How to be a Chicago sports fan in L.A.

After working on his comedic chops at both ImprovOlympic and Second City, Chicagoan Joe Nunez moved to L.A. in 2001 to pursue an acting career. You might know him as Manche Sanchez in “Prison Break,” the guy who hit Will Smith with his car in “The Pursuit of Happyness,” the unhappy liquor store employee in “Superbad” or as Lupe’s brother who takes Buster with him to work in “Arrested Development.”

But despite living in L.A. for more than 10 years, Nunez remains a fanatical Chicago sports fan. He is a regular attendee at L.A. Lakers, Kings, and Dodgers games whenever the Bulls, Blackhawks or Cubs are in town, and he co-hosts the Bear Down Podcast with fellow Chicago actors Matt Walsh, Horatio Sanz and Brad Morris.

With the Blackhawks in L.A., Nunez gets to display his Chicago fandom in a playoff setting. Here for RedEye is Nunez’s three-step guide to being a Chicago sports fan in L.A.

Jerseys, tees, hats, flags: Show off your team gear.
This is important in any city. When you’re an out-of-towner, you have to let the home crowd know where you stand.

NUNEZ: “We wear our colors with pride, for every sport! I’m a jersey guy. I got three Urlachers, a Forte, a Hester, Sandberg, Dawson, Banks, a Nuñez [in honor of former Cubs pitcher Jose Nunez], a Rose, couple of Jordans, and my prized possession: a game-worn Belfour jersey that I got as a gift when I was a kid!

“Of course, I have every kind of T-shirt and ballcap for my Chicago teams that I wear on the daily. NEVER an L.A. team anything. I’m not hating. I just have mad pride in my city and my teams. I like that people know I’m from Chicago. I scream it. I’m a Mexican kid from Chicago who talks funny the more he drinks and hangs around with other Chicagoans. It trips out my L.A. Mexican and non-Mexican friends. ‘WTF, A Mexican? From Chicago?!’ Yep.”

He also brings a City of Chicago flag to every sporting event he attends, “Just to scare the natives.”

Never change your stripes, no matter how long you’ve lived away from home.
Transplants get swayed. It happens. As Nunez said, you just have to stay true to your hometown “no matter how good an L.A. team is doing or how much our Chicago teams are shitting the bed.”

NUNEZ: “My L.A. buddies, they’re joking around, but they’re like, ‘Dude, why don’t you support L.A. teams? You’ve been here long enough.’ And I’m like, ‘I have my teams.’ I go home three, four times a year to see my family and hang out in the city. And I still have friends back in Chicago.”

Remember: just because you live somewhere doesn’t mean you’re from there. And there’s nothing more fun than riling up a hometown fan with your superior athletics. Just ask Vince Vaughn:



Find a bar that caters to Chicagoans
Finding your hometown bar in an out-of-state city is like knowing where to find your foreign embassy: you don’t have to hang out there all the time, but it’s good to have it when you need it. For Nunez, that means going to BAR 107, the Escondite and Ye Rustic Inn.

NUNEZ: “We have a great community of [Chicago sports fans in L.A.]. There’s a guy named Brian Trainem, and he’s co-owner of two bars in downtown L.A. One is called BAR 107, and the other one is the Escondite. That’s where we watch the games, because my buddy Brian, who we knew back in Chicago, set up a place for us. We used to watch them at BAR 107. The year they won the Cup, we watched all the playoffs and the Finals, and now he’s opened up this second bar, the Escondite, which is a nicer place, literally in the middle of Skid Row and Little Tokyo. They call it ‘Skidroykyo.’

“[Brian bought a rundown bar] and was like, ‘I want to make this a Chicago bar.’ He bought an Old Style sign and hung it above the door at BAR 107, and changed everything. He’s got old-timey beer paraphernalia, Chicago paraphernalia, posters, Old Style signs, signs from Wrigley Field, street signs. He really wanted to make it like a great Chicago dive bar. And he succeeded.

“He opened up [the Escondite] a couple years ago. It’s a nicer place. [Trainem’s] got this beautiful wooden bar, but he bought a siren, and he has a horn, so that when the Hawks score he blows the horn and has this light for whenever we score.

“I’d like to give Ye Rustic Inn in Los Feliz an honorable mention because there is always a big group of Bears fans that take over the joint on game day. It’s dark inside, they turn up the volume for our games, best wings in L.A., the bar and waitstaff are the best (and hottest) in town! And, oh yeah, PITCHERS of beer. Chicagoans like a good pitcher or four during a game! It’s always the first stop when friends come to visit from anywhere in the world. Fact: Bukowski used to drink here."

Jack M Silverstein is a RedEye special contributor.

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