But the logic wasn’t so obvious back in 2008, when Chipp Collins came up with the idea of holding the first Pride Bowl flag football tournament on the same June weekend as the city’s celebration of diversity.
“An absolutely brilliant move,” Pride Bowl V tournament director Brian Kupersmit said of Collins’ plan. “It leverages the city, not picking just some random weekend.”
Collins, who has since moved from Chicago, will be back in town next weekend to see how his pet project has grown. Started as a 12-team, one-level event, Pride Bowl last year added a “B” Division in an attempt to broaden its appeal beyond the elite national clubs. This year, the field has expanded to 24 teams and the event — scheduled for June 22-23— has picked up a new national sponsor in MillerCoors (Skyy Vodka also is a sponsor).
The tournament kicks off Friday at Montrose Fields, just east of Lake Shore Drive at the north edge of Lincoln Park. Pool play games begin every hour from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., with bracket play following on Saturday.
There’s a nightlife component, too, with a registration party Thursday night at T’s and events Friday at Minibar and Saturday at Hydrate. The idea is to wrap up the competitive part of the weekend in time for everyone to take part in Sunday’s Pride Parade.
Though the decision to limit the tournament to two days means there is a finite number of teams that can participate, Kupersmit doesn’t see a change in that area.
“We promised we would never go to Sunday,” he said. “We don’t want to.”
What he and the other tourney organizers do want is to put together the best-run event possible, one that truly is national in scope.
A measure of success is the fact that the field includes just three local entries — the Chicago Wreckers, the Mary’s Attic Assault and the Chicago Motley Crew — along with teams from all corners of the country. The Phoenix Hellraisers, who have won the past three Pride Bowls, are back to defend their title and the 2008 champ and 2011 runner-up San Diego Bolts also return. The event even has its first international flavor this summer with the addition of the Toronto Mounties.
Making all this work is a six-person board, half of whom have been involved since the tournament’s inception. Besides Kupersmit, some of the principals include head referee Shawn Albritton, who also is president of the host group, the Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association; and field director Greg Ostfeld, who is responsible for all manner of logistical issues including making sure there’s water and medical personnel available.
It’s quite a success story, to go from an idea of Chipp Collins just a few years ago to an event that is one of the sport’s biggest, perhaps second only to the annual Gay Bowl (which will be held in Denver in September).
“Looking back, you say, ‘Of course (it’ll be a success), right?’” Kupersmit said. “But I don’t think we’d envision multiple levels or cities sending multiple teams. …
“Now the tournament stands on its own.”