Monday, September 12, 2011

Growing up as a fan of Chicago sports teams

I've often described, to anyone foolish enough to listen, the reasons for why I hate certain sports franchises.  Having grown up in Chicago, I especially learned to hate the never-to-be-sufficiently-damned Yankees.  Chicago sports fans have never gotten spoiled by the success of their teams.  It seems that the owners of said franchises have a history of devastatingly stupid moves, guaranteeing years of mediocrity or outright incompetence for their teams in most years.  It's no mistake that the Cubs have gone the longest without winning a World Series - despite having had many great stars on their teams over looooooong time since their last World Series win (1909).

Chicago authors, like Jean Shepherd, tell the tale of how much we Chicago fans hate the Yankees.  Being permanently the "Second City" isn't bad enough.  The Yankees fans, with their proud heritage and swagger about all their World Series championships, epitomize everything we Chicago fans wanted to be, and apparently couldn't have.  In all the time I've been a Chicago sports fan, only the Bulls with Michael Jordan came close to being a seriously successful team - and were dismantled when Jordan retired for good.  The Bears have mostly wallowed in mediocrity, but they managed to win the NFL championship in 1963, beating the never-to-be-sufficiently-damned New York Giants in the process!  Oh happy day!!  To be followed by 22 years of mediocrity and failure, despite such stars as Gale Sayers and Dick Butkus.  The 1985 Bears seemed destined for a dynasty, which ... never happened.

The Blackhawks unexpectedly won the Stanley Cup in 1961, while I was in high school, with such stars as Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, and Pierre Pilote.  To be followed by decades of near misses and mediocrity until the miracle of the 2009-10 season.  And of course, the next season, the Hawks were outsted from the playoffs in the first round (after a valiant effort that ... surprise! ... fell short.

Basically, if every New York sports franchise were to lose every game infinitely far into the future (a consummation devoutly to be wished!), it would take many, many years for our Chicago franchises ever to catch up.  To be a Chicago sports fan is to know disappointment and classic chokes, punctuated with just enough success to keep the franchises packed with the faithful fans.  Try to buy a Cubs or Sox or Bears ticket and you'll discover our fan loyalty.  It's our fate ...

It helps somehow to have the Blues Brothers roaring down Lower Wacker Drive with the cops in tight pursuit.  It helps when Man vs. Food features a show about Chicago's Italian beef sandwiches.  It helps when we discover so many fellow Chicago sports fans to be here and there - the faithful scattered like autumn leaves around the nation.  But the beat goes on for Chicago sports, and I guess I'll never get out of my mostly unrequited love affair with those teams.

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