|ESPN.com: BlogsColumns||[Print without images]|
As you can see on this Web site, nobody has done a better job reviewing the decade. Kudos to our writers and editors.
|Mark Prior was Mr. Reliable during the 2003 season, and then -- poof -- he was gone.|
Mr. Automatic: Since MJ hung up the sneakers, the athlete I had the most confidence in was Mark Prior. It was only for a short time, but every fifth day in 2003, I knew Prior would dominate.
He was the reward for all the years of suffering, then -- poof -- he was gone.
It was while he was on the mound that my fellow Cubs fans and I were teased worse than we've ever been teased before.
I was hosting a gathering at my condo for Game 6 that postseason. Around the fifth inning, I went to the fridge to grab fresh beer for everyone. A good buzz going all the way around. What was that in the back behind the beer? An unopened bottle of champagne!
I allowed myself to daydream. Was I going to pour the bubbly all over my friends and myself when the Cubs clinched their first pennant since 1945? What about the couch and the hardwood floors?
Who cares, it's the Cubs and they're going to the World Series! Well, maybe I should just pop open the champagne and grab glasses. We could toast to a future World Series title.
Ah, that's no fun. I'll take the bottle out to the patio and shake it up out there.
Why did I allow myself to believe? We all know what happened later. Five outs away, and it was soon all over -- but over in the wrong way! The champagne was never opened. My dream yet to be fulfilled.
Roaches and handshakes: In 2005, Carmen DeFalco and I were hosting a show during the White Sox's dominant run through the postseason. I know, Cubs fans, it's bad enough that I shared my 2003 Cubs memory, then in the next story I talk about a trip to the World Series for the Sox. Sorry.
We did our show live from Houston for Games 3 and 4. The city had no hotel rooms available. Many left New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and relocated in Houston. We were booked at a roadside motel.
As I sat on a dirty, single bed searching for ESPN on the TV, two roaches scurried by my feet. Just as it happened, my cell phone rang. It was DeFalco. He starts yelling, "There are roaches in my room!" We quickly grabbed our bags and checked out.
We thumbed through the Yellow Pages calling the chain hotels in the city. We came to the Residence Inn next door to Reliant Stadium. It was after midnight, and we caught a break. The guy who was working the front desk was a Chicago transplant and listened to the "Silvy and Carmen" show every day. He had one opening, a two-bedroom duplex, and it was ours.
I forget his name but will forever be grateful. After the 14-inning marathon ended by Geoff Blum, and the 1-0 Game 4 victory, Carmen and other Sox fans in our section were jumping for joy and sharing hugs. Chicago's baseball drought was over, at least on the South Side.
As a Cubs fan, I wasn't cheering. Deep down, I was happy for my good friends. I offered Carmen a handshake and a mumbled 'Congrats.' Brooks Boyer, Sox VP of marketing, got us into the team hotel party. Carm got to take a picture with the trophy. I got to drink the free booze. I think he got the better end of the deal. Not my team, but it was Chicago sports history -- and a few days I'll never forget.
My favorite team of the decade: I'd say 99 out of 100 Bears fans would select the 2006 team as their favorite. I'm going contrarian. The 2001 team, despite getting dunked by Donovan McNabb in the playoffs, is my favorite in the past 10 years.
Nobody knew what we were in store for after the Bears got dominated by Baltimore in the opener. After that, this underrated team won 13 of its next 15.
Will you ever forget Mike Brown's interception returns for TDs in back-to-back games against the 49ers and Browns -- both in OT. What are the chances?
Terrell Owens' alligator arms followed by an even more miraculous win against Cleveland. Brian Urlacher in his prime, running sideline to sideline, faster than anyone. Ted Washington clogging up the middle. Keith Traylor rumbling downfield in the division clincher versus Jacksonville. Anthony Thomas running downhill. Jerry Azumah making the return game fun before Devin Hester. Tony Parrish delivering snot-knockers. Olin Kreutz as feisty as ever. Marty Booker setting receiving records.
The day that Bears season ended was one of the worst in Chicago sports history. The Bears lose; the old Soldier Field closes; and Michael Jordan returns to Chicago wearing a Wizards uniform. Despite all of this, give me the 2001 Bears season over any other this decade.
Meet the grandparents: It was late spring 2008, and I really did like the girl I was dating. So much so that I elected to meet her grandparents on the same night as the NBA's draft lottery.
Her grandfather wanted broasted chicken, so we went to Marcello's Father and Son. Good stuff. Not as good as dessert.
The girlfriend promised I could break away from dinner to watch. It would be quick and painless because the Bulls had virtually no chance of getting into the top three. The relationship was still fairly new, and she was about to get introduced to a crazed Bulls fan.
When the NBA announced that the ninth pick went to Charlotte, I started my Neil Funk impersonation. "Ka-ka-ka-BOOM!" My girlfriend and the rest of the bar had no clue why I was so excited. I explained that by not hearing the Bulls' name at No. 9, we knew they were assured of getting a top-three pick.
|The Bulls' luck in landing Derrick Rose with the No. 1 pick was worth celebrating.|
Scotch was on me for whoever was staying! D-Rose was coming home.
As great as it was, it's sad that this was the best Bulls moment of the decade. The lottery. I'll accept the Bulls' sweep over the Heat as a close second. Now can we pair him with Dwyane Wade? If that happens, I'll be buying the scotch again!
The roar: If you grew up in Chicago, you know about "the roar."
There was nothing like the Chicago Stadium. The climb up the stairs to the first or second balconies. The seats right above the court or the ice. You didn't just hear the roar, you felt it. As the Blackhawks kept showing promise last season, I eased my way back to the UC. A great environment.
The Hawks were a talented, young team that I still didn't know a lot about. My reorientation to the Hawks came in Game 1 of the postseason. This was different from any of the six or seven regular-season games I attended.
The anthem was the anthem. Every hit -- you heard the roar. Every save -- the roar. Every goal -- the roar.
All that said, I was still just attending a fun event, not a game where I was living and dying with the action. That changed 12 seconds into overtime.
John McDonough could not have scripted it better. Marty Havlat's goal sent the capacity crowd into a frenzy. Three of my friends and I formed a jumping group hug that would've made the Golden Girls proud.
Hockey was back in Chicago. It was back in the mainstream. It was now something I cared about. I'll never forget this moment of the decade. I became a kid again, finding something new I enjoyed. I believe the first great moment of the new decade will be the Stanley Cup's return to Chicago.
Now a couple of thoughts on the current state of Chicago sports:
Do we have to?
I hear this a lot: Lovie took the '06 Bears to the Super Bowl, doesn't he deserve more time?
The answer is no, this is the NFL. A few examples. After going 13-3 and winning a playoff game in 2005, Mike Shanahan went 24-24 over the next three years. Going .500 wasn't enough for Denver, so he was dismissed. And Shanahan didn't just go to Super Bowls, he won them.
Brian Billick also won a title. In his last three seasons in Baltimore, Billick went 24-24, then was canned.
Super Bowl-winning coaches are fired after the losses equal the wins in a three-year span. If they can get fired, why is it unfair for Lovie to be let go at 21-25 currently and probably on his way to 22-26? Speaking of that record, Jon Gruden went 22-26 in his last three years in Tampa. He was fired, and he was a better coach than Lovie. This is a league trend. Mediocrity should not be accepted. Lovie, you have company.
Congrats to the Bulls for beating a good Hawks team Saturday. If you watched the game, you were probably a bit frustrated even in victory. My "D-Rose at the end of the game" quote has taken on a life of its own, and we joke about it often. But in this game, it was obvious that Vinny Del Negro still doesn't know how to get his best player the ball in the biggest moments of the game.
Rose was red-hot Saturday. Bulls ball in a tie game with 18 seconds left and the shot clock off. Bulls couldn't run a play to get Rose free, timeout. Ten seconds left, same thing. Deng shoots a bad fadeaway at the buzzer -- clank -- overtime.
Forty seconds left in OT, Bulls protecting a one-point lead. Rose didn't even touch the ball on this possession. This time, Deng commits an offensive foul. Luckily, Joe Johnson missed a shot on the other end, but the Hawks' best player at least was the man who got the ball.
Not the case with Vinny. Can we run some screens? Run Rose around the court, not just in a 15-foot area? A win despite a poorly coached stretch drive. Like Bears fans, Bulls fans should not accept mediocrity.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays to everyone. May all your sports dreams come true in 2010. Through the ups and downs, thanks for listening and reading.
Thank you to all and to all a good night.