Diary of a Chicago Sports Fan
The Chicago Cubs have won the World Series. It’s been a couple of days, but that thought takes a little while for many Cubs fans to process. The Series win is the last step for many Chicago sports fans, including myself, to no longer think of Chicago as a city of sports losers. Here’s a quick 53-year overview from the point of view of a Chicago sports geezer.
In 1963, the Chicago Bears won the NFL championship. It would be another 22 years before the city had another major sports champion.
The 60’s brought a rebirth of the Cubs but in general, but the 1969 Cubs is the signature team of that decade, and we all know how that turned out. The Bulls came into existence but were basically an overachieving expansion team. Bears owner/coach, George Halas died and the Bears went into decline. The Blackhawks had some great teams in the mid to late 60’s but had no Cup to show for it after 1961. That’s just before my sports memories kick in.
The 70’s were mostly nondescript from a Chicago sports teams with a couple of near misses. The 1970-71 Blackhawks should have won a Stanley Cup, but lost to the Canadians in game 7, 3-2. The Hawks were up 2-0 in that game, but after Tony Esposito gave up a goal from center ice to Jacques Lemaire, there was a sense of impending doom. And sure enough, it happened. The Bulls also had a chance to nail down a championship, but of course, didn’t. The 74-75 Bulls lost in the Western Conference Finals to the Golden State Warriors. The Bulls were up 3-2 in the series but dropped the last two games. The Warriors went on to crush the Washington Bullets in 4 games. Ultimately, Chicago pro sports teams went zero for the 1970’s.
The 1980’s started a gradual metamorphosis in Chicago sports. The 1985 Bears were, in my humble opinion, the greatest football team of all time. They even won the Super Bowl. Unfortunately what could have been a dynasty fell apart for various reasons that could be another blog entry. The 1984 Cubs were a great team that blew a 2-0 lead in the National League Championship to the Padres. Names like Steve Garvey and Leon Durham come to mind. The 1983 White Sox also made the playoffs but were ousted in 4 games by the Baltimore Orioles. Remember Tito Landrum?
The 90’s resulted in the biggest change in Chicago sports in my lifetime. Michael Jordan led the Bulls to 6 world championships. Think about that. In the 30 years prior to Michael Jordan, the city of Chicago had seen 2 major sports championship teams. MJ led a Chicago team to 6 championships himself. I know Jerry Reinsdorf is often credited with bringing Chicago 7 world champions. I don’t see it that way. I say MJ brought home 6 and the 2005 White Sox were an example of a blind hog finding an acorn. More on that at another time. Beyond MJ, the Blackhawks made it to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1992 but were swept by the Pittsburg Penguins.
The 2000’s brought a bolt of lightning that was 2005 world champion, White Sox. There were other playoff appearances by the Sox and Cubs, but only one championship. The Bears made it to the 2006 Super Bowl but lost to the Indianapolis Colts. The Bulls and Blackhawks were nothing to get excited about.
Chicago sports from 2010 on look promising. Three Blackhawks Stanley Cups were further diminishing Chicago’s image as a sports loser. It’s not only that they won three Cups, it’s the way they won them. There were many dramatic finishes and great clutch performances from guys like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
While Chicago sports having been producing more winners in recent years, there was still the matter of the Cubs, the most notable losers in the professional sports world. Well, now it’s great to be a Cubs fan. The team is talented and likable. The key to the Cubs has been an architect, Theo Epstein. Theo has not only collected talent but collected talent with character and meshes together. While the process hasn’t always been pretty, the end result is. Chicago sports fans, enjoy.
By the way, if you were keeping score, the amount of Chicago sports champions in the four major sports since 1963 stands at.13. If you’re a Chicago sports fan like myself, feel free to watch your teams without that old familiar feeling of impending doom.