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This Is A Sad, Sad Time To Be A Chicago Sports Fan

With injuries to their two biggest superstars, Chicago sports fans brace themselves for a scary Bulls and Blackhawks playoffs run.

This isn’t a great time to be a Chicago sports fan. Believe me.

If you see a Chicagoan walk a little slower these days with their head down, you know why. Never has a city gone into a collective mourning without even losing a game.

The last time people were ready to jump off the former Sears Tower was in 2003 when the Cubs were five outs away from the World Series, only to have fan interference and a misplay by a shortstop prevent the Cubs from getting back to the World Series for the first time since 1945.

I know for me those evenings in October 2003 felt like a death in the family when the Cubs lost that sixth game and the finale a night later.

Chicagoans live and die with their sports teams. That’s the culture of the city.

Chicago sports fans got a shocker this week within hours of each other when it was announced that Bulls superstar guard Derrick Rose tore a meniscus in the same knee he had surgically repaired in 2013 and missed the entire season. Having missed the playoffs in 2012, 2013 and 2014 with knee injuries, Bulls fans have gotten antsy every time Rose hit the floor during a game.

Hockey fans also got a stunner when the Blackhawks announced that one of the league’s megastars, Patrick Kane, would be out as much as 10 to 12 weeks with a fractured clavicle. For a team favored to win the Stanley Cup after losing a heartbreaking seven-game series to the Los Angeles Kings in 2014, the injury cast doubt on Kane’s ability to return in time to help in the playoffs.

For fans of the Bulls, many thought the season and a championship bid was over when they heard the news about Rose. Now, they have some hope that the injury may not be as severe as 2013 and give him a chance to return by the playoffs.

The sports injuries led the news in Chicago even though they had a mayoral election this week.

For fans who invest time, money and, most importantly, emotion in following sports teams on a regular basis for the lengthy basketball and hockey seasons, it hurts far more to know you have a shot to win a championship than to know you’re not good enough to compete. There isn’t the kind of angst with the Bears these days because they can’t even make the playoffs. A Super Bowl isn’t in their near future.

But a But, damn it, championships were in the cards for both the Blackhawks and Bulls. Many Chicagoans thought the title chase in the Eastern Conference was between the Bulls and Cleveland. Having Rose back and the breakup of the Miami Heat’s powerhouse lineup gave them optimism.

Even though they didn’t have the best record in the Western Conference, the Blackhawks were considered the team to beat. Las Vegas thought so too.

For Chicagoans, many thought this June would be a dream summer with both teams competing for a championship at the same time. Instead, it may be one in which the rally cry is “wait ’til next year!”

That’s usually the rallying cry for the city’s two baseball teams, the Cubs and White Sox. Both are expected to make a run for the playoffs after struggling in recent years, which is already creating excitement in spring training.

But that won’t help in May and June if the playoffs come and both the Bulls and Blackhawks fall short of their dual titles.

Chicagoans will instead pin their hopes of Rose’s orthopedic surgeon and doctors treating Kane. The medical log will be more closely watched in Chicago for the next couple of months than the box scores.

A whole city feels angst and is collectively holding its breadth that their visions of a dream season for both teams will still come true.

For those who aren’t avid sports fan, it’s hard to comprehend why people would let injuries to a hockey player and basketball player sour their mood and make them walk a step or two slower.

Such is the nature of sports where fans in part live through their teams as if they’re gunning for that championship and chance to reach a pinnacle. That’s something we all aspire to everyday whether we compete in sports or not.

We fail more than we succeed in life, but we can accept defeat if we’re not good enough. This is different.

Yes, the Bulls and Hawks players will give it their best without their superstars, but if they fail, it’s always going to linger in the back of the mind of fans of what they might have achieved that may never be duplicated in their lifetimes.

All any of us can hope for is a shot.

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