This is a week late, I know, but I’m thankful – more thankful now than I’ve maybe ever been before – for the Blackhawks.
My appreciation, as a Chicago sports fan, for the Hawks grew Sunday afternoon when the Bears flushed what were very real playoff hopes down the toilet in Minnesota. Their loss solidified the Hawks as the only major Chicago professional team with a shot at winning a championship in the next calendar year.
At 6-6, the Bears aren’t claiming a wild-card berth in a loaded conference. The NFC North race isn’t quite over, I guess, if only because the untrustworthy Lions lead it. But even if Detroit completely falls apart, do you see this Bears team taking advantage? I don’t.
Had the Bears defeated the hapless Vikings, they’d be very much alive. If you allow a running back from a team with an awful passing game to rush for 211 yards – even if that back is the best on the planet – you don’t deserve playoff life. If you allow a cold Matt Cassel to average nearly 7.4 passing yards an attempt, you don’t deserve playoff life. And if your typically aggressive coach decides to settle for a non-chip-shot field goal attempt on second down out of some misguided fear of penalties – and your highly-paid kicker can’t convert said field goal attempt, in a dome – you don’t deserve playoff life.
There is another team in Chicago playing right now that does have a very good chance to make the playoffs. The thing is, that team would be better off if it stayed home. Without Derrick Rose, the Bulls aren’t winning a title. They’re better off tanking for a better pick in a loaded draft, which makes their excellent coach a detriment in the immediate future. It will be an interesting next several months for the Bulls, but not for what they’re doing on the court.
Baseball is, of course, still a few months away, and I’m not sure we really want the Cubs and White Sox to ever end their hibernation. The Sox are the only one that has made any sort of hot-stove splash, adding Cuban slugger Jose Abreu. I’m intrigued by, and slightly in favor of, the signing, but Abreu plays a position (first base) where he’s going to have to hit a ton to be really valuable. And even if he’s Miguel Cabrera, the Sox still aren’t a playoff team if everything around him is what it was in 2013.
As for the Cubs, while I remain fully on board with the rebuild, I also realize the rebuild isn’t ending in 2014. I do expect some discernible progress, but the Cubs have been so awful that discernable progress could abound during a 75-win season.
Even outside the of the professional world, with the exception of one bright spot (Northern Illinois football), there is little to like in these parts.
It was announced this week that Tim Beckman will return, which means Illinois football fans have little to look forward to in 2014. Football and men’s basketball aren’t going anywhere soon at Northwestern.
There’s some intrigue out there with Illini hoops, but I’d prefer you waited until they crack the top 25 before you wake me up.
Thankfully, the Hawks – the mighty, mighty Hawks – are there as a contrast to all of the bad. There was no 24-game point streak to begin this season, but roughly two months in, the Hawks have the best record in the NHL. They are, in my mind, the favorite to win it all.
Being the favorite doesn’t necessarily give you more than about a 25 percent chance of a title in hockey, but that’s about 25 percent more than Chicago’s other pro teams have, in the short term, combined.