Chicago-pedia: Sports

An encyclopedia of the terms that define our city. In this edition, we cover some terms specific to local sports.


Chicago Cubs fans.

AP Photos

Some call it “Chicago-ese,” or “Chicago-speak.” Whatever you call it, we’re capturing it here, in Chicago-pedia — highlighting our local terminology and linguistic quirks (sometimes with humor and obvious exaggeration).

DITKA: Canonized in 1986. Later declared deity.

SWEETNESS: Chicago Bears great Walter Payton, who ran the football with such elegance and ease, it was a sweet, sweet sight.

BUDDY: Genius defensive coordinator of ’85 Bears, Buddy Ryan.



Susan Smith/For the Sun-Times

PINNERS: Front-stoop baseball game played by Chicago kids in the pre-video game days. The person “at bat” whips a rubber ball into the front steps, and the fielders behind him or her try to catch it as it bounces back their way. Singles, doubles, triples and home runs are determined by where the ball lands. A catch is an out.

16-INCH: Chicago brand of softball played with a ball 16 inches in circumference and no gloves. Best when played by large, beer-drinking men (or women). Pitches often are thrown with a spinning arc. Batting stances can include running up to the ball. Broken and jammed fingers are common.

THILLENS: The way-cool baseball stadium at Devon and the sanitary canal where wide-eyed kids have gone to play Little League games since forever. The park was built in the 1930s by Mel G. Thillens, who owned and founded the Thillens check-chasing service. The Chicago Park District now runs the park under a different name.



Susan Smith/For the Sun-Times

WAIT ’TIL NEXT YEAR: The once-common lament of Cubs fans when it became clear the season would not end with a World Series title. The verbal white flag can signal a fan’s eternal optimism, frustrated resignation, unbridled anger, sarcastic nature or general hopelessness. Use has ebbed since the Cubs actually won a World Series, in 2016, after a century drought.

ROCKY: Not the fictional boxer, but the owner of the Chicago Blackhawks, Rocky Wirtz, who also owns a piece of the Chicago Sun-Times.

WOO WOO: The nickname of Ronnie Wickers, the love-him or hate-him, fully uniformed Cubs fan who constantly chirps “woo” after everything he chants at ballgames, bars, parties, etc.


Clay Matthews.

Susan Smith/For the Sun-Times

CUBS FANS: Chads & Trixies.

BRETT FAVRE: Lousy former quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings.

CLAY MATTHEWS: Former Packers player who badly needs a haircut.

AARON RODGERS: Boyfriend of Chicago Bears fan Danica Patrick.

DOUBLE DOINK: Pitiful field goal miss in 2018 when football booted by Chicago Bears kicker Cody Parkey clunked upright — and then the crossbar — hobbling the Bears.

WHITE SOX: Wait till this year.

SOX PARK: 1. A stadium with an identity crisis, with some Chicagoans referring to it by the official name since 2016 — Guaranteed Rate Field — and many still use the previous name: U.S. Cellular or, for short, the Cell. Still, others stick to its old, old name: Comiskey. When in doubt, “Sox Park” works just fine.

2. Major League ballpark known for Disco Demolition night in 1979; for a father-son duo storming the field and attacking a Kansas City Royals coach in 2002; and for a handful of outbursts and fights over the decades in the park’s two different sites.


Sox Park.

Susan Smith/For the Sun-Times

BULLS: God-like basketball squad of the 1990s, thanks to Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, among others, with goodwill for the team lingering ever since, no matter how mediocre the season.

SIMEON: Without question, the best high school basketball program in the state over the last two decades, with Jabari Parker, Derrick Rose and Kendrick Nunn just a few of the standouts who made it to the NBA.

BEAR DOWN: Bears, downer.

SUPERFANS: Bears philosophers who aptly observed that 1919 was a “historically atrocious year because it saw the birth of the two great evils of the 20th century: the Packers and Prohibition.”



Susan Smith/For the Sun-Times

GRABOWSKI: A hardworking, blue-collar, lunch-pail-carrying grunt, as made famous by Mike Ditka before a Bears playoff game in 1986, when he likened the “fair-haired” Rams to “Smiths” and the Bears to “Grabowskis.”


Chicago-pedia makes a great gift for anyone who loves Chicago. Order a copy today.

The Latest
R&B star still faces charges for sexual abuse of four victims, including three minors, in Cook County.
Oscar winners join other French screen and music stars in video backing the cause.
The agreement is a rare piece of positive news for Baldwin, who has had a turbulent year since the Oct. 21 shooting last year. The actor, who was also a producer on the film, was pointing a gun at cinematographer Halyna Hutchins when it went off, killing her and wounding the director, Joel Souza.
Jurors deliberated more than 10 hours before finding Diego Uribe, 28, guilty on all six counts of first-degree murder.
Plante grew up in Rogers Park and attended Loyola Academy and Loyola University.