Chicago sports

From loveable losers to just losers, Chicago offers it all to sports fans

By Tim Murphy

Students who come to the U of C from out of state will almost inevitably face the question, probably from some well-wishing aunt: “So,” she’ll ask, “are you a White Sox fan now?”

It’s a fair enough query, and your Aunt Mabel probably means well, but the truth of the matter is that in 2008 no one roots for the White Sox anymore. They’re boring, their stadium is ugly, and their manager is, to use the operative phrase, a lunatic.

Coming to a new city doesn’t mean you have to abandon your hometown colors, but if you do, it’ll probably be to root for your North Side neighbors, the Cubs. As you’ve no doubt heard by now, the Cubs have a reputation as “lovable losers” and have not won a World Series since 1908. They haven’t even been to the Fall Classic since 1945. But as of press time, they’re in first place in the Central Division and owners of the top record in the National League.

Wrigley Field, where the Cubs have played since 1916, is one of the game’s true gems and situated right on the Red Line at Addison. Ivy covers the outfield wall, and a giant, old-fashioned scoreboard towers over the centerfield bleachers. Games usually sell out, so if you’re on a student budget, your best bet is to show up early and purchase standing room tickets for $12 or to wait outside for a few innings and hope to snag a deal from a scalper. For a unique Chicago experience, purchase tickets ahead of time and watch from high up on the rooftops across the street from the park.

Much closer to campus, Barack Obama’s White Sox play in the modern confines of U.S. Cellular Field. The stadium is about as interesting as the name suggests, which is to say not at all, but tickets are generally available and can be had on the cheap ($16).

For football fans, there’s only one team: They’re “da Bears,” and dey stink. Or at least their offense does. The Bears play at Soldier Field, and tickets, which start at $65, are hard to come by, so don’t worry about finding a seat—you’re better suited watching their Sunday afternoon games from the comfort of your living room.

Being a Bears fan can be draining (the team followed up its 2006 Super Bowl loss with a 7-9 record in 2007), but the team has its bright spots. Kick returner Devin Hester provides the bulk of the offensive fireworks, and on defense there’s Lance Briggs, who provided the top play of the 2007 season when he wrapped his Lamborghini around a light pole on the Edens Expressway and then reported his car stolen.

The Blackhawks may be the best deal in town for college students, however. The city’s NHL franchise offers $8 student tickets on a first-come, first-serve basis, and the on-ice product, long frozen in mediocrity, is improving markedly—the team has not won a Stanley Cup since 1961, but last year’s squad barely missed out on a playoff berth.

Hockey fans like to brag about how much better the game is in person, which may have a grain of truth to it: Even the nosebleed seats offer a quality view of the ice. Head to the Billy Goat Tavern before or after the game to mingle with your mulleted fellow fans.

The United Center is also home to the NBA’s Bulls, who this year feature the number-one overall draft pick, point guard Derrick Rose.

Other teams of note include the Fire of the MLS (one of the league’s more successful franchises), the Rush arena football team, the Sky in the WNBA, and the Wolves in the AHL (ice hockey). The Rush and Wolves both play their home games at the Allstate Arena, while the Fire hosts matches at Toyota Park and the Sky battles at the UIC Pavilion.