In Rockford, Illinois hockey provides an escape

For seven dollars every Monday and Saturday the Rockford Park District gives hockey players a chance to put aside their problems for 90 minutes. They call it Open Hockey.

Run Rockford, Illinois through a search engine and it becomes obvious why Forbes magazine constantly ranks us in the top ten places to live in America. We were the Forrest City; then a tree disease killed most of the elms. We were the “Screw Capitol of the World;” then most of the manufacturing jobs died too. Hockey helps us forget that, or at least put it out of our minds for a bit.

For an hour and a half, twice a week, we can forget our egoic needs for more money, a better job or just a better situation in general. The game helps us to live in the moment. The game helps to enjoy the moment too. In Rockford, Illinois hockey provides a brief and needed escape from this reality.

Since I started looking for a career eight months ago, I’ve played in almost every open hockey game. It’s become a community for me; the kind of environment Robert Putnam longed for when he wrote Bowling Alone. The game unites us.

I’ve played with all types of skaters at these games: The young guys who played in college, former Illinois State Champions, perhaps looking to relive their past glory or perhaps just out for a good game with their friends. They skate alongside the middle aged men dressed in crisp, red Toews jerseys who learned the game “better late than never.” The men in the Indian head sweaters don’t seem to mind they’ve done for weeks what others have done for years.

There are guys who use open hockey to practice and recruit for their beer drinking (and hockey) tournaments in exotic locations like Kalamazoo, Michigan.

I’ve seen a teenager who always brings a pair “Skittles gloves” and the enthusiasm typically reserved for a Game 7 and an outspoken goalie whose son always watches from the penalty box. I watched as a 68-year-old preacher score 5 goals.

There are two regulars who played juniors. One’s looking for his next professional team; the other’s looking for his next IPA.

There’s a long haired young man who uses Open Hockey to pick at the scabs that cover a hockey career that he never had. To watch him streak across the ice in his old Rockford hockey club Bantam jersey is a beautiful tragedy.

I asked this man what it was like to play on the traveling youth hockey club. To hear him tell it other teams do not enjoy playing Rockford. Geographically, it’s close enough to the bucolic towns of southern Wisconsin and Chicago suburbs with high property taxes to justify the two hour or so car rides every weekend. Culturally, we might as well be on the moon.

The other reason no one enjoys playing Rockford in hockey? We’re pretty good, too. The Icemen, a combined high school team has won the state championship 17 times consecutively.

No, we’re not Warrod. No one has gone from Rockford to the NHL (Our lone Olympian is Janet Lynn, a figure skater whose name is on a sign at the rink even though she practiced outdoors about 20 miles away). I bet someone will make it in the next two decades. The youth hockey program has nearly tripled in size over the last ten years-about the same amount of time since the Blackhawks started televising their home games. The more kids shuffle in and out of Riverview Ice House, a poorly lit barn of an ice arena that won’t conform to the UN standards on carbon emissions in five years, the more hockey will serve as a source of civic pride to the people of Rockford, Illinois.

People in Rockford need the game; people like me. I’m just another guy who used an old pair of shoulder pads to absorb a painful breakup, a loaned stick to fend off his depression and a new pair of Tacks to remember how to enjoy the moment. And I’ve regained my sanity, seven dollars and ninety minutes at a time.


Gay people shouldn’t let Michael Sam become their Tim Tebow

The best thing that gay rights people can do for Michael Sam is to not make a huge deal that an openly gay man will soon play in the NFL, at one of the game’s most brutal positions no less.

Consider Tim Tebow, who was embraced by the Christian-right. I assume gay people, many of which have never seen a football game before, will treat Sam they way the Christian-right treated Tebow, with a cult-like following that demanded he start over anyone else no matter how bad he was or bad he was for the team. Debates raged and ESPN couldn’t get enough. Skip Bayless became his honorary spokesman.

The formula ‘give the people what they want’ is the golden rule in media, especially sports media and that’s what should concern gay rights activists today. What’s best for the gay right’s movement would be if media consumers curb their enthusiasm for stories about Michael Sam. This will be difficult to do. Tebow was not the first super conservative religious NFL player but Sam is on the same level as Jackie Robinson now. Sam’s success in the NFL will likely be inversely proportional to the amount of media attention he receives. 

I have no idea how Sam will play in the NFL, but he probably has the talent to be in the league. Tebow probably could be in the NFL right now too; not as a quarterback, but he could play fullback, tight end or at the least contribute to special teams. There are reports he has too much of an ego to ever let this happen but the main reason he’ll likely never play in the NFL stems from the attention he received. Its likely Sam will receive even more attention than Tebow.  

The No Fun League does not like that.

The NFL treats its players like commodities. The players do not receive health coverage until they’ve been in the league three years, the contracts are not guaranteed and most fans root for the players as long as the player wears their favorite jersey. (I am not above this. Although Jay Cutler is almost universally hated, he plays quarterback for my favorite team and I will defend him until the day I die or his contract with Chicago expires.)

Michael Sam will not be hated for being gay by most people but I suspect he will be hated. He will be hated because he is not just another guy. NFL coaches, for the most part, dream about teams of 53 JAGs who will not distract them from winning football games. Coaches fancy themselves football generals. Even if there’s a perception he could distract the team, it will hurt his draft stock. 

It’s the way the NFL works.

Consumers control what they see in media. If Sam turns into click-bait, ESPN will give him Tebow treatment. That is no say, three years into his career no one will want to sign him.

Why I wear a hat

Of all the unsolicited advice I have, there is none better than this:

                                                                                                wear a hat, young man.

                                    embrace The World

When you walk, show me your ideas matter.

            Don’t hide your eyes.

                                    You helped create It.

            Every person, every event, every run-down building tells Your Story.

                                    Be Proud of It.

See, The World is an unlimited number of problems to solve and stories to tell.

            Don’t look away from The World

                                    although It could be better

Experience The World. Judge others and expect Them to Judge You. Let your cause be noble, your power be pure; your morals be solid.           

                                                                                                Start feeling secure.

            Look me in the eye.

            Show me you accept failure.

            but do not fear it,

Better to give your best effort and fail then not give your best effort.

            Show me you have an Idea about how to fix The World.

                                    Look at The World.

                                    Experience The World the way we do.

                                    Only then can you start taking steps to change It.                                                                                                                                    And start wearing a hat.

Because you’ll feel fucking stupid trying to shield your eyes with your hand.


I might not be the quintessential bro, or even your favorite bro but I am a bro and I have blog. I run it because I want bros to learn the lessons I have. Most of these lessons I have learned the hard way. This is why it’s good to be you. You can learn them the easy way.

You don’t have to, but you can.

Before I go any further I’d like to explain my goals, both as a man and for this blog. I see this blog as an alternative to Bro Bible, where I can explain what it means to me to live as a bro. I really like what those guys are doing but, just as there are many paths to God, there are many paths to being a bro and that’s good. You’re welcome to disagree with me and as long as it doesn’t evolve into an argument about why I’m a fag or the Bears fuckin’ blow I encourage it.  (But seriously, please don’t disrespect the Chicago Bears.) Being wrong should be celebrated as it represents a new level of understanding and this blog is far from dogmatic. It should be a forum for high levels of bro-related discussions but not to be taken seriously.

I would like to foster discussion with women to gain their perspective on such matter. I’d also like to have a reoccurring segment called Badger Babes, in which attractive women from the north woods send in pictures of themselves looking their best at Wando’s, outside of Camp Randall and/or Miller Park; although I recognize these are probably mutually exclusive goals.

I remember from freshman health class in high school, it’s important to have long term goals. In honor of Mr. Lindsteadt, I have two goals. (1) Be so good at my job I can wear sweats and a t-shirt with two Brewer logos making a dynasty symbol to work and people will still have to respect my ideas. (2) Make enough money to buy back a plot of land one block away from the Atlantic Ocean that was willed down to the side of the family who would rather have the money than an awesome place to take a vacation every summer.

These goals motivate me, find out what motivates you and how you can take steps towards reaching them. They don’t have to be grandiose and not all of them have to be long term.

If you want to have sex with the hot manager at your local Target, she’s probably not going to cheat on her Swedish-engineer-boyfriend with someone who has nothing interesting to share with her. You’re going to have to take a page out of Dennis Reynolds’ playbook and demonstrate your value.

Here’s the hard part. Don’t lie about who you are or what you do. You can’t fool everybody every time. So, BE someone who knows things about cool bands, or BE a minor league baseball broadcaster or, shit, BE a chill man who is shopping for a birthday gift for his mom. Don’t lie about what you’re doing. You might still accomplish your goal, but you’ll end up with a lot of self-esteem problems.

If you lie about who you are, then she essentially had sex with someone else; not you. You’ll end up believing you’re not good to have sex with the hot Target manager who dates a Swedish engineer. Maybe you are, maybe you aren’t but if you’re honest with yourself you will know one way or another if you’ve accomplished your goal.

There are some goals worth having and some goals that are not. The best way to determine if a goal is worth having is to achieve it. I would wish you good luck on your journey to achieving your goals but I read John Wooden would never say “good luck” to his players before a game. Instead he would say “play well.” Play the game of life well, bro.