My favorite sports team of 2013: the ChicagoNow Dirt Angels

My favorite sports team of 2013: the ChicagoNow Dirt Angels

by Jack M Silverstein (@readjack)

December 31, 2013

The 2013 ChicagoNow Dirt Angels. Top row: Lauren, Steph, Keith, Joe Grace, Joe, Dan, Curtis, Jimmy, John. Bottom row: Brandi, Andy, Scott, Jack, Jeremy, Rick.

The 2013 ChicagoNow Dirt Angels. Top row: Lauren, Steph, Keith, Joe Grace, Joe, Dan, Curtis (with Kup), Jimmy, John. Bottom row: Brandi, Andy, Scott, Jack (with ball), Jeremy, Rick.

For most Chicagoans, the city’s list of biggest sports stories in 2013 looks approximately like this:

  1. Blackhawks win their second Stanley cup in four seasons
  2. Derrick Rose misses the 2012-13 season, returns for the 2013-14 season, plays 10 games, injures other knee and is lost for another season
  3. The Bears offense becomes historically good, the defense becomes historically bad, and the team loses a playoff spot at home to Green Bay
  4. Cubs suck, White Sox suck, Jabari Parker soars, Northwestern football implodes, etc.

For me, however, no list is complete without mention of my favorite Chicago team of 2013:

The ChicagoNow Dirt Angels.

If you haven’t heard of the Dirt Angels, that’s because they are a relatively little-known 16-inch softball team that won the 2013 Kup Cup awarded to the champion of the Kup League, a Chicago media softball league in its third year.

The reason the Dirt Angels were my favorite team of 2013 is simple: I play for them.

And after disappointing finishes in our 2011 season (an upset at the hands of our soon-to-be archrival WBEZ in the semifinals) and our 2012 season (another semifinal loss to BEZ), finally hoisting the Kup in 2013 was a singular highlight of my year.

Our team was rather vocal about our Dirt Angels pride, perhaps to the consternation of our bewildered friends & family, who often could not understand why we placed so much pride in winning a softball championship.

My question to them: Wouldn’t you?

I love Chicago sports. Always have, and despite my noticeably waning interest these past few years, always will.

Additionally, I fully understand why sports fans use the term “we” in relation to their favorite teams. I am and have always been a we-er.

As a sportswriter, I’ve spoken with many professional athletes about whether or not they find it odd that a bunch of people they don’t know refer to their team as “we.” To a man, nearly all of them understand why we do it, and think it’s exciting and meaningful to play for a team with such passionate backing.

Some players – like Jerry Azumah and Kelvin Hayden, for instance – even grew up watching the teams that they eventually played for. They then had the double pride of rooting for a team and rooting for themselves.

That’s how I felt with the Dirt Angels.

The team mattered to me because I played on it and wanted to win. But it also mattered because I enjoyed rooting for my teammates in the same way I enjoy rooting for any athlete I watch.

I loved watching Curtis leg out a triple, watching Joe paint corners, watching Jeremy crash into fences on flyouts, watching Andy cover himself in dirt as he goes to his knees to field a ground ball.

And I loved learning about personalities. Fist-pumping Brandi, no-nonsense John, affable Steph, dogged Joe Grace.

I’m a fan of Dan’s versatility and Jimmy’s passion and Scott’s humor & clutch hitting. I’m a fan of Keith’s gloves and Lauren’s tenacity and Rick’s team-first spirit.

And in becoming a fan of our team, I then became a fan of other players on other teams. I’m a fan of WBEZ’s Hendersonian five-tool leadoff man Adam Peindl and their Albert Belle-esque first baseman and captain Justin Kaufmann.

I’m a fan of Gapers’ Andrew Huff and his compact power swing, of the Reader’s Kevin Warwick and his long-limbed inside-out-swing, of CHIRP’s Dave Cohn and his high-arching pitches and plaid shorts, of the toughness of players like WBEZ’s Lauren Chooljian and the Journal’s Joe Barrett and RedEye’s Brian Moore.

When we won the Kup, my teammates and I celebrated long into the night. And I gotta be real with you: It was the most fun I ever had celebrating a sports championship.

Granted, it’s not the same as celebrating with strangers in the middle of the Six Corners after the Hawks’ victories in 2010 and this past June, or honking car horns for the 90s Bulls or my mom telling me about people on her quiet suburban block lighting fireworks after the White Sox won the World Series.

Feeling the city cheer in unison is a thrill and, in its way, a blessing.

But hot damn – what a feeling to win your own championship! To hoist a trophy, to hug and congratulate teammates, to reflect upon the work and sacrifice needed to win it all.

Sports fans love any opportunity to shout “We did it!”

This time, I got to be “we.”

***

I hope everyone has a wonderful and safe New Years celebration! Shout out to the Kup League. Can’t wait for next season.

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