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5 Questions with...'SW on TV' creator John Roach

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5 Questions with...'SW on TV' creator John Roach

Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2010

By Jeff Nuich
CSN Chicago Senior Director of CommunicationsCSNChicago.com Contributor

Want to know more about your favorite Chicago media celebrities? CSNChicago.com has your fix as we put the citys most popular personalities on the spot with everyones favorite weekly local celeb feature entitled 5 Questions with...

On Wednesdays, exclusively on CSNChicago.com, its our turn to grill the local media and other local VIPs with five random sports and non-sports related questions that will definitely be of interest to old and new fans alike.

This weeks guestan award-winning producer, screenwriter, satirist, etc. who has been the driving force behind the ground-breaking sports television talk show The Sports Writers on TV, which makes it triumphant return to Comcast SportsNet on Friday, September 10 at 11:00 PM and online for the first time at CSNChicago.complus, even though hes a Packers fan, Chicago always liked to consider him one of its ownhere are 5 Questions withJOHN ROACH!

BIO: John Roach is president of JRP, an Emmy Award-winning video and film production company that tells compelling stories for corporate communications, television advertising, and broadcast.

John and Mary Sweeney co-wrote the screenplay for The Straight Story, a motion picture directed by David Lynch. The Straight Story premiered at Cannes and was released in October 1999 by Walt Disney Pictures. The screenplay was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award, and the films Richard Farnsworth received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. Like Hemingways dialogue, wrote Roger Ebert, the screenplay by John Roach and Mary Sweeney finds poetry and truth in the exact choice of the right everyday words.

Prior to forming his own Madison-based company in 1985, John was a producer at CBS and ABC in Chicago for six years. His credits include six Chicago Emmys, a National Iris Award for Best Television Special and a national CableACE nomination. He received the Peter Lisagor Award for Special News Production, plus recognition from the Organization of American Women in TV and Radio for his documentary work.

Additional accolades include the San Francisco Film Festival Award, the Silver Anvil, the Golden Spotlight, the Addy, the Cine Golden Eagle and numerous Tellys.

John produced the CableACE-nominated The Sports Writers on TV and the critically acclaimed The Back Table with Chet Coppock for FOX Sports Chicago. Past broadcast credits include work for ESPN, FOX, NBC, and Ebony Jet.

John writes a monthly column for Madison Magazine. His book, Way Out Here in the Middle, was published in 2003.

1) CSNChicago.com: John, after a 12-year drought, The Sports Writers on TV is finally making its way back to television with Comcast SportsNet premiering the return of Gleason, Jauss, Telander, Bentley and the accompanying cigar smoke on Friday, September 10 at 11:00 PM (and online at CSNChicago.com). As the creatorproducer of the show from Day One, what does it mean to you personally to finally bring this classic slice of television back to viewers and, a follow-up question, what new twists did you make to these existing shows that will be of interest to older and hopefully younger Sports Writers fans?

Roach: As close as I was to The Sports Writers, and with the usual drama that can take place over nearly fifteen years, I was also one of their biggest fans. Im also a big fan of (Comcast SportsNet Chicago President) Jim Corno, the patron saint of the show for years. It feels great to have us all back together. I hope viewers feel the same way.

The guys had chemistry and knowledge that they communicated in an authentic, uninhibited way. They treated each other like family, which isn't always pretty. They shared a Chicago voice and view that resonated nationally. Looking at the shows again, its easy to see why. Bentley and Gleason have passed, but seeing them is comforting in a bittersweet way.

I think folks will see that all four really knew their stuff.

We've added running, quick-graphic postscripts to offer current perspective to the conversations. We think it augments the discussion without upstaging the guys. Kinda like singing a very quiet harmony to a great song.

2) CSNChicago.com: The stars of The Sports Writers on TV were certainly unique to say the least and sports talk television hasnt really seen the likes of characters like them since the show signed off years ago. This wont be easy, but tell us your top three favorite standout moments from the shows history that defined these guys as not only local icons, but icons on a national level as well.

Roach:

1) The first is a tie between two Ben moments. The day he lit the table on fire with his cigar. And the day he showed up to do the show wearing sunglasses because he had undergone eye surgery and had not told anyone. He did the entire show wearing shades! Gleason began the show by saying that he looked like "a Chicago alderman."

2) Our "Good Bye to Comiskey was an emotional tour de force with a great touch by our director Bob Albrecht.

3) The day Gleason casually mentioned that he had met Ty Cobb. The conversation continued for a half minute before Telander stopped everything and turned to Gleason and said, "Hold on! Billyou MET Ty Cobb?! How is that possible?!"

3) CSNChicago.com: The brilliant screenplay you co-wrote for Walt Disney Pictures The Straight Story received acclaim from critics around the globe back in 1999 and was even nominated for top-level screenplay honors from the film industry. What was it like for you personally when the film made its premiere at Cannes? Alsocome on Johnits been over 10 years now, when can we expect another Hollywood film to come out with a Screenplay by John Roach credit attached to it?

Roach: "The Straight Story" was a beautiful project. A gift. Proud of the script I wrote with my Catholic grade school friend Mary Sweeney, not to mention getting to know David Lynch. He became and remains a friend. Sweet guy and stunning artist. To hear your written words spoken by Richard Farnsworth and Sissy Spacek the first day on the set kinda took my breath away. My wife Diane and I did the whole red carpet thing at Cannes, which is where the film premiered. We were treated like European royalty. The red carpet was funny. Thousands of photographers and press. You are told to walk three steps and turn to your right. And then three steps and turn to your left. I whispered to Diane, "Every time we turn I can hear these Europeans saying, "Who the hell is that?

I have completed several screenplays since. One is a great sports story and is in development, which is a clich, but true.

4) CSNChicago.com: Youve never hid the fact that youre a huge Green Bay Packers fan, which is understood since youre from Wisconsin. In your opinion, what would you say is the biggest difference between Bears and Packers fans?

Roach: Not much difference other than the color of their jerseys. They both love their teams and, unlike other pampered NFL fans, they are willing to sit for hours in the cold to prove it. I actually think that Bears and Packers fans secretly like each other. Its the Vikings everyone hates.

5) CSNChicago.com: Name the top 5 greatest films you have ever seen.
Roach: In no particular order....

"Network": Screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky was prescient.

"Being There": Peter Sellers was perfect. The story was killer. Funny and sadly believable.

"The Longest Day": My late, great uncle Jack McCann was in the first wave at Omaha Beach. He lost an eye. The film is epic and humbles anyone who was not there. We are all their beneficiaries. It also reminds me that Gleason won the Silver Star in that war, which is not surprising. If you worked with him, you know he never shrank from a fight.

"Animal House: Because I am a guy. ("The Hangover" was great too.)

"The Elephant Man": An early David Lynch film, his first Best Director nomination, produced by Mel Brooks. Powerful cast: Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt, Anne Bancroft and John Gielgud. Everything a film should be.

BONUS QUESTIONCSNChicago.com: Anything you would like to promote John? Tell us, we want to hear about it

Roach: Slowly circling the laptop to do a novel, but right now, I simply hope folks tune into Comcast SportsNet to watch the guys. They haven't lost a step.

Roach LINKS:

John Roach Projects (JRP)

Comcast SportsNetThe Sports Writers on TV returns

John Roach columns in Madison Magazine

John Roach on Facebook

John Roach on Twitter

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jon Lester struggles against the division-rival Cardinals

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jon Lester struggles against the division-rival Cardinals

It was a tough day for the North Siders.

The Cubs got obliterated by the Cardinals as Matt Carpenter had a three-homer, two-double day. Ben Finfer, Seth Gruen and Maggie Hendricks join David Kaplan on the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast to talk about the blowout.

Was Jon Lester due for this kind of terrible outing? And do the Cubs have enough to swing a big trade before the deadline?

Plus, the panel discusses Matt Nagy’s first training camp practice in the rain and Roquan Smith’s absence in Bourbonnais.

You can listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Could Bears improve and still lose ground? The MMQB's Albert Breer weighs in on tough NFC North

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USA TODAY

Could Bears improve and still lose ground? The MMQB's Albert Breer weighs in on tough NFC North

NBC Sports Chicago’s John "Moon" Mullin talked with The MMQB's Albert Breer, who shared his thoughts on where the Bears stand — and if they’ll be able to compete — in a highly competitive NFC North.

Moon: The Bears have made upgrades, but they’re in the NFC North and not many divisions are tougher, given the strength at quarterbacks.

Breer: Yes. You look at the other three teams, and they all very much believe they’re in a window for winning a championship. The Packers are going through some changes, but they’ve gotten Mike Pettine in there as defensive coordinator and a new general manager who was aggressive on draft day. I know that internally they feel that’s going to give them a boost, and bringing Aaron Rodgers back obviously is the biggest thing of all.

Minnesota, all the things they did this offseason, signing (quarterback) Kirk Cousins, (defensive lineman) Sheldon Richardson, and they were knocking on the door last year.

The Lions have been building for two years under (general manager) Bob Quinn and (new coach) Matt Patricia, who lines right up with the general manager — the two of them worked together in New England. They really believe that Matthew Stafford is ready to take the sort of jump that Matt Ryan made in Atlanta a few years ago, where you see that mid-career breakthrough from a quarterback that we see sometimes now.

It’s one of the toughest divisions in football, and every team in the division believes that it’s in the position to contend right now.

Moon: We didn’t see a lot of Mitch Trubisky — 12 games — so it sounds possible that the Bears could improve and still lose ground.

Breer: The Lions were pretty good last year. The Vikings were in the NFC Championship game. And who knows where the Packers would’ve been if Rodgers hadn’t broken his collarbone. The biggest change is that Aaron Rodgers will be back, and that’s the best player in the league. It was a really good division last year, and you’re adding back in a Hall of Fame quarterback.

As far as the Bears, there’s going to be questions where the organization is going. It’s been seven years since they were in the playoffs. I think they certainly got the coach hire right. This is a guy who I know other organizations liked quite a bit and was going to be a head coach sooner or later.

And I think he matches up well with Mitch. I think the Bears are in a good spot, but as you said, they’re competing in a difficult environment, so it may not show up in their record.

Moon: A lot of love for the Vikings after they get to the NFC Championship and then add Kirk Cousins.

Breer: A lot of people look at Minnesota and think Kirk Cousins’ll be a huge improvement. And maybe he will be. I think he’s a very good quarterback, top dozen in the league. But Case Keenum played really, really well last year, so it wasn’t like they weren’t getting anything out of that position last year.

The NFC right now is clearly the strength of the league. If you picked the top 10 teams in the league, you could make a case that seven or eight of them are in the NFC. I think there will be NFC teams that miss the playoffs who could be in the Super Bowl coming out of the AFC. There’s a little bit of an imbalance there.

Moon: Trubisky projects as part of a wave of new quarterbacks league-wide, a sea change in the NFL.

Breer: The interesting thing is that this is probably as stable as the league has been at quarterback in a long time. There’ve been questions where the next great quarterbacks will come from, but I don’t know that there’s a team right now in the NFL like you looked at the Jets or Browns last year, where you say that team is definitely drafting a quarterback in 2019.

Everyone either has a big-money veteran or former first-round pick on their roster. One team that doesn’t is the Cowboys, but they’ve got Dak Prescott who’s played really well. Every team in the league has some stability at the position. I think the position is as healthy as it’s been in a long time, and you’ve got a lot of good young prospects.