Tate: Chicago recruiting a bear market

Tate: Chicago recruiting a bear market

During my summer sojourn of laziness, one innocent comment caught my eye.

Talen Horton-Tucker, a prospective Illini basketball recruit from Simeon, matter-of-factly wrapped up otherwise positive comments about Brad Underwood's efforts by saying:

"Coming from Chicago, there are a lot of people who don't like (the University of) Illinois."

You see, it's just an accepted fact. Like all those strangers east of Danville, and particularly those who influenced Eric Gordon. Politically, intellectually, socially, athletically, they see through a different lens. Chicagoland's brightest scholars stream here; big-time athletes are reluctant.

That is, of course, except for a few friendlies from places like Simeon and Mount Carmel (for football).

Horton-Tucker's single sentence speaks volumes, and reminds that the problems leading to the UI's recent struggles in basketball and football stem from the fact that Chicagoland — which MUST BE the pumping heart for UI talent acquisition — has become such a tough nut to crack.

Tracking north of I-80

Looking back at the previous seven Illini basketball coaches, only Lou Henson and Bill Self appeared comfortable in their dealings up north. Harv Schmidt lost his job because of it. So did Bruce Weber.

Lon Kruger inserted four northern Henson leftovers alongside Peoria's Jerry Hester to win the 1998 Big Ten title, but whiffed on the best Chicagoland class in history that year (Corey Maggette, Quentin Richardson, Bobby Simmons, Michael Wright, etc.).

As it stands today, Lovie Smith appears to have struck out on the populous area's top dozen football prospects in the upcoming 2018 class. And Brad Underwood's roster of 11 scholarship members has one in-stater from north of Interstate 80. Just one. That is junior Aaron Jordan, a Plainfield East product who might not see the court much if he doesn't show dramatic improvement this season.

What's up with the Cubs?

Amidst this dichotomy of feelings — North vs. South, Democrat vs. Republican — it is remarkable how doting support for the Chicago Cubs abounds in this mid-state district.

Ignoring the White Sox, overlooking the war-torn South and West sides where more than 100 were victims of gunfire over the Fourth of July holiday, disregarding the differences in perspective and culture, the Cubs seem even more Lovable after tossing their Losers tag in 2016. It's like, we can appreciate Chicago's theaters and museums even if we can't ride Rahm Emanuel's transit system without fear of being shot.

Cub struggles have heightened the tension of this confusing baseball race. Is this first half an optical illusion? Have they spent too many nights celebrating? Did a Cardinal culprit put something in Kyle Schwarber's drink? Or was the team thrown off kilter by a Trump tweet?

Here we have a youthful club awarded all four infield positions in last year's All-Star Game. Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo finished first and fourth in National League MVP voting. Current batting stats show erstwhile Cardinal Jon Jay — a spray hitter in an otherwise all-or-nothing lineup — is the only Cub around .300. Second on the list is Miguel Montero (he gone).

Nor has pitching held up. Last season's 3.15 ERA has jumped to 4-plus, with both John Lackey and Jake Arrieta over that number.

Tough to win again

The answer? Simple. Nobody repeats. It's too competitive. Too many imponderables. The Red Sox, Cardinals and Giants have won multiple championships in the past 15 years, but never back-to-back. In that span, 10 teams won trophies, and seven others reached the World Series without winning.

Lady Luck is fickle. For all their quality teams, the Dodgers haven't reached the World Series since 1988.

As for the Cardinals, the falloff in 2016 was so drastic that nobody made the Top 20 in MVP voting. As of today, it's anyone's guess who'll be playing first, second or short — or two outfield positions — a month from now. To believe in the Cardinals, you must be confident that callups from Memphis can catch Milwaukee ... and hold off Champaign County's favorite summer pastime, the Cubs.

And isn't it ironic: By the thousands, with their car stickers and T-shirts, downstate fans support their favorites from a Windy City that would have to think twice before giving us the time of day. Horton-Tucker said it all.

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


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Moonpie wrote on July 09, 2017 at 9:07 am

He's back, just as ridiculous and condescending as ever, and with the sports version of the tea party playbook on the culture war. Outside of C-U, Moses Tate proclaims, the landscape is populated by "The Other." Those folks just aren't like "us."

He fears Chicago--it's the big pond and he's the small fish/local cheerleader.

It's not Chicago that must change. It's the Illiini teams that must prove they are more than just perpetual dumpster fires. Then they will earn players and fans. Tate likes to suppress fans, dictate to them, the way his party wants to suppress certain voters because "they aren't like us."

Ancient Tate is a minnow.

To quote Trump: Sad!

michael loyd grays conscience wrote on July 09, 2017 at 10:07 am

In his apology on Reddit, "Han*******Solo" sent a message to his fellow anonymous posters."To people who troll on the Internet for fun, consider your words and actions conveyed in your message and who it might upset or anger," he wrote. "Put yourself in their shoes before you post it. If you have a problem with trolling it is an addiction just like any other addiction someone can have to something and don't be embarrassed to ask for help. Trolling is nothing more than bullying a wide audience. Don't feed your own self-worth based upon inflicting suffering upon others online just because you are behind a keyboard."

PortlandIllini wrote on July 09, 2017 at 11:07 am

To paraphrase The Bard " hell haft no fury like a Moonpie scorned".

The dude will never let go of his anger for being dismissed from the News Gazette.  And apparently he has a personal vendetta again Mr Tate.

I would like to see Moon-pie write his own personal sports column.  Like his letters,  he could just write the same thing over and over again.


jdstieg wrote on July 09, 2017 at 3:07 pm

Well said PortlandIllini, well said.

OrlandoIllini wrote on July 09, 2017 at 3:07 pm

Moonpie has gotten even lazier. He no longer uses his other IDs to make comments supporting his Moonpie comments, or to make comments that parallel his Moonpie Comments. And of course, he never offers facts to support his anti-Tate, Anti-News Gazette, anti-Illini tirades.

zuppke wrote on July 09, 2017 at 9:07 pm

The Moonpie (variation on a Grinch theme):

The nerve of The Sleepy Gazoo. Inviting me down there - on such short notice! Even if I wanted to go my schedule wouldn't allow it. 4:00, wallow in self pity; 4:30, stare into the abyss; 5:00, solve world hunger, tell no one; 5:30, jazzercize; 6:30, dinner with me - I can't cancel that again; 7:00, wrestle with my self-loathing... I'm booked. Of course, if I bump the loathing to 9, I could still be done in time to lay in bed, stare at the ceiling and slip slowly into madness. But what would I wear?

Still time for your heart to grow three sizes.


illinifaningeorgia wrote on July 10, 2017 at 7:07 am

I think  I'll actually respond to Tate's column instead of the childish crap so far.

I don't care for the beatdown of the City of Chicago by Tate.  I know he hates the City but don't take it out on Chicago  just because the University of Illinois has been totally incompetent in recruiting the city's top prospects.