Submitted by Raymond Rolak
photo courtesy of Rolco Sports Nework
CHICAGO – He is now making a big mark playing for the Wroclaw Crew in the Polish American Football League. Polish-American football, that is. Mark Philmore dished about last season and American Football in Poland. Not soccer, but American football. He has the pedigree, as both a former Northwestern Wildcat and 2006 Chicago Bear. He played the pre-season with the Bears and gained tremendous experience. “Big Ten football was great and challenging but the NFL is a whole level above that,” said the pass receiver.
The Crew had a good year but came up short, as they were runners-up to the Wrodaw Devils, 26-21 in Polish Bowl V.
He was at Wrigley Field for the Wrigleyville Classic that had Illinois beating Northwestern, 48-27 in a game played under very unusual circumstances. The famed marquee above the main entrance was painted purple, and panels along the stadium's facade showed past and present Northwestern players instead of Chicago Cub icons. The sizzle was buzzing in and around the stadium. The adjacent bars and pubs were overflowing. It wasn’t a sell-out but the crowd energy was very respectable.
The Big Ten announced that the schools had implemented several rules changes because of safety concerns. (Isn’t it the Big Ten’s job to administer rule changes?) Anyway, the atmosphere was great……but the Big Ten and NCAA get a black eye on this one. They messed with the game and allowed an irregular playing surface and screwed up the whole championship season for the Big Ten. It will be an asterisk season. Isn’t it the job of the Big Ten administrators, to make a fair playing experience? Did other Big Ten games change their conditions? Does this affect the standings? Is it a practice game? Does it affect Bowl Game placements? Can teams now play flag football? So many questions, especially, was proper due diligence conducted. Who is taking responsibility? And the adage, “It is the same for both teams,” doesn’t hold true. The changes were slight, but they messed with the game. Is it the silly season? Can student-athletes extrapolate changes to the classroom? If not…..why not? If the game was about marketing opportunities, than why not pay the players a small stipend? Why have academic standards at Big Ten schools? Is it wrong to be a purist? Why not make everyone an All-America? Is the Big Ten fraudulent? Where are the Directors of Athletics? Where are the college Presidents? Should I stop asking?
Because of space and safety concerns at Wrigley Field, offensive plays ran only toward the west end zone near the third-base dugout. The east end zone in right field came within a foot of a heavily padded brick wall. So after changes in possession, the ball was repositioned.
Anyway, back to Philmore. He filled some of his free time in Poland giving English lessons. Next he started a language school with attitude. He is a marketing machine. He is currently back in Chicago and he was proud to wear his Northwestern letter jacket. He was diplomatic about this game. He laughed about czernina (black duck-blood soup), and English rap idioms. He told how his Polish teammates, love Detroit native son, Eminem. “He is huge in Wroclaw,” Philmore said. Philmore loves his Wildcats and he is a great ambassador. The wide receiver played four years for Northwestern including the 2005 Sun Bowl against UCLA.
Move Over Jim Grabowski
At the Wrigleyville game, highlights included, Mikel Leshoure ran for an Illini school-record 330 yards and two touchdowns. National Polish-American Hall of Famer, Jim Grabowski’s best day was November 14, 1964. He had 239 yards versus Wisconsin. He goes down one spot in the Illini record book.
Wrigley Field is a super tourist attraction. Not since the Bears left for Soldier Field following the 1970 season had football been played at Wrigley. It was even longer since the last college game. That was in 1938 between DePaul and St. Louis.
NCAA spokesman Bob Williams said diplomatically, that, to his knowledge, there had never been a game played under circumstances like these.
Jacek Urbanczyk contributed