Chicago sports landscape looks different than it did 5 months ago
It was December, and the Bears had just lost to the Packers to fall to 3-11. For purposes of emotional self-preservation, I decided to write a column about the state of Chicago sports.
I thought my bone-tiredness might give way to vitality if I pondered the Cubs and Blackhawks more and awful football less. If I couldn’t get vitality, I’d settle for being able to feed myself again.
The summation was this:
White Sox intriguing.
Almost five months later, things have changed in a lot of ways, but especially in terms of vibe. Let’s revisit.
In the time it took NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to read a name off a card April 27, the Bears went from bad to the most talked-about team in sports. They traded the third overall pick to the 49ers, who had the second pick, and chose North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky. And then, bedlam. General manager Ryan Pace was a brave man who followed his convictions or a complete dimwit.
Everything came under scrutiny: Trubisky’s lack of college experience, the wisdom of giving up two third-round picks and a fourth-round pick to move up one spot in the draft, Pace’s extreme secrecy leading up to the team’s shocking decision, whether the Bears had any competition for the 49ers’ pick and, I don’t know, if Trubisky manually brushes his teeth or goes electric.
The Bears took a bold step that could change their fortunes. They also distracted a populace.
Vibe: Whatever this is, I can’t take my eyes off it!
They are exactly what they were five months ago: boring and apparently ready to go all-in on tedious. They went 41-41 and lost in the first round of the NBA playoffs, which somehow has led management to think little change is necessary for next season.
Perhaps if people stopped buying tickets, the Bulls might consider raising their game. Calling for heads to roll has had the opposite effect: Heads remain very much in place. That’s why it’s difficult to imagine the Bulls trading Jimmy Butler. Why would they? He’s a star, fans keep coming to games and, man, Benny the Bull is entertaining.
Everything else about the Bulls is as eventful as a Quaker meeting.
Vibe: The Ambien pills don’t seem so necessary anymore.
They’re battling for first place in the American League Central. Fans had been on board for a rebuild, which means they were braced for losing. And now this.
It would be silly to put much stock in an early dalliance with .500. The Sox teased in much the same manner early last season, then got down to the business of losing. But it’s a nice surprise, isn’t it? Avisail Garcia has been great, as has the Sox’ pitching. It has been a fun diversion while waiting for top prospect Yoan Moncada to make it to the majors.
As for the particulars of Carlos Rodon’s health issues, there hasn’t been this much secrecy since last month at Halas Hall. Or any day
at the CIA.
Let’s not call this a rebuild until the Sox start losing in earnest and trade Jose Quintana.
Vibe: Am I really falling for this again?
The Hawks were very, very good until the Predators swept them in a first-round playoff series, then they became an embarrassment to humanity. Do I have that right? Talk about a change of fortune and perception.
General manager Stan Bowman went from the magician whose salary-cap massaging produced three Stanley Cup titles to the guy who wouldn’t know a right skate from a left. The Hawks had the best record in the Western Conference, then became the target of abuse when they quickly excused themselves from the postseason table.
The Hawks still have Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Artemi Panarin, Duncan Keith and Corey Crawford. Judging by fan reaction, though, the dynasty is finished, the dream is over and this must be what death feels like.
Vibe: Apparently, it’s only a matter of time before the franchise is relegated to the American Hockey League.
By their standards, the defending World Series champions are struggling. A little more than a month into the season, they are hovering around .500. Their starting pitchers had a combined 11.40 ERA in the first inning heading into Sunday. Kyle Schwarber is struggling at the plate, and manager Joe Maddon’s face is Cubs blue from saying it has nothing to do with the kid hitting leadoff.
It’s early, and the team still can do no wrong. If, as the Cubs insist, we’re not witnessing a World Series hangover, then what is this? Almost surely a blip. Unless it’s a hangover.
Vibe: What, you worry?
Follow me on Twitter @MorrisseyCST.