[from Reservoir / February 21, 2007]
It’s been a few weeks now, and I think we’re all over the fact that the Bears lost. And we’ve all grieved, and we’ve all moved on, and we’ve realized that life has found a way to continue.
Well, most of us have.
Aside from those of you out there still wiping away the tears with your brand-new Brian Urlacher jerseys, the rest of us have started looking ahead.
No, not to next year but to next season. As in, next playoff season. I’m talking hoops here, and for those of you have been too deeply engrossed in the saga of Rex Grossman aka Sexy Rexy aka the Failed Sex Cannon to notice anything else going on, those Bulls are putting on a pretty good show across town these days.
And with the playoffs just over two months away, and with the Bulls needing to pull off a self-destruction that only a certain North Side baseball team is capable of in order to miss them, it’s time to start looking into the future.
Looking up and down the conference standings, and even from the most casual glance at the nightly SportsCenter highlights, two things becomes painfully clear.
1. The Western Conference is really good this year.
2. The Eastern Conference is not.
This isn’t your regular disparity, either – this is worse than last year’s AL/NL comparison, or this past winter’s AFC/NFC matchups. The best teams in the West are rattling off 11-, 12-, 15-game winning streaks. Phoenix and Dallas are giving the true basketball fan some of the best basketball since (yes, I dare say it) Da Bulls of Da 90’s.
Meanwhile the East, as of this writing, has a first place team that was playing under .500 until the end of January. The conference as a whole has only one team that can claim a winning road record.
Barring some massive upset or fluke twist of destiny, this year’s finals are going to be ugly. I don’t mean regular ugly, I mean massacre ugly.
Many of you might not remember the 1992 Stanley Cup, but I sure do. The scrappy, tough-guy Blackhawks against the high-powered glamour of that year’s Penguins. Penguins sweep. Hawks lose in embarrassing fashion. The city weeps. A team on the verge of greatness is slowly dismantled and left for dead. Hockey is never spoken of again in this town.
I’m not saying a similar fate is awaiting the Bulls, should they make it that far. Maybe Steve Nash’s Canadian hippie pep-talk magic will run out. Maybe the local guys really could beat the Mavs into submission over a seven-game series.
I’m just saying I don’t want to see them lose on the biggest stage possible. I don’t want to see another Chicago team made to look stupid for the whole world to see. I don’t want any more rallies to be cancelled and I don’t want to see so many of my friends and family upset that they just ran out and bought those Ben Gordon jerseys.
I say, let some other city take the bullet here. Let someone else be the mightiest second-place team in the land. Let them weep in Detroit or Cleveland or Washington. Anywhere but here.
I explain all this to the guy sitting next to me at Bernie’s. He looks at me like I just slapped him in the face and asked him for a dollar.
“You from New York or something?” he asks. No, I tell him.
“Then what are you, stupid?”
No, not stupid, just cautious. That Super Bowl still stings, and no one likes getting their heart broken twice.