Telander: Chicago deserves to bask in sports success, not to ache over failed teams
BY RICK TELANDER email@example.com June 21, 2012 9:50PM
Injured Bulls guard Derrick Rose waves to the crowd after delivering the game ball to referee Courtney Kirkland the Chicago Bulls take on the Philadelphia 76er's Tuesday May 1, 2012 at the United Center in Chicago. | TOM CRUZE~Sun-Times
Updated: July 23, 2012 7:54AM
Does it feel like there’s a hollow breeze blowing through Sports Town Chicago?
It does to me.
Where’s the pizzazz, the center, the snapping sports flag we plant that says, ‘‘Watch out, world!’’?
Outsiders still connect us with Michael Jordan, who last put on sneakers for the Bulls 14 years ago, doesn’t live here and runs an NBA franchise called the Bobcats.
MJ’s recent fame? A team that put up the worst record in NBA history (7-59) and the hiring of a man as head coach (Mike Dunlap) that no one has heard of.
Chicago is better than this.
Better than Al Capone.
Better than a big blue ‘‘L’’ pennant blowing at the corner of Waveland and Sheffield.
We have the White Sox, yes, and they are toying around with first place in the oddly weak American League Central. But their record is only three games over .500, and their alleged fans mostly stay home and watch on TV. Whether those fans exist has been debated forever.
Now that the 2005 World Series statues have been built at the Cell, ennui seems to have set in, and even the Hawkeroo can’t bust free.
The Blackhawks, once so fresh, so full of potential, are fading faster than a Patrick Kane watermelon shot. Raffi Torres’ near-lethal and cowardly check of Marian Hossa in the playoffs looms cruelly. It punctuates the difference between the spring joy of 2010 — Oh, was the young Kane a hero! — and the wounded dullness of now.
Then we have the Cubs. Their record is too depressing to talk about, and it seems all we hear from ownership is, Give us your tax dollars and wait a little more.
It’s sad when it’s all about the future — after a century. Sad, too, when the past goes back to Sammy Sosa, monster home runs, steroids, and then fizzles in embarrassment.
The Bears are in hiatus, and their future looks bright. We think. We hope. We expect. We don’t know.
But Soldier Field has become the NFL’s Wrigley Field, a cozy little antique arena too small for a Super Bowl, which the league now holds in cold-weather cities.
My, could the city of Chicago put on a fun Super Bowl, blow our name out to the globe — especially if the Bears were in it! Take this from someone who has put up with SBs in Minneapolis, Detroit (twice), Atlanta (twice) and Dallas (an ice storm).
Coming soon: New Jersey. But not Chicago.
Mayor Daley’s good ol’ politicians tried — Chicago-style — to cram a 10-pound stadium into an 8-pound space between pillars and came out with what looks like the world’s largest toilet seat. Good luck, Soldier Field.
Ah, yes, the Bulls.
They are long out of the playoffs, and the overall sense is of a team that might have been. More fragile than a walking stick (the insect), the Bulls broke down in pieces, with Derrick Rose being the biggest.
Word is his knee is responding well after surgery. Word also is Rose’s jersey is the best-selling jersey in the world, ahead of LeBron, Kobe, Dwight, Kevin, etc.
That’s terrific, but for a young man whose game is built on explosiveness, Rose is in a holding pattern. We can’t help wondering when he’ll return, and how, and what he’ll have under the hood.
The Bulls moving their practice facility downtown, as well as the plans for the United Center area to be more of a sporting hotbed, are nice.
But is there a there there?
On West Madison Street?
But Chicago needs an over-arching sense of its sporting potential and history and its right now. We were shocked when we didn’t get the 2016 Olympics. But we got blown out for two reasons. One, South America — where the Games never have been held — was going to win. And two, Chicago did not seem like something solid, united behind a mayor or anyone, with sports at its core.
Somehow the spark must come. Whether it’s new construction (paid for by rich people) or new teams reaching the pinnacle, Chicago deserves better than what’s here.
Screw the coasts, the mountains, the South. We should be the best.