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Bidding for a fight? Believe it
By Barry Rozner | Daily Herald Columnist

Bob Berland


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Published: 7/24/2008 12:06 AM

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Bob Berland thought he was done with the Olympics.

After all, he'd seen it from just about every possible angle.

In 1984, he became the first American to reach the Olympic final in judo, and 24 years later, his silver medal from Los Angeles remains the highest ever awarded to an American in his sport.

He competed again in '88 in Seoul, and in 1992 he was elected by his peers - considered one of the great honors among Olympians - to represent them in Barcelona as athlete liaison and march them through the ceremonies.

In 2004 in Athens, he coached judo, when Jimmy Pedro took home the bronze, and Berland found his own medal platform in Greece.

"I ran up into the stands with my wife and three kids, and when they put the medal around Jimmy's neck, that was the ceremony I never got to have with them,'' Berland said. "I was satisfied, fulfilled. My Olympic days were over.''

But a little more than a year ago, Pat Ryan, the Chicago 2016 Chairman, called Berland and said he needed his help. And once Mayor Daley was brought in to twist Berland's still considerable arm, there was only one answer he could give them.

"They're very persuasive people, and they share the Olympic passion. Besides, it's not that hard to motivate an Olympian around the Olympics, so I jumped right in,'' Berland laughed. "I'll be heading to China for another Olympics, but my role now couldn't be more different than any I've had before.''

Berland will be right in the middle of Chicago's effort to become the 2016 host, and even though the IOC won't choose from among the four finalists until October 2009, the work is already intense.

The longtime Lincolnshire resident is co-chair of Chicago 2016's Athletes Advisory Council, a member of the bid's board of directors, and in Beijing he will serve as both ambassador and observer.

"Having participated and competed in so many Olympic Games, especially in L.A., I can't tell you what it means to have it in your own country and what an incredible homefield advantage that is,'' Berland said. "And I know there are concerns about hosting the games, but I've been to the Games, and a lot of what you hear is fabrication.

"The cities aren't paralyzed. It's the exact opposite. They become vibrant and electric, and the experience for those fortunate enough to live there is unparalleled.

"Barcelona today is a much different city as a result of 1992, and the positive ripple effect is enormous in case after case of how cities have benefited.''

Berland points to infrastructure improvements, a boost in tourism decades later, and substantial economic development.

"Chicago already has so much of what's needed, especially transportation infrastructure, but it's old and, whether we get the Olympics or not, it's going to need an update,'' Berland said. "We're ahead of the curve in so many ways, and the Olympic experience, for most people, is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that enhances your community.

"We're going to get it, and Chicago is going to be better for it.''

Money matters

If you want to be angry with someone for the Brian Urlacher contract nonsense, be mad at the Bears.

They held all the leverage and had not a single reason to go against club policy in bending to Urlacher, but if they were foolish enough to do it, Urlacher's guilty only of knowing they'd blink and cashing their checks.

The question is, how long before he decides this signed contract isn't worth the paper on which it's printed?

Mt. Guillen

Gotta say it's surprising Ozzie Guillen has gone as long as he has with some veterans who just aren't getting it done. He's talked about a lack of patience, and yet he remains hopeful - but you wonder for how much longer.

Blue moon

If you can't laugh at Cubs hysteria every time they go on the road and lose a couple, you'll never survive this season, especially since every time they come home and pound the snot out of teams, everyone seems to forget their travel troubles.

Bull stuff

E-mailer Sanjay H., my favorite GM not working in baseball today, and bidding to become my second-favorite GM not working in basketball today (after Mark from Atokad Park), believes the Bulls might be able to unload Kirk Hinrich on the Nuggets, who received a $10 million trade exception along with a draft pick by dumping Marcus Camby on the Clippers.

Dark knight

From e-mailer The Last Bear Fan, on the Brett Favre saga: "This whole episode recalls the brilliant observation of that great philosopher, Oscar Madison, who once said of his roommate Felix: 'What he'd really like to do is go to his funeral and sit in the back.' "

Dr. Fine-ing

For all the Three Stooges fans wildly insulted by a comparison here of their comic genius to that of Rex Grossman running frantically from a jailbreak, you're right, we owe the Stooges an apology.

Randy Wright-ing "Former Green Bay Packers starting quarterback Don Majkowski has entered in a bitter dispute with his former organization, admitting he is 'guilty of retiring too early' 12 years ago, while demanding he be reinstated as the team's starter or given the opportunity to play elsewhere.''

Art Vandelay-ing

Comedian Alex Kaseberg: "It was such a nice day in New York, Alex Rodriguez walked alongside as Madonna rode her Rascal scooter in Central Park.''

And finally -

E-mailer Cedric from Bensenville: "First bad sign of Bourbonnais: The coin flip to determine which QB would practice first got picked off and returned for a touchdown.''