Is Chicago the Best Sports City in America?

By Tony Andracki

How ‘bout that ride in? I guess that’s why they call it Second City, heh heh.

OK, Zach Galifinakis was talking about Sin City, but the Second City has gone for quite the ride in the sports world lately and the nickname is the only place Chicago is coming in second.

I think it’s safe to say that Chicago is the premier sports town in America right now. (Disclaimer: Fandom is completely relative and there is no way to actually gauge the quality of one group of fans vs. the other, so the fan base of each team is held out of this discussion)

It’s hard to argue against it. The Bears were a Jay Cutler injured knee away from the Super Bowl (OK, maybe they were a little bit further than that, but it doesn’t hurt to dream, does it?). The Bulls are in first place in the Eastern Conference and challenging for the NBA’s best record. The Blackhawks are the defending Stanley Cup Champions. The Chicago White Sox had a whole show based on the behind-the-scenes of the club last season and nearly made the playoffs. This year, they are much improved and looking to take the AL Central. And then there’s the Cubs. Not much to say about them, but who knows? They could surprise this year. The NL Central certainly is wide open.

And that’s just the teams. What about the individual people? With Kobe Bryant aging and the hatred for LeBron “The Decision” James, Derrick Rose is having an MVP season and looks to be the new face of the NBA. He’s in as many advertisements as ‘Bron-Bron. Duncan Keith of the Hawks was named the best defenseman in the league last year while Jonathan Toews is being heralded as possibly the top all-around player in the NHL and if the Blackhawks are able to make the playoffs, may just wind up as the MVP. There was talk of Paul Konerko earning the AL MVP last season before the Sox fell out of the playoff race. Meanwhile, Ozzie Guillen is one of the most entertaining and quotable managers to ever patrol the dugout, even if he is an attention-whore.

If the Bulls do what people expect them to do and make it to the NBA Finals, that will be three teams from Chicago in at least the Final Four (hey, it’s NCAA tourney season, leave me alone) in their respective sports. If only Jay Cutler’s knee could have held up…

Is there any city in America that can challenge Chicago?

New York can’t, even though there are nine teams circulating around (if you include New Jersey). The Knicks still can’t seem to find a whiff of consistency even after pulling off a blockbuster deal for Carmelo Anthony. The Mets are a joke right now and likely won’t contend for anything in 2011. The Yankees still spend twice as much as anybody else, but only have the one championship in the past few years. And that was in 2009, so that doesn’t count.

Los Angeles isn’t it. The Lakers are great, nobody will deny that. So is Kobe Bryant and the Zen Master Phil Jackson. But, Kobe’s on the outs and even though Blake Griffin is on the way up, the Clippers are still one of the bottom-feeders in the NBA. The Angels and Dodgers are not even playoff-worthy teams, at least at this point. And there’s no NFL team, so LA should get eliminated just from that. Maybe Ari Gold can really make something happen there.

San Francisco just has the Giants to be proud of, Green Bay only has the Packers, Miami boasts the Heat, but that’s it. And, they can’t even get fans to attend games in South Beach.
Philadelphia may be the closest contender right now, as the Eagles, Flyers and Phillies are all very good teams. Heck, even the 76ers look like they’re going to make the playoffs this year. But, the Blackhawks took it to the Flyers in the Stanley Cup Finals, so Chicago gets the nod here.

Boston had its run in the 2000s, but the 2010s are Chicago’s time. The Celtics and Red Sox are still both very good teams, but also rather old teams and I don’t see the Celtics in the NBA Finals again this year. The Patriots will always be a threat as long as Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are around and the admittedly put a whooping on the Bears in Chicago this past season. The Boston Bruins are very good too, might I add. Don’t want to keep them out.

So, if this were a bracket (again, NCAA tourney time, folks), we’d be looking at Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston and Philadelphia in the Final Four.

Put Boston and Philly in the East vying for a chance to head to the Championship matchup and I have to give the edge to Philly, as they are up-and-coming and Boston seems to be more on the way out.

In the West, Chicago easily trumps LA and head to the Championship matchup with Philadelphia. Though the Phillies will easily have a better record than the Cubs and Sox this season and the 76ers just beat the Bulls rather handedly Monday night, I have to give the edge to Chicago. The Bears shut down Michael Vick and the Eagles in the regular season and the Blackhawks did beat out the Flyers for the Stanley Cup.

So, no matter which way you slice it—just pure opinion, NCAA bracket style, whatevs—Chicago comes out as the top sports city in America.

Am I biased? Absolutely. I’m a born and raised Chicagoan. I’m a diehard Cubs fan, but I even cheer for the White Sox when they’re not playing my North Siders. I stood among the mass of people for seven straight hours for the Blackhawks Victory Parade. I’ve followed the Bears since I knew what a touchdown was and of course, Derrick Rose and the Bulls—the toast of the town.

No matter my bias, the facts don’t lie. Now, if the Blackhawks fail to make the playoffs this year, we could be looking at an Al Gore-style recount.

But for now, the winds of change are billowing in America and it looks like all signs point to the Windy City as the rightful heir to the throne of Best Sports Town in the Country.

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