By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) Chicago sports is a cold mistress. No, it isn’t Cleveland, and I guess we could be thankful for that, but I hate to compare city sports plights. I’m a Chicagoan who cares only about Chicago championships.
And those are few and far between. In my lifetime I’ve experienced one World Series championship up close—and not from the team I root for. I was alive but too young to understand or remember the ’85 Bears, and the Super Bowl drought since has had the odd effect of deifying that team so much that part of me has really grown to hate the whole aura of them because it only works to magnify the football futility since and serve as an irrational benchmark to fans of what was really a different game of football.
Yes, the Bulls in the 1990s were an embarrassment of riches, but of the 155 possible championships of the major sports since I’ve been born, Chicago teams have won 10 of them, with 6 of those coming from one dynasty. Fairly horrid.
That is why I am going to appreciate the hell out of tonight when the Blackhawks raise the Stanley Cup championship banner at the United Center, the franchise’s fifth and the second I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing. I don’t get to relish in some civic pride too often, what with the schools closing and the kids dying and the money dwindling and the Belushi Belushing. So when I get the opportunity, I really try to make sure I bask in it.
The approach to the 2013-14 NHL season has been a quiet one, no? Maybe it’s because the victory parade seems like it was last week (it has been less than 100 days actually) and a hockey reboot seems closer to hair-of-the-dog for last season’s hangover than a whole new party.
The Bears and baseball playoffs don’t help the middle child that is hockey, even in a “hockey town” like this is. But tonight is not about not wanting to explain icing to people (in a whole new and exciting way!) or comparing fan résumés. This should be about drinking in the last sips of sports glory which transcends whether a game is played on a frozen surface or not. Be you a hockey fan or not, this is something to be appreciated in this city.
I remember when the White Sox won in 2005. As a Cubs fan, I felt no animosity toward my predominantly Sox fan friends or the team; instead, I was genuinely curious to witness how that championship would be celebrated in every facet. It’s a wonderful social experiment to watch from the outside that expression by those who participate in the game and those who consume it after the ultimate goal has been reached. And it’s an even better experience to be a part of that.
The ceremony before the first game of the new NHL season against the Washington Capitals will be a great cap to what was a wild previous season followed by a summer of celebration. And I do mean a cap, because once the pageantry is over the vision for players, coaches, and fans alike should be on the next Cup.
“The ceremony will come first and we’ll enjoy that, but everyone is focused on how we’re going to play,” Sports Illustrated cover boy Patrick Kane said. The team hasn’t gone through drastic changes and is relatively young, so anything short of another championship would be a failure, even though a repeat in the NHL is extremely hard to do.
“For players, those things are nice to be a part of and you certainly want to be part of a championship team, but at the same time we’re preparing for our game that night,” said Duncan Keith. “That’s where our focus is. It’s going to be cool to see the banner go up and it will be exciting for fans and everybody, but as players we have a job to do.”
The Hawks saw last season exactly how not to approach Game 1 of the season following a Stanley Cup when they waxed the LA Kings after their banner-raising. “We played in LA and had our warm-ups and then had about an hour before we played the game, and we came out pretty strong,” said Kane. “We scored three goals in the first period, so maybe we can take something from that.”
In the meantime, though, tonight is about exactly for what we play and watch sports. It’s more than just a banner. It’s that last piece of validation. And it’s extra special in a city where we so rarely receive that.
Tim Baffoe attended the University of Iowa before earning his degree from Governors State University and began blogging at The Score after winning the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He enjoys writing things about stuff, but not so much stuff about things. When not writing for 670TheScore.com, Tim corrupts America’s youth as a high school English teacher and provides a great service to his South Side community delivering pizzas (please tip him and his colleagues well). You can follow Tim’s inappropriate brain droppings on Twitter @TimBaffoe , but please don’t follow him in real life. He grew up in Chicago’s Beverly To read more of Tim’s blogs click here.