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(Re)Introducing a New (Old) Favorite: Mike Chamernik’s ‘Question Of The Week’

Long-time Uni Watchers remember that UW pal/reader/contributor and former Ticker-er Mike Chamernik used to post a “Question of the Week,” which was a reader favorite, when he compiled his weekly Tickers back in the day. When another long-time Tickerer, Alex Hider, retired due to the birth of his first child, Mike stepped in and handled Alex’ Ticker-duties until Paul’s retirement. Mike briefly re-introduced his “QOTW” then.

Although Mike has re-retired from producing Tickers, I asked him if he’d like to continue his Question of the Week — and he heartily agreed.

So, with that, please everyone welcome Mike back (again) into the Uni Watch family, and the return of the ever-popular QOTW.

Here’s Mike with this week’s question:

• • • • •

Question of the Week
by Mike Chamernik

Wrigley Field is hosting a NWSL game on Saturday. It feels strange, but it isn’t: The iconic baseball park has hosted soccer before, along with pro and college football, hockey, boxing and golf (kind of). Still, non-baseball sports at Wrigley are a novelty.

Where’s the weirdest venue you’ve played a sport? Either a sanctioned league game or a pick-up game, or even just throwing the ball around.

Comments (70)

    The field itself wasn’t weird, but I always found it odd that my soccer teams played games at Wild Water Kingdom. I couldn’t figure out why a water park would want a turf field with a dome in the winter.

    When I was at university in Scotland, we often played soccer at a nearby street soccer/basketball court (those are common throughout the UK and Europe) that was situated in the middle of a park that the locals referred to as “Death Park”. There were multiple high-rises surrounding it that were mid-demolition, whether intentionally or not. Very eerie.

    The last organized online hockey league I enrolled in was somewhere in Nassau County Long Island. I want to say Lynbrook? The floor was made of wood slats like a basketball court, but the slats were in a long diamond shape so that if you skated in a lap around the circumference, you wouldn’t feel as many transitions in the wood.

    This was my grade 11 year after evacuating from Katrina. My home league in NOLA was in a charming little roller rink where the universal penalty box was the DJ booth in the corner and you had to tag up at the center red line after a penalty. I think the floor was painted concrete, but at least it was smooth! One season in Lynbrook of skating on a basketball court, I was like “What am I doing here? Let’s focus on finishing high school with good grades to get into a good university,” and I walked away

    Off topic, but Phil, you mentioned to bring up suggestions/comments/complaints in one of your initial posts, and here’s mine: you use parentheses (way) too much (in my opinion). Why not just structure your sentences where you don’t have to put something in parentheses in every (other) sentence? All three of your posts today have had (unnecessary) parentheses in their titles. Honestly, the parentheses are (part of) the reason I stopped reading (on weekends), and I find myself barely skimming the articles since you took over weekdays for Paul.

    It could be that I just preferred Paul’s writing style better since it was in a more “even” voice. With the way I read things in parentheses, it just shifts things in my head where everything between the ( and ) makes me think of someone just quietly saying something out of the side of their mouth to the person next to them. Could just be me though.

    That’s my two (and a half) cents that you can fully ignore.

    Hey Steve,

    Thanks for the feedback! It’s appreciated. And I fully admit to having developed a writing style that tends to have longer sentences, so I have been guilty of overuse of parenthetical thoughts. Rather than set them off with multiple commas — or em dashes — I really need to just tighten up my (oftentimes ;) freewheeling sentence structures.

    And you’re right about the titles today. Lots of parens.

    Thanks for the quick reply and acknowledgment, Phil. In the end, how you prefer to write is all good! I just figured I’d share my pointless cents.

    FWIW, for years my biggest pet peeve about Paul’s writing was that it seemed that once he learned the html code for strikethrough, he used strikethrough text to make “clever” points all. The. Time. Took many years, but eventually Paul moderated his previously profligate use of strikethrough. It’s the kind of punctuation trick that’s more effective the less the writer uses it.

    Out of curiosity, Scott, what do you think is a better approach, stylistically speaking? Using an “err” to indicate the word change instead of the strikethrough – e.g., “lettuce, err, let us…” as opposed to “lettuce let us”? Or do you generally dislike the “word bait and switch” trope altogether?

    Not that anyone asked…or cares…, but my ‘signature’ writing style for the comments section (almost) always includes 3 dots – and occasionally a hyphen; the “err” is my preferred method for word changes.
    YVV…err, YMMV.

    Don’t know how long you’ve been reading UW, Chris, but back before I became “Bench Coach” in November, 2008, every comment I posted (and there were a lot then), not only excessively used ellipses (…) in lieu of periods, but also included no capitalization or other punctuation. It was, admittedly, brutal, but the Interwebs were a bit of a different place, and there were all different styles used for posting on message boards and comments sections. Once I started writing, obviously I began using proper punctuation and grammar, but I think my comments remained that way for another couple months. I remember it was a New Year’s Day (not sure what year) that I finally began writing more formally in the comments. Sometimes old habits and styles die hard.

    Hi, my name is Judy A and I overuse – well, sometimes, anyway – hyphens and ellipsis…

    My pet peeve: Can we please stop with the “YMMV” on this site? Yes, I think it’s obvious that everyone may have a different opinion.

    I’ll admit I was absolutely guilty of this when I did the tickers to try and sound “clever” too! I probably used it more than I should have. It got to the point where I was constantly double-checking myself and rewriting to not make my “clever” strikethroughs sound corny

    In the vast landscape of literature, a plague has emerged, threatening to disrupt the very essence of coherent expression: the overuse of parentheses. Once a tool meant to provide clarity or add supplementary information, parentheses have now become an overbearing presence, choking the flow of prose and burdening readers with unnecessary cognitive load.

    The overuse of parentheses in today’s literature constitutes a pressing issue that demands immediate attention. Left unchecked, this plague threatens to erode the very foundations of written communication, inflicting distress upon readers and perpetuating a cycle of mediocrity in literary craftsmanship. By promoting awareness, providing guidance, and leveraging technological advancements, we can work towards a future where parentheses are wielded with precision and restraint, restoring clarity and coherence to the literary landscape.

    So not even one week in and now it starts. You have to be kidding me!

    Hilarious…..(and personally, I like different writing styles…I once had a teacher who was bothered by Hemingway’s blunt simple delivery of words, but its the idea behind the words that matter.)

    I would like to say that I appreciate the much more upbeat and positive approach that you have brought to the site

    When I was a kid my brother and I used to play basketball on the neighbor’s porch. It was a slab of concrete under a shade for a mobile home. We had imaginary hoops.

    We lived in a duplex apartment next door with limited space so we’d often use their property to play sports. We also played baseball and football in their yard. A lot of the time we had no real baseball so we’d use any sort of round toy we could find. Those were the days.

    I played as a ringer in an LGBTQ+ softball team. We played in a rundown park in Hollywood in which both the unhoused and housed drag queen frequenters of the park would gather – unsolicited – and cheer us on. I don’t think they cared who won or who lost, but they sure were enthusiastic about cheering during the game.

    It became incredibly distracting in a hilarious way and by the third or fourth game of the season they had funny nicknames for many of their favorite players. They called me “Daddy MBS,” which was short for “Must Be Straight.” I was afraid they’d out me and I’d be removed from the league. Luckily, no league officials attended until the championship game, which we won.

    After just one season, I retired from the league as to not put any of my friends who recruited me in jeopardy of being outed and removed for having a straight ringer on the team. It was a fun season. And for those interested, our team name was “Slick Fists.” Fun times.

    It hardly ever snows in Charleston, SC where I live and there are zero hills – hence the Lowcountry nickname. So how/where do kids sled when it does snow? You grab your boogie board and head to the interior of the on/off ramps at cloverleaf intersections sled down the man made hill for the overpass!

    Around the time I got married in the mid 1980s I played a weekly pick up basketball game for about 1 year at a church. The gym was on the second floor, and was carpeted with extremely tight carpet, with all the lines and key drawn in. Being on the second floor, it seemed extra springy. The carpet allowed you to change direction on a dime. The only concern was turning an ankle, or blowing out a knee, with these quick stops. Luckily that didn’t happen. I was a 6’ PG, who could handle the ball extremely well, and was very quick, and these conditions added to that. But I never had slam dunked a ball in a game, and could only do so regularly with a small ball like a volleyball, palming the ball and just barely getting my hand over the rim.
    During one of these games I had a breakaway after stealing the ball, and I jumped up with my hand well above the rim, and cupping the ball I easily slam dunked the ball. I believe this springy second floor was the cause of my success with the dunk. I was able to copy this in practice there, but I only did this one other time in a game, needing perfect conditions.

    Playing hoops on carpet, wow. I’ve always wondered how that would work.

    Growing up, one of the gyms in my Catholic school league had a tile floor. Like cafeteria style, plain gray tiles. A lot of sliding. And then, one of the nicer schools (Chicago north shore area, of course) had a rubber-coated court, which was a trend for a bit in the 2000s. I guess it was better for player safety?

    I immediately thought of Mormon churches when I read the comment about the carpet. There was an article on the old Deadspin from a ways back talking at length about the carpeted basketball halls:


    Pretty common in Fairfax County elementary schools gyms circa late 1990s. I had forgotten about it. I think I played two years of basketball on them.

    Matball, gym class, 6th-8th grade, 1988-91. Matball is basically kickball, except you run the bases twice to score a run. While normal kickball is essentially played on on a baseball field, in matball, think of the bases as rotage 45 degrees, so that you kick (or “bat” from between 3rd base and home plat (or mat, as we used large gym mats for bases). You can also have multiple people on one base at a time (thus the gym mats). When you kick, you run to first base, second base, third base, just like normal kickball or baseball. But in matball, the first instance of stepping on home is basically 4th base, followed by 5th (1st again), 6th (2nd again), 7th (3rd again) base, and eventually home for real to score a run. As with baseball, ground rules apply.

    In my old middle school, we played in two different area, depending on the day: the old gym or the auditorium stage. If we plated in the gym, a home run occurred by kicking the ball into the balcony (and it had to stay there; if it bounced back down, it was a live ball). And here’s the thing: there’s NO FOUL BALLS in matball. So you could effectively kick a pop up behind yourself, and if it landed softly in the balcony above you, then go ahead and start your home run trot. In the auditorium, however, the home run balcony was where any balcony was in relation to the stage in any any 1930s-era school building, so no pop up homers there. And the auditorium theater seats were IN PLAY, so you had fielders spread all over the school theater. So you really had jack one with your foot to reach the balcony, and hope that it didn’t hit an old wooden chair hard enough to bounce back into the field of play.

    Great times, and if my close to 50-year old legs could still do it, I jump back into a game of matball today.

    I grew up playing soccer in Kings Park, NY, on fields that was located next to the Kings Park Psychiatric Center. The Center was eerie to play beneath. This link should take you right to the satellite view: link

    Wrigley also hosted ski jumping!

    Not necessarily weird, but the least conventional sport I played was one my neighbor friend and I made up: Driveway Ball.
    Basically it was one-on-one soccer on a slanted driveway. No hands allowed, except to retrieve the ball after a goal. One side of the driveway had a raised edge, the other side was a hill leading up to the house next door. You could use either side as a dasher board, same as in indoor soccer. Instead of a soccer ball we used a mushy softball-sized inflatable ball. For some reason I was always down by the sidewalk and my neighbor was at the top of his driveway by the corner of the house.
    Lots of fun.

    I officiate high school soccer in central Indiana. There is a small private school in Oldenburg, IN, that plays its soccer games in an open area of the local cemetery.

    I played in a hockey tournament in Montreal back in high school. The local fire department came out the night we got there and flooded the entire park next to our hotel. So for the next 4 days, we had an ice rink the size of 5 soccer fields free to use whenever we wanted. It was awesome.

    Also played street hockey on the roof of the Marriott in Ottawa a few days after New Years one year. Went to a massive sports bar the next day and watched John Carlson beat Canada in OT in the World Juniors. Us and one other youth hockey team were the only Americans there, just absolutely losing it in the corner of the restaurant while everybody else stared daggers lol

    I grew up in Nutley, NJ, and played all sorts of stick and ball sports in the street. The longest-running and most fun of our sports endeavors were our ‘Whiffleball’ games which we played at the end of our block. The ‘stadium’ ran from one sidewalk across the street to the side of one of our friend’s family home. hit the first floor for a single, the second for a double, and clear the roof for a homer. Everything else was an out. Some time back I grabbed a Street View image of our ‘stadium’. 60 years later and it’s still ready for action! Here link

    I introduced stickball to a group of Ukrainians on a soccer field/football pitch in Sevastopol. And an English friend in high school taught a few of us how to bat in cricket using a tennis ball and actual cricket bat on an outdoor basketball court.

    I’ve worked in DC my whole career. Back in my brief softball playing days, our league’s field was one that radiates out from the Washington Monument, right in the most prominent spot on the National Mall. Once, a huge group of Cadillacs and Mercedes SUVs pulled up on the other side of 12th Street, where the WWII Memorial is now. Then several helicopters landed and Bill Clinton and Helmut Kohl came out. Even in DC, that called for an impromptu seventh inning stretch.

    I have played there and on the ellipse – ugh about as hard as concrete. Playing broomball on ice is softer than those fields were in the early 2000s.

    During one softball game at the ellipse, there was some sort of Marines demonstration with small artillery or rifles or something. One of our older guys hit a long liner and was legging out an inside thr park HR. Just as he crossed home plate, guns fired. Pretty epic.

    I didn’t catch your stories, Bill and William, until I’d posted my own. Glad to see that others who’ve done it have found playing softball in D.C. to be such a memorable experience!

    I met my now wife playing softball in the literal shadow of the Washington Monument between the bathrooms and the monument.

    As someone who grew up attending a catholic school, I played basketball in so many church basements I lost count! Felt like half of them just had tile floors!

    Also, played numerous high school baseball games at Hatten Park in New London, Wisconsin. Over 500 feet to dead center!

    I’m waiting for that guy on Twitter/Reddit to do the “weirdest HS baseball field dimensions” for Illinois. My school (Waukegan) had a varsity field that had no LF or RF fence, but had a 20-foot tall fence in CF only 320 feet away. The baseball field was tucked in on a plot of land in between residential properties and the football field.

    I was a onetime keeper/beater in the sport now known as Quadball, and we once had a vaguely sanctioned tournament of local NYC area teams on the mathematics quad at Columbia. . . which was clearly not large enough for any sporting activity, and multiple folks got knocked on the concrete surrounding what was essentially an oversized front lawn. Looking back on those moments I think “man, we were dumb.”

    I think my craziest field may be kickball (slip’n’slides as the basepaths!!!) in the front lawn of a Catholic Church.

    I LOVE the return of the Question of the Week! Yay, Mike and Phil, for bringing it back!

    When I lived in Washington, DC, in the mid- to late ’90s, our office softball team would play on just about any patch of dirt of grass that was big enough to contain a makeshift diamond. A lot of our games were on the National Mall, with unobstructed views of either the Capitol, the Washington Monument, or both. It wasn’t so much “weird” in the “I can’t imagine anyone would ever play there” sort of way, but I never lost that sense of wonder about what the visual backdrop to our softball games was.

    My favorite place to play, though, because it was a little bit more off the beaten path, was Fort Reno Park (link) in Northwest D.C., near the Maryland border. It’s the highest natural point in the District and was the home to a Civil War fort that protected the city against Confederate invasion. The only armed hostilities of the Civil War to take place within the District occurred at this site. Playing softball on fields where the Civil War actually happened, with the earthen ramparts and observation tower of the fort as our outfield (link) was always a surreal experience whenever we were there.

    I used to play pick up soccer every Sunday on the mall! I too felt both reverence and irreverent playing there.

    I wouldn’t necessarily say weird, but planning broomball with the Metro DC Penn State alumni chapter on the Capitals rink just after a game was really fun. I did it twice – scored twice in one game. Take that Pitt! I don’t know if the Caps still do that

    I hope to someday add playing broomball on the C&O Canal. Evey few years, it gets cold enough. We came so close this year, another day of below freezing temperatures probably would have been enough.

    I was in a summer wrestling tournament held in the Marion Fairgrounds. I believe it was the Ohio state championship for freestyle in the early 2000s. They had a giant, old, indoor multipurpose thing with seating all around. It wouldn’t have been that weird but they had had some event the night before where they had put dirt on the ground and they hadn’t really cleaned it up. After every match the sweat and the dust meant every wrestler was absolutely covered in gunk. Normally for international styles the ref kinda does a wipe to make sure the wrestlers aren’t too slick and everyone has bandanas tucked somewhere to dry off between periods. The mud that was covering everyone made those little bandanas hilariously ineffectual. People went and bought giant beach towels to try to clean everyone off.

    Back when I coached my daughter’s softball team, we used to do our winter practices in a few unusual locations. One of them was an old warehouse for stone building materials. Half the place was turned into a (very shitty) practice facility and the other half was used by a glass company. There were car windshields and stuff like that all over the place. They put up netting to keep the glass safe but occasionally, a ball would fly through/around the net and shatter one of the windshields.

    The place was… uh… not nice. It was right along the railroad tracks and there were bullet holes in the wall outside. The interior was not much nicer – very poor lighting, just super dirty and dismal all around

    The other unusual practice facility was an electrical shop that one of the dads of a girl on the team let us use. That was MUCH nicer than the former rock/glass shop.

    Also, I just heard this one yesterday – there’s a defunct catholic church a few block from where I live that’s being turned into a pickleball club.

    Welcome back to Mike…and QoTW!
    There was a roughed-out baseball diamond in an ‘unoccupied’ section of a cemetery in Tacony (Phila., PA) that I’d frequent as a kid.
    One event I missed out on was a post-NASCAR(or ARCA?) race 5k held on Pocono Raceway…if they do that one again, sign me up!

    First, played all my Babe Ruth League ballgames in the center of a harness racing track. All dirt. Once fell down a tunnel built in center field to funnel in race parking.

    Second, my neighborhood gang played a street hockey game we called Door To Door. The goals were the two doors of a two-bay garage. Tennis ball was the puck. Chaos. Strangely, a lot of that game was played in the 18 inch separation between the doors. Physical game, lot of digging.

    The DIII basketball team at my alma mater played in a gym that was too small for basketball. There was a running track above the court that hung over the four corners. Visiting teams eventually learned that you could not shoot 3’s from the corner, as they would hit the bottom of the track. The primary defensive strategy was to force the ball into the corner and spring the trap.

    During snowstorms we would play tackle football at a cemetery on the UVA campus err grounds.

    This one reminded me of another for me – On top of an old cemetery.
    Back in the early to mid 1800’s there was a cemetery behind the church in town. In 1849 there was a deadly Cholera outbreak that left many dead and the cemetery very quickly outgrew it’s occupancy. Other cemeteries were built. In the mid 1900’s, the church was approached about turning the large lot into a ball diamond. The church agreed. They asked living family members of the deceased – if any – if they’d like to move the graves to one of the new cemeteries. Some did, some did not. They laid the tombstones flat over the graves and leveled dirt over the area and there’s the ball diamond. Back in the early days of the park, they said you could see the grave mounds after a good rain but never saw that there personally.

    I played/practiced there a bunch of times too, but I never realized it had preciously been a cemetery!

    I played Rugby for my base when in the Army. I remember us playing a sevens game in the Rocky Mountains (was a tournament called the St. Valentines Day Massacre in Vail) on a field covered in two feet of snow. Was interesting to say the least.

    We played a high school basketball game on a carpet court. Like a very flat thin carpet. The ball bounced fine. Floor burns definitely not good. That was in the 80s and I haven’t seen another one since.

    Calvary academy in Lakewood NJ had a carpet basketball court. Any chance same one ?

    I played in an Ultimate Frisbee league in Philly one time, the field itself was normal enough, a park in the East Fairmount area. But what was weird was the 3-point contest that was going on on the courts next to the field. We had cars driving across the field (during play!) To park at the courts, and after the contest wrapped up, the MC just sorta stuck around and started commenting on our game, despite not knowing anything about ultimate.

    Growing up in the UK in the 1980s, I was captivated by the idea of American football. The look, the feel.
    Channel 4 in the UK had the early game on in those days, so I was able to start watching from 1990 – I remember the first game: Rams at Packers, but as this was the days before internet, I was learning about teams all the time – knew all about the big 80s teams: the Bears, the 49ers, the Broncos, the Dolphins (my team to hate was the 49ers as they were going for the threepeat), but watching every week, I was discovering new teams weekly.

    Then, October 7th 1990, I switched on to see the Oilers for the first time. That logo! The light blue with the red. The Astrodome. Warren Moon & the run and shoot offence: pass, pass, pass, and quickly racking up 14 points on the Niners. It was intoxicating, and I was blown away. That was a life-changing moment and my team was the Houston Oilers.

    The rest is history: I got to my first game at Wembley a couple of years later, so 49ers became my 2nd team. Then I worked in Summer Camps in Santa Cruz, fell out of love with the game, and coming back to the game in 2007 with the Oilers gone, its the 49ers all the way now.

    But I still have pangs for my first love: the Oilers, and enjoy the love they get on UniWatch and watch with interest the scrap teams are now having for those colours and logos – why did it take everyone so long to wake up to what was so apparent to me all those years ago??

    The weirdest sports venue I played at was an old middle school in Wellington, Ohio that used an elevated stage as its basketball court. The bright lights cast stark shadows that danced with our movements, making the ball seem to bounce more slowly and unevenly. The acoustics were peculiar, with every shout and dribble echoing around the cavernous space, and there were occasional dead spots on the floor where the ball would unexpectedly die. The surface was incredibly slippery, preventing the familiar screech of sneakers and making quick stops nearly impossible—you’d just keep sliding. Each baseline had only about two feet between the out-of-bounds line and a brick wall, conveniently hidden by a large, tattered red curtain. I remember you could step out past the line without the ref calling a violation. The back of the stage barely had enough room for the benches and scorer’s table, all concealed by that same old red velvet curtain, hiding who knows what. On the other sideline, there was a six-foot drop-off into theater-style seating, all upholstered in faded red fabric. The court itself was much smaller, with the center being only about five feet past the free-throw circle, making it feel cramped and intense. Plus, it was incredibly hot playing under those glaring lights, adding to the surreal and challenging nature of the game.

    this isn’t to weird but after the Detroit Lions moved to ford field, youth soccer teams would practice at the silverdome and its practice field. insane how advanced we’ve come with turf technology, practicing there it was carpet.

    I went to a poor Catholic school from kindergarten until 8th grade. The church didn’t have a gym, but we were occasionally allowed to use the church hall. Eventually that changed, but classes were small enough that we were able to have indoor gym class in a spare classroom. So we used to play seven on seven dodgeball and scooter hockey in a standard, elementary school-sized classroom. Games were very intense.

    When I was in junior high in the early 1970s, our 7th grade basketball team played in the “old” gym at our school. One hoop was about 10’2″ high and the other was about 9’10. Since we practiced there every day, we were used to and not bothered by the difference. Obviously not the case with visiting teams, however. By the time the visitors learned to shoot on one end of the court, it was time to switch ends. We were undefeated that year, with our most lopsided win 36-3.

    My grandparents’ old house, where my dad grew up, had an old barn. By the time I was born, the barn was no longer used for any sort of farming. Up in the haymow was a basketball backboard and hoop. I never really understood why as it was almost ALWAYS way, way hotter up there than anywhere else on the farm.
    It was years later, after talking to my dad and uncles enough to find out they didn’t play football all that often growing up. Our small town didn’t have a football team anymore. They spent those hot summer days playing baseball out in the yard and spent the late fall, winter, and early spring upstairs in the barn playing basketball.

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