Crew Bar Owner Dodges 'Public Humiliation' with Wichita State Elite 8 Win
UPTOWN — If Wichita State had lost to heavily favored Ohio State in the NCAA tournament last weekend, Brian Wells would have had to dress up Saturday as Flo from the TV show "Alice."
Instead, Wells, an Edgewater resident and owner of Crew Bar + Grill in Uptown, will be donning Wichita State black and yellow as he cheers on his beloved Shockers in a Final Four matchup against Louisville.
Wells made a unique bet Sunday before the Shockers Elite Eight victory with his business partner Steve Milford, an OSU alum. The loser had to wear an "Alice" costume and work behind the Crew bar for two hours, with the victor receiving all the tips.
"We're looking forward to him doing it," Wells said.
And while Milford, of Edgewater, is performing what he called "public humiliation," Wells will be hoping for another Shockers shocker during a viewing party at the bar, which bills itself as "Chicago's premier gay sports bar & grill."
So far, ninth-seeded Wichita State has upset Pitt, Gonzaga and the Buckeyes, with another victory over LaSalle, to reach its first Final Four since 1965.
It's the first time a school from Wichita State's conference, the Missouri Valley, had made the national semifinals since Larry Bird's Indiana State squad in 1979.
"I'm already choked up thinking about the [Louisville] game," said Wells, who was named WSU's homecoming king in 1986 and the 1987 "Senior Most Likely to Succeed". "This game means so much for Wichita State. We're a smaller school on the national stage."
Wells, 48, has lived in Chicago since 1996 and has owned Crew, 4804 N. Broadway St., since 2004.
He's one of about 800 Chicago area Wichita State graduates, according to Connie White of the school's alumni association.
Wells, who grew up in Wichita, has been a lifelong Shockers fan, and he's shown his appreciation for WSU at his establishment.
The bar is filled with Shockers memorabilia, from flags to a trophy case of university gear. There's even a stuffed version of the school mascot WuShock, which was created by Wilbur Elsea, the father of Wells' Beta Theta Pi fraternity brother, Joel.
Most Shocker games aren't televised locally, but since the NCAA tournament began, Wells has hosted Wichita State viewing parties at Crew.
"It was great because he put Wichita State items on the tables," said WSU grad and Ravenswood resident Megan Ensley, 25, who watched the Sweet 16 victory over LaSalle at Crew.
Ensley is a former Miss Kansas contestant who has performed for the Brown Paper Box Co. and is doing student sketch shows at The Second City. She was, excuse the pun, "shocked" that Wichita State advanced to the Final Four.
"It was supposed to be a rebuilding year," said Ensley, who's from Topeka. "It's great to see a Missouri Valley team go this far, and it's even better that it's Wichita State."
On Tuesday, the Shockers were listed as 10½-point underdogs to the overall No. 1 seed Cardinals, but Wells wasn't swayed by such a number.
He was focusing on another figure.
"It's only a 40-minute game," he said. "All I have are positive thoughts for the Shocks. We can do it."