Getting Personal: Loren Tate

What's new?

Nothing really. I just keep getting older. I do basically the same things each year. Since I retired 17 years ago, I don't write columns during May and June, just need a break. Play golf at Savoy and intend to get around and play other local courses with friends.

Travel isn't as much fun as it used to be, particularly the 45 years that I flew charter with the UI basketball team as payment for my halftime radio interviews and other pregame stuff. That ended when John Groce came aboard, although it really ended late in Bruce Weber's final season when he became unhappy with my opinions about his team.

What was your most fun radio interview?

I'd say a halftime interview in 2005 with comedian Bill Murray, who was a fan of that team.

What was your best interview?

Not sure. I've done so many. I've missed fewer than a half-dozen Saturday shows since 1979, so, if we talked to four individuals per show, that would be more than 7,000 interviews on that show alone.

Among players, Bruce Douglas was excellent every time. As coaches, I had a good relationship with Harry Combes, Mike White, Lou Henson and, more recently, defensive coordinator Vic Koenning. In recent years, I often learn more from assistants like Koenning, Bill Cubit and Alex Golesh than head coaches.

The player interviews have changed as opposed to my early years when I had good relationships with Jim Dawson, Randy Crews, Jody Harrison, Jerry Hester and Eddie Johnson and so many others.

This has changed. I am now several generations removed from current players and seen in a different light.

Among the more unique interviews:

With Edwardsville ref Ed Hightower after each season.

I'd say the Harry Gosier interview was the strangest based on the location (jail) and me being left alone with a killer and the battery in my tape recorder running out during the meeting, forcing me to do some of the article by memory.

What's your favorite sport to watch? To play?

My favorite sport to watch is overwhelmingly football. I just wish the Illini produced better teams to make it more interesting.

My favorite sport to play was baseball and, specifically pitching, which I didn't begin until I returned from the military in 1955. In 1962, I was named Illinois semi-pro pitcher of the year when our Lansing team won the 16-team tournament in Elgin and advanced to the national semi-pro tournament in Wichita. I quit pitching one year after I came to The News-Gazette in 1966.

Is there one Illini moment that you think was defining, or several?

It wasn't one moment but rather a series of incidents beginning with the "slush fund" in 1955 and continuing through the Deon Thomas incident, the Neale Stoner firing and the Mike White ouster. All those setbacks put the Illini on a constant recovery course, and the football coaching choices have backfired.

Do you think Chicago respects the rest of the state?

I don't think either side really respects the other, although the University of Illinois works to attract thousands of students ... but has been unsuccessful in landing the top football and basketball players. There is a social and political divide between Champaign-Urbana and Chicago.

What do you look for in a movie? What's a favorite?

My favorite is a series, "Lonesome Dove." If it must be a movie, I might take "Unforgiven." I enjoy any movie with a horse or a trial. I am waiting for someone to see "Seabiscuit" with.

I have gotten involved in several TV series beginning with "24" and am now taping "The Americans" to watch all at once this summer. I also like "Justified," but not as much as I used to.

What time do you get up?

I arise at 6:30 and spend the first hour reading the paper, showering and eating breakfast ... although I work out three mornings a week at Planet Fitness and don't shower until afterward. I'm trying to stay in shape so I can coach first base on our senior softball team.

What do you consider your greatest achievement or accomplishment?

Just being consistent over time. If you lack a special writing talent like Jeff D'Alessio, Jim Dey or Tom Kacich, you have to be a plugger. I suppose my greatest disappointment is that I'm not a more fluent writer.

What do you regard as your most treasured possession?

The combination award for having a street named after me and the first publisher's trophy. When I'm searching for material or having trouble writing, I see the street name and conclude that I must have been able to do it before, so maybe I can do it again.

Do you have a guilty pleasure and what is it?

Don't tell my dentist, but I still keep some Milk Duds in the cabinet. Or some Turtles.

Where on Earth are you dying to go? Why?

If "going somewhere" means traveling, I'd rather stay right here.

I have no interest in going overseas. But if I ultimately retire and am healthy enough to swing a club, I might spend some winters in Florida.

Tell me about your favorite pet.

That's easy. Son Travis has a dog named Stranger ... who has a new buddy named Gus.

What's your favorite sports team?

That's easier. The St. Louis Cardinals. My goal in life is to not watch so many games on TV. I can't help myself. I saw nearly every pitch last year.

What would you order for your last meal?

Ribeye from The Ribeye and a twice-baked potato from the Deli.

If you could be reincarnated after you die, what would you like to come back as?

A guy with a 98-mph fastball.

Who are your favorite musicians and why?

I am a country music nut from the Hank Williams days. Steve Kelly would want me to say George Strait, but my favorite was George Jones when he made it on time. No one else should even attempt "Bartender Blues." And I shouldn't leave out Alison Krauss and the Eagles. I play them over and over.

If you could host a dinner party with any three living people in the world, whom would you invite?

Probably George Will because, in addition to politics, he could talk baseball and I might be able to comprehend him on that subject. And I am intrigued by the mind of Newt Gingrich and the personality of Bill Clinton. Locally, he is gone, but I was enthralled when Chancellor John Cribbet spoke, as I was with Adlai Stevenson and Winston Churchill.

Which historical figure do you admire the most and why?

I'd have to say Lincoln, based on his tough decisions in the complicated nature of that time. In sports, it would probably be Lou Gehrig.

What personality trait do you most dislike in other people?

To harp and return on the same subject every time we meet.

What's your best piece of advice?

Don't give up reading simply because you feel you're getting the information on the tube. That's one of my greatest failures. Too often my Time magazine arrives and I haven't read the previous one.

What was your first job and how much did you make an hour?

Having worked for my dad on the weekly in Monticello, my first job as a sports writer came in 1955 at Hammond, Ind. The late T.O. White of The News-Gazette, to whom I gave Sunday baseball results by telephone, told me the job was open. They offered $75 per week, and I held out for $100 and got it.

What was a pivotal decision in your career and how did you arrive at that decision?

Two pivotal decisions: 1) Taking the job in Hammond and 2) deciding to come to Champaign as sports editor for $220 a week in 1966. It occurred to me then, with my background locally and in athletics, and having attended the UI, that I had the ideal training for this job. But I was more writer than editor and basically just threw the page together without the full understanding of makeup and use of artwork that we now see.

Don't ask about how much I made per hour. I never even once counted the hours I worked. I would have been a poor union member.

Do you have any regrets in your life? What are they?

Too many to relate.

How do you handle a stressful situation?

Depends on what you consider stressful. I never regarded deadlines as stressful.

Topics (1):People

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jeffh wrote on April 30, 2014 at 4:04 pm

Having grown up reading Loren's columns, I strongly disagree that he lacks a special writing talent, actually I haven't read many writers who can communicate with their audiance as informatively and with modesty, humor -- and passion when called for-- the way Loren does.  And of course his is the only commentary I want to read regarding any significant developments about Illini sports.

Hope you're with us many more years Loren, and thanks for all you've done to date!

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on May 01, 2014 at 8:05 am
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I agree. Loren's an excellent writer.

 

His only stylistic fault (shared by many newspaper persons): One can occasionally deduce that he's wrapping up because he's reached his word count/allotment. It often interrupts a good flow (fluidity, if not fluency).

 

Because he's such a good writer, I'll assume he meant what he wrote in the below sentence, which will surely live in infamy.

 

 If you lack a special writing talent like Jeff D'Alessio, Jim Dey or Tom Kacich, you have to be a plugger.

westcoast wrote on April 30, 2014 at 5:04 pm

Loren is a better writer than he gives himself credit for and he is more open minded (except about politics) than many people give him credit for.  No offense intended to others, but he is a far better interviewer than any of his partners over the years on the various shows.  Like him or not, he is still on top of his game. 

Now, how long before we get cheap shots, personal insults and non-sensical lingo from Tate's anonymous internet attacker, Moonpie?

teachdacc wrote on April 30, 2014 at 9:04 pm

Loren is a better writer than he gives himself credit for. I enjoy his columns and read them first. Hope he gets to write many more. Moonpie can take a hike!!

FloridaIllini wrote on May 02, 2014 at 4:05 pm

I've been reading Loren since he came to the N-G.  He was a lifeline when overseas to my addiction to the Illilni.  He's one of a kind.  I think he's almost always a good read- even if he is from Monticello! Ha!

I've suffered right along with him following the travails of the Illini.  It just makes the triumphs that much sweeter.