Chicago’s new pastime: Cup Chasing

Today’s column from the Kankakee Daily Journal and The (Ottawa, Ill.) Times

Chicago’s new pastime: Cup Chasing


June 19, 2010

Some cups runneth over. Chicago’s, meanwhile, just runneth all around.

If I’ve learned nothing else while living in the “Win”-dy City during the 11 days since the Blackhawks captured the Stanley Cup, it’s this:

When it comes to fan adoration, Stan is most definitely the Man.

And I’m suffering from a bit of Cup envy.

According to the NHL, the Stanley Cup logged more than 400,000 miles of travel between 2003 and 2008. But, heck, I figure in the past week it covered at least that much ground in Chicago alone.

From the rooftop of The Wit hotel to the rubber at Wrigley Field to popular North Side bars such as Rockit, Stanley’s Kitchen & Tap and Tavern on Rush – really, pretty much any place with a liquor license – the Cup spent the week making like a sailor on shore leave.

It’s seemingly been everywhere.

And, yet, I seem to keep being everywhere else.

Last week, I attended Friday’s Blackhawks parade in the Loop, but had to depart before glimpsing the Cup so I could hop a train and make it up to Wrigley Field on time for the Cubs-White Sox game.

At the Friendly Confines, fans thought the Cup would show when the first pitch was delayed for 20 minutes and a pedestal was placed behind home plate. But, it turned out that was just for the silly BP Crosstown Cup, drawing more boos from the crowd than the Cubs themselves.

On Sunday night, the Cup finally did visit Wrigley, but I saw only the buses – and not Lord Stanley – outside the ballpark when the Blackhawks arrived.

After that game, the Cup was ordered away from Wrigleyville by the City of Chicago to temper any potential Cubs-Sox madness, and ever since I’ve been relegated to jealously following Stanley via friends’ photos and status updates on my Facebook page.

One friend saw the Cup Sunday afternoon lounging on a boat on Lake Michigan and then again that evening at Wrigley Field, compelling her to write, “I think that it may be following me. If it shows up at work tomorrow, I’ll be concerned.”

Another friend posed for photos beside the Cup at Joe’s on Weed Street, the bar where it headed – along with the entire Blackhawks roster – after fleeing Wrigleyville on Sunday night.

Others have snapped shots of themselves hoisting the Cup, kissing it or drinking any number of adult beverages from its lip.

But, perhaps I’ve just not been inventive enough to see Stanley. On Tuesday evening, one Wrigleyville rooftop building along Sheffield Avenue taped big red letters on its ground-floor window announcing the offer: “FREE BEER FOR HAWKS PLAYERS.”

That would seem to be one surefire way to lure the Cup.

Or, at least, Patrick Kane.

Cornhuskers 101: Classy is in session

One night early this week as I walked in to my Chicago gym, the vanity plate on a BMW parked outside it caught my eye. It read: “CHI TWN.”

On a Nebraska plate.

Just then, the car’s owner – a Chicagoan living in Omaha – walked up and told me, “When I applied for it, they asked me at the DMV, ‘What’s Shy Twin?’ I was like, oh, jeez.”

Well, with their beloved Cornhuskers joining the Big Ten Conference in 2011, Nebraskans will soon learn. And here in

Illinois, college football fans should study up on the University of Nebraska, too.

Once the Huskers begin Big Ten play, if you get the opportunity to roadtrip to Lincoln for a game – something I did for the season opener last fall – here’s my advice: take it.

Gameday at UNL (that’s what the locals call it) is an amazing experience, and it’s an easy drive west on I-80. There are scads of football traditions in Lincoln, and here are a few of my favorites:

Husker fans like their unique beverages. That includes the Elk Creek, an orange juice-flavored cocktail available at Sandy’s on O Street, and Red Beer, which is beer mixed with tomato juice … really.

At Illinois football games, fans chant “ILL-INI.” At Husker games, they chant “HUSKER-POWER.” And, in Lincoln, they don’t launch T-shirts into the stands, they launch hot dogs, using a funky contraption called “The Wienerschlinger.”

Also know that Nebraska’s defense is nicknamed “The Blackshirts,” the team begins each game by entering the field in a deafening ritual called “The Tunnel Walk” (YouTube it) and on gamedays Memorial Stadium (pop. 81,067) becomes the third largest “city” in the state, behind only Omaha and Lincoln itself.

Nebraska fans are also incredibly classy. After every game, those seated in the section near the visitors’ locker room applaud the opposing players as they exit the field.

No matter if the Huskers win or lose.

One Swell(ed) Conference

On the topic of conference expansion, if you thought a 16-school Pac-10 or Big Ten would have been a huge league, consider this: During the 1920s, the Southern Conference boasted a whopping 23 members – and countless scheduling nightmares.

In 1921, charter members were Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi State, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Tennessee, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Washington & Lee.

In 1922, Florida, LSU, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tulane and Vanderbilt joined up, and were later followed by Sewanee (1923), Virginia Military Institute (1924) and, finally, Duke (1929).

Dick Vitale was probably thrilled.

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