9 awesome things about The Chi

No, not the TV show … the City.

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Logan Square

For the first time in 11 years, I’m celebrating my birthday at home. I’ve been globetrotting for some time but now I’m back. And in honor of this amazing city — that I’ve always called “my heart” because it’s more than just “my home” — I’ve compiled a list of the 9 most awesomest things about it:

9. Easiest city to navigate … All the streets run north/south and east/west. Most intersections are “T” grids. Some streets you can literally take from one side of the city and in an hour reach the other side. If you get lost in Chicago then I don’t know what to tell you.

8. #SummertimeChi … If you are bored in Chicago in the summer you must be from Green Bay. #SummertimeChi is not only a popular hashtag, or line in a song, it’s a way of life. AAHH Fest picEvery single summer weekend there’s something to do (and the weekends begin on Thursday). From the music festivals (Pitchfork, Lolla, Riot, AAHH) to the art festivals in Old Town and Hyde Park, everybody from Howard to Austin to the wild-100s are out and about enjoying them. Then there’s the annual Jazz, Gospel and Blues fest down in Grant Park. And if you want something to satisfy your stomach, there’s always a food festival going on. You’ve got:

  • May: Italian Beef Festival … Oh mio Dio!
  • June: Puerto Rican festival in Humboldt Park
  • August: Tacos & Tamales Festival in Pilsen
  • August: Festa Italiana on Taylor Street … I’m a be there!
  • August: Hot Sauce Fest in Avondale
  • There’s so much more: Chicago Food Festivals & Chicago Music Festivals 

7. Conscious Rap …  Chicago is known for conscious rap. We’ve never had a distinctive “sound” in hip hop but our lyrics have always pushed listeners to think intelligently about the world around them. Common’s The Corner, Kanye’s Crack Music, Lupe’s All Black Everything, Chance’s Blessings, the list goes on and on and on. And please note that when I say “Kanye” I’m talking pre-Yeezus Kanye … when he was just a humble kid from Oak Lawn making 5 beats a day for 3 summers. Nonetheless, I’m so proud of the hip hop we produce. (***I say “we” like I’m in the studio laying tracks, Ha!***)

6. Sports … Do I really need to go there?!?!?!?! Yes. Yes I do.

George Halas, Dick Butkus, Walter Payton, MJ store picMike Ditka, Buddy Ryan, Da Defense, Da ’85 Bears, The Super Bowl Shuffle, The Chicago Stadium, BJ Armstrong, Bill Cartwright, Horace Grant, John Paxson, Michael Jordan, Michael Jordan, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Tony Kukoc, Luc Longely, Steve Kerr, Phil Jackson, ’91, ’92, ’93, ’96, ’97, ’98, burning cars, 35th & Wentworth, Ozzie Guillen, Kenny Williams, Jerry Reinsdorf, Rick Hahn, Paul Konerko, AJ Pierzynski, Scotty Pods, Jon Garland, Mark Buehrle, Sweaty Freddy, Jose Contreras, Johnny Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith, Dustin Byfuglien, Brandon Saad, Joel Quenneville, Joe Maddon, Theo Epstein, Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Dexter Fowler, Javy Baez …

Do I need to continue?!

Yes. Yes I do.

Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, D-Wade, Thib Thib, Anthony Davis, Jabari Parker, Coach K, Doc Rivers, Chris Chelios, Eddie Olczyk, Shani Davis and last but not least Kirby Puckett.

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16 things I miss about Boston

Watching the Boston Marathon today, I got a little nostalgic. I started thinking about all 280932690_3d4efa0126_bthe things I miss about the B. I lived there for 9 wonderful years — meeting some amazing people along the way while building my sports career and eating dozens of cannoli. So, since it’s the 16th day of the month, I decided to compile a list of the 16 things I miss most about the City on a Hill:

16. The Boston Marathon & Patriots Day …  The Red Sox play early. Everyone calls in sick for work. And everybody’s outdoors enjoying the potentially spring-like weather. It’s one giant party for the entire city. I have fond memories of standing along the route with my best friend from New York, randomly yelling out “Go Paul, Go Adam!” while runners jogged by. I didn’t know any Pauls or Adams’ in the race but I figured one them was bound to named Paul or Adam.

15. The New England Revolution … Yes, I enjoyed the Red Sox, Bruins, Patriots and Celtics. (Especially the 2008 C’s with Garnett, Allen and Pierce … and Doc at the helm… they were unstoppable). But my actual start in the sports TV industry, before the Red Sox, was the Revolution. I was a production assistant and statistician for a number of years, covering every home game (and U.S. games) and loved every minute of it.

14. Walking through the city … Considering it was so small, I walked all over the place: from my apartment in Brighton to Newbury Street, from B.U. to the North End, and from Watertown to Arlington. By the time I left, I might’ve logged more miles than the Israelites’ journey to the Promised Land. I loved walking and Boston was the PERFECT place to amble through.

13. Friendly Toast (at MIT) … My friend and I would wait almost an hour for a table but the New Hampshire Finest — scrambled eggs with goat cheese and asparagus — was everything I ever wanted in life.

12. The close proximity to New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine … All three states: gorgeous, rustic, picturesque. Great for day trips and mini-vacays.

11. Summer … For one reason and one reason only: ALL THE STUDENTS WENT HOME AND TRAFFIC WAS REDUCED BY A MILLION! T’was a glorious time.

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Not to be a party pooper but I don’t do Super Bowl parties

I have a confession to make:

I don’t do Super Bowl Parties!!!

Ahhhh! I can’t stand them and I’m saying this as a sports-fanatical extrovert! Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy the game, the chicken wings and the commercials. But I’ve been to dozens of parties and I often find myself in a sea of people who don’t know the game of football. So I end up spending most of my time explaining the game, players, teams, and rules to folks who won’t even care on Monday morning and all I wanna do is watch the game. 

Does anyone feel my pain?!

Football on FieldI have a second confession to make though: last year I watched the Super Bowl alone. And I loved it! Yup, the game where Brady and Belichick rallied from 28-3 to win the title game, I watched alone. It was just me, my TV and Chinese food.

But I think I found the solution … watch the big game with folks you’ve watched sports with in the past. This Super Sunday I’m going to my friends’ place where I’ve watched plenty of games, including the 2016 World Series and part of last year’s NCAA Tournament. There’ll be a small group of us, some good food and definitely no football tutorials.

Yup, that’s my solution from here on out.

Tea Recommendation: Ginger spice or peppermint … to quell an upset stomach should the Eagles lose.

Cam Newton & his laughter

Cam Newton’s laughter, I heard it all too well. Nope, I wasn’t at the presser in Carolina. I don’t even cover the NFL. But when he laughed at the Charlotte Observer’s Jourdan Rodrigue’s question on “routes,” it reminded me of the number of times I was disrespected by men in sports. I’ve been winked at by a coach, stared at in lockerrooms and one time bumped in the shoulder when a certain NFLer walked past me when there was more than enough space for him to walk around me. And each time something like that happened I always thought “If I were a man, then they wouldn’t have (fill in the blank.”Panthers QB Cam Newton
ESPN’s Linda Cohn put it best: “Women have to fight for credibility.” You have to be better than good in the world of sports. It doesn’t matter that I’ve been a sports fan my entire life (especially of Chicago sports). I’ve been loving the Bears since birth, celebrated every Bulls championship in the ‘90s, cried when the White Sox won it all in ’05 and was even low-key congratulatory when the Cubbies did it last year. And, good luck to them this year. But I know no matter how much I love a sport, played a sport (lacrosse in high school and college) or covered a sport, I’ll never be taken as seriously as a man. 

I’ve heard some male sports journalists say “Just deal with it.” And for the most part we women do. Most of the time we don’t have a choice. We take the winking and the staring and the laughter. But every now and again you don’t want to “just deal with it.” You want an apology. And as late as Newton’s was, it was appreciated. 

So, I thank you Cam for the apology. I hope other men will follow your lead. And Jourdan… you did good girl. Thanks for taking one for the team. 

Tea recommendation: Lady Grey tea … for all Doris Burkeses, Jackie MacMullenes and Claire Smithes grinding it out among the men everyday. 

Coming to America: Black Hockey

Sooooo … Random question:

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NHL’s first Black hockey player, Willie O’Ree

Who changes the channel during commercial breaks when you’re watching a game?

Me.

Who changes the channel when a commercial featuring an all-black cast appears during the NHL All-Star Game?

Not Me.

Sunday, a McDonalds commercial featuring only black people aired. I don’t know about you, but that commercial caught my attention. It’s been four days since I first saw it and it still has my attention. It was a typical ad that you’d see run on any network. But, it was on NBC during my favorite sport’s biggest fan-driven game and in front of millions of viewers! And, to make it even better, those same viewers watched Flyers star Wayne Simmonds win the MVP title! All of it had me wondering, is the NHL FINALLY trying to reach out to its black fans?!?!?!? If so …

YESSSS!

I feel like I did when the White Sox won the World Series back in 2005 or when the Blackhawks beat the Bruins in just 17 seconds in 2013: PURE ELATION! I remember going to my first NHL game in 2008 and my friend and I, who’s Dominican, were counting all the black and brown people we saw at the Garden. I don’t think it was more than five people. But we were thrilled to see other fans who looked like us in the stands.

Can you imagine what watching Simmonds win the MVP is doing for a kid on the South Side of Chicago or West Philadelphia or inner-city Boston?! Or, how about simply seeing P.K. Subban and Auston Matthews skate on national TV?! I hope it’s igniting something in them to not only watch hockey but play it.

I hope this is a sign of things to come! I’d love to see an NHL full of Black, Puerto Rican, Mexican, Italian, Irish, Syrian, Iraqi, Filipino, Punjabi, and Japanese players. Bleacher Report thinks so too. Just read this gem about by Evan Moore about the black all-stars and the NHL’s future. I know it won’t be easy. Willie O’Ree was spit on and called all sorts of names when he bravely broke the league’s color barrier in 1958. But his efforts weren’t in vain.

If he can do it, anyone can.

Tea recommendation: Turmeric tea … to wake you up to something new!

It’s National Signing Day, I CAN’T EVEN!

In Boston, I used to mentor teens and they always used the phrase “I can’t even.” It was their generation’s “whatever.” I never really knew when to use it until today.

It’s National Signing Day and I CAN’T EVEN!!!

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Fountain pen and signature

I tried to avoid it all day. But I simply couldn’t. I got a few updates on my phone this morning. Every other tweet during the day was about who signed where. And the headlines are still flooding my newsfeed at 9 o’clock at night. I’m incredibly happy for the kids but when did this become a thing?!

What’s most upsetting is the deification of these kids. Rashan Gray, the nation’s top recruit, decided to go to Michigan. Great! I hope he shines bright like a diamond. I really do. But do we need all the news coverage and interviews and highlights on national TV?! Haven’t we all read the script before? Small-town kid makes it to a big state school and turns into campus hotshot after his highlights lead SportsCenter’s A block for the 15th time in two days. He then becomes No. 1 in the nation and thus untouchable.

But then trouble comes. He busts his knee or worse gets busted by the law. The confetti falls. Then everyone starts pointing the finger.

Except not at ourselves. We didn’t do anything. We’re bowing down at the next kid.

 

American WOMAN!

Carli Lloyd.CJMBGmAWwAAEbK2

Carli Legit.

Carli LEGEND!

Houston playing, Liverpool loving, Nike sponsoring, Hat-Trick history making, Jersey-born Scarlet Knight …

Carli Lloyd is my new Girl Crush!

Best moment too: When she gave Abby Wambach the captain’s armband! #Classy

Congrats to the US Women’s National Team on capturing our hearts like Brandi and Mia did years ago!!!

And awesome sauce job by the other crushes too: Kelley O’Hara. Hope Solo. Alex Morgan. Abby Wambach. Sydney Leroux. Megan Rapinoe. Amy Rodriguez. Becky Sauerbrunn. Heather O’Reilly. Christen Press. Christie Rampone. Alyssa Naeher. Ali Krieger. Meghan Klingenberg. Julie Johnston. Lauren Holiday. Whitney Engen. Ashlyn Harris. Tobin Heath. Shannon Boxx. Morgan Brian. Lori Chalupny.

#SheBelieves #IBelieve #CarliLloydFromTheParkingLot