Saturday, October 29, 2005

Welcome to Titletown...

Supposedly, Green Bay, Wisconsin calls itself Titletown. No doubt that Green Bay's thirteen NFL titles (1929, 1930, 1931, 1936, 1939, 1944, 1961, 1962, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968 and 1997) give it that name, but Chicago is no slouch. In fact, the Bears are second in the NFL in championships, with nine - 1921, 1932, 1933, 1940, 1941, 1943, 1946, 1963 and 1986.

In basketball, the Bulls, with six NBA titles (1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997 and 1998) are the only Chicago-based NBA franchise (there have been three - the Chicago Stags folded in 1950 after 4 seasons, and the Chicago Packers/Zephyrs lasted two years, then moved to Baltimore, and then to Washington) to win a title.

Although this is considered a hockey town, the Blackhawks have won only three Stanley Cups - 1934, 1938 and 1961 - though they've played for seven others (1931, 1944, 1962, 1965, 1971, 1973 and 1992).

In baseball, the Cubs have won two World Series - in 1907 and 1908 - but also played for eight others (1906, 1910, 1918, 1929, 1932, 1935, 1938 and 1945). That doesn't include the two series - one win, one loss - that the Cubs played in 1885 and 1886 when they were known by their original name: The White Stockings. Of course, those games were all between NL teams, since the AL didn't exist before 1901.

By comparison, the White Sox have been the weak sisters: they've only played in four World Series in their entire history - 1906, 1917, 1919 and 1959 - and they threw one of those (in 1919). Of those four, they've only won twice - in 1906, when they beat the Cubs (and spawned the lasting Sox/Cubs debate in this town) and in 1917, when they beat the New York (now San Francisco) Giants.

It's been 7 years since the Bulls won the last title for the city. People have speculated since what team might be next - the Sox made the playoffs in 2000, only to be swept out by Seattle; the Cubs made it all the way to the NLCS in 2003, coming within six outs of the World Series before falling to the eventual champion Florida Marlins; the Bears had a winning record in 2001, but lost in the first round of the playoffs.

Even though this town lives and dies for its sports teams, those teams haven't done much to repay that loyalty in recent years. But from the get-go, the 2005 baseball season was different. The Sox started in first place, and never looked back. Through the All-Star break, through a horrible August/September (when many sportswriters were writing them off), and right up to the playoffs, where they started with the favored Red Sox. Only one sportswriter on picked the Sox to go to the Series (correctly forecasting that they would not only beat Boston and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, but that they would face the Astros). All the others had the Sox either losing in the NLDS or NLCS.

And, to be honest, Sox fans were holding their breath. We remembered all too vividly the Cubs brush in 2003, and how that turned out, and we hoped our guys wouldn't disappoint us in that way. Turns out, we were the only ones worried.

And now, as we spend the last three days celebrating, we look ahead to next year, and hope we can do it again. In the meantime, we can savor the memories.