Street Smart Chicago

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

News etc., Running, Sports 1 Comment »


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

News etc., Running, Sports 1 Comment »

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, 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 »

One Goal: The Chicago Red Stars aim to capitalize on U.S. Women’s World Cup success

Lisle, Sports No Comments »

“If Americans don’t fall in love with soccer after this, well, maybe they never will,” said Jim Litke, the sports columnist for the Associated Press, after the US women’s soccer team defeated Brazil in a dramatic comeback in the quarterfinal of the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup earlier this month. (They lost the final in a hard-fought nail biter.) The fact is, women’s soccer is a transient phenomenon for most sports fans in the United States. Every four years a squad of twenty-one of America’s best players give it their all, excite the crowds and typically walk away having performed very well. They’ve never finished the tournament in less than third place in its twenty-year history and on two occasions, the team walked away champions. Unlike their male counterparts, who have to play third fiddle to superior play in Europe and Latin America, women in America are arguably the best at soccer in the world. Yet a short time after the tournament ends, the women fade back into obscurity for the next four years as the American fair-weather love affair with soccer continues. But now a newish professional team aims to turn this occasional flirtation into a long-term commitment for Chicago fans. Read the rest of this entry »

Wrigley Field’s Summer of Love: Welcome to the best pickup venue in sports

Lakeview, Love & Sex, Sports No Comments »

By Scoop Jackson

It’s Year 103 of the Drought and by the initial look of things, nothing’s changed. It’s cold, raining, damp, wind blowing… perfect baseball weather for opening day on the North Side. Baseball’s “other” worst team has come to visit, but the place is still packed.

Like Carnival off the Lake.

For the fairweathered, non-diehard, quasi-apathetic Cubs fan, this is simply the best time of the year. It’s when Wrigley Field turns into the Playboy Mansion East. When some of the most beautiful women this side of South America­—or LA, depending on who’s asking and who’s telling the stories—migrate to one place for the next five months, treating the national pastime like Fast Times at Cooley High.

When everyone gets to enjoy Wrigley Field for the “second best” thing it is known for: Welcome to the best pickup venue in sports. Period.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Boys of Sliotar: They make you want to hurl

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As he explains the ancient Gaelic sport of hurling, Colm Egan spits on his hands, rubbing them over the leather-covered cork ball, the size of a baseball, called a sliotar. Behind him, a few men in brightly colored jerseys unwrap long metal poles to set up as end posts on opposite sides of the field, setting down bags of full-coverage helmets and wooden bats with flat paddles at the end.

“It’s an honest game,” he says, explaining that the only thing that keeps players from truly hurting each other in the fast-paced sport, which involves heavy wooden bats called hurleys and no protective padding, is the players’ honor. “There’s not a lot of rules.”

Each Sunday until May 8, Chicago’s Gaelic Athletic Association (G.A.A.) will be holding informal hurling games for all skill levels, hoping to recruit more Chicagoans to the game before the league’s season starts up on May 15. They’ll provide the equipment, the team and, of course, the instruction.

Egan, 42, first picked up a hurley as a 5-year-old in County Tipperary, Ireland, where hurling is the national sport and the local G.A.A. forms the basis of almost all social activity. Last year’s entirely amateur national championships in Ireland attracted 84,000 spectators. Read the rest of this entry »

Ski for Yourself: Whipping winter on its own terms

City Life, Green, Sports No Comments »

Although Chicago is a superior city in most respects, I suspect that Minneapolis, a much colder, snowier town, is actually a place where more people enjoy the winter. This is because residents of the Twin Cities, with their strong Scandinavian heritage, know how to embrace the season, donning cheerful woolen clothing and diving into cold-weather fun like sledding, skating and snowball fights, followed by large quantities of glögg.

Here in the Windy City, most people dress in black and view winter as something to survive, not celebrate. They see it as a series of hassles and indignities: freezing el platforms, slushy sidewalks, salt-choked air and parking spots selfishly reserved with old furniture.

Not me. I’ve got a two-pronged strategy to make the most out of cold weather. The first is indoor coziness and/or winter denial: gastropubs, rock clubs and hot tubs; Hala Kahiki and the Garfield Park Conservatory. As I type this, I’m sitting in the ninth-floor winter garden of the Harold Washington Library, surrounded by leafy trees and ivy-covered walls. Read the rest of this entry »