Waiting on the Bus

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Posts Tagged ‘Chicago Blackhawks’

A look at the psyche of Bandwagon Chicago Sports Fans Part 2

Posted by Steven on May 12, 2010

The latest Chicago team guilty of generating false hope around here is the NHL’s Blackhawks. For much of this decade no one even paid attention to the Blackhawks because their games weren’t on TV and owner Bill Wertz refused to invest any of his money back into the team. Ever since Wirtz died in 2007 and his son Rock took over the team, however, the games are back TV, they’ve been winning thanks to a strong nucleus of young players, and people have taken note by flocking to the United Center in droves. Even my dad has even gotten into the Blackhawks playoff run, and until now I’d never seen him watch a hockey game in my life. I don’t think he understands all of the rules, but he’s been clapping and yelling at the TV out of joy whenever the Hawks do something right, so you can’t accuse him of trying to ruin everyone’s playoff high by not getting on the bandwagon.

The Hawks newfound popularity has proven to be a problem for the local sports radio and TV stations because they now have to tell their sports staff to act like they care about and understand hockey.

Out of all the sports media members in the city, only Tom Waddle and Marc Silverman of The Waddle and Silvy show on ESPN 1000 seem to acknowledge their bandwagon loyalty on a regular basis and wear it as a badge of honor. They’re regularly criticized for trying to talk hockey by the Squawks, a nickname given to a vocal minority of longtime Hawks fans who complain either that the Blackhawks aren’t talked about enough on Chicago sports radio or that if they are talked about, the hosts are too general and sound uniformed if they don’t use hockey terminology. The media’s general hockey ignorance extends to the Blackhawks post game host Jim Memolo, who Steve Dahl has lambasted on his podcasts. Dahl says Memolo doesn’t really react to what he just saw and instead just repeats the same facts and interview questions to different guests and callers, trying hopelessly to get through his timeslot without sounding completely clueless.

I’d like to strike a balance between hockey expert and bandwagon jumper, so I’ve tried to get a better understanding of the game by reading the rules multiple times, but it all still seems unnecessarily complex, mainly due to the ice being divided into so many subsections. Before you can watch a hockey game and truly feel like you understand everything, you have to learn about red and blue lines, various zones, substitutions, penalties, creases, and faceoff circles. This all of which sounds fine when being described in print, but when you’re watching a game trying to figure things out, the players move so fast it’s hard to see when they’re in the sanctioned off parts of the rink that are so damn important. There’s also a constant string of substitutions, making it hard to identify a player with a certain position on the ice.

Basically the game is like soccer, a sport where two teams go up and down the plying area trying to get rid of, within the rules of course, any player who prevents them from controlling the object that is used to score points. Parents like to watch their kids play soccer since it gives the kid chance to exert all that pent up energy, but more often than not all a kid gets from a career in youth soccer is a bunch of lame tophies and a higher risk of developing knee arthritis by high school.

I made a promise to myself in the fall that I wouldn’t get caught up in Blackhawks fever no matter how well they did this year and so far I’ve succeed. After obsessing over the Cubs failures in recent Octobers it’s nice to watch a Chicago team progress through the playoffs as an impartial observer who doesn’t have to worry about the team being one catastrophic mistake away from becoming another sad footnote in the history of Chicago sports.

As I write this the Hawks are playing the Vancouver Canucks on the road in game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals after losing game 5, and their first opportunity to close out the series, at home on Sunday. They’re scoreless after one period but should they end up losing this game and the series, I want it known that this series of blog posts was in no way responsible for their demise. It was simply another case of a Chicago team looking too far ahead and being unable to win series clinching games

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A look at the psyche of bandwagon Chicago sports fans Part 1

Posted by Steven on May 11, 2010

Bandwagons for Chicago sports teams are rare and when one of the city’s perpetual losers or mediocre franchises actually manages to get into the playoffs, fans that decide to get on the bandwagon do so with a sense of trepidation. They’ve been suckered into hopping on a bandwagon before only to be let down by the team of the moment. They may have a friend sitting with him on the bandwagon who is trying to convince him why this team has that special and often elusive combination that allows them to overcome any adversity they may encounter in the playoffs and win it all.

For every fact the optimistic bandwagoner throws at the skeptic, the skeptic can point out an example of a Chicago team that was supposed to go all the way but came out short: (The ’06 Bears, The ’84 Cubs, The ’89 Cubs, the ’92 Blackhawks etc) Clearly the Cubs have been the most glaring example of this through the years, but no Cubs collapse and bandwagon disaster was as demoralizing as the ’03 team’s near miss. In 2003 I’d been following the Cubs diligently since ’98 when I was 12 years old and up until that season I’d had to hear from White Sox fans and casual sports fans that the Cubs had fans with a weak understanding of the game and only showed up to Wrigley Field to watch Sammy Sosa hit homers during his juicing days. As I found out later, most of those people reside in the bleachers.

Once the Cubs won the division title suddenly those people that were neutral and usually enjoyed mocking the team decided to hop on the Cubs bandwagon. The wagon took off and soon the Cubs were leading the NLCS 3-1 against the Marlins, needing just 1 win against to reach the World series, but then they lost 3 straight just like the ’84 team did against San Diego and people couldn’t believe they’d been naive enough to think a Chicago team could win a championship. Outside of the Bulls 6 championships in the ’90s, no Chicago team has had a period of sustained success where they actually lived up to fan’s expectations. This is why Chicagoans hold on so dearly to one year wonder teams such as the ’05 White Sox and ’85 Bears. They’re desperate for a winner and don’t really care if they’ve been watching for years waiting for the team in question to turn into a contender.

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