Column: Sweet home Chicago

By Jon Gluskin

Best record in baseball. Leading the division in August by 15 games.

Only in Chicago does this not guarantee you a trip to the playoffs.

With the White Sox lead trimmed down to only two-and-a-half games over the Cleveland Indians after Wednesday night’s loss, the Sox have a legitimate chance of blowing the division. They could even blow the Wild Card and miss the playoffs.

The Sox second-half collapse is just the latest chapter in the series that is Chicago sports in the post-Jordan era.

Since MJ hit “The Shot” with only seconds remaining in Game Six of the NBA Finals on June 14, 1998, Chicago fans have been doomed to failure, shock and agony.

Ok, fine – we were spoiled with the Bulls. For six seasons, we were the best. We expected to win every game. In the rare games that were close, we knew we had a superhero on our side who could make anything happen.

But that was over seven years ago.

Why are we getting punished for having such a dominating team for so long?

Did we use up all of our titles?

Since the Bulls won Championship number six, fours of Chicago’s five major sports teams have each had one playoff appearance. Only the Cubs have made it twice.

Togther they’ve won nine total playoff games.

Together they’ve won only one playoff series.

But the atrocity of being a Chicago fan doesn’t end there. We have consistently found ways to make these losses as gutwrenching and painful as possible.

The Bears have had 13 bad to decent starting quarterbacks since Phil left and MJ retired. Their defense, though, has won them a handful of low-scoring, dismal-to-watch games.

Their only playoff game ended in a 33-19 home loss to the Eagles in the Divisional round. That was the solemn ending to a fluke 2001 season where everything went right, nothing could go wrong and they found a way to go 13-3.

The Blackhawks – yes, they do still exist – had their lone playoff appearance in 2002, when they opened their series with a win over the Blues, only to lose the next four games.

The Bulls are still in the “rebuilding process.” For years they’ve been juggling young players with lots of “potential” in their roster.

They went up on the Wizards 2-0 in last season’s playoffs, only to lose the next three games, knocking them out of the playoffs. Game Four was highlighted by Gilbert Arenas’ miraculous last-second shot that gave them the game.

And then we have our stellar baseball teams.

Two words can sum up the Cubs post-Jordan history – Game Six. Everyone knows the story. They’re up 3-2 games in the NLCS over the Marlins. They’re winning 3-0 in the 8th inning. They’re just five measly outs away from the World Series.

And then seconds later, Steve Bartman becomes infamous, Alex Gonzalez muffs a ground ball and the Cubs lose the game. And then they lose Game Seven.

For the first time in my life, I felt bad for Cubs fans – they literally had their hearts ripped out. Many of them probably haven’t been replaced.

In the years before and after that fateful series, the Cubs have constantly battled pitching injuries, Sammy Sosa and “The Curse.” In 1998, they were swept out of the playoffs.

Which brings us back to the White Sox, and their potentially record-breaking season. They dominated during the first half. Their pitching was incredible. Their hitting was timely.

And now, they can’t hit. They can’t pitch. Even manager Ozzie Guillen recently said, “We stink.”

Sox fans have been putting up with years of disappointment, watching their team finish in second.

Their one good season came in 2000, eerily similar to this 2005 team. Remember the 2000 team, the one that had the best record in the American League? The one that had home-field advantage throughout the playoffs? The one that got swept out of the first round of the playoffs?

Chicago fans have suffered long enough. We don’t need any more implosions, any more jaw-dropping losses or any more waiting until next year.

We’ve put up with Cade McNown, Ron Artest, cheap ownership and bitter-cold weather.

Can’t the Sox actually win a few games?

Can’t the Sox play like the team that had the best record in baseball for a good portion of the season?

Can’t this season just be a little different?

Jon Gluskin is a senior in communications. He can be reached at [email protected]