CHICAGO: IT’S MY KIND OF TOWN
Growing Up as a Chicago Sports Fan
By John Yabes
I’m a Chicago sports fan. Not the most hardcore admittedly, but I do hold a deep appreciation for its teams. I want to preface this first, because this is about being a fan, but I also don’t want to step on legitimate fandom of actual Chicagoans. The people that can spew out genuine stories about the fanaticism that lives inside the confines of America’s greatest city.
You see, I didn’t grow up in the city of Chicago. I grew up north of it, in a suburb called Skokie. Granted, Chicago is a hop, skip, and train ride away from this village, but I knew for the most part, I wasn’t genuinely from Chicago. And I’d be damned if I tried to wedge my legitimacy against someone that grew up to tall buildings and the sounds of the L.
Regardless, the strongest bond between a major city and its outlying suburbs is sports. The sport events that string strangers from all parts of town into stadiums, bars, and restaurants under the same banner. That primitive instinct that the people wearing the same things in the same place is the safest place to be, and watching their warriors go to battle with invading forces and winning, drives our most basic needs. The need to conquer, the need to win. The need to protect this home.
Chicago is no different.
I had the privilege of growing up in the nineties, my cognitive abilities to form memories around the time Michael Jordan supposedly played his last season. It was a big deal, a man who made the Bulls and the city his empire was leaving to pursue another endeavor (hindsight is 20/20 and if there was a way to save him from baseball someone would’ve tried). But this gave me a unique opportunity to revisit the man’s career through his highlights.
It was magical to watch. Seeing it on an over bloated CRT didn’t phase me. The man was a wizard on the hardwood. The way he evaded, dribbled through, passed, dunked, scored, it was astonishing. Watching legends of the game throw their hands up in anger and disappointment was only matched by the pure ecstasy of the fans in the crowds. They wore the same jerseys as the players, they all gave each other high fives and hugs when the Bulls were winning.
These were Chicagoans. These were the neighbors and friends and family that surrounded my now very new existence.
This immediately got me interested in everything Chicago. From the Bears, the Cubs, and Blackhawks, I couldn’t get enough. Of course, they were overshadowed by the success of the Bulls and it didn’t help that his Airness decided to come back to the Bulls once more. This post “Space Jam” version of Michael Jordan was just as good and the Bulls just as dominant as they once were.
But that’s where the beauty of it lies. Once the Bulls went on their 3-peat (winning three championships in a row… again), the era of Michael Jordan was over. He walked off into the sunset, a second retirement… to never play again (god forbid he end up on another team)-
What? Wizards? What are you talking about? Let’s focus on Chicago here, okay? I’m trying to make a dramatic metaphor! The hero that rides off into the sunset, leaving a huge void that someone — Yes I know he was excellent on the Wizards. No, I am not apologizing. I’m trying to make a dramatic point about how M.J. left a void… I don’t care if the President lives there! Get out of here!
This was also the time that this city taught me loyalty. Instead of seeing the disappointed looks of Phoenix Suns fans, of Utah Jazz fans, of Detroit Pistons fans, instead I would see that look on Chicago fans.
And it wasn’t a constant barrage of failures. It came in waves of near success, and valleys of decrepit, bitter losses. I’ve lived through the Steve Bartman incident, the Rex Grossman era continuing into the Jay Cutler era, and the new hope of Derrick Rose just to name the few. And throughout the years, my loyalty never wavered.
In fact, it grew stronger, the people of Chicago showing that whatever happens, they’re behind their teams. Not once have I seen the Allstate, or Wrigley, or Soldier field empty even when the teams were doing badly. The fans still showed up, wearing the colors, and supporting their teams.
The fans projected the passion of the teams playing. I understood that, the looks weren’t anger at the team, but more of them empathizing with the situation. This kind of passion is what makes the momentous occasions that much better.
The years the Blackhawks were dominant, winning multiple Stanley Cups. The multiple playoff visits by the Bears, including a Super Bowl appearance, the first one since the 1985 championship. The time the Cubs finally beat the curse and got their World Series Championship.
It was all magical, all momentous.
And that’s where I am now. No matter where I end up, I support Chicago. No matter how sports end up, I’ll focus in on the midwest. In this era of super teams and the extinction of franchise players, I’ll think of the 1985 bears, and Phil Jackson’s Bulls to remind me just how good it is to stay loyal.
And so while I have this platform, I would just like to say, screw the Packers. And the White Sox. I grew up on the north side.