What’s Gone Wrong With Chicago Sports?

Harrison Sillings
Staff Reporter

Bears kicker Cody Parkey reacts to doinking the game winning field goal in the first round of the NFL Playoffs. Photo Courtesy of Mike Dinovo

It was a chilly November night in Cleveland. The kind of night that most Cleveland natives wouldn’t typically bat an eye at. But that night was different. It was game 7 of the 2016 World Series. With two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning Mike Montgomery came to the mound for the Chicago Cubs. Michael Martinez was the batter, and with the count at 0-1, the unthinkable happened.

Martinez hit a soft ground ball to third baseman Kris Bryant who quickly threw it to first, and that was it. After 108 years, the Chicago Cubs were finally World Series champions, which was arguably the biggest moment in Chicago sports history.

This may have only been two years ago, but the city’s sports teams haven’t given fans many reasons to be optimistic. The Cubs are regressing and failing to live up to expectations, the White Sox have been irrelevant since 2005, the Bulls haven’t had hope since Derrick Rose tore his ACL, the Blackhawks are coming off two humiliating seasons and the Bears are losing home playoff games on double-doinked field goals. What exactly is wrong with Chicago sports?

Let’s start with the Cubs. Since they won the World Series, the team has been faced with unrealistic expectations. Yes, they have some of the most exciting young players in the game, but it’s unfair to expect them to repeat their historic performance. After all, that was 108 years in the making. The Cubs followed up their historic win with a loss to the Dodgers in the NLCS in 2017 and then a loss to the Rockies in the Wild Card round in 2018. Their win totals have been dropping each year since and they failed to win the NL Central in 2018 after a September collapse. Some experts even had them predicted to finish last in the division this season.

So far this year, the Cubs have been struggling. The problem is their payroll situation. The team has no money to spend on free agents after giving Yu Darvish and Jason Heyward two of the worst contracts in MLB history. If they hope to keep their core of Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez, the Cubs have no room to make other moves. This is a problem for a team that’s needed desperate bullpen help for the last two seasons. I hate to break it to you, Cubs fans, but this team is only going to continue to regress. After trading star prospects Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease to the White Sox, fans don’t even have youngsters to look forward to.

“I’d say that in the last two seasons they almost expected to go back to the World Series,” said sophomore Matt Donahue. “They got too comfortable and 2017 was a hangover year. 2018 showed consistent production and if the bullpen improves they’ll have a chance.”

Staying in baseball, the White Sox have been akin to a high school JV team since they won the World Series in 2005. They have finished near the bottom of the AL Central for a considerable part of the last decade, and the front office is largely to blame. They’ve consistently refused to spend money on big time players and have instead spent on guys who were past their prime. They never put themselves in positions to win and whether it’s free agency or trades they end up with washed up stars like Manny Ramirez, Ken Griffey Jr, Todd Frazier and Kevin Youkilis.

This past offseason was the most anticipated in recent years for Sox fans, as the team was expected to go all in on stars Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. They could’ve handed either player a blank check and let them fill it out. Neither star ended up on the south side, leaving fans wondering if they’ll ever be back in contention. For now, the “Bridgeport Bombers” are relying on a highly rated prospects Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jimenez and Michael Kopech to lead them to the promised land. The future is bright, but the present is still way too dark.

The Blackhawks demise has been a surprise. They were building a dynasty after winning Stanley Cups in 2010, 2013 and 2015, and the team appeared to be heading to towards more championships in the near future. Not everything was as it seemed though, the Hawks haven’t won a playoff series since the clinching game of the 2015 Stanley Cups finals. They finished last in their division in 2017-18 and just wrapped up their 2018-19 campaign by missing the playoffs for the second straight year.

The problems started when General Manager Stan Bowman ruined the Blackhawks with terrible trades and draft choices. When he fired legendary head coach, Joel Quenneville, every Blackhawks fan knew it was going to be a long season. The fan base is angry after missing the postseason two years in a row for the first time in 12 years. The concerning thing is that there are no signs of anything changing. If the front office doesn’t make any moves in the near future, the Blackhawks will miss the playoffs for the third year in a row

“As long as Stan Bowman is the GM there won’t be another Stanley Cup in the near future,” said junior IMC major JT Polinski.

Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews will remain bright spots on the roster, but the youth acquired by the team has been less than spectacular. This summer will be big if the team wants to get back to championship form.

The Bulls glory days ended when Michael Jordan officially retired and they weren’t able to find another guy to build around until 2008. The Bulls drafted hometown hero Derrick Rose and looked to him to revive the franchise. For the most part it worked. The Bulls were one of the most feared teams for much of the early 2010’s. Rose was even the MVP of the league at one point.

Unfortunately for the Bulls, Rose tore his ACL and was never the same player. After the team traded Rose to the New York Knicks, they were never the same. They traded star player Jimmy Butler to Minnesota soon after, and they have continued bask in mediocracy ever since.

This past season was filled with drama. Head coach Fred Hoiberg was fired and many players had voiced with unhappiness with the team. The players effectively quit and didn’t show any signs of progress. The only hope for this team is getting lucky in the draft lottery and ending up with Zion Williamson.

“The Bulls really need to hit free agency hard and draft well,” said freshman finance major Chase Reynolds. “They have two players they can build around but they have to win the offseason if they want a chance to maybe be competitive.”

The Bears are the lone bright spot in the cities sports realm. The Bears are coming off a season where they won the NFC North for the first time since 2010. They hosted a home playoff game where they tragically lost to the Philadelphia Eagles on a Cody Parkey missed field goal that hit off the uprights twice.

Although the Bears ended last season in the most Chicago way possible, the future appears to be bright. The defense, lead by Khalil Mack, is looking as strong as it did in 1985. Mitchell Trubisky continued to improve and Tarik Cohen has been immensely dangerous in the backfield.  

If the front office can find a decent kicker and add another weapon to the offense, the Bears are going to be very exciting for years to come.

Despite some success in the last decade, recent seasons have been filled with mediocracy for Chicago sports. Contenders do continually cycle in sports, so surely the cities time will come once again, but it’s alarming when all the teams seem to be struggling at the same time. Only time will tell if the city regains its championship pedigree anytime soon.

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