Street Smart Chicago

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

Lakeview, Sports No Comments »

“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

Logan Square, News etc., Sports No Comments »

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

Essays & Commentary, News etc., Sports No Comments »


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

City Life, Essays & Commentary, Sports No Comments »

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
Urban Daddy
Daily Candy
Wicker Park Chamber of Commerce
—Garin Pirnia

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

Sox Talk: One morning, at the bus stop…

City Life, Lakeview, Sports No Comments »

Between Waveland and Pine Grove Avenues the far east side of Lakeview hides no fact that Chicago is a baseball town. In the New York high-rise familiar faces associated with Wrigley Field such as Alan Trammell and Ronnie Cedeno frequent the convenient store inside the building’s lobby. And this year they’ve been smiling all season.

But even on the North Side there are Sox fans. And we all had a great reason to finally wear a smile on our faces today, the morning after the Sox won the American League Central division.

I’m on my way to the bus stop, still riled up since last evening’s victory. Ahead of me an older man in a flannel robe walks his dog—I have seen him dozens of times over the past years—and he has a big grin on his face and a black Sox cap on.

“Did you see that game last night?” I can’t help to ask.

“I sure did. I was there,” he says.

The 145 pulls up to the bus stop but we keep up the conversation—the amazing plays from the game, how Junior’s throw to AJ at home was a game-saver, how Thome’s bazooka-blast of a homerun was monumental, how having Brian Anderson in centerfield in the ninth inning made all the difference with his game-winning diving catch.

The conversation continues with more baseball: the North Side, the South Side, the game of yesterday and the game of today. We talk stats, numbers, big plays, the ‘05 Series. I realize I’m talking to a true Sox fan who knows baseball.

A few minutes pass—I can see another bus approaching. Before I leave I introduce myself.

“We’ve been neighbors for a while,” I tell him, “I’ve seen you dozens of times and it is finally nice to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you, too. I’m Minnie,” he says. “I’m Minnie Minoso.”

Then he holds out his hand for a shake, a hand that belongs to a man who has his own statue inside the Cell. (Anthony Regan)

Stretching in the Night: The after-hours yoga phenomenon

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Billing your event as a way to escape nightlife is not an often-used marketing ploy. And, it’s hard to imagine such a shtick being very successful.

Zach and Kerry Maiorca, the creators of Midnight Yoga and the owners of the Bloom Yoga Studio, are, however, finding success with such a selling point. Their late night yoga workshop, touted as an alternative to barhopping, has been going strong for four years now, consistently gathering twenty-to-thirty people to its once-monthly classes.

“I kept coming back after first trying the class because it was such a relaxing way to start a weekend,” shares regular Veena Iyer. Sarah Pikcilingis also likes its weekend-improving effects. “After trying it the first time, I went hiking the next day and didn’t feel sore at all,” she says.

But is escape from Chicago nightlife really what keeps these late-night lotuses blooming (yogi-cally speaking)? Probably not. “We went to a bar first and then came here,” revealed Pikcilingis about herself and Iyer after Friday night’s class. Michelle Lingle displayed similar disregard for the class’ selling point. “Yeah, this class is a good alternative to going to bars but I think I am going to the bar next door right now,” she says.

Could it be that a pre-gaming (or post-gaming) with yoga trend is the real source of Midnight Yoga’s success? Unfortunately, other workshop attendees contradicted such a revolutionary conclusion. Ian Bonso confesses, “I just come for the free cheese.” (Meaghan Strickland)

Good Vibrations: The Power Plate Institute gets your brain humming

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In a sleek modern storefront on West Armitage, Coldplay and The Wallflowers play softly as fitness enthusiasts of all ages and sizes vibrate slowly on machines designed for cosmonauts. The Power Plate Institute is the only facility of its kind in America. Six days a week, at half-hour intervals, the Institute offers training sessions on its four Power Plates, each of which resembles a kind of generalized exercise machine without the moving parts. Posters on the wall proclaim dramatically, “It’s not a miracle. What it does for you is.”

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Rollin’ Down to Cicero: Windy City Rollers prep for the playoffs

City Life, Sports No Comments »

Quick count: are there more stubbed-out cigarette butts outside Cicero Stadium, or more sleeve-tattoos inside?

The gymnasium, full up on plastic cups of beer and sausage-and-cheese slices, with stands packed from floor to ceiling, has reached an uncomfortable temperature. The Windy City Rollers season is nearing the playoffs—the undefeated Hell’s Belles are set to take on the reigning champions The Double Crossers, and in the first bout, The Fury fight the heavy underdog Manic Attackers. Elastica’s “Stutter” tumbles through the gym’s speakers. Then Metallica. Then Veruca Salt. It’s a mid-nineties meltdown until “Hey Ya” shakes the Polaroid. Read the rest of this entry »