Street Smart Chicago

411: The Epic Struggle, Continued

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Photo: Axel Heimken, International Handball Federation

So you finally decided to get really into the World Cup, and that’s all you’ve watched, talked about and dreamed of for the last month and a half. But it’s over, and now you’re asking yourself: how can I feign, and then acquire, a deep passion for Euro-centric sports that take place in less-than-four-year cycles? Without resorting to cricket? Have no fear, handball is here. Literally. This Saturday, Poland and Germany, ranked fourth and fifth internationally, will play on neutral turf at the UIC Pavilion. Olympic handball is like basketball, but you don’t have to dribble and there’s a goal instead of a basket. More importantly, there’s no cap on the number of fouls—“faults”—a player can make each game, which are used strategically to stop the flow of the offense. Lauren Harrington, a spokesperson for USA Team Handball, says it’s going to be a close match, despite Poland losing their captain to an eye injury in a match versus Croatia last week. The “Battle of Chicago” match isn’t just for show, either—it takes place on the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Grunwald. Poland slammed Germany then, but this match is up for grabs. Go early for food, a beer garden, a club match and German and Polish music. July 17th at the UIC Pavilion. Doors open at 10:30am, match starts at 1:05pm. (Ella Christoph)

The World Cup Runneth Over: How to immerse yourself in the beautiful game from 9,000 miles away

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By Elias Cepeda

With millions of residents directly from, or descended from, and with at least sporting allegiance to, many different foreign countries, Chicago is a perfect city to get a taste of just how popular soccer is all around the globe come World Cup time. For the next month (June 11-July 11), South Africa hosts thirty-two countries’ teams vying for the title but with all the events going on in Chicago to celebrate the World Cup, you might think it was 1994—when the U.S. hosted and games took place in Chitown—all over again.

Splashy ‘n’ Big
There are more Mexicans in Chicago than in most Mexican cities, and our southern neighbors’ squad—nicknamed El Tri—takes on host-nation South Africa on the tournament’s first day. If you can get away from work downtown for a little bit, check out the full-day viewing party in Daley Plaza. There will be a giant screen to watch the action. It’s free and kid-friendly (see World Cup mascot photo ops). Mexico plays South Africa at 9am and France takes on Uruguay at 1:30pm. Read the rest of this entry »

Sabre Rattling: Getting the thrust of the action at the Midwest Fencing Academy

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Elton John’s “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” is playing faintly in the basement of the Polish National Alliance in Sauganash. It’s an odd song to accompany the action in the room. The ceiling is low and wrapped in wires and fluorescent lighting, and kids are running laps. When they finish running, they talk about “South Park,” about Facebook, about the time they spilled an adult’s wine glass in Marcel’s basement.

Coach returns. “Hey come on. Okay stretching. Starting footwork in two minutes. Why is nobody here?” Attendance is decidedly low on Cinco de Mayo at the Midwest Fencing Academy. Oh well. It gives Coach Hristo Etropolski more one-on-one time with his young fencers. Born in Bulgaria, Coach Hristo began fencing at 13 and now coaches sabre weapon fencing to boys and girls of all ages and skill levels. He’s sent fencers off to full fencing scholarships at Ivy League schools, and he will be taking competitors to the the U.S. Summer National Championships in Atlanta this July. Everything in fencing, Hristo says, “has to do with balance and control.” His coaching style too is one of balance and control: balancing work with fun for the young fencers and controlling each fencer’s progress with individual coaching attention he says are key tenets of his academy. Read the rest of this entry »

Potter’s Fields: The now-real sport of Quidditch thrives on campus

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Quidditch is a full-contact sport. Within fifteen seconds of the opening whistle at Loyola University’s championship match, an athlete had already landed face first in the dirt; at the semifinals the night before, one player had to be taken away in an ambulance. “It’s basically rugby with brooms,” says Bohrs Hoff, a Loyola senior and Quidditch fan. In J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” universe, in which wizarding Britain has the same relationship with Quidditch as Texas has with football, the brooms are for flying on. In this world, they serve as bristling phallic symbols of intimidation. For a made-up game based on a children’s fantasy series, Quidditch is surprisingly badass.

The championship match between the Yarbling Yetis and Team Voldemort marks the triumphant end of Loyola’s first Quidditch season. Though the group is not recognized by the university, enough students play to make up five teams, the biggest of which has sixteen players. They join dozens of other college groups who play a version of the sport adapted from the Potter books and movies. More than sixty spectators have gathered on this wet afternoon to watch the game, and the Yetis are heavily favored. Their cheering section makes a noise between a yodel and a gurgle, presumably the yarble. Read the rest of this entry »

Fantasy Idling: Spending real time in a virtual field of dreams

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His 1961 was the ultimate fantasy

Nearing the end of the live online fantasy baseball draft, it seems that Bartolo’s Colon—the team, not its namesake—will have to rely on steady pitching in order to remain competitive throughout the long, imaginary season. Its lineup is a questionable mix of old reliability hopefully poised for a quality twilight year and of young talents not yet maximized by the statistical parameters of this fantasy world. Julio Bourbon and Asdrubal Cabrera highlight the latter group, each 24 years old, and neither likely to shape the triumph or demise of Bartolo’s Colon in 2010. That burden will fall on the veteran presence in this team’s lineup. The importance of leadership qualities in a fantasy clubhouse is debatable, but Bartolo’s Colon will undoubtedly need Derek Lee, Mike Cameron and Vladimir Guerrero to each provide, at a very minimum, a .290/25/90 campaign. “You’re way too old,” Master Batters, a rival team, says of Bartolo’s Colon. Read the rest of this entry »

Fanatic Four: Drowning basketball sorrows in a Spartan fashion

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“I can’t believe they’re actually showing this,” exclaims a Michigan State fan perched at a table in the middle of the Lakeview bar The Tin Lizzie, as the obscenely hilarious sex scene from “Team America” distracts everyone from the grim reality soon to return to the television screen. Sporting a green Ghostbusters T-shirt and backwards Michigan State cap, his laughter gives way to tension when the bar’s TVs returns to the evening’s first Final Four contest. Surprisingly, the “hometown” Spartans—this is a decidely partisan bar—trail the underdog Butler Bulldogs 44-37 late in the second half. Nothing steals his eyes from the 32-inch flat screen mounted above a women’s bathroom until a shout of “Fuckin’ man up!” rips through the rigid atmosphere, evoking a shifty glance. After a critical Michigan State rebound with about thirty seconds remaining, a pessimistic outcry—”They’ve still got to make the shot”—is immediately trumped by MSU’s fight song erupting over the bar’s PA system and chants of “Go green!” echoing through the packed bar. Now nervously clutching his headgear, the Spartan fanatic braces for what will be his team’s last opportunity to pull out a win. When it falls short, he and other Tin Lizzie patrons look collectively shocked and perplexed. Obviously not the way they imagined starting off their Saturday nights, but at least he has a backup plan: “How about we not be able to remember this in the morning?!” (Darrel Sangster)

Food Fight: The girls of roller derby get in the spaghetti

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This is Exit, right? One of the bar-backs wears a Ben Sherman polo, and women wrestle on the TVs behind the bar. But there are also gin and tonics. Flannel. Middle-aged men in Bears pullovers flirting with the roller-derby girls selling raffle tickets near the door. The girls, sporting heavy makeup and Chicago Outfit t-shirts, point everyone up the stairs. Tonight, the Outfit host their second annual spaghetti-wrestling fundraiser, with part of the proceeds going to Action Against Hunger.

Upstairs, the feeling is a little bit more punk—at least it definitely smells more punk. Bodies are crammed together, anxiously looking around waiting for the action to start. In the middle of the crowd is an inflatable kiddy pool filled with a gross amount of shimmering spaghetti. The crowd is equal parts guys and women, but a few guys—in an oddly perverted way—are much more vocal in their urging on of the wrestlers. Around 11pm, someone interrupts the Dead Kennedys to say there are some technical difficulties, but that the wrestling will soon start. Rory, one of the louder and bigger attendees, is crammed against the side wall. He shouts, “I will be your technical difficulty if you don’t start the show!” Read the rest of this entry »

411: Bowling with Hipsters

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Anyone who’s been to Logan Square’s hipster destination The Whistler wouldn’t expect the bar to have a Super Bowl party. But not so fast! The countrified Golden Horse Ranch Band has a monthly residency at the venue and February 6, Super Bowl Sunday, just happens to fall on one of the group’s dates. The solution? Broadcast the game from the stage while the band performs, and when the Bowl concludes, auction off the television. “The residency fell on the same day as the Super Bowl, but what can we do?” Jennifer Boeder, assistant at The Whistler, says. “We’re broadcasting it on a five-inch piece-of-crap television, from the stage. They’ll play, and play the game from the stage, and talk about the game and give updates. If you actually do care, you can kind of keep score, and if you don’t care, it’s a good alternate activity.” Leave it to The Whistler crew to even make the Super Bowl some kind of art piece.

American Weekend: Chicago Bears, Chicago Bars

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Liars Club, Saturday night, frigid waves of gusty wind keep smokers indoors and the room itself relatively empty. A smattering of dancers shuffle to “Single Ladies” on the floor; something old, 1970s-tinted, is on the television mounted near the ceiling. The bar, dark as a cave as always, becomes paralyzed by new chills each time someone walks through the door, the unreal air having the advantage of surprise. DJ walks a tightrope between Jay-Z, Stones, Rick-fucking-Springfield. He wants to tell her that he loves her but the point is probably moot.

This is a weekend of moot points, as the NFL’s regular season comes to a close and only twelve teams advance to the postseason, the Chicago Bears not one of them. Last April, the Bears traded for Jay Cutler in what was easily one of the biggest and most ambitious deals the franchise ever made. Hopes soared to alarming levels: Would the team make the playoffs for the first time since its Super Bowl run in 2006? The Bears finished 7-9, the team’s worst record since 2004. For fans, disbelief turned to disappointment, which quickly deformed into distaste and resentment. This JC was no messiah, after all.

A familiar guitar note, a D chord. Tom Petty? “Well she was an American Girl…” Enthusiasts flood the floor and move and shake. The night united. An American song, an American bar, as American as cold beer and football. Even the losers get lucky some time. (Tom Lynch)

Newcity’s Top 5 of Everything 2008: City Life & Pop Culture

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Top 5 Ways the City of Chicago Plans to Beat Recession by Screwing Us
Finally shakes off Second City stigma with the highest sales tax of any major US city at 10.25 percent
Parking meter rates to jump 300 percent from $.25 to $1
CTA ridership sets record for 2008; fares to jump $.50/ride from $1.75-$2.25
Chicago Public Library to double late fees from $.10-$.20
Senate seat up for auction
—Robert Duffer

Top 5 Most Horrible Things Blago Did
Trying t o sell the Senate seat
Pulling funding from sick kids
Calling Obama a “motherfucker”
Sucking his wife into his schemes
Cursing a lot and thus reminding the world why America is so white trash
—Garin Pirnia

Top 5 Free Booze Events in 2008
Black Swan, Levi’s Loft
Belmont Burlesque, Angels and Kings
Thrillist Repeal Prohibition Party, Plan B
Cold Sweat, Subterranean
Lava Lounge, Tuesday Nights
—Garin Pirnia

Top 5 Local Event Newsletters
Myopenbar
Thrillist
Urban Daddy
Daily Candy
Wicker Park Chamber of Commerce
—Garin Pirnia

Top 5 Biggest Losses – Places
Virgin Records on Michigan Avenue
Redfish
Bennigan’s on South Water
La Pomme Rouge
PHLI
—Scoop Jackson

Top 5 Biggest Losses – People
Studs Terkel
Bernie Mac
Rod Blagojevich
Jay Mariotti
Michael Crichton
—Scoop Jackson

Top 5 Chicago Sports Surprises
Cubs to the world: “Please, for the love of God, stop believing in us.”
Rex Grossman playing much better with neckbeard, goofy mustache
Derrick Rose so good that the Bulls have upgraded to “mediocre”
White Sox refuse to consider hiring Steve Perry to ensure a playoff run
Blackhawks still in existence
—Andy Seifert