Tearing Up the Front Porch: University of Chicago

The University of Chicago is one of those Rockefeller schools founded in the late 1800’s with a donation from John D. The first classes were held in 1892, not that long ago by some standards, but since then the place has housed 89 Nobel Prize winners, 50 Rhodes Scholars, and 13 billionaires.

More importantly Chicago was a founding member of the  Big Ten conference, won 2 national football championships, and a Chicago player was the recipient of the first ever Heisman trophy. That was 1935.

In 1939, Chicago stopped playing football.IMG_9687

Make no mistake, I love football. I even love college football. But Cancelling football right after winning the Heisman, at a time when college football was becoming America’s true national game, is FABULOUS!IMG_9906

It was fabulous in that more people today know about the Chicago School of Economics and its original rejection of Keynesian ideas than know about the Heisman. Which is appropriate because it is a college. A school. Odds are if one buys a Chicago Maroons sweater at Walmart they are not cheering a running back but more likely an academic.

Most schools are not that brave.IMG_9581

But to go to Chicago you have to be brave. It is a must.

Why? Because it is unbearably cold there. Freezing. Yeah, yeah, yeah, people there chose brains over sports but really, it was probably just way too cold outside. Seriously how do people live in that?IMG_9959 Ranked #4 by US News & World Report

Student body: 15,312

Endowment: $7.5 billion

Mascot…. the Phoenix!

Shakespeare in Chicago: New Zealand All Blacks

The game of rugby was born at a small boarding school in England. These young boys grew up and took the game with them, spreading it around the world, or at least anywhere in the world that at one time saw a concentration of former English school boys. This game remained a game till it hit New Zealand. There it became an art.

cheapseats

The United States was well established as its own country by the time rugby was invented, but American Universities like Harvard and Princeton were still fashioning themselves in the image of places like Cambridge and Oxford. All of those schools, especially the American one’s, played rugby. Over time the American version morphed a bit, we started blocking players who weren’t carrying the ball, stopped play after each tackle, and finally, the move that forever swept American’s away from rugby, the forward pass was made legal.

fansatgame

Rugby became football and Americans fell into a deep passionate love with gridiron. It started in the ivy league schools of the East Coast, spread to schools nationwide, and then, mostly in the Midwest, the game went professional. Those early days of the NFL are forever in our memory as black and white images of games being played on frozen fields in places like Green Bay, Cleveland, and Chicago. Soldier Field in Chicago, home of Mike Ditka and the Chicago Bears, is a living temple dedicated to the memory of the early days of football and the steel toughened game we love.

throwingball

I love both games. They are cousins. Birthed of the same parents but reared oceans apart, they tell the same story in different languages, and as the language of rugby goes, the New Zealand All Blacks are Shakespeare. The Americans who still play the game are more like Steinbeck.

lavalla

They flow with flourishes of color and beauty. We are straight forward, dusty and plodding. I like Steinbeck but watching the Grapes of Wrath performed is not Midsummer Night’s Dream. Reading either is fun, but New Zealand performs. They embody beauty. The Americans travel dirt roads toward California scrounging for a better life.

IMG_9916

New Zealand rarely plays against the American national team (Eagles). When they do meet, it isn’t in America. Every time they have met, New Zealand has won. Handily.

soldierfiledus

But sometimes legends do meet, Washington knew Jefferson, Socrates and Plato, and then Soldier Field and the All Blacks. The match was attended by 60,000 people, the largest crowd in American rugby history, and I was there. Me and every other rugby fan in the States. Every thick chested, Guinness drinking, tree trunk legged American sat in the frozen stands and got wobbly kneed when the Kiwis did the haka.

serevi

The score was as predicted- Shakespeare plays never have new endings, but the performance is always worth watching. Seeing it live…

transcendental.

haka