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Brooks' Bunch: Tricks of the Trade

Derrick Brooks' and his intrepid group of traveling students hits the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Loyola University before finally relaxing Thursday afternoon


Derrick Brooks stood on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Floor as the trading action flew all around him

Ferris Bueller showed up here on his day off. Billy Ray Valentine and Louis Winthorpe III chose this spot to ruin Randolph and Mortimer Duke in Trading Places. And now Derrick Brooks and his Brooks' Bunch have begun the fifth day of their '2003 and Beyond' sojourn in this famous Chicago location.

We speak, of course, of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), a place where fortunes are made and lost on a daily basis.

Brooks and his 29 student travelers stayed out of the fiscal action when they stopped by the CME on Thursday morning, but they were amazed by the scene nonetheless. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker was actually on the floor, standing amidst the traders, clerks and runners, when the opening bell sounded at 8:30 a.m. and the previously peaceful setting burst into chaotic activity. With his students watching from the viewing area, Brooks signed autographs for a few traders but otherwise simply watched the frantic action in wonder.

"It's unbelievable how fast everything moves," said Brooks. "They're constantly buying and selling. It's a very fierce competition."

Brooks spent the first 15 minutes of the day on the trading floor, then joined CME Vice Chairman Jim Oliff and the rest of his party in the viewing area. Oliff offered an explanation of the complicated hand signals and gave insight into the non-stop activity on the floor. For instance, the positions of the people on the floor – trader, runner or clerk – and which of the four areas they are allowed to trade in are signaled by the colors of their jackets.

Oliff also gave the students a brief history of the CME.

The Chicago Butter and Egg Board, founded in 1898, evolved into the Chicago Mercantile Exchange in 1919. At that time, futures were offered only on agricultural products, such as, yes, butter and eggs. As the U.S. economy grew and expanded to include industry, finance and technology, the CME product offering expanded to include many new areas.

The most entertaining portion of Oliff's lecture was his explanation of the floor's sign language, as the CME veteran attempted to give the students a rudimentary base to understand the wild gestures on the floor. The most basic signals were for buying and selling: a palm out, pushing away from you, signals a seller and a palm in, pulling toward you, signals a buyer.

After a review of the signals and a quick study session, Oliff, looking like a third base coach, tested the kids on their newfound knowledge. The traders-in-training passed with flying colors, nailing every one of the Vice Chairman's signs.

"It was weird," said Navoy Frederick. "He looked kind of funny, but I enjoyed it. You have to be a real expert to do that stuff. You can't misread any of the signs or that could be your job."

After the CME, Thursday's next stop was Loyola University, where the students had stayed in the dorms the previous two nights. The Bunch started at the Loyola admissions office, where they were split into two groups to go on a campus tour.

Two current Loyola students led the tours and discussed dorm life, study-abroad opportunities, athletics and class size. They clued the students in to the happenings on and off campus, from free student-union concerts to discounted tickets at the local theater productions. The tour helped familiarize the Brooks' Bunch travelers with the benefits of being a college student, provided a look at how a typical downtown university campus is laid out and let them see the classroom settings they would experience during their collegiate years.

Lunch was a buffet provided by the university. During the meal, a Loyola admissions counselor instructed the kids on what they would have to do to get into Loyola and what is required for admission at most schools of higher education.

"I honestly believe that Loyola could be the college for me," said Frederick. "I liked the selection of majors they had, the location and the sports program. I liked it."

After several days of non-stop sightseeing tours, professional lectures and university visits, Brooks' Bunch took the afternoon off and spent the latter part of the day shopping in downtown Chicago. The group hit the Windy City's celebrated 'Gold Coast,' stopping first at Nike Town before visiting several other stores up and down Michigan Avenue.

"Chicago is like New York because it's huge," said Frederick. "We went to this mall and it was unbelievable. I'm used to the mall in Brandon and the mall in Chicago is ten times bigger than that. It was good to hang out and have a relaxing time."

The pace will pick back up for Brooks' Bunch on Friday, as they head out of Chicago for Atlanta. Among Friday's activities will be a tour of Georgia Tech University, a visit to Thomas, Kennedy, Sampson & Patterson (the oldest minority-owned law firm in the southeast ) and a stop at the Warren Holyfield Boys & Girls Club, where the students will meet with former Buccaneer and current Atlanta Falcon Warrick Dunn.

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