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Blackhawks are beacon of light in depressing sports city

Updated: November 28, 2013 8:42PM



DALLAS — Rough times, eh, Chicago?

Derrick Rose, your biggest star, is out for the season. Again. A once-promising Bears season is crumbling before your very eyes. Again. The Cubs and White Sox are . . . well, let’s not talk about them. Ever again. Northwestern’s football team went from ranked to rank, and Illinois just won its first Big Ten game since the Coolidge administration.

So you think you’ve got it pretty bad, right? You think you don’t have much to be thankful for as a sports fan this Thanksgiving weekend?

Please. Cry the poor guy in the outdated red-and-black Jarome Iginla sweater a river.

‘‘You going to the game tonight?’’ a woman asked him Wednesday as a handful of us waited for a light to change on Centre Street in downtown Calgary.

‘‘Yeah,’’ he replied, hands thrust in his pockets, lightly kicking the pavement like a little boy whose dog had just run away. ‘‘It’s not fun to be a Flames fan, but at least it’s fun to watch the Blackhawks.’’

At least it’s fun to watch the Blackhawks. Wise words for a despondent city from an unlikely source.

You remember the Blackhawks, don’t you? You remember last spring, right? The streak, the playoff series against the Red Wings, the 17 seconds, the F-bombs in the park — all that good stuff? All the back pages, all the TV coverage, all the delirious parties in the streets and in the bars with everybody’s new best friend, Stanley? The bandwagon so big that even Grant Park barely could contain it? Sure, you remember. It wasn’t that long ago, really.

Funny thing. While you’ve been wailing over Rose’s knee and gnashing teeth over the Bears’ defense, the Hawks — mostly the same guys as back in June, only with ratty mustaches now instead of scraggly beards — have kept on rolling.

No, they’re not 21-0-3, but they do have the best record in the league. Again. Patrick Kane is lighting up the league and staying out of trouble. Again. Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa are two of the best all-around players in the league. Again. They’re poised to send more players to the Olympics than perhaps any other team in the league, then to make a run at a third championship in five seasons.

That’s statue stuff, people.

Kane, Toews, Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith, Corey Crawford — these guys already are dealing with the weight of heavy expectations, the target on the back that comes with being the champs, the lingering effects of the shortest offseason in history, the looming effects of potentially the longest season possible (regular season, Olympics, playoffs) and the most physically grueling sport of them all. (High-ankle sprain? Michal Handzus played the Stanley Cup Final with a broken wrist and torn medial collateral ligament.)

So why not throw the hopes and dreams of a shattered city on their back, too? Hop back on, Chicago. It only has been five months. The bandwagon’s still warm.

Now, don’t take this as shameless Hawk Harrelson-level homerism by a beat writer in search of eyeballs and back pages. I’m so neurotic about being mistaken for a booster that I didn’t draft a single Hawks player on my fantasy team on principle.

No, this isn’t an opinion piece. This is objective fact: Chicago has the top team in North American sports (Miami Heat fans might argue, but who cares what 17 people think?). It’s a team loaded with young, likable stars. A team with the inimitable Jim Cornelison singing the national anthem every night — and 21,000 lunatics trying to drown him out. A team built to beat the salary cap, to keep winning. A team built to last.

So, yeah, you’ve been dealt a few bad breaks lately. But even with Rose, Jay Cutler, Theo Epstein and everything else — chin up, Chicago. All things considered, you’ve got it pretty darn good.

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

Twitter: @marklazerus



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