Commentary

New Web Site Celebrates Chicago Sports

Originally Published: April 14, 2009
By Jerry Bonkowski | ESPNChicago.com

The economy is the pits, unemployment is growing and taxes seem to be spiraling out of control.

But it's a great time if you're a fan of Chicago sports teams. Consider:

  • The good news for the Bulls, who have missed the NBA playoffs seven of the past ten seasons, including last year, is that they're back in the postseason. The bad news: Their first-round opponent could be either the defending champion Boston Celtics or the Orlando Magic. 'Nuff said.


  • The United Center will see postseason hockey for the first time in seven seasons as the Blackhawks, under first-year president John McDonough and new chairman Rocky Wirtz, will face Calgary in the first round.


  • After watching their team miss the playoffs the past two years after reaching the Super Bowl in the 2006 season, Bears fans are singing a more optimistic tune about 2009 heading into next week's NFL draft, particularly after the team acquired Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler nearly two weeks ago.


  • The Cubs are off to a 5-2 start.


  • The White Sox are off to a 4-3 start and are second in the AL Central.


  • The Fire, which made it to the MLS Eastern Conference final before losing to eventual league champ Columbus last season, is off to a 2-0-2 start thus far and sit atop the Eastern Division.


  • Add all that up and sports fans in the Windy City have a plethora of good news for the first time in a long time (OK, we have to admit that the Wolves, after winning the AHL championship last season, stunk up the joint this season, not even making the playoffs, let alone defending their title).

    That's why ESPNChicago.com could not be launching at a better time. While real-life troubles are tough to ignore, having so many success stories playing out currently helps us forget about those problems.

    Sports aren't a mandatory part of our lives. Rather, we choose to let them be part of our lives. While we have to pay taxes and die, there's no governmental doctrine that says you have to be a fan -- and in some cases, a long-suffering fan -- of the Cubs or Bulls or Hawks.

    In good times and bad, in our day-to-day lives, sports become an outlet -- an escape from our problems even if for a few hours, which helps us cope with things when they turn bad, or one that enthralls us when times are good.

    We choose to be fans, to assign our allegiance to a certain team and then follow it through good and bad, great years and lousy years. Sometimes, our loyalty pays off, like when the Bulls won their six NBA titles, the Bears won Super Bowl XX or the White Sox were World Series champions in 2005 - much to the chagrin of Cubs fans.

    Then there are times when our favorite teams and players get agonizingly close, but can't seal the deal, like the Bears' loss to Indianapolis in Super Bowl XLI three years ago.

    Or how about arguably the most loyal sports fans of all, Cubs fans, who have waited an incredulous 54 years for their team to reach the World Series, let alone 101 years to see them win their next title? If it hadn't of been for guys named Durham in 1984 or Bartman in 2003, those streaks may have been broken, but "waiting 'til next year" seems to be as important to being a Cubs fan as how he or she optimistically says at the beginning of every new season, "THIS is going to be our year to win it all!"

    That mantra has been repeated for decades -- which has now turned into more than a century -- but sooner or later, the Cubs' faithful knows it'll finally see a World Series trophy hoisted at venerable Wrigley Field.

    Even if it takes another 50 years to do so.

    Yes, it's a great time to be a Chicago sports fan right now. As all the teams are riding high, how great would it be to see the Bulls and Hawks win their respective league championships two months from now?

    And then see that followed up by the Cubs and White Sox facing each other in the World Series in October?

    And then see Cutler live up to all the reasons why the Bears needed to acquire him by taking the team to a Super Bowl win next winter?

    As ESPNChicago.com kicks off, we want to join you for the ride of what it means to be a Chicago sports fan, to constantly be beside you to share the good times and the bad, to cheer and commiserate with you.

    It's a ride we hope you join us in, because we're sports fans just like you are -- and there's no better way to forget about our problems or to make a new friend than having sports fans start talking about their favorite teams.

    We're ready to start talking. Are you?

    Jerry Bonkowski | email

    Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
    Award-winning sportswriting veteran Jerry Bonkowski returns to ESPN, having previously served as NASCAR columnist/writer for ESPN.com from 2001 to 2004. A lifelong Chicago native, Jerry spent 15 years with USA Today, where he covered all sports -- with heavy emphasis on Chicago-area teams -- and the past 4½ years as National NASCAR Columnist with Yahoo! Sports.

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