Will Cubs follow Blackhawks' lead?
The Blackhawks waited 49 years to win the Stanley Cup. If it took them a few extra seconds to realize what they had done, well, that was appropriately ironic.
“There was something mysterious about it,” observed Michael Tewz, after Patrick Kane set a new standard for sharp-angle, delayed-gratification, championship-winning goals. “I didn’t know if it was real or not.”
Tewz, an artist and Chicagoan and regular fan, understands the meaning of such things. He was staring at a big-screen television inside the Billy Goat Tavern — a place of considerable significance to the city’s sports culture, where the headline “CUBS’ HEX CLINGS ON” still adorns the wall.
Patrons there didn’t react immediately after Kane’s shot nestled into the net. Then came the Aha! moment — whoops and hollers and one voice calling out above the others, “YES! BLEEPING YES!”
The did-it-really-happen interlude served as a convenient pause, to measure the angst that had accumulated over a half-century. As recently as 2007, the Blackhawks were a forgotten last-place team. Now the drought is over, thanks to new owner Rocky Wirtz, forward-thinking club president John McDonough, young captain Jonathan Toews, and so many others.
You probably know what that means.
The Cubs are on the clock.
I know, I know. They have been since 1908. They are running out of ways to torment their fans. And 2010 — with the Cubs at 27-32, running a distant third in the National League Central — is not going to be The Year.
But do we need any more evidence that the sports cosmos will, one day, permit a World Series celebration on Chicago’s North Side?
For years, the Blackhawks were mismanaged and hopeless. Right now, the Cubbies have a reasonable claim on the same two adjectives.
So, their championship parade should arrive in the autumn of 2013.
“Maybe,” said Bouchaib Khribech, while tending bar at the Goat, “the Blackhawks will help their curse.”
Chicago sports fans born in 1980 or later have had it pretty good. The ’85 Bears. The ’90s Bulls. The ’05 White Sox. Now the Kane-Toews Hawks. (A word of caution: Don’t mention this to your friends and family in Cleveland.)
It’s silly to suggest that the Cubs can win one for the thumb of Chicago sports fans. Few Chicagoans root for both baseball teams. They pick one or the other.
Because of the city’s divided baseball loyalties, this Cup is the first championship that satisfied everyone in town since Michael Jordan over Bryon Russell in 1998.
Still, while the Blackhawks’ parade will be big and happy and raucous, it won’t offer the quasi-religious experience that a Cubs title would.
You might believe that the Cubs are cursed. At 0-for-101 in championship tries — with the agony odometer rolling toward 102 — I wouldn’t blame you. But if the Red Sox ended their futility after 86 years, then a team of psychics, scientists and regional cross-checkers will eventually discover the Cubs’ antidote.
Or maybe they can forget about the goat and follow the Blackhawks’ model.
The hockey club, apparently unencumbered by supernatural forces, took a pragmatic approach. Wirtz empowered McDonough, a former Cubs president, to reshape the organization. Changes in culture and personnel followed. Overpriced veterans exited. Young stars arrived. Interest soared.
“It happened for the Blackhawks in such a short time,” Khribech said. “This could give Cubs fans a relief and tell them that they could do it, too.”
Now the Cubs have a new owner of their own, Tom Ricketts. How convenient. Unless manager Lou Piniella decides that he’s simply having way too much fun with this laugh-a-minute group, it will be time for Ricketts to find his Joel Quenneville.
And while he’s at it, Ricketts might want to hire Scotty Bowman as an adviser. He could offer some ideas about how to wring production from mercurial star players. This is the man who solved Sergei Fedorov. Bowman could straighten out Carlos Zambrano in a week.
Once Zambrano is right, the rotation will be fine. Then Aramis Ramirez will come back from the DL, the Cubs will start winning close games, Wrigley will come alive, and . . .
“No, no, no,” Cottrell Payne said. He works at the Goat — and roots for the White Sox. “They will not win. That’s a whole different animal than the Blackhawks, my friend.
“Fifty years, I can understand. A hundred, that’s way too long. I’m Payne, P-A-Y-N-E. But that’s PAIN, P-A-I-N.”
Duncan Keith, the Blackhawks defenseman, felt some of that when he took a puck to the mouth. But you know what they say about pain. It goes away when you win. Cubs fans are counting on that.