Teams to Know‎ > ‎


posted Jan 21, 2015, 11:23 AM by charles billington




            There are 25 metropolitan areas in the United States that are fortunate enough to have both a major league baseball team and a NFL football franchise.  Sports fans in these venues are assured the opportunity to follow a professional home team for nine months of the year.  Chicago has been home to pro teams in both sports as long as any urban area in the country, with the Cubs and Sox joined by the Chicago Cardinals in 1920 and the Bears in 1921.   

            The recent performances of the Bears, Cubs, and Sox, however, have left many Chicago fans scratching their heads about the value of being so amply represented in the professional ranks.  In the last two years no city fared worse on the playing fields than Chicago.  Before we analyze this dreary fact let’s talk about which cities have been successful. 

           In 2014 it was very easy to be a baseball or football fan in Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore.  These three cities saw their teams win at an over .600 clip and enjoyed playoff games in both sports.  The Tigers and Lions combined for a .621 winning percentage; the Pirates and Steelers won at a .615 clip; the Orioles and Ravens, .609. 

           On the opposite end of the spectrum there was a veritable “Bermuda Triangle” of losers consisting of Tampa Bay, Oakland, and Chicago.  The Rays and Buccaneers managed a winning percentage of .300, the worse of any urban area with two teams.  In Oakland the pitiful showing of the Raiders lowered the baseball and football WP to .365.  With three teams failing, Chicago was not far behind, at .381.  If one wanted to turn this Bermuda Triangle into a “Remorseful Rectangle,”  New York could be added to the mix.  The Giants, Jets, Mets, and Yankees barely outpaced the Chicagoans, winning at just a .401 clip. If one were to eliminate the 84-78 Yankees from their equation, the New Yorkers’ misery would have been about the same as Chicagoans - .363.

         What makes Chicago’s 2014 worse than all the others is the repetition of failure.  Tampa Bay experienced a baseball playoff team in 2013, and Oakland hosted a wild card game at the end of the 2014 baseball season.  Chicago has not enjoyed a Bear playoff game since 2010, and their baseball franchises’ last taste of a postseason was 2008.

        The Cubs just finished the worst three year stretch in their history --- that’s 138 years, if anyone’s counting.  When one considers their rich legacy during the first 75 years of existence, the chant “We got worse to get better later on” rings hollow.  The White Sox, in spite of some promising young players, continued to strike out at record clips and had a terrible time drawing anyone’s interest, let alone fannies in the seats.  With the Cubs three years of failure, the South Siders had an opportunity to recapture a huge share of Chicago’s baseball market but failed to do so.   Instead they finished the year at 73-89, matching the Cubs’ record, and making their 2013-‘14 seasons the worst two year stretch since 1969-’70, when they were 68-94 and 56-106.

             The Chicago media, looking more like civic boosters than sports experts, predicted great things for the Bears as early as the opening of their training camp in July, when it was clear that Cubs and Sox fans had only the hot stove league to look forward to.  Seduced by a coach who spoke like a junior high counselor, and initially more amused than offended by the pathetic bleatings and boasts coming from the locker room, the honeymoon between the Bears and the press lasted until Halloween.  By that time the lack of leadership, the toxic clubhouse, and the most overrated quarterback in the team’s history were evident to everyone and the season was over.  As the losses piled up the Bears, from ownership on down, proved even less capable of damage control.  In 2014 one of the proudest franchises in the country became a national embarrassment.  Many began to wonder if the wrong pro football team had left Chicago way back in 1960.  Bronko Nagurski, Sid Luckman, Rick Casares, Bill George, and Walter Payton probably spent December spinning in their graves. 

            In spite of this sad chronicle there is some hope for the Windy City in 2015. While the Bears and Cubs still seem years away, the White Sox are stronger in many phases of the game while their competition in the AL Central seems weaker.  Maybe the South (Side) will rise again to give Chicagoans something to cheer about.