9:42 PM CDT, October 9, 2013
Everyone starts somewhere. If you played high school football and basketball in Chicago in 1993-1994, there's a chance Rich Eisen, long before he became the Rich Eisen, reported on one of your games.
As a graduate student in journalism at Northwestern, Eisen covered high schools Fridays and Saturdays for the Tribune.
"It helped put a few bucks in my pocket," Eisen said. "I'd go to Palatine, Schaumburg, wherever they sent me. Collect the stats, get a quote and then phone it in to the desk."
Eisen has fond memories of his short Tribune stint; there's even a line about it in his NFL Network biography.
"I'm proud of it," Eisen said. "I couldn't have done it without watching Wheeling High School football."
Thursday, Eisen returns to Chicago to cover another football game. He will anchor NFL Network's pre- and postgame coverage of Bears-Giants from Soldier Field. Brad Nessler and Mike Mayock will be on the call for the game.
NFL Network is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. It was Eisen who brought the network on the air in November 2003.
The notion of a 24/7 channel dedicated to the NFL seemed ludicrous back then, especially since it didn't have any live games. People also thought Eisen was crazy to leave a terrific gig at ESPN to hook up with the fledgling network, which opened with only 11 million subscribers.
Now in 70 million homes, Eisen believes NFL Network changed the sports landscape.
"Ten years ago, the NFL was not considered a year-round venture," Eisen said. "Right before I left ESPN, someone suggested doing a NFL story in the spring. The person was laughed out of the room. Now you have live football shows daily on multiple networks. There's no question in my mind, without this network, there would not be the sense that football is talked about every single day. There was no idea to do it. People didn't think it would work. We showed that it can."
Eisen has been an essential component as the host for the network's marathon Thursday and Sunday coverage. He has deft touch in prodding a panel that includes unusual characters, not to mention Hall of Famers such as Deion Sanders, Michael Irvin, Warren Sapp and Marshall Faulk.
NFL Network will be on hand Thursday for what will be only the second NFL Network game at Soldier Field; the only other was a Bears 27-24 overtime victory in December 2008. Eisen has an interview with Bears receiver Brandon Marshall during the pregame show.
"I've had this game circled for a long time," Eisen said. "It's the Bears and Giants. You have the No. 1 and No. 3 markets. Never in 1 million years did I think the Giants would be 0-5. I keep waiting for Tom Coughlin to get them going, but it's a short week on the road. I think Julius Peppers and company will pin back their ears and go at them."
Knocking: Like it, or most probably not, the Bears could be candidates to appear on HBO's "Hard Knocks" next year. Tuesday, the NFL agreed to compel teams to appear on the behind-the-scenes series if nobody volunteers. The vast majority of coaches aren't thrilled with the distraction of having crews and cameras embedded in their training camps. As a result, the Bengals appeared this year for the second time since 2009.
However, "Hard Knocks" remains an important franchise for the NFL. The Bears, given their high national profile, would be a prime choice to be featured. Don't be surprised if they get a call from the league one of these years soon, if not in 2014, telling them to accommodate a few dozen cameramen in Bourbonnais.
Nightmare revisited: Yes, it has been 10 years since the night Steve Bartman's life changed forever. CSN will mark the infamous incident in the Cubs' collapse against the Marlins in 2003 with "5 Outs," a documentary that airs at 9 p.m. Tuesday. Chicago native and Cubs fan William Peterson narrates the 90-minute film that includes interviews with Dusty Baker, Mark Prior, Moises Alou, Kerry Wood, and Ozzie Guillen, who was the Marlins' third-base coach.
As always, Bartman remains silent.
Special contributor Ed Sherman writes at shermanreport.coom. Follow him @Sherman_Report
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