Boy, do we know sports droughts in Chicago. We still have sand in our hair from wandering in the World Series desert with the Cubs and the White Sox. The Cubs went 107 seasons between titles, the Sox 87. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it and a six-county metro area could have been built during either of those stretches of emptiness.
Loyola won its conference tournament Sunday, giving the Ramblers their first NCAA Tournament bid in 33 years. That’s a blip in time by Chicago standards, but it still feels good to shake what’s left of the drought out of our shoes.
Loyola’s accomplishment comes a year after North-western ended its own NCAA Tournament drought. The Wildcats had never been to the tournament, as in never-ever, which was saying something. The tourney began in 1939. The word “drought” didn’t really begin to describe the Wildcats’ history. Existential misery was more like it. And then last season came along like a dream.
Now that Loyola has rid itself of the weight on the world, and because we’re masochists, let’s find the team in town that’s dealing with the longest dry spell. Any guesses?
The Bulls? They’ve haven’t won an NBA title since 1998, Michael Jordan’s last season in Chicago. Twenty years isn’t a Cubs-like drought, but people will start tapping their feet impatiently if the current rebuild doesn’t take hold in the next few years. Still, the Bulls don’t own the longest Saharan stretch.
UIC? The Flames last made the NCAA Tournament in 2004, as did DePaul.
The White Sox won a World Series in 2005. The Blackhawks have won three Stanley Cups since 2010.
Chicago State snapped a 24-game losing streak Saturday with a 96-82 victory over Missouri-Kansas City. The Cougars are dealing with difficult long-term issues but, finally, a ladle full of water.
Hmmmm. Am I missing somebody in the drought department?
Oh, the Bears. They haven’t won a Super Bowl since the 1985 season. Now, 32 years might strike you as amateur hour when compared to the Cubs’ past difficulties or even Northwestern’s. But 32 years in NFL years is a long time. Since the Bears last won a Super Bowl, 15 other franchises have won at least one. That’s almost half the NFL.
There are two ways to look at this:
• With everybody else in town ending ugly streaks the last several years, surely it is the Bears’ turn.
• What’s wrong with these people?
We judge the Bears by Super Bowl victories. If anything else mattered, we’d still be celebrating the 2006 team that lost the Super Bowl to the Colts. When was the last time you found yourself reminiscing about that team? That’s what I thought.
I’ve chided Bears fans for not being able to let go of their memories of the 1985 season, but it’s hard to blame them. What else do they have? Thirty-two years without another championship is an indictment of ownership. Winning a Super Bowl isn’t an easy thing to do, but going 32 years without a title might be even harder.
The NFL is set up in a way that puts every team on equal footing financially. Revenue sharing gives each team an equal cut of the massive contracts the league signs with TV networks. A salary cap is also in place. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think the NFL was a commune and the Lombardi Trophy a timeshare.
It means success is predicated on each team’s ability to hire the right people to find the right coaches and the right players. Which brings us back to the Bears. You can’t luck yourself into a Super Bowl title. There are too many positions on the field, too much choreography, too many variables.
You can’t bluff your way to a championship. The Bears are on their third coach since canning Lovie Smith after the 2012 season. We’re in the latest spin cycle, and everything new coach Matt Nagy does is being viewed as profound and good. And maybe it will end up being so.
But the Bears sure don’t make it easy on Chicago, do they?
You’d think one of these times they would get it right, either by choosing the correct decision-makers and players or by the planets aligning perfectly. They’ve hitched their wagon to quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who showed promise during his rookie season in 2017. But Trubisky was drafted by a general manager who was hired by Bears ownership.
Is this a Biblical plague? Hard to tell at this point. But shut your doors and windows. I think I see some locusts loitering.
Follow me on Twitter @MorrisseyCST.