Writing on the internet about sports is an unusual thing. Each time one of the Backline Soccer writers publishes their work, they do so through the lens of a lifetime of sports moments and experiences.
No writer is totally unbiased. The past moments that make up our sports lives define the fans that we are today. Our past experiences color how we view sports now—each kick of the ball, each card a ref pulls from their pocket, each tackle, each moment of triumph and of desolation, etc.
In order for you, our readers, to better understand the sports history of our staff, we’ve decided to have each writer describe three to five moments that changed and shaped who they are as a sports fan.
May I present our new series, “The Making of a Sports Fan”.
CHICAGO – somewhere on the south side, 1993.
Because yes, I need an entire year dedicated to various moments that made me a sports fan for life. Also, it was a pretty awesome time to be a sports fan in Chicago.
The Blackhawks had broken my very young heart the year before by getting swept in the 1992 Stanley Cup finals, but they were still playing top notch hockey with players like Chris Chelios, Jeremy Roenick, and Ed Belfour.
The Chicago Bears had just fired Mike Ditka the year before and my dad was not impressed with the mustached substitute Dave Wannstedt. However, Walter Payton was elected to the Hall of fame, and that alone trumped everything. I wasn’t alive to witness Walter Payton’s career, but I was raised knowing that ‘Sweetness’ was the truth.
Playing at Calumet Park, visiting my grandparents, grabbing paletas (Mexican Popsicle’s) from the Paletero, all the usual Chicago summer staples for me and my brother to enjoy. We were both lucky to have a dad who loved sports and enjoyed sharing that with us. We were also fortunate to have two teams to believe in.
The Summer of ’93 didn’t make me fall in love with Hockey and Football. Oh no, my childhood loves? The Chicago Bulls and the Chicago White Sox.
If you were kid growing up in the 1990s in Chicago, you were literally blessed. You got to call Michael Jordan YOURS. He was all yours, AND he could fly?! You literally wanted to be like Mike. You knew the Bulls were this unstoppable force in basketball.
Phil Jackson was a Zen God, Michael Jordan was Jesus, and Scottie Pippen was the Holy Spirit. Then you had disciples in players like Horace Grant, Bill Cartwright, B.J. Armstrong, and more – all spreading the gospel of the Bulls.
They were on the verge of a three-peat (one of two) and about to join the Lakers and Celtics as an elite dynasty. The beginning of their season wasn’t easy, but they ended with a favorable league standing. Their on court chemistry was a thing of beauty and peaked at the time most teams want to peak, the playoffs.
The Bulls went through eastern conference playoffs with series sweeps of the Atlanta Hawks and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Setting up a physical Eastern Conference final against the New York Kicks. After going down 2-0 against the Knicks, the Bulls came through like champion veterans and fought back to win 4 games straight to punch their ticket to the NBA Final.
The Bulls faced Charles Barkley and the Phoenix suns in the NBA Final, the series went back and forth with game 3 going into 3 overtimes. It was a long series, which ended with an unlikely hero scoring the game winning basket in in game 6, John Paxton. A three-peat dynasty for Chicago. It couldn’t get any more euphoric in Chicago. Except maybe it could.
CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Hey did you know that the first appearance of an ‘exploding scoreboard’ (fireworks after home runs) happened in south side of Chicago at Comisky Park? Its true homies, check it out. So full disclosure, I come from a bit of a Sox/Cubs family. That’s what happens sometimes when you have family in all parts of Chicago.
At this point in my young life I had been submerged in both team cultures, exposed to both types of fans. However, when you get taken to your first baseball game on the South Side and you see Frank Thomas hit a home run and the stadium blows off fireworks? You’re hooked.
This 1993 team was the team to seal my fate and cement my roots in all things South Side and all things White Sox. I mean we should have predicted that something special was going to happen when Bo Jackson hit a home run in Chicago’s opening day. They lost the game, so the natural pessimists we are, thought nothing of it except an excellent moment for player coming back from hip surgery.
This team had a roster with hitters like ’93 MVP Frank Thomas, Bo Jackson, Lance Johnson, and Tim Rains. Solid pitching in Wilson Alvarez, Jack MacDowell, and Alex Hernandez. Future managers and coaches Ozzie Guillen, Robin Ventura, and Joey Cora were one of the stingiest infields in the game. While the Bulls celebration and rally came to an end in June, the ’93 White Sox were there to keep my young sports enthusiasm alive.
The White Sox long season saw them clinch the American League West and earned an AL Championship Series against an excellent Toronto Blue Jays team. A team that was chasing history of their own by trying to win back-to-back championships. The White Sox lost the series in 6 games, and Toronto went on to win the World Series.
As a kid, of course I was disappointed that The White Sox didn’t give me a shiny trophy then, but they gave me something much more important. They gave me roots.
WHEN ROOTS RUN DEEP
I am so grateful for these memories. This era of Chicago sports history is an important one. The joys of victory mean so much more when you remember what you went through to finally reach the glory (shout out to my cubs fam, love you).
1993 was such an interesting year because it gave me so much to cheer for while giving me so much to be sad about. The Bulls had won their three-peat, only for Jordan to retire before the next season. The White Sox had finally put it all together, only to fall short of the World Series, then be affected by a strike the next season.
I like to look back on this time as when I really became captivated by Chicago sports in general. Even now as an adult, I’m still just a kid from Chicago.