Joakim Noah, Patrick Kane, Nellie Fox: What they all have in Common

Flying around the bases can be as graceful as cutting into the paint, and taking a pass from a teammate:  harmony in motion.  Don’t ever forget Michael Jordan to Scottie Pippen or vice versa against the Lakers in 1991.  Running up and down the floor still keeps me mesmerized while watching my old VCR tapes from that winning series.

That’s what got me thinking about comparing Luis Aparicio to Jimmy Butler. As Nellie Fox would lay down a bunt, and Little Louie would fly around the bases, just watch Joakim Noah lay down a pass to Jimmy.  Or Nate Robinson to Taj Gibson, ending the play with a slam dunk.  And then my memory goes quickly back to that backhand pass from Patrick Kane to Marion Hossa in OT , who flawlessly shot the puck into the net for a big win.  Or Jonathan Toews duking Ekmon-Larsson for his quick slap shot.

Speed wins.  Along with pinpoint perfection in knowing where your teammate will be.  Relatedness with each other.

I was just a White Sox and Bears fan growing up.  Then I had kids, and my husband took them to Chicago Bulls' games on Friday night or Saturday in the 80’s, when I was working on my PhD at Loyola – and they could just walk up to the window and get seats close to the floor at the one and only, Chicago Stadium.

So my brother, Philip, suggested we split  4 seasons tickets, since this guy, Michael Jordan came to town.  The rest, obviously, was history.  John Paxson, Horace Grant, Michael, Scottie Pippen, and Bill Cartwright. Harmony in motion.

Then it was only in 2009 when my kids would be home for Thanksgiving, and I watched hockey.  And now, I can’t help myself,  with Pat Foley and Eddie Olczyk calling the games. Speeding down the ice is something our 10 game - win, first place  Blackhawks look like again since their 2010 Stanley Cup year.

I never really knew how fast I could run as a kid, until I began asking the hard questions of the day.   In 4th grade,  it was usual fare for the Boys' Gym teachers to clock their students' highest speeds while running around the bases,  on official stopwatches, clocking their best times.

As this rite of passage was happening for my male counterparts on the playground at Warren School, at 91st and Jeffrey, the girls would be playing hopscotch, jumping rope, playing tag, or swinging on the swings.

But not this girl.  Not this South Side Sports Chick.  I’d be hanging right next to the clipboard and see what the scores were, next to Billy, Phillip, Steven, Gary,  Larry, or Robbie’s names.  I’d watch them huffing and puffing, and some of them even cheat, while rounding 2nd base but never tagging it.

I knew I could beat them.  I just did.

So I asked the teachers if I could have a turn.  They looked at me with glassy eyes, and looked at each other with a rather puzzled expression, and could see my face pleading for a chance.   They gave each other a smirk, and the head guy with the clipboard said, “Why not?  Sure, go ahead,” matter-of-factly.  While shrugging his shoulders and asking for my name, I could see he was just thinking, "oh what the heck, let her just do it."

By this time, Billy, Phillip, Steven, Gary,  and Larry looked up.  Now THAT got their attention.  And even Linda, Rochelle, Sue, Shari, Susan,  Phyllis and Susie stopped what they were doing.   And I looked back at my best friends and grinned.  And they all just smiled back, with Shari and Sue coming over to watch.

Then silence came over that part of the playground for a lot of the 4th grade students, who were in the vicinity of the baseball field.  The head boys’ gym teacher held the stopwatch in his hand, nodded to me to get on home plate,  and I crouched down just like I watched Little Louie do every Sunday on WGN, ready for Nellie's bunt.  I planted my left foot and waited for the countdown:  “3 – 2 -1- Go!”

And I ran.  I could feel my pigtails bouncing off my shoulders.  I couldn’t hear the shouting from my friends who were cheering me on.  Every sight was the next base, and nothing more.  Every sound was just my breath, with an eery silence hovering inside my head. Every step, every piece of sand that I kicked up from the diamond, every smell from each base, with the wind just standing still, just mesmerized me, till I touched home plate – and flew past it like a dart out of hell.

By this time I was on the grass, panting and catching my breath.  And I knew it.

I knew I didn’t have to look back to see the Boys’ gym teacher's face.  I knew I didn’t have to see him with a look of disbelief, while staring at the stop watch, nor showing it to the other gym teacher.

But I came over anyway and asked what my score was.  “You won – by, 1.3 seconds!”  By now, they were just staring at me.  I could tell what they were thinking by the way their eyes were wide open and glancing first at each other, then back at me, and ending their eyes on their group of boys - who were already just walking away.

I smiled ear to ear.  And so did they, while marking down my score on the tally sheet next to my name.

Then the bell rang for gym period to end. Our 4th grade lined up and we marched back into school for Reading.  Dick and Jane never seemed this good.

So the next time you’re feeling itchy for Baseball season to begin with reports from sunny Arizona, or wonder how Cutler and Trestman are going to bring us a Super Bowl, without an offensive line or tight ends who can catch the ball between the numbers, go watch the play of our Blackhawks or Bulls.

Or catch a replay of my alma mater, our Fighting Illini,  knocking down a Big Ten Rival,  # 1 ranked Hoosiers, with that perfect pass from Brandon Paul to a speeding Tyler Griffey. A win they knew they had, in less than a second. Just like that little 10 yr. old girl on the playground in 4th grade.




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