Representing the Review at the Chicago Rush Media Challenge last week, I survived football drills and avoided finishing last.
Media Day was held at the team’s practice facility. It started off with remarks by new Head Coach Bob McMillen and interviews with players. During Q-and-A, my colleagues held up electronic devices, while I scribbled on a yellow pad.
Nevertheless, I asked the question that was foremost in everyone’s mind. How was Coach McMillen’s 16-inch softball career progressing? McMillen said he had played softball in Forest Park and greatly enjoyed it. Unfortunately ankle surgery forced him to hang up the cleats.
Seeking more softball stories, I interviewed the team’s superb kicker Chris Gould, the only player with whom I could see eye-to-eye. Chris attended a celebrity softball game in Forest Park last year and watched his brother, Robbie – the Bears’ kicker – place four line-drive hits to the outfield.
Growing up in a small, Pennsylvania town, the Gould brothers played any sport that included a ball. It wasn’t until they came to Chicago that they got to wallop a 16-inch one.
Having scooped the TV and radio reporters on the big story, I now had to compete against them. I was not only the smallest human on the field; I appeared to be the oldest. I also had the handicap of wearing jeans.
I hoped there was still some magic left from my amateur football days. At the height of my career, it took four guys to tackle “Crazy Legs” Rice in Mrs. Flood’s backyard.
Our first event was the 40-yard dash. My official time by the sundial was 6.7 – mere seconds behind the winner. We then lined up for the standing long jump. I flew a pitiful four feet, half the winning distance. I blamed the jeans.
Then came our stiffest challenge – catching passes. The first was a hitch pattern. Being short, I’m accustomed to overthrows and hung onto a high hard one. I also caught a long pass on the post pattern. Sprinting down the field on the last pass route, my tiny quick steps gave the illusion of speed, causing the quarterback to overshoot.
We finished up by suffering through defensive drills. All during these activities, the Rush players cheered, encouraged and instructed. They got a kick out of seeing us get a small taste of what they have to go through every day.
At the end, two awards were presented. One was, “Chicago Media’s Best Athlete,” the other, “Don’t Quit Your Day Job.” I didn’t win either.
The real athletes have their home opener on Mar. 18. Doc Ryan’s is sponsoring a bus to the game, and portions of the ticket sales will go to Hephzibah Children’s Association. Anyone interested can call Doc’s at (708) 366-2823.
If help is needed at wide receiver that day, I’m ready.
John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.a