Handball Wins at Battle of Chicago

July 19, 2010, 4:20 p.m. (ET)
The realization hit while sitting at the bar on Saturday night.  I was joined by friends from America's handball community from Las Vegas, Washington, New York, Salt Lake City and Chicago.  On-court results aside, USA Team Handball's Battle of Chicago was a success - if for no other reason than the valuable opportunity to bring people together to discuss and promote the current and future prospects for our sport.
On the court, Germany edged Poland, 27-26, before a heavily Polish crowd at the UIC Pavilion.  Prior to that 1pm game, the USA held off a late Los Angeles push to win 23-19.  
Thousands were on hand (more than 6,800 tickets sold and distributed), plus a television audience across the USA and Europe.  The event has delivered 100's of stories in print, television, radio and online outlets.  At least seven USA Olympians participated in some of the festivities, including Dave DeGraaf (currently living in Germany), Kathy Rex and Greg Morava (Colorado Springs), Bryant Johnson (Tampa), Yaro Dachniwsky (Chicago), Dennis Berkholtz and Darrick Heath (Atlanta).  The Battle of Chicago was truly a gathering place.
We've come a long way since St. Louis in the summer of 2008, where we barely mustered a dozen people to offer their insights into the job awaiting the then-fledgling USA Team Handball federation.  The ability to host, produce and distribute an international event like the Battle of Chicago is a milestone.  The week featured two games, three training camps, one coaching clinic, several parties and one board meeting.
We watched a USA team featuring 16 players who have joined the National Team pool since 2008, not counting two who suited up for L.A.  This young team is short on experience but long on heart - and comprises a basis to build upon in years to come.  Game MVP Adam El-Zoghby was optimistic, yet grounded, about the USA's future.  He has played at the highest levels in Egypt and Europe - but his willingness to lead the USA rebirth speaks volumes about his character, leadership ability and patriotism.  Just imagine this team, we discussed at the bar, with Gary Hines, Jordan Fithian, Michael Williams, Hans Self and Chris Koerner - all of whom played the Spring 2010 season in Europe.  
We met McDavid - a potential new partner from Chicago whose Hex-Pad technology has the potential to drastically reduce the aches, pains and bruises that handball players pick up every time they step on the court.  We met Gared, one of the leading manufacturers of goals, nets and gymnasium equipment.  I visited the Chicago manufacturing facility operated by Grundfos, where nearly 50 employees gained their introduction to handball on Saturday.  We also met many people from Sobieski (vodka), Ex-Libris (bookstore), Zywiec (beer) and Green Food & Produce (restaurant/gourmet food shop) - companies with their roots in Poland and their business plan firmly planted in America. 
It was a whirlwind week.  Thursday, a dozen of us paused for a USATH Board of Directors meeting, approving enthusiastically plans to accelerate our grassroots development programs and to support competition at all levels from "beginner" to "National Team."  On Wednesday we attended a reception held by four German organizations; while Thursday, the red carpet was rolled out at both the Polish Consulate and Wrigley Field.
Thank you to everyone who participated, purchased tickets, volunteered, helped spread the word or watched on television.  Your support of USA Team Handball is invaluable.
Haven't seen it yet?  Check local listings, but viewers in San Francisco, Chicago, the Northwest and Atlanta should be able to watch tonight, July 19, on their Comcast Sports Net affiliate.  Be sure to invite some friends - the Battle of Chicago is a great way to bring people together.
CSN Bay Area / San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento, Reno / July 19 @ 6:30pm, 8:00pm & July 20 @ 2:30pm/4pm
CSN Chicago /July 19 @ 7pm; July 21 @ 7pm
CSN Northwest / Portland & Seattle / July 18, July 19, July 23 - check local listings
CSS / Atlanta / July 19 @ 4pm and July 25 @ 12:30pm
The Mtn / Salt Lake City & Denver / August 8 @ 10pm & 11pm

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