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Posts Tagged ‘American Football’


I had omitted to mention in my last post that, shortly after Alicia and Jerry joined us in our Chicago house, they presented me with my birthday presents – two t-shirts from their Land of the Sun store in Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco. I wore the Watchtower” tie-dye today, not only as a token of my gratitude but also because it was one I had been pursuing for some time, and was so excited to receive it.

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It was accompanied by a touching “card”, adorned with Aiden and Ely’s artwork.

Alicia was queen of the kitchen again, this time serving up scrambled eggs and bacon, providing us with the necessary fuel for what was to prove a long, exhausting but thoroughly enjoyable day.

Ely held court in his armchair while he waited for everybody else to get ready.

Our first port of call was Millennium Park, a former railroad yard in an industrial corner of Grant Park that had been reclaimed to celebrate the turn of the twenty first century. It is now a popular and successful attraction, especially for those interested in art, architecture and the performing arts.

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The extraordinary piece of sculpture, Cloud Gate, was the primary reason for our visit. Designed by British sculptor, Anish Kapoor, it resembles an enlarged, reflective kidney bean, prompting its nickname, The Bean. Wherever you stand on its perimeter, you experience a different, dazzling and somewhat disorientating reflection of the surrounding skyline.

Since the days of ER, one of our favourite US drama series, I had wanted to ride the “L”, the elevated trains that run overhead, providing a great rooftop perspective on the city going about its business.

We walked to the nearest station to Millennium Park, Adams/Wabash, serving, amongst others, the Brown Line, and took it in the direction of Kimball.

Aiden and Janet were happy to be riding the rails.

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Although most of the stations we passed through were quite plain, there were others with gorgeous murals.

We had learnt while standing in line for Willis Tower on the previous day that Jerry’s former business partner and his wife were also in town, and it had been agreed that we all meet up for pizza at 5pm today. With that in mind and time passing we alighted at Belmont on the North Side in search of lunch. Cheesie’s Pub & Grub opposite the station looked enticing, so we took our chances there. There was some confusion initially over what we should have, but my grilled cheese sandwich was certainly worth the wait.

Judging by the baseball memorabilia, we were in the vicinity of Wrigley Field, the fabled home of the Chicago Cubs, World Series Champions in 2016 after a 108 year wait.

While we waited for our food, the boys and I had a few vigorous games of table (ice) hockey. Although Ely may have not been especially tactically astute, his more rudimentary, enthusiastic style made him a match for both Aiden and I.

Cheesie’s was renowned for its root and craft beers, of which Jerry partook, but less so for its coffee. The Osmium Coffee Bar a few blocks away was recommended and we made our way there. We were able to sit in the backyard where all the wooden tables were painted beautifully .

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We took the return to Adams/Wabash. Ely decided that he was no longer with us and needed his own space. We were not the only passengers to be charmed by his subsequent siesta.

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It was time to honour our reservation at Pequod’s authentic Chicago deep dish pizza restaurant. We arrived around twenty minutes early which allowed me the opportunity to do something I had been starved of on the trip so far – look around a bookshop. The large branch of Barnes & Noble called to me from across the street and I escaped from the rest of the party for a few minutes. I did not, however, make any purchases.

Oh, but I could have with more time and money!

We met Joyce and Artie and sat down to dinner. I’ll confess that both Janet and I prefer the traditional Italian thin crust pizza, but there is no denying that our cheese, extra cheese, onion and black olive deep dish version was tasty – and certainly, filling, so much so that we requested a “box” to take back to the house. Jerry and Alicia did the same with their meat pizza. But more of those leftovers in the next chapter.

The final instalment of the day returned us to the Blues Highway theme that had triggered this trip in the first place. Janet, Alicia and I had bought tickets to Blues legend, Buddy Guy’s club, for the evening.

Jerry had expressed his willingness to stay behind at the house looking after the boys. This might just have had something to do with his desire to watch the San Francisco 49ers at the Green Bay Packers live on television in peace.

But if that was the plan, it was thwarted before we even left the house to pick up our Uber. Despite ploughing through what appeared to be hundreds of channels, we could not locate a live transmission of the game. To add insult to injury for Jerry, we discovered that the blues club was showing it on several television sets!

After checking in at the club, we found what appeared to be the only empty table close to the stage – though we may have annoyed a large group of women who had begun to place additional chairs around it as we arrived. Playing dumb was a successful tactic.

I took the opportunity before the outstanding house band, led by singer and guitarist Jimmy Burns, began their first set, and our server arrived with the first gin and tonic of the evening, to look around. Original guitars and photographs of some of the greatest Blues musicians adorned the walls.

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Towards the end of the first set, it was announced that there was a special guest in the house – none other than the venerable owner of the club himself, Buddy Guy, a guitarist revered by Eric Clapton, Keith Richards and Stevie Ray Vaughan, to name but a few guitar gods.

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Belying his eighty two years, Buddy delivered a suggestive, knowing and brilliantly phrased performance. He had the entire audience smiling and applauding, in particular holding women young enough to be his granddaughters in the palm of his hand.

If this were not enough of a gift, he agreed to sign t-shirts during the interval between sets. Alicia and I soon joined other starstruck fans in line for this unexpected and thrilling experience.

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It had been a great evening, the perfect ending to a lovely second day in Chicago in the company of our San Francisco family.

The only disappointment? The 49ers went down to the Packers in the last three seconds of the game. In some respects, it was probably a relief that Jerry had not had to witness it.

 

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I have never understood, or cared to understand, American football.  That is until last night.

Purely because of our affinity with the city of San Francisco, my wife and I had considered celebrating our first wedding anniversary at Wembley Stadium in October 2010 when the 49ers came to town with the Denver Broncos – until we saw the exorbitant prices. We went to Dublin for the weekend instead.

Last season, as dozens of others before, had completely passed me by but I have followed the upturn in their fortunes this year, if  only by casting a cursory glance at the final scores. I had also read a lot about the exploits of quarterback, Alex Smith, which reminded me of the only 49ers player from the past I could honestly claim I could remember – Joe Montana.

So as they had reached the playoffs and were live on TV last night at a manageable hour (9.30pm) – even if it meant missing The Football League Show on BBC – I decided to tune in to the final two quarters as they were leading 17-14 against the New Orleans Saints at the time. Having led 14-0 earlier in the game but the prospects for the remainder of the game did not appear promising to one unsuspecting football virgin.  However, the sight of a scarlet hued Candlestick Park convinced me to stay the course.

I can’t claim to have followed everything of what was going on, though touchdowns and field goals were at least comprehensible.  And I can appreciate a long, accurate pass and even a mighty hit (I have always enjoyed these on the ice rink).  Anyway, the third quarter passed without much incident, other than that San Francisco extended its lead to 20-14.

The margin was still 6 points (23-17) as those final 3 portentous minutes started. It appeared to me that the home side was defending with increasing desperation and, with a history of supporting sports teams who so often ripped defeat from the jaws of victory, I felt staying up until nearly 1.30am would prove ultimately futile. 

And when the Saints went 24-23 ahead, it looked all over. But then Alex Smith, who had hardly had a bad game beforehand, ran in a 28 yard touchdown (I believe that’s the correct expression).  So we’d (notice that?) won it 29-24 hadn’t we? Now, hold on a cotton picking minute (who was it used to say that, Deputy Dawg I think) – back come the Saints with a touchdown of their own to “win” it 32-29.

Glorious failure then – a not uncommon feeling for this sports fan. With 14 seconds left, and my thumb poised on the off button on the remote control, Smith calls what seems to me to be a pointless timeout.  Now this is where my ignorance of American sport kicks in. Of course I should have known that within 5 seconds he would plant the ball in the arms of the grateful, and soon to be sobbing uncontrollably, tight end, Vernon Davis, for the winning touchdown. 36-32! 

I was reminded in the midst of all this mayhem of the word “torture” that so eloquently described the San Francisco Giants march to the World Series 15 months before.

I don’t think that I will still ever develop the affiliation I now have with the city’s baseball team – you might like to read my earlier post about how I fell in love with the San Francisco Giants (www.tonyquarrington.wordpress.com/2011/05/12/bitten-by-the-giants-baseball-bug) – but I have acquired sufficient interest to prompt me to learn more about the rules and tactics, purchase some 49ers merchandise, and be there in front of the TV for the next playoff game and, of course, the Super Bowl. OK, I’m probably getting  a little ahead of myself now, but that’s what fans do don’t they?

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As this series develops I hope to be able, where the events of the day allow, to present a “main feature” i.e. a story in some detail supported by a list of “lesser” happenings that are worthy of note.  But I am at the mercy of history and this may not always be possible.  

The following events occurred on this day in history:

1848: Gold is discovered by James W. Marshall, a foreman working at Sutter’s Mill on the American River in Coloma, 130 miles to the north east of San Francisco, triggering the influx of 300,000 prospectors seeking their fortune and transforming the city from a small town into a booming, bawdy metropolis. 

Doubts persisted for some time whether the small, golden nugget that had made Marshall’s “heart thump” as it was more the colour of brass than the customary reddish-tinged gold found elsewhere.  A few tests revived his confidence that he had struck gold, though it was not until March before the rumours were confirmed for all in San Francisco to hear.  That story will be  be recounted on the relevant day.

1980: Just before 11am a powerful, rolling earthquake centred ten miles to the north west of Livermore and measuring 5.8 on the Richter scale, hit, destroying the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, a major storage depot for nuclear materials.  Forty four people were injured and the estimated property damage was $11.5 million. 

It was felt over a large area of central California and parts of western Nevada and was followed by 59 aftershocks in the next six days and a second principal earthquake on 27th of the month.  

1982: The San Francisco 49ers won Superbowl XVI by defeating the Cincinnati  Bengals 26-21 in cold, snowy conditions at the Pontiac Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan.  The treacherous roads leading to the stadium caused the 49ers motorcade to be delayed, though the team arrived in time for the kick off. 

Joe Montana, in only his third season, was named the Super Bowl MVP, completing 14 of 22 passes for 157 yards and one touchdown, and also rushing for 18 yards and a touchdown on the ground.  The Bengals were the first team in Super Bowl history to lose the game whilst accumulating the most yards and touchdowns.

Nearly thirty years on the game remains one of the most watched broadcasts in American TV history, pulling in 85 million viewers.

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