Every month Chicago Now challenges all of the bloggers to write a post on the same topic. We all take different paths to the same idea. This month's assignment is "
"Write a love letter, but it can't be to a person." I have always loved sports since I can remember. My father had Bulls season tickets when I was growing up predating the Jordan era. My grandfather had Bulls and Blackhawks season tickets when I was very young and my mom took us to Northwestern games. Here is my letter to Chicago Sports.
Dear Chicago Sports
We have been through a lot together. Our mutual love affair began during the dark ages of Chicago Sports. When we met, you were six years into a 18 year championship drought. I was lucky enough to be introduced to you by two families that already loved sports.
My grandfather had Blackhawks and Bears season tickets and introduced me to hockey and football. I remember going to a Bears game at about six years old. The Bears began their golden age in the Superbowl era during my junior year in high school. They upset the defending NFC Champion Washington Redskins in the divisional playoffs before losing to the 49ers in the NFC Championship game.
A year later as a high school senior we got to see the Bears win their only superbowl. Growing up in Chicago, the only joy football fans had in the late 1970's and early 1980's was watching Walter Payton. He set the NFL single game rushing record in 1977 and the career record during the 1984 season.
Although they would not win another superbowl, the comfort of watching the Bears while away at school in Tucson made me feel connected back home. Later during my college years I would get together with friends that were also from Chicago to watch the important games. It meant getting to the bars by 10 or 11 (no easy feet in college) but the Bears usually made it worth it.
I began an interest in the Blackhawks in the late 1970's as well. Seeing the end of a great career by Stan Mikita morphed into the great Denis Savard. Pat Foley came along in 1980. The Blackhawks and the cold steel on ice era began a great run in the 1980's, only to be thwarted by the Edmonton Oilers three times in eight seasons one step away from the Stanley Cup Finals. Five times between 1982-90 you let me down one step from the finals.
My father introduced me to the Bulls. I remember taking the train down to see them play in the late 1970's and early 1980's. Artis Gilmore and Reggie Theus led those Bulls half a decade before the Jordan era began. When Theus began to have contract impasse in the 1983-84 season, the Bulls traded him to Sacramento at the 1984 trading deadline despite him averaging 24 ppg the season before.
The Bulls future looked bleak with Theus gone and Gilmore preceding him two years later. Later that summer the cards fell the Bulls way in the NBA draft. The most important draft selection in sports history came when the Bulls selected Michael Jordan third in the NBA Draft. Being able to watch MJ grow and the growing pains he had to go through to win his first championship can teach everyone lessons in perseverance towards a goal.
The Northwestern Wildcats were thought of Chicago's biggest losers even more than the Cubs in the 1970's and 1980's. That didn't stop my mom from taking us to see her Wildcats play football or basketball. I remember seeing stars like Randy Dean almost two decades before Gary Barnett took the purple to Pasadena.
The 1995 season began a special emotional journey. Suffering through hardship with a team makes special moments more meaningful. Being able to attend the Penn State game at then Dyche Stadium memorable. It was the first ever game under the lights in Evanston. The energy in that crowd was the turning point at home for the resurgence of NU Football.
Growing up, my friends and I were all big sports fans. It didn't matter which of the big five teams were playing we were into it. When the age of 13 approached most of my friends chose themes for their Bar Mitzvah themes around one of the big four sports or big five Chicago teams as the theme of their Bar Mitzvahs. I even got to attend a Bar Mitvah that then DePaul star Terry Cummings was at. The same friend would go on to play Division I College Basketball.
I chose to go in a slightly different direction than everyone else. When I was in sixth grade I was lucky enough to attend the Chicago Sting Soccer camp.
Seeing the Sting play their home games at Wrigley Field or the Old Comiskey Park was exciting. The buzz was different than the other sports and the Sting became the first Chicago team in my lifetime to win a title when they captured the Soccer Bowl over the New York Cosmos in Toronto in 1981. I remember having to listen to the game on the radio. It was to be televised on tape delay later that night at 1030pm. Not wanting to wait to find out I chose radio.
My first season as a White Sox fan was one of the worst in their history. The 1976 season saw the White Sox nearly lose 100 games. I have since shared many joys of my life because of them. The magical 1977 and 1983 seasons. More division titles in 1993 and 2000. My 23rd birthday was the last game at Comiskey Park and my 41st was the blackout clincher game in 2008.
The most magical was the 2005 season. Of all the Chicago teams I am passionate about, the White Sox are the one I wanted to see win a title the most. It had been 88 years since the White Sox last won a World Series. It was not as well known, because the Cubs last title preceded the White Sox by nine years.
After a 99 win season and an amazing run through the playoffs the White Sox completed what I never thought I would see in my lifetime, a World Series title in Chicago.
Our biggest joys in Chicago Sports came together. In 1994 you hosted the opening ceremonies of the World Cup. We got to share our greatest global moment on the World's Biggest Stage in 1994. Sharing the opening cermonies (from field level at Soldier Field) and the opening game was my greatest thrill in sports. The Heads of State of the United States, Germany and Bolivia all attended.
In my darkest and joyest moments Chicago sports, you have been there. Whether on a cold winter night watching the Blackhawks or Bulls, attending the Proviso West Holiday Tournament in Hillside, celebrating titles on summer day at Grant Park or soaking up the sun at Wrigley Field, US Cellular field or an early season Bears game you are always there and hopefully providing joy. Yet win or lose we will always support you.
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