As I doublefist triple-shot lattes to get my Wednesday started, I look at the sports section of two Chicago newspapers and can't help but wonder if there has ever been a better time to be a sports fan in the Windy City?
I'll put on the table right away that I'm not yet 30 years old, I never saw Gale Sayers or Dick Butkus or Norm Van Lier or Bobby Hull. I wasn't depressed in 1959, and I wasn't heartbroken in 1969.
I am, however, someone who respects the past and has spent a lot of time getting to know the teams in my city. I know about the Bob Loves and the Stan Mikitas and the Bronco Nagurskis of our fair city. I have read, and watched, many of the greats of this city.
And I don't think there has ever been a time like this.
Take, for starters, the most obvious reason to be excited on the first day of October: baseball. For all the annoying 100 Year comments Cubs fans have heard, one that sticks out to me is that it was in the first decade of the last century that the Cubs and White Sox were both in the postseason. Not only that, the Cubs and Sox both have legitimate Rookie of the Year candidates in (likely NL winner) Geovany Soto and Alexei Ramirez, and both have an MVP candidate in Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Quentin. Here we are, in October, and I haven't rotated any of my baseball jerseys to the winter closet yet. How great is that?
Throw on top of the baseball success that the Bears are tied for first place, the Blackhawks finished just out of the playoffs and have a legitimate hope for postseason games this year, and the Bulls have been in the playoffs twice in the last three years. Looking at the schedules, we could very easily see all five major sports teams in Chicago make the playoffs in the same season.
In the early 1980s, we had a sports renaissance with the Sox making the playoffs under Tony LaRussa in 1983, the Cubs behind Rick Sutcliffe in 1984, and the Bears dominant 1985. In the 1990s, the Bulls had perhaps the last true dynasty in professional sports, winning six championships in eight years (the virtual 8-pete), while the Hawks made the Stanley Cup Finals and both the Cubs and Sox made the playoffs.
But a large part of the history of this town's teams has been mediocre. Before a guy named Jordan arrived, the Bulls were truly nothing special. The White Sox have spent nearly decades between household name players, much less winning seasons. Look at the 1970s - the uniforms the team had on were a big part of the excitement at the game. And the Cubs... where do I begin? At least the Phillies have the all-time loss mark for teams. But to have gone a full century without a World Series title? 63 years since even playing for one?
Before the Jordan Era spoiled us, the Super Bowl Bears was the only championship this city had in professional sports since before my parents were born. The Blackhawks still have the longest draught between Stanley Cups, the Cubs (yeah, ok, we get it), and the White Sox hadn't won in almost as long.
But now the dynamic has changed. Since January 2005, the White Sox have won the World Series, the Bears have played in the Super Bowl, Bill Wirtz has died, the Bulls have been in the playoffs twice and the Cubs have now made the postseason in consecutive seasons, with the best record in the National League this year. Add of these accomplishments that Northwestern's football team is 5-0 for the first time since... that is almost at epic Cubs proportions, too.
There is still a lot of history to be written. Baseball's postseason hasn't started yet. The Bears are only a quarter of the way through their season. The NHL hasn't dropped the puck on the regular season, and the Bulls haven't hit puberty... I mean started practicing yet.
As a Chicagoan, I am excited. I look forward to the playoffs. I like what I've seen from the Bears, especially in their division. I look forward to using many of my Blackhawks season tickets. And the addition of local stud Derrick Rose gives me reason to watch the Bulls.
No offense to LA for having their Lakers, Dodgers and adopted Anaheim Angels. And no offense to New York for closing both of their baseball stadiums in September. But right now, Chicago is the place to be.