The Chicago Force road to repeating as national champions took a stop Jan. 5 along Bling Boulevard.
The team received its championship rings in a ceremony held at Leona's Restaurant, 1936 W. Augusta Ave., on Chicago Force Women's Tackle Football Team Day in Illinois and also the city of Chicago, as proclaimed by Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and a separate proclamation presented by 2nd Ward Ald. Robert W. Fioretti, who attended and spoke at the event.
"For me, there were two highlights [Sunday]: the honors we received from Chicago City Council and the state of Illinois, and then the utter joy I felt presenting each Force member with their championship ring," said team owner Linda Bache. "The [state of Illinois] proclamation is signed by Governor Quinn and was presented to us by his chief of staff, Mica Matsoff, who is a huge football fan. My favorite text from the document is, 'The Chicago Force Women's tackle Football players are first-class champions who excel both on and off the field, and provide a shining example to girls and women about what they can achieve in sports and in life.'
"Ald. Bob Fioretti has been fantastic. He reached out several weeks ago to notify us that he had sponsored our resolution and requested the opportunity to present it at our Ring Ceremony. The resolution states that we 'exemplify the indomitable spirit of the great city of Chicago' and it 'celebrates our pioneering and distinguished example for establishing a sports legacy for women and girls too often unheralded and overlooked in the sports arena.
"The text from both documents rings true for who we are and what we've accomplished. The team was ecstatic to have received these honors from Chicago City Council and the State of Illinois and that representatives from both entities made it a priority to attend our celebration and address the team."
The Force claimed its first-ever national championship, winning the title over Dallas in a game played last August in San Diego. The Force, which is represented in the LGBT community on the field and in its front-office, including Bache and star quarterback Sami Grisafe, among others, landed at No. 1 in the Windy City Times' Top 13 Chicago LGBT Sports Stories from 2013.
"It seemed like the rings took forever to get here [and the] players kept asking when they were arriving," Bache said. "The shipment arrived at my house last week. I didn't take my ring outside of the house, but I wore it constantly while I was at home. It felt like it belonged on my hand and had been looking for me for a really long time.
"The rings are formidablethey scream CHAMPION. They are a tangible symbol of our accomplishment and a reminder of all the effort and sacrifice it took to get to the top."
About 90 percent of the 2013 players and staff attended the ring ceremony, braving the winter blizzard.
"It meant a lot to have everybody together again to honor our accomplishment. It was so nice to have another great memory with this group," Bache said. "Presenting the players, coaches and staff with their rings was very emotional. Most of them are veteran members of the organization and have worked extremely hard for many years to achieve this dream. It was very satisfying to be able to hand them their rings."
The 2014 season begins in April, and the Force will again play its home games at Evanston Township High School.
"I think we're in a good position to repeat in 2014 if we stay healthy and focused," Bache said. "Injuries to key players can derail any team, so that is always a concern. We would love to be the first team in [Women's Football Alliance] WFA history to win back-to-back national championships."
The 2014 Chicago Force calendar is now available ( $10 ), and will be available at the Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association ( CMSA ) party on Jan. 25 at Joe's on Weed Street. Calendars also can be purchased online at: www.chicagoforcefootball.com/news.asp