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Wicker Restaurant Workers Find Camaraderie, Fun In Flag Football League

By Alisa Hauser | October 18, 2017 9:47am
 Scenes from the Chicago Restaurant Flag Football League.
Chicago Restaurant Flag Football League
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HUMBOLDT PARK — Some watch Monday night football. Others play it.

Made up of servers, food runners, chefs and managers at six Wicker Park and Logan Square restaurants, the Chicago Restaurant Flag Football League will host its championship game on Monday.

Defending champions Publican Anker will face off against Big Star at 5 p.m. Monday in Humboldt Park, 1400 N. Sacramento Ave., to compete for bragging rights and the coveted "Beer Bowl Trophy."

The public is welcome to attend and cheer on the athletes, said league founder and organizer Omar Ureña.

Ureña works as a security guard and door man for Big Star in Wicker Park and Park & Field in Logan Square.

A football journalist and a former offensive guard for the University of Mexico's Condors, Ureña played offensive line and tackle for Mexico's Horda Dorada ("Golden Horde") semipro football team from 2006 to 2008 and was a Mexico Football Hall of Fame inductee in 2015. 

Ureña's enthusiasm for football is so contagious, the growing league has almost 90 participants. This year, six teams participated in the league, up from four in its first year last year.

"Omar asked me to do it. There was a sign-up sheet in the kitchen, and I wanted the jersey, so I had to sign up," said Frida Fitter, a food runner at Big Star.

Fitter, who had never played flag football before the league, took to the sport and helped Big Star to defeat Umami Burger last Monday, 36-14. 

"It's nice to hang out with my co-workers outside of work," Fitter said.

Omar Ureña visits the cheering squad and does leg lifts during half-time. [DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser]

Alberto Vieyra, general manager of Umami Burger at 1480 N. Milwaukee Ave., which had 10 football players sign up last season and the same group this season, called Ureña "a good dude."

"We got in [the league] as a way to have more fun than our normal jobs and meet people who live the same lives we do. Us industry guys are different. We work weird hours, we work holidays. It's nice to have  camaraderie with people from different restaurants," Vieyra said.

Vieyra wanted to stress that the league is not sanctioned by Umami Burger and it's just something he and his coworkers do on the side for fun.

"We look forward to Monday. It gives us a little extra thing to talk about during the week," Vieyra said.

Ureña said that after he got the idea to start a league, Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) introduced him to park supervisor Jesus Perez, who gave the group permission to use the field in Humboldt Park.

Because industry workers put in long weekends and often have Mondays off, that day was selected as the day that most of the athletes could participate.

The players pay for their jerseys and make a donation to a fund that will be used to buy sports equipment for kids who use Humboldt Park and to pay Ureña for conducting a free kids football camp in the spring that will be arranged by Perez.

Dontae Southall, a sous chef at Umami Burger, said the league has forced him to switch up his routine.

"I like getting out and getting active. Working as much as I do, there is not much time for other stuff. I'd be home right now sitting on my couch playing video games if I weren't here," Southall said.

 

Big Star employees vs. Umami Burger #flagfootball #playoffs

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Park & Field server Emily Swogger with her jersey and on the field. [Courtesy of Omar Ureña]

Lisa Claire Greene, Violet Hour bartender, plays on the "Violet Doves." [Courtesy of Omar Ureña]

Big Star workers Emily Gorski and Frida Fitter, with their jerseys. [Courtesy of Omar Ureña]

Cheering squad for the last playoff game when Publican Anker defeated Park & Field [DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser]