Thursday, July 15, 2010
By Joe Collins
When was the best time to be a Chicago sports fan? And when I say Chicago sports fan, Im talking about the time in which our teams collectively dominated the landscape.
Was it 1986? The Bears shuffled their way to a Super Bowl title. The Bulls were on the brink of being a perennial power. The Blackhawks finished first in their division. Too bad the White Sox and Cubs couldn't pick up the slack later that summer.
How about the underrated year of 1977? Both of Chicago's baseball teams captured the hearts of the city before mailing it in down the stretch. The Bears made the playoffs, as did the Blackhawks. Unfortunately, the Bulls were in decline. I guess that doesnt really qualify as being a great time for the Chicago sports fan...does it?
The Blackhawks hoisted the Stanley Cup in 1961. The Bears were respectable that year, too. Now if only the Sox and Cubs weren't a combined 52 games out of first...
So how about...now? Or at the very least, the last two years? To say that we are living in the golden age of Chicago sports might be a stretch, but take inventory of the following:
The Stanley Cup is back in Chicago. The Bulls fought their way into the playoffs recently and have one of the NBAs most talented group of players going into this fall. The Sox won a division in 2008 and sit in first place again. And even though the 2010 Cubs arent playing up to expectations, they have had three straight winning seasons to this point (baby steps!). Dont forget the Bears, where optimism always reigns supreme this time of year.
But there are a couple of eras in Chicago sports history that rival our current golden age, of sorts. What about...
Fall 1932-Spring 1934: What's this about a Great Depression? Not in Chicago. The Bears were NFL Champions in '32. Ditto in 1933. It was a great year for the Cubs in '32 as they won the NL Pennant...even though they couldn't get past the Yankees in the World Series (Babe Ruth's called shot). And don't forget the Blackhawks, who won their first Stanley Cup during the 33-34 season. Only wet blanket during this era came at 35th and Shields. The White Sox went 49-102 in 1932 and didn't fare much better in the years that followed.
Spring 1962-Fall 1963: Forget the woeful Cubs and that college of coaches nonsense. Chicago was full of successful teams during 62 and 63. The Blackhawks made the Stanley Cup finals in '62. The White Sox were still bringin it (94 win season in 1963) and the Bears crushed the New York Giants to win the NFL Championship in late December '63--showing that titles could indeed be won at Wrigley Field. I think there's a Frankie Valli song reference with that Bears win...but I'll keep moving on.
1984: The White Sox were coming off a division championship and had high expectations. The Cubs made the playoffs for the first time in 39 years. The Bulls drafted a young fella from North Carolina named Michael Jordan. The Blackhawks '84-'85 season ended two wins short of the Stanley Cup finals. And the Bears took the NFC Central crown and beat the Redskins in the playoffs. We all know what happened to the Monsters of the Midway the following season. Not a bad time to be a Chicago sports fan! It was also on par with
1989: There hasn't been a SINGLE time in 44 years of professional Chicago sports where all five teams have made the playoffs within the same calendar year (going back to the Bulls inaugural season in 1966). But in 1989, four of the five teams accomplished that feat. The Bears played the 49ers for the conference championship on January 8th. The Bulls shocked the Cavs and then traded insults with the Pistons in the NBA playoffs that spring. The Cubs took the NL East. The '88-'89 Blackhawks made it to the conference finals (they would eventually lose to Calgary). The White Sox were miserable (69-92). But hey--4 out of 5 ain't bad.
1993: The Bulls planted another championship banner in the Chicago Stadium rafters. The Blackhawks finished the '92-'93 campaign with 106 points. The White Sox and Frank Thomas blew away the competition in the AL West. The Cubs actually finished with a winning record (84-78). The Bears won 7 of 10 games that fall before wetting the bed in December. Not too shabby!
As for the worst time? 1969. How so? A last-place Bears team1-13 in fact. The 68-69 Bulls finished 22 games out of first. The 68-69 Blackhawks were out of the playoffs. The White Sox lost 94 games. The crowning achievement of 1969? The gut-wrenching September that Cubs fans witnessed.
So live in the moment, Chicago fans! The view isnt all that bad.
At least, for now.
Or something like that.
Joe Collins is an assignment desk editor for Comcast SportsNet and contributor to CSNChicago.com.