Chicago Disturbs Me a Great Deal

Dare I be so egocentric as to think a personal experience matters as much as the intrigue of what happened on the court tonight? I would like to think the anecdote I am about to relay is important as it speaks to the fundamental issues and principles that FD stands for and against...

My best friend was DJing tonight at a spot in Chicago called the Burlington at 3425 W. Kimball between Bernard and Kimball. It's your standard fare dank, PBR-serving spot. A really attractive reviewer reviewer on Yelp describes it as "Where the hipster/art school/music snob/bike messenger kids hang out in Logan Square." I've had some good times there and some boring times there, and at this point find it fit to return only when my friend DJs there (another good friend works the door there on occasion).

Knowing that I would be attending this bar on this evening, and knowing that it's a million miles north of where I lived, I arranged to get a car through my I-Go car sharing membership at 930, watch the first half of the game in my apartment, take off around halftime and catch the rest of the game at the bar. I should mention that last time we hit up the Burlington to see my friend DJ they kindly switched whatever TV movie was showing on their flatscreen to the NBA on TNT to let us watch some playoff game. Frustratingly, the person using the car before me was late, so I missed the whole third quarter and was fairly steamed. I zipped up to the North side around ten, listening to the game on ESPN radio. It was so intense I had to turn it off, but by the time I got to the bar (10:30), i knew it was a 1-point game with about three minutes left. I rushed in and saw my friends, saw that the TV (a gigantic flatscreen behind the bar) was off.

When I told my crew the circumstances of the game, my friend Kachel, the best haggler of my friends politely requested to the bartender to turn the game on. She asked the acting manager and he came over with a rejection. At this point, I got into it and was as vocally angry as I've ever been. I essentially told him in not so many words that it was ludicrous for him not to turn the game on and that we would only be watching (with the sound off mind you) for about 7 minutes. He gave a reasonable rationale that he didn't want to pay his DJs to play good music while people were distracted by watching the game. When I explained that the DJ was my best friend since 7th grade, the manager didn't care. Amongst the things that came next from him included:

--"it's not a Cubs game, so the policy is to have the TV off"
--"We're not a sportsbar!" (emphatically, repeatedly)
--"Isn't it the Lakers vs. the Celtics? Then why do you even want to watch it?!" (i.e. it's not a Chicago team, so why would you care)
-- "who still cares about the NBA?"
--"most of those guys [in the NBA] are jerks"
--"the NBA is all fixed"
--the requisite, "You can go somewhere else."
--"If you can find two other people in the bar who you DON'T KNOW who want to watch the game, I'll turn it on." (Unfortunately, we knew most of the other people in the bar).

As he again remarked that "this isn't a sportsbar" and as two girls caught in the midst of this complained that they didn't want the glare from the TV, since they had been "working all day," I admittedly (and embarrassingly in retrospect) uttered, "You know, there doesn't have to be such a disconnect between sports and indie culture." (ha). At the moment of ostensible defeat, guy turned on the game with about a minute and a half left and proceeded to give us the finger a few times and state, "I'm not leaving it on if the game goes to overtime."

I'm not sure if it was because he saw a decent amount of people (including those we didn't know) pay attention to the game when it came on, but for whatever reason, the guy started to ease up...a bit. He asked who I was cheering for and I said that "I don't really know, I care more about players...like Lamar Odom." This incensed him, as he couldn't believe that I wanted the game on so badly and didn't even have a vested interest in a single team.

Moments later as the game ended,, the guy apologized for yelling at us. He even gave us some shots, which he deemed his "fuck you shots" from him to us. I was still kind of shaking about the whole thing. The whole scenario illustrated a few key things:

--I know we talk about it a lot, but this is living proof that there is a wacked perception of the NBA out there, with some definitive classist undertones. This exchange was all too akin of when an employee at a very similar bar in Chicago, The Continental, told me that the DJs aren't allowed to play rap music. The NBA is seen as antithetical to culture and civilization.

--Liberated fandom is a hard concept to digest. There is some primitive notion of humans as fundamentally coalitional, and drawn to associate only with a greater collective rather than an individual. Or maybe this is just a perception of sportsfans as cro-magnons who necessarily band together rather than think for themselves.

--Remarks of "We're not a sportsbar," translating essentially to, "I will lose indie cred by turning this game on" are just at the root of what Chicago has always been blamed for: Insanely segregated diversity. Like, what kind of high schoolian notion is it that 'the jocks sit at this table, the geeks sit at this table, the preppy kids sit at this table.' This hipster/meathead false dichotomy has been rearing itself quite a bit of late, with the obscene irony of mostly white Midwesterners who move into formerly immigrant neighborhoods complaining of this neighborhood now being overrun with "Wrigleyville douchebags." [For the record, I would live on the North Side were it not for the proximity of my apartment to work/school].

Or maybe the Burlington guy and the West Town elitists are right. A few popped collars have soiled the reputation of anyone who wants to Watch The Game once in a while. Certainly the clip below is not a complete anomaly in this fine city (warning: extremely unsettling, but reasonably safe for work)

At any rate, I like to hope that what we do here at FD is provide some middle ground for people who are simply intrigued by the pro hoops game. And who have friends and girlfriends. And who like stuff besides basketball as well.

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At 6/13/2008 2:57 AM, Blogger Dude N Plenty said...

Joe Conrad floated up the chocolate shake river.

At 6/13/2008 4:34 AM, Blogger LouisB said...

I'm not really in shock but watching something like that puts me in a worse mood during a night when I was already in a bad mood after watching my Lakers take a shit for 2 1/2 quarters of game 4.

At 6/13/2008 4:58 AM, Blogger Nathaniel Jones said...

Falling Down makes everything feel better.

At 6/13/2008 5:03 AM, Blogger The Other Van Gundy said...

I'm in Chicago suburbs, I've heard of the Weiner's Circle. Never knew it was like that. Holy shit.

At 6/13/2008 5:06 AM, Blogger T. said...

I've been obsessed with going to the Weiner Circle ever since I saw Dave Atell go on an episode of Insomniac about 6 years ago, but I've still never been to Chicago (outside of O'Hare)

At 6/13/2008 5:24 AM, Blogger Built Chamberlain said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 6/13/2008 5:27 AM, Blogger Built Chamberlain said...

"I don't really know, I care more about players...like Lamar Odom."

That's fucking Classic

At 6/13/2008 5:30 AM, Blogger John said...

Chicagoan here, old enough to remember when Kedzie and fullerton wasn't "the north side."

You don't have to see a city of 3 million, an area of 8 million, writ small in one of 40 or so hipster jagoff bars. If dudes like this bother you so much, stay on the south side, or any other cotdamn bar in this city that doesn't have the same effing elitist artfug crowd. That's what I do, more or

When I want to get a fancy beer while listening to some hipster music, I go to places like wherever you went to today. When I want to watch the game, I stay at home, or go to one of the other 2,000 bars in the city that aren't full of people like the villianous bartender of your story.

It's nice to be able to blame chicago circa 1995, like I see my peers do over and over again, for why folks like you and me end up at some hipster d-bag bar where some dude made you feel like a jock. But, c'mon man, you must know what life's like outside of the hipster bars and in the rest of the city. Our "middle ground," which you gents certainly do provide, isn't the fuggin' continental.

And for the record:
miller lite > pbr
south side > "west town"
van gundy angrily motioning at a cameraperson > anything a bike messenger does

At 6/13/2008 5:44 AM, Blogger John said...

Also, I was really hoping this post was going to be about Vinnie Del Negro. Pax and Jerry couldn't have waited a week to see if Thibodeaux was interested? Christ.

At 6/13/2008 6:16 AM, Blogger sharky h. towers said...

As someone who knows something of rock/indie/musician culture I can say that there is a phenomenon that has always fascinated me. People that are in bands/scenes that claim to rally against and stand opposed to "jock" and sports culture often turn into competitive, groupie using misogynists at the first sign of success.

I'm painting in VERY broad strokes here, but it has always struck me as uber-hypocritical.

Additionally, the notion that you can gleam anything at all from the fact someone likes sports beyond the fact they like sports is beyond me.

At 6/13/2008 6:31 AM, Blogger dizzle said...

Keane- I think its DLIC's point that you should be able to hang out with friends/have a variety of interests and still be able to watch a basketball game...the only option shouldnt have to be a southside sportsbar.

On a finals related note, I'm having an anti-liberated fandom moment. I'm a pretty big fan of most of the players, pierce, garnet, allen, rondo, powe, but for some reason, their success gives me absolutely no joy. I can't figure it out. Is it really because "i hate the celtics"?

At 6/13/2008 7:06 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

North-East LA, 2008:

"Well guys,"
I said to my friends, postgame beer grin a-fluttering,
"At least you guys won the 2000, 2001, and 2002 championships, right? and you'll be in a good spot to do it all next year. I mean, right? guys? right?"

Hell, I didn't even really believe that crap, but I'd been drinking their beer, and watching sharp n' shiny TV on something other than the magenta-snowed fuzz-box that I own, and I felt like I should put a sacrifice on the alter of their fuming bemusement.

Because honestly, I enjoyed the BEJEEZUS out of that game.
I suppose the "fan" in me is speaking here as a partially lapsed sixers homer, but whatever hometown grudges I had against the Lakers and Celtics have mended or resolved themselves into dust, or perhaps I have stumbled onto this, j'nais ce pas, "enlightened fandom."(*) I mean, so what, Kobe didn't score a billion points, or Odom didn't clasp hands with an angel while he fooled kendrik Perkins into tipping him a rebound. Y'all've been reading too many comic books.
I do love it, but sometimes this board seems like nothing so much as a gaggle of indignant reviewers complaining that Romeo killed himself meaninglessly, and it's just not RIGHT or FAIR.
Good god people, can't you see the drama? It's right in front of you! Do you only want to read books with happy endings?!?
The Stupid and Banal is, ultimately, so much more important than the Ideal and Smart, because, because because, there is so much more of it in the world.
Think about this.
Just Kidding!

(*)a magic elixer that one receives upon entering grad school, or possibly cohabiting with a future spouse -- it's like watching TV, but in a special way!

At 6/13/2008 7:16 AM, Blogger Dr. Lawyer IndianChief said...

@ D Keane. Points well taken, but I have to reiterate, the reason I ventured outside my apartment last night was to see my friend DJ. I pretty much exclusively watch the games in my apartment.

At 6/13/2008 9:45 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

miller lite? try high life.

milwaukee is pretty sweet. i've never had to choose between sports and hipster what-have-you.

At 6/13/2008 10:08 AM, Blogger Nels said...

First, and least importantly, I've been to the Weiner's Circle a few times during the non-drunk-people hours and it's just like any other hot dog place in Chi-town. I'm baffled by the whole "rude waiter" concept, but the YouTube clip was something else.

Second, I watched the game last night at my hipster/art school/music snob friend's house. I thought about trying to go to a bar but we probably would have had to go to a "sports bar." Perhaps there is a need for a hipster sports bar in Chicago. If I had the capital to start one, I would give it a try. And I'd show Battlestar Galactica (or Firefly) before the game and during half time. OK, that might be pushing. Not sure if there are that many people like me.

Verification: jgjmfu: just got jocks, man, F u.

At 6/13/2008 10:20 AM, Blogger Dr. Lawyer IndianChief said...

i tried to avoid actually using the word "hipster" because my whole point was to be on some anti-generalization kick...but i think i got the message across.

wiener's circle is good, and in my opinion the best char-dog in chicago. i was there once during the day and one of the patrons (who looked like a guy in the video) called my "weezer"...because i had, like, glasses on.

At 6/13/2008 10:38 AM, Blogger Freddie said...

"Keane- I think its DLIC's point that you should be able to hang out with friends/have a variety of interests and still be able to watch a basketball game...the only option shouldnt have to be a southside sportsbar."

But, of course, that isn't the only option.

At 6/13/2008 10:53 AM, Blogger Kirk Krack said...

If you had just gone to CANS on Damen you wouldn't have had this problem. And you could have jammed to RATM while you were at it.

At 6/13/2008 11:12 AM, Blogger Trey said...

At any rate, I like to hope that what we do here at FD is provide some middle ground for people who are simply intrigued by the pro hoops game. And who have friends and girlfriends. And who like stuff besides basketball as well.

That's my favorite description of the FreeDarko fam.

At 6/13/2008 11:41 AM, Blogger Graydon said...

I live in Chicago and actually have thought that this town could use a hipster/sports bar. Could work.

I also live down the street from Weiner's Circle (holy fuck, Lincoln Park is pretty but the people suck), and I gotta admit I think the dogs are pretty damn good. And the staff is nice to me, but then again one night when I was really drunk and had a box of cookies (why? who the fuck knows) I gave them to all the girls at the register, so its safe to say I bought their love. Either way, does anybody want to have an FD Chi-town Finals watching get-together type-thing? It seems like a lot of you guys live in this city, and well, what's the worst that could happen? Maybe I'm being a tad too gregarious for the interwebs.

At 6/13/2008 11:44 AM, Blogger MC Welk said...

Was that Tyrone Nesby making the fry baskets in the blue doo rag?

At 6/13/2008 11:46 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

If enough people buy the book, we'll open one.

At 6/13/2008 11:57 AM, Blogger Graydon said...

I actually discussed opening up such a bar with my buddy Chris (he plays for sundowner and Lawrence arms if any of you Chicagoans have seen them) because he's both a hoops addict and an indie guy. But one question: what do you call it?

At 6/13/2008 11:59 AM, Blogger Trey said...

Graydon - if there's internet access, I'm in.

The bar would need an ironic name, no doubt. Like Hip Check.

At 6/13/2008 12:05 PM, Blogger Nels said...

Offering internet access will only encourage people to check fantasy teams - something that should never be done at a bar no matter what kind of bar it is.

As for names, there's the obvious: Free Darko

I also submit: JR Smith's

At 6/13/2008 12:52 PM, Blogger John said...

@ Dr.: True fact, I've gotten way too complacent about the fact that I often have to choose (when it comes to sporting events other than Bears games, the Superb Owl, the World Series and NCAA tourney) between the game I want to see and getting out to be sociable. And being hooked on at least 5 different sports, this is a problem.
I also think I overlooked bigger problem: the average person could give a crap about these NBA finals. If it was the nfl playoffs, or the NCAAs, it probably wouldn't be an issue.

A sports bar with good music would rule. I've also wanted to start a sports coffee shop for a while, but that's a terrible idea.

Anyone else here used to run into Sox pitcher Jack McDowell at the Fireside? I only saw him there a couple of times, but in light of this discussion, kind of funny to think about being at a punk rock show with a Cy Young winner.

At 6/13/2008 1:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of many redeeming things about this blog is seeing how many other sports fans are irritated with the hipster either/or duality of 'you can like sports or music, but not both'.

It's probably good there's no bar with Dead Guy on tap, the Finals on big screen, and a jukebox stuffed with true school jams and most of the T&G, Impulse!, & Kranky catalogs, I would probably become an alcoholic faster than you can say Vin Baker.

At 6/13/2008 2:09 PM, Blogger BW said...

The Continental aka " Mistakes."

I had the same problem during round two. I had just gotten out of work, jumped on the Western bus in pouring rain, followed a Pistons/Magic 4th quarter on my phone, jumped out at the Green Eye on Armitage, ran into the bar completely soaked, AND!...


At 6/13/2008 2:23 PM, Blogger Nick said...

this kinda stuff never happens to the deadspin guy, does it?-maybe you should've said "I need to BLOG about this game!"--hipsters understand blogging.....

seriously, though, this dichotomy is a drag. but it's based on something real. When a child, I got into sports as a way of social camouflage (=to not get beat up by certain kids); ending up liking them was an accident.....

At 6/13/2008 2:40 PM, Blogger Truth About It said...

Yeah, yeah, yeah....

Try living in Washington, DC where the home team is never really the home team

At 6/13/2008 3:19 PM, Blogger salt_bagel said...

The indie/jock thing is rough, for sure, and has pained me on too many occasions to count. I can't handle hipsters anymore. I used to be one! Or at least I thought, but now I realize that others secretly mocked me when I watched sports from a non-ironic point of view.

Another thing about this post chills me, though, and that is the whole part about how there is this "Chicago thing".

Now, you have to understand I have lived in the Chicago northwest burbs for a year now, after moving from basically West Philly. Since I've been here, I've wondered where the cool part is, because I'm having trouble finding it. I've been to different places in the city, but I'm sure I've barely touched the surface. But I just can't stand the people and the dogmatic levels of segregation. Now this post comes along, and it's like, "yup, this is Chicago!"

Are you saying this is it, that I might as well move? This is painful if it's the case.

At 6/13/2008 3:36 PM, Blogger Dr. Lawyer IndianChief said...

salt b,

chicago has a ton to offer. i think what happened last night was just the tipping point of a slight exhaustion toward this "scene." as brown recluse alluded to me over email, chicago is probably the best city when it comes to having the game on at non-meatheaded bars, which makes this incident even stranger.

not sure what your thing is, but i truly feel like this city has something for everybody. that might be the issue...there is such a mix of people here there is at times a difficulty with intermingling.

what would you be looking for in a "cool part?"

At 6/13/2008 3:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


If you want to avoid hipsters and Wrigleyville douchebags in Chicago (and live in a neighborhood that has shit going on), you probably have to be comfortable around rich white housewives (and their giant strollers) or black people. If you aren't, then you'd better move.

At 6/13/2008 4:16 PM, Blogger me said...

I remember as a college freshman being blown away when I found out that Jack Kerouac was a football player...

I think what is even more interesting about this hipster/jock dichotomy, is a certain segment of the hipster community that I will call the "everyman hipster". This is the guy who rails against elitism, upholds the "common man", wants to connect with all "sorts" of people. What is strange is the degree to which these types still fall prey to kind of preconceived ideas about sports that you have underlined (for that matter I think the same can be true of religion). Its as if they have this romantic ideal of the "common man", yet refuse to speak their language. You want to connect with the blue-collar guy in the number 3 cap, watch NASCAR.

Perhaps this group is a very small minority, but its one that I have seen more and more of lately.

At 6/13/2008 4:26 PM, Blogger Graydon said...

I would like to point out that Samuel Beckett was very athletic, and in particular excelled at cricket. I'm not trying to cite him as some proto-hipster (that would, no joke, be blasphemous) but the existentialism combined with the unavoidable irony of cricket just seemed relevant. In general I think there's a big point to be made about literature and sports that goes a step beyong "being cool" and "liking sports"

At 6/14/2008 6:21 PM, Blogger Mortimer said...

The 'pick one' notion of hipster or jock has always bugged me too, but mostly I see it as a one-sided dislike, as I don't think most ADULT sports fans care if you are a hipster whereas hipsters are so overly concerned with what they and others around them like, that they take offense for no reason if sports is not deemed 'ok' to enjoy.

I live in LA, but I'm from Portland, and I think the overlap is a little better over here-- certainly in Portland, which has one of the highest hipster populations per capita in the world. Since the Blazers are popular right now and so is being a hipster, it's easier for the worlds to overlap and be okay.

I'm sure some still hold onto that "ooooooh jocks r so mean" high school grudges, but overall, you can be a true hipster Portlander and like the Blazers as well and not really stand out. I haven't been home to Portland in a few years, but even when the Blazers sucked you could go into a local corner non-sports bar and the cool kids would be watching the Blazers lose on TV.

As for LA, I think most of the fanhood is really superficial but being a superficial fan isn't necessarily looked down upon by the poseur hipster posses. It's more okay to be into what you are into, but more ok when the sports teams are good.

Also, in LA I think you'll find a lot more hipster fans rooting for the Clippers than the Lakers, as you get to be a contrarian to the average citizen and root for the underdog, railing against the evil Laker giant. You get to take pleasure from liking the NBA _and_ get to be 'totally out there' by liking the non-popular team.


At 6/16/2008 2:06 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Love this discussion. Yeah, when you think about all the athletes into good music, or good musicians into sports (possibly Scott Radinsky of Pulley and the White Sox being the ideal hybrid - Jewish, to boot), why the hell can't the two co-exist?

The low-key neighborhood bars are certainly a happy medium. Since I didn't have TV, I went down to my local pub (Beechwood Inn) to cheer on the D'backs in the playoffs last year. They weren't close enough to Wrigley care much about the game and would hand me the remote with my Pilsner. Didn't give me the kinda shit that the Northside douches would.

Can't say I'd get any love at the Continental. You pretty much know what you're going to get there. Disaffection and girl-jeans rash.

At 6/16/2008 12:58 PM, Blogger masur said...

So, I am the DJ who DLIC was nice enough to schlep across town to see and I think I might have a solution for any Chi readers who want decent music+sport (while also shamelessly self promoting). I have a regular DJ spot every other Friday night at the NorthSide Bar in Bucktown/WP. It is not a very indie crowd and most of the good music I play is lost on folks watching the games. There are plenty of tvs there set to any game you could possibly want to see. If FDers started showing up and made their presence known I would happily play jams they could agree with. This way Recluse doesn't have to buy Finn McCool's.


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