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The 5 People You Meet in Chicago Recreational Sports

Glenn McBride

So this is like a longer Twitter right?

(With any luck, this article will be just as popular as Mitch Albom's "The Five People You Meet in Heaven". I'd say it's a fifty-fifty shot.)

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Chicago is a vibrant sports town. Not only in the sense of the ability for one city to support two Major League Baseball teams, a National Basketball Association team, a National Football League team, a National Hockey League team, a Major League Soccer team, a Women's Flat Track Roller Derby team and many, many more (Please do not email if your favorite team was not mentioned), but also in a sense of participation. Chicagoans love to be active in competition.

To fill this need, various organizations and clubs have set out to create recreational leagues in almost any sport imaginable. Judging by the offering of one of the major players in Chicago rec sports, Chicago Sport and Social Club, everyone from soccer enthusiasts to amateur dodgeballers can find a place to play. This ability to find an outlet for athletic pursuits is a treat for anyone who develops "city fever" and needs to break out of the seemingly closing walls of the concrete jungle.

As a veteran of a many rec leagues, both in Chicago and otherwise, I have noticed a trend concerning my fellow competitors and teammates. While stereotyping and early judgments are often a one-way street to embarrassment, in the context of casual sports leagues most people can fit into one of five easily discernible categories.

(A quick disclaimer: I have played in both male only and co-ed leagues and found that the roles are not gender specific. For the purposes of clean writing, I will refer to all of these hypothetical "role models" as males. Just don't forget that it works both ways.)

1.) Captain Glory Days

Attire: Full blown professional equipment from head to toe. He has the Under Armour shorts, the wristbands, expensive footwear and any additional accessories that most people would deem unnecessary.

Demeanor: Like a soldier who returns from battle, but never truly forgets what he saw, Captain Glory Days will never forget what it was like playing in the State Semi-Finals. Even though this game was 12 years ago, this person will continue to approach every game, no matter how inconsequential, with the same intensity.

How can you know you are playing with Captain Glory Days?: If you are playing softball and the score is already out of hand and a player steals third even though no one else is even really focused anymore, you have yourself a Captain Glory Days.

Annoyance Factor: In a competitive league, where most of the players fall into this category, it is not annoying. In a co-ed, recreational, casual, just-for-fun league, these are the guys that make you want to never play sports again.

2.) The Joker

Attire: Usually has long hair pulled back into a "funny" style. Wears mix-matched pieces of the uniform. If possible, will wear a comical shirt from a store like Threadless.

Demeanor: Always laughing, even if in a full blown sprint. The game is his playground and he wants to instill joy to all those around him. His repertoire includes cartwheels, strike outs, missed shots, fake falls, air-balls and many, many more.

How can you know you are playing with a Joker?: If someone takes a half-court shot with 5:23 left in the first quarter of a basketball game or tries to pass between another players legs despite not having anywhere near the talent to pull of such a maneuver, you have yourself a Joker.

Annoyance Factor: In a co-ed, recreational, casual, just-for-fun league, these guys can be fun to a certain extent. In a competitive league, these guys might end up without a ride home.

3.) Mr. No-Show

Attire: On the odd chance that Mr. No-Show is at a given game, or not late to said game, he will surely not be prepared to play. As if each week presents the same amount of surprise, Mr. No-Show will arrive out of breath as if he just realized the game was scheduled. Surely he will not have all the right parts of his uniform.

Demeanor: Will always seem like he has something much more important going on besides the game. Either he just came from work where he had a big case to analyze or he has to run right after the game is over to get to his child's birthday party. This guy has things going on, no matter the time or day. Don't even try to make small talk as these characters are more enigmatic than you might expect.

How can you know you are playing with Mr. No-Show?: If a player on your team is forced to play in dress pants because they left their gym shorts on the counter at home, you have yourself a Mr. No-Show. More easily detectable behavior would be if a player misses more than two games in a season, you have yourself a Mr. No-Show.

Annoyance Factor: Depending on the depth of a roster and talent of remaining players, these guys can either be devastating or a welcome addition. In paid leagues, having Mr. No-Show on your team can be a good thing, as long as they pay their dues. This lowers the cost for everyone else, but does not take away playing time. Thanks, Mr. No-Shows of the world!

4.) Guy Who Looks Good But Is Almost Comically Untalented

Attire: Bless their hearts, they will look the role. This is the problem with these characters, before the game they look like they could be assets to a team. There give away nothing based on looks alone.

Demeanor: Another Trojan horse type trick within the Guy Who Looks Good But Is Almost Comically Untalented arsenal is that they say and do all the right things. Before the game they will be leading stretch circles, talking strategy, co-mingling with teammates and generally appearing to be ready to strike. Come game time, they will continue to act as if they are helping the cause, but everyone begins to realize that they are a pure waste of space.

How can you know you are playing with Guy Who Looks Good But Is Almost Comically Untalented? If a player arrives for a soccer match with a full international kit on, a British accent and a bag of equipment yet cannot seem to dribble, pass, shoot, defend, or run more than 50 feet without tiring, you have yourself a Guy Who Looks Good But Is Almost Comically Untalented.

Annoyance Factor: Personally, I think these guys are the worst. Pre-game hopes are raised to such a point that the fall to reality hurts. It is not often to hook up with a group of players who can actually play, so to have this oasis of a player on a squad is devastating. Generally, though, these characters are nice off the field.

5.) Everyone's Favorite Person

: He looks like he should for a rec game. The equipment will be in order, but not spectacular. He will be wearing the same outfit as everyone else.

Demeanor: He is there to have a good time, meet some people and play hard. He will speak to his teammates about things other than sports. He will hang out after the game and have a drink or two. He will encourage teammates. He will try to win, but will not run over anyone to do so. Women want to date him, men want to be like him. He is generally above average in terms of ability, as well.

How can you know you are playing with Everyone's Favorite Person?
: If one person is surrounded by their teammates before the game, on the bench and after the game, you have yourself an Everyone's Favorite Person. Not limited to one per team, however.

Annoyance Factor
: None. Unless you are not this person, then you are jealous. If you are not this guy, you are probably one of the other characters. Take a step back and try to figure out which one you are.


Next time you join a team, keep your eyes open for these tell-tale characters. Hopefully the future will bring your a team full of Everyone's Favorite Persons and not a motley crew of Captain Glory Days, Jokers, Mr. No-Shows and Guys Who Looks Good But Is Almost Comically Untalented.




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afolgers said:

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Loved this article ... but can you now make one geared towards the female players on da teams? Thanks! Anna

Glenn McBride said:


Thanks, Anna!

While I might not be the expert on female players, I would consider writing a similar piece. Any suggestions for the different "characters"?

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