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Monday, February 12, 2018

Looking back on the 1963 Loyola Ramblers, who changed NCAA basketball forever

Posted By on 02.12.18 at 09:00 AM

The Ramblers played all-white Mississippi State in the NCAA semifinals—but only after the Bulldogs sneaked out of Mississippi in defiance of the governor and a court order to make the game. - PHOTO COURTESY MISSISSIPPI STATE UNIVERSITY ARCHIVE, MISSISSIPPI STATE UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES
  • The Ramblers played all-white Mississippi State in the NCAA semifinals—but only after the Bulldogs sneaked out of Mississippi in defiance of the governor and a court order to make the game.

The Reader's archive is vast and varied, going back to 1971. Every day in Archive Dive, we'll dig through and bring up some finds.

It's likely most college basketball fans already know this, but everybody else should know that the Loyola Ramblers are having a hell of a year. They're currently dominating the Missouri Valley League with a 11-3 record in-conference, and 21-5 overall, including a December victory over number five-ranked Florida, and seem poised for their first trip to the NCAA tournament since 1985.

Which makes this as good a time as any to look back on Loyola's first great season, 1963. It was extraordinary for two reasons. First, the Ramblers won the NCAA tournament. Second, they did it as the first integrated team in college basketball. Their success changed the game forever.

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Thursday, February 8, 2018

Former Bulls superstar Derrick Rose's career may be coming to an end. But don't cry for him.

Posted By on 02.08.18 at 04:45 PM

Poor Derrick Rose's NBA career may have just ended today—not with a bang or a thud—but with a murmur.

Less than a day after notching just three points in seven minutes for the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday, the former Bulls superstar was the offal in a three-way deal that shuffled six players between the fading Cavs, Sacramento Kings, and Utah Jazz. Rose got shipped off to Utah with Jae Crowder. 

But here's the rub: the Jazz will release him before he can limp his way to the barren high desert of Salt Lake City, NBA know-it-alls say.

It's not shocking. He's only 29, but Rose's skills have dried up and blown away like tumbleweed. He's a dreadful shooter, shaky defender. He's averaged a paltry 9.8 points and 1.6 assists this season. He's only played in 16 games, and not just due to injuries. Rose took personal leave from the Cavs earlier this season due to the "mental toll" being hurt all the time takes.

The self-proclaimed Englewood All-Star said he wanted to "re-evaluate his NBA future." Who knows what that means? Maybe he's talking about hitchhiking alone across the country, duffel bag over his shoulder, while a piano plays mournfully in the background.

Everybody knows Rose leaves a mixed legacy—and that's being generous. So many injuries—both knees, an ankle and his wrist, among other things—have sapped his athletic ability. Surely, that's not his fault.
He didn't ask for broke-ass ligaments and noodlelike tendons. But that's not why Rose is washed-up. Off the court, he's been a basket case. He's disappeared (twice with two teams) to take strange midseason sabbaticals and refused to mentor young players. And then there's pre-#MeToo era allegation of gang rape. He was cleared of a sexual battery allegation in civil court. But no one should ever forget that Rose testified under oath that he didn't know what the term "consent" meant.

As things turn out, Rose wasn't Chicago's savior. He's our tragic hero.

Don't feel sorry for him.

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Friday, December 22, 2017

The Eradicator is a squash man—and a punk band

Posted By on 12.22.17 at 06:00 AM

Andy Slania as the Eradicator - SARAH JOYCE
  • Sarah Joyce
  • Andy Slania as the Eradicator

Basing a punk band on an obscure character invented by a Canadian comedy troupe whose criminally underrated half-hour sketch show went off the air in the mid-90s seems like a bit of a stretch, to say the least. But Chicago guitarist Andy Slania went ahead with it anyway.

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Thursday, December 7, 2017

Have sportswriters changed their minds about football teams that let the opponents score?

Posted By on 12.07.17 at 02:22 PM

Former Bears kicker Robbie Gould kicks one of four field goals he has made against the Bears on December 3. - JONATHAN DANIEL/GETTY IMAGES
  • Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
  • Former Bears kicker Robbie Gould kicks one of four field goals he has made against the Bears on December 3.

Times change. Does sportsmanship? Does the code of the warrior on the playing field, or the sportswriter pondering the combat from the Olympian aerie of the press box?

Perhaps. Here's evidence that attendance is dwindling at sports' Old School.

At the end of the 1998 Super Bowl, Green Bay coach Mike Holmgren attempted a ploy so radical even experts misunderstood what they were seeing. With under two minutes to play and the score tied,  Denver drove to the Packers' two-yard line. On second down, Broncos' tailback Terrell Davis trotted into the end zone untouched. Green Bay then took the kickoff and charged deep into Denver territory before losing the ball on downs.

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Friday, December 1, 2017

Tailgating with the Grabowskis (and some cheeseheads too)

Posted By on 12.01.17 at 08:04 PM

  • Alison Green

The grill was attached to the rear of a 32-foot RV adorned with a painting of a bald eagle and an American flag above the words "Support our troops past and present" and "God bless America." On the side was a Chicago Bears logo, an image of the Chicago skyline, and, in orange, "Monsters of the Midway." The RV's co-owner Jerry O'Drobinak cleaned the grill while other members of his party dutifully made preparations for "Packers Day." It was 8:19 AM on week ten of the NFL season. O'Drobinak and company were among the many Bears fans getting situated in McCormick Place Lot B off 31st Street to enjoy one of the rites of fandom: tailgating.

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Thursday, October 26, 2017

Toastamania: Halloween Havok collides rowdy bands and gonzo wrestling for the wildest show of the season

Posted By on 10.26.17 at 05:51 PM

Some of the folks you'll see at this weekend's Toastamania, including members of Texas Toast Chainsaw Massacre, Death of Self, and XEUTHANIZEDX - PHOTOS BY LEAP PHOTOGRAPHY AND GLEGOZ PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Photos by Leap Photography and Glegoz Photography
  • Some of the folks you'll see at this weekend's Toastamania, including members of Texas Toast Chainsaw Massacre, Death of Self, and XEUTHANIZEDX

For three years, Chicago thrash band Texas Toast Chainsaw Massacre have been booking DIY shows that combine sets from up-and-coming local metal, hardcore, and punk bands with body-slamming, table-trashing brawls. On Saturday, October 28, at a Pilsen DIY venue whose name I can't share here ("Ask a punk," as they say), TTCM present the 11th installment in their Toastamania series, named in tribute to the WrestleMania ladder matches that helped inspire it. Sometimes they actually do use a ladder, but they're just as likely to whomp one another with foil steam-table pans, bust up hollow-core doors, or dive through folding tables. Somebody in TTCM might wear the championship belt, basically daring a challenger to remove it somehow, but sometimes the band will just throw it into the crowd and set off a free-for-all.

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Crushers Club teaches West Englewood boys to fight for their futures

Posted By and on 05.30.17 at 07:00 AM

  • Jiayue Yu

The rhythmic thwap thwap—thwap thwap of a fist knocking a speed bag reverberates down the stairs of the Beautiful Zion Missionary Baptist Church in West Englewood before even reaching the area the Crushers Club boxing gym has called home for the past two years. Collages of photos line the stairwell leading to the space, showing young boys—their little boxing gloves framing their baby faces—next to their more seasoned, teenaged mentors—muscles gleaming with sweat, sometimes mean-mugging the camera.

Started in 2012, the club has come a long way from just a few kids using a makeshift gym to around 40 boys who come in regularly to spar in the ring. From 4 to 7 PM, five days a week, the space—with its low ceilings and multicolored walls covered in affirmations like "Only God can" and "In here your voice is heard"—provides an alternative to gangs and street crime for boys ages seven to 18. Some are kids from the neighborhood. Others have previously spent time in juvenile detention. But all are welcome here. There are rules, though: gang affiliations are left at the door, and cursing will be punished with a dollar or 25 push-ups.

Crushers Club founder Sally Hazelgrove, 54, moved to West Englewood from Uptown in 2000, raising her own family there until last year and starting the club after a decade of volunteering for the Evening Reporting Center, a community-based alternative to detention for juveniles, and getting to know gang members living in the Harold Ickes Homes. Her aim was to create a space that helped boys find identity, community, and love without gang affiliation, a space for them to play and be kids in a neighborhood that often forces them to grow up quickly. Last year there were 40 homicides in the area. This year there have been four so far.

"Socialization, I feel, is an important aspect that a lot of people don't address," Hazelgrove says. "We can have lots of programming, but when you go outside, everything is dangerous, and a lot of times the only socialization is the gang structure."

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Thursday, May 4, 2017

Forrest Claypool used Park District employees to score his pickup basketball game with David Axelrod

Posted By on 05.04.17 at 01:00 PM

  • Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times
  • Forrest Claypool

In his various stints as hatchet man for Mayors Daley and Emanuel, Forrest Claypool has earned a reputation for being a rigid, penny-pinching bureaucrat.

For instance, in his current incarnation as CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, he found $4.4 million in the district's supposedly empty coffers to fund the Office of Internal Audit and Compliance, whose inspectors make sure that teachers really are sick when they call in absent, among other things.

So it's pretty funny to learn there was a time when Claypool was known to flaunt a rule or two in order to have a good time playing basketball with his pals.

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Friday, April 21, 2017

Meet Pablo Garcia, the biggest Cubs fan in Albuquerque

Posted By on 04.21.17 at 03:30 PM

Homer and Marge at Isotopes Field in Albuquerque - COURTESY ALBUQUERQUE ISOTOPES
  • courtesy Albuquerque Isotopes
  • Homer and Marge at Isotopes Field in Albuquerque

According to all the travel guides, the charms of Albuquerque pale next to those of Santa Fe and the many little mountain towns of northern New Mexico. Though Albuquerque has views of the mountains and pockets of quaint pink adobe architecture, the town itself exists for the people who live there, not for tourists, and it looks that way. Still, I maintain there is something incredibly endearing about a city that has named its minor-league baseball team after an episode of The Simpsons—the one where Homer threatens a hunger strike when the Springfield Isotopes prepare to move to Albuquerque—and has statues of Homer, Marge, Bart, and Lisa inside its ballpark. (It's also endearing that there's a personal injury lawyer who has turned his ad campaign into a tribute to Better Call Saul. His slogan is "Hurt? Call Bert.")

So naturally when my boyfriend, Jeff, and I were in Albuquerque last week, we had to go visit. Unfortunately, the Isotopes were out of town and the ballpark was closed. We stood around admiring the field through the first-base gate and trying to figure out what to do next when a woman standing at the ticket counter yelled over something scornful about Jeff's Cubs World Series T-shirt. We yelled back about how it's not bragging to celebrate something that happens once every 108 years, and a conversation ensued.

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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

UNC investigation could bring glory to Illini basketball—in 2005

Posted By on 04.04.17 at 04:14 PM

Celebrating and acknowledging fans at the season-ending basketball game in 2005. - AP/SETH PERLMAN
  • AP/Seth Perlman
  • Celebrating and acknowledging fans at the season-ending basketball game in 2005.
Do you realize the University of Illinois might be this close to a national basketball championship?

The University of North Carolina copped another NCAA title Monday night, but the Illini could be next to win one. That's not because the U. of I. just hired a new coach who promises exciting times ahead—though it did. And it's not because the U. of I. just nailed down a commitment from the nation's most coveted one-and-done recruit. The University of Missouri did that—by the simple expedient of hiring the recruit's dad as an assistant coach.

No, it's not because of anything Illinois's done lately. It's because of what North Carolina allegedly was getting away with for years.

A traditional powerhouse, UNC has parleyed talented players and ethical rot into one top team after another. New York Times sports columnist Michael Powell welcomed the Tar Heels into this year's Final Four with a piece last Saturday headlined "Stain Permeates Basketball Blue Blood."

"Amid the blue-and-white pompoms," wrote Powell, "few are so rude as to mention that [UNC] remains enmeshed in a scandal of spectacular proportions. Put simply, for two decades until 2013, the university provided fake classes for many hundreds of student athletes, most of them basketball and football players."

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Performing Arts
The Camino Project Ipsento 606
August 17
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Ashley M. Freeby: Plots & Hems Hyde Park Art Center
September 15

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