In the battle among Chicago's pint-sized teams, the Bears stand tallest

Just because they’re closest to a championship doesn’t mean they’re close.

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Caleb Williams

The Bears and their fans are expecting big things from rookie quarterback Caleb Williams.

Nam Y. Huh/AP Photos

Here’s a sentence that’s trying hard to have meaning:

Among Chicago’s professional teams, the Bears are the closest to winning a championship.

That sounds like something, doesn’t it? To the untrained ear, it sounds like the Bears, in a major market filled with franchises that understand the importance of winning, are within spitting distance of a Super Bowl title.

That would have to be one hell of a loogie.

In this city, being closest to winning a championship doesn’t mean being close to winning a championship. It just means there are a lot of bad to mediocre teams with “Chicago’’ written across their jerseys.

Bears fans are buzzing about rookie Caleb Williams, and they should be. Their team has never used the No. 1 overall pick on a quarterback, and Williams arrived in town with more hype than perhaps any player in Bears history. He should have a good wide-receiver corps to work with and a good defense to make his life easier.

A discerning person might ask, “How is it that a team that finished 7-10 last season is the pick of the litter in Chicago sports?’’ If you look at the Bears’ in-town competition, you’ll understand that “litter’’ has another meaning besides “the offspring of an animal.’’ Let’s survey the debris field.

The Cubs did an imitation of a winner for a few moments earlier this season, then settled for flirting with .500, which isn’t a spectator sport. It’s like watching NBA teams battle for play-in tournament spots. You keep waiting for the Cubs to do something, and then you realize you have more important things to do. Such as anything else.

The White Sox are about as close to winning a World Series as the Blackhawks are. They’re worth watching only to see if they can break the major-league record for losses in a season, 120, set by the 1962 Mets. This is probably a good time to point out that burning team chairman Jerry Reinsdorf in effigy isn’t a sport, either.

The Sky are very good at making headlines, thanks to Angel Reese and Chennedy Carter, but they’re not so good at winning just yet. The future looks bright with Reese and No. 3 overall pick Kamilla Cardoso, but the Sky need time and a few more pieces. Until then, sit back and enjoy Reese getting someone riled up.

The Bulls keep rolling out the same blah product. They’ve made the playoffs once in the past seven seasons. Since arriving in 2020, coach Billy Donovan has had one winning season. All of that might be palatable if there was some indication of an arrow pointing up. If the Bulls have an arrow, it’s either asleep or comatose.

The Blackhawks have Connor Bedard, who almost – almost – made you forget they had the second-worst record in the NHL this season. They could be good in a few years if Bedard stays healthy and general manager Kyle Davidson knows what he’s doing with a rebuild. If Davidson fails, he can go back to his other job, being Kyle from Chicago.

The Fire are second to last in MLS’s Eastern Conference. Their highest finish in MLS over the past five seasons is 20th in 2020, and that was out of 26 teams. I’m not a soccer expert, but I feel safe in saying the following: not good.

I do know that the Red Stars played before an NWSL-record crowd of 35,038 at Wrigley Field on Saturday, but I’m pretty sure a .500 record wasn’t the reason. In good news, co-owner Laura Ricketts has vowed to put money into building a winner. Then again, her brother Tom, chairman of the Cubs, is a well-known vower.

So, the Bears.

The faithful see big things ahead, quickly, for this team. But many Bears fans have a tendency to overinflate. We saw it with Justin Fields, who, for the longest time, was going to be The Answer. Do those fans remember that? No, they don’t. They have Williams now, and once they’re done pumping him up, he’ll float into Soldier Field like a Macy’s Parade balloon. If you’re ever around these people, I’d advise not pulling out a needle, even to darn a sock. They’ll think you’re trying to pop Mighty Mouse and gang tackle you.

There will be challenges galore for Williams, but no one wants to hear it. It’s June, which means it’s winning time. Chicago is desperate for a champion or, short of that, something to feel good about. If Williams is consistently effective, with flashes of greatness thrown in, the Bears will improve this season.

That doesn’t mean they’re close to a title. It means they’re closer than the rest of Chicago’s teams. For now, that will have to do.

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