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Bears get creamed, buat least it did not rain

  • Written by Joe Boyle

 

It all started with a phone call from my sister, Jean. We talked about a variety of things and she mentioned that her husband and my brother-in-law, Pat, had tickets to the Chicago Bears game.

The Chicago Bears? I then got my bearings and realized the NFL preseason begins the first week of August. I guess my mind was still on baseball because it was hot and humid outside. It turns out my brother-in-law’s cousin is a longtime season ticketholder.

The Bears were scheduled to play hosts to the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos, minus retired quarterback Peyton Manning. Hey, I thought, why not? The chances of the Bears winning this exhibition game (oh, sorry NFL, I mean preseason) were remote at best. I had not seen a Bears game since the early 1980s when St. Rita product and offense tackle Dennis Lick suffered a knee injury. He never played for the Bears again.

I had not been to Soldier Field since had been renovated. The last time I was there was for a Rolling Stones Concert in 1998. And this was a chance to see the Bears play again, win or lose. They lost the first time I saw them play.

In a recent column, I mentioned how I had an unfortunate string of bad luck attending White Sox games. In two instances, I never saw the end of the games due to passing thunderstorms. The first game was called after eight innings with the Sox trailing. Two days later with my son, the rain returned. At least the Sox were tied when they suspended this game.

So I figured what bad can happen at the Bears game? I left with Pat for the game and arrived at his cousin’s house in the western suburbs. Pat told me that his cousin knew his way around Soldier Field and would get us there in great time. He did just that and we had time to tailgate before the game. We had a few sandwiches, some fruit and some beverages. The bus picked us up and we got there quickly.

For someone that had not entered Solider Field in this century, it has changed dramatically. I could see the area where the old seating was at old Solider Field. You could fit a lot of people in those seats but they were far from comfortable. The renovated Solider Field seating is much better and closer to the field.

Everything was great until the game started. Jay Cutler was the Bears quarterback for the first quarter. He had little time to throw and spent most of the first quarter on his back. The running game never got going. The offensive line could not handle the outstanding and quick defense of the Broncos. The game was essentially over after the first quarter.

The only thing to look forward to was to cheer the Bears when they finally scored. And we waited and waited. Since the Bears were losing 22-0 in the fourth quarter, there was no need to wait any longer. Still, I had a fun time and I can say I was at the new Soldier Field.

We then went outside and waited for the bus that would bring us to a lot near McCormick Place off a street called Moe. I never knew there was a street in Chicago called Moe. The only name that comes to mind is Moses Horowitz, who was better known as Moe Howard. In any event we waited for our bus. People who were going to the lot near Millennium Park were more fortunate. They had several buses pull up and pull way as we continued to sit there. We waited and waited. My brother-in-law asked someone is this normal? The person’s response was it is the first game and this happens. Pat was incredulous. “The first game, that’s no excuse. Some of these people have been working here 25 years. You would think they would get it right by now.”

Well, after nearly an hour, our bus finally arrived. Someone mentioned that the tunnel was filled with vehicles. That must have been the reason our bus driver began to go north on Lake Shore Drive, turn at Balbo to Columbus and go south back to Solider Field. Al this took place on a jammed bus. Nearly 45 minutes later we got back to Moe Street. What took place after was fit for a Three Stooges short.

We crawled along Moe Street only to face cars heading in our direction. Drivers were coming out of the lot and taking up all the lanes of traffic. The bus driver did show patience because these cars had to back up to allow us through. She finally stopped her bus near our parking lot and put up her stop sign. A passenger on the bus got in the middle of the street and held up traffic with his outstretched hand.

That allowed for us to cross the street and enter our car. On the bright side, it was supposed to rain and did not. At least I stayed dry, unlike those Sox games. It was a fun experience.

I’m going to see the Sox play the Oakland A’s on Saturday night. The weather forecast calls for rain.

Somewhere, Moe Howard has to be laughing.

Joe Boyle is the editor of The Reporter. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Chicago’s better off passing on torch

  • Written by Joe Boyle

 

The 2016 Summer Olympics is about to complete its first week of competition as Rio de Janeiro plays hosts. It is the first time the Olympics have taken place in South America.

It was not long ago that Chicago put in an aggressive bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics, led by former Mayor Richard Daley and a group of high-profile investors. President Obama had great things to say about Chicago, his adopted hometown. So did first lady Michelle Obama, who grew up on Chicago’s South Side.

Politicians, business leaders and sports figures lobbied hard for Chicago in the way this city knows best. But when the announcement came for the first round elimination, Chicago was given the quick boot. Daley, city and business leaders were speechless. The torch was passed to Rio for the first time in Olympic history.

That seems so long ago because so much has happened since 2009. Daley is no longer the city’s mayor. He has since been replaced by Rahm Emanuel, who is dealing with a series of problems that the Olympics would not have shielded. Many columnists have noted that if Chicago did win the bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics, Daley most likely would still be mayor. I agree that Daley would have stuck around for this occasion, cutting the ribbon and viewing the torch rising above Second City.

But the devastating defeat was probably too much for Daley to bear. He most likely knew the problems that now grip the city were inevitable. It was time for him to pass the torch to Emanuel.

But the Summer Olympics proposal for Chicago had plenty of critics. Opponents predicted that this mammoth undertaking would lose money, as has been the case for other Olympic sites. What lasting effect would the Olympics have on the neighborhoods of Chicago? The critics pointed out that it would have little effect.

I had mixed feelings when Daley and his investors put on a full-court press to bring the Olympics to Chicago. On one hand, we would have had people from all over the world here and Chicago could have been shown in a more positive light. Maybe some of that glow could trickle into neighborhoods that were marked by crime and poverty. Other neighborhoods may have not shared those problems but were usually ignored by City Hall. Maybe the Olympics could give these sections of the city a boost, I thought.

But after the shock of Chicago’s quick departure from the Olympic bidding, I began to realize that was a pipe dream. City planners said that old Michael Reese Hospital site would have been a prime site for the Olympic Village. The city had purchased the land for $86 million. Other proposals would have included a tennis center for Lincoln Park. Canoeing and kayaking would have taken place just north of Northerly Island. Rowing would have taken place near Monroe Harbor. Beach volleyball was proposed for that location as well.

Cycling was being considered at Douglas Park on the city’s West Side. The largest proposal would have been an 80,000-seat track and field stadium for Washington Park on the South Side. The stadium would have played host to opening and closing ceremonies. Organizers also said that an aquatics center would have been at Washington Park. Diving and swimming events would also take place there.

After the Olympics, the main stadium was to be deconstructed and replaced with a smaller 10,000-seat venue.

But I did not hear anything about Chicago’s Southwest Side or the southwest suburbs. Perhaps Toyota Park in Bridgeview would have been utilized, but I’m not so sure about that. It was never mentioned in the original proposals.

My thoughts are that although it would have been historic, the problems that currently seize Chicago and the state would not change. And we could even be even more broke than we are now. The pension crisis, budget woes, a pending Chicago Public School strike, and investigations about a series of police shootings would be greeting visitors to Chicago for the Olympics.

Some problems can’t be washed away. Take Rio, for instance. They have the glorious beaches, parties and beautiful people. But peel away that veil and there is rising crime and poverty. A lack of organization has created long lines to get into events. That is tough for the visitors waiting under a hot sun.

So, I believe we are better off. The Obama Library will be coming to Jackson Park and should draw more tourists and attention to sections of the city that are overlooked. Hopefully, it will help nearby Washington Park.

No changes were planned for the city’s Southwest Side or southwest suburbs. But maybe that is OK. Local municipalities will work hard for their communities. That will not change. I would rather see involved communities because that will mean more in the long term as the torch leaves Rio.

Joe Boyle is the editor of The Reporter. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Bodybuilding mom provides muscle and inspiration

  • Written by Claudia Parker

Claudia-NEW

Cheryl Harris is a personal training director who has been competitive bodybuilder for the past three years.

 

 

Cheryl Harris of Chicago had no idea she was a source of inspiration to me until now. She’s a personal training director at LA Fitness in Oak Lawn. I have to drag myself through their doors most days. I’m primarily there to deflate my stubborn muffin top. About 30 minutes, three times a week, and spanx can usually keep everything in perspective.

However, for Chery, there is no corset required. She paces LA Fitness like a lioness commanding the jungle. She’s altogether different than us average cubs on the gym floor.

“Wow! You’re a beast. You look amazing,” I told her recently.

She was fresh from competing at the Gary Udit 2016 National Physique Committee (NPC) Teen, Collegiate and Masters National Championship in Pittsburgh, which was held July 22.

Many consider the NPC the largest amateur bodybuilding organization in the United States. Amateur bodybuilders compete from local to national competitions sanctioned by the NPC.

Cheryl is a NPC Master Figure Competitor in the category for those age 45 and over. Contrary to what one may believe is possible for themselves after a certain age, Cheryl’s bodybuilding has revitalized her youth. This just shy of 48-year-old mother of two daughters ages 20 and 27 has only been competing professionally for three years.

“This is my fifth competition,” said Cheryl. “The first was a local, amateur competition. I placed first in all categories taking home a trophy for Overall Fitness, Miss Figure and Master Figure. The other four have been National NPC competitions. Much harder, my recent show was a Masters National Pro show. There were over 1,000 competitors. It’s hard to get noticed among that many people. It was my first attempt at getting my Pro Card.”

A Pro Card could open the door for Cheryl to earn a primary income from bodybuilding. Competition winnings, sponsorship by local companies and supplement manufacturers are just a few income streams that could result from a Pro Card. Not to mention print marketing, television and in some cases feature film opportunities.

“I just want the street credit. I placed much lower than I expected in this recent show,” explained Cheryl. “I was ranked 16 of 28 in my category. The judges’ feedback was for me to work on getting smaller, leaner and tighter. They said I need to focus on my hamstrings and glutes/tie in -- that’s the muscle between the hamstring and glutes. You know, that hook the sisters have,” she said with a giggle. “That muscle needs to be smooth and tie in with the glutes and hamstrings.”

“What in the world,” I wondered? “Everything looks perfectly tied in to me!”

I wanted to know the cost. Not just monetary but the full spectrum price tag for the excellence before me.

“Growing up, I wasn't athletic; didn't play sports, but I was fit. I focused on maintaining my health and well-being. I even worked out during both pregnancies up until my ninth month. Fitness has always been important to me,” said Cheryl.

Sometime the thing we find most important becomes the very thing we neglect.

When circumstances in Cheryl’s life began to change rapidly beyond her control, she said her fitness regimen and desire for wellness went by the wayside.

“I lost my job in corporate America that I’d had for 10 years. I was a single mother, things got too hard and I couldn’t maintain. I depleted my savings, lost my house, my truck and even my relationship of four years went sour," explained Cheryl. “I started eating emotionally until it was out of control. At the height of my weight, I was 166 pounds, which was what I weighed nine months pregnant. My body fat was over 30 percent. For my optimal health, it should’ve been between 23 to 25 percent. I suffered from depression, anxiety, panic attacks, migraines, and shortness of breath. I couldn't run a half-block without being exasperated.”

Cheryl’s turning point was watching a bodybuilding competition.

“Just after my 45th birthday I attended my youngest daughter’s godfather’s bodybuilding competition. During his show I began to wonder what it might be like if I were on stage; I’d always been drawn to the sport.”

A nine-month training regimen with a professional trainer followed a meal plan, dietary supplements, cardio and strength training. Cheryl said her workout schedule at its peak was six days per week, three times a day with workout durations of 70 to 90 minutes per session.

“Training for competition is hell. It drains your body, mind and your pocket.” Cheryl said, “The cost to compete for a local show could be $1,500 to $3,000 and Nationals range $3,000 to $7,000 easy. We’re paying for airfare, hotel, ground transportation, makeup, hair and bronzer. Our bathing suit costumes can cost $200 to $2,000.”

She said sponsors are a huge help. “It’s all worth it. I’m not giving up on my goal to earn my Pro Card. My story isn't over. My next show will be in November.”

Cheryl had no idea I was being positively motivated by her fitness success from afar, but she told me she feels obligated to stay the course. She said, “I know people are watching.”

I told her, as I now tell you. Our lives are always on display. It’s never too late to make your influence a positive one.

Cheryl is the owner and founder of Cheryl Harris Enterprises C.H.E. Knows and Profound Touch Mobile Spa where she’s a massage therapist. She’s also a self-proclaimed health, wellness, fitness and lifestyle expert who gives various talks throughout the Chicago area. Learn more at www.profoundtouch.com.

Claudia Parker is an Evergreen Park mother, author and runner whose columns appear in The Reporter the second and fourth Thursdays of each month.            

Evergreen Park keeps steering toward progressr

  • Written by Joe Boyle

I went on a journey of sorts last Thursday with Evergreen Park Mayor James Sexton. He wanted to show me some of the projects that have been completed in the village, including the first phase of the new Evergreen Marketplace that replaces The Plaza.

Sexton was provided with a sledgehammer and given the privilege you could say of striking the first blow of the demolition process of The Plaza last October. Sexton put a large dent in the old Montgomery Ward’s building that had been vacant since the department store went out of business in 2001.

Montgomery Ward’s departure seemed to escalate the eventual end to The Plaza, the brainchild of developer Arthur Rubloff. The Plaza opened in 1952 and continued to grow through the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s. Competition from newer malls and the recession that began in 2008 led to The Plaza’s demise.

But Sexton added another culprit to that mix.

“It was 9-11 that changed everything,” said Sexton while we took a tour of the new Evergreen Marketplace and other locations where businesses are now thriving in the village. “We are finally starting to recover.”

Sexton pointed to the Standard Bank building at 95th and Western as one of the first to come on board and show confidence in doing business with the village. Many businesses and developers were shaken after the terrorist attack on American soil that resulted in 2.996 people killed and over 6,000 injuries. Sexton said that Standard Bank’s involvement was a turning point.

Before we drove down 95th Street, he wanted to show me the new Carson’s, which represents the first phase of the retail businesses that will replace The Plaza. I was initially struck by the new Carson’s sign on the second floor of the façade. Workers were coming in and out. Equipment was on the first floor and second of this sparkling looking interior. This will be an anchor for a series of stores that will extend from 98th Street on the south and Campbell Avenue on the north.

Carson’s will be joined by DSW, Petco, T.J. Maxx, 365 by Whole Sale Foods and a Dick’s Sporting Goods Store, to name a few. For the time being, those eventual stores are blank spaces for now. Hovering in the background to the north were large piles of concrete that was once made up The Plaza. The old and the new could be viewed in an instant. The old Carson’s that was one of the anchor stores of the old Plaza is still standing across the parking lot just a block away, facing Western Avenue.

The old Carson’s will make way for the new Carson’s, which will open for the first time on Wednesday, Sept. 14. The doors to enter the old Carson’s will then be shuttered for good and will meet the wrecking ball as early as next January.

While Sexton misses The Plaza, he does not have time for nostalgia. We drove north along 95th Street to the site of the old Evergreen Park Golf Course that extended to north to 91st and Western and as far west as California Avenue. I golfed there a few times over the years and I mentioned that to Sexton. I did not tell him that I would often hit a few trees and lost a few golf balls.

But like The Plaza, I had not been there for a long time. The family-run course had fallen into disrepair over the years and negotiations were made to purchase the land and have it developed. The mayor admits that upset some people but he could not allow sentiment to impede progress.

“What people don’t realize is that you if sit around and wait for something to happen, another village will come in and attract businesses,” said Sexton. “You have to be aggressive. Over $100 million in sales are generated from this golf course property.”

He pointed to some of the businesses that have generated that revenue, like Meijer’s grocery store, Firehouse Subs, Crazy Crab, Michael’s, Menards, DXL men’s apparel, and a Triple AAA project that has yet be built.

He then drove west along 91st Street and pointed out that the village has three separate dog parks, a disc golf course that kids can play on for free, a farm in which vegetables are grown and are brought to pantries. Sexton pointed to the new driving range at 91st and Rockwell that is temporarily closed to make more improvements to the property that he said is a work in progress.

We then drove down 95th Street and he pointed to an empty business that could house a Wu’s House Hibachi Grill and Sushi that has received rave reviews at other locations. The Japanese steakhouse and sushi bar could be located at 95th and Sacramento. Sexton said the restaurant would be a great addition to Evergreen Park.

While The Plaza and the Evergreen Park Golf Course are now just memories, Sexton said the future looks bright for the village. After about an hour-long drive through the southwest suburb, I would have to agree. Memories are great, but progress is better.

Joe Boyle is the editor of The Reporter. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Spending a water-logged White Sox weekend

  • Written by Joe Boyle

In some ways, it was just perfect. I guess you could say it was a perfect storm.

I had purchased some tickets to a couple of White Sox games earlier this year. On this occasion I asked my friend Bob Ward to go with me. I go a long way back with Bob. I’ve known him since we attended St. Margaret of Scotland Elementary School at 99th and Throop in Chicago.

But the real reason why I asked him is that he is a White Sox fan. We both played baseball for the Longwood Manor Athletic Association. So, we have that common thread. I may have mentioned to him that I have not seen the Sox win since 2013. You would think I would have seen a victory in the past three years but the reality is that the White Sox have not been that good. This year they have been all over the board, a .500 team up to this point.

James Shields, who was acquired earlier this summer from San Diego, was on the hill for the White Sox. Most Sox fans know that Shields was shelled in his first four starts. He was a launching pad for opposing hitters. Since then, he has resembled the old James Shields, going late into games. He has been outstanding in his last four starts. But in keeping with this strange season, Shields has no victories, losing games by the scores of 1-0 and 2-0.

He was outstanding last Thursday night against the Detroit Tigers. Bob and I were having fun on a warm, humid night at the ballpark. The Sox had a 1-0 lead that was wiped out on two solo home runs by the Tigers.

And then the rain came down in the seventh inning. And it just kept coming. We waited until about 10:10 p.m. and decided to leave. Fortunately, the rain had briefly stopped as we went back to our car. On the way home, we turned on the radio station but instead of hearing an update, it was none other than Donald Trump at the microphone. The GOP presidential candidate was just winding up his hour-long speech at the convention’s conclusion.

It was not until I got home that I learned that Sox lost 2-1 in a rain-shortened contest. Oh well, another loss and this time it did not go nine innings. On Saturday, I was considering some other plans that evening. However, my son, Sean, wanted to attend a Sox game. Feeling sorry for me, he wanted me to come. My son is also a huge White Sox fan played playing baseball in high school and in college. He purchased some great seats behind home plate.

He wanted to get a good look at Chris Sale’s pitches, the scheduled starter that evening. He believed, and I had no reason to doubt him, that I would break that losing streak. We arrived at the park and got situated in our seats. They were indeed great seats. We left briefly for some concessions and as we came back, the rain began to fall. The look in my son’s face was priceless. I mean it has to stop, right? Well, it did about 10 minutes later. The game started about 15 minutes late.

But as we were going over the lineups on the scoreboard, we were confused. Sale’s name was originally on there. Then his name disappeared and was replaced by Matt Albers, who has not started a game since 2008.

Rumors began circulating in the stands that the Sox ace had been traded. I felt myself becoming angry. My son buys these great seats and Sale is not on the mound? I was beginning to wonder if I was cursed. Then my son looks at his cellphone and informs me that Sale is not pitching because he reportedly cut up the uniforms the Sox were supposed to wear that night.

The Sox gave out replica 1976 jersey tops from that year. Those were the pajama top shirts that hung over the pants. They were comfortable but they looked ridiculous. They still look ridiculous. Apparently, Sale thought so, too. We just wished he could have controlled his rage.

Well, I still felt there was more to this story than Sale cutting up a jersey. But I eventually got over it and decided to focus on the game. The Sox once led but the Tigers came back to tie the game at 3-3. And as we entered the ninth inning, the rain came again. We were now in another rain delay. My son and I strolled around the park as the wind whipped up followed by thunder and lightning. We were not going to stroll outside even if the game did not resume.

Then about 11:15 p.m., the game was called. Just like last Thursday, we were able to leave with just a mist falling. The rain returned but we were on our way home at that point.

Needless to say, we did not want to return to the ballpark the next day, although we could have. The Sox, of course, won the suspended game the next day in their last at bat. They won the next game that day in walk-off fashion. They even won the opener against the Cubs Monday night in the bottom of the ninth. Three straight walk-off wins for the Sox. Perhaps their luck is changing.

Maybe it will be my turn next. I will be going to another Sox game soon with my son. But before I go, I will take my son’s advice. I will get a weather report before I venture outdoors.

Joe Boyle is the editor of The Reporter. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .