Sweet Home Sports Chicago Year in Review 2013

The first year of Sweet Home Sports is coming to a close and its time to look back on the year that was – on a personal note, I’m so grateful for all of the support from my friends and family in starting this blog. Its been a great joy to be able to write about and talk about and share my love of Chicago sports with everyone, and I look forward to continuing to do so while hopefully growing and sharing with more and more people. My personal highlights were:

-Starting this blog. Collaborating with one of my best friends Justin Siddons and after several failed attempts, finally finding an outlet for our ridiculous love of our Chicago teams – we’ve attended a Bears, Bulls and Blackhawks game together and my New Years resolution will be for us to go see the Cubs and White Sox together next summer.

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-Attending a Blackhawks/Kings playoff game at the Staples Center (the only game they lost that series) with my dad – including a pre-game VIP party and then being able to see the game from great seats as well as a private box. And even though I took a lot of abuse from the Kings dancers (as evidenced by this photo), there are few greater joys and watching a game with my dad.

-I entered a song in the ESPN 1000 Holiday Parody song contest on the Waddle and Silvy show – it was played on the air 4 times, got all of the guys laughing, and finished in the Top 5 in the contest. My song was to the Twelve Days of Christmas, about all of the horrible players I remember from the last time the Bulls tanked – headlined by everyone’s favorite, Dalibor Bagaric.

As for this year, 2013 wasn’t a great year if you were wearing any team logo other than the Blackhawks. So with that, lets start with the high that was the 2013 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks.

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While much of the run started at the end of 2012, we saw the Blackhawks set a record this season for the best record to start a season in NHL history, going 21-0-3 in their first 24 games. Patrick Kane has had the best calendar year of his career, which included winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as well as his most recent point streak. But the finest moments for the Blackhawks came at the very end. For me, it was coming back from down 3-1 to the Red Wings in the Western Conference semi-finals that stands out as the run that set the tone for the rest of their championship run. But this year came down to the final 17 seconds of the championship game. Every Blackhawks fan will always remember where they were for those 17 seconds. I was with some friends at a neighborhood bar, and with just a few minutes to go and the Blackhawks down one, were beginning to discuss their chances in Game 7. And even when Bryan Bickell scored to tie the game, I never could have imagined they would still win it in regulation. But 17 seconds later, in comes Dave Bolland sealing the game and the series. The second Stanley Cup in four years for the Blackhawks and as a lifelong Chicago sports fan who, in part, moved back to Chicago in 2002 to be closer to my teams, it was only the third World Championship I’ve been able to see here (two by the Blackhawks and one by the White Sox). And after an offseason where the Blackhawks kept their group mostly in tact, they are off to another hot start, in first place in the conference and the favorite to become the first team with win Back-to-Back since the Red Wings.

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2013 for the Bulls has been a different story, as we move from glory to agony. I never expected the Bulls to be any good last season, but they proved me wrong and kept the season exciting. The high probably being their playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets, which culminated in an epic Game 7 victory. The Bulls, undermanned all year and absolutely devastated by injury, showed the kind of heart that had us licking our lips for the day Derrick Rose would return to the lineup at the beginning of the 2013-2014 season. And in the pre-season, Rose was out to prove that he was back and better than ever – playing more aggressively than we’re used to seeing anyone play in the pre-season. But before that, we dealt with the saga of “Will he or won’t he” in regard to Rose. The ongoing PR nightmare between Rose’s people and the Bulls organization was a complete mess. Maybe they kept hope alive so fans wouldn’t lose interest, but, as a fan there was nothing fun about sticking with them all season with the hope he would return, only to see him not come back, with no official announcement, before losing to the Heat (again) in 5 games. So Rose finally returns, and just as the rust is starting to come off, down he goes…again…this time with a torn medial meniscus in his right knee. Another season, another season-ending injury for the Bulls’ star. Now we deal with what will be next for Derrick Rose. Will he ever be the same again? What will happen with the rest of the roster? Right now its all questions and no answers in the most disappointing Bulls season since the Eddie Robinson era.

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The Cubs and White Sox did not earn themselves their own paragraphs this year and so they share one. For the Cubs, the season was mostly highlights by the still ongoing Wrigley renovations – which for the most part distracted the population from the fact that where was still pitiful baseball being played on the north side. Most of the Cubs highlights need to be marked “potential” at this point – the continued improvement of Javier Baez, the emergence of Travis Wood, the drafting of Kris Bryant. The Cubs are still a couple years away from the great re-build we’ve been promised, but the pieces seem to be falling into place. The lows were too many to name – from the awful step backwards that Starlin Castro took this season, to their failure to land a top tier manager like Joe Girardi to take the team to new heights. And of course the biggest low of the year, the baseball they played. abreauAs for the White Sox, not many highs for a 99-loss team. They have a great ace in Chris Sale, who still had a great season despite being on an awful team. They signed Cuban slugger Jose Abreu, who could be a piece of a re-build. But the White Sox continue to be a band-aid team, and under Robin Ventura, who has shown a lack of passion for his position, had one of the worst defenses in the league. Cubs fans are used to being basement dwellers, but this was new territory of late for White Sox fans. The high point? That I was able to see a lot more games live than usual due to overall lack of interest and overall dirt cheap tickets on StubHub.

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And finally the Bears. The highs and lows have been pretty self explanatory. The highs were on offense. The lows were on defense. But the notable highs include enough proof for me to believe that the Marc Trestman offense works, led by the outbreak season by Alshon Jeffrey. Jeffery set a Bears’ franchise record for single-game receiving yards with 218 in Week 5, and then broke his own record going for 249 yards and two touchdowns against Minnesota. Jeffery is the first Bears player to record a pair of 200-yard receiving games in the same season. We also saw Josh McCown come off the bench, going for 16 TDs and 1 INT while Cutler was injured, leading to many wondering if Cutler should even return when he was healthy. He did, but wasn’t enough to beat the Packers and lead them to the playoffs. The lows included them being injury plagued all year as they saw Jay Cutler, Charles Tillman, Lance Briggs, Henry Melton, Stephen Paea, Nate Collins and DJ Williams all go down for most of the year. But this defense was an epic fail. Julius Peppers played the worst season of his career, and the Bears earned themselves the worst run defense in the NFL this season, and the worst in franchise history. Two particularly low lowlights were the blowout in Week 16 against the Eagles, on a day where all the Bears had to do was win and they would clinch the NFC North, making the outcome of this weekend’s Packers game basically moot, as well as the game many consider to be the one they truly lost the division on, a loss to the Vikings and Minnesota did everything in their power to hand to the Bears – ending in a very questionable field goal call on 2nd and 7 which was missed by Robbie Gould as the Bears went on to lose.

So there it is, 2013. So lets make some resolutions for 2014!

Blackhawks – Bring home a repeat

Bulls – Get DRose back, re-build the team, find a star to pair with Rose.

Cubs – Start bringing these players up and make “Next Year” now!

White Sox – Don’t become the “Cubs” of Chicago

Bears – Bring Cutler back at a discount and get a major defensive makeover

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