Thursday, October 20, 2005


I went to the library and groceries at Argyle yesterday, so I figured I'd share some pictures:

The Red Line Station at Argyle from street level.
A mural depicting the diversity of the Argyle area.
A gift shop featuring vases and Chicago White Sox division champion memorabilia
Ba Le: on the corner of Broadway and Argyle serving the best Vietnamese/French sandwiches in Chicago. Tons of different varieties, I recommend the beef and daikon.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Welcome to the LPGA, where not only the ball is white

Michelle Wie was disqualified from her first pro event this weekend when she made an illegal drop and failed to take the two stroke penalty. The ESPN story is here. In golf, when a player fails to take a penalty and then signs their scorecard, they are disqualified. Wie, who finished fourth, was forced to forfeit her $53,126 prize (almost meaningless to a teen who is projected to earn $10 million this year via endorsements) and also relinquish her placing.

I have no problem with the disqualification in a vacuum. If Wie made a wrong drop, rules officials discovered the drop, and then disqualified her, that's bad luck, but a bad luck in the context of a fair competition. Some have said that once the round is over, the scores should be locked in so there are no disqualifications. I believe that works for baseball and other sports, but it just doesn't work for the rules of golf.

The problem in this case is that the officials did not discover the drop. It was discovered by Michael Bamberger of Sports Illustrated, who then decided to tell officials because according to him, "I thought about it more and was just uncomfortable that I knew something. Integrity is at the heart of the game. I don't think she cheated. I think she was just hasty."

Bamberger explained that he didn't tell the officials on Saturday, which would have only resulted in a two stroke penalty for Wie, because "That (contacting officials) didn't occur to me. I was still in my reporter's mode. I wanted to talk to her first."

So Bamberger just happened to take the approach that was most damaging to Wie.

Eric Adelson's insights paint an even worse picture for the LPGA. Adelson explains that the only reason why Bamberger was noticed the drop was that he was specifically assigned to cover Wie. Wie has a firestorm of attention on her because she is a novelty to the tour. She is sixteen, Asian American, and outdrives her competition. That uniqueness has gotten her the huge endorsement contracts, but in this case it warped the competition. If any of the other golfers on the course had made the same mistake, they wouldn't have been disqualified. The rules officials wouldn't have discovered the error and Bamberger wouldn't have been there to point out the transgression.

So if she had been a little older or even better, a little whiter, she would be cashing her check today. This is not the first time that the predominantly white sport of Golf has been embroiled in a controversy that involves race. Two years ago, Jan Stephenson drew fire by proclaiming, "Asians are killing our tour."

The LPGA needs to take immediate action in this case. Otherwise, this situation is not going to change. Regardless whether the officials are color-blind or not, if they continue to rely on spectators to make decisions that deeply affect the competition, they introduce every social prejudice under the sun into their event.

They must change their rules to rely entirely on their officials (and if necessary their competitors) to moderate their competition.

Finally, Michael Bamberger needs to reconsider his approach to "coverage" of the event. If he wants to affect the outcome of LPGA competition rather than report on it, he should put down his pen, get some major surgery and pick up a club.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Hail Alma Mater, ever so true...

Since the time I was real little up through high school, I went to a most of the U of I Volleyball games and some of the basketball games with my parents and often some family friends. We especially loved the atmosphere of the games at the tiny bandbox Kenny Gym since people would be crammed up into the rafters and the place was both intimate and utterly deafening. I would sit right behind the opposing players and try to throw off their concentration on their jump serves. When they slammed one out or into the net, I would internally take credit, despite knowing deep down that a jump serve is a tough technique to execute and these were hardened athletes who were used to handing a few unruly fans.

At the youngest stages of my sports following, Chief Illiniwek was a major part of these magical experiences. From the time the young, handsome white guy came to our elementary school to talk about him through the many halftimes and between game dances I witnessed, I was enthralled.

But like the Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, for me one day that magic melted. I learned that the Chief wasn't a Native American showcasing an ancient culture. It was just some white guy in a fake suit doing a fake dance that was established and put together by some well-meaning, but not too empathetic folks in the past. It shook me. Whenever I saw him dance from then out and looked around me at the predominantly white crowd, on most of their faces I saw the same looks I saw during other shows of yellowface or minstrelsy. I also saw the empassionated looks on the faces of those who believed in the magic, and I did not pity them or resent them.

Then I witnessed pro- and anti- Chief demostrations, rallies and counter-rallies (which are which I have no idea) and saw the peculiar demographics of each of them with regards to race.

I've lived as a townie, Illinek, U of I student and employee and seen those different perspectives. I've also discussed the Santa issue with dozens of people including my wife and we've come to the conclusion that we never want to lie to our kids about Santa Claus.

It's been a while since I attended a sporting event at the U of I. The last few, my mother and I got up during the Chief dance and in mock disbelief shouted, "Hey, that's not a real Indian! That's a white guy jumping around in a fake Indian suit!" Irreverant, yes, but also basically a carbon-copy of my real experience.

Maybe some will think it's sick or upsetting, but it truly does warm my heart when I watch a game on TV or listen on radio and think of my mother there carrying on the tradition at each game she attends. It's a tradition, I don't expect you to understand, but if you want to discuss it, maybe we can see each other's perspective.

My mother has changed--the proud, powerful woman who had a strong amateur volleyball career of her own well past fifty is now a prouder, more powerful woman who has great pain walking from her car to her seat at the games thanks to a couple of hips that are awaiting transplant surgery. Sometimes I can hear depression in her voice since she is used to being indestructible and unimpeded by hurdles like aging, physical afflictions or sickness.

So it was really uplifted me to hear the joy in her voice as she described the latest Volleyball game she attended. “So I said, ‘That’s just a white guy in a fake Indian suit!’ like always, and then this woman turned around looking disgusted and screamed at me, ‘Chief Illiniwek is the only reason I come to these games!’ ‘Really?’ I asked her. ‘That’s the only reason?’ She looked confused for a minute and then embarrassed and moved to a different section.”

You see, there’s something I feel both sides in this conflict need to be reminded: There is no “Us” and “Them”; there is only “Us”. My mother and I love the University of Illinois at least as much as anyone reading this article. I think this love is characteristic of most of the people on either side of the Chief debate. The difference I feel is that sometimes I feel as though many people have no idea what it is exactly that they love and how the Chief relates to that. My mother and I , we love its students, its faculty, its academic professional, its history and the athletes who represent it in athletics. Most of all we love the positive change it creates in our community and our society.

The Chief is like a bad Santa Claus. His magic is real. The profound way that some of his supporters feel when they witness his dance is real. But he is not what he claims to be. He is not a Native American. He is not performing a Native American dance. He is not honoring some old mystic group of people we all know and love. When we actually stop and look at him, he is just a white kid in a fake Indian suit doing a fake dance spreading stereotypes and occasionally misery for folks who have had enough misery as it is. I buy all of the love for our institution. I buy the love for our childhoods and our memories. I just can’t buy the minstrelsy. I would go for a renaming, “The University of Illinois Dancing Eagle Scouts” or “The University of Illinois Politically Incorrect Folks in Yellowface” or even “The University of Illinois folks who love their institution so much that they will make a mockery of themselves and others to keep up a tradition”, but lets be honest about what the Chief really is. Otherwise, lets get rid of him.

Update: My mother just received the "All-Clear" following her double hip-replacement surgery. Amazingly, it only took several weeks for her to resume her hectic schedule. Of course, we are deeply grateful to the staff and surgery team at Carle. Also, as always, I was floored by how fearless and thoughtfully aggressive she was during the rehab process. She listened to the doctor and nurses' recommendations in terms of what she could and couldn't do and then pushed those guidelines to the limit. She was never gone, but it's great to have her back and stronger than ever.

On to the World Series...

(Photos from the Trib)

Tonight, the White Sox clinched their first trip to the World Series since 1959 with a victory to close out their best-of-seven with the California Angels, four games to one.

My wife, Liz decided that this would be the year she would learn about sports. Last fall, she followed the Illini Men's team and its run. Then she starts memorizing positions and line-ups for the Sox for baseball. She asks me all these questions about "tagging-up" and "dropped third strike" and how relief pitchers work. She been a great student--tonight she turned to me and said, "So they want to put their guys who get on base best at the beginning of the line-up?" and we had this discussion of on-base vs. power and how the best on-base guys tend to have power too.

We went to three Sox games together this year, all victories, including the Father's Day come from behind win against the Dodgers, the Contreras pitched blowout over the Tigers on one of the Hot Dog Days ;) and then that epic Crede walkoff against the Indians.

It's been beautiful to share my love of the game with the person I love most in the world and to get to do that in this amazing year for the team and city has been that much sweeter.
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