Que Sarah, Sarah

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Top Ten Things Chicago Sports Fans Are Thankful For This Year

By Sarah Spain
Originally published on 11/25/08 on MouthpieceSports.com

Mariotti and mashed potatoes. Cubs wins and casseroles. Sarah Spain lists the top ten things Chicago sports fans can be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving. It’s not just about stuffing your maw full of turkey and sweet potato casserole, over-imbibing and passing out on the couch ten minutes into another display of Detroit Lions’ futility.

Thanksgiving is about giving thanks for your blessings. Family, friends, health, wealth (well, what’s left of it) and, of course, sports. In honor of the most delicious of all holidays, I present:

The Top Ten Things Chicago Sports Fans Are Thankful For This Year

10. Jay Mariotti’s Resignation: After 17 years of uninspired, unfunny and uh-nnoying contributions to the Chicago Sun Times, the city’s least-favorite columnist finally called it quits. Mariotti claims to be the only Chicago writer who tells it like it is, but negativity for negativity’s sake is worse than blatant homerism. No, Jay, Chicago is not, as you said, “a weak market,” and it’s certainly even stronger without you in it.

9. The Chicago Cubs’ Season: Before the disappointment and heartache of the playoffs, there was the joy and excitement of the Cubs’ wildly successful 2008 regular season. Fans should be thankful for 97 wins, a no-hitter from Carlos Zambrano, an eight-run comeback win over the Colorado Rockies, a series of Brewer beat-downs, a Wrigley sweep of the White Sox and countless other magical moments. While some believe a World Series win is the only thing that matters, there’s something to be said for six months of outstanding baseball. For half of 2008, Chicago fans were treated to the best baseball in the world. That’s something to be thankful for.

8. Cubans: Not the cigars, or Mark (though we’ll be very thankful if he finds a way to beat the system and buy the Cubs). Nope, Chicago fans are thankful for Cuban baseball players, who look to be a big part of the 2009 Chicago White Sox. Teenage slugger Dayan Viciedo, a Cuban defector, recently signed with the Southsiders and will join fellow Cubans Jose Contreras and Alexei Ramirez.

7. The Emergence of Kyle Orton: You won’t get far in the NFL without a capable signal-caller (see: 2007 Chicago Bears) unless your team’s defense is so good it can also provide the offense (see: 2006 Chicago Bears). After several years in the shadow of the biggest turkey of all, Rex Grossman, Kyle Orton finally snatched up the starting job this season and he hasn’t looked back since. He’s no Tony Romo, but Captain Neckbeard possesses the skill, strength, size and smarts to keep this inconsistent Chicago Bears team competitive. For the first time in a long time, the Bears’ offense is the constant, while the team’s defense is the question mark every week. A quarterback we can believe in? Definitely worth giving thanks for.

6. Inspiring Comebacks: Though only one of them will be back next year, both Kerry Wood and Ryan Dempster are worthy of our thanks. Woody had 34 saves and 84 Ks in 66 innings in his first season as the Cubs’ closer. Not only did his success help the team win games, it was also cathartic for fans who spent years rooting for the return of the former NL Rookie Of The Year. After struggling out of the bullpen in recent years, Dempster spent the offseason and spring training trying to work his way back into the starting rotation. Lou Piniella gave him the nod and Dempster shocked everyone, playing well enough to earn a couple Cy Young votes. Pitching at Wrigley last year, he went 14-3 with an ERA of 2.86, enough to earn him a four-year deal with the Cubs. Now, if he could just make that World Series prediction come true…

5. Cedric Benson’s Arrest For BUI (Boating Under The Influence): Normally I wouldn’t wish for anyone—even White Sox fans—to run into trouble with the law, but Cedric Benson’s arrest was a real highlight of my summer. Truth is, Benson couldn’t score in your family’s annual flag football game, not to mention the NFL. The sorry excuse for a running back was sent packing after the arrest and the city of Chicago couldn’t be happier. Which leads us to…

4. Matt Forte: Holy crap it’s nice to have a real running back! Chicago Bears’ rookie Matt Forte needs just 91 more yards to break the 1,000 yard mark, a feat accomplished by only three other Bears rookies. He’s on pace to gain 1,810 yards from scrimmage on the year, the most by any Bears player other than Walter Payton. The second-round draft pick has 909 yards so far this season, good for fifth overall in the NFL, and first among rookies. With a running style sweeter than pecan pie and jukes that’ll freeze you faster than a gust of wind off Lake Michigan, Matt Forte’s arrival is definitely something Chicago should be thankful for.

3. The New-Look Chicago Blackhawks: There are countless reasons to be thankful for the resurgent Hawks. For the first time in the storied history of the team, fans can watch every single one of the Hawks’ 82 games on TV. Pat Foley, who was unceremoniously dumped in 2006 by former Hawks higher-ups is back in the booth where he belongs. Chicago is leading the league in attendance, an incredible feat for a team that looked dead in the water just a few years ago. Most importantly, the team is putting together one of its best seasons in recent years and looks primed for their first playoff run since 2001-2002.

2. Derrick Rose: Looks like one year of college ball was all Derrick Rose needed. In his first NBA season, the Memphis product is averaging an absurd 19 points, 5.7 assists and 3.9 boards per game. Rose is putting Chicago ball back on the map, breaking down defenders and taking it to the hoop with the authority of a shopper navigating sales on Black Friday. Less than 20 games into the year, he’s already assumed a leadership role on this team and feels comfortable taking the shot with the game on the line. The Bulls, formerly Chicago’s darlings, have become an afterthought in the last few years, but Rose might just be their saving grace.

1. Barack Obama: Alright, fine. He’s not really a sports figure, but he’s a big White Sox fan, repped the Bears on Monday Night Football and wants to throw his weight around to get a college football playoff. Plus, he’s a native Chicagoan and the guy can hoop. The election of our 44th president is something everyone—not just Chicago fans—can be thankful for.

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