Monday, June 10, 2013

We’re on the verge of something freakish in world of Chicago sports

Beginning Wednesday, just three seasons after winning a Stanley Cup championship, the Chicago Blackhawks will take on the Boston Bruins in a chance at winning another National Hockey League championship.

Saturday's "hero"
There might be some sports fans who say, “So what?”

YET THOSE OF us who follow the Chicago sports scene who have any sense of history know just how incredible it is that the Blackhawks are in the running. There is a core of players to both of those teams who will be able to say they brought multiple championships to the Second City.

That just doesn’t happen here!

The Chicago White Sox managed to make a playoff appearance just three seasons after winning a World Series title in 2005 – but managed to get knocked out in the first round in 2008 with only one victory. Which only looks good compared to the Chicago Cubs team that qualified for the playoffs that same season and got swept out in three straight losses.

For all the love that local sports fans show to the Chicago Bears’ Super Bowl champion for the 1985 season (played in early ’86), the reality is they only won that one title. They didn’t repeat anytime soon, or ever!

IF ANYTHING, THE White Sox are typical of the Chicago sports mentality – their league champion of 1959 and the World Series of eight years ago seem to be lone hits that a generation of fans will love because they were so rare.
Typical one-and-done local hero

The last time that Chicago sports teams repeated as a champion as quickly as the Blackhawks might were the Chicago Bears, who won NFL titles in 1941, ’43 and ’46. Or there’s the Chicago Sting, who won North American Soccer League titles in 1981 and '84.
Although the fact that the 1984 championship game (the “Soccer Bowl”) was also the last match ever played in that league’s history makes it seem like a lesser feat.

There’s also the Chicago Cubs, who used to be respectable back in the days of my great-grandfathers. Take the Depression era, when the Cubs were contenders every season – and actually won the National League championship every third (1929, ’32, ’35 and ’38) year.

The base thief with the memorable homer
THAT’S HOW LONG it has been since something along the lines of what the Blackhawks (who until a few years ago hadn’t won a championship since 1961) might accomplish has taken place in Chicago.

Now I know there is the exception. Somebody out there is reading this and screeching and screaming about the Chicago Bulls.

Yes, it counts!!!
Back in the 1990s, they had those two streaks (1991-93 and 1996-98) of three National Basketball Association championships each. Michael Jordan, paired with Scottie Pippen. Chicago’s answer to the “Murderers Row” version of the New York Yankees led by Babe Ruth, paired with Lou Gehrig.

But that era only goes to prove my point – it was the ultimate aberration. Chicago’s little bit of a taste of Yankees-style domination; and they haven’t been able to come close to a title since then.

ANYBODY WHO THINKS that the Bulls are the character of Chicago sports doesn’t have a clue. If anything, that game Jordan had back in 1987 when he scored 61 points in a 117-114 loss to the Atlanta Hawks is SO in character with Chicago sports.

Six titles? Or 61 points in a loss?
As is the mediocrity we’re seeing this year; both at U.S. Cellular and Wrigley fields.

So as we go into the Stanley Cup finals this week, we should appreciate the fact that it already is an accomplishment that the Blackhawks didn’t just fade away after their 2010 championship. We may get another title, and another excuse for a parade or rally of sorts come the end of June.

Although those overtime victories against the Detroit Redwings and Los Angeles Kings that allowed the Blackhawks to advance to the championship round have created enough sporting memories to be remembered for decades to come.


EDITOR’S NOTE: The Chicago vs. Boston matchup – the first hockey “Original Six” championship since 1979 – is way more “old school” than the NBA championship round now taking place. San Antonio, Texas vs. Miami sounds like it ought to be the matchup for the Dixie Series – the old minor league baseball championship played by the AA-level Texas League and Southern Association champions.

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