UC Is The Place to Be
The chill of winter has finally forced us inside after a mild start to the bitterly cold season that we’re used to here in Chicago. One thing we depend on to get us through to the warmer, more enjoyable parts of the summer is sports.
Usually, we can debate about the White Sox and Cubs and who will be the better of the two next season, but at this point, does it really matter? We can often discuss the Bears recurring need for an offensive line, wide receiver, or need for a new GM but, hey, they took care of that one already.
A lot of what we say is just conversation filler, trying to get us to the next day and that much closer to warm sunshine and a few adult beverages in the backyard, on the balcony, or even the patio of our favorite watering hole.
Then & Now
I often remember watching Bulls games at the United Center (UC) while growing up in 1999 and early 2000’s. I would like to say I remember watching the Hawks there as well, but former owner Bill Wirtz refused to show his team’s home games on television (in some sort of old school loyalty to season ticket holders) so it was hard to get behind the team. Certainly the UC was still nearly full for Bulls games, even when they were towards the bottom of the standings in the NBA. However, the often unenthusiastic, disappointed crowds were hardly anything to ever jump up and down over.
Over a decade later, we sit here in what is just becoming another one of the dreary, gray winters with a mix of days-old snow and slush. However this season, much like the last couple, has given reason to make the winter cold feel just a bit warmer. The Chicago Blackhawks and the Chicago Bulls are red hot, both having championship caliber teams playing in the same building.
The Chicago Bulls, for the first time since the “Jordan Era”, have a team that can compete for the Larry O’Brien (NBA Championship) trophy. Last season, the Bulls went to the Eastern Conference finals before being knocked out by the Miami Heat.
This season, the Bulls are expected to do much of the same, and their hot start to the lockout-shortened season would justify those thoughts. The Bulls stand on the top of the NBA with a 13-3 record, including a 6-0 record at home. League MVP Derrick Rose has missed the last few games, but with the way the Bulls have played against a relatively easy schedule, the time missed may be a positive for the Bulls. Given the shortened schedule in a compact amount of time, the teams are playing more games a week, so resting their star player who often plays nearly the entire game is a plus for the overall team plan.
The final thirteen games for the Bulls aren’t going to be easy ones, with matchups against Oklahoma City, Boston, New York, and Miami, to name a few. Right now, we’re seeing players around the league sitting out with injuries they would often play through. Resting Rose, even through injury, will benefit the Bulls at the end of the year.
The Chicago Blackhawks, who as recently as five years ago were an afterthought in the league, sit atop the Western Conference in the NHL with 62 points in 47 games played. The injuries to Patrick Sharp and Dan Carcillo recently have given the Hawks a chance to use some new, young talent. Call ups Jimmy Hayes and Andrew Shaw have given the Hawks a realization that they have some depth, which should benefit them as the trade deadline nears.
Jonathan Toews is a top five player in the league, and similar to the Bulls’ Rose, is a quiet, hardworking leader who is capable of carrying his team the rough stretches. No longer do signs of “Remember the Roar” have to hang from the 300 level because it is back at full strength. A new generation of fans, mixed with old generation die-hards, show up each and every home game saluting the Indian head sweater from beginning to end.
The shifting of roles is a nice welcome to the winter. No longer are we stuck talking about dull offseason rumors that hardly ever happen, and have replaced it with live action almost every night of the week. Whether it is Rose flying through midair or a hard hitting play by Brent Seabrook, a three pointer by Luol Deng or the lighting of the lamp by Toews, the UC is jumping this winter. Enjoy it now; it may be a long summer. Until then, the Madhouse on Madison is the place to be.
This is a guest post by Chris Gasper from MidwayMadness.com. Midway Madness is a site dedicated to Chicago sports. It is written by Chicago sports fans, for Chicago sports fans. Chris Gasper grew up in the southwest suburbs of Chicago. He went to and played baseball at Columbia College. Wanna read more from Chris? Click here.