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hicago wasn’t always the gleaming, sky-reaching metropolis perched upon the shores of Lake Michigan. Many moons ago it was just a frontier boomtown, where men of commerce and nefarious characters flocked, with plans of making a few bucks. According to local lore, at one point regional authorities hatched a scheme wherein they staged an illegal dogfight, confident that it would cause the town’s most notorious characters to come out of hiding. It did, and police promptly arrested the gaggle of desperados and lawbreakers before generously providing them with one-way transportation to the city’s border. Problem solved; back-pats all around. The story serves as a fitting introduction to two of the city’s most enduring fixations: sport and vice. Much like its famous gangsters and famously corrupt politicians, Chicago’s sports teams have become household names the world over, largely due to Michael Jordan’s Bulls, Mike Ditka’s Bears, and the 64 |


Cubs and their recently quenched 107-year championship drought. But, while thousands of travellers visit Chicago every year to pack on to gangster-tour buses and learn about Al Capone’s life of crime, it’s sports that the average Chicagoan will talk at length about with anyone, anywhere. Therefore, in advance of Ireland’s first Autumn International 2018 game versus Italy in this city on November 3, which headlines a triple-header of quality rugby action, I present a handy primer to the Chicago sports landscape ... The game will take place at Soldier Field, the scene of Ireland’s historic win against the All Blacks in 2016 and home to the Bears American football team, which happens to be one of the original eight charter teams of the National Football League. The stadium itself opened in 1924 but was renovated in 2003, and locals will often mention that it looks like “a UFO landed on top of it”, before admitting that the interior has been substantially improved. A short cab ride away you’ll find St Jane Hotel (see “Essentials” on page 70), which

Previous pages, left, the view from the top of Cindy’s bar and, right, Cubs supporter Rich Buhrke is game ready. Top, Downtown Chicago and above, throwbacks to Ireland’s historic achievement over the All Blacks at the UFO-esque Soldier Field.

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Cara October/November 2018  

Cara October/November 2018