Street Smart Chicago

Gentlemen’s Club: When Football Came (Back) to the University of Chicago

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Martin Northway (right) in a 1968 or 1969 drill with teammate Jerry Culp.

Martin Northway (right) in a 1968 or 1969 drill with teammate Jerry Culp.

By Martin Northway, X’70

“Isn’t that where all the Reds are?” was a common reaction among my high-school classmates when I told them I was enrolling at the University of Chicago. Even in the sixties, what attracted me to Chicago was its abundance of libertarian scholars—led by Milton Friedman—and the prospect of a liberal arts education anchored by the Common Core. I originally fancied myself an economics major but later abandoned it for less-depressing American history. Mainly, I wanted to write.

The last thing I thought I would do at U of C was play football. But I found myself drawn to the purity it preserved in the sport, unlike the tainted and excessive adulation given by my high school, a national power running up a string of consecutive victories that would stand for a decade. What U of C had was a football club, a stew of undergraduates and grad students of diverse abilities.

U of C had been a power in the Big Ten (originally the Western Conference) under legendary Amos Alonzo Stagg, but ultimately its small undergraduate talent pool could not compete against Midwest behemoths. A last flash of greatness was back Jay Berwanger’s selection as the first Heisman winner in 1935. (I joined his Psi Upsilon fraternity, again an athletes’ sanctuary.) U of C left big-time football in its rear-view mirror in 1939. To some—especially President Robert M. Hutchins—it was good riddance. Read the rest of this entry »

Race Revew: North Shore Triathlon

Bicycling, News etc., Running, Sports No Comments »
North Shore Triathlon transition area/Photo by Zach Freeman

North Shore Triathlon transition area/Photo: Zach Freeman

RECOMMENDED RACE

Breakdown:

The triathlon is its own special animal—a hybrid that combines swimming, biking and running into one elaborate event. Mastery of one aspect of the sport does not necessarily translate into competence in the sport as a whole. That being said, this writer may be an experienced runner, but is a complete triathlon novice and this review should be read through that lens, as experienced triathletes may have different takeaways.

The first annual North Shore Triathlon by Precision Multisport started and finished in Gillson Park in Wilmette on Sunday morning. The weather wasn’t particularly cooperative, with a steady rain falling for most of the morning, but the sold-out field of 700 participants (584 finishers) didn’t seem particularly fazed by it, setting up their transition stations between five and six-thirty in the morning using a combination of pale dawn light and event lighting. Transition space was ample with bike racks clearly labeled by wave group. Read the rest of this entry »

Race Review: Firefly Run (September 7, 2013)

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Firefly Run/Photo by Zach Freeman

Firefly Run/Photo by Zach Freeman

Breakdown:

“Who’s going to Bar Louie after this and getting wasted?!?” demanded the race announcer before the Firefly Run last night. Yes. It’s that kind of run.

With a planned tour through eighteen cities across the country (last night’s race in Chicago was number five), the Firefly Run has expanded quite a bit from last year (when Chicago was also on the agenda). With runners grouped into two available distances (a rather sparsely attended 10K and a much more popular 5K), Arvey Field was blinkingly lit up before and after the running events as participants wearing bright colors, flashing lights (including arm/leg bands that were passed out as part of registration) and colorful costumes celebrated their planned (and then achieved) runs. A dance group on a large stage helped with the celebration. Read the rest of this entry »

Race Review: Terrapin 5K and Music Festival (August 8, 2013)

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Terrapin5K

Pre-race Terrapin 5K/Photo: Zach Freeman

RECOMMENDED

Breakdown: Moving from pre-Lollapalooza to post-Lollapalooza may have brought down registrations a bit (from 3,543 last year to around 2,500 this year) but last night’s Terrapin 5K and Music Festival still felt like an appropriately large running event. The word “event” here is especially important to take note of, as the 5K is just the opening act to a whole night of festivities. But I guess if we’re being technical, the 5K isn’t even the opening act. By the time the race kicked off at 7pm, three bands had already performed on two separate stages. It’s definitely an event.

Pace groups were released a lot quicker than expected at the starting line along Waldron Drive, with a dual-release (A&B, C&D, etc.) speeding things up. The course, unchanged from last year, allows for plenty of runners without too much crowding, even when it converges on the open Lakefront Trail. But while the race is smoothly run and well-coordinated, it’s the post-race party that people really show up for. Read the rest of this entry »

Race Review: Les Turner Strike Out ALS 5K (July 10, 2012)

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RECOMMENDED RACE

Breakdown: Despite boasting the use of U.S. Cellular Field—made especially impressive since the end of the course involves runners going completely around the interior bottom level of the stadium and then circling the warning track inside the field—the Les Turner Strike Out ALS 5K (now in its third year) feels like the charity run that it is. With about 400 runners and a motivational speech from Les Turner Foundation patient KayLynn Van Driest thanking runners for their participation and letting them know that they are “running for every ALS patient who cannot run for themselves,” this race manages to walk/run the line between selling its unique Chicago sports-based location (a la Race to Wrigley) and being a straight charity event (a la C4 Miles). Having a post-race party in a mostly empty baseball stadium while watching the All-Star Game on the Jumbotron was an experience, but it’s still slightly disappointing that there was no food aside from what was available for purchase at the stadium concession stands. Read the rest of this entry »

Tale of the Whales: The Forgotten Story of Chicago’s Original North Side Ballclub

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Illustration: Zeke Danielson

By Eric Lutz

The Chicago Whales needed a win.

It was October 3, 1915, and the North Side squad was heading into the final game of the season in a dead-heat for first. They’d played 151 games, won eighty-five of them, and now everything hinged on the second game of a double-header against the Pittsburgh Rebels. Win it, and the Federal League pennant would be theirs. Lose it, and it’d go to Pittsburgh.

Joe Tinker, the Whales’ player-manager, was no stranger to important games. He’d played in a lot of them with the Chicago Cubs years earlier. But now he was in the twilight of his career, and he knew this could be his last real shot at another pennant, his last chance to reclaim glory.

They’d nearly done it earlier that afternoon, when they led the Rebels by three late in the first game. But an RBI single by Al Wickland, the former Whales centerfielder, sent the game to extras, where Pittsburgh would win off yet another Wickland crack. It would all come down to this. Read the rest of this entry »

Mud Thirsty: The Dirt on the Latest “Running” Craze

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Obstacle in the Warrior Dash

By Zach Freeman

At the starting line for a typical street (or trail) race, you may see a few characters (the guy with no shirt on, the barefoot runner, perhaps even someone with full body paint on if you’re at an especially big race), but at these mud races, they’re everywhere. Costumes are part of the race package. At the Warrior Dash in Channahon, Illinois, I see a pilot, a duo of police officers (complete with handcuffs and fake guns) and a lingerie-clad Victoria’s Secret angel (who happens to be a very large, hairy man). Even those not in costume tend to have some kind of theme going. Whether participants are a member of a team with matching outfits or have just taken an old shirt and written something on it, there’s an amount of showmanship that goes into preparing yourself for race day. Read the rest of this entry »

Smashing the Resistance: Billy Corgan is Back in a Whole New Arena

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By John Moss

Two young women showed up to the Excalibur nightclub one Friday evening in January. Each paid a $20 admission to the “#1 Mega Club & Party Castle” in Chicago, but neither had come to dance.

“Do you see him? Is he here?” the blonde asked her friend as they looked over the crowd. The sleek clubgoers who typically populate this River North spot on weekends had been replaced by a motley collection of characters: huddles of portly men in black t-shirts swigging LandShark beer, men in ballcaps and blue jeans with distracted but dutiful women at their sides—and pockets of women dressed in bygone nineties dress: cream T-shirts and ankle-length dresses, bangles and small, cross-body faux-suede purses.

The crowd had turned out for Resistance Pro’s second event, Rise. The Chicago-based professional wrestling promotion company had generated significant buzz beyond the modest niche press devoted to indie wrestling. There were articles on Forbes.com, The Hollywood Reporter and Bloomberg Businessweek, and Chicago’s iconic rock ’n’ roll station WXRT was chatting about them. The reason for this mainstream media attention? For drawing young women who wouldn’t know a Russian Leg Sweep from a Mongolian chop?

Resistance Pro’s creative director is Billy Corgan, frontman for the alt-rock band The Smashing Pumpkins. Read the rest of this entry »

Martial Arts, Victorian Style: Bartitsu at Forteza Fitness brings back the lost fighting art of Sherlock Holmes

Irving Park, Sports No Comments »

Photo: Forteza Fitness

By Kristen Micek

Forteza Fitness has an unassuming entrance set at the back of a small lot, but the recently opened center for physical fitness and traditional European martial arts is not something to be overlooked. The school, founded by Gregory Mele and Keith Jennings, has brought together various forms of unique martial arts to create a school that integrates history with physical training in everything from the use of swords to parasols and canes.

Tony Wolf, a martial arts instructor and fight choreographer for stage and film—he was Cultural Fighting Styles Designer for Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy—is currently teaching one of the newest additions to the Chicago martial arts scene: Bartitsu. Read the rest of this entry »

Ring Leaders: The unlikely odyssey of a boxer, his manager and the woman who promotes them

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Osumanu Adama and his trainer Joseph Owinongya at Joseph's Joliet Gym/Photo: Bill Hillmann

By Bill Hillmann

When middleweight boxer Osumanu Adama represented Ghana in the Sydney Olympics, he was overcome by the pressure of the event and lost his very first bout. Adama turned pro and became the International Boxing Organization African light-middleweight Champion. He then left Africa and fought in Europe before he made his way to Chicago. Here he fought Chicago’s unbeaten super-middleweight Donovan George in a bout televised on Showtime. In the best fight of the night, Adama lost the decision. He fell to 17-2, and was ranked sixty-eighth by the International Boxing Federation’s (IBF) World Ratings.

While in Chicago Adama met Joseph Awinongya, a Joliet-based retired pro boxer originally from Ghana. Awinongya became Adama’s new trainer. Hardnosed Awinongya trains few fighters because few fighters are willing to work as hard as he demands. Unlike most trainers, Awinongya does not operate on a round system, in which boxers take one-minute breaks in between three-minute rounds. Instead his fighters hit the bag, spar and punch-mitts for half-hour and hour-straight stints with no break.

When Adama first started training with Awinongya, the trainer wanted to see what the boxer was made of. He drove Adama from his gym in Joliet to Bolingbrook and dropped him off. Adama ran the twenty miles back to the gym and then started training. “I do it to break him down, but now after running that far he is still strong,” Awinongya says. So he came up with another challenge: He took Adama outside and made him push his mid-size van around a parking lot for a half-hour. Read the rest of this entry »