There's more than meets the eye.
September 28, 2016 by Robert Gough in Opinion with 2 comments
Almost one year ago to the date, Rockford, Illinois, was announced as the location for the most prestigious tournament on the planet: USA Ultimate’s National Championships. Almost one year and several minutes to the date, the questions poured in — Why abandon the known commodities and sunny climes of Sarasota and Frisco? How did this decision get made, and by who? What the hell is Rockford?
The shallow and desperate of us ran to Twitter to jape and jest to collect clickable heart icons. A majority of others just sat in their dimly lit rooms, alone, dreading the improbable chance to enjoy a healthy, delicious team dinner in Winnebago county.
And then there’s the select few of us that know the real, true Rockford, IL. Those of us that played our college ball at the very venue that will house the 48 best teams this continent has to offer. I’m one of those people. I was born and raised in DeKalb, IL, a mere 42 miles south. I’ve spent at least 60 days collectively in Rockford in my life. I’ve worked as a health inspector for the county, scouring the local foodscape for the same grit and grime that we’ll be looking for in those scrappy, low-seeded teams this weekend. And sure, that was mostly all that I found in my time working there, but I’ll be damned if I let the true gems of the city be overlooked by the Google Maps fiends running amuck on social media.
First, let me give you some background on this damn fine city:
- Settled in 1834 by Midwest legend Germanicus Kent — and his good companion (read: slave) Lewis Lemon — Rockford soon became the crown jewel of America’s Rust Belt, holding the #2 market for furniture manufacturing in the entire country before President Eisenhower let this country go to hell and Rockford fell from glory.
- Home to Rock’n’Roll legends/hall-of-famers Cheap Trick, better known as the ‘American Beatles’.
- Featured in Life magazine a mere 67 years ago, praised as being “nearly typical of the U.S. as any city can be.” Welcome to Anytown, U.S.A.
- Sure, it was listed as the #2 most dangerous city with a population under 200,000 in 2015, but the city has seen a 10% decrease in violent crimes in the last year. And sure, it’s still the #2 most dangerous city with a population under 200,000, but you sure as hell can’t say they aren’t on the come-up.
Now, let’s address some common gripes:
- The food.
Based on one page of a Google search, this claim is blatantly false. Rockford has plenty of affordable, quality, family-friendly restaurants for you to enjoy. Chicago’s elite men’s Twitter team, @MeanMachineDFA, suggested five prime options in their own Expert Guide to Rockford, and I can personally attest to at least two of those options passing their health inspections.
Sure, there’s no Daiquiri Deck here; but there are fives of restaurants with higher ratings on Google. Let’s be real, who are you going to trust more: your teammates and other ultimate frisbee community members? Or internet strangers?
- The weather.
Looks fine to me. If you factor in a nice thrower’s wind (up to 25 MPH on Thursday & Friday), this is looking like a completely reasonable climate for ultimate.
- The location.
Okay, it’s not in a major city, and it’s not on a beautiful coast, but it’s in the middle of the country, and the middle of the state, allowing every club team to have just a slightly miserable time traveling there, instead of a handful of teams having truly miserable times. I’d call that a tie-tie.
No, we’re not going back to Sarasota. No, we’re not staying with Frisco. We’re exploring new options, expanding our sport’s horizons and country-wide viewership. And, according to every source I have looked at in the past 47 minutes, Rockford is a perfectly adequate town to host this event.
And, if nothing else, we are blessed with the opportunity to have the non-qualifying heart-throbs The UPA in attendance, in some capacity. For that, and for other reasons to come, we should all be grateful, and I’ll be the first to toast my glass of Jeppson’s Malört to the prudent, effervescent Tom Crawford.