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Review Tue Mar 10 2015

Review: Before the Ivy: The Cubs' Golden Age in Pre-Wrigley Chicago

BeforeTheIvy.jpgThe Cubs ownership had been battling with the neighborhood over a noise ordinance during its ballgames over the past few seasons. At one point matters became so heated the team owner threatened to move his team elsewhere.

Around the same time, renovations to the stadium were being finished off, which would update the old gem to a more state-of-the-art facility that would rival any other ballpark in the league. Of course, money would be an issue, which, ultimately, caused the team to break up its veteran squad in favor of rebuilding a winner from the ground-up.

Sound familiar? It should if you've been paying attention to the Northsiders over the last handful of seasons. But it turns out this kind of thing had been happening over a century ago -- well before stepping foot onto Wrigley Field -- to a team once defined by a dominant pitching staff and a string of world championships.

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Jim Crago

Review Fri Jan 09 2015

Review: 73-0! Bears Over Redskins: The NFL's Greatest Massacre

BearsBook.jpgIt was 28 days before Virginia Halas's 18th birthday, and her father, Bears owner and head coach George Halas, was about to lead his team onto the frigid field of Griffith Stadium in the nation's capital to battle Washington for the league title. The country was at a tipping point and about a year away from entering another World War, while the economic decline of the previous 10 years that crippled so many families was slowly beginning to reverse.

The world was a little different back then, but with the exception of leather helmets and god knows what other flimsy protective equipment was available on the gridiron 75 years ago, the game of football still remains the same today: 11 men on each side of the ball, trying to cross the pigskin across the goal line for six points, all within the span of 60 minutes. That and a little trash talking.

The Bears were 8-3 and already had three world titles under their belt from 1921, 1932 and 1933. Washington was 9-2 and previously had beaten the Bears earlier in the regular season by the final of 7-3. Redskins owner George Preston Marshall made the mistake of running his mouth after the game, calling Halas's crew a bunch of whiners and crybabies. What happened next is captured perfectly in Lew Freedman's new book, 73-0! Bears Over Redskins: The NFL's Greatest Massacre.

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Jim Crago

Bears Wed Sep 03 2014

Review: We Are the Bears!: The Oral History of the Chicago Bears

WeAreTheBears.jpg Everyone has a Bears story -- everyone. It doesn't matter which generation you're from or how far away you've previously lived before moving here to take that improv class. Odds are, you have a Bears story.

It's also likely you've read a book or two about the Bears somewhere down the line, written by someone who also shares the same memories you have about our beloved Monsters of the Midway. Certainly a lot has been said of this iconic franchise by those who have witnessed the highs and lows from the press box, but not often do we read the accounts from the men themselves. We Are the Bears!: The Oral History of the Chicago Bears offers just that.

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Jim Crago

Bears Wed Nov 13 2013

Review: 100 Things Bears Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die

100-Things-Bears-Fans-Should-Know-Do-Before-They-Die-Paperback-P9781600784125.jpg Ask any Bears fan within a 50-mile radius of the 312 area code to expound upon their favorite memory he or she has about the Monsters of the Midway, and chances are they'll mention any one of the 100 items listed in Kent McDill's new book, "100 Things Bears Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die."

It's all in there, listed numerically in the contents section, seemingly ranked from most significant (#1. Papa Bear) to least (#100. Punters) and everything in between that everyone already should know, but, heck, should take the time to re-read and swell with emotion like a plumped-up brat sizzling away at a tailgate.

McDill, who covered the Bears from 1999 to 2007 for the Daily Herald, brings on Bears' radio play-by-play commentator Jeff Joniak to write the Foreword and mentions that the passion some 4.6 million Chicagoans feel for this team is a "generational bond, handed down from one decade to the next." To dig a little deeper into the psyche of the team-and-fanbase cohesive bond, the makeup of the Bears throughout the years embodies the hardworking, blue-collar approach that mirrors the day-in, day-out "Grabowskis" in the stands or at home watching and cheering along. We all are "Superfans" and this book is our reference point.

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Jim Crago

Bears Tue Oct 08 2013

Rereading Duerson eBook On Eve Of PBS Documentary

Duerson: Triumph, Trauma and Tragedy in the NFL The National Football League has become such a massive, multi-billion dollar marketing freight train over the last decade that none of the other stateside major sports come close. According to CNNMoney, the league is tops in revenue, tipping the scale at a modest $9.5 billion last year, all while showcasing household names like Cutler, Suh and Brady.

It's the sport mom never wanted you to play, worried that her little man would get dinged in the ear hole on a sweep to the right, all while trying to make the cut by making a name for himself. If you took a hard hit and lumbered toward the sideline, you were asked to "shake off the cobwebs" and to get back in the game.

As time went by and science began to catch up with the sport, many surrounding the game discovered that merely shaking off the cobwebs wasn't a cure that could be defined by the New England Journal of Medicine, and instead meant something was very, very wrong with the athlete who suddenly didn't know where he was. Tragically, some of those athletes never recovered after multiple blows to the head and ended up hurting themselves and the ones they loved. Dave Duerson was one of those former athletes.

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Jim Crago

Football Fri Sep 06 2013

Where to Watch the Fighting Illini this Season

illini.jpgI love the Illini and I bleed orange and blue. I'm a 3rd generation U of I graduate, and this has left me with the unfortunate fate of cheering on a less than stellar football team, but nonetheless, I stay with 'em. There are a multitude of Illinois grads in this city, but for some reason, it feels as there are more Michigan and Florida bars than Illini ones (cough, cough..bandwagon...cough). If you share my fate of being an Illini fan, since our team won't be headed to the Rose Bowl or probably even a winning season, you'll at least need to know the bar options where you can watch in frustration or misery with cheap drinks (but have hope!). Here's my list of Illini bar options:

Joe's on Weed, 940 W. Weed St.,

Joe's is where the Chicago Illini Club used to host their game watches. After doing some research, it seems as though the official game watches may be abandoned (also, way to be supportive, Chicago Illini Club). I give Joe's an official "eh" in my ratings. The service is so-so, the food isn't that great, but the beer is cheap. They feature $8 Coors Light pitchers on Saturdays, which isn't the worst. There are tons of huge screens, so the view of watching the game is pretty snazzy. You do have to share your space with the rest of the NCAA fans, and hope that the Illini are featured on the sound. Upon further investigation, it seems as though Joe's has turned into an Indiana bar this year, a team that may be even more pathetic than we are.

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Melinda McIntire

Baseball Thu Aug 08 2013

Review: From Black Sox to Three-peats: A Century of Chicago's Best Sports-writing from the Tribune, Sun-Times, and Other Newspapers

SportsBook.jpg The Chicago sports landscape is a vast space, reaching as far as the Quad Cities to Nashville, with legions of fans who stick with their teams through thick and thin. And much like that landscape in the middle of February, it is often dark and cold for what seems like an eternity, with no hope in sight. But once every so often, a beam of light shines through, melting away the ice and once again restoring hope for athletics in the Second City.

With so much drama and so many teams in the country's third-largest market, it became necessary for news outlets to canvas the city's north, south and west sides with sports writers, just as they crammed the courts and morgues with beat writers as early as they dawn of the newspaper.

Not much has changed from the mid-1800s, outside of how we receive our news, and in Ron Rapoport's newest book, From Black Sox to Three-peats: A Century of Chicago's Best Sports-writing from the Tribune, Sun-Times, and Other Newspapers, he allows the reader to take a trip back in time when sports gambling ruled outcomes of games, Babe Ruth was sticking it to the Wrigley faithful and Michael Jordan holding us all in the palm of his hand.

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Jim Crago

Review Tue Feb 12 2013

Review: Duerson: Triumph, Trauma and Tragedy in the NFL

Duerson: Triumph, Trauma and Tragedy in the NFLSuper Bowl XLVII capped off another multi-billion dollar year for the National Football League, in which commissioner Roger Goodell dealt not only with record ratings, but also the sixth former or current player taking his own life in the last two years.

The most recent incident involved Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher, who not only committed suicide in front of his coach and general manager back in December, but also shot and killed his girlfriend before doing so.

Fans question how athletes, who seem to have it all (fame, fortune, success), would want to end it all with a bullet. The same question was asked about former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson, after he fatally shot himself in the chest back on Feb. 17, 2011, leaving behind his family, business, friends and legions of fans asking, "Why?"

A new e-book about Duerson's life, Duerson: Triumph, Trauma and Tragedy in the NFL, as told through articles from the Chicago Tribune, examines the two-time Super Bowl champion's career as a football player (Bears, New York Giants and Arizona Cardinals), his passion to compete, his business life, the troubles he ran into, and his unfortunate suicide.

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Jim Crago / Comments (1)

College Teams Wed Jul 28 2010

Big Ten Bars: Illinois


It's time to get ready for football season. But, rather than rattle off a long list of predictions based on third-string defensive linemen and what the offensive coordinator has been eating for lunch this summer, we decided to provide fans with some information you can actually use.

For the next five weeks we will be highlighting some of the best places in Chicago to watch your favorite Big Ten team do battle if you can't make it to the stadium. We start with the Fightin' Illini and Durkin's Tavern.

Durkin's, located at 810 W. Diversey, is just an option-pitch away from the Brown and Purples lines. Formerly a haven for Purdue fans, the bar shifted its allegiance to Illinois simply because that's what the customers wanted. General manager Joe Magoonaugh said he isn't sure why Illini fans started flocking to the bar, but the majority of the bar's staff members are now U of I alums as well.

Joe Magoonaugh.jpg

Durkin's is equipped with enough flat screens to watch every Big Ten game, but priority goes to Illinois as long as they are playing. Magoonaugh said the bar generally fills to capacity to take advantage of the all-you-can-drink deal for $20 during the game. Bartenders also give away t-shirts and have fully-loaded confetti cannons for the rare occasion when the Illini scratch out a victory.

Some other hot spots for Illinois fans to celebrate, or down their sorrows, are the School Yard, 3258 N. Southport, and Rebel Bar & Grill, 3462 N. Clark. If we missed any of your favorite U of I watering holes, let us know.

Dan Murphy / Comments (1)

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