Constable: Awful 2020 gives us best October in Chicago sports history
The year 2020 has given us a pandemic seemingly intent on killing a quarter-million Americans, record unemployment, hurricanes, wildfires, economic devastation, civil and racial unrest, and what promises to be an ugly presidential election.
But it's also given us the greatest October in Chicago sports history.
Never before have we gone into an October with the Chicago Bears boasting a perfect 3-0 record and the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs playing postseason baseball with a chance to give us a crosstown World Series.
Not only that, but the Chicago Blackhawks made the postseason for the first time in three years in August, and the Chicago Bulls last week hired a new head coach, Billy Donovan, who not only has head coaching experience in the NBA, but has led his team to the postseason every year he's coached.
The Bears, who flirted with defeat in every game so far this season, have given us 27 seasons of 3-0 starts or better since the Decatur Staleys started the inaugural 1920 season with a 9-0 record with one tie, before finishing in second place with a 10-1-2 record. But, even in their best years, they never bring the local baseball teams along for the ride.
The 1985 Bears started with a 12-0 record, finished with a 15-1 mark, and pounded their way to a Super Bowl championship. The promising '85 Cubs, who finished one victory short of a World Series the year before, fell out of first place on Father's Day and finished with a 77-84 record. The Sox, who were in first place as late as June 20 in 1985 finished in third place in the American League West Division.
George "Papa Bear" Halas, the legendary coach and owner of the Bears, was still in grade school when the Cubs and the White Sox met for the only time in baseball postseason history, with the Sox winning the 1906 World Series four games to two against the heavily favored Cubs.
The only other time both Chicago baseball teams made the postseason in the same year was in 2008, when both teams won their divisions, but lost in disappointing fashion in the opening round of the playoffs.
So Chicago fans are in uncharted territory this October, with three teams all in the championship conversations. But 2020 has a way to make even that disappointing. For the first time in history, fans have been shut out of the games.
The final regular season series between the Cubs and the Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field over the weekend would have been a marvelous collection of die-hard fans from both sides of town, with the media fanning the flames of the teams meeting in the World Series. Instead, when Cubs' slugger Kris Bryant crushed a grand slam, the ball bounced untouched through the vacant left-field bleachers and the only cheers came from the Cubs' dugout. When 21-year-old rookie Sox pitcher Garrett Crochet struck out Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber in an inning of relief, there were no Sox fans in the seats to talk about how this kid is the real deal.
And in Soldier Field, the home of the Bears, there have been no fans wearing actual bear skins, no men sporting mustaches and Mike Ditka sweaters, no brats or sausages in the pregame tailgate parties.
As cruel as 2020 has been so far, it could throw a wet blanket over our greatest sports moments.
Imagine a World Series Game 7 between the White Sox and the Cubs in the antiseptic atmosphere of an empty Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. Football's Super Bowl is scheduled to be played on Feb. 7, 2021, in Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. The nightmare year of 2020 will be over then, but the lingering pandemic could keep fans from attending.
Of course, being Chicago sports fans, we know that next week at this time, both baseball seasons could be over, and Bears fans might be talking about how it might be better for the Bears to lose the rest of their games to earn a better draft pick and select a real franchise quarterback.