For the first time, Chicago is entering the annual Rice Bowl. The full-contact, no-pads football tournament was started by Loyola University in 1989 as a way to create solidarity among the American-Asian interest organizations at different universities in the Chicagoland area. Other schools involved are Northern Illinois, University of Illinois, DePaul, and University of Illinois at Chicago. While the goal is to hold an event specifically for students of Asian decent, all races are welcome as long as the majority of players are Asian.
Chicago has been viewed as a surprise entry, as the University is known for little more than its academics. The unlikely group, the Chopsticks, is led by fourth-year Rick "Dash" Dashiell, who has been pleased with the diversity and unity of the Chicago team. "I think there is more of an emphasis on teamwork and bringing people together who might not normally hang out," Dash said.
For the past six weekends there have been some heavy-hitting practices on the field outside the Shoreland. Tougher than the typical NFL training camp, a recent practice went something like this:
3:30Practice "officially" starts, but it might be ten more minutes before the coach to show up.
3:40What better way to start a practice then to get straight into the bashing.
3:41Standard doobler (use your imagination) check.
3:42Two lines form, one for hitting and the other for getting hit.
3:58First-year receiver Nate Ginsberg shows up to practice late after "getting on the wrong train" coming back from downtown.
4:15After realizing the team needs to be in one piece for the tournament, the team switches over to the more technical side of football.
4:16Dash proceeds to set up an offensive scheme against a dummy defense. Smart observers realize he's just going to run over the unlucky souls that got put on defense.
4:40Second-year offensive lineman Justin Birch enlightens the team on his farmin' days, which may or may not have involved the back of a cow.
5:03Dash makes third-year receiver Tom Kelly do push-ups for dropping his sixth pass.
5:12A guy wearing a pink shirt walks across the field escorting an attractive lady. Dash runs a passing play that just happens to be thrown at the young couple's direction. First-year quarterback Gordon Toggweiler also receives two dollars for no apparent reason after hitting said pink-shirt wearing guy.
5:14First-year defensive lineman Taotao Zhang ponders whether he can still be a math major after being leveled by running back Mike Liu.
5:30Dash calls everyone in after a successful practice and gives his pep talk. The team then huddles and honors the late, great Rick James by breaking with, "We're U of C, Bitch!"
Newcomers or not, the Chopsticks hope to make a stir Saturday. "I think we'll be competitive no matter how we do," Dash said. "These other schools will be surprised by our athleticism and will come to respect us as possible athletes as well as intellectuals."