WBEZ | Sports http://www.wbez.org/news/sports Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Gentrification and Jackie Robinson West Little League: Was the playing field ever even? http://www.wbez.org/news/sports/gentrification-and-jackie-robinson-west-little-league-was-playing-field-ever-even-111564 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/jackierobinsonwest1_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>It was the feel good story of last summer. Thousands of Chicagoans tuned in--and turned out--for the boys of Jackie Robinson West.</p><p>&quot;It&rsquo;s the thing that we actually needed this summer with all of the different violence...to really bring people together to show what we can do,&quot; Chicago Ald. Latasha Thomas (17th) said.</p><p>Many other politicians showed support--Mayor Rahm Emanuel organized watch parties, rallies and parades during the team&#39;s August run.</p><p>When the champions returned home and paraded the streets of Chicago, Maria Hamilton, 83, stood at the corner of 79th and Halsted Streets. She wasn&#39;t a baseball fan, but said it was exciting and she felt proud watching the local kids play on the national stage.</p><p>&quot;They smiled, they never pout or say nothing...they go right ahead and do the best they can in the game. And I really think they&rsquo;re going to go places,&quot; Hamilton gleamed.</p><p><br />The whole city was electrified; giddy even.<br /><br />But, amidst the excitement, there were signs that something was off, in some cases literal signs.</p><p>Like the one the mayor of south suburban Lynwood put outside village hall to celebrate the village&rsquo;s &quot;own&quot; Jackie Robinson West player. Or the congratulatory posts on social media from Illinois House Rep. Robin Kelly, calling out two players from South Holland and another from Dolton, all outside the city limits.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br /><br />When WBEZ asked Nedra Jones, the mother of the team&rsquo;s home-run hitter, Pierce, how much of her time was occupied by baseball, she said, &quot;A hour there, two-and-a-half-hour practice, an hour back, three or four times a week.&quot;<br /><br />The signs were eclipsed by the city&rsquo;s newest and brightest stars.<br /><br />The Little League World Series games shattered ESPN ratings records. The kids were all over TV, newspapers, social media, even the White House.<br /><br />Dave Zirin, sports editor at The Nation magazine, said it felt all too familiar.<br /><br />&quot;It feels just so typical--the ways in which the media built up this group of young kids for the all the obstacles they confronted and then now is taking a seeming glee in tearing them down,&quot; Zirin said.<br /><br />He says gentrification is the real scandal in this story.<br /><br />&quot;The amount obstacles of obstacles and hoops that Jackie Robinson West had to go through just to field a team is something that Little League Inc. never took into account--it&rsquo;s the most unequal of possible playing fields,&quot; Zirin explained.<br /><br />He believes baseball has become a casualty of urban gentrification. And that there&rsquo;s a reason leagues look for players outside their boundaries.<br /><br />&quot;Little league is such a suburban operation,&quot; Zirin began. &quot;And the boundaries in the suburbs, by necessity, don&rsquo;t only mean a greater number of kids who play baseball--but a greater number of fields, a greater number of community centers, a greater amount of infrastructure than cities could possibly hope to compete with.&quot;<br /><br />There are twice as many baseball fields in Evergreen Park as there are in Roseland.<br /><br />There may as well be no parks in the far South Side neighborhood, according to longtime Roseland resident James Brown.</p><p>&quot;We&rsquo;re out there in Roseland--if I&rsquo;m not mistaken there&rsquo;s six parks. And you could ride past those parks on any given day and they&rsquo;re not being utilized,&quot; Brown said.<br /><br />The high school football coach spent last summer in the car with his son Semaj, 12, taking him and friends to and from baseball.<br /><br />&quot;I gotta take my son all the way to Englewood to play in a program that&rsquo;s nice...that&rsquo;s sad,&quot; a visibly upset Brown shared.<br /><br />There is a league in Roseland, but Brown said there&#39;s no coach.<br /><br />Little League International has more than 6,500 teams participating in 90 countries around the world. The U.S. is broken down into regions and districts. There are six leagues in District 4, which covers the Southeast Side of Chicago, all the way down to near Calumet.<br /><br />Before the start of the 2014 season, Little League International changed residency rules to allow little leaguers to play where their school was located. The goal, they said, was to &quot;ease the burden on parents and guardians.&quot;<br /><br />But where a kid lives and where they go to school can be quite different in Chicago.<br /><br />It gets more complicated, Brown&rsquo;s sister, Victoria Harper Peeples explained, when neighborhood violence and resources are taken into account.<br /><br />&quot;We (are) stressed out just trying to make sure, &lsquo;did I put them in the right school, did I let &lsquo;em hang with the right friends, did I put him on the right baseball team?&rsquo; There&rsquo;s just so many things that we have to do as parents, and we always put on the spotlight.&quot;<br /><br />Harper Peeples put her two boys on the Englewood team too. She still felt angst, even right after the boys won their championship game last summer.<br /><br />&quot;I mean, it&rsquo;s no chance that mom or dad could make a mistake. It&rsquo;s like, we almost have to be perfect individuals, at least in the sight of our children,&quot; she explained.<br /><br />Civil rights activist Rev. Jesse Jackson held a pair of news conferences in as many days, calling the league&#39;s decision &ldquo;inappropriate.&rdquo; He invoked the legacy of Muhammad Ali, who had his heavyweight title stripped when he refused to enlist.</p><p>&quot;Champions don&#39;t belong on the ground,&quot; Jackson began, &quot;and so, they stand up.&quot;<br /><br />He encouraged the players and parents to stand up and fight. Ousted JRW president Bill Haley hired high-profile attorney Victor Henderson, who said there are no plans for a lawsuit at the moment. Henderson will also represent the players, and said no one should question their integrity.<br /><br />&quot;It may to pass that &#39;i&#39;s were not dotted and &#39;t&#39;s were not crossed and if that happens, then we&rsquo;ll cross that bridge when we get to it...but we&rsquo;re not there right now,&quot; Henderson told reporters on Thursday.<br /><br />Henderson said he intends to investigate the league&rsquo;s decision to strip the team of its title. He said that on the baseball field, and in life, it&#39;s important that the same rules apply to everyone.<br /><br />&quot;Whether it&rsquo;s Ferguson County, Missouri or whether it&rsquo;s Eric Garner in Staten Island or whether it&rsquo;s Jackie Robinson in Chicago...there should just be one set of rules,&quot; Henderson began. &quot;We don&rsquo;t want one set of rules for a team for Chicago and another set of rules for a team in Evergreen Park. We don&rsquo;t want one set of rules for the police and another set of rules for young black men&hellip;&quot;<br /><br />In light of the involvement of attorneys, Little League International said it is not commenting on the decision, except to say they&rsquo;re standing by it.</p><p><em>Katie O&rsquo;Brien is a WBEZ reporter and producer. Follow her<a href="http://twitter.com/katieobez"> @katieobez</a></em></p></p> Sun, 15 Feb 2015 12:23:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/sports/gentrification-and-jackie-robinson-west-little-league-was-playing-field-ever-even-111564 Jackie Robinson West stripped of Little League title http://www.wbez.org/news/jackie-robinson-west-stripped-little-league-title-111534 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/jackierobinsonwest1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Little League International has stripped Jackie Robinson West of the national title that the Chicago team won last summer after an investigation revealed it had falsified boundaries to field ineligible players.</p><p>t was a stunning Wednesday announcement that came months after the all-black team, whose ages ranged from 11 to 13 years, captured the attention of the country and the hearts of its hometown.</p><p>The baseball organization said it also found that after the league had changed the boundaries some team officials went to surrounding leagues to convince them to go along with what they&#39;d done.</p><p>&quot;This is a heartbreaking decision,&quot; Stephen D. Keener, the Little League International president and CEO, said in a statement.</p><p>&quot;As painful as it is, we feel it is a necessary decision to maintain the integrity of the Little League program,&rdquo; Keener said. &ldquo;No team can be allowed to attempt to strengthen its team by putting players on their roster that live outside their boundaries.&quot;</p><p>The team has been suspended from Little League tournament privileges until new leadership is found. The team&#39;s manager, Darold Butler, is also suspended, and an administrator from the district that includes Jackie Robinson West has been removed from his position, according to the statement.</p><p>The journey of the team riveted the city, all the way to its loss in the World Championship game to South Korea, and when it was over, thousands of people lined Chicago&#39;s streets to catch a glimpse of the boys as they were paraded by bus from their South Side baseball field to a downtown park.</p><p>There were countless heartwarming stories about the team, including an effort by major league players to contribute money so the parents in the blue collar community could attend the World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and another about Cubs players huddled around a television watching the team during a rain delay at Wrigley Field.</p><p>The team was treated to a trip to the major league World Series and to the White House to meet President Barack Obama and the first lady, Michelle Obama.</p><p>In October, the organization launched an investigation when a coach from the nearby suburb of Evergreen Park alleged that Jackie Robinson West had violated rules by poaching top suburban players.</p><p>The story, which was first reported by DNAinfo.com, appeared to end in December when the national organization said it had uncovered no violations. But the organization said it would reopen the investigation if new information surfaced. About that same time, the organization learned of questions about boundary maps involving multiple leagues, and the investigation resumed.</p><p>&quot;Little League International...learned that Jackie Robinson West Little League knowingly expanded its boundaries to include territory that belonged to other leagues in the district without the approval from the other leagues or the Little League International Charter Committee&quot; and used the &quot;falsified boundary map for their 2014 tournament,&quot; the organization said.</p><p>League officials did not immediately return calls for comment. Throughout the investigation, the team has maintained that no cheating occurred.</p><p>Local civil rights leaders rallied around the team and their parents, all stunned by the decision. A news conference was called Wednesday afternoon at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition on the city&rsquo;s South Side.</p><p>St. Sabina&rsquo;s Fr. Michael Pfleger questioned whether the same type of investigation would have occurred if the team in question were &ldquo;from another place, another race.&rdquo;</p><p>Pfleger said he hears constantly hearing about pulling the race card.</p><p>&ldquo;Why is it keep being put back in the deck, is what I want to know? This is reality; you&rsquo;re telling me that the same kind of obsession, of stalking going over this for months would&rsquo;ve been going on if the Las Vegas [team] had won?&rdquo; Pfleger asked.</p><p>Venisa Green, mother of catcher Brandon, said she first heard the news on the radio as she was driving her son to school.</p><p>&ldquo;No one even reached out and called for a parent meeting to let us know that this was taking place or that this was even on the table,&rdquo; Green said.</p><p>She and her husband are both city employees. She said they work very hard to keep their son safe and out of trouble--a difficult task, she says, in Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;What would you rather happen Little League: For them to be killed on the streets of Chicago?&rdquo; Green asked.</p><p>She said she--and the boys--had no idea or dealings on any boundaries or borders. She says all the parents want their kids in the college pipeline--and not the prison pipeline.<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Rev. Jackson said the league&rsquo;s decision calls the parents&rsquo; character into question.</p><p>&ldquo;Implied is the parents knowingly defrauded the league. And that the children won based on fraud, not on ability,&rdquo; Jackson said.</p><p>Jackson is planning to host a reaffirmation of the team&rsquo;s championship on Saturday.</p><p><em>The Associated Press and Katie O&rsquo;Brien contributed to his report. O&#39;Brien is a WBEZ reporter and producer. Follow her<a href="http://twitter.com/katieobez"> @katieobez</a></em></p></p> Wed, 11 Feb 2015 07:43:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/jackie-robinson-west-stripped-little-league-title-111534 Unmasking Ernie Banks http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/unmasking-ernie-banks-111480 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/ernie.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>For baseball fans, the sound of Jack Brickhouse calling Ernie Banks&rsquo; 498th, 499th and most especially, the Chicago Cub&rsquo;s 500th home run is, euphoria. The week after Banks died at the age of 83, fans, fellow ballplayers and the media talked endlessly about his talent&mdash;and charisma.</p><p>&ldquo;He liked being out in the public, it was important to him, people would recognize him. And if they didn&rsquo;t recognize him right away they might because of the Cub jacket and Cub hat he always wore,&rdquo; sports writer Ron Rapoport said.</p><p>Rapoport first got to know Banks when he was a sports columnist for the <em>Chicago Sun-Times</em>. But says he didn&rsquo;t get to know the man until later in life, when both men were living in California.</p><p>&ldquo;He was wearing a mask. It was a good mask and he liked wearing it...but the mask wasn&rsquo;t the man,&rdquo; Rapoport said.&nbsp;</p><p>Rapoport said the man was thoughtful, reflective and complicated...and almost eloquent.</p><p>He used to clock how long it took Banks to remove the mask when they were out in public; said he averaged about 20 minutes.</p><p>Banks&rsquo; swing was natural, fluid, zen-like. But his public persona required coaching from the start.</p><p>&ldquo;Ernie&rsquo;s first important baseball job was with&nbsp; the Kansas City Monarchs of the old Negro Leagues where Buck O&rsquo;Neil was the manager. And O&#39;Neill used to tell him which restaurants to go to...not to be caught &ldquo;reckless eyeballing white women,&rdquo; Rapoport explained.</p><p>Banks eventually found his way with the Monarchs&mdash;then, Jackie Robinson happened. A few years later, when the Chicago Cubs chose to integrate, they went for Banks; but Banks didn&rsquo;t want to go.</p><p>&ldquo;I just felt comfortable playing in the Negro Leagues. I didn&#39;t know what to do or what to say; it was a learning process in learning how to get along...with white players,&rdquo; Banks told WBEZ in 2010.</p><p>Banks learned to say little to his teammates in the big leagues and, instead, made friends in the little leagues. During the offseason, teams would invite him to throw out the first pitch and meet the kids, but when he got there&hellip;.</p><p>&ldquo;They would look at me, they would start talking ...&rsquo;Oh, I thought he was white, he&rsquo;s black.&rsquo; Because of my name, they...they didn&rsquo;t know,&rdquo; Banks laughed.</p><p>Banks won back-to-back MVP titles and hit 512 home runs, but there were those who wished he&rsquo;d done more for race relations.</p><p>Former longtime WBEZ host Richard Steele shared that the subject frequently comes up at the Coleman Brothers Barber Shop on 62nd and Stony Island, a neighborhood gathering place. One of the brothers, James, is actually an old Army buddy of Banks--and as you might imagine, he&rsquo;s a fierce defender of his old friend.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s a senior barber in there, Tommy, who&rsquo;s my barber, who knows how to get a rise out of Mr. Coleman. All you had to do is say something about Ernie Banks and Tommy would say, &ldquo;I hate to say it, he&rsquo;s kind of an Uncle Tom.&rsquo;&rdquo; Coleman would be furious and (14) he would say, &lsquo;Stop saying that! The man is a great baseball player, a great wonderful human being...I knew him in the Army...&rsquo;&rdquo; Steele recalled.</p><p>Banks became a household name around the same time as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But many said Banks didn&rsquo;t fight to get the salary the best player on the team deserved. His max salary was $65,000, while some of the white players he took on in home run derbies were making $100,000.</p><p>Lots of people thought Ernie&rsquo;s silence kept other black players from earning a fair wage. But he wasn&rsquo;t comfortable fighting for it--it wasn&rsquo;t his nature.</p><p>Nowadays, athletes&rsquo; paychecks are bigger--but so is the pressure to do and say more. Longtime WBEZ sports contributor Cheryl Raye Stout says that&rsquo;s unfair.</p><p>&ldquo;To say because you dribble a ball or you hit a ball or you dunk a ball that you&rsquo;re supposed to be a spokesperson is difficult. You can only do that if you feel comfortable in doing it,&rdquo; said Raye-Stout.</p><p>Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose has never been much of a public speaker. But when a kid from Englewood becomes the star of his hometown team--he&rsquo;s expected to put an end to the violence he&rsquo;s witnessed.</p><p>Last December, Rose made his biggest social statement yet--without speaking. He wore a t-shirt bearing the phrase, &ldquo;I Can&rsquo;t Breath&rdquo; during a pre-game warmup. The phrase refers to Eric Garner&rsquo;s last words. The New York man died after a police officer placed him in a chokehold while arresting him for selling loose cigarettes. The demonstration drew mixed reactions--but Rose was glad people paid attention.</p><p>&ldquo;My biggest concern is the kids, I know what they&rsquo;re thinking right now, I was one of them kids. When you live in an area like that and you don&rsquo;t got any hope and police are treating you any way---I&rsquo;m not saying all our police (officers) are treating kids bad but, when you live in an area like that it gives you another reason to be bad,&rdquo; Rose said.</p><p>There will never be a shortage of people telling professional athletes what to do. And that&rsquo;s the real reason, Banks said, &ldquo;let&rsquo;s play two&hellip;&rdquo; He didn&rsquo;t want to leave the field.</p><p>&ldquo;When you&rsquo;re playing baseball, on that field, it&rsquo;s like your whole life, it&rsquo;s your world and you don&rsquo;t want to leave it. It was such a joy to be there, to be able to make decisions on your own: when to swing, when not to swing; when to run, when not to run. I felt this is the only place in the world where I could make my own decisions,&rdquo; Banks said.</p><p>I asked Rapoport if Banks didn&rsquo;t like what was under the mask--he said that wasn&rsquo;t the case at all.</p><p>&ldquo;He&rsquo;d want people to remember the mask, that&rsquo;s what he would want people to remember about him. And that&rsquo;s fair; he&rsquo;s earned the right to be remembered the way he wants to be, I think,&rdquo; Rapoport explained.</p><p>When WBEZ spoke with Banks back in 2010, Landmarks Illinois had just named the Hall of Famer a Legendary Landmark. Asked if he had any regrets, Banks explained he often searched his footsteps for them--but delighted in life&rsquo;s ups and downs. And then, ever the entertainer, he broke out into his friend Frank Sinatra&rsquo;s classic, &ldquo;My Way.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Katie O&rsquo;Brien is a WBEZ reporter and producer. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/katieobez" target="_blank">@katieobez</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 30 Jan 2015 12:18:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/unmasking-ernie-banks-111480 Chicago Cubs legend Ernie Banks, 1st black player in team history, dies http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-cubs-legend-ernie-banks-1st-black-player-team-history-dies-111451 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/banks_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Baseball&#39;s Chicago Cubs report that Hall of Fame shortstop Ernie Banks has died. &quot;Mr. Cub,&quot; who began his career in the Negro leagues, was the first black player for the team &mdash; eighth in the majors overall &mdash; and played in 14 All-Star games in his 19 seasons, all with the Cubs.</p><p>&quot;Forty-four years after his retirement, Banks holds franchise records for hits, intentional walks and sacrifice flies and in RBIs since 1900,&quot; <a href="http://m.cubs.mlb.com/news/article/107316594/beloved-mr-cub-hall-of-famer-banks-dies-at-83" target="_blank">MLB.com reports</a>. &quot;He likely holds club records for smiles and handshakes as well. ... His 2,528 games are the most by anyone who never participated in postseason play. Chicago never held him responsible for that and believed he deserved better.&quot;</p><p>Banks, who was 83, was named National League MVP in 1958 and 1959, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.</p><p>His back-to-back MVP awards were among the few given to players on losing teams, notes The <em>Associated Press</em>:</p><div><blockquote><p>&quot;Banks&#39; best season came in 1958, when he hit .313 with 47 homers and 129 RBIs. Though the Cubs went 72-82 and finished sixth in the National League, Banks edged Willie Mays and Hank Aaron for his first MVP award. He was the first player from a losing team to win the NL MVP.</p><p>&quot;Banks won the MVP again in 1959, becoming the first NL player to win it in consecutive years, even though the Cubs had another dismal year. Banks batted .304 with 45 homers and a league-leading 143 RBIs.&quot;</p></blockquote><p>The <em>Chicago Tribune</em> <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/baseball/cubs/ct-sullivan-ernie-banks-spt-0124-20150123-story.html" target="_blank">describes the outlook of Banks, who also was known as &quot;Mr. Sunshine&quot;</a>:</p><blockquote><p>&quot;Ernie Banks didn&#39;t invent day baseball or help build Wrigley Field. He just made the idea of playing a baseball game under the sun at the corner of Clark and Addison streets sound like a day in paradise, win or lose. ... He was a player who promoted the game like he was part of the marketing department. Not because he had to, but because he truly loved the Cubs and the game itself.&quot;</p></blockquote></div><p>&mdash; <em><a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2015/01/24/379510352/chicago-cubs-legend-ernie-banks-1st-black-player-in-team-history-dies">via NPR</a></em></p></p> Sat, 24 Jan 2015 09:44:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-cubs-legend-ernie-banks-1st-black-player-team-history-dies-111451 Are you ready for some football, in Northwest Indiana? http://www.wbez.org/news/are-you-ready-some-football-northwest-indiana-111377 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/NWI Football.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The Chicago Bears may have hired a general manager, but they&rsquo;re still looking for a new coach to turn things around. Since the team failed to make the postseason &mdash; again &mdash; Bears fans have to get their playoff fix elsewhere.</p><p>But what if there was another team to root for...in the Chicago market?</p><p>Indiana state Rep. Earl Harris (D-East Chicago) plans to introduce a bill in the Indiana General Assembly to lure a new NFL team to Northwest Indiana to spark development.</p><p>Call it Harris&rsquo; version of fantasy football.</p><p>&ldquo;I want to talk about it. I want to create enthusiasm. I want to get some of the people that I call shakers and movers involved in it and we&rsquo;ll see where it goes,&rdquo; Harris said. &ldquo;The idea of having three football teams, I think it would work. I think it would be an economic boon especially in Northwest Indiana.&rdquo;</p><p>Northwest Indiana resident Tom Byelick says even though he&rsquo;s a Bears fan, he could root for another team that plays in his backyard.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s a great idea,&rdquo; Byelick said at Rodney&rsquo;s Sports Bar in Highland, Indiana. &ldquo;Look at it this way, at least 70,000 people coming in here six or eight weekends out of the year bringing in a lot of money, buying tickets and souvenirs and drinks things like that. I don&rsquo;t think there&rsquo;s any way to lose.&rdquo;</p><p>As it turns out, this wouldn&rsquo;t be Northwest Indiana&rsquo;s first football team.</p><p>Nearly a century ago, the Hammond Pros played for six seasons during the early days of the NFL.</p><p>Coach Fritz Pollard would later become the first black coach in the NFL. And future Bears owner George Halas was originally a wide receiver for the Pros, whose &ldquo;home&rdquo; games were played at Wrigley Field.</p><p>But before you get too excited, here&rsquo;s where fantasy meets reality.</p><p>&ldquo;Never say never but there&rsquo;s almost no chance there&rsquo;s an NFL team relocating to northern Indiana,&rdquo; said Daniel Kaplan, a writer for the Sports Business Journal. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s no way [the Bears] would stand for a team there. And secondly, the NFL doesn&rsquo;t have any interest in relocating there.&rdquo;</p><p>Of course, 20 years ago it was the Bears who considered relocating to Northwest Indiana.&nbsp;</p><p>The team flirted with the idea of building a new stadium in Gary as a way to get Chicago to renovate Soldier Field. The proposed stadium was called Planet Park &mdash; and featured a futuristic, space-ship-looking design.</p><p>Sound familiar?</p><p>Speros Batistatos, head of the South Shore Convention &amp; Visitors Authority, says Northwest Indiana needs to give visitors more reasons to pull off the expressways.</p><p>&ldquo;If we&rsquo;re going to compete in the global marketplace, we&rsquo;ve got to start spending some money creating venues that people are going to want to go to,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think it should be limited to just the chase of an NFL team.&rdquo;</p><p>Tom Byelick believes an NFL team is worth chasing, but first residents have to believe in themselves.</p><p>&ldquo;Northwest Indiana in particular got some what of an inferiority complex,&quot; Byelick said. &quot;We&rsquo;re that part of the state that Indiana doesn&rsquo;t really want and Chicago doesn&rsquo;t really claim us either. We have a tendency to kind of downplay our own virtues. I mean why not aim high?&rdquo;</p><p>Especially after a season that had Bears fans feeling so low.</p></p> Fri, 09 Jan 2015 15:57:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/are-you-ready-some-football-northwest-indiana-111377 Bears fire GM Phil Emery, coach Marc Trestman http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/bears-fire-gm-phil-emery-coach-marc-trestman-111301 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/14732463489_37a7948514_z.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>LAKE FOREST, Ill. &mdash;&nbsp;The Chicago Bears fired general manager Phil Emery and coach Marc Trestman on Monday, making sweeping changes after missing the playoffs for the seventh time in eight years.</p><p>Trestman is out after going 13-19 in two seasons while Emery lasted just three years. The Bears went 5-11 in a mostly miserable season, never challenging for the NFC North lead after the first few weeks as quarterback Jay Cutler and the rest of the offense struggled mightily.</p><p>&quot;This job was an opportunity of a lifetime. My only regret is that we didn&#39;t win enough games for that opportunity to continue,&quot; Emery said in a brief session with reporters.</p><p>He also thanked the organization and borrowed a lyric from singer Carrie Newcomer, saying, &quot;We stand breathless on the clean edge of change. It&#39;s time to change and move forward.&quot;</p><p>Emery did not take questions from reporters.</p><p>Trestman, in a statement issued through the team, thanked the team-owning McCaskey family for the opportunity to coach the Bears.</p><p>&quot;I also want to thank all the coaches and players who gave us everything we asked over the past two years,&quot; he said. &quot;I have tremendous respect for this organization.&quot;</p><p>The new GM and coach could have a big decision to make with quarterback Jay Cutler. He tied Philip Rivers for the league lead with 18 interceptions after signing a huge, seven-year contract at the end of last season.</p><p>The house cleaning was certainly not what the Bears envisioned with a prolific offense returning intact and a rebuilt defense in tow. But little went right for Chicago this season.</p><p>There were distractions throughout the year, whether it was linebacker Lance Briggs being allowed to miss practice to open a restaurant in California the week of the opener or offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer admitting he was the NFL Network&#39;s source behind a critical report of Cutler late in the season.</p><p>Trestman, who was hired to get the most out of Cutler, benched the highly paid quarterback in favor of Jimmy Clausen for the second-to-last game of the season against Detroit. Cutler wound up starting the final game after Clausen suffered a concussion against the Lions, adding another chapter to a season-long soap opera.</p><p>Trestman also surprised some by allowing star receiver Brandon Marshall to fly to New York on a weekly basis to record Showtime&#39;s &quot;Inside the NFL.&quot; Marshall, who is open about his struggles with borderline personality disorder, had an off year and at one point gave a rambling news conference over past allegations of domestic abuse. He also challenged a Detroit fan on Twitter to a boxing match for charity, and reporters standing in the hallway overheard him screaming in the locker room after a loss to Miami at Soldier Field in October that raised all sorts of questions about where the team was headed.</p><p>The answers came right after that.</p><p>The Bears joined the 1923 Rochester Jeffersons as the only teams to give up 50 or more points in back-to-back games while dropping the next two at New England and Green Bay. Trestman&#39;s meek response after defensive end Lamarr Houston suffered a season-ending knee injury celebrating a late sack against the Patriots &mdash; &quot;I&#39;m disappointed for Lamarr,&quot; he said twice &mdash; only fueled doubts about his leadership.</p><p>In recent weeks, it was clear changes were coming. The question was how far up the ladder they would go.</p><p>&quot;At the end of the day, we didn&#39;t get the job done,&quot; tight end Martellus Bennett said. &quot;It&#39;s not just coaches. It&#39;s everybody. We didn&#39;t have a successful year as players. So the coaches didn&#39;t have a successful year. I think everybody has their hand in the pot. And the gumbo doesn&#39;t taste that great when everybody&#39;s hand is in the pot.&quot;</p><p>Emery, who replaced the fired Jerry Angelo, was hired with a mandate to work with former coach Lovie Smith for at least one season. He fired Smith after the Bears missed the playoffs despite a 10-6 record in 2012, ending a nine-year run that produced three playoff appearances and a trip to the Super Bowl.</p><p>Since, then, the team has been in decline.</p><p>Trestman led the CFL&#39;s Montreal Alouettes to two championships in five years but had never been a head coach in the NFL and at times seemed overmatched by the job. Along with the distractions, the offense took a huge step back: Chicago went from second in scoring to 23rd this year despite having all its starters back.</p><p>Giving Cutler a big contract after last season when the franchise player tag was an option is looking like another mistake. Emery did have success rebuilding the offensive line before the 2013 season, drafting Kyle Long and bringing in Jermon Bushrod and Matt Slauson.</p><p>But the makeover he gave the defense last offseason did not pay off. Chicago continued to rank among the league&#39;s worst in that area under Mel Tucker, with Jared Allen struggling and fellow newcomer Houston getting injured on that ill-advised sack celebration. Only the Saints and Falcons gave up more yards per game than the Bears.</p><p>Just like his predecessor, Emery also had a spotty draft record, with some hits such as Long and Alshon Jeffery and a big miss in Shea McClellin.</p><p>&quot;Something has to change,&quot; veteran cornerback Tim Jennings said. &quot;I&#39;m not surprised by it. I mean, hopefully it will be a good one this time.&quot;</p></p> Mon, 29 Dec 2014 13:07:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/bears-fire-gm-phil-emery-coach-marc-trestman-111301 U.S. Soccer fans look toward the future of the sport http://www.wbez.org/news/us-soccer-fans-look-toward-future-sport-110351 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/USA1_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In Chicago&rsquo;s Logan Square neighborhood, a group of twenty-somethings is playing soccer on artificial turf made slippery by a gentle falling rain. &nbsp;It&rsquo;s just after 9 p.m. as the group takes a break and talks about the U.S. team. The conversation isn&rsquo;t about who&rsquo;s in the starting lineup. It&rsquo;s more about who&rsquo;s not on this year&rsquo;s U.S. World Cup team: star forward Landon Donovan.</p><p>The future of U.S. soccer is a popular talking point. Nine of the roster&rsquo;s 23 players are 25 or younger. Everyone&rsquo;s eyes are on the team&rsquo;s coach, former German striker Jurgen Klinsmann. Depending on how the U.S. performs, he&rsquo;ll either be criticized for cutting the most popular U.S. soccer star or hailed for a genius move.</p><p>At Small Bar on Division, U.S. fans gathered to watch their team play Azerbaijan in a friendly pre World Cup game. Here&rsquo;s where you&rsquo;ll find the Chicago chapter of the American Outlaws. It&rsquo;s</p><p>the biggest booster club for the U.S team, boasting 18,000 members around the country. Super fan Kevin Harris is disappointed Donovan won&rsquo;t be on the team, but says that move won&rsquo;t be a big part of the Klinsmann&rsquo;s legacy.</p><p>&ldquo;He was brought in to help with the youth program, academies, things like that,&rdquo; says Harris. &ldquo;So we have this funnel of young players that are coming in that can then take over and join a squad.&rdquo;</p><p>Major League Baseball has the minors to get new talent. The NFL and NBA get young prospects from colleges. That kind of set up doesn&rsquo;t exist for soccer. Klinsmann wants to develop a system to build &nbsp;stronger learning centers, so-called academies, to improve soccer training.</p><p>Ultimately, Klinsmann wants to create an academy system to create the next team for the World Cup.</p><p>A few would-be soccer stars gather under the hot sun at Toyota Park to watch the Chicago Fire practice. The group of 10 and 11 year olds traveled from New Orleans. They&rsquo;re part of the Fire&rsquo;s youth development league. The Fire has 10 clubs in 7 states. This team, the Louisiana Fire, is not only watching how the MLS players do their thing. The kids are getting a workout of their own, getting drilled by academy coaches. After a sweaty scrimmage, the boy surround Fire players like Victor Pineda.</p><p>&ldquo;I can relate. I still have signed balls and shirts at home,&rdquo; says Pineda as he signs autographs for kids who turn quiet and shy around the Fire player. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s awesome. Something you&rsquo;ll remember forever.&rdquo;</p><p>Pineda is from Chicago and he&rsquo;s one of the Fire&rsquo;s homegrown academy players. &nbsp;He&rsquo;s a 21 year old midfielder with the Fire, but he hasn&rsquo;t seen much playing time yet. Years ago, he tried out for the under 17 World Cup but was cut from the final squad.</p><p>&ldquo;When you don&#39;t&rsquo; make a team like that I think it makes you work harder and want it even more,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>With players his age in the World Cup, reaching the pinnacle of the sport, Pineda says being with the Fire is great because he gets to live out the same dreams kids from Louisiana, Chicago &nbsp;and around the globe hope to experience one day.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve been playing since I was five. So I don&rsquo;t have a reason to give up now. So I think I just want to keep working.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Follow WBEZ Host/Producer Yolanda Perdomo on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/yolandanews">@yolandanews</a><u>&nbsp;and</u>&nbsp;<a href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/106564114685277342468/posts/p/pub">Google+</a></em></p><p style="margin-left:.5in;">&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 16 Jun 2014 11:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/us-soccer-fans-look-toward-future-sport-110351 Chicago’s German community welcomes World Cup watchers http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago%E2%80%99s-german-community-welcomes-world-cup-watchers-110336 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/GERMANY5-horiz.jpg" style="height: 373px; width: 280px; float: left; margin: 5px;" title="Dank Haus member Erwin Lickmann stands by the cultural center’s prized painting of Kaiser Wilhelm I, Germany’s first leader (WBEZ/Yolanda Perdomo)" />At Lincoln Park&rsquo;s Dank Haus, Erwin Lickmann &nbsp;and I slowly walk into a crimson walled room. He whispers as he shows me a giant 19th century portrait of Germany&rsquo;s first leader, Kaiser Wilhelm I. Lickman is dressed in pea green lederhosen and he tells me the Dank is more than a refuge for older Germans who want to engage in their culture</p><p>&ldquo;The Dank Haus is a community of serving people,&rdquo; he says &ldquo;Sports brings people together. And they can have a beer afterwards and be happy, you know. Builds friendships!&rdquo;</p><p>The Dank Haus was founded in 1959 as a haven for Germans, a place where they could celebrate their heritage and their culture. Next week, it&rsquo;ll welcome hundreds who&rsquo;ll pack the place to watch the World Cup. On this day, around two dozen senior citizens listen to Dank member Sara Hartig read a German poem. Many of them, like Gerhard Grieff, came after World War II.</p><p>&ldquo;I emigrated from Germany in 1952 because Germany after the war was bad,&rdquo; says Greiff. &ldquo;Living over there, we didn&rsquo;t have much of a future there when I was young. So I came over here and stayed here.&rdquo;</p><p>It wasn&rsquo;t easy here either, being German in America after the war. That made places like the Dank Haus all the more important for German Americans. &nbsp;Over the years the community assimilated. Sarah Hartig has been with the Dank for decades and wonders about its future. None of her six children are involved in the cultural center.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s going to be more American. English is spoken at all the meetings,&rdquo; says Hartig. &ldquo;When we started everything was spoken in German. We&rsquo;re getting older, young people came in and they started speaking English.&rdquo;</p><p>I asked how she felt about that. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m going along&rdquo; she sighs.</p><p>Today, German traditions are alive and well, celebrated by Germans and non-Germans alike. There are two main festivals in Chicago each year: Oktoberfest in the fall and Maifest in late spring. This year in addition to the traditional German songs and suds, talk at the festival turned to the World Cup.</p><p>Anna Liese and Rafael Vasquez have a bit of a problem as the games approach. She&rsquo;s German and he&rsquo;s Mexican. Anna Liese was raised with a strong sense of German pride. She&rsquo;s dressed in a dirndl costume, speaks German and Spanish. She met her husband more than 40 years ago in Mexico.</p><p>&ldquo;Of course my father was a little upset. But after many years, he was at peace with it,&rdquo; Liese says.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/GERMANY2.jpg" style="height: 210px; width: 280px; float: left; border-width: 0px; border-style: solid; margin: 5px;" title="Ana Leise and Rafael Vasquez have a laugh at Maifest in Lincoln Square, May 30. (WBEZ/Yolanda Perdomo)" />Her husband Rafael, dressed in lederhosen, passes around shots of apfelkorn better known as apple schnapps.</p><p>&ldquo;She cooks Mexican food. She liked soccer, she drinks beer. What else could I want?,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;I won the lottery!&rdquo;</p><p>Vasquez says you don&rsquo;t have to belong to one nationality to enjoy what another one can bring. But he&rsquo;s not planning to root for Germany in the World Cup. He&rsquo;s supporting his home country.</p><p>&ldquo;Oh my god, you&rsquo;re putting me on the spot.&rdquo; says Vasquez &ldquo; Mexico. Hopefully they will make it to the semifinals. I want to say there&rsquo;s a 10 percent chance they will make it past the quarterfinals.&rdquo;</p><p>If Mexico doesn&rsquo;t make it, he may want to latch himself to his wife&rsquo;s team, Germany, which is favored to go much farther in the tournament.</p><p><em>Follow WBEZ Host/Producer Yolanda Perdomo on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/yolandanews">@yolandanews</a><u>&nbsp;</u>and <a href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/106564114685277342468/posts/p/pub">Google+</a></em></p></p> Thu, 12 Jun 2014 14:08:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago%E2%80%99s-german-community-welcomes-world-cup-watchers-110336 Some Mexicans in Chicago not sure about their team's World Cup chances http://www.wbez.org/news/some-mexicans-chicago-not-sure-about-their-teams-world-cup-chances-110319 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Mexico1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Soccer is tough. But those who play it, love it. At a soccer field in Pilsen, a few dozen teens from Cristo Rey High School are sweating it out during a muggy practice session. The artificial turf also doubles as a baseball field.</p><p>The teens switch squads and talk about European soccer during gatorade breaks. I ask four Mexican American teenagers who they&rsquo;re rooting for during the World Cup.</p><p>&ldquo;Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Argentina,&rdquo; the high schoolers say. These are second generation Mexicans who think the national team is on the losing end of the World Cup stick. 14-year-old Analysette Peña predicts Brazil. With an asterisk.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m from Mexico so would I like to see them win? But we gotta face it,&rdquo; says Peña. &ldquo;There are other teams that put more effort than them and try not to make mistakes. So I&rsquo;m going to root for the ones that actually deserve to win.&rdquo;</p><p>These kids are not alone. Earlier this month at Soldier Field, the team showed why it may not make it far in the World Cup. Mexico disappointed its fans again, losing to Bosnia 1-0.</p><p>Herrasamo Sanchez is from Kenosha, Wisconsin. Like the other tens of thousands of Mexican fans at the game, he&rsquo;s cheering for Mexico, but loyal to a certain point.</p><p>&ldquo;Obviously I&rsquo;m going to support my nation. But Brazil is going to take the World Cup,&quot; says Sanchez. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re going to win it.&rdquo;</p><p>Mexico&rsquo;s lackluster performance is being blamed on everything from multiple coaching changes in recent months to the loss of star midfielder Luis Montes Jimenez to an injury. Mexico&rsquo;s poor play is impacting fans and sports vendors in the Chicago area.</p><p>In Melrose Park, the store La Cancha sport is preparing to close for the night. The co-owner says they&rsquo;ve only sold only one Mexican national jersey all day. Jose Martinez came from Hammond, Indiana, to get shirts for a neighborhood league. Looking down as he speaks, he makes no attempt to hide his disappointment. Both as a Mexican national and as a businessman who lost money trying to sell Mexican shirts at the Soldier Field game.</p><p>&ldquo;When they do well, people buy. When they don&rsquo;t play well, they don&rsquo;t sell,&quot; says Martinez. &ldquo;Of course it hurts. They should be playing better.&rdquo;</p><p>That&rsquo;s when Carolina Reyes interrupts him. She drove from DuPage County to buy little league uniforms.</p><p>&ldquo;When the team is losing, everyone&rsquo;s a critic. But when they&rsquo;re winning, everyone loves them,&rdquo; says Reyes. &quot;Win or lose, I&rsquo;m Mexican and I&rsquo;m rooting for Mexico!&rdquo;</p><p>That&rsquo;s when Martinez looks up and confesses: He plans to root for Mexico.</p><p><em>Follow WBEZ Host/Producer Yolanda Perdomo on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/yolandanews">@yolandanews</a>&nbsp;and <a href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/106564114685277342468/posts/p/pub">Google+</a></em></p></p> Wed, 11 Jun 2014 09:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/some-mexicans-chicago-not-sure-about-their-teams-world-cup-chances-110319 Chicago's Nigerians watch World Cup with optimism and resolve http://www.wbez.org/news/chicagos-nigerians-watch-world-cup-optimism-and-resolve-110311 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/NIGERIA2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Immigrant communities throughout Chicago are excited about seeing the World Cup. Thirty-two nations will compete to win the ultimate soccer championship. Nigeria is one of three African countries that qualified for the World Cup.</p><p>Nigerians in Chicago are looking forward to seeing their team, but some are concerned over an unresolved conflict in their homeland. WBEZ&rsquo;s Yolanda Perdomo talked with several Nigerians in Chicago about soccer and the crisis affecting a group of schoolgirls kidnapped in April.</p><p><em>Follow WBEZ Host/Producer Yolanda Perdomo on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/yolandanews">@yolandanews</a>&nbsp;and <a href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/106564114685277342468/posts/p/pub">Google+</a></em></p></p> Tue, 10 Jun 2014 09:39:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicagos-nigerians-watch-world-cup-optimism-and-resolve-110311