivalries and put more travel hardships on non-revenue teams. Obviously, many others disagree. That’s fine.

— Due to age, illness and injuries, I believe Joe Paterno, consumed by Penn State football, outlived his status as a Penn State icon. While advised, he may never have had full comprehension or recognized his responsibilities in the Sandusky case. Call this a minority view.

— The current Big Ten divisions — Legends and Leaders — are poorly constructed and confusing to the masses. Schools teach geography for a reason. Use it.

— Ryan Brewer, a finance professor in Indiana, used his expertise to ascertain the value of 69 college football programs. Illinois came in 12th in the conference and 48th overall. Whether or not his conclusions are accurate, it is our obligation to pass along that dismal information.

— There was a time when Bruce Weber did an outstanding job as Illini basketball coach. When factors change, so do I. What do you do?

— P.S., when I said in a New Year’s resolution that I’d be more positive, I was pulling a Bo Ryan. You knew tongue was in cheek, didn’t you?

Loren Tate writes for The News-Gazette. He can be reached at ltate@news-gazette.com.

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Moonpie wrote on January 21, 2013 at 8:01 am

Oracle Tate tosses his Sleepy Gazoo Cheermates under the bus. Nice. He is Zeus, they mere mortals.

JDG613 wrote on January 21, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Oh, Lord, I knew it....  An article by Loren, and Moon comes out from the sewer.....

AlamoIllini wrote on January 21, 2013 at 10:01 am

Having lived a number of years in the Balt-DC area, I too found it baffling when the Terps and Rutgers were taken into the BT. I recognize the argument of increasing the foot print to the East Coast for primarily TV.
But, the fans in those areas view college athletics like those in the Midwest view high school games. It is about the pros as to attendance, TV, and overall interest. I lived for the Bullets, Skins, Orioles, college sports became secondary, including the ILLINI, it's a different mindset.

And the two teams, what do they bring the BT as far as the main revenue sport, FB? They are not PSU or Neb. IMO their contribution to the conference wii be primarily in the olympic sports, hardly a reason to add them.

As I said, I lived in the area for 10 years, I have to agree with the Maryland Prez, when he said, ...We needed the BT $$$$! Commish Delany usually hits home runs, with Maryland and Rutgers, I think, he struck out this time

blmillini wrote on January 21, 2013 at 12:01 pm

I don't have a problem with negative articles.  In fact they are necessary for creating balance.  However, it would be nice to see a little balance rather than always ranting, especially when writers are so closely tied to the university.  i would like to see more articles written with objectivity rather than preference for those that Tate decides he either does or does not like.  And, I would like to see a little more discretion when articles could potentially damage the program or make it far more difficult for our coaches to succeed (see any article written about football this year).

JohnUI82 wrote on January 21, 2013 at 10:01 pm

So which do you want, objectivity or discretion? Discretion about potentially damaging the program is a concern for the university's sports information department, not ANY newspaper. And columnists, like Tate, are paid to be opinionated. Objectivity is for reporters.

blmillini wrote on January 22, 2013 at 6:01 pm

I'm fine with objectivity.  Unfortunately, I don't think that is what Tate always gives us.  I think Tate is an extremely negative personality that writes articles that he would classify as "objective" that are truly just rants against the Illini programs and those rants tend to hurt the program.  In order to be truly objective I don't think you can be a fan and unfortunately I think Tate is a fan first and a reporter second.  His attachment to the program and people within the athletic department prevents him from being objective and his negative tendancies contribute to damaging the program through perpetuating the negativity.

Bear8287 wrote on January 21, 2013 at 1:01 pm

I used to post replies to Loren's articles about his negativism, but it's been a while since I have posted such a reply. I don't think that Loren's articles over the past six months or so have been more negative than reasonably warranted.  In some cases, I'd say that Loren has even been down right optimistic!  As examples, I've listed three below.

Tate: It might take time, but Groce will get job done (October 10, 2012)

Tate: This program has staying power (August 11, 2012)

Tate: Call me nuts but Illinois should be good (July 31, 2012)

They all have Loren's name attached to them, so I'm going to go with the presumption that he actually wrote them.  :-)

 

Go Illini!

 

 

jturner wrote on January 21, 2013 at 2:01 pm

I feel bad for Loren that this piece hasn't generated more comments.  Apparently the normal critics of Loren are just too cold to respond, checked out on the illini, or maybe they just agree with the wisdom of what LT has expressed.

crackerman wrote on January 21, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Loren's just playing "devil's advocate", calm down!

JimOATSfan wrote on January 21, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Who, What, When, Where and Why are the Fab Five taught at most journalism schools in the 20th century for writing articles (now called 'posts'). I think we can all agree that Loren is a product of the 20th century.

I find his posts spot-on and appreciate the insights of a great memory, comparative analysis and often toungue in cheek wit.

Go Loren, Go Illini. Cheers!

OrlandoIllini wrote on January 21, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Factual information in Tate's article is accurate, as is always the case. His expressed opinions are logical results from the facts.

I cannot recall an instance in which Moonpie presented any facts. Instead, he raves and rants and calls everyone names... players, coaches, administragors, fans. The only opinions he expresses are negative, often at (or over) the edge of being defamatory. He adds nothing to the discourse, preferring only to 'dis' and to be coarse.

Kcruff wrote on January 21, 2013 at 7:01 pm

Loren - I doubt you read this, but have been an Illini fan my whole life. While 36 years isn't long, I've come to learn a lot about being a sports fan. When I was was younger I'd live and die with the Illini, white sox and bears. I would think they could win every game, although mostly unrealistic - see Illinois against whomever in the tourney from 93 - 99, 06 - now, or the Bears period, the sox won and I did not take it for granted. Now I understand reality, I'm a divorced father of 3 who knows life isn't fair and sports don't matter as much as life/family. While I'm glad for this realization something in me misses the old love and false hope, but I love they way you put things in perspective. I don't miss reading your articles, and I can't say that for any other writer ( I do like Greg Doyle though) no one else garners my interest. I tell my 73 year old father he should read you, thanks for being Loren Tate. 

JimOATSfan wrote on January 21, 2013 at 7:01 pm

@ Kcruff

I don't think you meant to say "I don't miss reading your articles ....".

calvin wrote on January 21, 2013 at 7:01 pm

two freshmen, a sophomore, a walk on, and a kid not good enough to play in the big time.....and we get run off of our own court......maybe the sky is falling....on us

FloridaIllini wrote on January 22, 2013 at 1:01 pm

I've been reading Loren since 1966 when he escaped from the paradise known as Hammond, Indiana (bordered by Calumet City, East Chicago and Gary).  Loren is from the same county I grew up in and is well known and respected by all (at least those in Monticello).  I read him when I was overseas in Japan and even when I lived in the heart of Buckeye country.  I am an Illinois grad and grew up listening to the Illini starting with Em Lindbeck, J.C. Caroline, Abe Woodson in football and the Judson twins, Bruce Brothers, Gov Vaughn and Manny Jacksonin basketball.  I knew we didn't win on a national scale but to a kid these guys were my stars.  I watched the Illini on Channel 3 sponsored by Chesty's potato chips with Tom Schoendienst.  Those are my memories.  I have always enjoyed Loren and found him thought provoking even when I thought he was wrong or disagreed with him.  Small town newspapers are falling by the wayside and I, for one, hope the old guy keeps writing until he passes away or thinks Ray Eliot still coaches in Champaign.  

 

Cowpie can go to hell if he isn't already living there!