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.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

New thoughts about 9/11/01

Shortly after the tragedy of the 11 September 2001 attacks, I wrote an essay expressing my feelings.  In reviewing that essay, I see no reason to change a word I wrote.  I maintain that violence is not the solution to violence committed against us.  We gain the dubious satisfaction of vengeance, but it can't bring back the lives of those whose lives were lost.  It doesn't fill the hole left in the lives of family and friends of those killed in the attack.

I'm not saying that the efforts to root out and eliminate the perpetrators are wrong or misguided.  Far from it, in fact.  But if one considers the results of our "war on terrorism" - we now have lost more Americans in the name of that war on terror than were killed in the 11 September 2001 attacks.  Politicians sent them to do the dirty work and they've died doing their duty.  Add to that the horrible, disfiguring, life-changing injuries.  And that number of American casualties is dwarfed by the deaths and injuries visited upon innocent civilians in those very wars.  We've been involved in unwinnable wars of occupation in foreign lands, just as we were when fighting an ideological war in Vietnam.   Our war on terror is a very effective recruiting campaign for terrorists.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have clear origins in religious conflict.  The fanatic muslims responsible for terrorism are using religion as a tool for their political goals.  Notice how it's not the leaders who are strapping explosives to themselves, or flying themselves into buildings.  No, they inflame young, gullible people to do their dirty work without any risk to themselves.  These muslim fanatics are the worst kind of "chicken hawk" - someone who supports combat so long as they themselves are exempt from its horrors.

In America today, there are christian fanatics who are, to me, indistinguishable from their muslim brethren.  They seek to divide the world along religious lines and lead a holy war, a jihad, against the enemies they see.  If we go down that road, a path that is openly in contradiction to the christian doctrine of leaving vengeance to the lord, and turning the other cheek when attacked, then we have become what we claim to despise.  If we sacrifice our freedoms for the illusion of security at the behest of power-hungry politicians seeking to benefit from our irrationally exaggerated fear of terrorism, then we have lost something very precious that long has been the most important achievement of the United States of America.  We have been a beacon standing for freedom and human rights, despite some setbacks to those freedoms during times of war.  If we vote to make our nation a christian theocracy, we will have repudiated one of the crucial things that made America great.   We will have let fear drive us to give up all that has made us into a light of hope for oppressed minorities around the world.

In this time of reflection on the events that occurred ten years ago, it seems to me that we would bring the greatest honor to the lives lost on that terrible day if we renewed our commitment to the system that so many Americans have died to preserve.  The most effective way to fight terrorism is to preserve the very things in American society that the terrorists most despise and fear:  our freedoms and the preservation of the rights of all Americans - especially those with whom we disagree!