All posts by erinbarney

Chicago junior tennis rallies against decline in sportsmanship

By Erin Barney

The world would have forgiven Novak Djokovic if he threw his racquet after losing to Sam Querrey in the third round of Wimbledon Sunday.

Fans have understood when Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Andy Murray and countless other pros took anger out on their equipment, and would have given the No. 1 player in the world the same pardon. They felt his pain, and would have shared in his outrage and frustration at the loss.

Fortunately, they didn’t have to. Djokovic opted for Wimbledon’s longstanding tradition of sportsmanship.

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Pat Summitt’s reach and inspiration seen in Illinois athletes

By Erin Barney

Pat Summitt was a game changer.

Not just in the cliché sense of the phrase, though. The former University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach and winningest coach in Division I history certainly was a pivotal figure. But she transcended the common expression and literally changed women’s basketball.

Summitt died yesterday in Knoxville, Tennessee at the age of 64, but those she inspired intend to honor her legacy with continued advocacy for women’s sports.

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Reality check: Fans get closer than ever to athletes with virtual technology

By Erin Barney

Sean Smith watched Paxton Lynch’s perfect spiral fly over his head and hit a receiver in stride. There was grass under his feet and Lynch’s trainers to his left and right. When he looked up, he swore he could feel the Memphis sun.

But then the STRIVR goggles came off, and it was back to reality. A much colder, rainier Chicago reality.

Smith, 44, was one of thousands of fans in the NFL’s Draft Town Saturday to enter a virtual world. A Palo Alto, California-based virtual reality company, STRIVR, lets fans get an up-close and personal encounter with the players. The goggles offered a 360-degree view of Jaylon Smith’s workout or a look at the defensive line from Shaq Lawson’s vantage point. Continue reading

In NFL Draft Town, the Cheeseheads stand alone … or at least act that way

By Erin Barney

Living in Chicago as Packers fans conditioned the Banaszak family to defend itself.

“We grew up riding past Soldier Field and giving the finger as a salute,” said Dave Banaszak, 27, the youngest of three siblings.

“I trained my kids good,” said Larry Banaszak, 58, the family patriarch.

But all fingers remained down and in pockets Friday in Draft Town — partly because of 45-degree temperatues … mostly because the Banaszaks weren’t under attack.
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O brother, where art thou? In NFL with J.J., Derek Watt hopes

By Erin Barney

WAUKESHA, Wis. — NX Level gym is one of the few places Derek Watt finds separation from big brother J.J. Watt.

In a town tucked 20 miles west of Milwaukee, away from analysts and coaches comparing him to the NFL’s three-time Defensive Player of the Year, Derek usually can focus on himself and his training. But between workout sets less than a week before the NFL Draft, when asked what motivates him — what makes Derek Watt a competitor — he drew the comparison to J.J. himself.

It’s just reflexive at this point. Continue reading

Jay Berwanger: NFL’s first draft pick said no to league 80 years ago and never looked back

By Erin Barney

Every wall in Cuyler Berwanger’s Oak Brook home is decorated.

Framed photos of 16 grandchildren crowd the foyer. A few steps’ descent into his office reveals more of the Berwanger clan —individual shots of his six children and their families.

“The oldest grandkid is off to college next year,” Cuyler said. “She’s got a 4.5 GPA. Can you believe that?”
The black-and-white tributes to his Heisman Trophy-winning father and previous owner of the house, Jay Berwanger, are almost an afterthought.

But that’s the way Berwanger preferred it.

Berwanger, who died in 2002, was the star running back from the University of Chicago, the first Heisman winner in 1935 and the first pick in the first NFL Draft in 1936. But on the 80th anniversary of the draft, which begins Thursday in Chicago, the family still holds his “father” title in higher regard than his other accolades. Continue reading

Changing lanes: Track athletes switch to bobsled to prolong athletic careers

By Erin Barney

Evan Weinstock still laces up spiked shoes, pulls on a spandex suit and high-knees his way through a dynamic warmup before each race—a routine he perfected as a decathlete.

But the familiarity ends there.

At the conclusion of his senior season at Brown University, Weinstock traded track and field for bobsled. Now, while his alma mater competes at the IC4A Championships in Boston, Weinstock and Team USA are busy sweeping the two-man race at the Lake Placid North American Championships, ankle deep in slush and snow.

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World Cup of Hockey expected to excite Blackhawks fans

By Erin Barney

Champagne dripped from the ceiling. Table tops were used for celebratory dances. Glass snapped and cracked under the weight of more dancing on the ground.

The Ogden Chicago, a bar near the United Center, was in a state of chaos on a night last June. But it didn’t matter. The Chicago Blackhawks had just won the 2015 Stanley Cup.

“Hawks fans are crazy,” said Joe Magoonaugh, managing partner at The Ogden Chicago. “Every single game, they always bring the crazy.”

That’s why Magoonaugh was pleased to hear about the World Cup of Hockey coming this fall.

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Figure skating dress design with an edge

By Erin Barney

Gail Johnson didn’t fit in with the other figure skating moms.

She wasn’t wooed by elegant melodies or charmed by gaggles of twirling toddlers. She didn’t love glitter. Sequins weren’t her thing.

But in an effort to save a few bucks, Johnson found herself more closely tied to the sport and its culture than most. She decided to make her five-year-old daughter’s dresses herself rather than pay an expensive designer.

“They should have hung a skull and crossbones over the door [of the skating world] because of how expensive and how time consuming it was going to be,” Johnson said.

No, Johnson most definitely did not belong.

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