Thursday, January 19, 2012

St. Xavier football gives local politicos only chance to brandish a trophy

Cook County officials were in their glory on Wednesday as they got to engage in a bit of fluff before delving into such serious issues as immigration “detainers” and how messed up are Stroger Hospital finances?

It was football time.
What fun is football without cheerleaders?

AND SINCE THE Chicago Bears had their season in 2011 delve into a level of complete dreck, it turned to the St. Xavier Cougars from the Southwest Side to provide the occasion.

St. Xavier last month beat Carroll College (in the Milwaukee suburbs) for the NAIA national championship title for last year. Which makes them the first college football team from Chicago proper to be able to make such a claim in 99 years.

It seems the University of Chicago (back in the days when they were Big Ten) can make a claim of sharing a title with Harvard University for 1913. That was the last, until the athletes from St. Xavier gave us something to cheer for – had we been paying attention this autumn.

Which is why team and university officials were at the Cook County Board meeting, bringing their huge trophy to show off, while Commissioner John Daley boasted that his father (the late Mayor Richard J.) helped to develop the neighborhood around 103rd Street just west of Central Park Avenue.

AND COMMISSIONER JERRY “the Iceman” Butler mocked the student-athletes by asking them, “I’m wondering why it took you 99 years” to win.

Of course, it doesn’t say much that St. Xavier is the first Chicago college football team to win a championship in so long. It’s not like the Chicago White Sox going 88 years between World Series victories or the Chicago Cubs still waiting for a World Series victory after 104 seasons of coming up short (some years, way short).

Chicago's latest athletic champion. Photographs provided by St. Xavier University

For to the best of my knowledge, there are few Chicago-based colleges that have football programs – St. Xavier, the aforementioned University of Chicago and North Park University up around Foster and Kedzie avenues.

And North Park’s moment of athletic glory came back in the late 1970s-early 1980s when their basketball program won four consecutive national titles.

IN SHORT, MOST of our urban universities have scaled back athletic programs (compared to the major conference state universities) that tend to focus on basketball as their main endeavor. In short, Chicago hasn’t had a championship college football team in 99 years because there simply aren’t many teams.

For those of you who want to cite the Northwestern Wildcats football program, keep in mind that they technically are an Evanston-based entity. They belong to the suburbs and don’t really count in this particular achievement.

I wonder how much locals really care about college athletics – unless they went to a particular school. I know in my own case, most of my attention goes to my alma mater – which I recall had basketball teams in the mid-1980s that used to play extremely well, UNTIL North Park would come to town and whomp on our butts.

It is the reason why that Northwest Side college is one part of Chicago that I just can’t get into. The old IWU Titan fan in me holds me back. Even if North Park ever put together a football program that would manage to do the city proud by accomplishing what St. Xavier managed to do.

IT WILL BE interesting to see if St. Xavier is able to follow up in future seasons on their achievements of 2011. At the very least, it must be a highlight for the athletes on that team who by-and-large are Chicago-area kids from places like Mount Carmel High School, Thornton High in Harvey or Joliet Central.

They got to say they played college football, and have some memories of a championship – even though most of us weren’t watching closely as they ratcheted up their record of 14-1 (their only loss was a 27-9 game on Nov. 5 against Indiana-based Marian University).

Let’s just hope we don’t have to wait another 99 years before some local institution of higher learning gives our city another championship of a sort.

Because if we have to wait for the Cubs to do something right – I don’t think any of us can live that long!


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Carroll College from the Milwaukee suburbs?
Get a clue and the facts straight! The Carroll College that St Xavier beat, hails from Montana! They had won 6 National championships in the last decade.... Wow, nice work.