Something about the banner at the top of this blog tells me I’m supposed to be writing about politics, sports and rock ’n roll, in no particular order. And while we’ve got the politics down cold, and, if I do so say, we’ve got the rock ’n roll thing down too, we’ve been a little lacking in the sports department, n’est-ce pas?
So it seems only right that we stop and take a look at Your Chicago Sports Franchises and Where They Stand as the year’s end approaches.
First, there’s Your Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks, who are in fourth place in the Norris – er, Central – Division at 16-14-3 with a mere 35 points so far. Honestly, I’m somewhat surprised the ’Hawks have a winning record, given the way they’ve played lately. Worse, the Philadelphia Flyers, whom Your Chicago Blackhawks beat in five games to win the Stanley Cup last spring, are in first place in the Atlantic Division, are first overall in the Eastern Conference, and, yes, I’ll bet you can complete this sentence: Have the best record … in the NHL. After having all but jettisoned the Cup-winning team in the off season (a la Jerry Reinsdorf after the Bulls’ six-peat), I’m not sure the Blackhawks are 100% committed to the two-peat, if you know what I’m saying. What is it with Chicago sports franchises dismantling their championship teams like Dr. Frankenstein working in reverse?
But hey, it’s only December. They play hockey until, like, August, right?
On the other hand, there are Your Chicago Bulls. I would say Your Six-Time NBA Champion Chicago Bulls, but that’s seamed like the faintest memory recently … until, lo and behold, one Derrick Rose came to play, and suddenly the Bulls are 16-8 and in first place in the Central Division (and third over all in the East, behind Boston and Miami). It’s so weird to see the Bulls playing like an actual NBA franchise that the other day when Bill Clinton turned up at a White House press conference I was convinced I’d fallen asleep and woken up in the 1990s.
Meanwhile, the real Chicago Bears showed up last Sunday afternoon, stunned, apparently, to find out it snows and gets cold in Chicago in December; while the New England Patriots (the ones who’ve won three Super Bowl titles since the Bears last won one) had apparently gotten the message that sometimes one must play one’s football games in inclement weather. And so the Bears were crushed, proving that they’re still who Dennis Green thought they were back in 2006. Of course, at 9-4 with three games left and a one-game lead on Green Bay, the Bears still have the inside track on the NFC North title … which means we will likely live to see at least one more soul-crushing playoff loss in this lifetime. So we got that goin’ for us. Which is nice.
And then there are Your Fighting Illini, whose men’s hoops team is playing like an actual major college basketball program and is, probably deservedly, ranked twelfth in the AP Top 25 and thirteenth in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll. Unlike Northwestern, those pretenders up in Evanston who pad their pre-Big 10 schedule with lightweights so our local sports reporters can say, breathlessly, that Northwestern is 6-and-0! despite not having played anybody who could actually, you know, share the court with a real Big 10 team, Your Fighting Illini have beaten North Carolina and Gonzaga this year; so cautious optimism is the order of the day. The less I say about them the better, lest they should go on to lose to, I don’t know, the Austin Peay State University Governors in the NCAA Tournament or something. (Yes, it’s true. I watched that game.)
Which brings me to Your Fighting Illini Football team, who, like their alter egos in the NFL (that’d be the Chicago Bears, if you don’t know, who share with the University of Illinois the only team colors that really count – Orange and Blue – and who’ve had an intertwined history since the days of Harold “Red” Grange), are bound and determined to frustrate and appall me at every turn. The Illini football team ended the regular season at 6-6, which means they technically qualify for a bowl game (having won 6 Division I games), but shouldn’t got to a bowl game if, you know, they had any sense of, like, pride. Or common decency. But, no, the Illini were invited and accepted a bid to something called the (ahem) “Texas Bowl,” which takes place on December 29 in Houston, Texas. And so they will bring their sorry record of 6 wins and 6 losses to the Texas Bowl and risk ending the season with a losing record – Yay! – because bowl games pay college football programs money, and money is more important than, I dunno, pride, I guess.
It’s all about the Benjamins. Or, I suppose in the case of the Texas Bowl and the Fighting Illini football team, it’s all about the Hamiltons. Heh.
But so anyway, my Illini are going to Houston to play Baylor University in the Texas Bowl during The Week of Pathetic Bowl Games (you know, the week between Christmas Day and the Real Bowl Games). I know exactly two things about Baylor football, neither one of which gives me much comfort. First, before he became That Guy David Letterman Makes Fun Of, former Chicago Bears All-Universe Linebacker Mike Singletary played his collegiate football at Baylor, where he set some kind of NCAA record for … breaking helmets. Yeah, that’s right: Breaking helmets. He broke sixteen of them. While playing college football. So, that’s not good.
The other thing I know about Baylor football is, Baylor is located in Texas, where the Texas Bowl is played, which means it’ll more or less be a home game for them. And given the way our defense has played a good part of the year (we lost 65-63 to Michigan – and no, that’s not a basketball score), chances are Baylor’ll light us up like Warren Moon torching the Buffalo Bills’ secondary in the first half of that one playoff game … oh, never mind. That’s an analogy that takes too long to develop. But if I say I’m less than optimistic, well, that’s just putting the best possible spin on it. Because I know my Illini Bowl Game Losses, having suffered through most of them, and I can smell a loser a mile away.
So, there you go. If you’re keeping score, it’s:
Blackhawks – ugh
Bulls – hey, not bad
Bears – yeah, that’s what I thought
Illini basketball – shhh, don’t jinx it!
Illini football – why do I think I’ve seen this movie before?
And That’s Where Your Chicago Sports Franchises Stand. For now, anyways.
© 2010 David P. von Ebers. All rights reserved.