WBEZ | Sports http://www.wbez.org/news/sports Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en 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 World Cup stirs mixed feelings for Chicago’s Brazilian community http://www.wbez.org/news/world-cup-stirs-mixed-feelings-chicago%E2%80%99s-brazilian-community-110305 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/BRAZILIANS_140609.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago, a small crowd gathers under a white street festival tent to watch Chicago Samba. The eight piece group features musicians and two women dancing in large fruit covered Carmen Miranda inspired headdresses.</p><p>Mo Marchini is the group&rsquo;s founder. He says he&rsquo;d love to be in his hometown of Sao Paulo to watch the World Cup. But says he&rsquo;ll settle playing Brazilian music in Chicago. Marchini started the samba group 20 years ago because he wanted to showcase Brazilian culture.</p><p>&ldquo;We came from 30 years of a military (dictatorship) over there. We had a coup d&#39;etat in 1964 and it devastated the country culturally,&rdquo; says Marchini.</p><p>&ldquo;We were prohibited to think, pretty much. To vote. To do anything. We started voting 20 years ago. The country&rsquo;s really back. It has to catch up with the whole world.&rdquo;</p><p>That&rsquo;s why Marchini thinks Brazil hosting the month-long soccer tournament is going to be an amazing thing for his country. He says it&rsquo;ll show to the rest of the world that they&rsquo;ve arrived. &nbsp;</p><p>Sergio Barreto agrees. He &nbsp;runs Chicagoano, a bilingual blog and website for Chicago&rsquo;s Brazilian community. He started the website because he wanted to get past the stereotypical images people may have.</p><p>&ldquo;Every Brazilian event that you go, even if it&rsquo;s a professional event, will end the mulatas dancing,&rdquo; says Barreto. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re scantily clad and it perpetuates this image that we&rsquo;re shallow people.&rdquo;</p><p>Barreto thinks the mixed race women who dance the samba can&rsquo;t be the only image people have of Brazilians. Like Mo, he says there&rsquo;s been unrest accompanying the progress Brazilians have enjoyed.</p><p>Over the last year, police departments, teachers, homeless workers and indigenous tribes, among others, have rallied against the government for spending billions on the games. Barreto is upset the daily protests may skew opinion on his country.</p><p>&ldquo;If the whole world is watching and you&rsquo;re going to basically tell the world &lsquo;you don&rsquo;t want to come here. You don&rsquo;t want to invest here. This place is a mess. Take it from us, we live here.&rsquo; I mean how is that going to benefit the country in the long run?&rdquo;</p><p>This is the first time Brazil has hosted the World Cup since 1950. With five championships, Brazil has the most World Cup wins in the history of the games. As a country that&rsquo;s favored to win the tournament, Barreto&rsquo;s eyes well up as he explains what soccer means to him.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s an emotional topic for all of us. Not to sound like a cliche but soccer is in the blood,&rdquo; says Barreto. &ldquo;Every four years when the World Cup arrives and you&rsquo;re watching the games, it stirs you up inside.&rdquo;</p><p>College student Carolina Mendes says despite some mixed feelings, she&rsquo;ll watch the games. She&rsquo;s eating at the Brazilian Bowl restaurant in Lakeview. There, you&rsquo;ll find traditional items like feijoada, coxinha and maracuja juice. Brazilian groceries are on shelves stacked floor to ceiling. The game&rsquo;s armadillo mascot, a little Fuleco doll, sits on a cash register. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;The World Cup is for all the world. Not for Brazilian people,&rdquo; says Mendes. &ldquo;They cannot afford these tickets. People think it&rsquo;s a good thing for Brazil. It&rsquo;s not. We need to spend money on other things.&rdquo;</p><p>How Brazil will do in the World Cup is a huge test for the country as it prepares to host another international event: the Olympic games in 2016.</p><p><em>Follow WBEZ Host/Producer Yolanda Perdomo on Twitter </em><em><a href="https://twitter.com/yolandanews">@yolandanews</a><u>&nbsp;</u></em><em>&amp; <a href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/106564114685277342468/posts/p/pub">Google+</a></em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 09 Jun 2014 10:07:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/world-cup-stirs-mixed-feelings-chicago%E2%80%99s-brazilian-community-110305 Open tryouts and 'indie ball blues' in Indiana http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/open-tryouts-and-indie-ball-blues-indiana-110216 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/bball.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>On a cold, gray morning in Gary, Ind., about 40 baseball hopefuls sat in the Gary Railcats&rsquo; home dugout, looking up at Manager Greg Tagert.</p><p>It was a bleak day, and Tagert&rsquo;s speech to them was equally bleak.</p><p>The men in the dugout had plunked down $40 for a chance to try out for the &lsquo;Cats - an independent-league team that is about as low on the hierarchy as you can get and still be considered pro ball.</p><p>The players trying out were minor-league washouts trying to hold on, or college stars looking for their big break.</p><p>Tagert told them that only a handful of them would make the cut today - five or less. And even those lucky few couldn&rsquo;t count on making the roster.</p><p>Whether or not you&rsquo;re a fan - baseball means American summer as much as barbecues, fireworks and the beach.</p><p>But for the men in that dugout it means something more -- it&rsquo;s an obsession, a dream job.</p><p>WBEZ spent the day at the open tryouts for the Gary Railcats.</p><p>The Railcats were last season&rsquo;s American Association champions - but the team&rsquo;s players are still looking for a way to move up.</p><p>Even though the small-time, Single A Durham Bulls--remember the movie Bull Durham?-- would be a dream come true for many of them, they are all really good at baseball.</p><p>Just about all the guys who tried out starred on their high school baseball teams. They&rsquo;re not good enough for the big leagues, but they are still way better than you.</p><p>The team&rsquo;s home opener is at 7 Thursday evening against the Wichita Wingnuts.&nbsp; They&rsquo;ll be playing at the U.S. Steel Yard in Gary.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Video producer<a href="https://vimeo.com/jscott1908"> John Scott</a> is a filmmaker who lives and works in Chicago.</em></p><p><em>Patrick Smith is a WBEZ Producer and Reporter. Follow him on twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/pksmid" target="_blank">@pksmid</a>.</em></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/150617705&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Wed, 21 May 2014 14:50:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/open-tryouts-and-indie-ball-blues-indiana-110216 Luol Deng reflects on 10 years with the Bulls and upcoming free agency http://www.wbez.org/news/luol-deng-reflects-10-years-bulls-and-upcoming-free-agency-110016 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP705998648470.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The Chicago Bulls traded Luol Deng in the middle of the night: There&rsquo;s been no closure, no time for Deng or fans to reflect on his 10 years in Chicago. The veteran forward&rsquo;s been in Cleveland since early January, learning to play in a different system--and in a different role--with the Cavaliers.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>When WBEZ sports contributor Cheryl Raye Stout saw the Cavs would be playing the Bucks on Friday, she decided to head to Milwaukee to see how Deng is doing. She first asked him if he was surprised by the trade.</p><p>&ldquo;I wasn&rsquo;t surprised,&rdquo; he began. &ldquo;No, no,&rdquo; Deng clarified, &ldquo;I should say I was surprised but I expected it...I was hoping to be wrong but, I think I was expecting it.&rdquo;</p><p>Deng said it was extremely difficult to leave all the familiarities of Chicago for something completely new. He said it was one of the hardest things he&rsquo;s ever had to do because he&rsquo;s never really had to make that type of transition. He played four years of high school ball, played with all the same guys in the same club growing up in London. He stayed in touch with Coach Mike Krzyzewski, even after leaving Duke University after his freshman year. But for the 10 years that followed--for 82 games a year--he lived and breathed Chicago Bulls basketball.</p><p>Now, at almost 29-years-old, he&rsquo;s learning to take on a new and different leadership role in Cleveland.</p><p>&ldquo;In Chicago,&rdquo; Deng said, &ldquo;it got to a point where I was so comfortable with everything. I just did me.&rdquo;</p><p>And, while he doesn&rsquo;t expect everyone to believe him, Deng said he&rsquo;s grateful for the challenge.</p><p>&ldquo;Through my whole life, nothing has ever come easy. I&rsquo;ve always had a hard road before I do something great, and I&rsquo;m thankful for it,&rdquo; Deng explained.</p><p>Raye Stout asked Deng what he missed most about being a Chicago Bull. He said he misses his teammates and the coaching staff more than anything.</p><p>&ldquo;I felt like I knew them as well as I&rsquo;ve known myself. I knew how to get everyone going, I knew how to make things easy, how to stay positive...that comfort zone. I didn&rsquo;t really see those guys as teammates. Those guys were really my friends.&rdquo;</p><p>Deng said he will probably stay friends with most of them for the rest of his life. In fact, he&rsquo;s joked with some of the guys still on the team that he plans to sit courtside in Chicago during the upcoming playoffs. But, he doesn&rsquo;t want the TV or attention coming his way--he doesn&rsquo;t want to mess up the flow. And he doesn&rsquo;t want any fans to yell, &ldquo;You should be here,&rdquo; or something like that. He&rsquo;d just love to be there to support his former teammates because he knows their struggle and the focus and effort required during a playoff push.</p><p>And Deng said he&rsquo;s not surprised the Bulls--or All-Star center Joakim Noah--are having a successful season. He said Noah&rsquo;s newfound leadership position is deserved and necessary.</p><p>&ldquo;When you play hard all the time, it becomes who you are,&rdquo; Deng explained.</p><p>Deng will become a free agent at the end of the season. He said he knows it will be a tough decision, but he knows what he wants and has learned a great deal from this experience.</p><p>&ldquo;When I&rsquo;m not happy with things, I know how hard I work to change that,&rdquo; Deng said with a slight grin. &ldquo;Also, I&rsquo;m a competitor. I always take things, and I want things to be my way.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Katie O&rsquo;Brien is WBEZ producer and reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/katieobez">@katieobez</a> and WBEZ sports contributor <a href="https://twitter.com/Crayestout">@crayestout</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 11 Apr 2014 19:57:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/luol-deng-reflects-10-years-bulls-and-upcoming-free-agency-110016