Happy Memorial Day! For those of us who are fans of Chicago professional sports teams, however, "happy" is not a word I would currently use to describe us. Let's review why.
Although the Hawks can claim to be the reigning Stanley Cup Champions for another ten days or so, the 2010-2011 season was a disaster. Immediately after winning the 2010 Stanley Cup, the Hawks were forced, due to salary cap restrictions, to let go of several key members of their Cup team. The team struggled throughout the reagular season, barely making it into the playoffs through the back door on the last night of the regular season. They then played the rival Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the playoffs and went down 3-0. They tied up the series and even had a great chance to win game seven in overtime, but lost to the Canucks on a play we have seen too often -- giving up the puck in the defensive zone and getting burned. However, a little hunger to regain the Cup might go a long way next season.
The Bulls had an unexpectedly great regular season, finishing with the best record in their conference. However, the playoff semi-finals pitted them against the Miami Heat, a team the Bulls beat all three times in the regular season. The Bulls just don't have the horses -- yet -- to do it, and lost four in a row after blowing out the Heat in game one. If the Bulls can get a decent two guard in the off season, things might be different next season. For now, however, the loss to the Heat was painful.
Will there be an NFL season? How many games will be played? We will all hope to know the answers in the next month as the season is quickly approaching. Kudos to the Bears for coming within a game of the Super Bowl last season. The current state of football makes it difficult to handicap the fall season. The Vikings will be less of a threat without Brett Favre, but the Lions should be better this year. And of course, we can not forget the Packers ... I am a fan of Jay Cutler and look forward to seeing him lead the Bears to their first Super Bowl victory in over 25 years.
As you can see, the three cold-weather sports brought Chicago a championship and two teams that were there in the final four -- definitely the best overall showing that I can remember. As for the baseball teams ...
The Cubs, in short, are a total mess. Their roster consists of a few good young players, a bunch of overpaid veterans who have not played up to potential, and a bunch of average to below-average players. They are currently in fifth place out of six teams in their division and sport a 23-28 record. More significantly, fans have stayed home this year and attendance is sure to drop. Of course, fans will still flock to the "friendly confines" on weekends this summer for the Wrgley Field experience, but check out the weekday attendance figures, especially when the Cubs are playing other poor teams. It is really time for the team owner to eat contracts, dump players, and rebuild. This team, as it is, is going nowhere fast
Chicago White Sox
The Sox are the biggest disappointment in 2011. They declared that in 2011 they are "all in" (where have I heard that before?), but have played uninspired baseball. They had a chance to start off the season smoking hot ... until then closer Matt Thornton blew five straight saves. Big hitters Adam Dunn and Alex Rios are in the midst of horrible slumps and the team has not played well. This is especially bad because their chief rivals, the Minnesota Twins, are having a rare poor start. The surprising Cleveland Indians are way out in first place. The Sox currently are in fourth place with a 24-31 record. There is hope, however, because of the good Sox pitching, that the team can make a run if the hitters get hot. It is possible that the Sox and the Detroit might be fighting it out at the end of the season. Am I just a dreamer?
Right now, it appears that the biggest game in Chicago this summer will be Manchester United vs. the Chicago Fire. That sums up the current state of Chicago baseball more than anything.