Didn’t 2021 just get here? Ready or not, Chicago sports is being left in the dust already
Wasn’t this year supposed to be a respite from the cruel and unusual? And we’re just talking sports here.
You think 2020 was bad?
You’re right, of course. It was pretty awful.
But then 2021 came around and — oh, by the way, you realize we’re just talking sports here, right?
Cubs fans rang in the new year with bags under their eyes from all the crying over the Yu Darvish trade and the stark realization that the good times are over. Notre Dame was manhandled again in a College Football Playoff semifinal on New Year’s Day, this time by Alabama. The Bears were manhandled by the dreaded Packers two days later in their regular-season finale, only to disgrace themselves further a week after that in New Orleans in a playoff game they had — let’s face it — no earthly business participating in.
Jeez, this column is off to an unhappy start. Kind of like 2021. Wasn’t this year supposed to be a respite from the cruel and unusual? Yes, still talking sports.
The Bulls are a noticeably improved lot under new coach Billy Donovan, yet they’ve spent the early days of the season piling up narrow losses. The Blackhawks had their helmets blown off 5-1 on Wednesday against the reigning Stanley Cup champion Lightning in both teams’ season opener, after which coach Jeremy Colliton surmised that the first period had been ‘‘fairly even.’’ If trailing 3-0 heading into the first intermission is fairly even, what the heck is the scoreboard going to look like when things are uneven?
Hey, have the White Sox started playing yet? No? Well, they’re going to be very good. Unless, that is, they aren’t. They should be, though, and they just might be all we’ve got.
I really seem to be spiraling here. Sorry.
The years 2018 and 2019 passed without a single postseason victory for the Bears, Hawks, Bulls, Cubs or Sox. Those were the first dry years since 2004, when none of those teams had a postseason defeat, either. No doubt, 2020 was a bit better, with the Hawks vanquishing the Oilers in a series that never would have happened under normal circumstances and the resurgent Sox taking one game from the Athletics before disappearing into that good night.
So we had that going for us.
What do we have now? So far, we have Kyle Schwarber waving goodbye and Kris Bryant twisting in the wind. We have Zach LaVine scoring in bunches but some saying the Bulls should think about trading him. We have Jonathan Toews and Kirby Dach on the shelf, Corey Crawford retired and Colliton already using words such as ‘‘desperation’’ and citing the need for his outmanned team to push through the adversity that — my words, not Colliton’s — will accompany it from here to the finish line of a hopeless season.
Northwestern’s basketball team has kind of face-planted after an encouraging start. Even Illinois’ enormously talented team is flirting with underachievement.
This column is darker than I intended it to be, but I think I know why. I listened to the same Bears end-of-season news conference many of you did Wednesday, a tire fire of excuses and equivocations that set off lots of folks.
‘‘The path to winning is rarely linear,’’ said longtime president/CEO Ted Phillips, whose Bears haven’t won a playoff game in a decade.
Are we to believe the path is a flatline?
‘‘Holding people accountable is much more than just starting over,’’ he said.
Isn’t that easy to say for someone who doesn’t want his position started over?
‘‘Have we gotten the quarterback situation completely right? No,’’ he said. ‘‘Have we won enough games? No. Everything else is there.’’
Is there anything else?
General manager Ryan Pace is six seasons into his whole-lot-of-nothing gig. Coach Matt Nagy is three seasons deep in the muck.
‘‘Big picture, I’m proud of our players and I’m proud of our coaches,’’ Nagy said.
For going 8-8 again? Forgive the rest of us if we aren’t beaming.
‘‘Bigger picture is, we need to do better,’’ Nagy said, ‘‘and what are we going to do and how are we going to get to that point?’’
One man’s best guess: You aren’t. This is 2021, after all.
Biggest picture? Look away, it’s hideous.
Are the Sox playing yet? No? Listen, it might be they’re all we’ve got. But I’m pretty sure I’ve said that already.