Culture

The Worst Day in the History of Chicago Sports

If you’re a Chicago sports fan, you become used to disappointment. The Bears have won exactly one NFL championship in the last 50 years. The Sox have won one World Series title since 1917. And it is 106 years and counting since the hapless Cubs won baseball’s coveted crown.

Residents of the Second City (a derisive nickname given the town by a cynical writer for Colliers) have become inured to defeat. But in recent years, two remarkable athletes have placed their respective teams on their shoulders and brought hope back to a city starving for sports triumphs.

Derrick Rose of the Bulls and Patrick Kane of the Blackhawks are polar opposites as people. Kane — gregarious, mischievous, fun-loving. He’s the one the girls swoon for. Rose is quiet, self-effacing to a fault, an old school gentleman-athlete.

But get them on their respective playing surfaces and they both demonstrate a fanatical will to win, to dominate. Rose, slicing, dicing, shimmying, seeming to change direction in mid-air as he drives to the basket, he won Rookie of the Year in 2009 and the Most Valuable Player in the league in 2011. Kane, a speedy winger with a knack for putting the puck in the net, won the Calder Trophy (best rookie) in 2008 and the Conn Smythe Trophy for most outstanding player of the 2013 playoffs.

Kane has led the Blackhawks to two Stanley Cup triumphs in the last 4 years. Rose took the Bulls to the NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals in 2011, losing to the Miami Heat and LeBron James. But disaster struck in the 2012 playoffs. Rose severely injured his knee and spent all of 2013 in rehab. Returning to the team in 2014, Rose managed to play only 10 games before severely injuring the other knee. Once again, the Bulls playmaker had to sit out an entire year.

Two knee surgeries in two years. Two long and painful rehabs to get back on the court. When he returned this year, he was understandably a little tentative — a little less willing to make those kamikaze drives to the basket. And his play was inconsistent, at best.

But then, the last 15 games before the All-Star break, Rose appeared to be gaining in confidence. He was averaging 22 points a game and nearly 6 assists in that stretch.

Then at some point over the last 2 games, Rose suffered another knee injury — exactly the same torn meniscus in his knee that sidelined him last year. And to make a dark day in Chicago even blacker, Patrick Kane suffered an injury that will keep him off the ice for at least 10 weeks. The Hawks are tight lipped about the exact nature of the injury, but judging by the video, it is almost certainly some kind of shoulder injury.

 

The Bulls announced after the Blackhawks game that Rose would have surgery — about the time the Chicago Tribune was breaking the story about Kane’s extended absence. With both stars gone, dreams of an NBA championship and Stanley Cup have gone down the drain. ESPN’s Scoop Jackson captures the feeling of utter bereftness of Chicago sports fans:

What are the chances of two dreams dying in one night? Who gets dealt that hand? That fate? What did we do to upset and agitate the sports gods like that?

So here we are, heads spinning, dealing with a new reality that both Patrick Kane and Derrick Rose will be no longer be a part of the championship runs the Chicago Blackhawks and Chicago Bulls had in store. At least, not for the immediate future.

Early reports say Rose’s pending surgery for another meniscus tear at best will cost him six weeks, which would put his return only two weeks before the NBA playoffs begin; and unconfirmed reports say that Kane’s injury has been diagnosed as a possible broken collar bone, which would put him off-ice for 6-10 weeks, potentially past the end of the regular season.

The timing could not have been worse, the incidents couldn’t have been more cruel. Not even Lemony Snicket could come up with events this simultaneously unfortunate.

Has there been a blacker day in the history of Chicago sports? I think the one-two punch of losing both Rose and Kane can’t be matched. The day the Black Sox Scandal came to light was certainly awful. The day Walter Payton died was horrible. The day Michael Jordan said he was quitting the Bulls to play baseball had shock value.

But the killing of two dreams in one awful night will go down in Chicago history as a day all the city’s sports fans will want to forget.