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TELANDER: Mayor endorses art in the park — youth hoops

Mayor Rahm Emanuel Isiah Thomas watch Windy City League Kennicott Park South Side. | Rick Telander~Sun-Times

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Isiah Thomas watch the Windy City League at Kennicott Park on the South Side. | Rick Telander~Sun-Times

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Updated: August 15, 2013 6:33AM

It’s a beautiful Friday night, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel could be out partying on a Wrigley Field rooftop.

Well, a rooftop somewhere.

But no.

The emperor of Chicago is in sweaty little Kennicott Park on the South Side, with hoops pal Isiah Thomas, watching Windy City League teenage basketball games in a gym so tiny that three-point attempts often hit the ceiling.

There’s only one row of ‘‘stands,’’ no valid out-of-bounds lines, and bodies often fly into spectators’ laps. OK, the spectators are mostly kids waiting to play next.

A player gets mutilated on a jumper from deep, and there’s no call. Emanuel heckles the ref. The ref threatens to throw Emanuel out.

Yes, it’s all in good fun, but as Thomas says to the mayor as they chat passionately between whistles and shouts and sneaker squeaks, ‘‘There has to be a sense for everyone, for all these people, that ‘I refuse to live in fear.’ ’’

That’s the point of these Friday night games — giving at-risk adolescent males something to do that is safe, joyful and tiring and doesn’t involve guns, gangs or hanging out on street corners. Or remaining holed up all summer, watching TV and playing video games.

‘‘A lot of these kids just love being in a gym,’’ remarks one of the workers who stands by the huge floor fan near the door, keeping players out of the machine on flying fast breaks.

And Emanuel? What’s his deal with basketball?

‘‘It’s not what my deal is,’’ he says. ‘‘It’s a great, fast-moving team sport that allows an individual to express himself. I think it’s the closest to art of any game. It’s the closest to theater, to dance. I love this sport.’’

That’s what we thought.

Did you hear that Rip ‘‘R.I.P.’’ Hamilton was waived by the Bulls? You didn’t? You were in the training room?

You must have seen him.

Word has come out of Russia that corruption involving the Sochi Winter Olympics, opening Feb. 7, 2014, has flown the coop. Even by Wild East, neo-czarist, oligarchical pigs-at-the-trough standards, it’s crazy.

Former Russian deputy prime minister Boris Nemtsov released a report not long ago claiming as much as $30 billion earmarked for the Games has been siphoned off by Russian officials and ‘‘businessmen.’’

I know we think the United States and particularly Chicago are places with great expertise with the shifty hand that fleeces the sheep. But $30 billion? Stealing nearly 60 percent of your projected budget of $51 billion? That’s so much wool it’s sweaters for everybody!

As we know, the Olympics are to corruption and graft and ridiculous duplication of existing facilities as Trump Tower is to basement dwelling. But we must give a tip of the ushanka to our bold capitalist brethren in Russia. The 2012 London Summer Games cost only $14.3 billion. Stealing more than twice that much before your Winter Games even begin?


We have a 2013 All-Star pitcher named Bartolo Colon. I’m sure you remember him from his stints with the White Sox in 2003 and 2009.

Or maybe you remember him from his stint on the suspended list for 50 games last season for performance-enhancing drug use. Or maybe you remember him because his name popped up again on the list of Biogenesis of America clients, those guys who might have received illegal sports drugs from that Miami-based operation.

However you remember Colon, who at the improbable age of 40 is having perhaps his best season ever — 12 wins, three losses, 2.69 ERA — you need to at least have some memory of his girth. You thought steroid guys were all chiseled like Jose Canseco? You thought tall, long-armed, slender guys made the best pitchers?

Colon goes 5-11, 267 pounds, with what appears to be a Michelin tire for a neck.

It’s a nutty world we live in.

NFL players must wear thigh and knee pads next season or they will be yanked from games. On the spot. No more of those pantyhose-for-pants looks.

The trouble is punters and kickers are exempt, and that is just plain stupid. Those guys already are barely football players.

Would it be wrong if they were forced, by the league police, to wear tutus when afield?

In team colors, of course.

My favorite tweet of the week comes from pro football guru @AdamSchefter and hints at the Aaron Hernandez homicide situation:

‘‘Right about now, the Patriots would welcome all the Tim Tebow questions reporters have.’’


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