By Tim Baffoe–
(CBS) Welcome to Chicago. Sports stasis. Bastion of clarity. Epitome of equilibrium.
It’s as though entering the Windy City today is a revelation that it’s possible for everything to be just as it should be. Aahhhh.
The Cubs won Tuesday, halting a four-game losing streak that had conjured up all that old Cubbie angst in fans who thrive off being fatalistic. It involved starting pitcher Brett Anderson getting shelled, but he joked about it afterward in the nouveau Cubs style we’re used to that makes Joe Maddon teams so likeable. Anderson referred to the wind at Wrigley Field as “bipolar in nature” and described a grounder in the first inning as hitting him “right in the fat part of my fat hamstring — it didn’t feel great, but it didn’t really affect me.”
“It wouldn’t be a Brett Anderson start without some kind of athletic play,” continued Anderson, the guy on the Cubs who most resembles me. “Just kind of what I deal myself. I’d like to have a start where I don’t have to deal with something, but it comes with the territory of being super athletic.”
The Cubs will go on to win many more games this season — somewhere in the 90-plus range. Their computer-generated chance of making the postseason is currently somewhere in the 84 percent range and will rise.
As the haze from celebrations continues to clear, we’re returning to the realization that the Cubs are a capitalist machine that deals in baseball-related products. That’s clear in their contractual agreements with most of the 1,908 recipients of World Series rings that they “insure the rings, report them as income, keep them for personal and not commercial use and offer the Cubs first right of refusal at $1 if they intended to sell them,” per the Tribune’s Paul Sullivan.
“Why did we do this?” vice president of communications and community affairs Julian Green said. “We don’t want rings, 30 days after they receive them, to (have owners) start putting them out on eBay, which reduces the value of what we think is one of the most coveted rings in sports.”
See? Everything in Cubdom is totally normal.
Then the Bulls went and beat the Boston Celtics again to take a 2-0 series lead in their first-round series. And convincingly at that. They head back to the United Center with an opportunity to knock off the top seed. Eights beating ones isn’t common, but but it’s not exactly unheard of either, and these Celtics had an air of un-superiority surrounding them as they entered the postseason. Arguments were even made that they’re the worst No. 1 seed in league history. Still, this is the Bulls we’re talking about, and yet they’re suddenly gelled out of nowhere and look nothing like an eight-seed as they’ve taken two road games without extreme difficulty. (After Game 2, there was even talk that the Celtics had quit.)
Rajon Rondo — whose play during the regular season fluctuated between erratic and being benched — was the driving force in the Game 2 beat-down. Rondo spoke before the game about continuing as a Bull beyond this season, with the team essentially holding an option on him with only $3 million of his $13.4 million salary guaranteed for 2017-’18.
“Yeah, I like where I’m at. I think we have a really good team,” he told the Chicago Tribune, which might have been surprising just a few weeks ago.
Yet Rondo continued quite sensibly.
“Always keep your guys together as long as possible so they can develop chemistry and make deep runs in the playoffs and go through things together and grow,” he said. “If that’s the case here, that’d be great. If not, it’s up to those guys.”
A deep playoff run isn’t out of the question for the Bulls now. Defeat the Celtics and get the winner of a 4-5 Washington Wizards/Atlanta Hawks matchup that isn’t terrifying, and then take on the winner of the likely next round matchup of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors, two teams the Bulls went a combined 7-1 against in the regular season.
Regardless, all of the Bulls coaches and front office folks have been validated. Not that anyone actually expected heads to roll after the season anyway. But despite the immensely underwhelming regular season –again — it all makes so much sense now that the Bulls are in this position. We simply got played by a master manipulator.
Down 3-0 in a series to the Nashville Predators means the Blackhawks’ season is all but over. Little about Chicago’s play so far in the series gives hope for a miraculous comeback that we’ve grown accustomed to during an arguable hockey dynasty. It sucks, but maybe we shouldn’t be surprised.
The core of this team is a year older, and the older complementary parts are exponentially so, and it shows right now. The Hawks have been sluggish most of the series and are losing shots on goal battles, which has been very un-Hawks in recent years. Compounding this is the youngsters very much showing postseason inexperience and getting exposed.
Corey Crawford has been solid — unappreciated by idiots as he may be — and he deserves better than the three losses hung on him so far. But otherwise, we’re probably looking at an end of the sort of Blackhawks success that we sort of took for granted after being spoiled for several years. And such ends in sports are usually sudden and jarring — like in the form of an eight seed pantsing you and pointing and laughing at the shrinkage.
Again, none of this is any fun, but it shouldn’t be surprising either. It’s cold, but it makes sense.
And, hey, the White Sox are still managing above-.500 ball at 7-6, and good for them. They’ll eventually catch up to themselves, though. Plus, the Bears will disappoint everyone with their draft strategy this week.
Everything recalibrates to normalcy at some point, no matter how hairy things get. Sometimes the most sensible things in sports exceed initial expectations, while other times they are cruel reminders of mortality. And sometimes sensibility is realizing the Cubs won the damn World Series with a lesser team on paper.
Everything is as it should be in Chicago sports right now. Don’t listen to hack columnists tell you otherwise.
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.