unPHILtered – Phil Ponce's Blog

Why Didn’t You Go to the Blackhawks Parade and Rally?

This morning, when I was out for a jog, I saw a young family with three kids.  They were all dressed up in their Blackhawks gear obviously heading to the el to go to the downtown rally celebrating the team’s Stanley Cup victory.  Good for them, I thought!  What a great outing for a family.

Hundreds of thousands Chicago Blackhawks fans turned out today to watch the parade and rally.  Watching it on television, it looked like a lot of fun; the weather cooperated and the vibe seemed positive and loose (it might have been a little too loose on the podium!)

So, when was the last time you were part of a big downtown crowd celebrating something — whether it was the Blackhawks, the Bulls, or the election or re-election of President Obama?

Granted, it’s not as though these celebrations come along every year.  But if you have the wherewithall to go, can you really be a true fan and not show up?  Does a team’s celebration separate the true fans from the poseurs and Johnny (and Jill)-come-latelys?  What’s your formula for deciding whether or not you’ll be part of the masses?  The weather, the hassle, the time involved, transportation?

My excuse?  I have a touch of crowd-a-phobia and completely wilt in the midday sun.  So I salute you hardy, sun-ignoring, dehydrated, crowd-tolerant legions of red-and-black clothed fans who so loved your team that you made the effort to be present and accounted for.  I thank you for representing the rest of us by proxy!

 

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Harder Than Going to the Moon

The Mercury astronauts were famous–John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, Alan Shephard, “Gordo” Cooper and the rest.  But while they were the ones who were blasted into space, it was their wives who played an equally fascinating, if largely unheralded, role in the space program.

That’s the subject of The Astronaut Wives Club: A True Story by Lily Koppel.  Koppel was on the show last night talking about Annie Glenn, Rene Carpenter (whom JFK had his eye on!), Louise Shephard, Trudy Cooper, Jo Schirra, Marge Slayton and Betty Grissom.

The women knew that — for PR purposes — NASA wanted the astronauts to have “perfect” marriages and there was intense pressure on them to come across as ideal fifties housewives.  No matter what they were asked, their answers were expected to be variations of being “proud, thrilled and happy.”  In fact, that phrase became their unofficial motto.  Imagine having to put on that public face when:

  • Your husband was being strapped to the world’s largest stick of dynamite
  • There were young and attractive groupies constantly trying to score an encounter with an astronaut
  • The press would literally barge into your living room during launches — which the wives privately referred to as “death watches”
  • Any embarrassing misstep as a wife could cost your husband a cherished ride on a launch

The book reads like a cross between Mad Men and The Right Stuff.  As one of the wives said, “If you think going to the moon was hard, try staying at home.”  Check out the book and my interview with Koppel.

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Nuthin’ Like the Cup!

Great conversation last night with AP sports reporter Jim Litke about the Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup.  One of the things we talked about was how the Cup is like no other trophy in professional sports.

For instance, it is the only trophy that has its own full-time (white-gloved) handler.  Unlike other sports, there is no duplicate copy which a team gets to keep and display permanently if it wins the championship.  Also, each player gets to spend personal time with it, take it home, drink beer from it, etc.  If that weren’t enough, each player gets his name inscribed on it, joining the names of previous Stanley Cup winners, giving him a touch of immortality.

The NHL obviously knows a good marketing vehicle when it sees it, but beyond that, the Cup does seem to have achieved an aura unlike any other trophy…or even Super Bowl ring.

There’s almost something Homeric about it, evoking the quests in antiquity, such as those for the Grail or the Golden Fleece.  Well, maybe that’s overstating it.  Patrick Kane and the Blackhawks may not be exactly like Jason and the Argonauts.  But here in Chicago, they may as well be!

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Not Used to This!

As happy as I am about the Blackhawks winning last night, my reaction was not just joy–but a little bit of confusion.  I was psyched that an appealing, hard-working group of guys capped off a remarkable season with an improbable finish (I was watching the game by myself and let out a happy expletive after the two final goals!) — but not sure how to react to the fact that the Blackhawks had actually won another Stanley Cup.

Let’s face it.  Not since the running of the Bulls have Chicago sports fans enjoyed what it feels like to have–dare I say it?–something akin to a dynasty.  Or at least a yearly contender.

Despite my rooting for them, the Sox have been one-and-done since they won the World Series.  We’re still talking about the 1985 Bears, and as for the Cubs?  Well, never mind.

So I’m enjoying the feeling that maybe, just maybe, the Blackhawks are about to enter the pantheon of perennial contenders.  That would be a novel feeling.  But a great one!

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Everything You Never Knew About Sex

We had a fascinating guest on last night from the Field Museum, Robert Martin.  He has written a book called, How We Do It:  The Evolution and Future of Human Reproduction.  Among the questions we asked:

  • Why is it necessary for there to be millions of human sperm for every egg?
  • Penis bones are common in the animal kingdom, including primates.  Why don’t human males have one?
  • Are humans evolutionary programmed to be promiscuous or monogamous?
  • Why do women get morning sickness?
  • Why do men have nipples?

Check out my interview with him and hear his answers.  His book is smart, accessible and fascinating!

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That Confusing Body Language!

The other night, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis was on the show.  One of the questions I asked her was about the body language between her and Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett.  I noted that, from an outsider’s perspective, the body language between them seemed very positive and friendly; their rhetoric, however, is not–particularly on Lewis’ part (who has accused CPS of “racist” policies).  Lewis basically said that a good personal relationship does not always translate into a good relationship between the entities individuals represent.

And the same seemed true for House Speaker Mike Madigan and State Senate President John Cullerton.  They’ve been famously at odds over the way to fix the state’s pension crisis but the other day after a confab with the governor on the subject, there they stood talking to the press, with Madigan’s hand resting on Cullerton’s shoulder, all buddy-buddy  (Cullerton is godfather to one of Madigan’s children.)

There are a couple of ways to interpret these confusing signals.  One, people can disagree without being disagreeable.  Two, (and this one’s a real shocker!) there’s a whole lot of posturing going on among people in high places.  So, excuse me, if I scratch my head when I hear someone eviscerate somebody else in a speech and then see them all palsy-walsy later!

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Michael Jordan–Coddled Plaintiff Gets Concierge Treatment in Federal Court?

Michael Jordan is suing Dominick’s for using his name in an ad congratulating him for being inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame.  He’s asking for $5 million in damages.  According to the Tribune, a federal judge has labeled the lawsuit “greedy.”  Whatever.  Jordan’s entitled to protect his brand, likeness, etc., etc.  As for the possibility of Jordan being greedy, he wouldn’t exactly be the first plaintiff guilty of that.

Interestingly, Jordan did not want to personally attend a settlement conference and had to be ordered to attend by the judge.

But here’s what rags me.  According to the Trib, when he came to court “Jordan was allowed to avoid attention Wednesday by entering the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse through its underground parking garage and then taking a private elevator to U.S. District Judge Milton Shadur’s 23rd floor courtroom.”  Plus, the courtroom was locked while he was in it.

Entrance through an underground parking lot?  A private elevator?  A locked courtroom?  Was there a fruit basket waiting for him and a bowl of pistachios?

As someone who practiced law and who believes we are all equal under the law, I think that’s pretty disgusting.  Jordan brought the case himself, is using a taxpayer-funded justice system to seek redress, and therefore should be treated like any other plaintiff.  Filing a federal lawsuit is not like making reservations at the Four Seasons.  It shouldn’t come with concierge service.

The case is apparently going to trial and I hope he winds up being treated like any other citizen–no better, no worse.  Jordan may be the “best ever” on the basketball court, but in a court of law, please.  Let’s not make Lady Justice Michael Jordan’s arm candy.

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